Avalanche – Snippet 25
The next few days turned out to be…interesting. After returning to Atlanta, John and Sera had immediately been recalled to CCCP HQ. Several of the comrades were gathered on the rooftop to welcome them and escort them to the briefing room. Thea, as pale as usual but definitely looking like she hadn’t been sleeping much—probably due to round-the-clock shifts—filled the couple in on what had happened during their flight back. First, there was the mild rebuke from the FAA for breaking the sound barrier and many windows. So far, there hadn’t been any news reports that had featured the couple as the cause the destruction at the academy’s campus; since all of the survivors had been hunkered down in the Civil Defense shelters and basements, there hadn’t been the usual cell phone footage of the battle. Spin Doctor had been working overtime to suppress reports that the couple had even been there, explaining away the monumental destruction as an experimental Thulian “suicide switch” that had been activated when they were met with force. What that “force” was had been intentionally left unsaid, as well. Of course, that was only what the public was told. Even Spin Doctor couldn’t keep the authorities out of the loop. The military…expressed concerns. As did the representatives of the US and other worldwide governments. Enough people in the right places had put two and two together about John and Sera to make the jump that they had been at the campus. Most of them went along the lines of demanding access to the “resources”—John did not enjoy being referred to in such a way— and a full briefing on the capabilities that the couple possessed. Several nations, in addition to wanting access to John and Sera, wanted to know what fail-safes were in place; The Mountain hadn’t left their memories, and another pair of high Op level metahumans only brought those fears back to the surface. So far, the Commissar had been stonewalling them all with the couple’s diplomatic immunity through the CCCP, but even she couldn’t withstand the pressure indefinitely. Especially from Russia.
“….and that is where thinks being stand, tovarishii,” Thea told them. “This is classic Western tactic. It is obvious they can beink do nothink about you. It is obvious they cannot beink do without you; you are beink too useful a weapon. Yet they must be makink posture.” She shrugged. “How useful a weapon you are beink, is obvious. Attacks are down almost to pre-Metis-attack level in this area, and stopped for some distance around Atlanta. But Chonny, cannot beink expect this to last, you must know this.”
“Naw, I don’t figure it will, Thea. The Thulians are takin’ a breather, figurin’ things out. They weren’t countin’ on Sera an’ me to be able to reach ’em as fast as we just did. If I were a bettin’ man, I’d wager they’re gonna try to feel out our new range, our new response time.” He ran a hand through his hair, sighed, and looked at Sera. “Things are gonna get a lot more interestin’ in the near future, darlin’.”
Sera nodded, silently. They had arrived at the door to the briefing room. Inside, John could hear what sounded like intense discussion. Thea held up a hand, stopping the couple from entering. “Watch carefully, Chonny. Do not beink promise too much. Commissar has hungry look in eyes. She is beink desperate.” Then she nodded. John took a deep breath, met Sera’s eyes, and then knocked on the door.
John pushed the door open. Natalya and Bella were seated next to each other at one end of the long and battered table that was at the front of the briefing room. Unter was standing behind them, arms crossed in front of his chest. He nodded curtly to John once before switching his gaze to Sera. The table was scattered with maps, reports, crumpled packs of Nat’s favorite cigarettes, empty cups of coffee and tea, and several communication devices.
He realized from the looks that both Bella and Natalya fastened on them that it was not just the Commissar who was desperate and hungry. So was the head of ECHO. Everyone had been stretched thin the last few weeks, but none more so than ECHO. Every meta was activated and on deck, even the lowliest Op 1’s and Support Ops. If someone had a heartbeat and the ability to hold a weapon, they were on call.
Bella was the first to speak. “So….was that a one-shot, or can you do that again?” she asked.
John shrugged. “Which part? Turning into a one-man ICBM, or damn near creatin’ a sun on the surface of the Earth?”
“Yes,” said Bella, at the same time that the Commissar said “Da, to both.”
The next three hours were filled with arguments, pleading, quite a bit of shouting, and probably too much caffeine. The Commissar and Bella both wanted John and Sera to become the go-to solution for an attack. Show up before the Thulians could leave, blast the hell out of them, and then move on to the next attack. John understood where they were coming from; an effective counter to the “just out of reach” attacks was needed. Some countries had been using the ECHO-developed high-thermite missiles, others were trying to be everywhere at once with their security forces. Thankfully, no one had had the bright idea to try to use tactical nukes; all of the bigwigs agreed that the last thing they needed was to trade a few dead Thulians for irradiated land. It all amounted to the same; more people getting hurt or killed–civilians and much-needed soldiers–and the Thulians adapting and changing their operational range. After Ultima Thule, it had taken nearly everything that Bella and Natalya collectively had to keep the governments of the world from trying to snatch up John and Sera. They used up the rest of that capital to protect the Metisian refugees from getting flung to the four corners of the planet, doing heaven knew what for individual governments. Now the governments were hungry for John and Sera again.
The logic that Bella and Natalya offered was that if they utilized the couple, they could persuade all of the governments to liaison with them. They pitched it as a way for John and Sera to stay relatively independent, but the implied argument wasn’t hard to see: “work for us…or have them fight over you, and have to work for them in the end.” There didn’t seem to be a choice. Or, actually, there was a choice, but it left the two of them out there, unsupported, on their own. They could strike out on their own and continue the fight on their own terms. Granted, Vickie could help them with Overwatch, but she couldn’t feed them, house them, clothe them…at least, not easily. They would have to be on the run from the world while at the same time defending the world from the Thulians. A lose-lose situation.
“We’re only metahuman,” Sera said, finally. “We need to rest, eat, sleep. We cannot be everywhere. We cannot mystically transport ourselves across the globe in a blink. Not even the Siblings, in the Invasion, could do that indefinitely–and we are much less than the Siblings.”
“Sera’s right. As much as folks want us to be, we’re not the Seraphim…well, for the most part.” John looked over at Sera; she shrugged. “Overextend us, and you got nothin’. Waste us on somethin’ small, an’ when the big hit comes, we’re useless.” Of all things, he did not want them to know just how close he had come to losing control in that fight; not of the actual power, like before, but of himself and what he could do with it. And if he and Sera were overused, tired…he wondered if his self-control would break down in the heat of the moment, and if he wouldn’t want to ramp down.
Surprisingly, Unter spoke up for John and Sera. “The overuse of strategic assets, while tempting…is unwise, Commissar. To expose the pair overly would invite a response from the enemy. Allow them to study them, and eventually anticipate their movements. Better to hold in reserve for proper use, keep enemy guessing. Also, possibility that they could be killed.” He looked to John, tilting his head to the side. “As your wife said, you are being only metahuman.”
Sera bowed her head to him, a little. “That, too, is a consideration. If you come to rely too much on us…and we are removed….”