Fields of Yamantau Chapter 1: Enemy Unknown

Yamantau Em

Cheeki Breeki Esquire
Chapter 1
"I've had it with the haze, all the God damn time, blin." Grigori griped, leaning into his shovel as he dug, throwing the dirt over his shoulder angrily. "Every day with this, blin. Private, go dig another hole. Private, go fetch кафе. Private, put on your mask and stand in the field all day!" he complained, wiping the sweat from his brow. The other Private, a man named Alyosha, stopped digging, and threw a shovel full of dirt at Grigori, staring at him with a look of exasperation on his face. "All you do, Chernenkov, is bitch. Bitch, bitch, bitch, all day. Every. Single. Day. Do you even understand how tired I am, of hearing you whine about things we are all going through? Tired enough to leave you in the next hole we have to dig, my friend." Alyosha snapped at Grigori, who was still trying to shake the dirt out of his black undershirt. "I'm just trying to vent, bratukha...there is no need for snappy words." Grigori said defensively, holding his hands up mockingly. Alyosha simply shook his head, and kept digging, no longer wishing to carry on a conversation with the idiot across from him.

The two young soldiers kept digging for what seemed like hours, until they could hear the low rumble of the flatbed truck coming back from Novsibraskya, a small town roughly 100km away from their current position. Grigori and Alyosha scrambled up the steep slope of the hole, waiting for the truck to arrive. Grigori leaned over to Alyosha and mumbled something about "weird Sasha" before Alyosha pushed him away, tired of Grigori for the day. The beat up old flatdeck rolled to a stop, slowly settling in the soft dirt of the field. The doors of the truck creaked open, allowing the two officers in the cab to slide out, along with a civilian, who seemed to have some manner of skull deformity. The two Privates saluted the officers as their superiors walked past them, inspecting the pit that lay before them. The pit measured 10 meters long, 2 meters wide, and about a meter deep, just like.."A v-v-very l-large grave." the man with the deformity stuttered, hobbling up beside the older looking officer. "Back the truck up Sasha, we'll get those packages off of there and get going." the officer replied, ignoring Sasha's remark. Sasha nodded, and limped back to the truck as fast as he could, a strange smile across his face. He must just be happy to serve his country Alyosha thought to himself, almost admiring the strange little man.

Sasha almost dropped the truck into the pit in his fervour to do as he was told; Grigori lurching forward with his hands out. "Hey stupid, what you gonna do? Stop the truck my grabbing it on the way down?" Alyosha mocked him. "Both of you, shut your mouth, and start moving these bodies. Now!" the older officer ordered, scaring the two men into action. Grigori climbed onto the deck first, Alyosha right behind him. There were maybe 15 to 20 bodies strapped down to the deck of the old truck, each wrapped in a sheet of burlap looking fabric, and bound tight with several lengths of rope. Grigori put his hands under the head of the first body and grimaced noticeably. "Headshot?" Alyosha asked, his tone amused yet sympathetic. Grigori nodded, quite disgusted as the blood oozed out of the fabric, and down between his fingers. Both men grunted as they heaved the body off the end of the truck, sending it tumbling down the slope of the pit. One after the other, the young soldiers hefted the shrouded corpses into the dirt while their superiors looked on, smoking their pipes, conversing with one another in a dialect the young men were unfamiliar with.

As the last body rolled over top of the others, into the shallow grave, Grigori and Alyosha sighed heavily before jumping down from the deck, covered in blood and dirt. They walked over to the pair of shovels protruding from the dirt which they had hung their jackets on, intent on getting out of this place as fast as possible. The younger officer held his hand up to stop them on their way towards the truck. "Where do you think you are going? These bodies will not bury themselves." the officer sneered. Alyosha sighed, and turned around, heading back towards the pit. "Sir, we have been working in the sun all day! Surely the night crew can finish up here!" Grigori exclaimed, the anger in his voice causing the officer to raise an eyebrow. "Private, is that insubordination I hear?" the officer inquired, pulling his pistol from the holster under his arm. Grigori glanced at the weapon nervously, knowing this man would shoot him and throw him in the pit without a second thought. "No." Grigori said quietly, staring hard at the officer. "No, what?" the officer barked, his grip on his pistol tightening. "No, sir!" Grigori barked back, quickly saluting, and turning on his heel. The officer holstered his weapon, and walked back towards the truck where Sasha, and his counterpart were already waiting in the cab.

Grigori and Alyosha watched the truck pull away, the dust from the rough gravel road hanging in the air as it sped away, to god knows where this time. "You're going to get yourself killed, maybe both of us, if you challenge him again, Chernenkov." Alyosha muttered as they walked back towards their shovels, begrudgingly picking them up, and beginning to push the piles of dirt along the pit back in. "I don't give a fuck about him, Lt. Obresk is just an asshole." Grigori snapped back, angrily and ineffectively pushing the dirt around. Alyosha again simply shook his head. Alyosha had accepted the reality of life in the Yamanta Armed Forces the day he signed up, but not Grigori. Grigori still liked to believe that he could face down officers and marshals, and get away with it. They had to work quickly now, who knew when another truck full of bodies might show up.
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Yamantau Em

Cheeki Breeki Esquire
The radio perched on the truck bed was the only thing to break the still silence of the evening while Alyosha and Grigori took a short break, pouring the last of the coffee from their thermoses. The two men listened as the radio played; a speech by Premier Volodymyr Svrtan, so called fearless leader of Yamantau. More of his droning about the continuation of the revolution, same as always. Alyosha's eyes darted towards the back of the truck, then over to Grigori, then back to the rear of the vehicle. "Hey, chuvak...turn around." Alyosha said quietly, looking over Grigori's shoulder. Grigori furrowed his brow, before a great big smile broke across his face. "Ohhohoho no, blin. I'm not falling for that again, I turn around and you kick me in the ass, very funny." Grigori laughed, taking a sip of his coffee. "No, there's a kid stealing your shit." Alyosha grinned, pointing at the little boy rifling through Grigori's things, his rifle already slung over the boy's shoulder. Grigori turned around, putting his coffee on the fender as he walked. "Hey! What do you think you're doing?!" he shouted, breaking into a halfway sprint as the boy looked up, panicked, and made a break for it. Alyosha couldn't help but laugh as the feeble, dirty little child ran circles around Grigori, able to escape at every turn.

Finally deciding to give his comrade a hand, Alyosha waited for the boy to run around the truck again, snatching him as he rounded the corner. The child struggled, grunting and shouting against Alyosha as the big man carried him, setting him down on the end of the flatbed, immediately jamming an accusing finger in the boy's face, as if to tell him to stay put. The winded Grigori finally caught up, his hands on his knees as he tried to catch his breath. "You good?" Alyosha asked him, still staring hard at the boy. Grigori gave a half hearted thumbs up as he wobbled towards the pair. Alyosha quickly took away all of Grigori's property the boy had tried to steal. "Mercanti?" Alyosha asked the boy, who shook his head, staring down at the ground. This boy couldn't have been any older than 10 or 11, if that, and looked quite malnourished. "Kak vas zovut? Kak vy syuda popali?" Alyosha asked, taking one of the ration packs from the pile of stolen property, and holding it up, essentially offering it to the boy if he started talking. The boy's eyes lit up as he looked at the plain brown paper packet. "Moye zovut Misha, iti Novisibraskya." he chattered, reaching for the packet, which Alyosha pulled back. "Kak vy syuda popali?" he asked again, asking the young boy how he had come to be there. Little Misha from Novisibraskya became quite nervous, slowly lowering his hand. "Moi brat'ya brosayut menya syuda, chtoby zabrat' veshchi iz mogil, prezhde chem oni zaberut menya na sleduyushchiy den'." he admitted shamefully, swinging his feet through the air as he sat on the deck. Alyosha nodded, and handed him the packet, turning back to Grigori. Misha happily tore open the packet, devouring the hard crackers inside.

"He's a graverobber. His brothers drop him off here once in a while, and pick him up again the next day. Says his name is Misha, and hes from Novisibraskya." Alyosha explained to his partner. "So his brothers drive him over 100 kilometers away to steal from the graves? That's crazy." Grigori protested. "There's no way that he...shit..hide him." Grigori suddenly diverted, pointing out Lieutenant Obresk and Sergeant Ilya coming back with another load of bodies. Alyosha pushed Misha under the fuel tank of the truck before pacing a few feet out from the truck as Sasha once again brought the scrap heap to a stop in front of the pits. Obresk quickly jumped out of the cab, looking around cautiously. "Why aren't you two working? Don't you have a job to do?" the Lieutenant snapped, looking around for something, peering off into the trees. "Yes sir, we were only taking a short break!" Alyosha replied, snapping to attention. Obresk waved him off, leaning from side to side, looking around him. "Sir? Is something wrong?" Alyosha asked, looking at Obresk with mixed curiosity and amusement. "We just about hit a little boy on our way back into town last time. I think he's still out here." Obresk mused, finally meeting Alyosha's gaze. "Anyways, Private Bulgarin, tell me, why are you behind on your work?" Obresk said coolly, pushing past Alyosha, his hands behind his back as he walked, looking down his nose at the rows of mass graves. Meanwhile, Sergeant Ilya had spotted something moving beneath Alyosha and Grigori's truck. The movements ever so slight, almost overly cautious, making them stand out even more to the old soldier.

Ilya dragged Misha out from under the truck by his feet, the small boy kicking and screaming the entire time as Ilya attempted to restrain him. Obresk drew his pistol, and strode over to Ilya and the boy, a sickening smile across his face already. Misha thrashed and cursed, trying desperately to break free as Obresk drew ever nearer; but falling limp as Obresk struck him with the grip of his pistol. Alyosha took several steps towards them, Obresk leveling his pistol at the young Private, who stopped in his tracks. "Leave him alone." Alyosha blurted out nervously, his hands held high. "What did you say to me, you arrogant worm?" Obresk hissed, beginning to advance towards Alyosha, pistol pointed straight between the young man's eyes. Grigori watched on, unsure of what would happen next. It was fast, faster than anyone could have imagined as Alyosha lunged forward, trying to seize the weapon, the pair fighting desperately for control of it. The sound of a shot filled the air as Ilya hit the ground, a perfect hole in the breast of his tunic. Obresk stood stunned, looking at the weapon in his hand, and the body of Sergeant Ilya, back and forth. Alyosha took this moment of weakness to rip the pistol from his foe's hand, and deliver a fatal headshot. Obresk's eyes rolled into the back of his head, almost as if searching for the destroyed portion of his brain. The neat little hole in his forehead spurting a small amount of blood. His last breath came as a rush of air pushed straight from his diaphragm, the rasp of it echoing through the still night.

