In Order to Live

The Genre Stretch challenge for this month was “Occupational Fiction”.  There’s no romance in this story, but it’s definitely about someone’s job.

**

Mikas could hear his blood pounding in his ears as he made his way through the streets of Stralsund.  This would probably be the last time he would take an assignment like this one.  A part of him was terrified at the prospect of what he was about to do.  Another, larger, part of him knew that this was the only way he could be assured that it was done.

He found the building where he had arranged the meeting and glanced back across the square.  Already, a crowd was gathering to hear the speech the president of Veligrad would give.  Some people were saying that he would finally grant Leituva their independence.  Others said that, if he did that, there would be one of two things that would follow: his deposition by Veligradian Intelligence or the secession of many of the Veligradian states.

He knew the truth of the matter.  Petrov would never allow the president to give Leituva their independence.  He would see to it that the president wasn’t simply taken out of office.  The man wouldn’t survive to the end of the week.  Speaking those words would be like signing his own death warrant.  That was why he was in Veligrad.

He took a steadying breath and then headed inside.  He made his way to the room, where he would wait for Petrov.  How many times had he done this in the past?  He couldn’t even remember the answer to that question.  Yet, somehow, this time was different.

By the time that Mikas had reached the roof, the crowd in the square had swollen to amazing size.  He couldn’t think of the last time that such a crowd had gathered in a public place.  Under the government, such gatherings had been forbidden.  The current president had reversed that policy.

He stepped across the roof, towards the ledge.  He glanced downward.  There was no one on the sidewalk below.  The president would make his speech on the other side of the square.  Everyone was there, crowded as close as possible, to hear his every word.  He heard the roof access door open and turned around.

“Director Petrov,” he said, his voice soft.

The taller man stepped away from the access door with a cold smile on his lips.  “Good day to you, little one,” he said, as he moved slowly towards Mikas.  “I could hardly believe your note.  Would you truly turn yourself in?”

Mikas shrugged.  “I can’t keep running away,” he said, frowning slightly.  He glanced out towards the square.  “This place… it was my home.  I miss it terribly.”  When he turned back to Petrov, the man was only a few feet from him.  “You didn’t bring any guards to make the arrest of a traitor like me, sir?”

“I’m not going to arrest you, Mikas,” Petrov said, his voice soft.  His eyes sparkled with something that Mikas didn’t dare name.  “No, you will return to my house and no one will ever see you again.”

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Laughter in the Rain

This story was written using a picture prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth.  I’ll put a little warning that it deals with some touchy issues regarding character death.

**

Ivan Petrov was dead.  There was no doubt about it.  He hadn’t simply disappeared, only to reappear when they all least expected it.  Neither had he contracted an illness and left government work.  If that had been the case, they could report that he’d died when he’d really just been pushed into a hospital somewhere.

There could be no doubt of his death because it had been so public.  The president had been in the middle of a speech.  News agencies were filming it, to air later.  There, in the background, stood the main government building.  It had once been the royal palace, but when they’d overthrown the royals, they’d changed it into the headquarters for the government.

Just as the president had stepped forward – before he’d even greeted the gathered crowd – a body plunged from the roof of that building.  Members of the press had gasped in shock.  Some people had even screamed.

Taurys watched the film with a mixture of shock and some other feeling he couldn’t quite identify.  Then, he looked at Arthur.  “Petrov?” he said, his voice faint.  “They’re absolutely certain that was him?  It’s not some sort of trick?”

Arthur shook his head.  “Our sources have confirmed it,” he said.  “Ivan Petrov is dead from an apparent suicide.”

Nodding, Taurys moved to his feet.  “Thank you for letting me know,” he said.  He moved to the door of the office.  He was dimly aware of Arthur speaking – asking if he was all right.  He wasn’t even sure that he answered as he headed down the corridor and out of the Agency building known as the Castle.

When he stepped out into the pouring rain, he realized what the emotion was that was mingled with shock.  A laugh bubbled up and mixed with the tears that stood in his eyes.  A sound between a sob and a laugh escaped his lips.  “He’s dead,” he breathed.

Taurys-rain

He looked up at the clouds and held out his arms.  “He’s dead,” he screamed into the rain.  Ignoring the stunned looked he was drawing from passersby, he laughed and shook the rain from his hair.  “Thank you, God.  Petrov is finally dead!”

