Tuesday, December 24, 2013

How The Radwanska (Almost) Stole the World: Chapter 1 - Citizen Anna and the Beginning of the Beginning

And so it begins. Citizen Anna vs. The Rad. The Rad vs. Citizen Anna.

Chapter 1 of the latest serialized tale involving Backspin's resident heroine begins here. Hopefully, by the end, we'll all still be around to sing Anna's praises.

Otherwise, The Radwanska will have destroyed us all.

The Radwanskian threat persisted, and The Cause was, if its members were pressed into total honesty, admittedly in its final days.

As the Fifth Scourge was well underway, it was clear that there would not be a need for a Sixth. The landscape could hardly be more desolate, and the never-ending cycle of Radwanskian despair was now considered the normal human condition. As the Fourth Scourge, marked by the most thunderously destructive and brutally incessant series of attacks conducted by The Radwanska, had persisted it was apparent that the long-rumored Plan had been achieved by the evil entity. Armed with an inexhaustible source of energy -- fear -- attained by the perfecting of stable and repeatable time-traveling technology that finally allowed It to travel back into the past in search of unsuspecting innocents, usually children, the hungry-for-destruction Rad no longer tired and came up just short of Its ultimate goals. With the ability to run amok in time periods in which "Beware The Radwanska" was but a phrase akin to "the bogeyman will get you" or "watch out for things that go bump in the night," The Rad's power grew exponentially, and It shed whatever vestiges of mercy It had left... even, it was rumored, when it involved the mortals which had served as Its human hosts, and for whom It had been "born" as their "alter egos."

After years of the scrappy Cause soldiers conducting a valiant battle of resistance against the forces under control of the malevolent evil of The Rad, the battlefield victories of the detested traitorous Minions were by now a common, soul-crushing occurrence. The rebels were but a scattered deterrent to the coming complete overthrow of what was once right and good. Their numbers were sparse, and their effectiveness rare.

Worse yet, over time, the resistance had disintegrated from the top down.

Citizen Anna, the inspirational and tactical leader of The Cause, hadn't been seen since the early days of the battle. The only mortal to have ever battled The Rad face-to-face, Anna was once viewed as the leading hope for a reversal of worldwide fortunes. But her silence and presumed death gradually eroded the remaining optimism of the rebel fighters. Then, as things grew ever more bleak, every note of hopefulness was discovered to have arguably been at best, a naive dream, and, at worst, an outright lie.

First, after The Cause's own Krakow Project had attained for the rebels the ability to safely travel back in time, the maiden mission utilizing the technology -- code-named "Operation Blueprint," it was a trip backward in time to just eleven months after Anna's disappearance following her cave battle with The Rad -- was endeavored due to the detection of a faint rescue beacon situated in the area of Radwanska Abbey, as well as the discovery of the thought-lost original Abbey blueprints, found beneath the destroyed ruins of Backspinville. Anna wasn't found, but the shell of the individual that had once been Maria S., the first publicly known victim of a Rad attack, was. Commander Sloane had spearheaded the mission due to her intense faith in Anna's abilities to lead The Cause to victory, as well as her own personal desire to simply see her good friend once again. Maria was immediately embraced by the masses, many of which who'd come to see her as something of symbolic myth created simply to inspire the rebel forces in their darkest hours, and she tried with all her heart to gather herself and lead. But she was unable to do so as she'd hoped. Her best days were behind her, and her post-captivity "good" days hardly measured up to the role that the anti-Rad movement needed her to fill in order to inspire the rebels to successfully carve out a livable future for all. Truthfully, though, it was a role that no one could have filled. Well, almost no one.

Then, in the midst of Maria's failure, The Cause came perilously close to imploding. Most damaging, it was nearly destroyed from within its own ranks.

While Commander Sloane had seemed more than capable of assuming the role of future Cause leader prior to Operation Blueprint, quite the opposite had been the reality in its aftermath. Her questionable battlefield actions and decisions on behalf of the rebel forces, which led to untold bloodshed, were at first assigned to her inability to focus and accept Anna's fate, as well as possible jealously over the hope and love that bathed Maria upon her return. But when one young soldier, known simply as Genie, burst forth during the Commander's live digital address to all Cause cells around the world with damning evidence that she was not who she claimed to be, the entire resistance nearly collapsed. The truth was never to be fully known, but it was surmised by those privy to Cause secrets that the heroic rebel leader, known lovingly as "Future Sloane," had somehow been secretly replaced during Operation Blueprint -- possibly by the harbingers-of-doom Siblings, Yuri & Yelena -- by an impostor, a more immature and untrustworthy doppelganger who was actually a Minion of The Radwanska. No one knew whether the "Current" Commander had planted seeds of doubt within Maria's soul, or what Krakow Project secrets had been revealed to the enemy, but it was apparent that The Rad's evil influence had indeed set back the efforts of the resistance. Perhaps, fatally. "Current Sloane" managed to escape back into Radwanskian territory, but the location -- or even continued life -- of "Future Sloane" had remained a matter of debate ever since.

