Nightfall

Aug. 16th, 2008 05:50 pm
[identity profile] hajimenoippolit.livejournal.com
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.
[identity profile] taras-oleksei.livejournal.com
"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.
[identity profile] nikanor-liadov.livejournal.com
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.
[identity profile] hajimenoippolit.livejournal.com
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.
[identity profile] zabytsya.livejournal.com
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.
[identity profile] hajimenoippolit.livejournal.com
When it came to some questions, no answer was the clearest you could get.

It had been a misunderstanding on a basic level. Projection, that sorriest of states. Rakitin had been hearing what he wanted to hear.

Facing reality promised to make things much simpler.

It would probably break it, but, well, there you were.

At the same time as it evoked a pang of sympathy, Leshovik's affront was almost funny. Maybe you had to be used to Liadov saying those sorts of things.

"Speaking of," Rakitin said, shrugging back into his role like an old jacket, "That could exonerate Isaev in another way. Odds are low that he'd fit this bill. The blood type of the semen collected from the body is A B negative."
[identity profile] eyes-adrift.livejournal.com
Aryol looked down.

He sat cross-legged, hunched over slightly, arms crossed over his thighs. His stomach hurt. Maybe he'd eaten too quickly, or too much, or maybe the dough had been too rich. He didn't know.

The major had called him sick, he remembered. It had been the night before, after he'd confessed about who Kasya was to him.

Aryol tugged idly at one of his bootlaces.

"How does something like that happen?" he asked.

It was a moment before he looked up.

He hesitated, then met the major's eyes.

"Was he born sick? Or did something bad happen to him? Or did no one ever tell him that it's wrong to kill people, and he just doesn't know it?"

Aryol looked down again. He gave his bootlace a sudden yank, and pulled the knot free.

"I mean, that would be pretty messed up, because normal people know that. Would you be able to tell it was him, if you met him, just by the way he acted? Or would he seem normal at first? Or could you look him in the eye - "

He glanced up.

"...and tell something was wrong?"
[identity profile] hajimenoippolit.livejournal.com
They said a new day was a clean slate.

It might even be true, if you could move all the other ones piled on top to see.

As luck would have it, it was Captain Irinarhov watchfully trailing Rakitin through the courtyard to the lab this morning. Rain was falling, making visibility poor, and he was sticking close. He hadn't said a word.

Not that that was unusual. It was one of the characteristics that, in any other situation, would have tempted Polya to keep a close watch for raindrops to pass through him.

He had to accept that Irinarhov was a solid and living man, whatever might suggest otherwise.

However much easier it might have been, otherwise.

Entering the outbuilding was the sudden cessation of the pressure of rain, and the withdrawal of its noise to the distance of roof and walls. Rakitin remained by the door, shaking droplets from his hat, until it closed and dampened the rest of the sussurrus.

"Captain," Rakitin said, as the newborn silence was drawing breath. "May I have a word with you?"
[identity profile] hajimenoippolit.livejournal.com
The lights of the range were becoming dependable, like the weight of the gun in his hand.

Meeting the murderer Deimos face to face had gifted Rakitin with an odd clarity. While felt no especial desire to kill the flame soldier, neither did he feel any reluctance. It was something he would do, if and when it became necessary.

There was no question of going back to his quarters for a while. Overhearing Nika and Aryol as they were fucking felt like an invasion of their privacy. Anyway, Rakitin didn't much care for sleep, beyond the essential. There was always something more useful or interesting to do.

In any case, it was nice out here. The cold air was cleansing, as was the steady rhythm of weapons fire. Rakitin fell into the pattern of recoil as the world closed to the long, bright corridor, the stylized sihouette, and the gun in his hands.

Distractions fell aside as if they stood at the end of the lane. The matter of the Flame Patrol murderer was settled. Utrov had proven worthy of no concern, and doubtless would keep his distance. Rakitin could focus on investigating the murder, and the mystery of the nameless soldier. After that...

He could stay here.

It had taken time before he could allow himself to believe it, like a desert traveler facing an oasis that could easily be a beautiful mirage.

