Dec. 11th, 2007 10:10 pm
[identity profile]
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]
"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]
Kassian stood in the corridor of guest hall of the Main Wing, just outside Liadov's quarters.


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]
Tests. More tests.

The blood did exactly as it was told and gave up few answers.

Rakitin had conjectured that the poison would prove to be something similar to arsenic, and was almost immediately proved wrong. It was arsenic, and at an astonishing concentration. If Lynx had been one moment later...

It didn't bear thinking about. A world without the Colonel in it would be a small, drab place.

That was not the problem.

There was another agent present in the mixture, something lurking and insidious hiding beneath the first layer of deadly intent. Hideous.

Finding it was the first step. Now all Rakitin needed was a name.

That was proving to be the tricky part.

The poisoner could have been measuring out components even as the Colonel was inviting Ippolit to stay.

Rakitin would find it. It was a matter of time.
[identity profile]
Volgin popped the last chocolate in his mouth and closed the box.

He felt better.

It had been a long, stressful day. Every time he'd walked unthinkingly past a window, realizing only as he'd passed that he shouldn't have done that, Volgin had nearly flinched, and Colonel Yevgeny Borisovitch Volgin did not flinch.

Ocelot had been scowling, even more than usual, as he saw to various security precautions: extra patrols, guards posted on rooftops, a stuffed effigy wearing one of Volgin's uniforms left to sit behind his desk. Ocelot was looking even for another decoy, but there were few men who even approached Volgin's size.

That made Volgin think of Alexei, who actually did approach his size. Alexei, who'd appeared out of the ether and back from the dead to warn him, who cautioned him to move from his regular quarters in the Main Wing to his secondary quarters bunkered below, and just in time, too.

Like he'd known there would be an attempt on Volgin's life. He must have.

Volgin wanted to talk to Alexei now. He wanted answers, but more than that, he wanted to feel Alexei's ruthless mouth and unyielding arms, to have Alexei take him, possess him the way only Alexei ever had.

He sighed.

But there was no Alexei. Not last night, not all day.

His monthly shipment of imported Belgian chocolates had arrived earlier in the day, and it had been like a godsend. Exactly what he needed. He'd even put off eating them until he was alone in his quarters, and could really enjoy them.

He'd eaten every delectable piece in the span of mere minutes.

Carefully, Volgin hid the empty box in the trash, making sure to get every wrapper. It wouldn't do for Ivan to find out. Ivan disapproved of the chocolates, especially when Volgin ate too much in one sitting. "You'll ruin your teeth, Zhenya, or you'll get fat," he would chide, and then take them away, just like Volgin's mother had done, all those years ago.

Volgin loved Ivan, but he also loved chocolates.

Ivan didn't have to know about this.

Volgin got up, restless. Too early to go to bed, too late to be stalking around the base, especially with a sniper on the loose.

Maybe he should go find Ivan. Maybe he should find Ocelot, so they could have that talk. Maybe he should find someone hapless to terrorize, one of Ivan's men, perhaps, someone dispensable, whose smoking corpse wouldn't be particularly missed the next day. There had to be some sort of discipline problem that could use his assistance.

Hmm. Yes. That sounded like a good idea, actually.

Volgin turned to the door, then frowned. His stomach hurt. Maybe he shouldn't have eaten all those chocolates at once, after all.
[identity profile]
Kassian paused, and turned to look at Ocelot for a moment, brow creasing lightly.

The Major had apologized for misjudging him, though Kassian hadn't been aware of any bias. Ocelot had treated him equitably enough in the weeks he'd been here, and hadn't singled him out overly, at least not any more than he would expect, as new blood.

But apparently Ocelot felt like an apology was necessary.

Kassian nodded in silent acknowledgment.

He was not the sort of man who threw gestures back in someone's face, regardless if he thought they were warranted.

Kassian turned back to the ruined cartridge then. "You're right, Major. Which is why I thought it was a matter of ego. He did this on purpose, to demoralize. He must not have known the Colonel had a decoy. The Colonel could go into hiding, and pretend the attempt was successful, if he wanted, while someone tried to find out who did this."

The answer to that question was clearly none of Kassian's concern. He supposed a man like Volgin could have any number of enemies in the government, but Kassian never paid attention to things like that.

He adjusted the strap of the Mosin-Nagant he carried on his back. "Major, I'd like to request to be released from bodyguard detail, at least for a few days. If the sniper is still around, either to take down secondary targets or to finish the job if he realizes it wasn't Volgin, you'll need me up there."