The incident kicked off the long Fourth Scourge that brought the world, to its virtual knees. But The Cause would not die.

A new generation of leaders battled onward, but with little realistic hope of victory... save for the dim notion that Citizen Anna was still out there, somewhere, fighting behind the scenes against the power of The Rad, searching to find a way back to the people that she vowed to save.

Anna's last known actions were her defense of The Cause in head-to-head combat with the evil entity deep within the cave outside Gronau Outpost, the Minion-infested area in the snowy North...

Anna realizes that The Radwanska is quite literally breathing down her neck.

With the quickness of a world class athlete by now familiar with having to fight, to the death if necessary, in order to survive, Anna jumps vertically as high as she can, twisting her body around in mid-air and swinging her sword at waist level. The Radwanska wails out in pain. Anna looks down at her weapon and sees a green goo dripping down the sharp sword blade.

"It bleeds!, her mind screams.

As Anna takes a step back to steady her balance, she sees The Radwanska. Its flowing darkness nearly envelops Anna, but It keeps a safe distance from the sword. She continues to swing at the air, hoping to make another strike at the manifested-into-semi-physical-form alter ego as It drifts from wispy blankness to substantially tangible form. She tries to attack It from a different angle, but Its glowing red eyes follow her and she is unable to catch It unaware and vulnerable once again.

Anna climbs to higher ground, but The Rad seems to be able to rise to her level with no effort. As she stares into Its eyes, she hears a voice. It might only be in her head. She can't be certain. But she "hears" it nonetheless.

"You will never win," the voice says.

"I'll find a way," she responds defiantly.

"You will die."

"If that's the price of freedom, so be it. We WILL defeat you," Anna declares. She scrambles to the highest position she can, then leaps from one rock to another. For a moment, she can see The Radwanska, but It can't see her. She realizes this might be her only opportunity. She holds her sword tightly, points it directly at the wispy black form beneath her and leaps into the darkness, with her eyes wide open.

But then, there was nothing.

It'd been years since Anna's presence had been felt by the masses, though many labored to keep her memory alive for as long as they could. Children dreamed of her heroic exploits, while adults struggled to remain optimistic that she'd one day return with the key to victory. After a while, though, there was little of the former, and only a lingering sense of the latter, mostly from those who'd had personal contact with The Citizen.

Of course, little did the rebels know, but Anna had not died by the hand of The Radwanska. Understanding the symbolic power of imprisoning Its opponents' inspirational leader, and arrogant enough to think that It would be able to bend her will to Its will, The Rad had brought along The Siblings, who'd previously engaged Anna in several bloody battles, to ambush her in the cave. Once Anna had proven she could injure the entity, the twins dutifully swooped in and subdued her.

Enslaved for years within the underground complex beneath Gronau, Anna was one of a string of seemingly-nameless prisoners of war kept there by The Rad and Its obedient Minion guards. But she was anything but that. And, unlike Maria, Anna never lost sight of who she was, nor confused reality with the inner angst that The Siblings attempted to inflict during their daily interrogation sessions. Though she made them think she did. Anna had been prepared for this, and maybe even expected it when she dove head-first into her fight with The Rad. It always had a backup plan, and The Siblings were never far away. Now, trapped with them and seeing the necessity to check her usually proactive tendencies, she told the twins what she knew they wanted to hear and, as a result, her personal conditions improved over the time she spent there. Most importantly, she knew The Rad was watching, listening... and believing.