"Fuck! Fuuuuuck! I told you to leave him alone! Why couldn't you just listen?!" Alyosha screamed, letting the gun drop into the dirt. "I God damn told you…" he trailed off as he dropped to his knees. He had just killed two of his superiors, he was a dead man now, and he knew it. Sasha came hobbling forward, surveying the sudden carnage, before he turned back to face Alyosha. "Y-y-you w-will be o-o-ok." he stammered, putting his hand on the weeping soldier's shoulder, looking back at Grigori as he made sure Misha was alright. "Y-you s-s-saved him. H-his b-b-b-brothers w-will help y-you." he continued. He spoke with Misha briefly, confirming that the young boy's brothers would indeed help. "H-he s-says that y-you sh-should g-g-go with him. I-I w-will t-t-take y-you there." his face contorting as he pushed out the words. Grigori nodded, hurrying forward to pull his comrade back to his feet, guiding him to the truck. As the 4 climbed inside, Alyosha continued to weep, fearing what would happen to him. "Its ok, my friend. Misha says his brothers in Novisibraskaya will help us. He swears it." Grigori tried to comfort him. Alyosha nodded quietly as the truck made it's way down the dark road.
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Yamantau Em

Cheeki Breeki Esquire
The truck rolled into Novisibraskya early in the morning, down a shady side street lined with the dejected men, women, and children who had suffered so greatly at the hands of the Yamanta Army in recent days. Alyosha and Grigori slid down as far as they could in the seat, trying to hide themselves from view. "Y-y-you a-are r-r-right to b-be scared." Sasha stammered, looking out the windshield at the battered people who ambled the street in front of him. "Y-your p-p-people have d-d-done t-terrible th-things here." he continued, pointing to a row of bodies slumped against the wall of a small church, riddled with bullet holes. "We did not do this, men far above us ordered this." Grigori hissed, shaking his head. Sasha turned his gaze to the young private, a look of indifference in his eyes. "T-to these p-people, one s-s-soldier is the s-s-s-same as the n-next." Sasha said quietly. Grigori cast his gaze down to the floorboards, Sasha's words striking him like a blow to the chest. Alyosha stared over the dashboard, observing the burned out houses and businesses, the piles of corpses that seemed to be on every corner. "How much further?" he asked, his voice a dim monotone, so quiet the engine almost drowned him out. "M-maybe a k-kilo-m-meter, b-but we sh-should w-w-walk f-from here. P-Piotr w-wouldn't w-want that k-k-kind of attention. The t-truck I m-mean." Sasha explained, pulling off into an alley between a pair of destroyed storefronts.

Sasha quickly reached under the seat, and pulled out a milk crate full of sweatpants and old hoodies, handing them to Grigori and Alyosha. Misha finally woke up, peering around, and began chattering to Sasha as the young soldiers shed their uniforms, and donned the ragged clothing. "M-Misha w-will l-lead us the r-rest of the w-way." Sasha grunted as he climbed down, out of the cab. Grigori and Alyosha exchanged nervous glances as they followed suite, Alyosha pausing to lift Misha down from the cab. Misha motioned for them to follow him, he had given up on verbal communication since Alyosha and Grigori were having too much trouble understanding his dialect. "P-put those u-uniforms in th-that d-dumpster! Q-quickly!" Sasha told the pair, pointing to a nearby trash bin. The pair did what they were told, tossing the uniforms in, and slamming the lid. Alyosha looked back as they exited the alley, seeing the olive drab sleeve of his jacket moving gently with the breeze. He cursed under his breath as he jogged slightly to catch up with the rest of the group.

Novisibraskya had been turned into hell on Eras. The carnage was unlike anything the two had ever seen before. They had never been into the city to see what was truly going on. "What the fuck.." Grigori muttered as they passed yet another row of bodies, lined up against a wall and shot. "Alyosha...are...are those" Grigori asked, shuddering down to his very soul. Alyosha looked at the row of bodies, and quickly looked away, squeezing his eyes shut as he felt a wave of nausea wash over him. "Yeah...yeah...those are kids, man…" he replied, trying his utmost to refrain from vomiting. The smell of rotting flesh that hit him soon after pushed him over the edge, as he doubled over, steadying himself on a light post by the curb as the bile rose in his throat. It burned his sinuses as it exited through his mouth and nose, wretching and gagging until there was nothing left. Sasha waited impatiently, looking around to see that Alyosha was beginning to draw attention to them. "C-come on!" he cried desperately, hobbling along beside Misha.

Grigori pulled Alyosha along, letting his comrade lean on him for support. "S-Sasha, what the hell is going on around here?" Alyosha asked weakly as they caught up. "A-anyone who op-p-pposes the P-Premier…" Sasha said, making a throat cutting gesture. "The Premier can't actually be letting this happen, blin." Grigori said in disbelief. "W-what d-did Obresk t-tell y-you? D-disease c-containment? G-guerilla f-fighters? L-lies." Sasha hissed. Grigori knew better than to fight him on this point, after all, Sasha and Misha had been living in this for who knows how long. Misha ran ahead, pointing at a large, grey apartment complex. "H-his b-brothers l-live up o-on the t-top floor. The a-army w-won't c-come to these b-buildings. T-too d-dangerous. They t-tried to s-storm it a w-while ago, b-but they w-were driven b-back." Sasha chattered, motioning to an immobilized tank, the left track blown apart, and any part that could have been salvaged, was.

Misha dug in his pocket as the group stood by the main entrance of the building, until he produced a small brass key. He stood on his tip toes as he unlocked the door, and walked inside, motioning for the rest to follow. The group could hear the dull thumping of a bassline growing ever louder as they approached the doorway to the central courtyard. Sasha looked back to the pair and nodded as he pushed the door open. The music suddenly became quite loud as the group emerged onto the walkway that ringed the courtyard, there had to be a hundred or more men, women, and children in the courtyard, all busily moving crates of ammunition, or assembling rifles, or trying to repair some sort of vehicle near the back of the courtyard. "This isn't an apartment's a bunker." Grigori gasped, looking around. "Y-yes. This i-is th-th-the last h-holdout." Sasha replied, beginning to move along the walkway, towards a set of stairs. "C-come." he called to them. Alyosha and Grigori took another long look at the people below, preparing themselves, before rushing along behind their guides.

The group ascended the stairs until they finally reached the 26th floor. They were greeted by a large man wearing a sleeveless shirt, showing off the multitude of gang tattoos all the way down his arms. "Jus' wait." he said coarsely, holding a hand out to stop them, the other hand pulling his rifle against his chest. "Wha' you doing, here, blyat?" he asked Sasha, looking over the odd little man's shoulder at Grigori and Alyosha. "Frens!" Misha shouted gleefully, pushing past Sasha, running towards the man, who's stoic expression quickly turned to a great big smile as he hoisted the little boy up. "Moye bratya!" the man shouted as Misha laughed. "Why you back here already?" the man asked Misha, lifting him onto his shoulders. Misha quickly explained what had happened as this man, who seemed to be one of Misha's brothers, nodded along, adding in an "ok" every so often, and looking back and forth between Grigori and Alyosha, until Misha finished his story. The man put Misha down and pushed him off towards the other end of the walkway, holding a hand up to stop the other three. "My little brother says you saved his life, and for that I am thankful, but, why? What was one more little boy in a pit to you?" the man asked, lowering his hand and leaning against the railing of the walkway. "We aren't all monsters, like Obresk and the 83rd." Alyosha said cautiously, choosing his words carefully. "Да, but you had no reason to save him, he is jus' little boy robbing grave. How am I knowing you are not sent from Yamanta Army to infiltrate and kill us?" the man asked, raising an eyebrow as he dramatically pulled his cigarette from his mouth, flicking the ash over the railing. "Sir, we aren't spies, we just need help! Help that Misha said you could give us!" Grigori interjected. The man stared hard at Grigori through the wreath of smoke that now surrounded him. "This sir shit? No, no, no. My name is Tomasz. Please, call me, Tomasz. Also tell me why I should not shoot you and throw body over railing." the man said calmly. Alyosha tensed up for a moment, before letting his shoulders drop, and smiling. "You won't shoot me, Tomasz. You never liked guns." Alyosha beamed. Tomasz' brow furrowed in confusion, before the stunning realization came over him. He knew Alyosha.

Tomasz lunged forward, hugging Alyosha, almost crushing him. "Aly! Is it really you?" Tomasz exclaimed, finally letting go. "Yeah! What the hell happened to you?! Last time I saw you they were dragging you to another group home!" Alyosha cried, the giant grin still plastered across his face. Grigori stood in stunned silence, watching the two old friends reunite, and chatter as if they had never been apart. "Man! This is crazy! I cant believe this! How..why...why didn't you ever mention you had brothers waiting for you?" Alyosha asked, still stunned. "Well...they aren't blood brothers, but good as. I fell in with them when I was maybe 17..18..yeah, around there. None of us are related, but we see each other like family. Misha is some orphan kid we found in a wrecked out building a few months back, all skinny and scared shitless." Tomasz explained, throwing his arm around Alyosha's shoulders. "Ahhhh, man! It is good to see you again! But..for now..let's go get you introduced to Piotr." Tomasz continued, waving for Grigori and Sasha to follow him.
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Yamantau Em

Cheeki Breeki Esquire
The strong smell of marijuana hit the group as they entered the apartment; a dimly lit room that had definitely seen better days. There were several men and women milling around inside, some putting weapons together, others supervising. It seemed every person in the room was armed to the teeth. Alyosha could feel their eyes on him as he followed Tomasz towards the back of the apartment, through the thick, musty haze that floated through the entire space. The music that was playing was almost deafening, some rapper shouting about government tyranny. Tomasz looked back over his shoulder, his rifle cradled against his massive chest, making sure the rest of the group wasnt being hassled. "C'mon, is ok." Tomasz reassured them, reaching for the door handle of one of the rooms. He paused for a moment, and knocked instead, a muffled "Fuck off." heard from inside the room. "Piotr, it's Tomasz. I got visitors man. They gotta see you." Tomasz said. "And I said fuck off!" Piotr shouted. Tomasz exhaled sharply, squeezing his eyes shut for a moment, as if trying to calm himself. " really, really important, man." Tomasz said, impatiently staring at the ceiling. "Oh, Jesus Christ...gimme a minute!" Piotr shouted, something audibly hitting the door. Tomasz again exhaled sharply, before reaching for the door knob again, and pushing his way into the room, the startled shrieking of a woman cutting him off before he could say anything. Tomasz quietly backed out, shutting the door behind him, looking at the group wide eyed. "We ahhh...we should give him a minute." Tomasz said shyly. A moment later, a woman ran from the room, her eyes stuck to floor, wrapped in nothing but a sheet as she pushed past Alyosha and Grigori. Two more women followed soon after, the same shameful floor stare as they made their way out of the apartment.

A moment later, Piotr himself appeared in the doorway, clad in only his slippers, and a flamboyantly patterned bath robe. "You, are real dick!" he chastised Tomasz, pointing a finger in his face, the bulky gold bracelets on his wrist rattling as he shook his finger. "Yeah, ok, my bad, man, but friends, they need help. Like, bad." Tomasz rushed, brushing aside Piotr's scolding. The little man in the bathrobe turned and slowly looked at the men, sizing them up before turning back to Tomasz. "Ok..why should I give a sh-" he began, Tomasz cutting him off as he shouted "Because they saved Misha! That's why!" The fury in Tomasz' voice causing Piotr to step back. "Ok...that's pretty good reason. Where is he?" Piotr admitted, looking around for Misha, who was hidden behind Sasha. Misha sheepishly came out and looked at the floor, ashamed. "Bratya…" Piotr said quietly, kneeling down with his arms open. Misha shuffled towards him, apologising profusely for getting caught. "Nyet, bratya, nyet." Piotr hushed him, squeezing the young boy tight, happy he was still alive. The two chatted for a moment, before Piotr sent him off to get some food from the kitchen. Piotr nodded towards the bedroom, motioning for them to come in.

