From the Story Arc: Three Days In December

Previous Story in the Arc: Stone by Belladonna Aura (Thursday, December 14, 2006)

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

(posted Thursday, December 14, 2006)

When you pull the sword from the stone
And all the walls came tumbling down
And all your knights have fallen to their knees, to their knees

They’d all been going for thirty-six hours straight, now…or rather, Bella had.

Her parents were taking care of…what needed to be done…back at her apartment. Some of the things she had asked for seemed kind of odd—rearrange all the furniture, replace her couch. Some were logical, bag and seal up all of Zach’s clothing and put it in storage in an unused closet.

Maybe the furniture business was just to keep them busy, keep them out of the throng of the lost and forlorn that wandered through HQ trying to find something meaningful to do.

KC had snatched a nap or two on a cot, and so had just about everyone else except Waitron, Felix, Propaganda Machine.

Thea was virtually camped out in the kitchen, alternately crying her eyes out and cooking enormous quantities of food. They’d all tried to get Bella to eat; she’d pick listlessly at whatever they put next to her until it got cold and had to be taken away. Finally he’d gone out and gotten some yogurt smoothies and some meal-in-a-can things. She drank a couple of those, when he put them in place of her coffee cup. It didn’t seem to matter what was there, as long as it was liquid.

He listened to her on the phone. He couldn’t imagine where she was getting the concentration. Most of the calls were simple to answer, gratitude for the sympathy, invitation to the memorial, assurance that if she needed something she would get in touch, gratitude for the sympathy. Waitron was splitting most of the media with him; a blanket “no interviews until after the memorial.”

But there were certain select calls…

“I appreciate your calling. Thank you. Thank you. I really don’t feel up to a full interview now. Yes, I am sure you appreciate that. Yes, the creature called “Weasponized” did say those things. Yes, we have no reason to believe he was making them up; I knew Zach….” her voice faltered just a fraction “..very well. He certainly recognized that Weaponized was telling the truth. Yes, I can make some of Zach’s records available to you; you will have to ask John Murdock himself about his. We are very proactive about personal privacy….yes that does seem odd in a communist…of course. Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate your sympathy. Yes, some time after the memorial.”


“Yes Senator. Thank you, Senator. Yes he was. And yes…there is absolutely no doubt. It is in Zachary Marlowe’s records here at CCCP that he was the product of a clandestine SuperSoldier program. Yes, sir, John Murdock, as well. Yes sir, American. Both were on American soil, and John was a volunteer from the US Army.”

Silence on her part. Then, quietly, “No sir, being as it was covered on every news feed in the country, I rather think the cat is thoroughly out of the bag. In fact, I believe if you will check internet references, you will probably find every word that was spoken has been published…”

Silence. “Well, I am no politician, sir, but there are certain things I do plan to say at the memorial. No Senator. Yes. Yes. After all, you are a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Yes, sir, that could happen. I think that, given my…Zach’s…sacrifice, that investigation would be appropriate sir. And you are coming? I’ll make sure your seat is reserved sir.”

She was working her leverage, making sure that this didn’t get shoved under the rug. This was a different Bella. He knew she’d been Zach’s arm-candy at DC events for a while now. It was pretty obvious now that she hadn’t just been arm-candy. She must have been watching, listening, learning from him….

And she wasn’t going to take this lying down. She was going after the men who had created Zach, created Weaponized. And she was going to make them pay. Maybe, somewhere under all that, there was the thought that this might get at the current threats coming at John Murdock and his family. There was steel in her that he hadn’t seen before.

Those calls took it out of her, though. He’d watch her leave her desk and lock herself in a bathroom for long minutes after one, and come back looking drawn and wan, each time it took her a little longer to get back from the bathroom.

Finally he intercepted her. “Why are you doing this to yourself?” he asked, maybe more harshly than he had intended. “You’re—“

“Killing myself?” She shook her head. “No, no, John, I’m not killing myself. I’m trying to live.”

“For what? Revenge?”

She blinked. “Is that what you think? No, no, that’s not it. It’s not…” She pulled him into her office and sat him down on one of the chairs in front of the desk, taking the other, holding his hand. “Look, one of the things I learned about DC, being with Zach, is that you get very limited windows to get things done. People forget, big news ages off, momentum drops, quickly. The people that—the people that created this horrible program, and more, the people that signed the checks and authorized it in the first place—yes, I want them tracked down. And I want them dealt with. But not out of revenge, John I want them to be dragged out into the light of day like the cockroaches they are. But not for revenge. So that no more kids, no more young men like John get shanghaied like that. I can’t bring Zach back, and I can’t make his senseless death make more sense, but I can bring something good out of the wreckage. I have a chance to stop that, John. Like you did. And I’ll do anything, anything I can, to make that chance happen, whatever it takes. Like you did.”

Like you did… The memories flashed across his mind. Alpha lab. Leading the attack of his friends, his real friends from all across RPC. He had gotten a chance to stop something, and he’d taken it, and it had cost him, yes…but looking back on it…would he have done it again?

From the vast distance of a lost arm and so much more…

I think so. I hope so….

The smile that touched her lips for one brief moment warmed her eyes. “Yes you would, John. You would. I know you would.”

That wave of comfort came from her again, and washed over him. She let go of his hand, and went back to the commissary for more coffee. He went back to his desk.

He still hadn’t seen her sleep. Once the calls had been dealt with, she, along with Thanh Ha and Sera, were taking care of the comrades. He couldn’t imagine how she was doing it. They would come to her, shaken, sometimes weeping, intending to try and give her comfort. She sat with them, sometimes holding their hands, and within minutes it was not they who were comforting, but were being comforted. They were unburdening memories, grief, anger…she gave them back whatever it was they needed to come to grips with it all…

But he wasn’t going to try and make her sleep. Or eat. Or anything else. He thought he knew something of how she was feeling…when only nerves and willpower got you started, and only momentum kept you going, because you knew if you stopped for one moment, you would stop forever and never move again….