Arrival

MARCH 14, 2012
0100 HOURS

The plane’s jets thundered as the specks of light below started to grow from sparks to embers. The fuselage shuddered as the engines started to slow it down. As the pilot banked, passengers started to stow away their ipods and e-readers. Some, still asleep, simply grunted and shifted before continuing to snore.

“Please fasten your seatbelts and store the tray in an upright position.” The flight attendant said first in Russian, and then again in near perfect English. Megs understood both, as her fingers crept down to check that the buckle was still fastened. She hadn’t moved all flight, but Megs had never been on a plane since…

Well. Crashing was the lowest on the list of worries. Danny had said that it would be safe. Danny had said a lot before she’d left.

”Cabin crew please take your seats for the descent.” The speaker crackled. “ Welcome to Moscow.”

“I think this will be good for you.”

“Are you sure? I mean, it’s so far away…”

“You’ll learn a lot there. I’ve already spoken with the local Scholar. They don’t normally do this.”

“Oh.”

“What?”

“Nothing. So it’s just me going then?”

“Like I said, they don’t normally do this, not for strangers.”

“Right.”

“Megs…”

“I guess I’ll go pack.”

Moscow

MARCH 14, 2012
0145 HOURS

Though it was March, the wind was howling outside the airport’s doors and flurries of snow were darting horizontally across the night sky.

Tourists were bundled inside, shivering in their too-thin coats while waiting for an available taxi. An American hipster couple complained loudly about how cold it was, and how commercial Russia had become while others talked about what they were going to do on their trip.

Megs shoved her hands in her pockets and did her best to look chilly to blend in. She hunkered down into her woollen scarf, and pulled her hat over her dark hair. All that really peeked out were bright blue eyes, and a reddening nose.

Her mentor had said she was supposed to make contact but as she looked around, Megs realised that she didn’t know who to look for. A scholar, but what else? Her mentor hadn’t said what he looked like.

“Katja, da?” A strong arm wrapped around her waist, pulling her along the snow-covered sidewalk. Startled, Megs was unsure whether to twist free, figure out who this was, or hit him. But he’d known her name…

“Evgeny?” She asked, looking up at the roguish man. He too was wearing a scarf, and a grey wool greatcoat. But He didn’t bother with a hat. Instead there was an unlit cigarette tucked behind his ear. This didn’t look like a scholar, but still he’d known her name.

“Nyet,” he said with a deep laugh. “I am not scholar. I am more handsome than that man. I am handy man, transport, friendly face, da?”

“Borya Schekochikhin. But please, call me Boris. I am friend of your friend. Evgeny, he calls me up one night and says, ‘Boris, there will be a new arrival in Moscow’, his English, it’s quite good, much like mine. ‘Go pick her up for us.’ A her!” Boris grinned, his face flush from the cold. His breath was misting in the air, and Megs was reasonably sure he was still alive. But it was hard to tell with some people. She would know.

“But Evgeny, he did not say how pretty you were! This spring looks more promising with your company.” They’d reached a new, if salt-covered, car and he let go of her to open the door.

“Um. Thank you,” she said, unsure what else to mention. Evgeny was the contact Danny had given her. “I’m sure there will be other, prettier girls…?” Boris made a dissatisfied grunt, and climbed into the driver’s seat beside her.

“Nyet. Where we go, you will see. Small town, smaller now than it was. Not many girls.” He sighed, coaxing the car to life. “Some, but not many. My Natasha, she is pretty, but she is upset about the third baby.”

He grinned, clearly proud of himself. Not a vampire then, a ghoul, or a thrall. A… fertile one at that. Megs couldn’t help a little smile in response. She liked kids. Maybe if she got to know Boris and his family better she could go play with the babies and help out Boris’s Natasha.

“She says I will be the death of her her with all those babies. She will be happy once it is born though. And then I can go back to visit. For now, I am stuck with Evgeny and Pyotr. Pyotr is handsome, but not my type.”

“Okay…” The city was passing by in a flurry of lights and snow. Much like the conversation, it all felt like a blur, like it was unreal and any moment she would wake up with her kittens curled up around her, and Rick in the shower.

“…then fly out tomorrow.”

“Sorry, I didn’t catch that,” she said, looking over at Boris. “I, uhm… I’m trying to take everything in.”

“Ah. That is understandable. We will stay here today, then we pick up the other and will fly out tomorrow. Small plane. The roads, they don’t go where we go. Not in winter.” He grinned, and Megs was struck with a fleeting concern. More planes?

“You will see. You will see. Is good outpost. Good for training, which is what we will be doing, da?”

“Who’s the other?” she asked, glancing back out at the city.

“A little shit,” Boris said with a grunt. “Some grand-childe of someone important. Dmitri. We will see how he is. Evgeny, he did not sound so interested in that one. So, we will see.”

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