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Your father
The morning after the battle with Regus, Nikolai departed a hospital under the strictest of confidences. The car that carried him back to the Kremlin was completely enclosed before he entered the back seat. His flags bearing the double crescent were absent from the hood. No other ornamentation decorated the vehicle. The only hint that someone important was inside were the blacked out windows, but those were common in a city of billionaires that demanded privacy. It arrived in the Kremlin mid-morning, where he entered the fortress under similar circumstances. The heart of the empire, the Kremlin, had been emptied except for any non-essential personnel or those with the highest of security clearances. Certainly, armed ZARS and Kremlin police were out in force, patrolling on the ground and along the walls, in greater numbers than Nikolai ever recalled seeing. A threat entered the Kremlin last night, and for all they knew, a nuclear bomb had almost turned the city into a smoking crater. As well it might have, if that Ijiraq that stole his power away from him had been able to force him into using it. Nikolai knew his own potential, he felt it stirring when he was delving the reactor in Dayton, Ohio. He could turn the city into a crater if he wanted. Fortunately, Moscow's destruction was not imminent.

In truth, he had let his attackers inside, and confronted them alone. Michael had been unavailable, dealing with the remainder of the Andlain uprising with the ascendants. Alric had been literally thousands of miles away, arriving from DV only hours ago. That left Marcus as his only other powered ally. The boy was strong, Nikolai admitted, and while inexperienced, he proved himself to be loyal. Combined with Aria's alliance, trapping Regus and his second in command should have been easy as a snapping his fingers. However, ancient weapons were not something he'd taken into account. An ijiraq. The memory made him shiver.

He walked the remains of his own apartment in the sub-basements beneath the Kremlin. Dust kicked around his feet. Rebar and a trail of blood snaked the path where a wounded Regus had been dragged before him. More blood stained the floor where he'd been shot and collapsed. More blood splattered where a man had been skewered by a sword, or so he had been told. The sword in question was unaccounted for.

Then there was the spot where the Ijiraq's remains had been recovered. The corpse was taken to the Facility to be dissected and analyzed. Nikolai had every confidence that Captain Weston and her team would be able to tell him something useful to defend against it. Even if it's as trivial a thing as finding out if it was even human.

He considered using his own power to rebuild the bunker. The walls needed reinforced, that was certain, and he did take the time to do as much, if only for safety purposes. But the rest of the architecture remained. He was far more comfortable down here, but it felt wrong to hide now. As he had taken the seat of the Russian tsars upon receiving Ambassador Oakland, he would adopt the living quarters of the mighty dynstasty. The opulent and luxurious tastes were not his, per say, but that was not the point. Like the ruined Arcus band, the point was symbolism.

By afternoon, he was giving his ZARS defenders additional orders to work with Aria. Only she could lead them to the locations that might uncover Regus's whereabouts. He was the top priority at the moment. He and any of his closest allies that posed a threat to him. Aria was found sometime by evening and given permission to formulate a strategy with the team. Together, they were the deadliest force on the planet. He had no doubt Regus would be found soon. Even if they had to use dogs to sniff the trail of his blood. The man would be found and executed.

Nikolai was finally brought up to speed on the affairs of the world in his absence from the lands of the living. With the leak of his injuries and the massive uncertainty his potential death posed, stock markets around the globe plummeted. People were in near panic. If the Ascendancy died, what would become of the CCD? Of course he wasn't dead and he had a plan should it happen, but that plan seemed less and less necessary. With Jensen James under lock and key, any grave injury that befell him again would be healed. Assuming the universe would allow him to die at all.

Security was also becoming an issue. Some of the major cities in DII and DVI were uneasy. Where people gathered in large numbers, even those bringing flowers and lighting candles, unrest followed. A crowd had once again gathered in the Red Square, thousands of people on their knees in prayful bowing for his complete recovery. The walls and the Arch were piled up with flowers and gifts. The Square a sea of flickering candle light.

Then there was news that an American group were in route. Secretary of State and other top officials among them, having been on their way to discuss nuclear policy when the ironic threat left Ascendancy fighting for his life. Between everything, Nikolai made the decision to show the world a miracle that night at sunset.

In the Red Square, where he had stood on the balcony and constructed the Monumental Arch but days ago, he came upon a sanguine crowd. As he had before, he wove the flows to amplify his voice and gather their attention to him as a father gathered his children in tender embrace.

He promised he would protect them. He was their father as this city was their fatherland. He was near death, but he was restored to life by the power he wielded. What they saw of his body being broken was real, and horrifying, but he assured them he was strong as ever before. These threats were going to be eradicated. He would eradicate them. The Custody would be stronger than ever!

After the brief speech, he attended a press conference. True to his word, he was as sharp and strong as ever. He'd showered of course. His eyes were keen and bright. His smile was tempered with confidence and seriousness. The meeting with the press was brief, and he was soon ushered out and replaced by his media Consul for additional information.

Finally, when he ascended to the resting quarters of the palace of the tsars, he relaxed in bed and flipped through images of the holdings in the imperial treasury, seeking out the metal that would become the host of a new Arcus band. He wanted something ready by the time the Americans arrived.

Sometime after sunset on day after the thwarted nuclear attempt, an attack that the consulate on public affairs and propoganda invented, lights flared brightly upon the walls of the Kremlin. The red brick glowed hellish, casting the crowd with a demonic shroud.

The crowd had been there all day and unlike in the days leading up to the construction of the monumet, they were perfectly peaceful. Optimistic, even. Having fed upon the love of their leader and the sacrifice he made of his body to save the city from ahnillation, they gathered to display their hope and wellbeing for the Ascendancy.

When the lights flooded the balcony and Nikolai emerged, unscathed, unharmed, and unblemished, a collective gasp of awe sucked the air from the Red Square. It was followed by a massive roar of cheering, to the extent that rivaled the construction of the Arch, but this time, was not overshadowed by fear.

His voice echoed over the crowd, amplified by waves of power, carrying it to every ear.

"I stand before you whole!"
He bellowed with a smile. "I promised I would keep you safe! Yesterday, I discovered a nuclear threat here in the heart of your fatherland. I contained the blast. I saved you, as I always promised I would. It broke my body, but I am restored in strength! I will never abandon you! Your father lives!"

The speech was short, and Nikolai left the spotlight soon after to attend a press conference. There, he answered a few more questions about his injuries and recovery. He admitted little in the way of details, but he hinted at the possibility of immortality. Of course, his age, in his sixties, was always brought up at times like these, but he only shrugged and smiled. Saying he was as healthy and strong as ever in his life.

The press loved the turn of events. Not only were the before and after images spread wide throughout the empire, but numerous hours were spent among the media theorizing upon the miracle. For a time, the Ascendancy was beloved once more and peace settled upon the empire once again.

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