NOTE: I rewrote most of this story and still can't up with what happens next. Oh, well. Enjoy this slightly revamped plot.
They splashed water in her face. She came to and felt her hands bound above her head. They were cold and numb from days of abuse. Somehow, it was still dark although she felt some light on her face. She reached for her feet and felt nothing below. She was dangling from an unknown height although she felt sure it wasn't so high.
The shock of the cold water was enough to revitalize her already tired body. They had already wrapped a blindfold around her eyes and made sure she was well awake. She dreaded another interrogation where once more, she would be beaten, scarred, and probably violated—an act that was yet to occur.
She gasped for air and felt a strong hand cup her chin. "Good morning, Lissette."
She hated that voice. Her ego had been cracked so many times by that bastard. "What do you want?" she demanded weakly.
"Good news, my dear." Lissette wished she could spit in the man's face. She hated that tone more than she hated her interrogator.
"Getting transferred to another cell block? Sucks for you, asshole…"
"Always a feisty one. The Premier wishes to have an audience with you."
"Yeah, right." They poured another bucket over her as a response.
"If you keep this up, you wouldn't look too presentable. After all, you're the special guest. Perhaps he will give you a pardon."
She struggled to scramble together a verbal jab but succumbed to the shakes. Her hands were numb and her feet were sore. It was an agonizing moment that seemed to stretch on for an hour until the rope above her head was undone and she fell to the floor hard, her ankles sending bulges of pain up her leg.
Lissette quickly assumed the fetal position to recover warmth. She felt the man's breath on her ear. "Take this as a warning: do not make the Premier angry." It was an order delivered by a chilling voice. "Take her."
Two pairs of arms picked her up while a covered her head in a sack. She would have complained but her strength waned as quickly as she had gained them awhile back. Instead, the former Allied commander let herself be dragged across the hall to God knows where.
The light blared against her eyes and she had to squint to keep from suffering retina damage. The Lubyanka was an abyss in itself and functioning light bulbs were a rarity. Her limbs were free and aching. But at least she was out of her cell.
A man was looking at her, thoroughly going through her body with his eyes. She felt compelled to slap him until she remembered her previous clinical visits. This was the same doctor who treated her. As to why they wanted her alive when they clearly could have killed her under torture was varied: revenge and information. He drew a stethoscope and pressed it against her chest. She couldn't really move so she decided to stay put and let this trained professional do his job.
The same guards were standing by the doorway, keeping a close eye on her. Dipshits.
The check-up did not take long and the doctor gave his assessment. She watched one of the soldiers approach her with the sack in his hand.
"Woohoo, I'm good to go," she teased. The soldier didn't mind. He hated this bitch so much that he just wanted to be rid of her (considering they were ordered to kill her). The bag came down roughly and she felt herself being yanked off the gurney. I hate these assholes.
This was something she did not entirely expect. She turned around and knew that they had locked the door. There was only a narrow ventilation shaft just below the ceiling and a wardrobe under it.
What is this place? It was a dressing room. She looked at the mirror and studied herself for a moment. Bedraggled and worn out. I'm just lucky to be alive. Yet she felt a sense of uncertainty as she took in her surroundings. Why this? That was bastard wasn't really joking, was he? She picked up the comb, feeling it in her hands as though one would a diamond.
The men had already left, locking her in another more comfortable confinement. At least the chair was cushioned. And there was a neatly folded set of clothes on the bench. What the hell? Surprisingly, it was an Allied officer's uniform. What made it more astonishing was that it was hers. Everything, including the pin that held her name-tag, was in place, free of dirt and grime and sown into perfect condition. Just as I left it… She couldn't recall the last time she wore it. Although she did remember having it stripped from her sooner after the fall of Spain.
To her right was a bathroom complete with a shower. Seeing the tiled cubicle and the glass pane was enough to make her grateful for the freedom. She savored the warm water on her face and took her time in cleaning and recovering lost areas of her body. The bruises made her wince but it didn't take long for her to fix up.
There were no other clothes than the ones provided. Bastards really want me to look presentable. I'll show them the good old-fashioned Lissette Hanley.
The guards returned fifteen minutes later, finding the former Allied commander in full regalia posing before the mirror. They stared at her, as though having forgotten what their task was and why an enemy officer was in their presence.
"So are you just going to stand there or are you going to take me to see the big guy?" Confidence was in her voice, brought about the same feeling she had when she still had armies to command. God, I can feel like ordering these jerks around.
The men shook off the distraction and placed the bag over her head.
Dickheads. "Great. So you really don't trust me," she complained as they took her by her hands and led her to a car waiting at Dzerzhinsky Square. She remained in the dark until the Kremlin's doors closed behind her.
