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22 December 2010 @ 03:49 am
Rakitin's room surrounded him in insulating silence. Sometimes there were footsteps, doors opening and closing, sounds of the evening muffled behind the walls. Rakitin was in an armchair with a book in his hands. He was not, in any effective sense, reading. His eyes fell blindly over the familiar letters. It was curious what flat symbols words could be.

By now the nameless man would be in Moscow.

Tell yourself a story, Leshovik had said.

He was waking. He could see and smell the nylon of the bodybag and feel the pavement through the thin fabric. He would be hazy from the drug, but he would remember what he had to do. He felt for the knife at his feet and cut himself loose, found the cache sewn into the bottom.

The light above Polya flickered, then held steady. All day he had been a step away from the world around him, but that was not unusual. The consistency of strangeness made itself a protective normality.

The nameless man was dressing quickly, counting the money left for him. He was in the shadows at the mouth of the alley, checking the street with cautious eyes. He was in the city, free, holding the secret of himself.
 
 
06 April 2009 @ 01:04 pm
Hydrogen was the most abundant element in the universe, so there was a great and cosmic irony in waiting nearly three weeks for the shipment to arrive on Utrov's transport.

With the flip of a lever there was liftoff in the form of a colorless flame, and disbelieving laughter. No need for two fuel tanks or a complex ignition system; hydrogen reacted violently with oxygen.

It was a funny little element. One asocial proton and a lonely orbiting electron.

It was also the lightest element in the universe; seven percent lighter than helium, and burned brilliantly at the centers of stars all across the galaxy.

For her purposes, though, it reduced the weight of her weapon by fifty-some kilograms and made gravity an obsolete boundary. Hydrogen didn't simply defy the laws of physics, it spat in their face and called their collective mothers a whore.

All it took was a good start from a fair distance, and Katerina ran up the side of the Main Wing like a spider up a plaster wall, hovered in mid air for a few moments like an indecisive butterfly looking for the perfect flower, and dropped onto the roof of the building.

A few months of tinkering in room 307 produced a hydrogen-fueled jet pack with a shortened wingspan and increased range. With it came improved mobility and implementation of new technology from the West -- a thin, body-skimming flameproof suit replaced asbestos and vulcanized rubber and was more effective at regulating the wearer's core temperature; a gold-leafed face mask with a built in respirator eliminated the need for a heavy smoked glass helmet.

The Fury hadn't invented a better mousetrap, but rather, a better cat.

The woman turned and ran across the roof of the Main Wing, up and over the ledge, bridging the gap to the Administrative Wing in one impossible jump. The landing was a little rough, and she only caught herself at the last possible moment to avoid tripping and landing most unceremoniously, sprawling on the roof.

She was upright and nothing was on fire, so that was good.

Thrusters deactivated, she collected her thoughts and pulled off the expressionless mask that lent itself to nightmares about Venetian demons. The day was overcast and smelled like rain, but her view thus far had only been bronze-hued.

With a sound of pondering, she pulled a small notebook and pencil from the breast pocket of her suit and began scrawling a few notes, pacing back and forth as she wrote, murmuring to herself as though no one was watching.
 
 

Dmitry Grigoriev winced at the loud hum of the crowded mess hall, gritting his teeth against the throb in his head. He still had a headache, but he wasn’t entirely certain if it was a product of all the pertsovka he drank the night before, or the empty vodka bottle that his commander smashed over his head.

The aspirin and black coffee of the morning had taken most of the edge off, making the dull thump at his temples bearable.

It was a fucking stupid idea to go after the Fury with a knife anyway, but it seemed like a good idea at the time he found his Iosef sucking their commander off in the hovercraft hangar.

Dima limped along gingerly as he took his tray and started toward the table where the flame unit was usually quarantined. None of his own were there -- the table was deserted, excusing a stray napkin that lay in a crumpled heap at the edge.

He did not realize that he had stopped until a GRU grunt bumped into him and scurried off with a shrill apology.

Deimos did not want to sit alone, and he was suddenly aware of his disappointment that none of his unit mates were there waiting for him. It would have been nice to sit in the company of warm comradeship after the turbulence of the last few days.

Somehow, they reached an awkward, fumbling agreement, he, Iosef, and their commander. Everything, the Fury explained, was supposed to be shared equally between comrades, like good pertsovka, and by the end of the night they were drunk as hell and laughing like nothing was ever wrong to begin with, and thinking kalinka, kalinka, kalinka, moya was a wonderful song to serenade the night patrol with on the way back to their barracks.

