[identity profile] krasnogorje.livejournal.com
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.
[identity profile] krasnogorje.livejournal.com

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?" 

[identity profile] krasnogorje.livejournal.com

Dmitry Grigoriev gave a shiver and raised the collar of his fireproof jumpsuit to stave off the cold northern wind.

Ever since Magadan and its punishing chill, he loathed the winter and the wind that bit at his cheeks and turned them rose-red.

The peppered pertsovka that gently blurred the edges of his senses heated his blood and offered some lasting heat against the Russian night.

He wasn’t sure where he was going as he walked along the still tarmac, vaguely aware of the red lights blinking lethargically on the distant radio tower and the tap of his boots on the concrete.

The sky was clear, and glittered with distant stars, hazed by the lights of the Grad.

Katerina could call the constellations by name, but they were abstract and upside down to Deimos.

It was pleasurable to wander around in the still night without objective or the burden of a flamethrower weighing him down.

Anything could happen in the dark.

Not so long ago, he stalked the streets of Moscow on similar cold, clear nights, under a ghostly full moon. Those memories seemed faded as a weather-worn photograph, slowly tearing away from the nail that held it fast against the back of his mind.

If he wasn’t careful, the northern wind might very well carry it away from him, and only a rusted nail would remain as proof that there ever was such a dark photograph pinned there.

Ahead, a pair of guards huddled together for warmth and possibly more; their conversations stilled as he passed.

His pulse stirred as he thought of them, lovers without names, hushed gasps and desperate cries, pressed up against a wall or crouched behind a truck.

He wanted to turn around and confront them and make a lewd offer they couldn’t refuse, but he kept walking, pulled along like the needle of a compass swinging wildly to point at unseen magnetic fields.

In his periphery vision a figure moved under the halo of yellow from the sodium lights, and Dmitry Grigoriev turned and followed.

 
[identity profile] krasnogorje.livejournal.com

The hallways were silent except for his boot clicks on the tile and the occasional plaintive mew coming from the bundle clutched to his chest.

Io murmured reassuring words to his quarry, stroking her head through the blanket to keep her still.

So far, so good.

The East Wing was disserted; no one saw him invite Major Krauss’ beloved Persian cat into room 307 and no one saw him emerge with the Major’s feline half an hour later, dripping wet and wrapped in a moth eaten green blanket.

He thought he was home free, until he saw the soldiers standing at the bottom of the stairs.

If he saw them, they saw him, and there was no use in turning back to find an alternate route.

“Comrades!” He called cheerfully to them, descending the stairs with grace and enthusiasm. “How are you, on this lovely, lovely morning?”

The blanket in his arms meowed, and struggled.

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."
[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] krasnogorje.livejournal.com

Time was a very precious commodity. Finding himself with hours to spare, Iosef immediately gathered his violin and bow and set out for the hallway outside of Volgin’s office in the Main Wing.

Io went the first time to tempt the Colonel’s temper because he found it altogether thrilling in ways he could never hope to understand. He returned the second time for the quiet praise that the first impromptu serenade had received.

What started as an attempt to annoy and provoke had somehow switched gears in the flame solder’s mind. He felt something akin to remorse for the provocation as he stood in the deserted hallway once more.

The Blue Danube only brought secretaries to come and stare with awe and approval, and gasps of delight, and much appreciated applause. No one came forth from Volgin’s office; not for the Blue Danube, or the Gimn Sovetskovo Soyuza, or even for Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.

Io spent a good ten minutes scowling at the door from behind his respirator, as though sheer force of will alone would bring the Colonel out from hiding. There was nothing, the lights were off, and Yevgeny Volgin was certainly not home. It was foolish to think will alone could coerce him to appear on command.

So Iosef eventually retreated to the yard, disappointed with the world, and left the office workers to their dull paperwork.

It was a beautiful spring day, clear and blue. The snow had all but melted away, and the illusive promise of warmth drifted on the breeze.  The sun was pleasant and gentle on his face. 