Someone called his name and he whirled around.  Gilbert was standing on the steps of the Castle, an umbrella clutched in his hands.  He was blinking at Taurys and frowning slightly.  “You’re… happy that he killed himself?” he said.  He flushed and then shrugged.

As Gilbert came down the steps to stand beside him, Taurys shook his head.  He couldn’t keep the smile off his lips.  “Petrov didn’t kill himself,” he said.  He chuckled and shook his head again.  “He’s not the sort.  That – that was an assassination – a bold assassination.  There, in full view of the press and the president and the rest of the government.”

“Who?” Gilbert breathed, his eyes widening in shock.  He shook his head.  “Who would do something like that, Taurys?”

Taurys ruffled his hands through his wet hair.  “We called him the Lynx, because he would strike quickly and without warning,” he said.  Then, he gave Gilbert a playful wink.  “You might know him as Nicholai.”

Gilbert blinked.  “How do you know it’s him?” he asked, shaking his head.

Shrugging, Taurys said, “That’s what he’d do, Gilbert.  He’d lure the target to a convenient rooftop and then knock them off.”  He stepped closer to Gilbert, so that he was shielded by the umbrella, although it hardly mattered.  He was already soaked to the skin.  “Let the director think it was suicide, though.  It’ll be easier on Nicholai that way.”

Nodding, Gilbert moved towards the door.  Taurys followed him as they stepped inside.  “Get changed into something dry,” he said.  He flashed a smile at Taurys.  “You can’t catch a cold, but it won’t do The Singer any good to be cold and wet for too long.”

“Right,” Taurys said.  He headed towards the locker room in the basement, whistling a happy tune.  A few years ago, he would never have believed that Petrov could be killed.  Wherever Nicholai was, Taurys hoped that he was well and safe.  He knew, with Petrov gone, that things would change in Veligrad.  It was only a matter of time.

Good Night, Sweet Prince – Part 10

I’ve written other parts in this, but I haven’t been able to post them.  When they’re all finished, I’ll create a page that has all of them in order, so that they can be read in sequence.  This section was written using the prompt, “Extreme” from the NaNoWriYe DreamWidth.

**

Ilya was shaking slightly as he stepped up to Director Petrov’s office.  He knew that the larger man was still cross with him for what had happened during the invasion.  They’d failed to take the Northern Isles by force.  Valuable warships had been lost, their crews killed.  Someone needed to pay for that and Ilya knew that Petrov blamed him.

He tapped on the thick wooden surface and then closed his eyes, as he focused on calming himself.  By the time that Petrov invited him into the office, he had managed to still his trembling.  “You bade me to see you upon my arrival, sir,” Ilya said, bowing slightly.

“I must say, little one,” Petrov said, scowling.  “I am rather… disappointed in your performance in the Northern Isles.”

Swallowing thickly, Ilya nodded.  He ducked his head, locking his gaze on the carpeted floor of the office.  “I’m very sorry for what happened with the – the naphtha, Director,” he said, his voice going high and thin.  He shook his head.  “I just…” he trailed off.  There was no excuse for the failure.  “I’ll do better, sir.”

Petrov moved to his feet and stepped over to Ilya, until the large man was standing just behind him.  “Remove your jacket and shirt, Agent Putin,” he said, his voice low.

Ilya hesitated for a moment.  Then, he closed his eyes and did as he’d been ordered.  He knew what was coming.  He’d known it would come eventually.  When Petrov had realized the danger the ships were in, Ilya knew he’d be blamed and this was the punishment.

He set his hands on the smooth wood of Petrov’s desk before that order came.  Then, he locked his gaze on the window.  He bit his lip to keep from crying out in pain as Petrov meted out his punishment.  By the time the director was satisfied, Ilya could taste blood in his mouth and tears were streaming down his cheeks.

“Dress and clean yourself up,” Petrov ordered.  Then, he strode back to his seat behind the desk and said, “You are dismissed, Agent Putin.”

“Y-yes, sir,” Ilya rasped.  He pulled on his shirt and jacket, ignoring the pain that flared across his chest as the fabric pressed against the welts on his back.  “What – what will you do about the Northern Isles now, sir?”

“Taking them by force did not work,” Petrov said.  He smiled.  “We will try… other avenues.  The queen regent is without a husband now.  She must be… lonely.  Yes?”