The Colonel wanted him to stay.

What use a pathologist could serve after the investigation was over, he had no idea. He would find out.

Rakitin would stay at the Colonel's side and help him achieve his dream.

And, though the Colonel would never know, somehow Rakitin would make himself worthy of that, and of loving him.

Rakitin paused to reload. His fingers moved deftly over the clip. The bullets lined up in a column of potential, and the sound of it sliding home was invigorating as hope.

Mess, cont

Jan. 2nd, 2008 08:00 pm
[identity profile] hajimenoippolit.livejournal.com
Rakitin stared at Liadov, his stomach clenched into a ball of ice.

Slowly, as he studied Nika's expression, he realized something.

Someone was striking derision and a wall of cold rejection, someone was where they weren't wanted, and it wasn't Polya.

How strange.

In the wash of relief and something else (acceptance? No, that was absurd), he felt an undercurrent of sympathy for the supply captain.

For the first time, it occured to him that he could play along.

Polya looked met Utrov's eyes and smiled a little, shyly.

The secret was shared, after all.

"You know, I think he does."

Mess

Dec. 17th, 2007 08:27 pm
[identity profile] hajimenoippolit.livejournal.com
Life went on.

Heat and noise, startling after the cold open space of the courtyard, enveloped Liadov and Rakitin as they walked into the mess hall. It was a little early yet, and the building was half full of soldiers boasting, arguing, laughing. It was easy to slip under the surface, though Ippolit was peripherally aware that he still merited a few odd looks. He was used to that.

It was an opportunity to recover from the inquest, and Rakitin was grateful. Isaev's calm stare had been as disorienting as Irinarhov's forgiveness. The interview had been bad enough, but it hadn't disturbed him to this extent. Rakitin hadn't been been given that quality of fear by a man's mere presence since...

...since a long time ago.

The chill was leaching from his mind, now, with the awareness that the case had taken a temporary reprieve. Nika seemed relieved as well.

The corpse would be as dead in the morning.

Rakitin felt some of the tension ease from his shoulders. The day was done. It was unlikely the rest of the evening would provide any especial trials.

By the time they took their places at the accustomed table, Polya had regained the equilibrium to find it all darkly funny. Some days it was as though someone had written half a tragedy and half a farce and thrown the pages in the air.

"So," he said to Nika conversationally, "I hear Molokov's replacement came in today."
[identity profile] andrei-isaev.livejournal.com
Andrei sat back in his chair, and regarded Lieutenant Rakitin.

Rakitin's oddly dark eyes were plaintive and accusatory- not in a hostile way, but more a quiet disbelief, informed by an awareness he probably didn't even apprehend at this point.

Isaev admired that on some level, but on another level, it irked him. He hadn't killed anyone, not this time, and this frosty little prick looked at him like he was a man-eating tiger that citizens had allowed to roam free, blithely strolling the sidewalks.

"I think we are all aware," he began, slowly, "of the kind of ethics Captain Irinarhov espouses. Most, myself included, would even count them excessive."

He let his chin tilt up, snorting slightly.

"This is a man who insists upon verbally correcting his own documented kill-count, any time the matter comes up, because he maintains that the accurate tally is actual one less than the official."

Isaev laughed, shaking his head.

"This is a man who has suffered for his morality and integrity, as I'm sure Major Liadov could attest. Out of deference and respect for that unique conscience, I omitted him from our plans concerning Borishnakov, and have no qualms about having done so. I did this, because he is a true friend, in the most classical sense- like Orestes was to Pylades."

He paused.

"He is also my superior."

Isaev's grey eyes passed over Liadov briefly, noting the studied and downcast impassivity of his face, before fixing on Rakitin once more.

"And he is telling the truth. Moreover, I do not believe that he would lie. So by conjecture, I must agree. We played cards, we drank a little, we traded stories and we bunked for the night. As is our friendly custom."

Andrei leaned forward, letting his voice go quiet, directing it at Rakitin particularly.