Kassian tilted his chin in the direction of the the window, toward the rooftops outside.
[identity profile]
Senior Lieutenant Arkady Sergeyevich Kolyin was having a bad day. Most of the problem stemmed from the fact that his “day” had extended beyond a mere twenty-four hours, and had become two.

He’d had night duty with his usual partner and rankmate, Semeyonev, last night, when Sergei had died, but the next morning, he’d had an additional shift playing at babysitter for the MENTs, partnered with none other than the squad’s sullen sniper, Irinarhov.

When he’d finished the guard detail, he’d barely had time for a meal and shower before it was back on night duty with Semeyonev, who, as usual, had a quick grin and smile. Kolyin didn’t know how Savva could do it given everything that had happened, but at least he was better to patrol with than Irinarhov.

“And I swear, they’re fucking,” Savva was saying, filling him in on the latest gossip.

Arkady sighed. “I don’t care. Good for them.”

“You’re a beam of sunshine tonight.”

“You try spending all day with Irinarhov. I swear, that guy never says anything. No personality.”

Savva shrugged. “Snipers are like that,” he said, as if he had some special knowledge. “He’s just quiet. Anyway, Isaev seems to like him well enough.”

Kolyin rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I’ve noticed.”

Actually, the relationship between Andrei and the sniper had been fodder for unit gossip lately. No one fucked regularly without everyone else knowing, and the fact that Andrei was rarely in his bunk in the mornings when Kolyin and Semeyonev got off duty hadn’t gone unnoticed.

Semeyonev laughed. “He’s not a bad looking guy. I’d do him.”

“Well, that’s not saying mu – ”

A shout broke the evening’s relative silence, followed by a call for help. Kolyin’s chest started pounding, and his gut twisted in the silent fear that it was another Serhyoza, that another Ocelot had died.

He and Semeyonev met gazes briefly, then ran forward to the sound of the disturbance.

One of the regular GRU stumbled out of the main wing, pointing a shaking hand behind him. “He’s dead!” the soldier barely managed to get out before he bent over and vomited.

“Who’s dead?” Kolyin shouted, but Savva was already running toward the building.

Arkady gripped his AK-47 tightly as he rushed after his rankmate.

There was already a stir inside – more GRU, running around uselessly, bumping into things like headless rabbits.

One had the presence of mind to run up to them and signal them forward frantically. Kolyin and Semeyonev followed the soldier down the hall, to a half-opened door.

“In there,” the soldier said, stopping in his tracks, showing no sign of accompanying them the last few steps forward.

Savva looked at Arkady again, and reached out to touch his shoulder briefly. Kolyin understood what it meant. Whatever it was – whoever it was – they’d face the horrible truth together.

Side by side, they walked down to the open door and peered in.

The room beyond was simple but spacious, and featured little more than a table and desk and wardrobe, and a giant, oversized bed. And there, near the bed, was the body of a tall and muscular man with a near-Herculean build, clad in a forest green greatcoat.

…and rubberized boots, Kolyin realized, after a moment, but his mind balked even then.

Together, he and Semeyonev edged forward, and saw that the body had only a gaping, bloody ruin where the top of his head should have been, and the floor around the body was decorated liberally with pink brain tissue.

It looked like bubblegum, Kolyin thought, vaguely.

“God,” Savva said, “It’s Volgin.”

“Oh God,” Kolyin said. “We have to tell someone. Major Raikov.”

Semeyonev shot him a look. No, not Major Raikov, he though in faint horror. Never mind his patented ball-crushing maneuver; someone would get castrated.

“Ocelot. We have to tell Ocelot. You call him, Savva. He likes you.”

Everyone knew that Savva got called for Special Duty more often than anyone else.

“You call him! No sense in having him pissed at the both of us. This way, if he gets pissed at you, I can calm him down.”

Semeyonev had a point, Kolyin thought, though he felt reluctant to concede it.

Suddenly, Savva grabbed his arm. “Fuck, bratan, do you see that? There’s a hole in the window. A sniper did this. We need to get back.”

They retreated into the hallway, and Kolyin let out a pained sigh. “All right, I’ll call him, but you’d better have my back on this.”

Raising a hand to his ear, Kolyin slotted Major Ocelot’s frequency and prayed for the best.
[identity profile]
[Continued from "Meanwhile, Back at Groznyj Grad"]

Volgin had begun to pace, but paused at Krauss' words.

