Feodor Arensky woke that evening to find that the snow had collected about the entrance to the outcropping he had settled in for the day. He was sleeping during the day, not because he was genuinely nocturnal, but out of necessity. He could hear the dogs and people following him - he had already avoided them successfully several times, but they were quite tenacious - and he knew that they were not too far off. Sleeping during the day in an out of the way place reduced the chances that he would be seen. The rather frequent storms that afflicted this area also helped to obliterate his trail that the snow made otherwise plainly obvious. It had only been a few days since he had left the farmhouse, and he was running out of food. He would need to get some before too much longer, or get to Anadyr.
Anadyr was obviously further than he had thought, or in his meanderings he had taken a wrong turn. He tried to orient himself by watching the aurora borealis, and getting a bearing from the North Star, but obviously somewhere in his travels, he had taken a wrong turn. It really didn't matter too much though. As long as he could find some more food - probably have to find some mountain stream and get more fish, there were lots of those in these mountains - and then get to the shore, he would be fine. Of course, the easiest way to do that would be to keep doing what he had been doing, check out where the starts were tonight, and move in the southeasterly direction.
Feodor Arensky climbed out from underneath the outcropping, and looked up into the sky. It was a clear night, slightly light, especially since it was the middle of summer. Night would only last maybe four hours if he was lucky. At the rate he was going, he'd be lucky to reach Anadyr by September. He was going to eventually have to chance it and move during the daytime. Once he reached some thicker forest he could take the chance, but not sooner. The moon was high in the sky, and it gave a dim illumination to the whole scene. It was slightly chilly out, though not much so. It didn't really seem odd, considering he found the fact that he no longer was comfortable in anything except zero degree weather commonplace, that over his chest especailly, and only slightly less so on the rest of his body, that he had a matting of white hair. He had always been a hairy individual, and this only seemed an amplification, nothing more.
Looking to the stars, he found his bearings and began to run to the southeast. The knapsack that the family had given him slung over his shoulder, and his ears to the air to listen for any sounds that would be unusual. He still had a long way to go, and not a single step of it would be easy.
Michael Hall glanced at the driver for a moment, and then returned to staring absently out the window at the passing clusters of firs and pine, and the occasional lake. It was their third day, but to Michael, it seemed like three centuries. If they spent another full day in the car together, it would be exaggerated even further in his mind into four millenia. Of course Michael was not three centuries old, but he now had an accurate impression of the length of three centuries.
When the research lab, as it had been called in his discussion with Morgenstern when he had been connived into going here, appeared on the horizon, Michael felt a slight bit of joy, and he got excited. Then like he had been trained to do so, the driver said stiffly, "It's still a good distance off. We won't reach it for several more hours."
Like a balloon poked by a pin, Michael deflated, and returned to his miserable state of impatience, and sullen apathy. Several more hours, who knew what that meant! It could be anything from two hours to six or seven hours; in more subjective time, it looked like a few more centuries, as the laws of travel time dictate that the closer one is to one's destination, the longer it takes to get there.
Michael looked out the window again, wishing with all his might, hoping against hope that the driver would melt and begin to converse with him like any normal human being would. However, a glance at the driver told him that he was as usual going to be disappointed. With a sigh of regret, he wished he hadn't placed his Yarf in his suitcase, and had just carried it on.
Mily Vasilyevich Balakhna stood in the second-floor office of the mayor of Anadyr, over looking the various edifice's and wharves that comprised the city of Anadyr. Anadyr was a port city, and its primary economic vehicle would be the fishing and whaling industry. True, whaling was outlated by international treaty and dictate, but that really didn't mean they couldn't practice it to benefit themselves. People did what people must to survive, just like every other animal on this earth. Why would some betray their species just for the sake of a couple of dumb beasts? This was something that had always mystified Balakhna.
However, they were not his concern for the moment; he had other things on his mind. Sitting in front of him was the town marshall, a one Mstislav Kordei Raporov. He was not fidgetting in the least, calmly assessing Balakhna's wishes. He was a short man, hardly over five feet, with a rather crooked nose, and a few yellowed teeth. He had a long scraggly beard, and it smelled like he only rarely bathed himself. Balakhna wondered just how this man attained any position of power.
"So what is the name of the man we are searching for." Raporov asked.
"Feodor Arensky.", Balakhna replied, hands casually drapped across his lap. "He escaped from the gulag north of here less than a week ago. He has been heading steadily this way ever since then."