"You know, comrade Lieutenant, there are other reasons a man may be loath to give an alibi, despite its veracity. One of them might be trepidation of being misunderstood- that admitting to a harmless social liaison with a comrade might result in unwarranted accusations of criminal affection. One might reasonably want to shield a beloved comrade from such...tarring. Especially in the face of an MVD inquest."

Inquest

Dec. 11th, 2007 10:10 pm
[identity profile] nikanor-liadov.livejournal.com
Liadov stood at the head of a long table, in a room crowded with crimson and black, low with murmurs and rustles of wool, the clink of kalashes and AKs against buckles and buttons.

The Ocelots, en masse, assembled. And Ocelot himself, arms crossed and leaning negligently against the wall of the conference room to one side.

He didn't looked worried, but he did look guarded.

Rakitin was sitting, slightly beneath and to his right- the only one sitting, actually, with a stack of notes and a couple of illustratory vials at hand.

Liadov cleared his throat and surged right in, without preamble.

"Lieutenant Vladislaus Yamirich Borishnakov was found this morning at approximately 11 AM, or thereabouts. He was deceased."

Liadov paused. Silence answered him, uneasy.

"...There were some very interesting details present. It has come to our attention that Ocelot squad activity was responsible for some aspects of the state Lt. Borishnakov was discovered in- namely, a hazing ritual in which an Ocelot officer is 'de-initiated' upon turning in a repeatedly unsatisfactory performance."

Nika turned his head and looked squarely at Ocelot.

"Major, is that true?"

Ocelot narrowed his eyes.

"It's true," he answered, flatly, without apology.

Liadov nodded.

"What we would like to know is what was done, how the ritual proceeded, and how far it went before you called it a night, men."

His eye roamed the crowd, and fixed on the brooding face of Kolyin first. Kolyin was looking straight ahead. He stood by a taller blonder man with unusually wide-set eyes, who averted them.

Nika hadn't spotted Irinarhov yet, nor Isaev, though he hadn't looked yet, and he had a feeling they would be standing to the back of the room, as was Kasya's preference.

No matter.

He had all the time in the world.

"Would you care to elaborate on how things progressed last night, Lieutenant Kolyin?" Liadov asked, crossing his arms.
[identity profile] hajimenoippolit.livejournal.com
"Strange," Rakitin murmured.

The body was spread out on the autopsy table beside him. Another young, blond man, this one whole, but festooned with bright blood patterns on nearly unmarked skin. Leopardus pardalis, as he had thought, and a hastily purloined book on zoology had confirmed.

"This blood," he said. "It comes from several sources. What prints I can get are various, too."

He look a long look at the sample he had been testing, then glanced at Liadov.

"There was a team involved in this."

His eyes swept over the results.

"There's light bruising along the arms and torso. Not enough to have been a major fight. And..."

He went over to the corpse, lying as if waiting for news worth awakening to hear.

"Look."

Rakitin lifted the wrist to show the faint lines across it.

"Ligature marks."
[identity profile] hajimenoippolit.livejournal.com
"Another without marks," Rakitin murmured. "I'll bet you anything there's enough sedative in his blood to bring down a timberwolf."

He drew back to the active center of the room like a reluctant iron filing to an inconsistent magnet. Whatever it was that Liadov and Irinarhov needed to discuss, it looked like it would wait.

Ever since the other night...both other nights...Rakitin had done his best to keep out of the way. Nika hadn't talked much to him since, any more than necessary, and he'd followed the cue and backed off.

In fact, it was the young Black Ops man, Aryol, who had approached him, with an open smile and disarming gregariousness.

At the first second Polya had frozen, the alarm of reflex in his head blaring, Nika told him. He told him, and they laughed. But logic had manned the override. He knew perfectly well that that was ridiculous, and all the reasons.

"Either our killer is well trusted, or he's got a skill for sleight of hand."

Nothing they didn't know already, but it helped to follow the old tracks, to look for the divergences that stood out.

Such as....

"This is the first time it's directly involved Major Ocelot and Major Raikov," he hazarded. "Does that mean something?"
[identity profile] capt-kasya.livejournal.com
Kassian stood in the corridor of guest hall of the Main Wing, just outside Liadov's quarters.

