To Fail, And Know We Fail

From the Story Arc: Hymn Of Breaking Strain

Previous Story in the Arc: The Stress That Shears a Rivet by Dr. Bella Dawn Parker (Monday, August 14, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: The Hymn Of Breaking Strain by Dr. Bella Dawn Parker (Wednesday, August 16, 2006)

(posted Wednesday, August 16, 2006)

((endless thanks to Red Djinni for RPing this with me))

There was only one answer. The Circle of Thorns Soul-Severing rite. Vickie could do it. Bella knew she knew how. The question was, could she talk Vickie into it?

Not alone. No, probably not alone. But there was someone who could talk her into it.

She picked up the comm. and hit Red Djinni’s sig. “If you're not ass-deep in Malta, I need to talk to you, Red,” she said.

“I'm Malta-deep in ass,” came the reply. “One second.” She was used to talking to Red on comm., and it did not surprise her at all to hear the sound of detonations. “Paragon's finest is on the scene now... just speaking to the sergeant.”

She waited, mentally hearing the conversation that was going on.

“Alright, I'm yours. What's on your mind, Blue Belle?”

She wondered if the tension in her voice was as obvious to him as it was to her. “Something...I need your help on. Not a job.”

“Oh good. Vic's been saying I've been working too much.” He sounded…jaunty.

“Vic....” It was as if he had been reading her mind, and not the other way around. “Yeah, it's kind of about Vic.”

His response was immediate. “What about Vic?”

“Just meet me at CCCP HQ. I kind of have to show you something,” she temporized.

There was a significant pause. “Alright, I'm en route.”

She’d changed to protocols for the front door, but Red was always allowed it. He looked around. “You've changed it. REALLY changed it.”

She shrugged, feeling as tight as a banjo string. “Yeah, it's the rebuild.”

“Are we moving?” He had to be thinking of her threat to take CCCP out of Paragon.

She paused, “...well, that's part of what I have to show you. First I need some of your blood.”

He smirked. “You mynx.”

She grabbed his hand, lanced the little finger, it, took the tiny blood sample and dropped it on a Portal Key.

“Anything else? Sperm sample?” he leered.

She managed a faint chuckle. “No, this'll do. I'll leave that sort of collecting to Vic.”

“Talk to her. She might sell you the tapes,” he replied. Evidently he hadn’t yet picked up on her tension. Good. “Here,” she handed him the key. “Slot that into wherever your other keys go and follow me.”

For a moment it looked as if he was considering saying something whimsical, but shrugged and followed her.

“You're the first outsider to get one of these,” she told him.

“Yeah? Lucky ol' outsider me.”

She led him to the bank of Teleporters. “Pick a Hazard Zone Porter, a third option will come up, marked Sanctuary. Take that.”

Porter hops were short. This one was a tiny bit longer, but not so that anyone would casually notice. But Red was sensitive enough to notice the vibrating, moving deck and some of the other differences, slight though they might be.”

He did a double-take. “You're giving me access to the CCCP's sanctuary. Somewhere, Nat is swearing.”

She snorted. “If it all goes pear-shaped, you'll be on the list too. Nat can blow me.”

His eyebrows waggled. “Stop it, I take it we're here on business. We can indulge my fantasies later.”

She managed another faint chuckle, but turned immediately serious. “Next to Vic, you're my first, best friend in this town. If I can't trust you, who the hell can I trust?” She led him along the corridors, going deliberately out of the way. She was going to have to work up to this.

He was, frankly, gawking. “Christ, how big is this place?”

“It's a container ship,” she said, with just a touch of pride. “347 meters long, 48 meters across the beam: built for Maersk in 2000, decommissioned because she was built for the North Sea and she's too deep a draft for most warm water ports.”

He smirked. “Don't let Eagle know about this place... he'll try to one-up you guys.”
She continued to give him the nickel tour, stalling for time and to calm herself down.

He smirked as he saw what was obviously the exterior of Shuma's room, covered in magazine clip-outs and pictures she'd drawn. She had to smile herself. “Cute huh? Officer's quarters are for the Murdocks for now, part of Astra's therapy. There is now one absolutely safe place she knows she and the family can go to.”