“As you say, sir,” Ilya said.  Then, he bowed and hurried out of the room.  He was moving so quickly that he nearly ran into Taurys.  He cried out in pain when Taurys set a hand on his back to steady him.  A moment later, he was pulling away.  “I’m fine.  It’s fine,” he rasped.

Taurys heaved a sigh.  “You’re not,” he said, his voice soft.  He sent a glare at the closed door of Petrov’s office.  Then, he shook his head.  “Whatever Petrov thinks, this isn’t your fault, Ilyas.”

Ilya stifled a laugh and shook his head.  “I should have known,” he said.

“We’re agents, not psychics,” Taurys snapped, his anger at Petrov flaring.  “You can’t know things unless someone hints at them.  You didn’t know about the fire until it was too late to tell the director.”

“That may be,” Ilya said, his voice faint, “but Petrov needed to punish someone.  We can’t lose half the fleet and no one be at fault.”

“Petrov’s at fault,” Taurys breathed, shaking his head.  “He rushed into that battle without giving us enough time to learn everything.  Eight months is too long, he said.  I say, if we wanted to succeed, he should have waited at least a year!”

Ilya shrugged a bit stiffly.  “Don’t speak too loudly against Petrov, Taurys,” he said.  He stepped away and headed towards the lobby.  He needed to rest and recover his strength.  “His anger… it comes in waves, yeah?”

“I won’t let it sweep me away,” Taurys said, rolling his eyes.

Good Night, Sweet Prince – Part 1

This is another cross-over story – this time, with a universe that my sister is building.  This story is set before the current set of stories with Taurys and Ilya.  Gilbert is still in Veligrad, playing the part of a scientist loyal to that government.

This scene was written using a prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth.

**

prompt: feel

“I have a very important mission for you both,” Director Petrov said, looking from Taurys to Ilya and back.  “I’m afraid it will take you away from your duties at the laboratory for a time.”

Ilya bit his lip and gave Taurys a sidelong glance.  He could feel the tension that was building between the two men.  He almost sighed in relief when Taurys gave Director Petrov a tight smile.  “Of course, sir,” he said, his tone polite.

Petrov nodded once and looked back to Ilya.  “In preparation for our invasion of the Northern Isles, I am sending both of you to gather intelligence,” he said.  He smiled at Ilya.  “See if you can find a position in the royal household, little one.”

“Yes, sir,” Ilya said, nodding.  He gave the director a wry smile as he tried to think about which position would be best suited to the task at hand.  He’d need to be able to remain in rooms, unnoticed, while they discussed matters of secrecy and import.  A servant of some kind, then.

Turning to Taurys, Petrov added, “I want for you to get an account of their numbers and weaponry.  I trust you can do that without attracting undue attention.”

“I can, sir,” Taurys said.  He smiled when Ilya nodded in agreement.  Then, his expression turned thoughtful.  “When do we leave, sir?”

“Immediate,” Director Petrov said.  He set a hand on Ilya’s shoulder as Taurys took a step back.  Looking into his eyes, he murmured, “Remember what I have told you, little one.”

Ilya suppressed a shiver.  He really hated Director Petrov, but the large man didn’t seem to care about his feelings.  Ilya wondered if he cared about how anyone felt.  “I’ll remember, sir,” he breathed.  Meeting Petrov’s eyes, he said, “I’ll use my… skills to the greatest advantage possible.”

“Good,” Petrov said, then he pushed Ilya away.  It was a light shove, but Ilya took the dismissal as it was intended.

He bowed once and then hurried out of the room.  He was shaking by the time he caught up to Taurys.  “I hate him,” Ilya rasped.

Taurys stifled a laugh that came out as a low breathy sound.  “No one likes him, Ilya,” he said, his voice soft.  “He knows it, too.  It makes him pleased to know that we hate him – fear him.  It’s what he wants.”

“He’s crazy,” Ilya said, shaking his head.

To Ilya’s surprise, Taurys shook his head.  “He’s not mad, Ilya,” he countered, his voice soft.  “He’s twisted and evil, but he’s perfectly sane.”

Dreamers – Part 5

This story is starting to really come together.  I really like how it’s going too.  Ilya was a fun character and I liked his interactions with Taurys, so it’ll be fun to be able to bring him back.

(Which makes me realize that I may have to post the other stories in this universe someplace.)

**

Prompt: Mute

Felicja felt as though she was watching everything from outside of her body.  It was a strange sensation – as if she were floating, weightless, just above the ground.  What was even stranger was that she didn’t recognize the place.