The group sat, and explained what had happened out in the fields, about the dead officers, saving Misha, and the fact they were now wanted men, or at least soon would be. Piotr sat back on his bed, letting out an audible "hmmm" as he listened. As they finished telling their story, Piotr took a long sip of his drink, and stared hard at them. "Ok, so I will say this..I owe you for saving moye bratya, but what do you want me to do?" he inquired, shrugging. Alyosha leaned forward, and clasped his hands together, trying to choose his words carefully. "We..we need safe passage..out of Yamantau, off of Meterra most likely." Alyosha finally said, looking at his uneasy host. Piotr looked incredulously back and forth between Tomasz and Alyosha. "Pfffft, you really expect me to smuggle you out of Yamantau? Do you realize the risks I would take to do this? Not possible, blyat." Piotr laughed, pointing his finger at them. Alyosha stiffened up in his seat, and glared at the little criminal in front of him. "Sasha too, non-negotiable." Alyosha stated blankly. Piotr stopped laughing, his mouth agape as he stared at the young man. "Non...non-negotiable my ass! This whole thing is non-negotiable!" he shouted, spit flying from his mouth.

Tomasz began to tense up, sensing the rising conflict in the room. "Everything is negotiable." Grigori interjected, laughing nervously. " about we help you with some things for a couple days, and we earn our way out of country?" he suggested, still nervously laughing. A wicked look crossed over Piotr's face, as he looked at Tomasz, then back to the group. "I..we...have a couple, you could say. If you can manage that...I'll see you off myself…" Piotr schemed. "What is it?" Alyosha asked coldly. "Not what...who." Tomasz said quietly, turning his gaze towards them. "Oh no. No, no, no. No more of that." Grigori chattered. "We'll do it." Alyosha said, raising his voice above Grigori, who looked at him like he had gone quite mad. "We'll do it. Just tell us who, and where to find them." Alyosha said stoicly. A vicious smile spread across Piotr's lips as he leapt up from the bed. "Club 77, it's a dance club across town, in the untouched side of Novisibraskaya. You'll find your men there." Piotr chirped happily. "One Commander Yakob Moroz, and one Yelena Simirkov. Our dear commander is a rotten sack of shit, and sweet Yelena? She's a government rat. Sold out more honest people than Svrtan." he explained, strolling around the room. "'re going to need better clothes to get in…"

Alyosha zipped his track jacket all the way up to his neck as he jogged down the stairs. He hated these clothes, and the fact he looked like some sort of gopnik, but if it meant getting passage off Meterra, he would put his feelings aside. "How come I look like street trash..and you look like some sort of ambassador, in your little suit." Alyosha chided Grigori, examining the smart casual suit he had been given. Grigori smiled, and looked at his comrade, "Because you are street trash, blin." Grigori laughed. Alyosha smiled, and replied with a joking "Yeah, fuck you too, man." before the reality of their task began to set it. "Are you sure you can do this?" Alyosha asked Grigori, the solemn atmosphere again growing between the two. "I have no other choice, it's this, or the firing squad, my friend." Grigori stated, fixing his collar. Alyosha nodded quietly as they neared the entrance of the building. Tomasz was waiting outside in a sedan, ready to drive them to the club. The pair climbed in, and began their journey. It was eerie, really, seeing the slums and ruined buildings give way to nicer neighbourhoods and businesses, especially so as they neared the military checkpoint. "Grt those IDs ready." Tomasz whispered as they rolled up to the checkpoint. Tomasz showed the soldier his ID, which the soldier inspected only briefly, before moving on to the passengers in the back. The soldier shone his flashlight directly into Alyosha's face as the window came down. "IDs, please." the soldier asked, his tone light and friendly. Alyosha handed him the fake IDs, and waited apprehensivley. The soldier shone his flashlight on the IDs, turning them over and over in his hand. "What's your purpose for entering the district? And why would you come from the slums?" the soldier asked, his tone slightly more authoritative. "We got lost on the way in. I'm from Brezk, and my cousin was visiting from Kiroyev, so I thought we'd come into town and have some fun." Alyosha smiled, unsure if he had even said the right town and city as were on the IDs. The soldier peered at them for a moment, before handing them back their IDs, with a warm smile. "Get a better driver next time, you could have been killed by those savages down there. Enjoy your night gentlemen." the soldier said kindly as the arm of the checkpoint raised, and he ushered them through. "Too close, man." Grigori sighed.

The car rolled to a stop down the street from the club, parked in darkened area just down the way. Tomasz turned and looked at the pair for a moment, before turning back and reaching into the glove box as he muttered "You both look like prize idiots." Alyosha laughed at the comment as he looked off towards the club. Tomasz turned back around, and showed the pair two small handguns. "22, and suppressor. They dont work great in fire fight, but they will do for you." Tomasz explained, passing the weapons and suppresses back to them. "Knife, good for know." Tomasz continued, handing both of them what appeared to be switchblades. "And wire, for choking." he finished, dropping two makeshift garrotes into their laps. "Good luck." Tomasz sighed. Alyosha nodded, as he tried to stash all the weapons in his pockets before exiting the vehicle. The two made their way past the car before Tomasz called them back. "One more thing, tell the bouncer you're here to see Johannes. He'll know." Tomasz explained. The pair nodded, and made their way to the club. The bouncer glared at them as they walked up, scoffing at the pair. "We're uh, we're here to see Johannes." Grigori said quietly. The bouncer immediately looked around, before motioning for them to follow him around the corner. He lead the pair to a door near the back of the club, and pounded hard. The door swung open, and a another large man ushered them inside, and through the kitchen. The dull pulsating beat if the music caused the floor to vibrate as they walked, before the bouncer pulled open the door to the dancefloor, and pushed the two in. "Friendly, isn't he?" Grigori joked. "What?!" Alyosha shouted over the loud electronic music. "Nevermind, meet me back here in one hour!" Grigori shouted back. Alyosha nodded, and the two parted ways. It was too late to go back now.

Yamantau Em

Cheeki Breeki Esquire
[Disclaimer: Strong Violence and Language]

The music was deafening as Alyosha and Grigori made their way in opposite directions around the dancefloor, glancing down at their phones every so often, examining the grainy photos of their targets. They tried to keep eyes on each other when possible as well, ensuring the other wasn't in trouble. Alyosha got eyes on his target first. Yakob Moroz stood at the bar, chatting with a bombshell redhead, who couldn't have been less interested in the military man, rolling her eyes as he ran his finger up and down her arm. Alyosha took a deep breath and began to stagger forward, as if severely inebriated. He pushed on until he collided with the commandant, throwing his arm around the man as he laughed. "Is good night for drinking, no?" Alyosha forced a drunken sounding laugh as he hung off the commandant, who pushed him off angrily. "What's your issue? You want to get beaten? Huh?!" Moroz shouted, grabbing Alyosha by the collar. The redhead stepped around Alyosha, putting her hand on Moroz' arm. "Yakob, it's ok! He's just drunk! Leave him!" she pleaded, watching Moroz reach for his pistol. Moroz glanced back and forth between the two, before releasing Alyosha and waving for the woman to come with him. The woman began to move past Alyosha before he grabbed her hand and pulled her back, whispering in her ear. "Get him good and drunk. I'll be waiting for him in the bathroom."

The woman pushed her hair behind her ear as she leaned back away from him, the bruises on her neck momentarily visible as the coloured lights hid and highlighted them as the colours changed. She looked at him sternly before gently nodding. "Oxanna! I said let's fucking go!" Moroz shouted as he came back, grabbing her by her forearm and pulling her along. Oxanna looked back at Alyosha once more as he turned and blended in with the crowd. If there was one thing she wanted more than anything, it was to never have to see Moroz again. Alyosha made his way to the bathroom, standing just outside the door, and waited. Up above, on the catwalks, Grigori had spotted Yelena. She was a petite woman, with waist length brown hair, and a scar across the right side of her mouth. She was carrying a tray under her arm after serving her tables, and she was just about to push past Grigori. Grigori stepped out, causing Yelena to slam into him, staggering back. "Don't panic." Grigori said, just loud enough for her to hear as he pointed his gun at her stomach. Her eyes widened, and her body tensed as the fear set in. "Pick up your shit, and walk in front of me, Yelena." Grigori said coldly, as he looked around, making sure nobody was watching. She did as she was told, picking up her tray and notepad, and walking in front of Grigori, his .22 nestled into the small of her back as he whispered directions in her ear as they walked. He turned to look at Alyosha as he passed him, standing by the washrooms. Grigori gave a slight nod, which was returned, as Alyosha turned back, watching for Moroz and Oxanna.

Grigori directed Yelena out through the kitchen, and out through the back door, into the dark alleyway. He grabbed her by the hair as the door slammed closed, pushing her towards the end of the alley, behind the nightclub dumpsters. He could hear her starting to cry as he pushed her forward, until she tripped over a trash bag and fell to the ground. "Get up." Grigori muttered, as he screwed on the suppressor to the muzzle of his pistol. Yelena shakily rose to her feet, and turned to face him, tears and mascara running down her cheeks. "P-please, dont k-kill meheeeheee!" she pleaded through her tears, her racing heart causing a lump to rise in her throat, choking off her words. "I don't have a choice...I don't want to kill you, but if I want to survive...its my only way." Grigori told the distraught woman. She began to cry harder, her head hanging low. Grigori leveled the barrel at her head and pulled the trigger. A loud *click* filled the air. Yelena looking up at her would be killer. The safety was on. Yelena took the opportunity to rush past Grigori, who wrapped his arms around her waist and threw her back, sending her tumbling to the ground as he dropped the gun, and produced the folding knife he had been given, and pounced on top of her, holding the blade to her throat. "I'm sorry! I don't want to do this!" he shouted. It was as if his mind and body suddenly disconnected. He wanted to slit her throat, but he could not. He could not bring himself to kill this girl. "Please! Why are you doing this?!" she begged, still crying. "Piotr says you are a rat, and rats deserve to die! It's my only way out of Yamantau!" Grigori hissed. Yelena began to cry even harder upon hearing Piotr's name.

