Mercy Street

From the Story Arc: Grim's Gamble

Previous Story in the Arc: Striga by Astra Kyne Murdock (Wednesday, November 08, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Negotiation by Victoria Victrix (Friday, November 10, 2006)

(posted Thursday, November 09, 2006)

Her underwear was gray from being washed in the sink at night. So was her shirt. Mrs. Peebles had taken everything away from her and washed and dried it all while she waited in her room in a borrowed bathrobe…

She needed to sneak back for clothing. She chose a moment when everyone was registered as on patrol and the apartment felt empty. She checked, double-checked, then dashed inside. It wouldn’t take long. A few minutes to grab underwear, a couple shirts, a few other things—

Strange. Mandy had thought that for sure Astra would be angry with her, and how could she be? Mandy had done what her father had asked her. They both only wanted to protect her. And on one level she wanted to be protected….Sun Kai had made certain that she was going into this with sound strategy and given his tentative blessing. He’d told her that if Blaze, his superior officer, ordered him to tell what he knew, then he would. But he also told her he wouldn’t volunteer that he knew anything. Red Star had been hurt that Astra had closed her out…that had been bad. When this was over…if she could…Astra would have to make sure that Star knew it had only been that with so many voices crowding in on her, inside and outside her head, she had to shut them all out to be able to think….

“So. How's the fight goin', kiddo?” said the voice behind her. She whirled, startled.

Her father leaned against the doorframe, dressed in fatigues, regarding her without a smile. Instinctively she ducked behind one of the big potted plants she kept in her room.

“Father…” she faltered.

He sighed. “Come on out from behind that plant, Astra. I'm not...mad atcha.”

She wanted—so badly!—to rush into his arms and beg to be taken care of…

But she couldn’t do that, no matter how much she wanted it.

“I....didn't think you were, Father,” she said, gravely, stepping out into the open

He sighed, no small amount of relief evident. “Good.”

“But...please, don't try to stop me,” she added warily.

“So...” he shrugged, nonchalantly. “What's going on?”

As if…” know. I'm sure you know.”

He nodded. “I do. But, I wanna hear from you how y'see things.”

She stood facing him with her hands clasped behind her back, glad her dark glasses hid her eyes. She didn’t want him to see how frightened she was. “Grim Gambol. He's not going to stop. No one can even set a trap for him but me and Aedan.”

He nodded again. “Correct. Do you know why I stopped you before, but not now?”

“Because then I was going to surrender. Now I'm not.....” she took a deep breath and added the rest. “We can still lose. But if we lose....he stops.”

He measured her with his eyes; her shields were still up and locked, so she couldn’t tell much else. “Exactly. Before, you were torn apart by the emotion of the situation. The horror of it. You didn't have a plan. Now, you do have a plan.”

She nodded earnestly.

He straightened up. “Now, listen to me. You and Aedan won't lose. You simply can't, Astra. Your mother...I don't have to go into detail on what her reaction would be. Suffice to say, losing isn't an option for y'all. And I know you can win this.” He stepped forward.

“Father...” she faltered.

“ know that you need to do this, kiddo. You and Aedan both.” He held out his arms, and she folded herself into them, breaking down, crying, hugging him as tightly as he was holding her.

“Daddy....” she said into his shirt. “Daddy, anyone can lose. Even you. Even Mom.”

He held her, held her head to his chest. “Your Ma an' I can't protect y'all forever. Y'all have to stand on yer own. And you are. Y'speak the truth, kiddo. Look at me, real quick.” He pulled back for a moment, and she took off her glasses and pulled down her scarf to let him look her square in the face. “You might lose. We all might lose, an' we all can. But you need to wipe those thoughts outta your head right now. They'll do you absolutely no good. Do you understand me?”

“I want to win,” she said, fiercely. “I want to kill him. If I can't kill him I want to hurt him until he tells us what he wants. If I can't hurt him, at least I can send him to the Zig and buy us time.”

His eyes searched hers, and he made no comment about the statement that she wanted to kill Grim Gambol. “Y'need to remember everythin' me, yer Ma, Caradoc, and JJ have taught you about fighting.”

She nodded. “I've been practicing….”

“I know. An' yer Ma an' I have been letting y'do all of this on yer own.”

So he had known. She should have known better. But…he’d been letting her do this. Letting go, letting her do it all herself….she sighed. And put her head on his shoulder.

“This is your show, you an' yer brother's,” he said, and she believed him. Even as she felt a kind of ache, wishing he would take the show away from her. Except she didn’t. “Just remember; we're here for you. Your family is here for you, if you need us.”

She closed her eyes. “Daddy.....I love you.”

He patted her hair. “We all love y'too, kiddo. Even ol' K'takei, I imagine.”

Backplan. He needed to know about her backup plan. “There's some things you should know besides that, but that's the first. Dr Foxglove....I remind him of someone. I think, someone he loved who hurt him. Maybe the girl he killed.” She wished she had gotten clearer glimpses. “There's some....confusion there. But for right now, he's my ally.”

She felt him tense. “He's a dangerous one. If he has a hand in any of this, it'll complicate things. You need to be really, really careful if he's near.”

It was such a delicate balancing act. “If Grim wins, I think Foxglove will get me out. Maybe after Grim delivers me to Garvey, but I think I can trust him that far.”

That only made her father tense more. “The man has bad vibes, kiddo. An' I know y'can feel it.”

“I know. I know,” she replied. “This is.....this is like Christine and the Phantom of the Opera…”

But her father had already dismissed Foxglove from the discussion. “Remember. Don't think in terms of defeat. You need to get mentally prepared for all of this as much as y'do physically.

She nodded, and told him the rest. “We have a team.”

He paused for a moment to let her finish.

“Tasha. Shuma, Keet, Tigerbright. All ranged people, all people that can slow him down. And Miss Mori,” she added. “She might be able to get to him, get into his brain.” Did ghosts have brains?

Now a bit of the tension went out of him. “Rely on them. I don't like havin' folks we don't know in this; that means Foxglove. He'll only factor in if things go south. But since they won't go south, you'll be fine. It's a good bunch y'have with you, along with Aedan. Shuma is probably one of the best gravitons in the world.”

The memory of Shuma’s serious face made her feel better. “Yes she is. And she's my sister.”

“One last thing, kiddo. Be careful. I really, really mean that. Keep movin', remember your training.” His hands closed on her shoulders. “You'll beat this; you an' yer brother are stronger than me an' your Ma ever thought possible.”

She felt herself flushing and straightened up. “Daddy....”

He listened. It was one of the things she adored about him, When he listened, he listened, with ever bit of his attention on you.

“Father,” she said, “We'll do it. We have to.”

He looked gravely down into her eyes. “We're proud of y'both, kiddo. An' we have faith in ya.”

“Faith....that's important,” she replied, putting her glasses back on, and pulling up her scarf. Now she knew why her father had worn the same clothing. It felt like armor.

“It isn't blind,” he said firmly. “We have all of the reason in the world to have faith in ourselves and our family.”

She gulped. “Yessir.”

He playfully punched her shoulder. “Knock off the 'sir' stuff, youngin'.”

She caught his hand, her eyes softening. “Daddy...we'll do this. You're right, we have to.”

“I know y'will, kiddo. Git, 'fore I get misty-eyed.” But he didn’t let go of her, and she held him tight.

dreaming of mercy st.
wear your insides out
dreaming of mercy
in your daddy's arms again
dreaming of mercy st.
'swear they moved that sign
looking for mercy
in your daddy's arms

mercy, mercy, looking for mercy
mercy, mercy, looking for mercy