Chapter 25.3333

From the Story Arc: Dystopia

Previous Story in the Arc: Dystopia Chapter 50 by Krasnaya Zarya (Friday, November 03, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Dystopia Chapter 25.6666 by Petrograd (Thursday, November 09, 2006)

(posted Monday, November 06, 2006)

Chapter Twenty-Five And a Third

Sophia Rabinovich was not anywhere near as sneaky as she thought she was.

Victoria Victrix had hoped that she was at least reasonably sensible – with “reasonably sensible” being roughly redefined to include such rules as “Thou Shalt Not Go Portal Jumping Alone.” To be fair, an army would not be reasonably sensible either, but a small team, used to covert insertion into hostile timelines? That was the preferred method. Generally, Sophia could be put into the category of reasonably sensible, especially when compared to other members of the CCCP.

Like Sasha, the instigator of this whole mess.

However, when her “Watcher” program flashed its little warning, declaring to her that Sophia had gone — alone — into the suspect building, she was not surprised. When Sophia’s med-tag vanished from this Earth and it sounded a small alarm, declaring this to her and everyone within earshot …Well, she was still not surprised. And quite vexed. Sophia was entirely too used to taking care of Sasha, Vickie suspected. Entirely too used to being at least marginally in control of situations, or assuming she was.

Luckily, Vickie was all too used to assuming everything had already gone to Hell in a hand-basket and scrambling madly to pick up the pieces, hoping for enough salvage for the forensics team to call off the king’s horses and men from the search for the missing ovum.

But, regardless of her own reasonable sensibility, she did not immediately assemble a team to follow. Sophia was competent and she did know Sasha very well; it would do nobody any good to go charging straight in there after her. So Vickie waited, made lists - checking them enough times to please a shopping mall full of men in red suits and white beards - and crossed names off said lists until she had the meager four candidates of people she was going to inform of the situation.

And then the moment came when she knew too much time had passed and Sophia and Sasha were without a doubt in very deep kimchee.

At that moment, she went straight—not to the Russians, expert though many of them were at covert ops—but to the only other American in the CCCP besides herself that she knew for a fact had been on covert insertions. John Murdock.

With Sera beside him, she explained everything she knew, and everything she surmised, and laid out her sketchy plan. “…and if you’ve got better ideas, I’d like to hear them,” she concluded.

“Team a’three seems… small, Vic,” he said doubtfully, scratching his head.

“When one of the three is Chug?” she countered. “Johnny, there isn’t a facility built that can hold Chug if Chug doesn’t want to be held. Psy-powers can’t crack his skull. Nothing has ever been able to hurt him. He might not be as deadly a fighter as, say, Unter—but as a shield he’s second to none.”

“Point.” John and Sera shared a glance. ”Think Bell will go along with this?”

“If both of us say it’s a good plan. Or at least as good as we’re gonna get. Small team for covert insertion, and if we don’t come back, Bell decides whether or not to send in the heavies.” Vickie sighed. “But you know Bella, she will…even if it’s a bad idea.”

John didn’t comment on that last. “All right then,” he said, standing up. “Let’s tell the Commissar and get Petro. Time’s wastin’.”

Unlike Bell, Vickie was under no illusions about the sensibility of her comrades of the CCCP. Russians were emotional creatures, intellectual Russians even more, and intellectual Russians in the sciences went to the far right of the bell curve even though they liked to pretend that this was not the case. In retrospect, she should have known Sophia would do a runner…

But then again, what was she supposed to do about it? Lock her up? She had every right to go after her errant husband, no matter how stupid it was to go alone.

“Must not have seen enough American movies,” Vickie muttered to herself, as she prepared to tell Commissar Bella what was going on. But how to broach the subject…?

Bella looked up from the papers in her hand. “Say what? You hauled me out of an urgent cross-Congress job for Synapse, now what gives?”

Well that would do. “I suppose you’ve noticed the absence of Zakat and Zarya. Apparently neither Sophia nor Sasha saw enough dumb American movies where one person goes haring off in secret to chase something down and the significant other goes haring off after him—“

“—alone,” Bella finished. She sat down. “Oh crap. Tell me.”

Vickie did.

“Jeezus Cluny Frog on a pogo stick.” Bella rubbed both temples with the heels of her palms. “No wonder Saviour was nuts. It’s like riding herd on grasshoppers around here. Crap.” She looked as if she had eaten something bitter. “Mind you, given their attitude about me, I’m not as shocked as I might be.”

“Attitude?” Vickie’s eyebrow went up.

“They dislike me. A lot.” At Vickie’s incredulous look, she grimaced. “Look, when someone dislikes you that much, even shielded it gets across when you’re in proximity. Yeah, I got off on the wrong foot with them over the EMP thing. Well, too frigging bad. We’d had a rash of implants, and there were plenty of ways we could have gotten around it without them climbing into a cream colored huff and driving off. When you sit in the hot seat, you make decisions for the good of the majority, and if you’re me, you try to manage to work around the problems of the minority, but you don’t always succeed.”

“You’re learning,” was Vickie’s laconic reply. “So, now what?”

Bell rolled her eyes. “Please. You never come to me without a plan, miss I-am-more-paranoid-than-any-Soviet. What is it? And don’t tell me we’re mounting an expedition of the entire CCCP into some unknown dimension—“

“Insertion team. Small. Me, Johnny Murdock and Chug. Among the three of us, we should have all bases covered, and JM’s done this kind of covert work before becoming a hero. Petro to get the Portal up and running,” she paused. “Oh, and some equipment.” She passed over the list.

“Chug will go wherever I send him. Petro eats up tech problems like candy. What does Johnny have to say about this?” Bella’s attention was all on the list.

“He’s game. They’re comrades. You know the drill: ‘Leave no man behind’.” She shrugged. She’d been an officer, and she had been in those shoes herself.

Bella came to the last item on the list and stared wide-eyed.

“All right; most of this I understand. You don’t know that your magic will work, or work well, in another parallel world. You’ll be the medic on scene, and you’ll need some material alternative in case you can’t call up Herbert, and I know you can handle guns. But this? Jeezus, Vic, this is—“ Bella shook her head. “This is on the ‘We will neither confirm nor deny we have it’ list. You better give me a reason besides ‘we wants it, we do’ to justify this—“

“I do.” Vickie riveted her gaze on Bella. “We don’t know what’s there. We have to assume the worst. If I have to, I want to have a way to blow that Portal closed from the other side. I’m a Knight-Guardian, Bell. That’s one of our duties, to keep bad stuff from coming across Gates, whatever it takes. Same difference here.”

“Trapping you on the other side,” Bella said flatly.

Vickie nodded, and quirked one corner of her mouth. “I don’t intend for that to happen, obviously. But if it does, just call me Hero Two.”

“Yeah, they’ll put that on my tombstone right after Djinni kills me,” she muttered, signing the forms and handing over the key to the restricted part of the arsenal. “That thing is bigger than you are, you know.”

This time Vickie’s grin was real. “That—assuming I can keep him from eating it—is what Chug is for.”