The office was grandiose in its splendor. A bust of Lenin to the right, a display screen to the left, bookshelves all around, and the hammer-and-sickle on the floor—what an office—it was almost similar to the one she saw when Cherdenko was still in office. The Kremlin's halls were enough to impress her with its antiquity and design but the office of the Premier himself was somewhat lacking anything. It suited, somewhat, the ideology of her captors.
Her guards shuffled behind her and locked the door; Lissette knew they would just be standing outside with a Spetsnaz team ready to bust in if anything went wrong. To her, it reminded her of her espionage days in the French directorates. But instead of cutting someone's neck or lacing someone's drink, she was standing in front of an empty desk, looking at the back of a man who looked over the balcony.
She felt like pushing him over but didn't have the strength to do so. The Lubyanka's poor treatment ensured that.
The Premier straightened his back and entered, shutting the doors behind him. Son of a bitch. She stared at him, cursing her inability to speak.
"It's been some time," he began. Much to her surprise, his English was very good. Well, he almost never talked to her during the War.
"The same with you," she finally replied.
"Have a drink?"
"I don't see any wine glasses anywhere." She didn't even bother to look.
"They're all in my desk."
She grunted. "Fancy that."
The Premier opened up a drawer and pulled out two slender glasses. "Do you drink?" he asked, setting them on the table and reaching his hand back into the liquor compartment.
"On the contrary, I prefer water."
He retrieved two glasses and a glass pitcher filled with water. She could never wonder how everything in this room looked so clean.
He poured in their respective drinks and pushed hers towards the end of other end of his desk, motioning to one of the seats. She obliged, taking her place on the right as well as the glass in her hands.
There was a tense awkward moment. Both pairs of eyes connected, both minds trying to read the other. The Premier was the first to take a sip.
"So, how are things?" he asked rather casually.
"Fine until Spain turned Red."
"Comrade Oleg did well."
Lissette feigned a grin. "Do give him my compliments." Asshole.
"You also have my respects, Commander."
That was something. "Why thank you, Premier." What gives? What's this all about?
"Also with Commander Price."
"I'll send him your compliments when I get back to my cell." Her eyes narrowed.
Alright, you asked for it. "I'm sure you are aware of how the War has gone so far."
"Europe falls. The Empire falls. The United States is left standing in your way and even the President is fucked up." She had never spoken this casually to an individual of immense power. Her mind still felt tired.
"We were astonished as well." He refilled his glass. "The Empire holds a lot of surprises."
"We all hold surprises."
"You are correct. In fact, we have brokered a ceasefire with the United States in hopes of putting an end to this conflict."
You're shitting me. News was a rarity in the cold confines of the Lubyanka underground. "Oh? And you're telling me this why?" This is bullshit…or it could be true.
"You will be proof that we would not be backstabbing the Allies"—what's left of them—"in this meeting. A gesture of goodwill as many would put it."
Hanley felt her body go stiff. You son of a bitch. "You're saying that I'm bait?" she fumed. Some sort of… meat that you wave to a dog so it would be obliged to do what you want? "A tool?"
"No. Proof." They stared into each other for the next half minute. Lissette planted her hands firmly on the Premier's desk, glaring daggers into him. The stress of all her jail time was coming to a hilt.
"I'm not going to be used as a play toy for whatever you're scheming. No deal."
"It seems that you do not understand our goals. What we want is an end to this War—"
"Right. Like we'd all forget Easter Island."
"You were not the only enemy there, mind you." That earned him Hanley's ire. She was ready to call him all the negatives she had in her mind when he cut her off. "Right after Bingham's defeat we were greeted by a barrage of surprise attacks by our own troops under our own Defense Minister."
The Premier pressed a button and Soviet logistics officer Dasha Fedorovna appeared on the screen on the right wall. She greeted her boss warmly, eyeing his captive guest. They conversed in rapid Russian with Hanley trying to decipher what ('traitorous') words ('general') she could pick up. What?
The screen flashed with exclusive footage of the Battle of Easter Island. In the background were the remains of Bingham's makeshift base of operations. There was a sudden flurry of images and dialogues in a language she barely knew—making it all the more difficult to understand. But the look on the face of Soviet Marshal of Aviation Zhana Agonskaya told her that something went drastically wrong.
The following shots showed scenes of battle shown in an entirely different perspective—Soviet apocalypse tanks going at it. What the hell? Twin Blade helicopters falling prey to MiGs. What is going on? The angry faces of the Defense Minister. Power games? In the end, it was a vast mess with Easter Island reduced to a battered volcano littered with craters, burning metal, and debris.
The final transmission was that of former Soviet Premier Anatoly Cherdenko. He was angry. Very angry. "Why… this?"
I guess I don't have much of a choice now that you saw what no one else is supposed to see. "Dr. Zelinsky told me about Cherdenko's meddling with time. At first I thought he was delirious." Lissette turned to listen to the man on the desk with eyes full of shock and confusion. "But then came his sudden disappearance. And the 'attempt' on Cherdenko's life. Then Krukov's death. It was only until the Defense Minister converged on us that it all made sense to me. Zhana did not know. Oleg did not know. Moskvin did not know. Nobody knew. Except Cherdenko, Krukov, Zelinsky, and myself."
