A/N OH GEEZ! Sorry for the delay, folks. "Monsoon" happened and I kind of had to focus on my story "Hang Out" for a while… Then work flooded my life and, well…. All the usual excuses that readers never care about! Hahah. This is the last chapter I had fully finished. From now on, I'm not sure where I want this story to go, so please, suggest away, and I'll incorporate as much of your ideas as I can :D
Helen's journey back to reality was slow, but steady. Even the double dose of tranquilizer metabolized quickly through her unique internal systems. Before she opened her eyes, she knew she was on a mildly lumpy bed, was wearing different clothes, and was pleasantly warm. She worked to unstick her heavy eyelids. She was in a small room, about 10 feet by 10 feet, illuminated by a weak light hanging in the middle of the ceiling. Besides her small bed, there was a little, square table, a chair, and an upright sink with a towel hanging over the edge. The furnishings were simple but clean. A small window to the left of her bed revealed a dark night with blustering snow. She'd obviously been moved far away from Armenia. Maybe the tranqs hadn't metabolized so quickly after all? At least her headache was gone. She always did heal well.
The door to her room suddenly swung open. Her eyes flickered to above the doorsill, seeing a small, black device with a red light. They were watching her. A burly man dressed for harsh winter conditions entered her room, shaking snow off of his hood. A gust of wind followed, and she shivered. Her clothes were thick and well made, but the trousers, long-sleeved shirt, and socks were not enough to protect her from the blustery weather. The man threw a coat at her then reached into his own and withdrew a pair of boots. Helen weighed the chances of her taking him down and escaping, but with zero idea of where she was and the foul weather outside, she decided to wait. She silently put on the clothes and followed him out into the howling wind.
It hit Helen like a freight train, piercing through her heavy jacket. Her teeth instantly clattered against each other, her whole body shaking. She kept her eyes squeezed shut but for a tiny slit, so she could see the shape of the man in front of her. Mercifully, they arrived at their destination within a minute or two. She quickly shook the snow off her, stamping her boots as soon as the door closed behind them. She looked around. They were in a utilitarian hallway with dull lights and no decoration. Her escort pushed her shoulder, and she started walking forwards. Unmarked doors were scattered throughout the building, and every so often the wall would open up to another hallway that looked exactly the same. A sense of deja-vu hit her with such force it was almost overwhelming. It looked exactly like the complex she'd infiltrated in 1989, but that was impossible. She'd blown it up. If Sergei was alive, however, he very well could have rebuilt it. Was she in Siberia, then? She'd have to map out this new complex very carefully. The man following her reached out and grabbed her arm, stopping her. He knocked on the door they stood beside.
"Enter," a voice called.
Her escort opened the door and pushed her in, but didn't follow. The door closed with a loud click, and then there was silence.
Sergei was seated at the far end of the room behind a large, wooden desk. A fireplace to his left crackled merrily, filling the room with a gentle heat. A few paintings adorned the walls. None of it disguised the bland, grey walls and cold floor, but it did help to distract from it. Upon her entrance, Sergei leaned back in his plush chair, lacing his fingers together and smiling at her.
"Helen Magnus…" he breathed. He still couldn't believe his luck. "Just as beautiful as ever. Please, take your coat off, get comfortable."
"You look well yourself," she replied as she complied, peeling off the heavy coat and hanging it on the coatrack next to her. And it was true. It had been 22 years since she'd seen him, but he'd aged gracefully. When she'd first met him, he'd been a young man of only 21. He'd been idealistic, eager, and determined. She'd taken advantage of all of those traits. She glanced over at the fire, and let her memories flow over her.
October 5, 1989
The Cold War seemed to be coming to an end. The START I treaty was almost finalized, and Magnus had been informed by American President Bush that it would be signed by the end of the year. If she could finish this mission, that is. While hunting for a pair of wild panthera tigris altaica nivis, one of her staff had encountered a bunker hidden away in the snows of Siberia. Upon investigation, he'd found an entire hidden complex housing secret Soviet weapons blueprints, attack plans, and more. Magnus had reported it straight to the President, but when he'd questioned General Secretary Gorbachev, the Soviet leader genuinely seemed to have no knowledge of it. Both American and Soviet Intelligence suggested the complex housed a splinter group, probably armed and completely unpredictable. Magnus herself was tasked with infiltrating the complex, assessing the threat levels, and if necessary, stopping the operation at all costs.
She'd entered the bunker under the guise of being a British defector who'd become fascinated with the Communist cause over 20 years before in college. She claimed she had a contact in Moscow who'd given her the location of the bunker. She spoke perfect Russian, and had such a vast knowledge of Soviet history and current government goals that they'd let her in. She was an excellent liar.
The place was in a constant state of scrambling chaos. The people who worked there knew they had limited time to accomplish their goals. Within her first week there, Helen learned the group was made up of carefully recruited military, police, and other such personnel. The higher-ups looked for several things, but most of the people working there were young men, imbued with national pride, who believed their country was being led astray by Secretary Gorbachev. They wanted to keep the Soviet Union strong, free, and united at all costs. Fanatics.