A seemingly abandoned truck was all the invitation he needed. Climbing onto the hood with violin and flamethrower was a difficult task, but one that was overcome with ingenuity and creative wiggling.

A pair of GRU regarded the gas-masked violinist with hesitant curiosity, until he began to play for them. A sweet melody to match the kind disposition of the early spring day.

Ode to Joy seemed to match the mood set by the clear, light hearted day. It translated well to a solo piece he thought, shutting his eyes as the notes flowed from the violin, took flight, and fluttered away on orange and black butterfly wings.

It wasn’t long before he had another crowd gathered around. Among them, he recognized the German Major, but there were others who were unfamiliar to the flame patrol Lieutenant.

It struck him just fine, and he smiled.  Strangers were always welcome to listen.

[identity profile] nikanor-liadov.livejournal.com
Nika left mess intending to return to his quarters.

It was nice out, for winter, however, and he lingered on his walk, crossing through the tank yard, occasionally gazing up at the night sky.

A blanket of stars, a dark bright blue, illumed from behind by unseen, uncast light.

He assumed Rakitin was right behind him, but he had yet to see Polya disembark the mess hall, or hear his companionable shout.

Perhaps Polya had business to attend to, like the nights he'd been privy to what Liadov had not.

Rakitin was ostensibly GRU now, and no longer objective and uncompromised, as far as Nika was concerned.

If in fact he ever had been. It seemed Rakitin's wandering eye for unguarded cock caused him to lapse in common sense. He'd said himself he could take or leave the KGB, in no uncertain terms that left Liadov fairly stunned at their utterance. Once, men were sent to the Gulagi for years for telling a single joke about the government- and here was Ippolit, boldly declaring dissatisfaction with his agency.

And then, this blase admission that he intended to jump ship for Volgin's outfit- well, Rakitin was either supremely brave and confident, or hopelessly naïve to think his kit and bags weren't bugged. Or his teeth, for that matter. Maybe he was more of a renegade than Nika had surmised.

It didn't change his feelings for the man, but it did mean he had one less uncontaminated soul to rely on in this corrupt outpost, if it came down to an issue of justice that conflicted with GRU wishes or politics.

He sighed.

Best not to think about that. Not until it came to it- if it did.

The stars were never-shifting, everlasting.

Nika smiled at them and shook his head.

"Men are fucking imbeciles," he whispered to them, confidentially. "And I foremost among them."
[identity profile] krasnogorje.livejournal.com
 

The Kalashnikov was feather light and unfamiliar. It felt alien in the dusky shadows before nightfall.

His heart beat unmercifully in his chest like a caged animal dangerous and desperate to escape. Deimos was acutely aware of his pulse, a dull roar of blood that surged through his brain, made everything in his sight tinged with red.

With every breath he drew, he quivered, staring down at the lifeless body that sprawled before him. One of the reinforcements sent up the mountain to help secure the pass. A friendly kid with bright eyes that seemed enamored with the entire world. Too young and in love with everything to mistrust the dark stranger with the flame thrower who suggested they should go behind the storage shed and do for each other what good comrades did in private.

“You’ll be fine, Pasha.” Dmitry mumbled, mostly for his own benefit as his numb fingers struggled pull the zipper of his pilfered camouflage jumpsuit. “A bad headache tomorrow. I could do worse to you…” He held his breath as his eyes wandered over the near-naked body at his feet. “I could think of so many things to do to you…you and I…”

A bright trickle of blood snaked its way across the boy’s forehead, tinting shorn ashen hair rosy. It glimmered in the beam of the flashlight.

Deimos dropped to one knee beside Pasha. Holding his breath, he leaned in close enough to hear the soldier’s breathing, deep and slow, as though he were in a pleasant dream.

“Iosef patrols this sector.” His words were scarcely above a ghostly whisper. “He’ll find you in ten minutes, take good care of you.”

