So, more short snippets for now, but here’s some music to soothe the savage beast.
As it happened, a submarine dropped them off along a deserted stretch of coastline north of Vanino; they walked along a dirt road for a while, after they’d stowed their gear, until an old lorry came along and picked them up. Both Collins and Henry crawled into empty shipping crates for the next, most dangerous leg of their journey, bouncing along through the night on beds of flea infested hay, passing through several military checkpoints en route to Dzyomgi Airport.
“The last few miles of the trip,” Henry said, “was through marshy bogs.”
“Bogs? What is this word?” Rolf asked.
“Low lying land next to a river or lake, usually covered in shallow water,” Dina said in rapid fire Norwegian.
Henry looked at Anton, not sure how he was going to take this next part of the tale. “The worst of it was a sewage treatment plant. Turned out they were dumping raw sewage into that marsh, and Rupert and I had been wading through the stuff for a couple of hours…”
“You must smelled good,” Anton said, sneering. “Probably helped. Dogs at air base couldn’t smell as you gets close.”
“Yeah,” Henry said, nodding, “Rupert mentioned that. Anyway, the craft was located on the east side of the airfield, in a pine forest not far from a tank farm…”
“A tank farm? What is this?” Rolf asked, and when Dina shrugged Henry filled in the blanks.
“An area where aviation fuel is stored, usually in large cylindrical tanks.”
“Oh, yes. I see. And it was then nighttime?”
Henry nodded. “Yes, the middle of the night. but the odd thing about it, at least when we looked back on the whole thing, was how easy it was. There were no guards, no patrols, just the ship – which also just happened to look kind of like one of those fuel storage tanks.”
“No guards?” Anton asked incredulously.
“No, not a soul.”
Anton shook his head. “Then they want you steal ship. It was trap.”
Henry looked down at his snails and smiled a little. “We were too slow, Anton. We didn’t figure that out until much later…until it was too late.”
“You know what, Taggart? You smell like shit.”
“I’m not the only one, Slick.”
Collins wrinkled his nose and dry-heaved.
“Don’t do that, Rupert. When they catch us we’ll be down on our knees barfing our heads off…”
“Henry, I think my skin is actually crawling…”
“That’s because it probably is.”
“You know, I bet James Bond never had to do this.”
Henry grinned. “I’ll have a shit martini, shaken, not stirred…”
“Shut the fuck up, Taggart. I mean it…”
A fighter was taxiing along a nearby taxiway, the jet’s landing lights suddenly illuminating half the airport – so both Taggart and Collins dove for cover, spitting and retching as the goo splattered their faces.
“There ain’t a shower with water hot enough…” Rupert said.
“I’m gonna take a fucking bath in Listerine,” Henry added.
They remained prone until the jet took off, then they stood and headed for the tank farm.
“Is that it?” Henry said, pointing to a monstrously huge cylinder just becoming visible through the pines.
Rupert looked at his compass and nodded. “Should be. Keep low and follow me.”
Henry was surprised the old man could move with such speed and agility, and he did his best to keep up with him as they darted between trees and thorny shrubs…then they were at the cylinder…
“You got any clue where the door is, Henry?”
And then Taggart had leaned back and cleared his mind for the first time in weeks…
Pinky saw the cylinder through Henry’s mind and for a moment she grew confused. What was he doing in Russia? How could he possibly know about that ship?
Then he was gone, and now very much afraid she reached out for Henry, because she had to warn him…
The entry opened and deep blue light flooded the ground under the steps that led inside the ship. “Good job, Taggart. Let’s get this road on the show…”
Henry darted inside and the first thing he realized was that this was a working ship designed for beings twice his height, yet as he reached out with his mind the way ahead lit up until moments later they were both in the cockpit.
And though much bigger, everything here looked very similar to what he had grown used to on Boeing’s ARV. He powered up the displays and began the power-up sequence to start the ship’s drive, but one whole panel started flashing blue – and blue was the color used for warnings that critical systems were in need of urgent attention.
“What’s that?” Rupert asked, pointing at the flashing blue annunciators.
“A warning light. Either the drive or the power plant needs attention – I think.”
“Needs attention? Does that mean something like a low oil light, or maybe like a headlight’s out? Henry, I need to know! Can we get this fucker off the ground or not?”
“Only one way to find out, Doc…”
Two colonels from the GRU were in the control tower; their teams had been keeping an eye on Collins and Taggart ever since they got out of the lorry and ‘disappeared’ into the swamp. Now they watched as the ship powered up and began rising slowly from the ground.
“Rooster One, the target is airborne. Repeat, target is airborne.”
Rooster One was the Sukhoi Su-27 that had just taken off; the pilot was now northeast of the airport, loitering at flight level 3-9-0. “Rooster One, understood. Have the target on radar.”
The colonel from Aviation Intelligence took the microphone from the controller. “Rooster One, you may close on target, but do not, repeat do not fire on that ship.”
“Rooster One understood.”
“Da! See, tell you this is so,” Anton bellowed, slapping the table. “They let go!”
Henry folded his hands over his lap, carelessly nodding at his snails. “Yes, that’s true enough, Anton, but that’s not the end of the story. In fact, it was just the beginning…”
© 2021 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop as soon as the muse cooperates…but don’t forget…the music matters.