“That's, uh, a great toilet,” he finally said, and sighed. “What are we here for, Bella? It can't be just to show me this.”

She tensed. “Let's head for the MedBay. It's there.” It was a short corridor and a ladder away in fact. And she opened the door. “Brace yourself.”

“For what? I'm...” She did not bother to answer him. She hit the secret opening to the wall, which slid back, revealing the Stasis chamber on the right, with Bear in it and Clone chamber on the left, with too much fluid to see clearly what's in it, but it looked like a much younger Bear.”

Red stared in stunned silence.

She put both hands on the Stasis Chamber, looking at Bear, not Red. She felt Red straighten behind her, every trace of good humor and whimsy gone. “I have extra monitors on everyone now,” she said, quietly. “I pulled him as soon as he went down. I couldn't revive him and...the LlewellCo techs found this on the ship in a container and thought it was ours. They installed it. I figured I'd use the Stasis chamber to hold him until I could find a way to fix him. Silly me...the cloning process was automatic.” She sighed, and added almost to herself, “Unter, Comm and Zach know all about this. John knows about it too. “They know I have to do this.”

“Silly you,” he said, coldly.

“I can't fix him. It's not just the broken neck, it's the neurotoxins Bejouled fed him.” She turned around, then, feeling flushed, feverish, feeling the need to get this done burning in her like a flame. “This is why I need your help.”

Her need to see this through wasn’t the only thing burning. Djinni’s eyes were aflame.

“There's a Circle of Thorns ritual,” she said, burning, burning in her mind, as Djinni’s eyes were burning, “and I know Vic knows it, a Soul Transfer—“

“No,” Djinni said flatly.

She wasn’t hearing him. “You have to help me talk her into doing it—“

He riveted her with his eyes. “Stop right there.”

She froze for a moment, then grew angry, urgent. “Dammit Red, you have to!”

Djinni slowly approached the clone chamber and peered in. “Is it alive?”

She shook her head. How could he be so-- “Of course it's alive!”

He didn’t look at her. “Bella... you have to stop this. Stop now.”

No. No, She had to save him, she had to. “Red--I can't. I have to do this.” All right there were other ways. “If you won't help, I'll find someone who will.”

The cold in him increased as the fever in her did the same. “The hell you will.”

She had stopped listening. “There's a CoT mage who works with Azuria—“

He turned to her, furious, “What the hell's happened to you? STOP IT! SHUT UP!”

She shouted back at him. “I WON"T LOSE ANOTHER ONE!”

He turned her to Bear’s chamber. “LOOK! Look at him! Bear is GONE!”

No! She was NOT going to give up! “He's NOT! I can bring him back! I can---I can--I WON"T LOSE ANOTHER ONE!”

He was clearly furious. “Who do you think you are, God?!! You're playing with life and death, you arrogant, little....”

He pulled back. She stared at him as desperate as he was furious.

He let her go, turned to the chambers, and put a hand on one, as if putting a hand into a blaze. “This is Crey tech. I recognize it. And I don't have to tell you, nothing good has ever come from it.”

He turned back to her and she had never seen his eyes blaze like this before. “I don't have to tell you.”

She stared at him defiantly. “...I could make something good come of it.”

He looked at as if at a stranger. Why couldn’t he see it? “Oh for... BELLA! WAKE UP! BEAR! IS! DEAD! You’re talking about doing something monstrous!”

She screamed right back at him. “It's BEAR! DAMMIT RED! I HAVE to do SOMETHING!”

Their voices echoed all over the ship “THAT—“ he said, pointing to the clone “IS NOT BEAR!”

“It CAN BE!” she cried.


Of course she did! Didn’t she? “I—“

He began to pace. Sometimes muttering, sometimes turning to shout at her. “Let's say it works? Let's say you bring back a NEW Bear?” His disgust was in every word, every muscle. “Where do you stop? Wow, you've solved death. Got a patent waiting in the wings for this? It'll be worth a freakin' fortune!”

“They're MY RESPONISIBILITY!” she cried.

He stopped pacing in front of her; there was no space between them.

“I have to take care of them!” she said, afire with the need to do so. “WHATEVER it takes!”

He was shaking. “Your responsibility ENDS when they are DEAD. After that, you're just a monster.
You're not God.”