Hesitating.

He'd looked for Liadov in the lab outbuilding, but it had been curiously empty. No sign of him in the mess hall, either. Kassian had decided that Liadov's quarters were the last place he'd look before he gave up and just tried CODEC, though he doubted Liadov would be here. It was almost 1200 hours, and even though Liadov had had a lot to drink the night before, he couldn't still be sleeping, Kassian thought. Still, he wasn't sure.

Part of him almost hoped that Liadov wouldn't be inside, but then again, this was important.

Outwardly, Kassian looked as calm and composed as always, he knew, but inwardly, he felt off-balance, shifted from his center like a broken scope. If he lifted his rifle, his hands would be steady, but the late-morning remnants of a hangover pulled at his brow. Earlier in the morning, his headache had almost faded, but now it was back, pounding sullenly behind his eyes.

Better that than jangled nerves, though.

Kassian frowned, and knocked on the door, a little more forcefully than he intended.

He thought he heard a noise from within, but there was no immediate answer.

Kassian knocked again.

"Liadov? You in there? I need to talk to you."
[identity profile] utrov.livejournal.com
If anything could be said about Captain Vasily Kirilovich Utrov, it was that he never backed down from playing along with a joke.  When the helicopter had hit a patch of rough air and his travelling companion had gotten agitated he'd wondered only half frivolously if that would be on his epitaph, but things were calmer now.  They'd reached an understanding. 

"That's right," Utrov said with affection.  "I don't bother you, and you don't kick me through the wall.  We get along just fine, eh?"

His companion snorted softly and rolled her eyes. 

She wasn't the kind of individual you expected to run into on your first day of serving as supply officer for a remote outpost.  It just went to show, you never knew.

A shift in the pitch of the cabin signaled that they were descending.  She didn't like it.  Utrov got a glimpse out the window of forest and a structure that must have had 'ominous' written on the blueprints next to the dimensions before he turned back to the primary concern.

"It's all right," he soothed, patting the 'cargo' on the shoulder.  "We'll be on the ground soon, and all you'll have to deal with is whyever the hell somebody sent for you in the first place."

She didn't find this amusing, but didn't try to bite him.  The satisfactory state of relations continued until they touched down. 

Utrov opened the door and jumped down into the sunlight, turning back to coax the other to daintily disembark.

"Somebody order a horse?"  he called.
[identity profile] hajimenoippolit.livejournal.com
It was odd, Polya thought as he opened the infirmary door, armed with the antidote Khostov had provided from the base's medical supplies. These past days he had been preserving life more often than deciphering the messages left in the act of dying. It did little to balance the harm he had done to a man already lost and afraid.

Maybe in the interim he had remembered his name.

The room was cool and white.

"I've brought the antidote," Rakitin said quietly, loath to unbalance the delicate approximation of peace.
[identity profile] charushkin.livejournal.com
Matvei squared himself up for his third shot at Liadov and his evasive techniques.

He couldn’t press too hard – for his own sake – but the half-truth was driving him insane. He had to know.

He’d tried asking, he’d tried cookery… the only weapon he had left was persistence.

He didn’t bother knocking on the lab door this time. It was early evening, and maybe they wouldn’t be right in the thick of… anything major.

No one else was exceptionally dead right now. Although he had heard from his rankmates quick enough about the man with a lucky escape.

… And he was curious about that too. He shuddered to think it could’ve been any one of his friends. Why did all his friends have to be blond, too?

He stepped inside, yanking off his balaclava. “Major Liadov?”
[identity profile] hajimenoippolit.livejournal.com
The night was clear and cold as hindsight. By the time Rakitin flicked on the lights of the empty lab, the glaring fact of his own idiocy had settled in and made itself comfortable.

Only Ippolit could walk in on a man who had been found poisoned and assaulted and manage within minutes to make it worse.

He shuddered in sympathy.

Grey eyes, clouded with urgency, then sharp with horror.

Better that he be here, where he could do some good, and no harm.

Ippolit took the vial of blood and began to distill its secrets.

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