"And you want us to capture him for you?" Raporov idly scratched at his crotch.
"No," Balakhna averted his eyes from the man's unusual pasttime, "I want you to seal off the town form outsiders, let no one in. Also, make sure than no ships leave docks until we have captured him. He must not be allowed to escape the main continent."
"But shutting down the docks will destroy the main economy of Anadyr!" Raporov objected.
"This is not a time to be worrying about economics. You will shut down the docs, and no one will be allowed to leave, or enter." Balakhna reiterated, unmoved.
Raporov looked like he had a few choice explitives he wanted to say but didn't. However, he couldn't help but saying, "Just when life is becoming better here, the Hand of Fate comes down and destroys everything we've built!"
Balakhna suddenly became quite suspicious, "The Hand of Fate?"
"Of course, you are the Hand of Fate are you not?" Raporov asked, now idly nibbling on the hand that had just moments before been scratching his crotch.
Balakhna now felt at a loss, but knew that this man was not just the lout he appeared to be. Very few knew who the Hand of Fate was, or what he was supposed to do. Balakhna studied Raporov for a moment before asking, "How did you know?"
"Comrade Mily Vasilyevich, you do not think that a former KGB agent would not know who you were? We ourselves have correspondeed many trimes in the past, I must say that I am disappointed by your appearance. I had fancied you to be a hundred feet in height, stepping on all that get in your way."
Balakhna laughed then. He knew who Raporov was, and fel ashamed that he hadn't realized sooner. "Swan. Yes, I remember you now. The rumors I'm afraid, are horribly understated in your case. Very few had told me that you only take baths once a year."
"I apologize, I accidentally tripped and fell off the docks only a few days ago. If I had known you were coming, I'd have made sure not to get wet, and stay as dirty as possible." Raporov replied vilely. Balakhna considered himself an excellent judge of people, and yet he wasn't really sure whether Swan was being facetious or not.
"What are you doing here then? I figured you'd have been put into some high beaurocratic job back in Moscow." Balakhna pointed out.
"I always preferred the field." Raporov replied dryly.
"Well, anyway, you need to close down the wharves, effective immediately. Also, I want you to set up a perimeter of men at about fifteen miles aroudn the city. I want that perimeter constantly patroled. I'm sure given your rather large credentials that you can handle the task?"
"Absolutely." Raporov then began to scratch at his hair, muttering, "Damn lice."
Balakhna sighed slightly and then continued. "At any rate, if you see this man Feodor Arensky, warn your men not to go near him. Only contain him."
"Why not go near him?"
"Have you ever played Russian Roulette?"
"What other kind is there?" Raporov asked with a slightly viscious grin.
"Don't go near him." Balakhna reiterated, not bothering to explain. Though he did not doubt that Swan would understand, the Hand of Fate was only a Hand, and not a Mouth.
"I'll organize my men...." Raporov began, but was interrupted by the ringing of Balakhna's cellular phone.
Balakhna picked up, and leaned back in his chair, "Yes?....So others escaped?......I see.....Well, I have him cornered, he'll be in my hands shortly.....Yes I heard about him....You want what?.....They're not my responsibility, you lost them.....Fine, I shall call them, his name, number.....Yes I remember your number, let me grap a pencil.", Balakhna picked up a pencil and pad of paper, and began to write something down on it. He turned the pad over, so that Raporov could not see what he had written when he finished. He knew spies, and he knew the temptation to read his writing would be quite unbearable even for the likes of Swan. "All right, I will give them a call at the earliest possible time.....Thank you....Left Hand of Fate."
Balakhna put the phone down, and looked to Raporov who sat thinking. "So, there's another Hand of Fate? I always thought you were the only one."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, if you are the Left Hand of Fate, then doesn't that mena that there is a Right Hand of Fate?" Raporov mused.
"That is classified information, Swan; you of all people should know to respect that."
"I don't respect hygene, why should I respect a defunct system?"
"I know you don't respect hygene, your the only person I know who can get cavities in his dentures." Balakhna replied acidly.
"Thank you." Raporov smiled broadly, and Balakhna repulsed at the rather yellowed condition of his present set of teeth.
"You are dismissed." Balakhna told him, looking at the pad of paper.
"Excuse me?" Raporov asked.
"You are dismissed. That means leave." Balakhna looked at the former KGB agent dangerously. Mstislav Kordei Raporov then rose from his seat, and left the room idly scratching at what were probably fleas in his pants seat. Balakhna looked at the names on the pad, and thought about the rather unglorious task that had been shunted to him. Oh, he'd call them all right, at his convenience, and not the Right Hand of Fate's.