Normalcy had returned like the first spring buds blossoming on a birch tree after a harsh winter, only to be frostbitten when Iosef suggested he should fuck Deimos while their commander watched.

He was smiling now, as he stood there in the shaft of sunlight pouring in from the window, and the GRU soldiers sitting at the nearest table began to murmur among themselves, stare, and scoot toward the other end of the bench.

It was amazing, the things pertsovka made men agree to.

The memory of the night drinking with Katerina flickered across his mind, chased by the meeting with the black-haired boy-sniper in the yard and the words spoken against the cold night air: “Maybe you should try something new…find someone to talk to, or do something else.”

Deimos’ depraved smirk faded as impulse inspired him suddenly; he turned on his heels and he made his way between the tables, wordlessly sitting down at a table near the center of the room occupied by a gaggle of Ocelot Unit soldiers.

He nodded to them even as they glared and their conversations fell silent, and self-consciously tugged at the sleeve of his jumpsuit, until the marbled scaring on the back of his hand was covered again. Deimos decided they would just have to deal with the faded blue letters on each finger above the first knuckle, because he wasn’t wearing his fireproof gloves in the chow hall.

Dima cleared his throat and picked up his spoon even though he didn’t have much of an appetite and it was unbearably hot in the mess hall all of a sudden.

“So... how's the borscht today?" 

 
 
16 August 2008 @ 05:50 pm
The day passed in slow silence. The pall of presence just out of sight never lifted, a haunting by the living. There was a point that even Polya could tell not to press.

That night he and Nika parted ways with the nod that was becoming habit. Polya couldn't find the words to ask if he was going to be all right.

There was a bond between him and Isaev deeper than Rakitin could comprehend, the severing of it even more so.

As they had learned to when given no strict direction, his steps took him toward the range. It was better to do something productive when weariness began to register.

A false positive, for some time yet. It was surprising how little a body really needed.

He crossed the base, passing soldiers like ghosts.
 
 
03 August 2008 @ 03:15 pm
"Okei, what are we going to do to this guy?"

Taras warmed up methodically, stretching like he was about to work out. Muscles bulged under his uniform jacket as he raised his arms to chest level, pulling the biceps taut.

"The pathologist," he clarified, after a moment.

He and Ilarion were walking past unadorned concrete walls toward the outbuilding that housed the KGB pathologist's lab. The morning air was thin, and misted in front of their lips.

Around them, mountains surrounded the base, tall and bleak, like watchtowers.

Taras flexed his hands into fists.

"I mean, this guy has something to with why Andrusha can't take a piss without someone watching him, right? I think we should lean on him pretty hard."

Movement caught his attention. A pair of guards were walking a large black dog past a fence topped with razor wire.

He frowned, averting his gaze.

"Because, khui, I want to hit something," he muttered.
 
 
 
29 July 2008 @ 08:08 pm
Kassian opened his eyes.

He lay in the bunk next to Isaev, shoulder to chest, warmed by the shelter of blanket and skin. Andrei's arm, solid and weighty with reassuring muscle, curled around his waist.

It was dark in their barracks, though not dark outside.

He could see light outlining the edges of the window opposite, around the shades that he never opened. It was past sunrise, then. They had slept in.

He supposed it was all right, given they had no official duties as Ocelots today. Isaev was under technical house arrest, though he could go anywhere he wanted on base, provided he had an escort.

That job was Kassian's.

Kassian settled back, feeling Andrei's arm tighten reflexively against him.

Good work if you could get it.

There was a knock at the barracks door.

Kassian frowned.

That was unusual. If they were needed in some official capacity, CODEC was the easiest way to reach them. There was no need to waste time with a personal visit when a call would suffice. It was also the wrong time of day for social visits, invitations to poker or drinking. Not that Kassian received a lot of those.

Gently, he pulled away from Isaev's grasp and sat on the edge of the bed to pull on his jodhpurs. He reached out to brush his hand across Isaev's brow.

"Andrei. Someone's here," he murmured, getting up to answer the door.
 
 
18 July 2008 @ 09:59 pm
"We're here," the army pilot called back to them, yelling over the rumble of the helicopter's rotors.

Taras Cheslavovich Oleksei raised his head, blearily.

"Khorosho," he muttered.

He sat between Ilarion and Anya, hunched over, broad uniformed shoulders curled inward, arms folded in front of him and pressed against his stomach.

It had been a very long flight.