"Please! Piotr is using you! He will kill you as soon as you come back!" she pleaded, her eyes wide. "I can explain! Please! Let me explain!" She whimpered. Grigori paused for a moment, before pulling her up, still holding the blade against her throat. "Piotr doesn't want me dead for being a rat, he wants to kill me because I have evidence that he killed my sister! If I testify, he goes away for life!" she rattled. Grigori shook his head, and softly muttered "Fuck!". He knew something didn't line up about Piotr's stories. He tightened his grip on Yelena's blouse, and looked into her eyes. "You swear he was lying?!" Grigori growled, watching her eyes dart back and forth, looking for any way out of her predicament. "I swear!" she wept, "Please, just let me go!" she continued, almost incoherent through her tears. Grigori breathed heavily, examining her. "I can't do that!" he cried out, seizing her by the throat, and slamming the knife into her neck, down to the bottom of the blade. Her eyes widened as the shock of her injury overtook her. Grigori slammed the blade home again, his vision fading to black. "I'm sorry!" he began to weep himself, as he stepped back, watching the poor young woman slide down the wall, clutching her neck as she bled, slumping over into the pile of trash next to the dumpster. Grigori doubled over, and began to vomit violently. Desperately wiping the blood from his hands on his pant legs. Which did nothing but stain the beige slacks. "Fuck!" he wretched, as another wave of nausea overtook him. He looked back at Yelena's pale body as she faded away. He stumbled back towards her, kneeling down, taking her hand. "Please forgive me, Yelena. I had no choice. Please...find peace in the embrace of God. Find peace in the light of Christ." he wept, praying over her body. Praying for her soul, praying for his own forgiveness.

Alyosha saw Oxanna approach first, her hard stare meeting his as she dragged Moroz behind her. The drunk commandant laughing obnoxiously, shouting profane things to Oxanna about things he wished to do. He parted ways from her, staggering into the men's room. Alyosha peeling away from the wall, before Oxanna grabbed his hand. "Piotr tell me who you are. I come with you. Go see Piotr!" she urged. Alyosha examined her, and nodded, before entering the men's room. Alyosha had already drawn his gun before he rounded the corner of the hall leading into the washroom. As he came through the door of the washroom, he could see Moroz at one of the urinals. It was just him, Alyosha, and the bathroom attendant. Alyosha hadn't considered the presence of this man. He already had his weapon aimed at Moroz' back when he locked eyes with the attendant. The elderly attendant grimaced and nodded, unfolding the towel in his lap, and holding it up over his face, obscuring his view of Alyosha. Alyosha chuckled gently, drawing the attention of Moroz, who turned around, still urninating. "What the FUCK!?" he exclaimed, fumbling with the snap on his holster. Alyosha pulled the trigger, the first round striking Moroz in the shoulder. He kept pulling the trigger until the magazine was empty, and Moroz laid in a growing pool of his own blood, with 7 holes in his head and chest. Alyosha quickly took a picture of the dead soldier on the ancient flip phone Piotr had given him before he turned away, almost running directly into the elderly attendant, who was standing there, the unfolded towel held out. It took Alyosha a moment to understand. He laid the gun in the towel, and wiped his hands thoroughly with the corners before the attendant gingerly wrapped the weapon up and exited the washroom.

The elderly had no love for the Svrtan regime, but Alyosha had not expected the old man to become his accomplice. He regained his composure as he neared the kitchen on his way out. He assumed Grigori was already waiting with Tomasz, since he had seen him leave with Yelena. Alyosha emerged into the back alley, and saw Grigori huddled next to a dumpster, covered in blood. "Jesus Christ, man...what happened?" Alyosha asked softly, reaching towards his trembling friend. Grigori raised a trembling finger towards the end of the alley. Alyosha shifted his gaze in the direction Grigori was pointing, seeing a pair of legs wearing high heels sticking out from behind a dumpster. He furrowed his brow, looking back at Grigori as he approached Yelena's body. "Holy..fuck..what did you do?" Alyosha remarked as he rounded the corner, and seeing the damage that Grigori had done. "Sh-she w-w-wouldn't die, Aly. I h-had to s-stab her o-over a-a-and o-over." he stammered, gently rocking back and forth. Alyosha shook his head gently before heading back towards Grigori, lifting him up under the arms. "You did what you had to do." Alyosha assured him as he helped him back to the waiting car. Tomasz turned around, and saw the blood covered Grigori, and simply shook his head. "No, blyat. Get in trunk. We will never make it past checkpoint if you are in car." Tomasz muttered, lighting a cigarette. Grigori reluctantly climbed into the trunk, as Alyosha climbed into the front passenger seat, just in time to see the panicked crowd running out of the club. Someone must have found Moroz.

Alyosha sent Oxanna a quick text message, and a moment later, she made her way down the sidewalk towards the car, climbing into the back seat. "Uh, Anna...what are you doing?" Tomasz asked, turning around to face her. "You know this girl?" Alyosha asked, confused. "Da. Is Piotr's sister." Tomasz said with a sigh, as he turned around, and put the vehicle in gear, quietly rolling back before making a u-turn. "Every once in a while, she gets in trouble, and we have to come get her." Tomasz explained, passing a cigarette to Alyosha, who took it eagerly. The group rolled through the checkpoint once again with little hassle. They continued on for a while until they figured it was safe to let Grigori out of the trunk. Alyosha propped him up against the trunk as he climbed out, and placed a cigarette between his exhausted friend's lips. "Smoke. Get your shit together for a second." Alyosha told him, as Oxanna reached into the cup of her bra and pulled out a lighter, lighting Grigori's cigarette for him. He took a long drag, and let the smoke creep out of his lungs as he stared off into space. "You ok?" Oxanna asked, adjusting her bright blue party dress. "I just stabbed a girl 7 times. A girl who had her whole life ahead of her. Piotr killed her sister, and I blame him for her death as well." Grigori said coldly, still staring off. Oxanna didn't know what to say, so she quietly climbed back into the car. Grigori rolled his eyes to look at Alyosha. "That poor girl said Piotr will kill us too." Grigori said quietly. Alyosha flicked his cigarette, watching the shower of sparks splash across the pavement as it hit. "If he does, aren't we really just dying sooner than we would have?" Alyosha asked, a laugh almost rising as he spoke. Grigori raised an eyebrow, the cigarette dangling from his lips. "True." he said, finally removing the smoke from his lips, ashing it dramatically. "Besides, we'll probably have to kill him eventually, anyways." Grigori said, before bursting into hysterical laughter. Alyosha began to smile, before bursting into laughter himself. It was the only thing they could do. Laugh. Laugh at the messed up joke that God had decided to play on them. Laugh because crying wouldn't do them any good. Eventually, the two finally climbed into the car, and sat quietly as Tomasz drove them back to the apartment block. As they were about to exit the vehicle, Oxanna grabbed Alyosha's hand once again. "Don't worry, you will being ok." she smiled gently. Alyosha smiled back. "I hope so."
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Yamantau Em

Cheeki Breeki Esquire
"Hey….HEY!" Alyosha raised his voice towards Grigori, who simply stared into the distance before him. "What?" Grigori asked quietly, his gaze unmoving. "You ok?" Alyosha inquired, his voice filled with true sympathy for once. Grigori shook his head angrily, picking up his pace to walk ahead of Alyosha and Oxanna, trying to get away from them. He jogged up the stairs ahead of them, looking down into the common area, watching Piotr's people run back and forth. "Why bother? What is the point of all their preparation? Nobody will come for them. Even God has forgotten about them." Grigori thought, again shaking his head. A man standing on the opposite side of the complex caught his attention, a couple floors up, watching him jog up the stairs. The man seemed to be as uninterested by the people around him as they were in him. He was gaunt, wearing a long, drab green coat, much like a field officer would. His cold stare seemed to pierce right through Grigori. "Hey, looks like we aren't the only runaways." Grigori said over his shoulder to Alyosha, pointing up to the walkway.

Alyosha turned to look, searching for whoever Grigori was pointing at, but he could see nobody but the filthy squatters who paced along the balcony. "Who are you talking about, man?" Alyosha inquired, raising an eyebrow. Grigori began to get angry, pointing back at the soldier, but as he looked, he was gone. "I..uh...nevermind, blin." Grigori said quietly, searching the walkway for the soldier. "Where did you go?" he thought, continuing his stroll towards Piotr's apartment. Alyosha glanced back at Tomasz, who shrugged and mouthed the words "I don't know."

The group carried on in silence, until they reached the apartment. Tomasz pushed past them, and opened the door. It was oddly quiet now, with only the quiet hum of the refrigerator filling the air. "Piotr? Mazi da?" Tomasz called, seemingly asking the still room where Piotr was. "Here." they heard Piotr answer from the kitchen. The silence grew heavy as they entered, and the room seemed far colder than it had before. Piotr stood at the counter, cutting slices from what appeared to be a roast, as Misha watched on from the pass through in the wall that separated the kitchen from the sitting area. The little boy seemed far less jovial than when they had left. Tomasz motioned for Alyosha and Grigori to hand over the phones they had been given, before pointing Oxanna to sit next to Misha. She gently squeezed Alyosha's shoulder as she walked past, she herself becoming quite somber. Tomasz quickly flicked through the menus on both phones, finding the pictures of Moroz and Yelena, and putting the phones down side by side next to the cutting board in front of Piotr. Piotr looked over, glancing from the phones, up to Tomasz before simply nodding his head. "Good." he remarked quietly.

Alyosha and Grigori stood together nervously, waiting for Piotr to say something, anything. Instead, he simply kept cutting the meat. Thin slices that he stacked together on the far side of the cutting board. Grigori stepped forward, into the dim light that radiated from the range hood, his eyes fixed on Piotr's back. "We did what you asked, with no questions. It's your turn now." Grigori stated, his voice cold, but his tone quite venomous. Piotr laid down the knife, and took a deep breath. "Go wash your hands. Dinner is soon." Piotr replied gently, resuming his task. Grigori balled his hands into fists, trembling with rage. "No. Get us out of here. Now." he demanded, taking another step forward towards Piotr, Tomasz moving closer to stop him. Piotr slammed the knife into the cutting board, startling Oxanna and Misha. "Go wash your fucking hands." Piotr growled finally turning around. His right eye had been blackened, and his lip had been split open. Grigori glared at him, examining the injuries on his face, before turning on his heel and walking towards the bathroom, pausing halfway down the hallway. "Where is Sasha?" he asked, looking down at the floor. "Gone. Doesn't matter." Piotr replied, he replied. Grigori turned quickly, punching a hole in the drywall in anger. "What do you mean, gone?! Huh?! What did you do to him?" Grigori fumed charging across the floor at Piotr, who wheeled around, wielding the chef's knife, pointing it at Grigori. "I said it doesn't matter. I didn't do anything to him either!" Piotr snarled, backing Grigori up against the wall. "Now stop breaking my shit." he said angrily, turning around and going back to the cutting board.

Grigori pushed off the wall, and shook his head, heading back down the hall to the bathroom. He could see the mirror had been smashed, and the shower curtain partially torn down during some sort of struggle while they were gone. He could hear the shards of the mirror cracking under his feet as he walked. "There are clean clothes for both of you on the toilet." Tomasz said quietly, appearing in the doorway. Grigori turned and nodded solemnly. He stepped into the tub to strip down, looking back at Tomasz, "Is it alright if I clean up a bit?" he asked. Tomasz nodded, and rolled off the door frame, and down the hall. Grigori trembled as the cold water hit his skin, so cold it took his breath away. He didn't care. He just wanted to scrub the blood away as soon as he could. He watched the crimson swirl as it went down the drain, bracing himself against the wall. He began to scream, from the very bottom of his soul. He screamed and screamed until his throat was raw, and he slid down the wall, until he sat weeping in the tub. Alyosha slowly made his way into the room, and sat on the closed toilet after moving the stack of clothes, Oxanna behind him with a broom, coming to clean up the shattered mirror.