Along the way, she discovered many additional cracks in The Rad's cloak of control over the Minions. And not just the sort that revolved around the double agents who'd played both sides when the war's end result was still in question, keeping their options open. These Minions were truly working for The Cause, hoping to turn the battle back in the favor of good. As had been the case on a smaller scale before she'd been taken captive, bits of information were passed to Anna over a series of covert connections, usually by way of her personal guards in her portion of the prison. She was informed of The Rad's mastery of reverse time travel technology, and the increasingly destructive attacks on The Cause's forces that soon after began to occur around the world. She heard when each major city fell, and silently wept in the early hours of the morning after she learned of the destruction of her Backspinville home and the probable deaths of so many of her close friends.

As the atrocities mounted, Anna yearned to physically take matters into her own hands, as she always had before. But she knew that defeating The Radwanska would take sacrifice, and time. Many would have to fall before she would have the chance to save them all. As she'd theorized before her capture, The Rad had been working Its way back through time in order to gather power by robbing children of their hopes and dreams during the holiday season. But the information Anna desperately needed to thwart the evil intentions of The Plan -- the precise time period during which the entity would be most vulnerable -- proved to be more elusive. She never failed to believe she'd eventually gain access to the technology that would allow her to travel through time and do battle with the entity once more, and when she did she knew she'd only have one chance to launch a surprise attack on The Rad from a more advantageous position in the past. Her aim had to not only be precise, it had to be lethal. If it failed to be, Anna knew that not only would she die, but the entity would forever go unchecked. The age of The Radwanska would never end. Today, yesterday and forever.

Then, one night, Anna was raised from her sleep in the dead of night. But not for an unexpected interrogation by Yuri and Yelena. Instead, she was being transported to a new "home" -- Radwanska Abbey, she'd soon discover -- where she'd be exclusively watched over by The Siblings. It was apparent that she was being prepared for something. Precisely what she did not know... but she did know that she would soon have to make her move, or else it may be too late.

Once at the Abbey, Anna experienced a life with more freedom of movement and fewer guards. She was still kept apart from the outside world, though news of the battlefield defeats of The Cause's forces, and the movement's internal collapse as the Commander's true identity was revealed, continued to trickle in. Then, one night, Anna heard a female voice in the darkness. It was a familiar voice, not only one of many she'd previously heard around blind corners and through secret messages smuggled to her by the Minions working behind the scenes against The Rad, but one from which she'd gleaned the most specific information about the entity's frame of mind. Anna never knew her identity, but it seemed as if she may be a member of the entity's inner circle of Minions.

The woman quickly stuffed a slip of paper into a drowsy Anna's hand.

"Go there, and then. You'll find what you need. What we all need," the woman whispered. Then she turned and scurried out of the room. Anna never saw the helpful Minion's face, but she did manage to glimpse what appeared to be her long blond hair in the backlight of the dingy hallway, as well as what appeared to be the tail of a kangaroo in her arms.

Then Anna saw it. Her sword, propped against the wall next to her bed. Some small part of her had begun to doubt that she'd ever see it again. But there it was. Suddenly, she felt her blood fully rushing through her veins for the first time in years. The time had come. Finally.

As soon as she had her opportunity, she prepared, and struck...

Anna, in her bare feet, slowly walks along the empty corridor with the sword in her hand. She carries it toward Room #97, the one with the red door.

She goes inside and delicately places the weapon down on the floor, against the wall, and then sits down in a wheelchair positioned in front of a large window. From behind her, she hears the sound of two pairs of feet entering the room from the hallway. The two visitors see her sitting in front of the window, her golden hair falling down her back.

"What was all the commotion?"

"Don't worry, mummy," says Yuri.

"It was nothing important," adds Yelena. "Just the crazy one... that's why we keep her apart from the rest."

"Always causing chaos," notes Yuri. "But all is fine now."

She shakes her head. "That's good." As she looks out the window, something catches her attention just outside the Abbey grounds. It's a solitary figure, walking along the outer moat with a confident gait, a hoody pulled up over their head. The individual stops at the swinging gate, then lowers the hoody, revealing a black fedora. From her seat, Anna smiles. "But there IS something that I have a problem with," she says in a newly stronger voice.

"What is it, mummy?," The Siblings answer in unison.

"Well," she says, "For one... I've never had any children." Then, in one seamless move, Anna snatches the sword from its position against the wall and executes a twisting leap through the air, swinging the weapon in an even swipe, cutting through the middle of the room with great speed and lethal accuracy.

The sound of a single "woosh", then two thuds, fill the air as Yuri and Yelena's heads are separated from their torsos with masterly precision. Anna settles perfectly on her feet, like a cat landing on all fours.

