[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] 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] 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] 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] leshovik.livejournal.com
They stepped out of the pathologist's outbuilding and into the crisp and cold afternoon air, which held the weighted promise of snow.

Leshovik liked that. It felt cleansing.

He glanced at Aryol, who was looking at him with an expression Leshovik hadn't seen in a long time, like the way he used to look at him when they first met, back when Aryol thought he was the greatest guy in the world.

That was before Aryol had gotten to know him.

Then Leshovik hadn't seen that expression anymore.

But the way Aryol looked at him now was like that, the way he'd caught Aryol looking at Lynx a couple of times. Aryol had a lightness to his features, bright soft eyes and a sunny smile that was all for him.

Aryol stepped close, and slipped an arm around Leshovik's waist, nuzzling his face against Leshovik's temple before pulling away. The contact was as brief as it was tender and impulsive, and it made Leshovik feel ridiculously warm.

"You made him happy," Aryol told him, still smiling. "That was nice."

Leshovik reached out, and tousled Aryol's hair fondly. "Yeah, well, don't tell anyone. I don't want to ruin my reputation for being a dickhole."

Aryol laughed.

Leshovik still had no fucking idea what was going on with Lynx, but it didn't matter as much now, not when the man had looked him in the eye and tacitly admitted that yes, there was something. Something personal, important enough to make him torture a man with sharp, ruthless efficiency. Something greater than a mere assignment.

Before that, the lie had been sitting hard and cold between them, like bringing a rifle to bed.

Leshovik looked around, and spotted Niotkuda, who leaned casually against the side of the building, smiling, but not at them, looking like he'd been laughing to himself. Codec, maybe. Leshovik hailed him, and they walked over.

Niotkuda pushed himself away from the wall with the lazy grace of a natural athlete. Leshovik admired the smooth, indolent motion briefly, finding that it really did remind him of the way Lynx moved.

He blinked, and thought that there was something sort of fucked up about all of this, though he couldn't quite put his finger on it.

"Sorry about that," Leshovik said, gesturing back at the outbuilding apologetically. "Took longer than I thought."
[identity profile] hajimenoippolit.livejournal.com
Rakitin stared at the results as though he could burn through them.

Not just arsenic, but cyanide as well. And, still, something else. As if killing someone one way weren't enough.

Whoever had devised this was a twisted little bastard.

It was some kind of animal venom, that much was certain. Originating from any of the dozens of deadly creatures that made the woods and swamps around Groznyj Grad their home. Or anywhere else in the world. Whoever the bastard was, Rakitin wouldn't put it past him to drag a toad from its home on a muddy river bottom in South America just to make a poison more difficult to combat.

The adversary was growing into a presence in Polya's mind. This was a direct contest, in its own way, with someone who would go to any lengths to hurt the Colonel.

That aspect was more unfathomable than any mysterious toxin.

Slowly, Rakitin was drawing closer to the answer. He wouldn't lose. Just as long as it wasn't too late.
[identity profile] leshovik.livejournal.com
Air kissed the back of Leshovik's neck, as cold as a lover.

They emerged from behind an escarpment and took a jagged scar down to the footpath below, managing to scatter a minimum of dust and debris in their wake. Even he and Aryol were sweating from the cross-country trek carrying their rifles and over thirty kilos of gear over rugged terrain; they hadn't wanted to chance the path that led to Groznyj Grad until the last possible minute, just in case they ran into a patrol.

Lemsky lagged behind. Leshovik hadn't particularly wanted to leave the little fucker at his back, but Lemsky obviously didn't have the physical training or endurance they did, and had struggled to keep up.

Vindictively, Leshovik pushed a hard pace, stopping every so often to glare at Lemsky, goading him on with a bluesteel gaze, sparing him the lambasting only because of the need for stealth.

In some ways, Leshovik missed the cave already. It had been simple, there.

Aryol shot him looks every so often, his gaze pointed and piercing. There were times when it felt like his spotter could see right through him. He had in the cave, Leshovik knew. Aryol had known something was wrong, though at the same time, hadn't understood.

It had been all Leshovik could do to hold it together, then, to keep packing like there wasn't an icy lump in his chest threatening to spread into a burn. A couple of times, he'd caught his hands trembling and had nearly lost it, but the thought of showing weakness in front of either Aryol or Lemsky had pulled him back from the edge.

The forced march had been good, though. Focusing. He'd had to expend so much energy walking that he hadn't had the concentration to get worked up about Lynx.

It had taken on a surreal quality in his mind now, almost like a nightmare, the kind where familiar people became the apotheoses of their own exaggerated traits. Lynx as destroyer, god of a vengeance so detached it was inhuman.

The wound still ran deep, even though his mind shied away from it, now.

He signaled Aryol to stop so they could wait for Lemsky to catch up. They weren't far from the Grad. Just around the switchback path, and they'd be in sight of the main gates.

And the men who guarded them.

Part of Leshovik still thought this was crazy, masquerading as assassin-killers rather than the assassins they were, but trust Lynx to come up with a plan that defied ordinary expectations.

Trust Lynx, he thought, a bitter slash of a smile ghosting his lips.

Problem was, he did.

He brushed his hand across his right ear, slotting Lynx's in-between CODEC frequency.

