Author: ananke_adraste AKA Christina Nordlander Dawson
Fandom: The Venture Brothers
Warnings: Violence (eye trauma); occasional swearing
Word count: 1760
Prompt: 146. The triumph can't be had without the struggle. - Wilma Rudolph (1940-1994),African-American Olympian athlete. First American woman to win three gold medals in track and field... and she won while running on a sprained ankle.
Notes: Presumably AU, though that is up in the air until Season 5 comes along. The story of what happened to Molotov after the Season 4 finale.
My friend rise_your_dead came up with Molotov's real name, but I'm not using any other part of her fanon.
The impact knocked consciousness back into her. She had been prepared for the fall to kill her. Now that she'd survived, she would have to face it again.
The car doors were squashed stuck, but all the glass had shattered when the car hit the rock. Molotov brushed the last shards out of the frame with a glove of black sheen, and dove out onto the nocturnal mountain road. She had to prevent herself from glancing up to the next curve. Brock was still up there. He would rush straight to the Compound to save his employers. Perhaps he wouldn't even stop to look at the wreckage.
An explosion was needed. Even most professionals assumed that a car would always go up in a Hollywood fireball on impact. She found a book of matches in a pocket, struck one, tossed it under the hood and stood aside in the perfumed night air. That had been quick enough. Inside, Monstroso's body showed black against the flames like a heavy supine statue.
Brock wasn't going to stand there and watch the immolation; neither would she. She broke into a run down the road; once she was out of sight, she could climb down the scree and make her way in the opposite direction from the Venture Compound. She had to stop and shake her boot – she'd thought it was grit, but it turned out to be broken glass from the car. She felt no pain from the fall, just a general ache, no worse than after an all-nighter at the gym. And if there was something more pernicious, something that had been shaken loose in her spinal cord, there would be plenty of time to notice that.
It had been Molotov Cocktease who had leapt from the car like a pantherine cliché, but the woman who had landed on the asphalt was Masha. If not, she became Masha by increments as she proceeded between the cones of lamppost light and climbed over the fence into darkness.
* * *
She followed the empty road until she came across a motel. The owner leered at her black PVC and fire-red hair. She was in no mood to play along, but at least that indicated that there had been no further trauma to her face.
The motel room was better than she'd expected: tidy and bungalow-like, a military bunk with a tan wool blanket, a window on the wide Colorado moon. She placed her largest knife on the night-stand and pulled the curtains.
She was back at the orphanage, only it was so empty, it might have been an unused stage set. She was wearing her orphanage uniform with the little cap again, so maybe there had been a mistake and the men from the Garden had sent her back. Under the jacket and skirt, her body was childish, short-legged.
She stopped in front of a mirror in the girls' bathroom and stared at her round, scrubbed face and green eyes, trying to figure out what was wrong.
* * *
Money was still not an issue. She spent some of it getting to the nearest town, where she spent some more on unmemorable clothes and had her hair dyed a glossy, tightly-curled brown. She was enjoying a smoke in the mid-day sun on a market street when her phone beeped. It was the shape of a sleek powder compact – a girlish trifle, but useful. She stepped into an alley and flipped it open.
“God damn it, Mol! I was about to hang up!” It was Henrietta, her second-in-command; cheeks flushed with anger or vodka, her Blackhearts uniform underscoring her lack of curves. “Are you still in Colorado? Do you know what happened to the girls you sent out for Operation Burnt-Offering?”
She had named it herself, hadn't she? She shook her head, out of habit; her new haircut didn't fall in front of her eyes. At her years, she could have chosen something less melodramatic.
“They're dead”, she muttered.
After Henrietta's outburst:
“Trust me, I know Brock Samson. I have no doubt they went down fighting. Henrietta, how would you like to be the leader of the Blackhearts?”
“Leader?” It took several seconds for it to become an intelligible word. “Well, I would of course be honoured, but I really don't know what...”
“Because you are.”
She ground the phone to its constituent diodes under her heel and tipped the remains into a dumpster. She was about to walk off when a memory stung her. She dropped her new canvas bag on the asphalt and searched her pockets for the large knife.
It wasn't there. She'd left it at the motel.