"I've wanted to do that for SO long," Anna says, savoring every syllable. "That was for my hand. Now we're even." She takes a few steps toward the door, then stops and turns around. "No, check that... I win."

Meeting up with the woman she'd seen through the window, Anna took the first steps toward her fatefal final battle with The Rad.

Outside, the solitary figure, a woman, walks up to the gate outside Radwanska Abbey, then simply waits.

On the surface of the water in the moat, rotten melons are floating. The stench is appalling, but the individual does not make a move for her nose. Finally, the far-off sound of the front door of the Abbey being unlocked and opened catches the woman's attention. As Anna, sword in hand, makes the long walk toward the front gate, the woman watches from beneath the fedora, not moving an inch.

Without a word or gesture, Anna lays down her sword and unlocks the gate, swinging open the heavy metal door. She and the woman, a strand of hair sticking out from underneath the fedora, stand face-to-face.

"So this is where you've been, huh?," the woman asks. "Took long enough."

"It worked, didn't it?"

"I don't know. Did it?"

"Two down, One to go," Anna says with glee.

The woman smiles from beneath the fedora. "Good luck with that."

"Oh, luck has nothing to do with it. Umm, I believe you have something of mine?"

"Oh, yes." The woman removes the fedora from her head and tosses it to Anna, who catches it and immediately places it atop her head. Anna smiles... she suddenly feels whole again. "I don't know how you wear that thing,” the woman tells her “Very uncomfortable, if you ask me."

"Nobody asked you, Vika," Anna says as she grabs the sword and then walks past her without looking her in the eye.

Vika grins. After waiting a few seconds, she jogs to catch up with Anna, then walks along the moat with her, side-by-side. She pulls the hoody up over her head. "So, no, 'Thank you for bringing my hat to me, Vika?'"

Anna shoots her a look. "So, no, 'I can't believe you outsmarted The Rad, Anna?'"

Vika simply shakes her head. "You're just going to be insufferable until this whole thing is over, aren't you?"

With her old resolve in her eye, Anna stares straight ahead. "Yesterday, today and forever," she says.

Vika shakes her head, walking along beside her friend, knowing that their most important, as well as most dangerous, mission is yet to come.

As Anna and Vika worked their way, through secret channels directed by that was left of their trusted circle of rebel friends. With no accurate knowledge of just how deep the corruption was within The Cause, Anna's progress toward the rebels' embattled headquarters was known by only a precious few, as any hint of her whereabouts might grab the attention of The Rad.

Perhaps in response to Anna's escape and the death of The Siblings, the Fifth Scourge had begun as an attempt to quickly eradicate The Cause in order to prevent any final avenue of offensive response by Anna. The vacuum of leadership left behind by the truth about Commander Sloane was filled by the second generation triumvirate of Jada, Lalie and Jack. The Belgians did the best they could, but the rebel forces were battle weary and pessimistic. Time was short, and The Rad's final victory couldn't be held off much longer.

The Citizen and Vika trained as they never had before in preparation for what awaited them, not knowing what they'd face when they stepped into battle. Finally, they were ready, and they made their way to what remained of Cause HQ, which had only managed to survive this long because of the reinforcements called in to fortify its defense, mainly because it housed the only remaining time travel device that had been constructed following the work of the Krakow Project.

They barely arrive in time.

Slipping in through a series of secret passageways, the last of which was opened by trusted, longtime colleague QC, Anna and Vika arrive unannounced in the barely breathing command post of the forces in charge of keeping hope alive the idea of freedom.

Other than QC, Anna recognizes no one... and they don't recognize her.

The global maps positioned around the room show just how much ground has been lost in the fight, and the entire complex shakes and shudders with every nearby explosion. It's a sight that immediately saddens Anna. She stares blankly at the destruction that has occurred in her absence. She's seen things, and heard the stories. But never have all of The Cause's failures been placed before her at once.

She is stunned.

On the wall are several tattered posters. One reads, "Freedom from The Rad." Another asks, "Where is Anna?"

"I should have been here for them," she utters, nearly under her breath. "I could have done... something."

"Hey!," Vika angrily reprimands her. "What do you always say? Sacrifice... then what?"


"What was that?"

Louder. Stronger. "Victory."

Just then, alarms ring throughout the complex. There in a flurry of activity in the control center. "We have a breach!," one security technician yells. "I've got another!," one more says. "They're inside! There's nothing between them and us."

Now, the explosions are taking place inside the complex walls.