The German was right. Roll call would be necessary, and at this hour, a hassle. He didn't particularly want to be the one that had to deal with it.

"Yes, yes." He waved a dismissive hand. "See to it," he told Krauss, then paused, and looked to Ivan.

"Afterward, do what you can," he said in an undertone to Ivan, his gaze flicking to Ocelot purposefully, but only for a moment.

The young major would be understandably upset at the death of his man, but flush with the bravado of youth, would probably deny it. Volgin knew that, about young men. He had been young himself once, fearless and invulnerable.

Ocelot was not a sentimental fool, but he hadn't had his command long. Oh, he was good - one of the best Volgin had ever seen, which was why he'd been chosen - but still, he hadn't experienced everything there was to know about command yet.

In times like these, a man needed a peer and rankmate. Not his subordinates, to whom he couldn't show weakness, and certainly not a superior.

Ivan would be able to do more for Ocelot than Volgin could. He would get a few drinks into Adamska, and talk to him. He could make sure Ocelot stayed grounded and focused.

"Report to me when you're done," he said, letting his gaze fall to all three men in turn. "I'm going to check on the weapons lab myself."

In addition to the Shagohod, there were some technicians and scientists that were essential. He would issue the curfew order himself, and made sure they understood it.

They were too close to success now to be thwarted by anything.

Or anyone, Volgin thought as he strode away.
[identity profile]
They were still for a moment, in the wake of Major Liadov's query.

Then everyone looked at Imanov.

Isaev had told Kassian that Imanov had gone to a university and studied psychology. That made him the obvious choice in Kassian's book. Kassian hadn't even completed his secondary education before he'd have to leave in order to work at the factory.

Kassian wondered if there was anything in Imanov's psychology books that talked about this, murders committed out of some deep-seated need, fueled by this cycle of escalation that Liadov had talked about.

Probably. It sounded like it happened often enough that experts had coined terms for it, after all, some deeper explanation than merely knowing the difference between having to kill, and wanting to kill.
[identity profile]
Ocelot paced and champed at the bit in the hall of the East Wing, twirling his guns and scowling at nothing.

The hall should be filling up soon.

The ALL PERSONNEL had gone out over the loudspeakers, and every unit was expected to report. He had also personally contacted his counterpart Major, his first Lieutenant, and after hesitating, sent a CODEC to Gurlukovich.

"Imanov seems to be indisposed. If he shows up with the AP bulletin, I'll have him follow me in second point. If he doesn't, Sergei, I need you."

It would be good in two ways, thought Ocelot. First, he could observe Sergei's command ability without the stomachache of putting him out front in direct conflict, and two, Sergei could be relied on.


"If Imanov shows up, I'll have him lead a second party. Either way, Serhyoza," he added, "I'll need you by my side."

As he waited for Raikov and his men to appear, he counted the diamond in the tiles with a furrowed brow.

Inwardly, he scoffed at his own impatience.

What's the hurry? Dead things tend to stay dead. Not like he's going anywhere.

How had they missed it?

Had he been selecting his victims only from non-essential personnel?

Ocelot made a short, audible noise of frustration.

If the killer had gotten ahead of them this much, he could already be selecting his next victim.
[identity profile]
[Completed - continued in Second Victim, Part II]

Kassian let the badge Liadov had tossed fall to the ground next to him, instead of making an attempt to catch it, keeping his hands on his rifle and his gaze trained.

"Sorry," he said, quickly. "No disrespect, Major."

He knew it would look that way anyway, given his background, and general disdain for the MVD. Things had changed, though, in ways he hadn't even sorted out yet.

But a sniper who lost focus, even for a moment, was usually sooner or later a dead sniper. Kassian had a faint scar at his hairline that attested to that sobering truth, save for the fact he'd been extremely lucky.

He kept what Liadov had just said about a second body in the back of his mind, a cold and remote fact. Detachment. A sniper's armor against the world.

Or at least Kassian's armor, though lately it had developed a few chinks.

The knowledge that he hadn't seen or talked to Isaev all day, not since they'd woken up that morning, lurked like a shadow in peripheral vision, one that was just a little too defined to ignore.

"I'll use it when I need it," he told Liadov, referring to his MVD clearance. "Go ahead get back inside. I'll cover you, and report when I've reached someone."