"Longshot to Lynx. We're outside the gates."
[identity profile] leshovik.livejournal.com
“Target,” Aryol whispered to him. “Sector D, from TRP I right sixteen, add sixteen.”

They lay in wait on the rooftop, side by side, nearly touching; close enough to share warmth, twinned slender figures with rifles, wearing balaclavas and night camo.

Aryol peered down at the building through binoculars, rifle tucked behind him, while Leshovik adjusted his Dragunov minutely, and brought the target in view.

There. A large man, massively broad-shouldered and impressively tall, silhouetted in the window, vulnerable for the moment. The interval of opportunity for the shot ticked off in fractions of seconds.

“Target identified,” Leshovik replied, and checked his mil-dot reticle, with smooth, mechanical precision.

He had done this with success fifty-two times before. Only twelve misses. Not that he was counting those.

“Two point five mils,” Leshovik said.

“Roger that.” Aryol’s voice was crisp, steady and precise. “Dial 300.”

The kid was a good spotter; the best he’d ever worked with, in fact. Utterly calm, never made mistakes. He also had the uncanny aptitude for spotting a target, and that took more than just good eyes.

“Check.”

The target was still moving, and would soon pass out of sight, but he remained hyperfocused on the moment. Everything else faded save for Aryol’s voice in his ear, his rifle, and the slowly moving target.

“Wind from right, 9.6 klicks per hour. Mil one-quarter.”

“Roger,” Leshovik whispered, and made the final adjustment to his rifle.

He was aroused. It always happened, right before he took a shot in the field, when it was real and it counted.

Usually, he went for the spectacular kill. The carnage, as Lynx had called it. He liked to think about the people who pissed themselves upon seeing the body – or rather, what remained of the corpse’s grey matter, splattered on the wall.

But this time…something about what Lynx had said stuck with him, and he went for the quiet kill at the back of the head, brain-stem; immaculate, they called it, if you did it right, one clean hole that bled out, and left a pretty corpse.

I’ll show you fucking art.

He took the shot.

The bullet traveled at supersonic speed, so he saw the result before he heard the pop and echo of the silenced round.

Clean hole through the window, but a spectacular explosion of brain tissue and bone fragments from the top of the target’s head.

“Christ!” His breath caught in his throat, but he performed the follow-through by rote, and chambered another round. “Did I – ”

“You got him.”

“I didn’t mean to – ” he broke off again.

Aryol looked at him, but only for a moment as he stowed away his binoculars. “Come on. We need to get out of here. You didn’t mean to what?”

“Nothing.” He pulled back, slinging his rifle around his shoulder and carefully retreating to the leeward side of their roost, where the ladder was.

He hadn’t meant to turn the target into a geyser of blood. Christ, had he misjudged? He’d meant to aim the shot at the base of his skull, but had ended up taking off the top of his head instead.

It had shaken him up, more than he wanted to admit. He stilled his hands into fists. He had to focus. A kill was a kill, and that was number fifty-three, another notch to mark in his rifle.

Aryol stayed silent, even as they cleared the perimeter. He probably didn’t realize that he’d meant to do anything differently, Leshovik thought. The kid was long used to the way Leshovik killed, like a impressionistic assassin who drew on the walls in blood.

That was its own kind of art, he told himself.

Halfway back to the cave, he hit his Codec. “Longshot to Lynx. We took out the target. Repeat, we got him. Thunderbolt is dead.”
[identity profile] snow-death.livejournal.com
"Lynx to Longshot," he said quietly, finessing his Codec to the inbetween-frequency that should have hosted no signal at all. "I'm approaching your bivouac."

They had three of them for sleeping, tan canvas painted with black shadows and slung with branches- undiscernible deep inside the cave they'd staked their ops in. Hammocks inside. Cozy.

One for him, one for Lemsky, and one for the sniper and his spotter, who quietly had begun the practice of becoming one in other kinds of wetwork, and no one objected or made a single comment. That was how it was.

He ducked beneath the slung and draped net dark brown camoflauge that served to block the mouth of the cavern and obscure them from view. It was set in about fifteen feet, making the deep cave look like a shallow grotto. Not that it was easily visible.

At the Grad, he'd pieced his silent way across the snowbound vehicle yard, tracked in the direction in which he thought he'd seen the glint of Leshovik's rifle, but once he got there, he found the probable nest deserted.

The Longshot had packed it in, and flown back to their roost.

No Codec, no nothing.

Must have been in a hurry.
[identity profile] capt-kasya.livejournal.com
[Continued from "Meanwhile, back at Groznyj Grad..."]

Kassian didn't think he should be the one to say it, but with Imanov still reeling from the shock of their discovery, it fell to him.

"There was another killing tonight," he said to Isaev over CODEC. "Aside from the mechanic."

He paused again.

"It was one of us, an Ocelot."

Kassian realized he was feeding Isaev information piecemeal, the way he'd learned it, trying to lessen the blow. But there was little that could be done to mitigate what he had to say next.

"It was Gurlukovich," he said. "Sergei."

Kassian closed his eyes briefly. "He's dead."

There was more to say, but he fell silent, to let his words sink in.

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The Groznyj Grad Living Novel

December 2010

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