Recomposing herself took mere seconds. It hadn't been expensive, and it certainly carried no sentimental value. It had her prints on it; she knew how to stay ahead of the police. The motel owner could keep it.
Did she even need it any more?
The next time she passed a travel agency, she went inside and booked a ticket for Brazil.
* * *
It felt like she had dreamt under sedation. That didn't usually happen. If she had, perhaps it was the large unhygienic scent of the jungle that had stimulated some memory centre in her brain. At any rate, she couldn't remember. She awoke with a luminous sense of anticipation, like on the mornings when something special was going to happen at the orphanage, fresh fruit rations or getting to play and fight in the forest.
The plastic surgeon, a great nervous bear of a man, held a hand-mirror in front of her face as if she might smash it. The slightly bruised face in the mirror was satisfactory: younger than her, impersonally pretty around the pink eye-socket. The mole next to her mouth was gone, that was going to be hard to get used to, and the script of wrinkles.
“You have outdone yourself, Doctor”, she said.
Her voice was unrecognisable, too, from slack facial muscles and the burn of thirst in her throat. As she got off the operating table, her body felt weaker than she was comfortable with. She snapped the eyepatch back around her head.
“You flatter me, Miss.” He turned to a laptop in the corner of the bungalow clinic. “I will of course provide you with all necessary identification. What would you like your name to be?”
Well, what would you?
When she'd burnt Monstroso and her life together, it had felt like she could become Masha again. Perhaps she could, but as she traversed the jungle the way she'd come, something drained from her. It would be nice to think that it wasn't the result of a concussion in the crash. She still wasn't old, but she was past her prime. The ache in her spine and hips was going to stay and become age. The surgeon had even asked her to stay a few days, as if she were some frail little thing that couldn't brave the jungle on her own.
* * *
She rented a hotel room under the name Juliette Roeper. It was a decent name: not bland enough to be an obvious alias, no sly parallelism with her old codename. Its vague European flavour would account for her accent. It was about time she started working on that.
The room was impersonally pretty, too. How many hotel rooms had she slept in? She probed at that thought, seeing where it would lead – the drive to settle down, a terraced flat, man, kids? The images provoked no response.
That night she dreamt of Brock slipping the blade of the knife under her eyeball. The way her lower eyelid had folded harmlessly under the metal, the way she had been able to see until the visual nerve severed with a short flare. It had looked like the first spark from a lighter. She'd thought she was already dead, that was why she hadn't fought back.
The effort of vomiting twisted her out of the dream.
She was standing on a road in the desert cold. A car was sitting next to her. She peered inside and saw herself sitting in front of Monstroso's monumental form: red-haired, long-faced, lips shined with ruby. If that was Molotov in the car, then who was she? She drifted closer to catch her reflection in the window, but fire flared up from the car and engulfed her.
* * *
She sat on the edge of the bed, staring into the magnolia wall.
When was the first time she'd killed? For a moment she was struggling to remember, but it came to her before the panic. She had been just a skinny kid in the Children's Garden. It hadn't been the plan, but she had done it because Yuri was down. The terrorist leader had ignored her scrabbling across the cold plank floor until her fingers closed around the fallen knife. She had stabbed him like removing an obstacle, once in the thigh and once in the throat. Perhaps she would have felt something if he hadn't made it so easy.
That woman is dead now. She'd had to say that cliché so many times.
A sound drew her to the window. A tropical rain was slashing down, blurring the glass until all she could see of the street outside was the colours. She stood staring at it as if she was outside the glass and letting it bathe her face and hair.
She returned to the bed and let the drumming of the rain mask her voice as she started practicing her English pronunciation.
* * *
She knew to whom to speak to get into the OSI's headquarters in Rio, as well. In fact, she could have infiltrated them: she had done once, back in the Nineties. It felt like the memory of something she had read in a novel.
This time she went through the tunnel under Mount Corcovado accompanied by two pinched-faced guards who sat her down in the recruitment office. The interview and physical took the better part of an hour. They were going to give her a cybernetic eye.
“It's a man's life in the OSI”, the recruiting officer said in Portuguese, slapping her on her back back to make her sway. “If you haven't got what it takes, we'll find out soon enough, rookie.”
Juliette smiled, an open and unseductive smile, as her false identification shrivelled and flared up in the ashtray.