Pasha made a small, broken noise.

With a gentle hand, Deimos cupped the boy’s chin with careful adoration, and licked the blood from his temple.

Salt and copper. Dmitry smiled, satisfied with the bitter taste on his tongue.

“I do thank you for the use of your uniform, and for making everything so easy for me.”

The flame soldier stood, reeling as his head swum with adrenaline. It had been too long, far too long. It was intoxicating, made him delirious, made his prick surge with blood.

Laughing carefree, he pulled the black balaclava down over his face. The perfect image of an innocent GRU soldier, he started down the mountain path with one final look to the rock crevice where he stashed his gear.

“Nikanor Liadov…” He breathed, tasting the name.  It was sweet as honey on his lips, with Pasha's blood fresh in his mouth. “Where are you hiding tonight, Nika, my love?”

[identity profile] charushkin.livejournal.com
Matvei was late for breakfast.

The mess hall buzzed with whispered conversation. Another corpse. Another body.

The one that had been his friend, and explained the quiet of the bunk below his from last night.

He hadn't taken the news well, although he had acted to perfection. Didn't cry, didn't avert his eyes when Ilya delivered the news somberly, Andrei's hand on his shoulder. Didn't say much when a few well-meaning rankmates asked him if he wanted to crash with them to not have to be alone.

Matvei had grieved too much in his lifetime, and he no longer wanted to. He felt sick and tired of it, and had hardly slept, his mind ticking. Options, plans.

He'd avoided facing his friends again, and he could tell they understood: he didn't want to hear it again, didn't want their looks of pity. He needed some time alone, as much as they worried for his health.

Ha.

Matvei found himself with a tray and nowhere to sit. The hall was almost full, and he didn't want to sit with the Ocelots. He wanted to be alone.

The table at the north-east of the kitchens had several spare seat, and several dark uniforms.

Sergei's death had driven away Matvei's usual sense of propriety and he sat himself down unapologetically at the MENT table, and glared at his food, as though it was all its fault that he didn't feel the slightest bit hungry, ignoring how obviously he clashed with the ranks sitting down nearby.
[identity profile] major-ocelot-2u.livejournal.com
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.

Always.

"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] capt-kasya.livejournal.com
[Completed - continued in Night Search for Corpus 2]

Kassian rapped on the inner door once, to announce his return.

"It's Irinarhov," he called to the MENTs within. "Situation is clear. I'm coming inside."

Pushing the door open, he stepped inside the laboratory with the Flame Patrol soldier, frowning as he saw that Liadov and Rakitin had emerged from the refuge of the lab table and had resumed their work, as if their lives were secondary to running tests.

He didn't bother with a reprimand. It was their call.

Instead, he gestured at the woman. "It looks like a false alarm," he told the investigators. "She said she's here for her interview. I told her this might not be the best time."
[identity profile] capt-kasya.livejournal.com
[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] nikanor-liadov.livejournal.com
[RECAP:]


Nikanor Liadov:

Nika raised his head slowly, but didn't stop what he was doing.

He remained holding the cadaver bag open for an industrious Rakitin, who was cradling Molokov's severed calf like a newborn, rustling it carefully into the sack.

"Gorgeous," he replied pithily.

It wasn't unpretty. The ash and smoke had billowed, sculpted and plumed. Transforming the greenhouse into something new, a functionless sculpture.

Once it had been utility. Now it was art and form.

He wondered who he was talking to. The gravelly tone was not one he'd heard before, and he had a pretty good forensic ear and memory for voices.

"Actually, we're just removing some dead meat. Don't mind us."



Rakitin:

"Oh, hello," Ippolit said. He waved an arm, realized it was not, strictly speaking, his, and set it in the bag Liadov was holding open while the MENT shot him a look of amused tolerance.

So the shadow shaped like a man in a space suit was, in fact, a man in a space suit. Just went to show that you never could tell.