Anna turns to her friend. "QC! Take us there! Now!"

QC runs across the room, urging Anna and Vika to follow. At the end of a short corridor, the trio reach the Transport Room and burst through the door, surprising the young female technician. She pulls her weapon on them and prepares to shoot... then she realizes who just came through the door.

"Anna? Oh my Gods," she breathlessly says, hardly believing what's coming out of her mouth.

"At least someone around her remembers me." She turns toward the woman. "What's your name?"

"Amelia." She stops herself from bowing before Anna, but it's obvious that she had to fight the urge.

"Well, nice to meet you, Amelia. Can you operate the machine?" When she shakes her head, Anna reaches into her pocket and pulls out the note she was given at the Abbey. As she does so, Amelia catches a glimpse of Anna's fabled sword underneath her long coat. Anna hands her the slip of paper. "Send us there and then."

"Yes, ma'am."

"Just call me Anna."

"Yes... Anna." She smiles, even while the fear of the moment battles against it.

As the explosions grow closer -- just outside the command post now -- a breathless Amelia quickly enters in the figures into the machine while Anna and Vika step into the metal "circus ring." They stand shoulder to shoulder as the technician's fingers shake as screams can be heard from the literal last line of defense at the other end of the corridor.

"Thank you for bringing my hat to me," Anna says without looking at Vika.

"You're welcome."

Amelia flips a final switch, and the ring begins to glow as it generates intense power within the circle. Standing next to Amelia, QC suddenly begins to speak.

"The end is the beginning, and the beginning is the end. The end is the beginning, and the beginning is the end!"

With a flash of light, the time machine is activated. The room is brilliantly illuminated. Suddenly, QC races across the floor and jumps into the light. She suddenly disappears along with Anna and Vika as all three are sent back in time.

"QC!," Amelia yells. Just then, Minions storm into the room, destroying everything in sight.

On the other side of the flash, the three women materialize within the metal ring. They find themselves on the tree-lined edge of a snowy landscape. Anna is upset with QC.

"What are you doing?! Are you trying to spread yourself in little pieces through time?"

QC simply smiles innocently, then reaches out her hand. She unfolds her fingers, revealing a small device.

"You forgot the re-activator. It's how you get back."

"Oh. Well... thank you. I'm glad you were paying attention, QC."

QC beams, then begins to happily skip and twirl around on the surface of the snow. Anna and Vika turn toward an opening in the trees.

"I bet you never thought you'd say that line in your lifetime," Vika says with a smirk.

"There are a lot of things I never thought I'd be doing because of all this."

Vika's eyes catch sight of something in the distance. At first, she's perplexed. Then, she's skeptical.

"Where are we, anyway? Is that what I think it is?"

"Welcome to the North Pole. And, yeah... it is what you think it is."

"You'd better not be expecting me to wear an elf outfit."

Anna rests her palm on the butt of her sword. "Sacrifice... then victory. Remember?" She turns toward the festive-looking home and workshop in the clearing in the distance. "Anyway, who cares what we're going to be wearing... when it's all over, it'll be what we were wearing when The Radwanska died."

Anna takes a confident step forward, then Vika and QC follow in line behind her.

All for now.


Blogger Diane said...

"Are you trying to spread yourself in little pieces through time?" :)

Oh, I hope we don't have to wait too long for part 2. I have some ideas about what might happen and who might come to C.A.'s assistance.

Bty the way, I love the tennis ball ornament/fedora banner. It's my fantasy that somehow, Anna K. comes to read these tales in which she so stunningly stars. In think The Citizen--cool customer that she is--would be flattered.

Tue Dec 24, 04:15:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Thanks, Diane. Hmmm, maybe such an incident might explain a great deal about QC, huh? :D

Yeah, I finally got around to setting that banner so that I can change out and alternate different images depending on the mood of things. Expect to see different notions and even a few faces show up there as the season goes along. ;)

Yeah, AK did provide the original "What If" prompt for CA (actually, I suppose she was even more than that in the very first incarnation), but The Citizen has sort of become her own woman/heroine over time, I think. Although, of course, her look will always have been inspired by her racket-wielding namesake. ;)

Tue Dec 24, 04:35:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

Would explain a lot!

And think about it--A.K. has also become her own woman over time. Art imitates life.

Tue Dec 24, 04:44:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Maybe we should hold a midnight vigil for Aga, then? :D

Tue Dec 24, 04:46:00 PM EST  

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