Technically, he should have called Imanov first, given that they were partners in this venture. Or at least tried Ocelot's frequency as the MENT had requested. Either would have been acceptable variations on standard operating procedure, but as Liadov retreated to the door, Kassian tuned his CODEC to Isaev's frequency instead.
[identity profile]
Raikov didn't fancy much spending time with the MVD people, showing up uninvited, but knew he had little choice in the matter. However, as he subtly nodded to Ocelot, it didn't mean they wouldn't have as much fun at their expense as possible. Who knows, maybe it would scare them home.

More than a murder, he thought with a grimace.

He sighed, and dug into his pocket, having sent one of his swifter men to retrieve a plan of the entire base, for the benefit of the investigators. Criminal forensics experts might find that sort of thing useful; Raikov knew the entirety of Groznyj Grad inside and out. Ocelot could speak more for the surrounding areas.

"Where would you like to begin?" Raikov asked politely, aware it was necessary for him to do so as the Colonel's representative. "You'll need to familiarize yourself with the area before getting to work, I'm sure."

He held out the base plan to the pair, having no clue as to what they were planning, but hoping they would say "yes" and they'd get on with it, or refuse their offer and he wouldn't have to play host to them ever again.

The map was clear, plain, and basic. It was all that was needed at that stage. )

[OOC: Thread closed, continuing here]
[identity profile]
[PJATNICA, 14 FEVRAI, 1964 1100 hours]

Yevgeny Volgin strode out of the investigators' office, his mind turning like the gears of war, slow and grinding, but inexorable.

The Internal Services major had given him a lot to think about.

He was actually more concerned about the murder now than when it had occurred. Liadov's grim words had sent wet, icy fingers into his core, a sensation of numbness that threatened to spread.

It felt something like electrocution, though only without the pain.

The thought of Ivan as the object of some psychopath's fixation...

In the distance, outside the building, he thought he heard thunder rumble.

Another storm, perhaps.

Volgin had learned early on that delegation was a good thing. Surround yourself with the best people, tell them what to do, but leave them to their own discretion as to how they do it. It had worked for him throughout his entire career, and he was highly pleased that now, at the apex, he had the very best people he'd ever had - well, with a few exceptions.

He had a lot of people to talk to this morning. Ocelot. Ivan. The Boss. Krauss, and the Fury. He thought he was missing someone...or something...but he didn't let it bother him.

It would come to him.

It always did.

He had faith in himself.

He hadn't come this far to let something like this stop him.

Soldiers and secretaries scattered in his wake as he returned to the East Wing, equally alarmed by the intensity of his bearing, though probably for different reasons.

"Where's Major Ocelot!" he snarled, and one of Ivan's men blanched.

"Sir! We'll find him for you!"

The solider made to hurry off, but Volgin just shook his head.

"No. That will take too long. But if you see him, tell him I'm looking for him," he said, then cut a swath out of the office area, rumbling like a single tank on a mission to conquer all of Europe.

Faint sparks of electricity trailed in his his wake.

[OOC: Volgin wants to talk to several people in succession, including but not limited to Major Ocelot, Major Raikov, Voyevoda, Major Krauss, and the Fury. I will update this tag to reflect who he's currently looking for/talking to, so you'll know when your turn has come!]

[Currently: off to The Groznyj Grad Tour thread.]
[identity profile]
All clear. Good.

Initially, Ippolit had despaired of ever slipping past all of the fortress's watchful eyes. However, careful observation had revealed that there were often short gaps in the patrols, just long enough for a man to slip through, if he was quick. He had bought himself some extra time with an item he had found in the storeroom, wedged between a splintering crate and the wall. Ippolit sometimes saw things other people didn't.

A glance around the corner confirmed that the soldier whose route went by these particular offices was indeed neutralized for the time being. Honestly, he couldn't see what was so engrossing about women in black garterbelts, though it did also contain an interesting story about aliens by a man with a name like a fish.

Ippolit darted down the hallway, his hand moving to the other object his earlier foray had borne, nested safely beneath his coat. He'd been very careful not to ruin the shape. C3 was, after all, pliable.

The door was unlocked. Ippolit smiled to himself. The Colonel's reputation would be enough to keep most intruders at bay.

Ippolit kept his eyes straight ahead and his mind on the objective, refusing to be distracted by seeing in what kind of environment a man like the Colonel would live. There was no time to fall into a trance.

Withdrawing the object from his pocket, he held it up to his eye, examining it critically. He adjusted a few of the petals, ensuring that they were well defined. Detail was important.