She shook her head. This isn't right. "How… wha… huh?"
"Dasha, the logistics officer whom you saw awhile back, sided with me then and there. Oleg, Moskvin, Zhana… they all went with me to Moscow. We marched with our forces and…" The Premier shook his head laughing softly. "…the only blood spilled was that of Cherdenko's and those who were foolish enough to be loyal to a snake like him."
"That explains the… coup." Shortly after the Battle of Easter Island, shockwaves rippled from Moscow, felt only by the world of espionage and conspiracy theorists. "You were the one behind it. You mustered the battalion outside the city and…"
"The Politburo was wise enough to stand out of our way."
"But you… murdered your own."
"He came at us first. What would you feel if Bingham turned coats on you?"
He'd never! "Don't you dare say that! You don't know him!"
"Cherdenko tried to save the Union. But he was just like most of the power mongers in this world today… no different from the corrupt masters of the West."
Silence. Lissette Hanley looked at the leader of the Soviet Union—a young man who aged just as quickly as he rose up the ranks. His hands were on his laps. His eyes looking far off into a distance that no one but him could see. His face and hands wrapped in veins and scarred by fire.
"Are you sure you wouldn't backstab us with this treaty of yours?" she croaked.
He looked up at her. "The people are tired. Almost all of Eurasia has been liberated from their capitalist overlords. As much as my comrades would like to ensure the fall of the United States, it is clear that it would only lead to more death and destruction… and it is time that we allowed for a world revolution to take place far from our hands."
What a devout commie. "Where's the venue?"
"The White House." Lissette's eyes went wide. "In the office of your new President who I believe is more kind to us."
No. Way. "On American soil… at our very own capital?"
She rubbed her temples. "I… I'm not… I'm not going until you keep your word, got it?"
The Premier smiled. "Don't worry. I will go there myself. No tricks, no hidden cards; only the elite guard of the Soviet Army."
This is something. This is definitely something. I don't believe it. I can't believe it! She couldn't help the grin that slowly grew from ear to ear. Oh my God!
"Always stick beside me. Who knows what your comrades would do to snatch you out of our hands?"
"Wait." She was now thoroughly mixed in a pot of emotions. "I'm not going free?"
She expected a big "no" but the two words that had left the man's mouth assured her that someday, she would see the light of her hometown. She settled down into her seat. "So I'm just going to stay right next to you for the duration of the whole meeting?"
"Until we return. But don't worry. There is a reception afterwards. You could walk around on your own but my guards will be there. And I am warning you not to stray away from our custody."
But this would endanger his position… he wouldn't do this if he were… no. He's just as staunch to his beliefs as Yoshiro. She let her eyes stray to the other parts of the office. "What do your…"—she looked at the bust of Lenin—"… comrades think of this?"
"Some agree. Some do not." She knew who he referred to.
"You're really going for this."
"If I were not, then you would rotting in your cell at the Lubyanka."
He is definitely risking everything for this. "So it's just me, you, and the best of the Soviet Army."
"Indeed. That is not to mention our skilled diplomats." My men.
Hanley took a step back and allowed her mind to wander around. There were two cases: if he was true to his word or not. If he wasn't a double-crosser like Cherdenko, this would mean that the Soviet Union would raise their guns and hang their coats. Although it would bring an end to the turmoil, there was always the undesired effect of creating another Cold War. That is, if things turned out well. Avoiding such was possible but difficult to attain. It was one of many things she learned in her time in the French espionage directorates.
However, if things went awry, (God knows what's going to happen!) the Soviet Union would be mustering up its forces surely double (triple) in number thanks to the annexation of Europe and most of Asia. With the stabilization policies recently passed, technologies of the Empire at their disposal, and propaganda leading their citizens to take up arms, the United States and whatever allies it had left would be waging a war of attrition. And the end result would likely be in favor of the Communists.
At least, that's what she thought.
"Alright." She took the Premier's hand firmly. The man smiled.
I could have chosen to die. "My cards are on the table."
And we wager all that we have for this. "You don't know how long I have been playing this game."
If only she could remember… The Premier shook his head. No. It is clear that she has more pressing matters to attend to. But still, if only she could still dig up those old memories.
Dasha Fedorovna. When the Premier was but a boy of no less than three, he had played with little Dasha on the snowy parks of Moscow along with her siblings. Had it not been for that exercise accident, she probably would have served in the air force alongside Comrade Marshal of Aviation Zhana Agonskaya. And probably would have given her life under someone's—or even his—command.
All it took was one shell. And she is my intelligence officer. A fragment of steel was still embedded in her brain but did little to no harm. Except for robbing her of precious memories.
And for a moment there, he had forgotten this meeting's agenda.