After her second week there, Helen knew she needed to shut them down. To do so, however, she required access to their computer systems, and that was something she couldn't seem to get. One night she'd been wandering the halls doing reconnaissance under the pretense of going for a cup of tea. She stopped in front of a door, looked around quickly, and slipped inside the security room. She'd found a young man sitting at the controls, his back straight, gazing intently at the screens though he knew nothing would happen. He just liked to be prepared. She'd smiled at him when he leapt up and turned around, saluting, thinking she was one of his superiors.
"Ah, Cary!" he'd said, blushing. Caroline Williams was her alias.
"I'm sorry," she'd replied sweetly in Russian, "I've forgotten your name?"
"It's Jeloudov, ma'am. Sergei Jeloudov."
Another week and he was giving her codes to the security feeds around the base but was hesitant to let her into the locked rooms where only the highest ranked officers gathered. He was an intense young man who believed in his cause completely. He wanted only to please his superiors and serve his nation. She convinced him that by helping her, he was. On October 28, she snuck a bottle of vodka into the security room and told him about the Western tradition of Halloween, where people dress up and pretend to be something else, entering a world of fantasy for one special night. She needed to finish this mission soon. The governments of several nations were pressuring her, and four-year-old Ashley hated when she was away for more than a few days no matter, "how important Mommy's work was."
Three days later, on October 31, she led him back to her room, and for one night made all his fantasies come true. By the next morning, he'd told her everything he knew about the base, security, guard schedules, and the plan to launch a secret weapon that neither she nor the major intelligence agencies knew existed. When she quietly stood up from the bed and started to dress, he said, "I love you," and she'd smiled and kissed him.
That night she felt the concussion of the explosion rock the ground despite already being five miles out, her snowmobile working at full power and her long, white coat pulled tight around her goggles. She thought of Sergei. He had been nice, really, genuine and sweet; just horribly misguided in his perception of the world. He wasn't on shift tonight, so was probably sleeping. She was glad he'd died peacefully, thinking his path in life was secure and safe.
She didn't know that he'd been sent out on his first field mission that afternoon. He himself hadn't been informed of it until late that morning, suddenly called to the CO's office to receive his orders, prep, and leave. He hadn't had time to even leave her a note. The START 1 treaty was signed barely a month later, and for 22 years, Helen had thought Sergei was dead.
Helen drifted back to the present, the flames in the fireplace starting to burn down. She crossed her arms and turned to look at Sergei. At 43 years old, he was in the prime of his life. His dark hair was thick and trimmed with military precision. He'd filled out his 6'3" frame, his jaw solid and his face composed. He'd grown from a cute boy into an incredibly handsome man. His blue eyes watched her intently. His stance in his chair was relaxed, but she could tell he was anything but. He hadn't asked her about her remarkable lack of aging, but his lack of surprise, plus the fact that he knew her real name led her to believe he knew a lot more about her life over the last few decades than she did about his.
"Where are we?" she asked, her voice strong.
"Don't you remember?" he smiled. She narrowed her eyes at him.
"You rebuilt it?"
She wondered why the Russian government hadn't kept their eyes on this place, wary of just such a thing.
"Not too long ago. It took many years to find surviving associates of my group. You were very good, you know. All our top members were in the bunker that day. We had to work under a mere Lieutenant for several years. Took a long time to rebuild our numbers, convince our contacts we were still a functioning society. Even longer to raise the finances to rebuild our home."
"It seems a Lieutenant is no longer in command?" she remarked.
"Thankfully, anyone who might have known about our… special bond was killed in your explosion. No one knew it had been me who betrayed us." His face hardened as he spoke the words. Since that fateful night, it had been his personal mission in life to make up for the mistakes he'd made, the weakness he'd shown, how easily he had fallen under the spell of the older, alluringly mysterious defector.
"Well," he conceded, "One man suspected. Do you remember Pechenkin?"
She'd known every man in the complex by name.
"He knew. He'd noticed how often you visited me during my shift. He was jealous, I think. He confronted me about it." Sergei looked wistful. "He was the first man I ever killed."
Helen felt cold. She'd turned the young boy into a murderer. But she couldn't think of him like that anymore. He was a grown man. A dangerous man.
"So you're still playing away at your war games, then?" she asked. "Hiding away in the snow like a frightened animal, always planning your great attack, but never actually doing anything?"
He banged his fist on his desk and stood up, his solid frame intimidating.
"We called ourselves the Semyá, did you know?" he said quietly. "Family."
Helen remained silent.
"You didn't just kill my comrades, you killed my brothers."
He walked around his desk and moved towards her. He came to rest barely a foot away, his hands clasped behind his back in parade rest. He looked into her eyes, and she stared straight back. All traces of the eager young man were gone. He looked at her now with the hate and cynicism of a man who'd spent more than half his life blaming her for every problem in his own. She had no idea what to expect from him.