They'd arrived at the army base outside of Leningrad just before nine in the morning and boarded the military helicopter. It had clamshell rear loading doors that opened into a cargo area large enough to hold a MVD sedan with room to spare, though it was empty. Apparently, they were the cargo.

The hold was clearly not meant for passenger comfort, or for long trips, for that matter. They sat on a thin metal bench that folded down in the front of the cargo area, which was unheated.

Taras had never been in a helicopter before. He hadn't been prepared for the sensation of flight, which had seemed to vibrate straight through him, shaking him to his core.

He'd spent the first hour of the flight puking into a bucket in the back of the hold.

The second hour, he'd spent dry heaving until he was exhausted. Taras had rinsed his mouth out with vodka and went back to the bench to sit down. Anya had rubbed his back and murmured comforting words, then gave him some hard candy from her purse, like a mother.

After that, he hadn't puked any more, which he considered a point of pride.

Taras knew you had to take it where you could get it.

Ten more hours and four stops to refuel later, he still felt like he'd been beaten from the inside out with brass knuckles.

Conversation had been sparse. Ilarion had seemed preoccupied, while Anya read a pocketbook novel with a small flashlight she had in her purse. Taras thought he might have dozed fitfully, waking up disoriented.

Ahead and below, he could see a few scattered lights through the darkness through the canopy windows in the cockpit, faint signs of what passed for civilization. They circled the base once.

He wondered whose brilliant idea was it, to put a military base out in the middle of the Urals.

Taras straightened in his seat, squaring his shoulders, tugging his MVD cap down low on his brow, shading his mismatched mongrel eyes.

The helicopter hovered, then started to descend.

"All right," Taras said, breaking the silence. He had to speak loudly to be heard, and his voice sounded a little raw.

He turned to look at Ilarion.

"How are we going to play this?"
 
 
14 July 2008 @ 10:37 pm
It was early evening when he found Rakitin reading a novel in the officer's lounge, seated in an avocado-green pleatherette armchair in the corner.

The lieutenant looked engrossed, and didn't even look up as Liadov approached.

Science fiction, he noted, as he put his hand down on the page.

"We have a problem," he said, as Rakitin looked up, blinking.
 
 
14 May 2008 @ 12:04 am
Rakitin's path took him to the range by rote before he had consciously set a course. It was a place open to anyone at any time, and thus of interest to few at this hour. Anonymity could be found in the steady report of gunfire.

Rakitin was in a mood to hide in plain sight.

He had left the wounded soldier to sleep, exhausted from the attempt to dig into his recalcitrant memory. For as little as they had ended up having to show for it, he had played along gamely, with remarkable resilience.

It was a stark contrast to other mystery Rakitin was embroiled in. Here, instead of a man hiding his true nature from the world, was a man whose nature hid from himself. It was a kind of honesty by default, to have nothing over which to construct lies.

For as much as it could be said that any man ever knew himself.

Let alone another.

Rakitin faced straight forward as the pattern of bullets subsumed him.
 
 
29 April 2008 @ 10:53 pm
David was getting restless.

He had always been quick to heal from injury or recover from illness, even as a child, rarely sick longer than a couple of days at the most. He'd broken his leg in high school, tibia snap, bad fall on the football field, and was out for six weeks, then another six weeks of PT and he was good as new, even better.

It had been three days since he'd been brought in from the cold, poisoned. Suffering from exposure and hypothermia and other things, and now, he felt almost like normal. Maybe a little more tired, but that could just as easily have been attributed to being stuck in the infirmary with little exercise.

Three days.

He'd been able to keep up the amnesia ruse, and so far, the nurse hadn't found his tactical knife hidden between the mattress and bedframe. No one had come to haul him away for interrogation under suspicion of being an American spy.

So far so good, as they said, but David knew it wouldn't last.

He brushed a hand over his dark hair, which was cut in a simple soldier's crop, universal military. It wouldn't give him away, not like the thousand other things that could cause him to slip up - an idiom he didn't know, a joke, a concept. He might know the language and speak it with his father's muscovite accent, but that didn't make him Soviet.

David Petrovich Kerensky bled red, white and blue.

His time was running out, the mission had gone wrong, and now he was pretty sure the CIA had given up on him, sent the self-terminate signal to his CODEC, cut him free like a kite on a string.

He'd gotten caught in a tree branch, disavowed.

Thing was, if he didn't have the mission, he didn't have anything.

So mission it still was. He needed to come up with a plan of action, find Snake, figure out what to do about the Boss, stay alive, and get out of Russia, somehow.

David sighed, and lay back in the infirmary bed.

He supposed he had better get started on that.