Alone in the center of the massive desk, the small shape was striking. Delicate among brutality, artistry among ruthless efficiency, dangerous and, if he said so himself, beautiful. A single white carnation. Forming it had been difficult, but Ippolit had a dextrous bend, and, besides, the symbolism was ideal.


Deed done, Ippolit made his escape, taking care that his egress was unobserved.

By the time he arrived at the more populous parts of the fortress, he let himself feel a giddy tingle of relief. It was only a gesture, but it felt like a victory.

He even had an alibi.

Rakitin strode toward Liadov's office, ready to take on the day's interrogations.
[identity profile]
Liadov raised his brows slightly.

"That is good to know...Captain Irinarhov."

He allowed a slight inflection on the corrected rank. Since he had only heard the man referred to by title prior to the demotion order they'd assigned, the name Irinarhov and Major had become somewhat linked in his mind.

A smile tipped his lips, dipped them in wryness like frost.

"This reunion is kismet, you know. Proof irrefutable that a man's questionable decisions do follow him through life."
[identity profile]

“Welcome to Groznyj Grad.” Krauss chuckled, stealing a sideways glance at the investigators. He decided it would be best to play it all off as a routine, normal occurrence, both for his own personal amusement, and because such strange sights were common around the Grad. Better to let them in on the secret now, lest for the poor bastards get a nasty surprise later on.

“Are you gentlemen alright?” He raised an eyebrow, gesturing toward the yard full of naked and semi naked soldiers. “You act as though you have never witnessed morning roll call!”

It was easy to pick out Volgin, a mountain swathed in olive wool among the fleshy-pink unclothed crowd. The sooner he was able to pawn the investigators off onto someone else, the sooner he could retreat into his office, and drown his misery in Cognac.

“Right this way then. There is the man which you seek, by that tank, that’s Colonel Volgin.” He skittered along the edge of the crowd, not particularly inclined to venture into a writhing sea of naked men. Unusual, for the Major, but he was still heartbroken over the loss of Stefan.

“Colonel!” He called out, “we have a slight --” problem, was the word he wanted to use. “We have visitors.” Krauss did his best to smile, but it was useless, and hopeless.  

[identity profile]
Senior Lieutenant Ippolit Zosimovitch Rakitin waited in the helicopter and tried not to think about wolves.

There was an old story they used to tell, about a wolf in the sky. The gods thought they could control it, but it grew too big and it grew too fast, and ferocious things turn on their handlers. They told it the binding was only a game, but no wolf is that stupid. For collateral, a god's right hand, bold interloper rappeling into the cavern of blood-scented breath beneath stalactite incisors. And when the deal was broken and the trap revealed, there lay the forfeit, sheared off at the wrist.

The first reason Ippolit had this job was that he remembered stories.

Outside of the thin steel shell, a man's voice called to another. Distant forms were outlined against the tarmac, as though it had come down with something that made it break out in uneven splotches of humanity. Life went on, motion and action, removed by an intangible membrane from the here and now of thought and stasis.

None of the figures seemed to be moving toward where the Kamov dozed, but the rising ripples of heat made it difficult to tell.

The second reason was that he never jumped to conclusions.

"Find the murderer," General Olavyenko had said, barely looking at him as he threw down a file whose emptiness spoke volumes. He had added, with a sort of gruff magnanimity, as though he should show gratitude for being handed a valuable secret, "And keep your nose out of what doesn't concern you."

Ippolit had spent most of the time from then until he was to report here - hardly any time at all, which he tried very hard to believe was due simply to the urgency of the mission - asking questions about this Groznyj Grad.

The closest thing he had gotten to an answer was a Captain who had done nothing but laugh.

And the third, maybe the only one that mattered, was that he stuck his hand where no one else would.

Restless, Ippolit's eyes ran a thousanth lap of the Kamov's interior. The other one should have been here by now.

There was that, at least. No matter what sort of place this was, he wouldn't be going into it alone.

Or, as far as he knew, he could be walking into a den of wolves with a tiger at his back.

Ippolit waited, and tried not to think.
[identity profile]
SRIDA, 12 FEVRAI, 1964: 18:00 hours

[OOC: Two weeks after the first body is discovered. Ocelot is in the East Wing, walking toward the Shagohod Hangar. Anyone is free to jump in, or start coexisting threads.]

The day was nearly over, and the shadows hung long in the East Wing halls.

The Grad was industrious, striking in quartz precision like the innards of a clock. Ocelot walked in counterpoint to this timekeeping, his spurs clanking with languid haste.