"Hey, it'll be ok. You did what you had to do, Grigori. You did what you had to, to keep us safe." Alyosha said gently, reaching over to turn off the water. Grigori pushed himself to his knees, reaching for his friend. Alyosha met him as they embraced. "You are moy bratya, my brother. We are in this together." Alyosha whispered to him, as Grigori began to bawl. It took some time for Grigori to regain his composure, but eventually, he broke away from Alyosha, and reached for the tattered pink towel that hung near the tub, which Alyosha handed him quickly. "Finish getting cleaned up. I'll meet you out there." he said, gripping the towel as Grigori took it. His shivering friend simply nodded as Alyosha let go, and left the room.

Grigori emerged a few minutes later, and saw Alyosha standing at the corner at the end of the hall. He turned and looked slowly at Grigori, his eyes darting back and forth between his friend, and an unseen presence around the corner. "Mr. Chernenkov! Please, join us here!" an unfamiliar voice, with an unfamiliar accent called. Geigori proceeded cautiously, switching back and forth between looking at Alyosha, and craning his neck to see around the corner. "Come on now, don't be like that!" the voice called. Grigori took a deep breath and walked around the corner, behind his friend. At the table against the far wall sat a well dressed man, his hands neatly folded in front of him, and a kind smile on his face. "Come, sit. Both of you, please." the man motioned to the seats across from him, before pushing a whisp of grey hair back into place. Grigori and Alyosha sat down, looking over at Piotr, Misha, Oxanna, and Tomasz, who sat quietly, looking down at the surface of the table. "Nope, over here. Look at me, please." the man ordered politely, the kind smile still across his thin lips. The pair focused on him, both trying to figure out where he was from, and why he was here, but most importantly, why everyone seemed so terrified.

"Gentlemen. You, yes you, have fucked me, unequivocally. You have undone 6 years of work, in exactly 33 hours, and….26 minutes." he stated, pausing to check his watch to get the exact minute, before neatly folding his hands just as they were before. "So..the way I see it. You now owe me. Big time, you assholes." he beamed. "I don't think I've ever been threatened so politely." Alyosha smiled, shaking his head slightly. "I wouldn't be smiling, man. You have just entered an entire world of shit. Shit that you have zero, and I mean fucking zero idea about. That lieutenant you killed? Out in that field? Obresk I think he was calling himself. Yeah, that was my guy. You shot him in the face. Then, you come slithering over to this idiot, another one of my local guys, and he sends you to kill the man he's supposed to be reporting to. The man who was making sure that shitshow downstairs could carry on, so that eventually, these losers might have been able to do their god damn job. So again..I wouldn't be smiling if I were you." the man explained, his own smile growing wider. Grigori looked over at Piotr, who now wore a look of shame like he had never seen before. "Oh, him? Don't you worry. I'll take care of him. My main concern, is you two. Like I said, you owe me now, and I know you need to get out of Yamantau, so...let's come to an arrangement." the man said, exaggeratedly slapping his palm off the table, before a toothy grin appeared on his face again. Grigori exhaled heavily, before leaning in, "Firstly, we don't even know who you are. How do we know you won't just kill us anyways?" he asked, looking down at the tabletop. "Son, if I wanted you dead, I'd have gotten the old man to shoot you in the back in the bathroom, and you would have been shot in the trunk by the checkpoint guard." he stated, motioning to Alyosha and Grigori. "And as for my name? Hell, let's say my name is John Jacobs. Haven't used that one in a while." he continued. Grigori nodded gently "So what's the deal? We do another job for you? And another, and another? While you promise to get us out of here?" he asked Mr. Jacobs, who shook his head. "No. One job. Then you're done. If you succeed, you'll be free men, if you fail, you'll die anyways. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, gentlemen. Might take you a while, but it's the least you could do to repay the wasted work of better men than yourself." Mr. Jacobs explained, beginning to drum his fingers on the table. Alyosha and Grigori exchanged glances, gently nodding to each other. "What's the job?" they said in unison. Mr. Jacobs smiled, and leaned in, pausing a moment and letting out a small chuckle. "You ever destabilize a regime?" he asked, his smile bigger than ever.
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Yamantau Em

Cheeki Breeki Esquire
Tomasz shifted in his seat, glancing over at Grigori who was fast asleep in the passenger seat, against the foggy window of the car. He glanced into the rearview mirror, checking on Alyosha, Oxanna, and Misha as they too slept. Oxanna and Misha both leaned into Alyosha, his arms around them both, as the car made its way down the beaten roads and highways, headed to the capital, Kiroyev. Tomasz couldn't help but replay Mr. Jacob's words over and over in his mind as he drove.

"If we're being honest with one another, it doesn't matter to me whether you make it out of this or not. If you live, and succeed, I win. If you fail, and die, or end up rotting away in the labour camps, that's another nuisance out of my life. Meet my man in Kiroyev, he'll get you set up, give you whatever you need to do what you have to do."

"From one life debt to another." Tomasz thought aloud, causing Grigori to finally pop his eyes open. "What?" Grigori asked groggily, rubbing his face as he peered around. "Nothing, blyat. We are maybe thirty kilometers from Tagtaryev now, so..maybe another few hours to Kiroyev." Tomasz said, leaning his head on his hand, bracing his arm on the window sill. "Shit man, I didn't mean to fall asleep that long, you drove all night, I'm sorry." Grigori began to apologize profusely, "Here, pull over, I'll drive for a while." he said, pointing to a pull off up ahead. Tomasz breathed a sigh of exhaustion as he brought the car to a stop, and quietly climbed out, careful not to wake the three in the back, Grigori following suite. "You got smokes?" Tomasz asked as he met Grigori around the front of the car. "Yeah, here." Grigori replied, handing Tomasz his cigarettes, and a lighter.

"Thanks, bratya. I'll have this, and jump in when I'm done. Kid doesn't need to be choked out with the smoke." Tomasz said quietly, the cigarette dangling out of his mouth as he sleepily blinked his eyes. Grigori nodded, and hopped into the driver seat, watching the big man pace in front of the car as he enjoyed his smoke. Grigori turned back to look at his companions to see Alyosha looking back him. Alyosha smiled, and brought his finger as close to his lips as he could, issuing a soft "shhh" as he looked back and forth between Oxanna and Misha. "You sleep good, man?" Grigori whispered, smiling back at his friend. "About as good as you can when both your arms are asleep and the kid drools in his sleep." Alyosha whispered back, trying not to laugh as he gently turned his body towards Grigori, showing him the massive, wet drool spot on the side of his jacket. Grigori clapped his hand over his mouth to suppress a laugh, shaking his head. "Where are we?" Alyosha asked, slipping his arms out from behind the sleeping pair. "Close to Tagtaryev. Tomasz drove all night, blin. He's just finishing his smoke, then we'll be on our way." Grigori explained. Alyosha nodded quietly, and leaned back again, putting his arms back around Oxanna and Misha.

Grigori turned back around, and examined himself in the rearview mirror. "I look like shit." he thought to himself, running his hand over the coarse black stubble that covered his face. Tomasz climbed back into the vehicle, interrupting Grigori's moment of self-examination. "You are still ugly." Tomasz joked, letting his head flop against the headrest. "Yeah, yeah, fuck you too." Grigori beamed, dropping the car into gear, and pulling back onto the highway. "Not much traffic here, ah?" Grigori remarked, looking around for any sign of any other people. "Yeah, kind of strange." Tomasz said groggily, almost immediately drifting off to sleep.

Grigori became more suspicious of their surroundings as they neared Tagtaryev. He had not seen another vehicle the entire time, which was very odd, especially approaching a major city. He could see some signs facing the opposite direction up ahead, and peered into the mirror trying to read them as he passed. His eyes widened as he read.


"Jesus Christ!" he exclaimed, swerving the car slightly. Tomasz snapped awake as Grigori slammed on the brakes, skidding the car to a stop. The occupants in the back lurched forward against the seats in a panic. "GRIGORI! WHAT THE FUCK!?" Alyosha shouted, slapping Grigori from around the seat. "Tomasz brought us down a minefield road!" Grigori shouted back, before turning to Tomasz. "You never thought, that maybe, just possibly, going down this road was a terrible idea, blyat?! You decided to ignore the signs, and go down a mined road?!" he shouted. Tomasz furrowed his brow and pointed to the sign. "How am I supposed to know?! I can't fucking read, man!" he shouted. Grigori dropped his head against the steering wheel and let out a heavy sigh. Alyosha and Tomasz began to laugh, a quiet chuckle at first, which soon turned into raucous howling, which Grigori joined in on. "Only us, blin." Grigori smiled, shifting into gear, and continuing on. Oxanna quietly asked Alyosha what was so funny, to which he replied "Eh..don't worry too much about it." as he wiped the tears from his eyes, still chuckling.

The group arrived in Tagtaryev some time around mid-morning, stopping at a quiet gas station on the outskirts of the city for fuel and bathroom breaks. Oxanna took Misha to the washroom as Tomasz filled the tank, and Grigori and Alyosha went inside to get snacks. Tomasz looked down as a military police vehicle cruised past, trying to avoid eye contact with the occupants. Raising his head to watch the vehicle leave. He exhaled sharply, and leaned against the side of the car as the gas pump ticked away. Inside, Alyosha and Grigori chatted between themselves as they filled their arms with snacks and drinks. The television behind the counter caught Alyosha's eye, as a news report began to detail the deaths of two Yamanta Army officers outside of Novisibraskaya. He nudged Grigori, nodding towards the TV as the newswoman spoke. The pair watched intently as pictures of Obresk and Illya flashed across the screen, before their own pictures appeared on the screen, with the caption "Wanted for questioning".

"Aly, we need to get the hell out of here." Grigori whispered, looking out the window at Tomasz. "We both knew they'd catch up with us, but we're too deep to back out now." Alyosha hissed back. "Just be normal, bro." he continued. Grigori nodded shakily, beginning to move towards the counter. Alyosha moved behind him, grabbing a pair of sunglasses from the stand at the end of the aisle, and slipping them into his pocket. Oxanna and Misha emerged from the washroom, drawing Alyosha's attention. He looked at her now, holding the little boy's hand, and saw her in a different light than he had a few hours before. Her hair in the morning sun reminded him of fire, and her lilting laughter made his heart race. "Focus, man." he muttered to himself, but he couldn't help but admire her smile as she talked to Misha. "Hey!" the clerk raised his voice. "What?" Alyosha barked at him. "63.10, bro." the clerk said impatiently, motioning to the card machine. Alyosha shook his head, and glared at the young man as he swiped the card that Mr. Jacob had given them to cover travel expenses. "Yo, I saw you on TV!" the young man suddenly exclaimed, pointing at him. Alyosha glanced over at Grigori, and back at the clerk. "Nah, man. You're mistaken." Alyosha muttered back, punching in the pin number. "No! I know it! You're that rapper!" the young man beamed. "Bro! You gotta let me get a selfie!" he exclaimed, his cell phone in his hand. Grigori nodded at Alyosha, who begrudgingly rounded the counter and struck a pose with the young man, who quickly snapped a few pictures.