"And what will my place in this new Family be?" she questioned.
He smiled at her. "You know, I don't allow animals in the complex," he said, making her frown. "They're distracting, messy, get in the way…"
He stepped back, looking her up and down. Her skin felt itchy. He reached out and grabbed a lock of her dark hair, rubbing it between his fingers.
"I think I'm going to call you Maggie, now," he announced. "It's a good name for a pet, isn't it?" he grinned. She spat in his face. With a growl, the hand in her hair grabbed on, tight. He swung her around, slamming her head into the wall. It connected with a loud crack, and she cried out, vision blurring and knees buckling. She regained her balance quickly, wheeling around and swinging back at him with a powerful right hook. It knocked him off balance enough for her to swing her leg up and connect with his side. He grunted, bending over, and she prepped for another kick. He saw it coming, shifting backwards to avoid it, then stepping in and punching her in the back as she landed, right in her kidney. She stumbled forward and he lunged, grabbing her from behind, wrapping his arms around her in a vice grip. She struggled for a moment, his grip unbreakable, before swinging her head backwards to smash into his face. His arms twitched and she broke free. She ran to the opposite side of the desk, putting it between them while she recovered her breath.
Sergei did the same, breathing heavily, but smiling. "You were always a frisky one, weren't you? So flexible."
Helen's stomach twisted. He'd been young, but happy to learn. She didn't know how long he'd been cooped up in the complex, and while not a virgin, he'd been very inexperienced. She'd taught him many things. He obviously knew his body very well now, including how to use it as a weapon. They tarried around the desk for a few seconds, but Sergei grew bored. He picked up the single picture frame on his desk and hurled it at her. She threw her arms up in defense, and in that one moment of distraction, he was able to reach across, grab her by the collar, and pick her clean off the ground, dragging her across the desk, its contents flying to the floor as she tried to move her legs to kick at him. He threw her to the ground giving her a swift kick. He called to someone outside of the room as he moved in for another, but she caught his foot, twisting it, sending him crashing to the floor beside her. She leapt on top of him as the office door swung open.
Captain Kuzmenko's jaw dropped when he saw the brunette woman on top of his commanding officer, pummeling him like a punching bag. He screamed out for backup before running forward, grabbing the woman and hauling her back. She yelled and twisted in his grip, her elbow appearing out of nowhere and smashing into his face. He cursed and let her go. Her fist connected with his head, and he knew no more, falling to the ground. Helen turned to Sergei, now on his feet again, blood dripping from his forehead, lip and nose, rage in his eyes.
The sound of running boots echoed through the corridor, and several men burst into the office. It took only a second to assess the situation, and they lurched forward, each grabbing onto one of Helen's limbs. She struggled, but soon they had lifted her off the ground, spread eagled, two men hugging her legs as they sat on the ground while two others held her arms out. Sergei strode forward and landed a vicious kick to her exposed torso. She heard snapping, and her stomach caved in, her back arching out. He stalked forward and punched her straight in the face, breaking her nose. Blood streamed down her face as she glared at him, finally stopping her wild flailing. She knew she'd already lost this fight.
Sergei nodded in acknowledgment of her surrender and ordered his men to let her go. They silently complied, placing her feet on the ground before moving to line the back wall, ready to intervene again if necessary. Helen reached up; grasping her nose and snapping it back into place before wiping what blood she could off with her sleeve. She couldn't quite stand up straight, thanks to her now broken ribs.
"I suggest, Maggie," he said, "That you accept your place here. It will be a lot worse for you if you do not."
She remained stonily silent.
"I'm not going to torture or kill you," he promised. "Not yet, at least. I've been waiting 22 years for this. I don't plan on rushing things."
He nodded to his men, and they escorted her out, walking her down the corridor to the exit. They opened the door, pointed to a distant light, and pushed her out into the cold, her thick parka still in Sergei's office. By the time she made it to her little room, her lips were blue, and she'd almost stopped shaking. She sat painfully down on the edge of her bed. At least the bleeding had stopped. She took a few minutes to start warming up before she stood and walked to the sink to wash the blood off her face and rinse out her mouth. She grabbed the towel then moved back to the bed. She gingerly raised her shirt, tucking it into her collar to keep it up while she assessed the damage to her ribs. After some painful prodding she figured there were three broken. She then wrapped the towel as best she could around herself, binding her torso to promote quick healing. She was exhausted by the time she was finished and short of breath. She very carefully and slowly laid down on her back. Her pillow was lumpy. She grabbed the thin blanketand pulled it up to her chin. Despite her exhaustion, it took several hours to tame her churning thoughts and fall into an uneasy sleep.
Well Magnus is in a bit of a pickle, isn't she! *Grin* What should Sergei do with her! How could she possibly try escape! What's happening back with Repli!Magnus, at the Sanctuary!