Re-Leased

From the Story Arc: Re-Bound

Previous Story in the Arc: Wot's... Uh, the Deal by Re-Bear (Wednesday, August 16, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Re-Vealed by Re-Bear (Monday, August 21, 2006)

(posted Monday, August 21, 2006)

Bella answered her comm with practiced detachment. "Commissar Bella here... Shuma.. What?... What?.. Shouting what?.. Stay calm, Shuma, and keep the door locked. I'm on my way."

Bella's worst fear wasn't realized; the clone of the Soviet Bear did not have the mind of a child. It was uncertain that if the Paragon Protector programming modules were removed, the clone would turn out damaged or infantilized. By the voices Shuma reported, it sounded a lot like the Soviet Bear had retained his personality. Hopefully the physical cloning process went equally well.

She slipped on a uniform and activated her emergency teleporter to Sanctuary.

***

The Soviet Bear was out for revenge, or answers, or at least some pants. His escape from the cloning tank left him bloodied and immodest. His wounds, however, seemed to be taking care of themselves; they had already closed and left very little evidence of scars. "I must find someone on this vessel," the Bear thought, "or I must find Sveta. If this is a Crey or Rikti experiment, she could already be in danger."

He rounded a corner and was surprised by his Commissar, Belladonna Aura. "Greetings Commissar," the Bear said, saluting her.

Bella's mouth twisted into a smirk and she turned slightly navy blue. Bear let out a gasp, covered his dangly bits with his hands, and moved into a strategic position behind a crate. "Shuma," Bella said into her comm, "Could you please bring me a pair of your father's uniform pants?"

"Commissar, allow me to apologize for being out of uniform. And secondly, where is Sveta? She said good-bye and the world went dark. I think we were ambushed by Crey, or Rikti, and they drugged me with steroids so I can be disqualified for bicycle race. Maybe they are trying to make her grow a beard or.."

"Bear," Bella interrupted, grinding his monologue to a halt, "I have something to say, and as soon as Shuma brings you pants, you can sit down and I'll tell you."

Within seconds, Shuma arrived carrying a pair of John Murdock's extra uniform pants. She took a quick glance at Bear and her eyes grew big. She uttered a non-sound, more like a flat, unspecified vowel. "Very good, Shuma. Run along."

Shuma scurried off down the hallway, alarmed. Bella tossed Bear the pants. "Come with me, there's a small kitchen down the hall."

***

"So let me get this straight," Bear began with great deliberation, "The CCCP owns a freighter ship in international waters that acts as a mobile command center. The Murdocks live here rent free and we can get free satellite television because of some geostationary overlap." He was overjoyed.

Bella smiled. Brifieng the Bear on current events was easy, briefing him on Bejouled was going to be hard. "Let's talk about you, Bear."

Bear nodded solemnly, "Indeed. I was wondering when we would cross that bridge. Do you know where Sveta is being held?"

"Well," she began, "Bejouled isn't being held anywhere, yet." Her teeth grinded slightly. She took a sip of coffee and gathered her anger into a manageable level. "Bejouled is in the Rogue Isles, probably St. Martial."

"What," Bear's fist slammed into the table, "She has been captured by Arachnos?"

"Calm down, Bear!" Bella said in an authoritarian voice. As impassioned and concerned as the Soviet Bear was, he still would never violate the orders of a Commissar. Bella took a deep breath and resumed. "Bejouled is wanted for murder in Paragon City. We know she committed this murder because I have the documentation she sent me after she performed it. She fled to the Isles because she was wanted here."

"Sveta, a murderer?" The Bear was in shock. "But who did she kill?"

Bella looked at Bear and swallowed hard. "You."

The color drained from the Bear's face. It all made sense to him now: the good-bye, the impact, the sleep. Waking up in a vat of embryonic syrup. He was too shocked to ask, so he simply let Bella continue.

"During Waitron's last examinations, we had her implant each CCCP member with a transporter in case of medical emergency. When your vital functions shut down, you were transported here." Bella bit her upper lip and continued. "We inherited a Crey stasis and cloning unit with the ship."

Bear stared at her blankly, the pieces slowly falling into place. Bella stared right back at him, "The mind of a centenarian in the body of an underwear model," she thought.

"You were teleported into the stasis chamber. I didn't want to lose you." Bella fought back a tear and tried to stay professional. Looking into Bear's young, unlined face made it difficult. "The cloning process was automatic."

"So I am Thomas Riker?" the Bear inquired.

Bella shook her head in confusion. "What?"

"Episode of Sputnik: the Next Generation. Commissar Riker was sent to investigate planet he had been on years before. Due to a terrible transporter accident, he had an imperfect clone named Thomas. In that way, I am Thomas Riker."

Bear seemed eerily calm to Bella. It was almost like having a television reference point made this entire caper almost sane. "I don't know how, Bear, but you seem to have retained all your memories and personality..."

"But?"

Bella almost chuckled. "You have the body of a healthy twenty-year-old."

The Bear laughed heartily. "That explains why I feel so well, and why I am so muscular. It is not performance enhancing drugs after all!"

"No, but I still want Than Ha to take a look at you. Maybe get you on a better diet. With a new body, you're going to need to alter your eating habits."

"I will do as Commissar says!" The Bear grew serious again. "What of Sveta? Why did she do it?"

"She was trained to. I guess Dr. Denisov had programmed her to kill you since birth. She was probably planning this since she arrived in Paragon. Do you remember your vitamin supplements?"

Bear nodded.

"Bejouled had been giving you a neural toxin for several months instead. And the stuffed animal she got you last month was covered in a contact version of the same. When she connected, she completely shattered your brain stem."

"But... Sveta..." The Bear put his face in his hands and wept loudly, his shoulders heaving and shuddering. Bella placed a hand on his shoulder and Bear calmed down. "I do not know what use I am to you now. All of my powers were due to my technology. Now I am just a healthy old man. Much good I can do now.."

"Bear," Bella said, "Not having superpowers does not disqualify you from the CCCP. You're part of our family and we're going to make sure that you always feel like you have a home."

"Bah!" The Bear stood up and pushed his chair away. "I am useless! USELESS! I may have to become Omni-Mart greeter!" He clenched both hands into fists and yelled into the sky. His skin pulsated and bulged with his primal fury. "Arrrrrrrrgh!"

Hundreds of bony spines shot out from underneath his skin, dripping poison. He looked like a man-urchin. Bella scooted her chair away from the Bear. Looking at his arms in awe and disbelief, looking at the rows of spines now dotting his flesh and pulsing with venom, the Bear cracked a smile. He spun around to show Bella and came to a stark realization. He quickly darted sideways and positioned himself strategically behind a fake plant.

Bella, still startled, laughed softly. "Shuma," she said into her comm, "Please bring me another pair of pants."