The victim had just been indentified dentally as GRU Captain Mikhail Stovanovich Molokov. Or Styopa, as he'd been more commonly known around the Grad. Styopa was a handsome blond man of about thirty-two, a sometime fixture, a decent enough officer to Ocerlot's mind. He was in charge of supervising the delivery of supplies and requisitions from Moscow, and came through with the helicoptors every three months, looking staunchly official and polished within an inch of his life. He was General Olavyenko's personal attaché, and though he didn't like being reminded of it, Volgin reported, loosely, to Olavyenko.

This probably went over like a lead balloon, thought Ocelot, glad he hadn't been privy to that phone call.

No, Volgin didn't need the resources of GRU or Mother Russia. But he did need Olavyenko to keep leaving him alone in his outpost at the frontier edge of the Motherland.

Ocelot's lip twisted as he crossed the East Wing Atrium, and passed the library where scientists thumbed through books with downcast eyes.

Some sick murdering fuck. That was fucking great. The one thing Groznyj Grad didn't need another one of.

Oceelot knew Volgin wanted answers yesterday. He hadn't solved their little problem, yet. He intended to.

Lieutenant Imanov had been studying criminal psychology before he got his conscription notice. The obvious thing would be to avail himself of Ilya Piotryvich's expertise and insight by picking his brain, which Ocelot had every intention of doing.

But it was that same expertise that gave him pause. Imanov knew a little too much about the subject. Imanov had been conspicuously indisposed at the time. There was no presumption of innocence. Not here.

The previous week he'd only had a few minutes to speak with his lieutenant before Khostov had wrenched him back into quarantine with a wagging finger and a baleful glare. Ocelot hadn't mentioned the murder, but he assumed Imanov must know by now. ...If he hadn't known before.

Ilya hadn't looked good, but Ocelot knew that didn't necessarily preclude his involvement. A man could be sick in a lot of ways.

If it was Imanov, he would want to find out quick, and hush the inquiry. It would require serious disciplinary restrictions and short leash, but he didn't let his men go down easily. He wasn't going to lose his second in command over some unfortunate piece of ass, General's attache or not.

And the American.

Ocelot's eyes narrowed.

Everyone knew that Capitalist dogs were the sickest fucks of all fucks so afflicted. They'd never had a problem like this before. Never this....animal sickness.

Was it just a coincidence that the Boss showed up with her hairy, grunting lap dog, and a handsome young Russian wound up sexually tortured and violated?
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The greenhouse was barely visible from the roof of the East Wing -- over the hill and through the dense greenery. The Fury stood balanced precariously on the ledge like some great black vulture ready to take flight, transfixed with the small clearing in the woods.

Beside him, a single flame soldier waited in khaki drab, arms crossed over his chest, gasmask dangling limp in his hands, short platinum hair damp from the rain and clinging to his forehead. The infamous Lieutenant Io, never too far from the cosmonaut-commander.

It always rained at Groznyj Grad, but for once, the cosmonaut could find no reason for complaint. He only wanted to destroy the greenhouse, not burn all of Groznyj to the ground.

Not just yet, anyway. That was something thrilling to consider…

And besides, it was better rain than snow.

So he paced back and forth on the narrow ledge, radio clutched in one gray-gloved hand, detonator in the other. Absentmindedly, he noted that it was a very long way to the ground, nothing to worry about though, not equipped with a jet pack.

“Captain!” A voice crackled finally over the radio, “he’s got a fucking grand piano in here.” Distant sour notes soon followed, as if to illustrate the soldiers’ point.

He laughed, yes that seemed typical of Johann Krauss, sitting in his greenhouse and playing Bach or Wagner to his precious lilies, or whatever the hell it was he played all the time. “Fill it with C-4 as well,” he answered finally, “and tell Phobos to quit screwing off.”

The Fury did not wait for the reply; footsteps on the rusted metal fire escape that hung on the side of the building caught his attention, not the tell-tale heavy bootsteps of the Krasnogorje soldiers, burdened under their heavy gear -- no, someone else entirely.   GRU, perhaps.  Maybe even Ocelot himself, coming to watch the fireworks.

“We have company.” the pale Lieutenant announced, glancing at the Fury for some signal of how to precede.

“Yes.” The cosmonaut observed.

“Shall I kill them?”

“Not yet.  At least wait until they reach the top.”

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ATTN:  Col. Volgin, whoever else wants to join...


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The Groznyj Grad Living Novel

December 2010

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