"Thanks, bro!" the clerk said, shaking his head excitedly. "Uh..yeah, no worries." Alyosha replied, grabbing the bags from the counter, motioning for Oxanna and Misha to follow him out. "Those are gonna be worth some money some day." Oxanna remarked as she walked past the young man, smiling sweetly. The young man barely acknowledged her, still lost in his mistaken excitement. "Yeah, one way or another, they'll be worth something." Grigori chuckled. The group climbed back into the car, Oxanna climbing into the passenger seat as Alyosha drove. He looked at her and smiled as he threw on the pair of stolen aviator sunglasses, and gave her a quick flick of the eyebrows as he cracked a charming smile. She giggled quietly as she turned back facing forward. "Next stop: Kiroyev."

Yamantau Em

Cheeki Breeki Esquire
Kiroyev was a shithole. It had always been a shithole, but with every passing year, it seemed to be worse and worse off. Alyosha sunk lower in his seat as they began to roll past more and more people, wary of the fact that their faces were all over TV now. "Jacobs said there's supposed to be an abandoned checkpoint we can sneak through a few blocks ahead." Tomasz piped up from the back seat, pointing down the street. Alyosha nodded quietly, and proceeded, looking around for any YPA activity in the area. A few scattered soldiers patrolled the street, but nothing to be worried about. Tomasz pointed to the next intersection, a wary smile spreading across his lips. They were almost there.

Tomasz' smile quickly faded as they rounded the corner, and saw that the checkpoint was far from abandoned. Soldiers stood on guard all across the 4 lane street, their weapons at the ready as another team searched every vehicle. "Fuck that, we need to find another way." Alyosha said calmly, dropping the vehicle into reverse before the driver of the truck behind him laid on his horn. They were stuck in the lineup. "What now?!" Grigori hissed, gripping the back of Alyosha's seat. "Just give me the fake IDs, and we'll make it up as we go." Alyosha replied. Everyone in the car handed him the ID papers that Jacobs had given them, and sat quietly, waiting for their turn at the gate.

After an hour of anxious waiting, it was finally their turn. The soldier in front of them motioned them to the search area, and commanded Alyosha to turn off the vehicle. "Be cool." Alyosha said quietly, staring straight forward, clenching the ID papers in his hand. The soldier tapped on the window and pointed down with an impatient glare. Alyosha smiled as he rolled down the window and held the ID papers out to the soldier, who snatched them from his hand. He flicked through the papers one by one, pausing as he hit the last one. He brought the paper close to his face, squinting at something. He quickly cycled through the papers again, his eyes falling on the same spot every time, before he threw the papers into the wind and reached for the door handle, giving it a solid tug and finding it locked. "Open the door! Now!" he demanded, reaching through the window and grabbing Alyosha by the throat. Misha began to scream in the backseat as Grigori pulled him close, trying to calm him. Other soldiers began to surround the car, their rifles pointed at the terrified occupants. "OUT!" the soldier holding Alyosha screamed, dragging him out of the window, slamming him onto the cold brick road.

"Get them out! Now" he ordered the other men, levelling the barrel of his sidearm at the back of Alyosha's head. The remaining occupants were torn from the car, and pushed up against the wall of the building nearby. The soldier giving the orders turned his attention back to Alyosha as his compatriots began to search the car. "Why are you trying to enter Kiroyev with fake ID papers?" the commander barked, pushing his foot into Alyosha's back. Alyosha tried to lift his head to speak, his mouth bloodied from the face first impact with the road, before the commander struck him across the back off the head with the butt of his pistol. "Don't fucking move! Just speak!" he bellowed. Alyosha let out a groan of pain as he looked over towards his friends, a rifle pointed at each of their heads as they knelt against the wall. His mind raced. The commander already knew they were fake, so if he lied, they were all dead. If he told the truth, they'd all be taken into custody, and they would all likely die. "SPEAK!" the commander screamed, firing his weapon into the air. Alyosha's body tensed up as the shot echoed through the air, before he looked back at Grigori, who shook his head as if telling Alyosha not to talk, before his gaze shifted to the terrified Oxanna and Misha. They would likely make it out of this. They had to live, they were innocent. "We are wanted men." Alyosha finally wheezed. "Who is we?! Point to the other!" the commander shouted, taking his foot off of Alyosha's back, and pulling the bloody young man to his feet. "Point." the commander hissed. Alyosha locked eyes with Grigori, and mother the words "Forgive me, bratya." as tears began to roll down his cheeks. Grigori's heart filled with rage as Alyosha shakily raised his hand, and pointed directly at him. "That is Private Grigori Chernenkov. I am Private Alyosha Bulgarin. We killed Lieutenants Obresk and Illya outside Novisibraskya." Alyosha choked, trying to suppress his tears. "You fucking traitor!" Tomasz screamed. "You fucking rat!" he screamed again, lurching forward. His sudden movement was his last, as the soldier watching him panicked, and pulled the trigger. Tomasz fell face down in the gutter, a stream of crimson running down the gutter into the drain. Misha began to scream again. His cries echoed through the air.
"Bratya! Bratya!"

Alyosha hung his head and began to weep as the commander signalled for the group to he taken away. "You did this! You traitor!" Grigori finally screamed, as the soldiers dragged him away. The commander put a pair of handcuffs on Alyosha, and pushed him forward, following the rest of the group down a nearby alley. As soon as they were out of view, the commander ordered the group to stop. Alyosha and his friends were lined up against the wall once again, as the commander began to saunter back and forth, up and down the line, before stopping in front of Oxanna. He examined her from head to toe, before moving on to Misha. He knelt down in front of the crying boy, and whispered something to him, quietly enough that nobody else could hear. Misha nodded as the commander spoke, until the soldier pointed to Oxanna and said something that made the young boy shriek in terror. The commander put his finger to his lips, and continued to whisper to Misha.

Alyosha turned his head to look at Grigori, who stared straight ahead, the hatred burning in his eyes. Looking past him, Alyosha could see Misha pointing at him, tears in his eyes, Oxanna behind him, shaking her head as she wept. The commander smiled as he cut the zip tie cuffs that held Oxanna and Misha, and let the pair embrace as they wept. "Such a shameful act, letting these two get sucked into your criminal acts. How could you?" the commander asked Alyosha. "I…" he began, before the commander slapped him across the face. "Shameful." the commander hissed. "I can't wait to hear your father try and bail you out of this one, Chernenkov." the commander said, turning to Grigori. "Oh yeah, I know your father. Another rich asshole who managed to keep his family wealth while families like ours starved." he continued. "Take them all to Senya!" the commander shouted, turning away, and heading back towards the checkpoint.

Senya. Nobody walked out of Senya, and both men knew it. They were both take to an interrogation room, Misha going with Grigori, and Oxanna sent with Alyosha. Both pairs sat nervously in their respective rooms, handcuffed to the steel table that sat in both rooms. A well dressed man entered into the room holding Alyosha and Oxanna, and sat down without a word, followed by a much larger man in light duty fatigues, his sleeves rolled up to the elbow, showcasing multiple tattoos he likely got while imprisoned. The well dressed man pulled a small tape recorder from his pocket, and laid it flat on the table, hitting record. "Interrogation of Alyosha Bulgarin, and Oxanna Zicjek. 18th of April, 2019, 1300 hours." he said coldly. "Private Bulgarin, you are accused of the murder of Lieutenant Simeon Obresk, and Lieutenant Evgeny Illya, as well as the murders of two people in Novisibraskya, one of which was an officer in the Yamanta People's Army, possession of falsified documents, and attempting to cross a YPA checkpoint using falsified documents. What do you have to say?" the interrogator asked, lighting a cigarette, and taking a small puff from it before setting it in the ashtray.

"I did indeed kill Obresk and Ilya, but it was in self defense. I killed nobody in Novisibraskya. I admit to using falsified documents though." Alyosha sighed. The interrogator raised an eyebrow, and nodded, before leaning back in his seat, and taking up his cigarette once more. "According to the child, you, Private Chernenkov, and your dead friend were tasked with killing a YPA officer, and a….cocktail waitress who was set to serve as a key witness in a murder trial. Also according to the boy, you returned to his brother's home, and informed him that the task had been fulfilled, in return for passage out of Yamantau. How do you explain this?" the interrogator inquired. Alyosha sighed and cursed, before again telling the man that he and Grigori had not killed anyone in Novisibraskya. The interrogator paused, wide eyed, and shook his head. "The worst thing you could possibly do, is lie to me, Bulgarin." the interrogator said threateningly. "I'm not lying." Alyosha spat. "Ugh, it." the interrogator told the big man in the corner, who grunted and nodded, approaching the table. He stood stoicly at the edge of the table, peering down at Oxanna. "Hands flat, please." he grunted. Oxanna shakily did as she was told, unclenching her hands, laying them flat on the table. "Thank you." Vasyl said, before swiftly slamming his heavy flashlight across Oxanna's fingers. He cries of pain were deafening in the small room. "OK! OK! YES! Yes, I killed those people!" Alyosha cried out as he watched Oxanna writhe in her seat. "You did not do it alone though!?" the interrogator asked, raising his voice over Oxanna's cries. "Yes I did!" he shouted back, panicking. "Vasyl!" the interrogator shouted, Vasyl slamming the flashlight off her fingers again. "JESUS CHRIST! CHERNENKOV! CHERNENKOV WAS THERE TOO!" Alyosha bellowed, pulling at the handcuffs. "That's what I thought! See how fast and painless it is to tell the truth?!" the interrogator chuckled, watching Alyosha desperately try to help the brutalised Oxanna. "Who gave you the documents?!" was the next question. Alyosha paused. The reach of John Jacobs scared him just as much as their current situation, not to mention admitting working with a foreign agent would carry a charge of treason, but maybe, just maybe, telling them about Jacobs would be the difference between life and death. "Too slow!" Vasyl shouted, this time hitting Oxanna across the face with the flashlight. "JOHN JACOBS!" Alyosha screamed. Vasyl already the flashlight ready to strike again, before his eyes widened, and he shared a nervous glance with the interrogator, who stared at the pair, his mouth agape, letting the cigarette between his fingers fall to the floor. "Oh fuck." the interrogator whispered. Alyosha tried his best to comfort Oxanna during the moment of silence. "Mr. Jacobs sent you?" Vasyl asked cautiously, to which Alyosha simply nodded. The interrogator reached for the recorder and stopped the tape. "Vasyl, go get the other two." the interrogator ordered, almost terrified. Vasyl left the room, and returned a short time later with Misha only. "Where is Grigori?" Alyosha asked, confused as to what was going on. Vasyl checked the hallway and closed the door. "The PK already came for him, I'm sorry, there's nothing we could do." Vasyl said quietly. "You should have told the checkpoint commander Jacobs sent you. He was expecting you." the interrogator said dryly. "Wha..what?" Alyosha stammered. "You know how Jacobs was telling you to meet his man in Kiroyev? That would be me…" the interrogator admitted. Alyosha let out a deep sigh, and let his head rest on the table. "I am sorry about your friend too. If the PK has him already...there's nothing we can do for him now." the interrogator added. "What the fuck is going on?!" Alyosha roared. "Shhh, shut up!" We have to figure out how to get you out of here now, before the PK comes for you too." Vasyl hissed, unlocking Oxanna and Alyosha's handcuffs. Oxanna held her broken fingers gingerly, tears still streaming down her cheeks. "I got it. Bag them, load them into the van, and take them to the safe house." the interrogator said quickly. Vasyl nodded, and swept out of the room again.

