March 14th, 2012
“Time to wake, Katja,” a strong hand was rolling her over and Megs had a fleeting moment of weightlessness before her body snapped into action. With a thump, she landed on her palms and toes on the worn linoleum, her nose a hair’s breadth from the floor.
“Dafuq?” she groaned, rolling onto her back and rubbing her eyes as she looked up at the perpetrator. She liked sleep, or rather, that dozy feeling that felt like sleep between Day’s torpor and night’s wakefulness. Boris was standing above her with a cocky grin. He was wearing yesterday’s pants and had his long sleeved shirt draped over his bare shoulder. Tangles of dark hair were interrupted by crisscrossing scars that ranged from hairline thin to thick and puckered.
“The Complacent fool harms worse than an enemy.” Boris chuckled, rubbing his belly with his free hand. He brought the mug in his other hand up to his lips and blew off the steam that was rising from it. “At least now I know you have fast reflex, da? Is good to know, where we go.”
“You could have just asked…” Megs grumbled, getting up and dusting herself off. She’d slept in her clothes, which had turned out to be a good idea. Apparently, Mr. Boris had keys to her room.
“Where is the fun there?” Boris asked, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
“Well at least put on a shirt.” Megs caught a whiff of coffee from him, and shot him a baleful look as she went about getting ready for the night. The bedside table had her knives and she belted them around her hips, checking to make sure that the cold hadn’t frosted the blades to the sheaths.
“Why? I am not cold.” Boris said, looking down at himself with what seemed to be honest confusion. It lasted only a moment before he scratched at his side and yawned. Perhaps it was too early for him to be bothered, or perhaps he had decided that it wasn’t worth it.
“I will dress once you are ready. We go pick up the brat shortly, and then fly over to Outpost. You speak Russian, da? Evgeny, he said that you studied the language. If not, you will learn. And not just language,” he said with a wink. With that he downed the remained her of his coffee and pulled on his shirt.
“Meet me in lobby, four minutes.”
The hotel that they had stayed in was not going to be featured in any travel blog. It was almost remarkable in how unremarkable it was. The floors were worn linoleum while the walls were plastered with yellowing paper. The entire thing smelled faintly of mould and rot, but at least the sheets had looked clean.
Megs hadn’t dared use her enhanced vision though, sometimes it was better to be willfully ignorant than feel deeply unclean.
The lobby was much like the rest of the hotel, bland and just this side of unkempt. There was a dying ficus plant in one corner, but otherwise it was clear of any sign of life. Even the bored looking receptionist had disappeared. Shouldering her sack of belongings, Megs dumped her bag onto the floor. It landed with a suspicious amount of clanking, had anyone been around to notice.
No one was.
Boris’s heavy boots tramping down the stairs signalled his arrival long before she caught sight of his -now thankfully fully clothed- form. In his hand was a fresh cup of coffee and he had his own bag slung over his shoulder.
“On we go. To Airport where we meet little prince. You do not drink coffee, da? Good, this is last cup,” he grinned, grabbing her bag and bustling her out the door to the car.
The airport Boris had mentioned wasn’t the one Megs had landed in early that morning. Instead, they drove out to the outskirts of the city. They passed the old beautiful buildings, as well as the squat and ugly Soviet residential blocks. They looked like the kind of buildings that children drew, completely rectangular with uniform windows, extremely dreary and boring.
“Not the most inspiring of homes, I know,” Boris said as he caught her staring. “But they hold many families. It is better than being out in the cold. Outpost is similar, you will see.” He grinned, and pulled off the main road.
By the time he pulled into the smaller airport, Megs found herself praying that Boris flew better than he drove. Or at least less recklessly. It took concerted effort to unwrap her fingers from the handle on the door, and when she did, she wasn’t surprised to see that her knuckles had gone white.
“Ah, there is boy.” Boris said, climbing out of the car. At the main entrance stood a young man, wearing a wool greatcoat over a Navy uniform. He looked at them and nodded, waiting for them to make their way over.
“He does not come greet us,” Boris grumbled, grabbing their bags out from the trunk and passing Megs her own. “We will see, best not to make any snap judgements Katya. We will be sly and watch and learn. Then we will judge.” He grinned, and gave her a pat on the shoulder that nearly bowled her over.
“Dmitry!” Boris boomed, throwing his arms open wide as he strode over to the other soon to be student. Megs approached behind, electing for a quiet smile. One she hoped was apologetic and welcoming.
“Call me Mitya. Dmitri is my father’s name.” It was said dismissively in Russian, but Megs understood. She didn’t go around asking to be called ‘Anpu’s Childe’. Sometimes fathers sucked ass, and wanting to not be reminded of them was hardly a new thing.
“Alright Mitya, this is Katya, she will be also your peer. Comrades the two of you. And now we go find the plane. Please, follow,” Boris said, clasping Mitya’s hand before leading them through a maze of planes and helicopters. All looked to be a little worse for wear, some more than others. One plane seemed to have lost a good chunk of it’s left wing, while another was just a burnt out shell, scavenged for what little parts hadn’t been ruined.
“Ah. My first and dearest love,” Boris said theatrically as they arrived at a small six-seater. There were duct tape in places, but at least it looked to be free of fire damage. “Climb up, put away your bags. I will get her started while you buckle in.
“So, Mitya? Nice to meet you,” Megs said with a smile, holding out her mittened hand. The young man, who looked no older than herself, looked over at her for a moment. Gauging and evaluating before he smiled and took her hand, shaking it once.
“I am glad I am not the sole student this spring,” he said. “Perhaps we can work on your Russian while we study?”
Megs blinked, and felt her cheeks turn pink.
“Is it not good? I taught myself but there’s not many people to practice with back home…” she trailed off, watching him climb into the plane.
“There is room to improve.” He said with a shrug. “Pass me my bag.”