"Sorry to bother you," he chirped. "We'll be out of here in just a minute."




[[CONTINUATION ->]]


"Who is it?" Liadov asked Rakitin, mildly quiet, shaking the bag lightly to settle the arm down to the bottom, the way you would when selecting new fingerling potatoes in the Petrograd harbor.

After all, they still had two legs and assorted possibly-significant ash and timbers to gather up.

Rakitin was carefully unearthing the left leg from its sooty repose, letting excess ashes fall where they could compile them, and not lose them to the wind.

The greenhouse was now undeniably open-air, and not exactly breaking the unpredictable, occasional gusts of mountain wind.

"Bruising, or charcoal?" he asked, frowning, tilting his head for a better look.
[identity profile] heartofthunder.livejournal.com
[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] hajimenoippolit.livejournal.com
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] krasnogorje.livejournal.com

The hallways of the East Wing were delightfully warm after spending all morning out in the cold and snow and ice on the summit of the Krasnogorje mountain.

In all honesty, Io was thankful for a fluff assignment, even if it was designated to him for the cosmonaut’s own personal amusement. Anything to be out of the cold and away from the new recruits for a few hours. They were entirely exhausting.

And it had been the vaguest, most useless assignment his commander had ever given him: “go do something counterproductive to military efficiency.” It was a clear enough message though: controlled sabotage, in doses just large enough to be annoying, potentially even infuriating, but leaving no real damage in their wake.

Like painting caricatures of naked ladies on the posters of Lenin and Stalin tacked up in Red Square. That was the sort of humorous anarchy the Fury would have enjoyed. Io himself had laughed all the way to the gulag about taking vulgar artistic license with the pictures, among other supposed acts of treason against the state.

It seemed like a lifetime ago, but it had only been three short years.

He chose the hallway right outside of Volgin’s office for his experiment for the particular acoustic properties of that particular corridor. Where the concrete floor turned to marble, and the ceilings arched, everything echoed down the hall and into the main cluster of offices.

He would have preferred somewhere far, far way from the Colonel and his sudden electrical outbursts, but the Fury had assured him he would be relatively safe, so long has he kept his fuel tanks strapped securely to his back. Even Volgin, the cosmonaut claimed, was not stupid enough electrocute a walking bomb.

The officers that he passed in the narrow hallway scowled their typical disproval, and it thinly veiled their distrust for the flame soldier. He caught some of them actually staring, as though they had never seen a man in a respirator and flame suit, equipped with a flamethrower, and carrying a simple wooden violin and bow.

At least the vultures on the mountainside had been an appreciative audience. They even sort of resembled the Fury, he mused, taking off his gloves. Narrow, dark eyes, mostly bald heads with a few wispy strands of black hair here and there, constantly walking around with wings outstretched and waiting for something to die. Yes, that sounded exactly like his commander, a comparison he would most definitely have to share with the others at mess.

The offices, however, were filled with beautiful secretaries, and it made no difference to Io if the filthy whores had already been bedded by Volgin, Krauss, and half of the military base.

Without so much as an introduction to the GRU officers watching him with apprehension, the Krasnogorje Lieutenant touched the bow to the stings, and began his mournful, eerie song. It echoed through the halls, filled the offices, whispered tragic words of unrequited love, painted imagery of a cold white moon rising against a black night sky. It was something he wrote long ago, and Io smiled as the tragic melody returned to him in its entirety.

It flowed from the violin in ashen notes, drifting to the floor; a story written with arpeggios and broken chords. By the time he got to the part about the pilot whom killed his wife in a fit of rage, people were peering out of their offices to see where the mournful melody was coming from.

Io shut his eyes and continued playing as they congregated around him in the narrow hallway. Volgin would be along soon enough to ruin it all, and he wanted to enjoy it while it lasted.


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The Groznyj Grad Living Novel

December 2010

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