He returned a short time later with a gurney, and three body bags. "Ok, you first little one." Vasyl said quietly. Misha looked around, looking to his friends for instruction. Alyosha finally turned his hard gaze from the interrogator to the small boy, and nodded. Misha allowed Vasyl to lift him on the gurney, and zip him into the body bag. Vasyl nodded to the group, and wheeled Misha away. Oxanna was next when he returned, and then Alyosha. Alyosha closed his eyes as his world went black as the bag was zipped up, and tried to keep himself centred as the gurney began to move. "Hey, you, big man! Hold it right there!" he heard a voice shout from somewhere nearby. The gurney stopped, and he could hear footsteps approaching. "Who's in the bag?" the raspy voice asked. "Alyosha Bulgarin. Turns out he couldn't take a hit." Vasyl replied. "Shit. We were told to come get him." the raspy voice stated. "Told by who?" Vasyl asked. "Well...Chernenkov." the voice said matter of factly, as if Vasyl should know.

"He must be talking about Grigori's father." Alyosha thought to himself. "Didn't think the old man would bail his son out again." Vasyl laughed, starting to roll the gurney again. "His old man was pretty pissed when they told him. Oh, you should have heard it. My son is a PK agent, blah blah blah." the raspy voice laughed back. "Anyways, we'll just let Chernenkov and his old man know the rat is dead. Take it easy." the raspy voice said, fading off down the hallway. "Grigori is PK? What the hell?" Alyosha thought, more confused than ever as Vasyl rolled him down the hall, into an elevator. It didn't take long Vasyl to load him into the van. He stewed in his own thoughts until they arrived at their destination. One by one, Vasyl carried them up the stairs to the safehouse one by one, laying them down and unzipping the bags, letting the occupants out.

After Alyosha had tended to Oxanna's hands, and sufficiently calmed Misha, he sat looking out the window, that overlooked the bustling night market, chain smoking cigarettes. Vasyl rose from his seat in the corner as he heard a knock on the door. He opened the slot in the door, and quickly opened it, letting in the interrogator. "Alright. I think it's time that proper introductions were made. Alyosha, my name is Vivek. I've been working with Jacobs since before he was Jacobs. I..I'm sorry about everything that happened today." Vivek said quietly, offering his hand for a hand shake. "Fuck off, Vivek. Just give me what I need." Alyosha replied coldly, his gaze still on the market below. "Uh..yea...anyways." Vivek said, awkwardly retracting his hand. "I had your death certificates made up. And some actual real IDs made by my friend at Senya. So theres those. To the state, your actual identities are dead, all killed in custody. Uh...tommorow, I'll take you to meet another friend of the cause. He'll give you the equipment, and introduce you to more friends of the cause. A lot more." Vivek explained, sitting in the seat across from Alyosha, who immediately stood up and moved to another location. "What about Grigori? You never knew he was with PK?" Alyosha inquired. Vivek paused before he answered. "His name appeared in a lot of documents a couple years back, so yeah, we knew." Vivek admitted. Alyosha nodded, still trying to figure out why Grigori was posing as a Private, especially a grave digger. "Whatever. Wake me up in the morning when you're ready." Alyosha said, settling into a high backed chair in the corner, and closing his eyes. "When will this cycle of idiotic bullshit end?" he thought to himself, before exhaustion overtook him, and he fell asleep. The morning would bring yet more danger, and drag him ever deeper into a world he did not understand, but he had no other choice, so for now, he rested.
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Yamantau Em

Cheeki Breeki Esquire
The morning light pouring through the blinds awoke Alyosha, the vendors in the market below setting up their shops for the day provided a dull buzz of activity. He blinked groggily, looking around the room. Oxanna and Misha were still fast asleep, as was Vivek across the room. "Fuck it." Alyosha muttered to himself, pushing off from the old chair and slowly stumbling towards the bathroom. He paused to look at himself in the mirror for a moment, his face decorated with black and purple bruises and the beginnings of a good beard. He ran his hand over the hard stubble and grunted, before continuing to the toilet. The sound of the urine hitting the water broke the silence of the small apartment, especially so thanks to the fact that the bathroom didn't have a door. Alyosha breathed a sigh of relief as he braced himself against the wall.

Alyosha turned to see Vivek standing with his back turned to the open door as he knocked on the frame. "Vivek, I'm trying to take 30 seconds of peace to take a piss. Leave me alone." Alyosha grunted, turning his attention back to the matter at hand. "Yeah, I know. As soon as you're ready, get dressed, we're going to meet some friends." Vivek replied. "OK! But can you at least let me piss in peace?!" Alyosha said angrily, throwing his hand up in frustration. "This conversation could have waited, blyat!" he finished. Vivek stood at the door quietly, staring across the room, out the window. Alyosha shook his head and finished up. So these friends of yours? What can I expect?" Alyosha inquired as he pushed past Vivek. "Well, they're no friends of Svrtan, but there aren't many who are these days, friend." Vivek replied, before Alyosha spun and pointed a finger in his face. "I am not...your fucking friend, understand?" he growled, still holding his finger in Vivek's face. Vivek nodded slowly. Alyosha quickly got dressed and headed for the door, zipping up the black leather jacket over his hoodie. "Let's go then."

Alyosha and Vivek emerged into the street amidst the bustle of the early morning rush, and headed directly across the street, into the market. They moved past vendors and stalls carrying more and more goods of dubious legality the deeper into the market they went. "Listen, don't make any sudden moves. Almost every vendor here is a friend of the cause." Vivek said quietly. "I figured from the way they're staring at us." Alyosha whispered back, peering out from under his hood. Eventually the pair found their way to a small shop along the back row of buildings, the smell of spices and fried meat emanating from the shop. Vivek stopped to talk to the woman behind the counter, telling her to have someone go and drop off a few chebureki at the apartment. The woman nodded, and handed one if the meat filled pastries to Alyosha as well. "You need your strength." she smiled. Alyosha smiled back, and hastily ate the snack. It was the first bit of decent food he had eaten in days. Vivek pulled him along into the back room past the kitchen. A thin, gaunt man sat at the desk with none other, than Mr. Jacobs. "Ah, my boy! I'm glad to see you made it!" Jacobs exclaimed as he took a long drag from his fat cigar. Alyosha nodded to him but did not offer the same excitement. The man behind the desk peered at Alyosha from behind the wreath of cigar smoke that surrounded him, and reached into the drawer of his desk. Alyosha froze for a moment. "I didn't come all this way to be shot." he blurted. The man at the desk raised an eyebrow, and burst out laughing, producing a keyring with a car key and a bright pink pig keychain, tossing them to Alyosha. "I would not shoot you. I would make Vanya do it." he laughed, pointing at the hulking man who sat behind the door with a shotgun across his lap. "Listen, kid, my associate needs to know he can trust you, so you're going to do him a little favor. There's a red van out back. Take Vanya and the van, and go to this address." Jacobs interjected, handing Alyosha a slip of paper that had been neatly folded down the center. The dull hum of the air conditioner helped fill the silence in the room as Alyosha read the paper. "But this is…" he began
"I know." Jacobs interrupted. "Just take the van there, use your new ID, and you'll be fine."
Alyosha took a deep breath and nodded, before turning and walking out of the room, Vanya rising from his seat and following behind.

Sure enough, the red catering van was parked out back, with 3 men standing guard over it. "You the guy?" one of the men asked Alyosha, strolling towards him. "Uh, yeah, I guess." Alyosha replied, showing the man the set of keys. The man nodded with an audible "hmm". "Ok, don't go too fast, don't hit any bumps, don't take the corners too hard. Be easy. This shit is really unstable." the man urged. Alyosha suddenly became painfully aware of what was in the Van. If he tried to leave, Vanya would gun him down in this shitty little alley and throw his corpse into a dumpster, so he only had one choice. He nodded, and climbed into the van.

The van trundled down the road at a steady pace towards its destination, moving through the heart of Kiroyev through the traffic and bustle. Every so often, Alyosha would look in the rearview, and see his deadly cargo peeking out from the stacks of fruit and baked goods, ready to cause mayhem. Alyosha made the final turn towards his destination, and saw the building come into view. The Ministry of Internal Affairs. The home of the PK. "This is insane." Alyosha mumbled. "Just drive." Vanya croaked, shaking his head. Alyosha rolled up to the front gate, fumbling in his pocket for his ID papers and the shipping document. The soldier at the gate waved him to the side and approached the window. "Papers please." the soldier drawled, holding out his hand to receive the documents. "You're not the usual guy. What happened to him?" the soldier asked as he went over the shipping list. "He's off sick, got that flu going around I guess. They asked me to fill in for a few days." Alyosha smiled. The soldier handed him back the documents and signalled the gate man to open up. "Have a nice day." the soldier said dryly as he motioned them through the gate. "Pull around to the loading bay." Vanya ordered him, pointing to the left side of the building. "Park up, and then we must run for the hole in the fence by that patch of trees. See it?" Vanya said, pointing out a patch of the fence that had been cut out and hidden by the greenery used to decorate the otherwise drab barrier. "Yeah, I see it." Alyosha replied. He taxied the van into the loading bay, and took a deep breath. Vanya pulled up the dial pad on his cellphone and looked behind him, punching in the phone number written on the side of one of the barrels in white grease marker. "Ok, let's go." he rasped, climbing out of the van. He and Alyosha quickly made their way across the short stretch between the bay and the fence, and squeezed through the gap. "There's a car waiting for us on the next block, let's go." he ordered, pushing Alyosha along. They were about half way down the block when Vanya dialed the number.

The blast rocked the entire block, the pillar of flames from the explosion likely visible from miles away. The streets were suddenly filled with the sounds of screaming and shouting. Alyosha looked back over his shoulder, and he could see that the left wing of the building had already begun to collapse after the initial blast. "Fuck." he muttered. "What did you expect? It would make it a lovely pink?" Vanya growled as they heard the terrible cracking of concrete as the building began to crumble down. They pushed through the smoke and dust that now filled the street towards the waiting car, climbing into the back. "Welcome to the revolution, comrade." Vanya said quietly.

