Avalanche – Snippet 04
Most of the napalm had gone out by that time; Molotok’s suit was ruined in several places, but the skin underneath was untouched. His chest heaved, not from exertion, but from unbridled rage. Worker’s Champion had stood, watching the entire gruesome slaughter. Now, he set down the box he had had been carrying, and faced Molotok. There was a standoff that, while only a few seconds long, seemed to last an eternity, before Molotok screamed.
Now all of Molotok’s finesse as a fighter was evident. For metahumans with super strength and resilience–the two often seemed to manifest together, for obvious reasons that a meta that was super strong, but couldn’t withstand the stresses of what he was using it for, wouldn’t live very long–most of them relied on those abilities to simply power through their opponents. Molotok was not one of those metahumans. He had been taught and learned, from a young age, to fight as if he was weak, as if he was fragile. To marshall his strength, to protect himself from every strike as if it might be fatal. To strike where the enemy was weak, and defend from where he was strong.
As he attacked Worker’s Champion, he did so with perfect form, graceful and blindingly fast, precise with every blow and measured with every defense.
He was beautiful. And he was doomed.
Worker’s Champion had none of his protege’s flourish or artistry. But he did have power. He didn’t need to outmaneuver Molotok; even the most skillful strike, he simply cut through, using his own strength and nearly impervious skin to best the younger man. It was tragic. Molotok, no matter what injury he took, continued to attack. First, it was a split lip. Then, a mashed eye. A broken finger; a hand. An arm. His ankle. A dislocated shoulder. All the ribs on one side cracked. Teeth on the right side of his mouth, shattered to splinters.
But still, Molotok fought. Mustering the very last of his strength, he finally connected a solid blow to Worker’s Champion’s mouth. The sound of the impact was indescribable; like steel meeting steel with the force of a dynamite explosion. Molotok’s last good hand was ruined; bleeding bones jutting from skin and fingers turned all the wrong way. But…Worker’s Champion was bleeding. Three thin lines of blood crept down his lips; the blood was his own, and for a moment his eyes grew wide at the sight of it on the back of his hand as he wiped it away.
With a flick of the back of his hand, Worker’s Champion shattered the bones in Molotok’s remaining arm, ensuring he couldn’t even lift it any more. Molotok fell to his knees, very obviously struggling to stay conscious.
John felt so helpless, and it infuriated him. His fists were balled, his knuckles white in impotent fury. If only we were there!
There was a sound like the rush of wind while manning the door gun on a helo, diving on an LZ. Suddenly, John found himself not looking at a monitor and seeing through a camera, but feeling through Molotok. There was so much pain; the physical was there, and almost blinding, but it wasn’t the worst pain. The worst of it was the feeling of no longer being able to continue, to pursue the fight, to finish his opponent, and the threat to his loved ones. Molotok felt failure surge through him, redoubling and making him sick with grief. His life was ebbing out, he knew that; even though he had never been injured in such a way, he knew that he was bleeding internally, and it would soon kill him.
The despair in him was so terrible it completely overwhelmed the pain, and threatened to drown him before his body died. John shared that despair–hell, it was a reflection of the despair he had lived with for years–and without thinking, he “reached out” to his friend and comrade. He didn’t know what he would or could do, he only knew he could not allow Moji to die alone.
That was when John “felt” Sera with him, and felt her reaching to Moji too…and together they somehow touched him. “Fear not, brave one,” he “heard” in his mind, and knew that Molotok heard it too. “This is not an end, and your comrades will take up the fight and never forget you. See, the door? It waits to welcome you.” John couldn’t see it, but he sensed Molotok could, and sensed that Sera had muted the Russian’s pain as well. He willed Moji to “hear” him. This was–it was anything but natural for him, but he willed Molotok to sense that he was there, too, a friend that he trusted, and that the friend was letting him know that this was…all right. And that it was okay for him to let go.
The despair ebbed, then drained away. John tried to continue willing that support for his comrade. He thought he was succeeding when there was a strangled shout, full of fury and pain and desperation, and Moji turned his head.
It was Natalya, staring at her bolshoi brat with horror and outrage.
“She will finish this, I pledge you,” Sera breathed, gently.
“I know this. It is her nature; she only knows how to succeed.” Behind that single thought, John and Sera felt everything that Molotok–no, his callsign was too impersonal for such a deeply personal interaction–everything Moji felt for Natalya. His sestra. But more than that…the love of his life. He was the perfect Russian metahuman. Darling of the media, a ladies’ man as well as a respectable gentleman, when the situation dictated. A dedicated soldier, but also well-rounded and well-read. And the only thing he had ever wanted was Natalya’s love and companionship. Wanted it enough to stand by her even if it was only to be as her “brother”; when she was right, when she was wrong, when she wouldn’t take bribes like everyone else, when she fought for truth, when she was exiled to America. When she was certain to die; he would always stand by her.
He stood by her now, for who she was. For the woman he loved her as.
A smile creased Moji’s cracked and bleeding lips, and he felt no more pain. Only comfort, and certainty. Vengeance; this will not go unanswered. There will be rest.
Distantly, John felt another surge of terrible grief.
The part of him that was still in Atlanta–detached but still whole–moved the two steps it took to reach her, took a shoulder in each hand, and squeezed them gently, reassuringly, as she shook with silent sobs.
He felt himself saying, “We’re with him. He’s not alone,” and knew the words were his and Sera’s, both. So surreal. Needed, necessary. Kindness always is.
Moji’s camera registered Worker’s Champion picking him up until his battered face was level with the old Russian’s–which showed no more emotion than it had before. There was movement as Worker’s Champion pulled back his arm.
The feed cut out, leaving only Red Saviour’s feed, as Natalya watched the man she and Moji had called “Uncle” murder her best friend in the coldest of cold blood.
John and Sera both felt Moji move on. It wasn’t violent, like his death; more of a letting go. There wasn’t the despair, or grief that he had been feeling. Still that calm satisfaction. In that final moment, a single thought that encompassed so much more emotion rang out in both of their heads.
“I love you, sestra. Keep going.”
Then the moment was gone. John and Sera both fell to the floor at the same time; John behind Vickie’s chair, Sera still in the doorway. They both felt as if they had run back to back marathons on no sleep while carrying double their body weight in rucksacks. This was another First for them, and another extension of their new powers. Vickie wasn’t the only one with tears streaming down her cheeks; both John and Sera were crying, with no shame in it. They had not just watched, but felt a loved one, a comrade, pass on.
Vickie was already talking again; after all, she had a job to do, and couldn’t focus on any one crisis. No one had to tell her she had to go on, and that what she felt didn’t matter. Already she was telling Bella what was happening, and breaking that off to snap directions at Ramona and Merc.
John was the first to talk, murmuring gently to Sera.
“We still have a job to do, too, darlin’. Up an’ at ’em.” There wasn’t any feeling behind his words, despite trying to sound sanguine. Still, Sera nodded her assent, and took his hand when he offered it to help her up from the floor.
It was everything that they could do to push their sense of the futures out far enough to cover the building. They were still vaguely aware of Vickie, coordinating the evacuation of Metis in the background. Like John had said, they all had a job to do, so the two of them focused on theirs so that Vickie could concentrate on hers.