Avalanche – Snippet 42
“We’ve gotta get back to Atlanta. We’re skatin’ enough as is, though I’m pretty sure we can keep the Commissar from throwin’ too much crockery at us.” They walked through the door of the cabin; Zach was on the porch waiting for them.
“Some light show.” He shifted uncomfortably, then tried to pass it off as he looked down at the ground and leaned against the porch railing. “It’s time for you two to go, isn’t it?”
“You won’t be alone in the conventional sense, Zachary,” Sera said softly.
“Ok.” He glanced up at them. John didn’t need his new senses to tell that the kid was scared, and wanted them to stay. They were some of the first people that had actually been nice to him, that didn’t want to use him, that had actually tried to help him. It was going to be hard on all of them for the couple to leave Zach here. John thought a moment, then walked to the van. He dug around in his personal backpack for a few moments, retrieving a small brown object.
“I wasn’t lyin’ to you when I said that I know what you’re goin’ through, Zach. Here,” he said, handing the object to the teen. It was his leather-bound journal, the one that he had started after he went on the run. “I wrote in it just ’bout every day after I got out of the Program. It might help. Hell, if you get lost in the woods or somethin’, you could probably use it to start a fire.” John grinned lopsidedly with the last bit, clapping his hand over Zach’s right shoulder. “It’ll be okay.”
Zach looked down at the journal for a moment, then raised his eyes to meet John’s. “Thank you.” He turned to Sera, nodding his head. “Both of you. For everything. I know I can be a pain in the ass, but I mean it.”
“We’ll see you soon. Stay safe, comrade.”
“Leave the van. I’ll fake up a driver’s license for the kid. I’ll arrange a faster pick-up you two can fly to. We’re moving a couple of Metis eggheads to Laramie, you can ride on the empty back. Besides, you two never got a shot at riding in one of the saucers.”
The couple embraced Zach a final time, then finally walked down a light footpath, away from the bolthole and Zach; John spared a single glance over his shoulder at what had once been his home, then continued on. Past is the past. An’ we’ve still got a lot of work to do movin’ forward.
It had been a week since the couple had left Zach in Wyoming. Vickie had kept them apprised with regular status updates–in between barrelling everywhere they could reach to help repel Thulian attacks. They had even managed to share a couple of video calls with him. He was a tough kid; it had taken him a couple of days, but he had already adjusted to his new circumstances with surprising ease. The young are like that, John had thought. No matter what, he’ll make it.
Even with that one “worry” taken care of, there were a dozen more waiting for John and Sera back in Atlanta. The Thulian attacks had continued to increase in frequency; their absence, however necessary, had an impact. And it had been noticed. The Commissar was ready and waiting for them when they returned, and she was looking for blood, damn near. There wasn’t any thrown crockery, but she made it abundantly clear that she was a hair’s breadth from considering their time away as desertion in time of war. She demanded an explanation.
“Commissar,” Sera said, her face as serious as she could manage to make it. “We have a secret, last-ditch plan. There was something we, personally, needed to do to make sure that it was in place and would take up the fight if we all failed. Stalingrad, if you will. It was…something only John and I could do.”
“Oh? Well, then, is being quite alright. Secret missions without approval of your superior officers. Is just what was being needed, nyet?” Now John could see—and feel—her anger beginning to boil over. They had to act fast, or this would get a lot more complicated than it already was.
“Nat—Commissar,” John had said. “It was a contingency that had to be put in place. An’ the fewer people that know ’bout it, the safer it’ll be. We don’t know what might happen tomorrow, or the next day, an’ so on. A secret is safer when there aren’t as many bodies involved; figuratively an’ literally. Vickie is the only other one that knows the full picture, an’ it’ll stay that way. Operational security.” He paused. “If everythin’ goes to hell an’ you’re still livin’, Vickie’s put the details in your contingency folder. Same for Bella. This is a no-shit, we-lost-everythin’ fallback. Fact, if it comes to that, me an’ Sera will probably be toast before you need to open that folder.”
That caused Natalya to pause for a beat. She swung her head from John, to Sera, and back again. Then sat down in her chair, her shoulders sagging with fatigue as she rubbed her temples. “If Daughter of Rasputin is being involved…da, da, fine. Is being only time two firebombs under my command run off without nekulturny word, however. Our efforts against the fascista have been increasing, and we cannot spare a single tovarisch. We are needing twenty of you two, as is case.”
They had barely enough time to unpack their bags before they were thrown back into the fight. The rest of the CCCP hadn’t been sitting idly; Untermensch, Soviet Bear, and Mamona had been busy with patrolling and assisting military and police forces in repelling Thulian attacks. Untermensch had undertaken a direct-action mission—with Commissarial approval—all on his own, which had helped to temporarily cripple Thulian operations in the area.
“It seems,” the old Russian had said, “that the fascista do not do so well when someone detonates heavy explosives in one of their command and control modules on a beach head. Good to know, nyet?”
John and Sera had newly returned to Atlanta from a mission of their own when a new wrinkle appeared. They had been fighting on the Georgia coast, preventing a literal Thulian beach head from taking root. The battle had lasted two full and very long days, seeing the couple fighting alongside regular military units yet again. It occurred to John that a lot of the fighting, now that things were starting to move towards all-out, world-wide war, was beginning to very closely resemble descriptions of the fighting in WW2, when metahumans first started to appear. The most disconcerting aspect was that there were more Thulian metahumans added to the mix. So far, there hadn’t been any more sightings of Valkyria or Ubermensch, but the sheer numbers of the new ones made up for it.
Most weren’t particularly powerful, or had any exotic powers, it seemed…but there were a lot of them. John had seen in one threat report that current projections—based upon the numbers that the Thulians had been fielding to date and the metahuman losses incurred during and after the Invasion—stated that the Thulians might very well have more metas than the rest of the world. Which was pretty goddamned worrying, in John’s estimation. He only hoped that the Thulians were just throwing all of their metas into the ring in one big push…and that this wasn’t the first of many waves to come.
These and other thoughts were keeping John and Sera distracted enough on their walk home. They had landed at base, debriefed, and then been released on a twenty four hour leave that was almost immediately retracted and cut in half; there was just too much going on out there, and everyone that could pull a trigger or had powers was in demand. Still, the chance for a hot shower, something to eat that didn’t come out of an MRE pouch, and a few hours of sleep was more than John and Sera could have hoped for.
“I think there is something we must try,” said Sera, as the two of them walked, rather than flew, towards John’s squat. They were bone tired, having flown to, during, and from the two-day battle.
“Buildin’ a time machine? Tryin’ a magic spell that’ll let us sleep for twelve hours an’ feel like it was a week? I’m all ears, darlin’.”
“Something like the latter. Before, I was seldom weary, because the Infinite provided. I think we must attempt to connect to the Infinite while resting, rather than only when in battle. I do not think we will be denied the strength we need.”
John thought for a moment, then shrugged before putting his arm around his wife’s hip. “Your department, darlin’. I’ll give it a shot if you think it’s worth tryin’.”