Yamantau Em

Cheeki Breeki Esquire
Three hours before the blast

Grigori rubbed his tired eyes as he watched the coffee pot slowly fill, observing the small droplets that would splash against the glass as the dark liquid dribbled down. They had taken him straight from Senya to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. He had already been berated for his failure for the last 24 hours, and he guessed his debriefing would be much of the same. The hum of the compressor on the nearby refrigerator kicking in broke him out of his sleep deprived, daydreaming state. He pushed his little styrofoam cup across the plain grey counter, and simply watched it as it hit a knick in the surface and tipped over. He exhaled sharply, as if this minor inconvenience would be the final straw. He grabbed the small cup, and slammed it down on the counter, at least as hard as one could "slam" a styrofoam cup without breaking it. He poured his coffee into the cup, and placed the pot back into the machine, stopping to glare at it for a moment. He was so tired and worn out, that he had begun to form hateful opinions towards inanimate objects.

He tucked a flimsy folder under his arm, grabbed the offending cup of coffee, and headed towards interview room three, where he would be debriefed, and either reassigned or discharged. He didn't know which yet. The drab white halls and green tiled floors seemed to stretch on and on in this place, and the lights always seemed migraine inducing. Grigori looked down at his watch as he paused next to a bathroom a few doors down from his destination, debating whether or not he had time to quickly shave and maybe piss. 15 minutes. He shrugged and pushed through the door, placing his folder and his coffee on top of the weathered hand dryer as he passed. Another PK officer glared at him as he strode past and out the door, a look of pure disgust. Grigori glared back and shook his head as he marched to the urinal. He reached over to the razor dispenser that sat on the counter as he relieved himself, and turned the small black knob until a cheap pink plastic disposable razor dropped down through the slot , and onto the counter. After he finished up, he approached the mirror, and examined his reflection. His eyes looked bloodshot and sunken, his skin was pale, he looked like shit. He sighed deeply as he took the cover off the head of the razor and flicked it into the trash, not overly excited to try and scrape off the tough growth without shaving cream. For a moment, he considered smashing the razor head, and cutting his arms open from the elbow to the wrist, but that wouldn't solve anything. He went about shaving away the growth, leaving the beginning of a moustache, because hell, why not? He could already feel the skin becoming irritated, and the half ass cold water wasn't making a difference. He tossed the razor in the trash when he was done, and pulled the folder off the hand dryer, sending the cup of coffee tumbling over, spilling all over the floor. "FOR FUCK...for fuck sake!" he shouted angrily. He looked down at his watch again, 3 minutes. He didn't have time to clean this mess up, nor get another cup.

He threw the door open, stomping down the hall towards the interview room, before taking a moment to compose himself ahead of the likely grueling interrogation that would follow. He knocked on the door firmly, but recieved no answer. Opening the door, he found the room empty, and took a seat. He opened his folder, and went through everything one more time. His written statement, photos he had secretly taken of everyone and everything around him, a copy of the orders he received six months ago, before his charade as a grave digger began. He stopped as he reached a photo of Alyosha. He had grown to care for Alyosha these past months, and it saddened him to know that he would likely never see his friend again, and that he was likely already dead. He pushed the thoughts from his mind, and checked his watch again. 8AM, the sun was likely just starting to come out. It would be nice to go sit in the sun on a day like today. He snapped to attention as a severe looking woman in a neatly pressed black pantsuit entered the room. She laid out her things neatly across the desk, and sat down, but left the door wide open.

"Should I uh..close the door?" Grigori asked nervously, pointing the doorway.

"No, someone else is joining us shortly, Officer Chernenkov. It would be best if you were direct and to the point in this interview as well. Just a warning." the woman advised sternly.

Grigori nodded and sat back down, trying to see the women's ID badge that swayed from her lapel. He squinted hard, his tired eyes beginning to fail him as he made out the name "Lyudmila Szlazova". The silence in the room remained unbroken until the sound of heavy footfalls echoed through the hallway, coming down towards the room. Ms. Szlazova rose to her feet and turned to face the door in anticipation of the arrival of this mystery person. Grigori followed along, his anxiety making his brain race. His heart nearly stopped as he watched Commissar Ygor Szubrov appear in the doorway. He and Szlazova both saluted the Commissar, who stood in the doorway menacingly, before he lazily returned the salute and motioned for them to sit down.

Ygor Szubrov was a mountain of a man, covered in tattoos he had received during his stay in Graznei prison in the 80's. His canine teeth had been capped in silver, making him look much like the attack dog that he was. The most intimidating thing about Szubrov though, was simply his sheer size. He stood well over six feet tall, and had to have weighed in at no less than three hundred pounds of almost pure muscle. This was a man dedicated to becoming the ultimate apex predator in a land of beasts.

"Commissar Szubrov has asked to attend this interview, as your report on this John Jacobs character paints him as a serious risk to the security of the Yamanta people." Szlazova explained, staring straight ahead at Grigori.

"I understand." he replied, glancing nervously at Szubrov.

"Why are you scared?" Szubrov interjected, before inhaling deeply, trying to clear his sinuses.

Grigori thought for a moment before he answered. "Because your presence was unexpected, and lends the situation far more gravity, sir."

Szubrov smiled, exposing the sharp, shining canine teeth he was known for. "Good. You should be scared." he laughed.

Grigori swallowed hard, and turned his attention back to Szlazova. She began her line of questioning by asking why he had volunteered to go undercover, even though he was barely out of the training academy, and why he had gone so long between reports back to his handler once he was in the field. Grigori gave her the answers he had rehearsed, and patiently waited for the next question. It went on like this for some time, almost an hour and a half of questioning, regarding only the first month of his assignment. Around 9:30, Szubrov told the pair it was time for a break. "The brain can only absorb what the ass can withstand."

Grigori felt positive about the interview so far, his fear of Szubrov has begun to subside as well. The more he spoke to the Commissar, the more he realized that this man was not who he seemed. He could tell Szubrov had no love for Svrtan. He bee-lined for the lunch room to get another cup of coffee, needing something, anything, to stay awake. As he rounded the corner to the lunch room though, something caught his eye. At the far end of the hallway, a gaunt man wearing an officer's coat stared at him, or more so, through him. It took him a moment, but it finally kicked in. It was the mystery man from the apartments in Novisibraskaya. Grigori almost immediately started moving down the hall towards the man, who seemed to stand completely still amidst the traffic, a smirk appearing on his lips as Grigori drew closer. The man calmly turned away and walked around the corner, down the next hall causing Grigori to break into a sprint to catch up with him.

"Hey! Stop!" Grigori demanded, sliding around the corner, nearly tackling a young man with an armful of paperwork. Grigori hastily apologised as he ran, spotting the man down near the exit door, his smirk now a smile, flashing his yellowed teeth. Grigori rushed through a crowd of office drones, pushing a pair of them to the floor as he slammed past in his pursuit of the mystery man. "Stop!" he shouted again as the man pushed through the door that led into the east courtyard, but Grigori followed still, hitting the door with such force that the glass that made up the majority of its construction shattered as it slammed against the railing outside.

He just caught a glimpse of his target as the man sprinted across the grass of the courtyard and rounded the corner of the building, heading to the front. The pain started to throb in his chest as he ran, but he couldn't give up, he had to know why this man was following him. As he finally rounded the corner, he saw the man standing in the center of the grand driveway that ran in front of the building. The man still had that damn smile on his face, that wicked smile that seemed all too terrifying. Grigori reached for the collar of the man's jacket, intent on holding him in place, but before he knew it, he was the one in a chokehold.

"What the fuck are you doing!? Who are you!?" Grigori growled as he struggled.

"Saving your life." the man rasped.

The blast made the earth tremble under Grigori's feet, he could feel the concussive force in his chest as he watched smoke and debris fly from the west wing of the building, taking out the first floor and the fence nearby.

"Saving your life." the man repeated, pushing Grigori away from him. Grigori turned to face him, seeing the smile fade away, until no expression remained, just the reflected flicker of the flames through the smoke in his cold eyes. As much as he wanted to grab this man, he felt paralyzed as he looked upon him. The sound of screaming finally pulled his attention back to the point of the blast.

"I'll be seeing you again soon." the man called, running in the opposite direction while Grigori was distracted. Grigori snapped back around, debating on chasing after this man. "Fffuck!" he snarled, turning back towards building, and sprinting towards the door. He could hear the sound of the concrete and rebar cracking, twisting, and giving way as he approached. People had begun to rush out of the front entrance, screaming, crying, and covered in dust and blood. He urged them along, and directed them towards the gates through the putrid black smoke. It burned his nose and lungs as he breathed it in, the smell of diesel radiating through the air.

"Come on! This way! Get to the gates! Get to the FUCKING GATES!" he shouted. Soldiers had begun arriving, escorting the victims out of the haze, and into the street, trying their best to help the wounded along. Grigori turned to see more people fleeing out of the east wing, Szubrov among them.

"Commissar! Get those people to the gates!" Grigori called to him.

Szubrov looked taken aback that Grigori was shouting orders at him, but nodded, and started directing people to the east gates, telling them to get out into the streets as fast as possible. It was chaos. The screams of the crowd drowned him out as he shouted orders, a symphony of terror. Szubrov apprubtly grabbed Grigori by the shoulder, and dragged him away through the gates.

"Move, Chernenkov! The building is coming down!" Szubrov shouted over the commotion. No sooner had he said this, the building began to crumble, the west wing collapsing in on itself. As it came down, a rush of dust and smoke overtook the fleeing crowds, pelting them with debris. Szubrov and Grigori stumbled through the gates and across the street, coughing and hacking in the noxious cloud. Everything seemed to fall silent, the only sound was that of crumbling concrete, and distant sirens.

"What the fuck just happened?" Szubrov gasped, thumping on his chest in an effort to clear his lungs.

"This was that bastard Jacobs! I know it!" Grigori coughed, leaning on Szubrov to steady himself.

Both men took some time to stop coughing, and survey the situation. The streets along the fence where the blast originated had been decimated. Soldiers moved through the area, checking the bodies that littered the street for any survivors. Grigori and Szubrov looked on in horror at the scene before them.

"Oh my god." Szubrov said under his breath, as watched a little girl, no older than 3, emerge from the smoke, still holding her mother's hand. The rest of her mother, likely elsewhere. Szubrov rushed forward and grabbed the child, pulling the disembodied appendage to the side as he cradled her. She began to cry as he held her, wrapping her little arms around his thick neck. He quietly assured her that everything was going to be ok as he flagged down a passing medic, and handed the little girl off to her, before slowly staggering back over to Grigori.

"You say John Jacobs did this?" Szubrov asked quietly.

"I would bet my life on it." Grigori answered gravely.

Szubrov nodded, and took a deep breath. "You're coming with me. You know this guy, at least a little. You're my only chance to find him, and avenge this." he said finally. "We need to help here where we can first. Find any wounded, and get them to the medics. Keep everyone else away from the fire crews when they get here." he ordered, before pausing and laying a hand on Grigori's shoulder. "I feel this is the beginning of something terrible."