Stone

From the Story Arc: Three Days In December

Previous Story in the Arc: Fire by Belladonna Aura (Wednesday, December 13, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Sword by Belladonna Aura (Thursday, December 14, 2006)

(posted Thursday, December 14, 2006)

((cowritten with Kid Crisis))

It’s only love that keeps us hanging on
Until the battle in our hearts is won
On the day of reckoning, reckoning



“Handle RPC for me,” she’d said, and that was what KC was doing, fielding everything that came from Congress so she didn’t have to. Sera, JM, and Communard were dealing with CCCP. Already she had made the plans for the memorial ceremony in two days; she was sticking to her guns no matter what brilliant ideas—or otherwise—people were coming up with. No choirs, no orchestras, a few selected speakers…and here, at HQ.

“We’ll get a permit and we’ll block off the street for a couple hours,” she’d said. Vickie had gone to City Hall to get the permit as soon as the words were out of her mouth.

KC was dealing with condolence calls, people who were only just now hearing and couldn’t believe it, invitations to the memorial…coordination with all of RP Congress.

And one other thing…sending the RPC people who were just as shell-shocked to someone other than Bella for comfort.

She was working quietly, methodically, dealing with everything else that KC wasn’t and that she hadn’t delegated out to Vickie, to Petro, to Tao, Sophia and Sasha, to Tahsa, to October Star, and even to ReBear, who was uncharacteristically subdued. She dealt with all the dignitary, all the official condolence calls. Moscow. DC. The press. Her voice, soft, calm…scary calm. The calm in the eye of the hurricane, the calm just before the bridge collapses. He could read it. He’d heard her like this before.

He’d heard someone else like this before too…though in her case…it had been the calm before the ax falls.




Flashback

She paced back and forth in the sumptuous hotel suite. He was late. Everything was going to hell around them, and while she was sure it was, to a certain extent, salvageable, Belladonna Nova was beginning to lose patience with the whole thing. With John Lang and his weepy, weak inner conflict, with Crey and their obvious inability to handle even a distracted, moping genius and his prissy friends. Losing track of him, letting him out of their clutches. Letting them destroy a whole series of labs, including the Alpha site, where Frigate had been doing… what, exactly? Growing, building… substitutes?

It was preying on her mind. Frigate was so much to her. Surrogate father, teacher, even… but why would he be making so many more? And was it possible that the loyalty, the trust, the love were just implanted into her mind, to make her docile? To make her weak/?

And why couldn’t anyone find Lang? The stress was getting to her, making her jumpy. She spun towards the phone.

He was standing there, watching her, in his armor. The outer shell was scratched and blackened, the helmet off, and she could see the soot and windburn on his face. Arms crossed, Kid Crisis watched her silently from behind amber lenses set into a grey visor covering his eyes. For a moment, they both stared.

She couldn’t see his eyes, and the silence was… “The Alpha lab,” she said, nodding to herself, needing to break away from the stare. “You led them to it. You destroyed it.”

“That’s right,” he said quietly.

“Fri… Daddy’s going to ruin you.”

He reached up and pulled off the visor. Tilting his head, he looked over at her, curiously, softly. “No,” John said. “I know where he is. We’re going to take him down tonight.”

“You don’t believe that.” Her voice was filled with scorn. “Why would you even come here, if that was true? You’d be getting ready. Briefing your sad little friends. Brooding in a corner.” She sneered at him. “It’s not like you to gloat.”

Sighing, looking down at the floor, he pinched the bridge of his nose between two fingers and winced. “I’m not… I didn’t come here to gloat.” He looked over at her, his eyes still soft. “I came to warn you. When we’re done with Frigate, they’re going to want to come after you. There’s no good reason why they shouldn’t. I won’t stall them. And I’ll lead them right here.”

She stared at him coldly, her arms crossed.

He sighed again. “You need to run.”

“Where, exactly?” She snapped. “With what gratuitous, hidden resources? And why? Why should I give up all this?” She gestured around, to the suite, the luxury that surrounded them.

He took three quick steps, pulling the gauntlet off his left hand. She flinched back, but he reached up gently and touched her cheek.

“Of course.” She nodded in understanding, but her voice was laced with sarcasm. “Chivalry.”

He closed his eyes, then opened them and looked at her. “It’s not,” he said quietly. “You’re not evil. You’re no more of a criminal than I am. Without Frigate… I want you to have a chance to try.” Reaching into a hidden pocket in his armor, he pulled out an envelope and handed it to her. “A place called the Etoile Islands. Off the coast. There’s no extradition, no one will hunt you down there.” She looked into his eyes again. They were still soft, but there was something else there. Soft. But not fragile. And not weak. And cold.

He looked almost like Frigate.

“You can start over.” His voice was hoarse. “You can be better.”

“Better?” she hissed. Her arm came around, her fist crunched into his jaw and he stumbled back. “I thought you were /smart./” Shoving her way past him, she stepped onto the balcony and looked back. He stood there, in the doorway. His bare hand touching his jaw, but standing straight, watching her. What was there, she wondered, that made him so like them, but so different? On the cusp of something great, but so unwilling to step over into greatness? Clutching the ticket in one hand, she looked up, into the sky, and flew away.

Still and silent, he watched her go. Somewhere, a radio burbled softly. The song was familiar. A classic, quietly ironic. Johnny Cash, singing Vera Lynn.

We’ll meet again…