The bunker had seen better nights. It was a squat thing, more covered in lichen than bullet holes. Built for an atomic war that never came, the bunker was slowly being taken over by nature. Hardy weeds were starting to grow in crevices as the snow melted. Megs picked her way up to the heavy metal door, surprised to find that it swung open easily and without noise.
Closer inspection showed her that the rust was superficial, and that the door’s mechanism was well oiled and cared for.
“Hello?” The inside of the bunker was barren save for a pallet to sleep on and a large metal hatch on the floor.
“Evening Kat,” Said a raspy voice behind her, in English.
Megs spun to face the voice, knife already in hand. Once she saw who it was, she straightened, and slipped the small knife away.
“Yes, well, I guess I’m Katya here. It’s easier in Russian to say,” she said, holding out a hand to shake his. Evgeny took her hand in his, and raised it to his lips the way the old generations had been taught in Russia. Megs could feel the tremors in his hands, though they lessened as they took hold of hers.
“I know, I am not what you had expected, am I?” Evgeny asked with a smile, before patting her hand tenderly and limping over to the hatch in the floor. “You were expecting someone… younger?”
“Well-” she said, trailing along behind. “N-…yes.” She didn’t want to lie. So far, aside from his advanced decay, Evgeny was the nicest and most normal person there was around here. He knew what her reaction had been. There was no point in lying. Not to him, not right now.
“Ah, yes. Well, I am Nosferatu. Sometimes our curse manifests in ways that we do not altogether understand. I find myself fortunate,” He said, working on the hatch. Megs quickly knelt to help him. “Thank you my dear, I find myself fortunate that I resemble a human, and that I do not carry a supernatural stench. I once met a Cousin of mine whose scent of rotten eggs and fish was nigh unbearable. I couldn’t stand to be in close proximity to him unless I’d stuck wax up my nose.”
Megs wrinkled her nose in sympathy, both for Evgeny and the unnamed Nosferatu and tried not to giggle at the idea of Evgeny with two candles up his hairy nostrils. The old haunt grinned at her, and Megs couldn’t help but wonder how he fed. Perhaps with a straw? He didn’t appear to have any fangs. Unless his two teeth served as fangs.
Evgeny pulled the hatch open, and like the door it swung without a sound. There was a steep metal stairwell down through concrete, lit by dim bulbs strung up on hooks all the way down. It was bleak, but it left her curious, and her nose picked up a faint scent of old paper.
“Go forth, go forth. From what your Mentor has told me of you, you will like what you find. Please, it is safe and you are faster than I am. Please, go forth.”
Megs looked at him, and nodded, picking her way down the stairwell, only to stop at the bottom. In front of her was a large room with domed ceilings and it was filled with row, upon row of books. This was huge, larger even than Jun’s library back home.
“Do you like it? I have gathered books all across the Continent, and now with Amazon, I must admit that my collection is quickly growing out of room. I worry that soon I will have to convert another level below. But come, come. I have something for you,” he said, motioning for her to follow him.
“Another level?” Megs asked, struck stupid by the sheer wealth of knowledge that was just… just plunked down here in Siberia. “Like this one?”
“Oh yes,” he said, running his hand over some of the leather covered tomes. It seemed to be arranged by both subject and age, using a system Megs wasn’t familiar with. Then again she didn’t really understand Dewey Decimal either. “I converted this level when I first arrived. The books need to be kept dry you see, lest they start to moulder. Some of the old editions need to be kept at a very specific temperature, while the newer copies are less fickle.” He smiled again, and Megs found herself smiling in return.
For the first time in months, she felt excited about being here.
“So the Outpost, is it here to protect the library?” She asked, slowing her gait to match his. It appeared that one leg was a good couple of inches shorter than the other, forcing him into a lopsided gambol.
“Yes and no. The Outpost originated as a sort of fort for the Academy to train its operatives for the cold war. We had agents in as many branches of the Russian Military as we could. They were trained here on how to blend in and avoid detection. Atomic devastation would harm our food sources and the great work, no one wanted the Cold War to turn hot. Not anyone sane, that is.” Megs nodded. She only remembered a little of the Cold War; Anpu had kept her busy for those years learning how to fight and trying to grow up.
“No, I arrived soon after, and installed my collection at the time. It has grown since then, and now serves as a physical repository of the Academy’s journals and studies. Now the Outpost serves to both protect this information, and to train students like you.”
They paused at a row of leather journals, most looked to be battered notebooks that had been carried throughout the world. He led her down the aisle, adjusting his glasses as he peered for a specific journal. They all appeared to be nameless to her. Some had pressed detailing into the leather, others were cracked and worn and some were made from oiled canvas instead of leather.
“Aha, here we are,” He said, stooping and pulling out a thin but well worn journal. It was tied up with a strand of leather, but there was something about it. Something that tugged all kinds of strangely.
“I believe it was written by an ancestor of yours. your Mentor had said that you might be able to translate it for me, if you would be so kind. I can read many things but-”
“But Pre-Coptic Egyptian’s not one of them.” Megs said softly.
“Ah yes, had your Mentor had informed you?” Evgeny asked, beaming with excitement.
“No, I just, I just recognized the symbol here,” Megs said, running her fingertip over the stamp of Wadjet with an Asp beneath. “It, it was her calling card. I think.”
“Sit, sit. I will go heat us up something to drink.”
“Oh, sure,” Megs said with a smile, clutching the journal to her chest. It felt familiar, but she’d never seen it before. Not with these eyes, and to add to the disconcerting feeling, she had no idea what was written within it.
As Evgeny hobbled away through the stacks of books, Megs sat at the workstation and carefully opened up the journal to read what she’d written ages ago.