She frowned trying to make sense of what she was seeing.  There were computer monitors and high tables with test tubes and beakers and… “It’s a lab,” she murmured.  She floated over to a tube.  It looked almost like a decompression chamber, but she knew that wasn’t what it was.  It was something else – something worse.

A terrified scream split the air and Felicja gasped whirling around towards the doors as they opened.  Her eyes widened in shock as she saw a woman she didn’t know pushing a gurney into the room.  The man strapped to that gurney was the one who had screamed.  He was sobbing, now and struggling helplessly against the straps that held him in place.

“Eliasz?” she breathed.  She hadn’t seen him in over ten years, but there was no doubt in her mind that this was the father of her children.  She glared at the woman.  “What are you doing to him?” she said, trembling with anger.

The woman didn’t seem to hear or see her.  Instead, she shook her head at Eliasz.  “It didn’t have to come to this, Putin,” she said.  “If you’d just been able to capture Dr. Schneider…”

“I tried, Elena,” he said, his voice cracking.  “That’s got to count for something!”  He whimpered as she wheeled the gurney towards the chamber.  “Please, please, please!  Give me another chance!  Director Petrov, please!”

Felicja followed his gaze and saw another man.  He was tall and pale and she knew him in a heartbeat.  He was Ivan Petrov, the director of Veligradian Intelligence.

“You will serve us well, Ilya,” he said.  Then he smiled as he added, “As you served us well in life.”

Felicja blinked as she realized what they’d called him: Ilya Putin.  She frowned at the struggling man on the bed as the pieces fell into place.  That was why he’d left her: because he was a Veligradian agent.

“The cryochamber isn’t painful,” the woman said, as she closed the door.  She hit several buttons and frost covered the inside of the chamber.

Felicja woke with a shrill scream, reaching for Eliasz and knowing that he was gone.  She blinked as she realized that someone was sitting beside her bed.  She blinked again as she realized who it was.  “Taurys?”

“That’s the first time you’ve actually called me by name,” he said, his voice soft.  He shrugged.  “You were crying out in your sleep.  I thought… you might not like to wake alone.”

“Thanks,” she said, her voice soft.  She shivered and rubbed the tears from her eyes.  “Do you… did you know someone named Ilya Putin?”

Blinking in confusion, Taurys nodded.  “He was… he was a dear friend,” he said, his voice faint.  “He was killed as… punishment for allowing Gilbert to escape, as I was.”

“They called it a cryochamber,” she said, nodding.  Frowning at Taurys, she said, “That woman… Elena, he called her, she said it wasn’t painful.”

“She’s wrong,” Taurys whispered.  He settled on the edge of the bed.  “How – how do you know all of this, Felicja?  How do you know Ilya?”

“I dreamed it,” Felicja said.  She shrugged.  “Happens from time to time… I have dreams of things that happened in the past.  Anyway, you knew him as Ilya Putin.  When I knew him, he was calling himself Eliasz Braginski.”

Taurys gasped.  “I – I should have known, when I heard your name,” he rasped.  He shook his head and set a hand on her shoulder.  “I don’t know if this will make you feel better or worse, Felicja but… he left you because he was recalled and – and he couldn’t think of a way to bring you with him.  He never stopped thinking about you or – or the child he knew you had.”

“Children,” Felicja said, her voice soft.  She held up two fingers and added, “We had twins.”

“If they used the cryochamber on him,” Gilbert said, startling them both.  As they turned to him, he shrugged.  “If they used the cryochamber on him, they used him for one of the RX prototypes.  Alexandrova must have stored them someplace other than the lab.”

“How many others were there?” Taurys breathed.

Gilbert chuckled wryly.  “I stole the eighth prototype, without knowing there was a ninth,” he said.  He shook his head.  “There were five that we used with bodies like yours, but I sabotaged them, so they didn’t function properly.”

“Two more, then,” Taurys said, nodding.  “Ilya and… I can’t imagine who else they might have used.”

“I think we need to have a little chat with Elena Alexandrova,” Gilbert said, nodding.  He looked at Felicja and added, “We may just have other people to test Project Lullaby on.”

“Other dreamers to wake,” Felicja said, nodding.  She grimaced.  “We’re going to need your wife to contact them.  Think she’ll be willing?”

“If I do the asking,” Gilbert said, nodding.