Everything that had happened since she’d been put in the hot seat flashed through her mind at once, and what came out, full of bitterness was, “Well God isn't taking real good care of things is he?”

He threw his hand up. “And you think you can do better....”

“What's the difference between this and the ‘almost dead’?” she demanded. “A second? Two? Do I stop healing people now? Do I stop getting them back on their feet?”

“Don't be an idiot,” he snarled. “Don't be that person. There's a world of difference, and YOU, of all people, should KNOW THAT!”

Her fists clenched at her side. “All I know is I've lost too many on my watch as it is! I WON"T LOSE ANOTHER ONE!”

He got right in her face. “YOU ALREADY HAVE!”

It hit her. It hit her like a mountain falling on her. Her mouth opened, but what came out was a whimper, not a scream, though she was screaming inside. “”

She turned to the stasis chamber, put both her arms around it, and began to sob.

“ can't...I haven't...I won't...”

She slid slowly down to the deck, her arms still around the chamber, weeping, weeping.

She sensed Djinni kneeling behind her. “Do you believe in God, Bella?” he asked, quietly.


He persisted. “You know how this all works? IS there a soul?”

She sobbed silently.

“Let's say you do. Let's say you believe there's a soul.” He took a deep breath. “I couldn't tell you, hell if I know. But it's belief. Truth is, we don't know how things work, when life as we know it, stops. And without knowing, how can you ever think to tamper with it?” Out of the blurred corner of her vision she saw him look up at Bear. “How can you play with another person's life, when you don't know?”

He stood up, sighed, and backed away a bit

The fever was gone, and it it’s place….chill. And never had she felt so sick, so alien in her own skin. So sick to death of her own self. If there had been a gun in her hand in that moment—

Yes. She would have put the muzzle in her mouth and pulled the trigger.

All she could do was to let go of the chamber, and look up at Red in defeat. In failure.

“Don't think I'll tell Vic about this,” he said, meditatively. “But she needs to hear it. When you're ready, you'll need to tell her.”

“..I was all alone...” she said sadly. “....I didn't know what else to do...”

He just looked at her. “Again, with the idiocy. You are never alone.”

If the words were meant to comfort, they didn’t.

“What now?” he asked. “What are you going to do?”

Slowly, painfully she got to her feet. She could tell he already knew what she would do. What choice did she really have?

“Call PCPD,” she said numbly. “Turn over the body. Tell them I tried unsuccessfully to save him. Crime scene should be pristine.”

He nodded. “And the rest of...” He motioned to the apparatus, and flinched. “… what of it?”

She looked at the clone. “It's alive. You think I should kill it?”

He shook his head. “No. That's a living being in there.” He sighed. “He's your responsibility now.”

“Then I'll take care of him,” she said.

“You'll have to,” he replied flatly. “What choice do you have? But the Crey tech...I WANT to know what you're going to do with this tech.”

“What I was going to do when I first saw it,” she said, every word a dull jab. “Rip it out and throw it overboard.”

He watched her intently. “Good,” he said, finally. You've got a call to make.”

Her eyes burned. “...Help me first?” she begged.

He had started to leave, but turned back. “Aye.”

She turned off the stasis chamber and opened it; the body started to slide out, and together they caught it. Bear was so light, and so heavy, all at the same time. She wanted to cradle him in her arms and whisper him awake, but—


Perhaps others might have take one at the shoulders, the other at the feet—but somehow she and Red linked hands, touching finally, and carried Bear between them, so limp, so cold. The Stasis chamber had kept him as he had been when she closed him in there.

Their feet hardly seemed to make a sound as they carried him to the teleporter. There was only one destination from this porter; you didn’t need to punch it. They ported into the CCCP base, and wordlessly carried the body to the MedBay, placing it gently on one of the tables. Then Red turned and walked away without a word.

She wondered if she would ever see him again. If he would ever want to see her.

If he didn’t—she could hardly blame him.

She picked up the phone, and punched the Paragon Police Department’s King’s Row station number. “Homicide division, please,” she said carefully. “I need to report a murder.”

Inside the hidden storage area, the Crey Cloning unit hummed. A few clicks and the panel lit up.


The End?