Michael Hall watched in rather shocked amazement as the plane landed. He had just spent three grueling days in this car with a crash test dummy, when here was soembody arriving at his destination in a plane. Morgenstern had said that given the prevalent conditions, arriving by plane was impossible, but here it was occuring right in front of him, like a slap in the face.
Michael turned to the driver and nearly screamed, "I thought they said we couldn't come in on plane?"
"Not when you arrived. We had a storm in the area, and it was impossible to bring you in. Obviously the storm has cleared up." The driver replied rather mechanically, as if this response had been programmed in.
Michael sat disgusted in his seat, until they reached a full and complete stop right before thef ront of the facility. The facility itself looked rather like an old radio station, or military base. They had the single airstrip, plus a tower at one end of the compound. The compound looked to be about the size of an average school, but only a bit more spread out. Each of the buildings was connected by an enclosed walkway, and there didn't appear to be any windows in the place, except for a small balcony overlooking the Hudson Bay.
Michael jumped out of the car then, and moved to the back to pull out his equipment. It was mildly chilly here, slightly warmer than when he had been in Yellowknife, but not a great deal. He pulled his suitcases out, and then turned to look at who was coming out of the plane. In a thankful sigh, he saw that it was Morgenstern, wearing what looked to be the same suit he had been wearing when he had first met him in his San Fransisco office. He was flanked by two men dressed similarly. Michael glanced toward the back of the plane and saw several medical doctors carting a figure strapped down to a gurney into what looked like a loading door in the complex.
Morgenstern walked up to Michael, glanced at the car, which was already pulling away to park in the indoor garage, and then gained a lsightly embarrased visage. "I'm sorry we had to bring you in on car, but there was a storm in this area which only just recently lifted. I apologize, I can't control the weather."
Michael wanted to raise a rucous about it, but thought better of it, he had arrived after all, and smiled in return, "It's all right. Just show me where you want me to work."
"Come this way then." Morgenstern gestured to a pair of double doors that were reinforced on both sides by bracers. Morgenstern swiped an ID card through a small slot, and the doors opened up. The interior of the complex reminded Hall of a hospital, from the white walls, to the men and women walking around in sterile uniform. Michael tried to keep track of where they were headed, but quickly lost track in the veritable maze of corridors. Before long, they arrived at what was obviously an observation room. One wall was obviously a one-sided mirror, behind which were several people, all of them naked, who looked rather bored and depressed. Michael saw the doctors he had seen come out of the plane, wheel a gurney intot hat other section, and remove the figure from the straps; he was obviously a teenager, and he looked quite sedated. They dumped him in a heap in the room, and then left. The other people there didn't even react to the physician's intrusion.
On the side Hall and Morgenstern were on was only a single other person. She was slightly under six feet in height, short red hair, and bright eyes. Despite what looked like a cheery demeanor, she seemed to be preoccupied with something.
"Mr. Morgenstern, how good to see you." she smiled at their approach.
"Dr. Salinger, how goes things?"
"Well, Dr. Asgaard tried to kill himself shortly after you left earlier this week." she replied, the faint hint of accusal detectable in her voice.
"That damn fool! Is he still alive?"
"Yes. He spends most of his time looking out that balcony of his now, muttering 'All like this' to himself. Nobody can get him to do his job." Salinger seemed quite distressed by this news.
"I am being rude." Morgenstern said suddenly, "Dr. Nancy Salinger, this is Dr. Michael Hall. I'm sure you've heard of him."
"Dr. Michael Hall?" she smiled, offering her hand, "I've read your article on gene manipulation in Science News many times in my career. It is well written."
Michael smiled, "Well, Dr. Lane Sauer was actually more responsible for that article than I was." The particular article she referred to was Michael's pride and joy. It was his only published work in a field he actually cared about, and had any passion for. He and Dr. Sauer had collaborated on that work for over tow years before publishing their findings. He had not talked with him much since then, as he had gotten a job in industry, and Sauer remained in academia.
"I must leave you two alone then." Morgenstern said. "I must talk with Dr. Asgaard. He is the project leader after all, and I hate to seem him distracted. Dr. Salinger, would you please show Dr. Hall around the facility, and tell him specifically what he is to do here."
Salinger looked at Michael as Samuel Morgenstern left the room to go find Asgaard, "They never told you?"
"No." Michael shrugged.
"Well, then let's begin."
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