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Zinc Man

Chapter Text

Prologue

“Blood changes its colors, have you noticed that?” the young voice asked. Philip had the man’s location by now, and he knew that Elizabeth was covering his dead spot, but he still hesitated. It couldn’t be that simple. There had to be a catch.

“In field hospitals, it looks red, all right, but in dry sand it looks grey, and on rocks in the evening it looks blue violet, not alive anymore. It runs so quickly out of someone who’s heavily injured, like out of broken glass”, the voice continued, and the Russian with its Irkutsk accent was every trap they had trained themselves not to respond to.

“We shot at a caravan transporting weapons. The people were dead at once, or they were quiet and waiting for death. But one wounded ass cried so much, it sounded like iron scratching iron. It’s bloody awful when animals are shot. But you don’t know that. You wouldn’t. You only have to kill people here, and you get to scrub it off with all that water. So much water. I had to kill a turtle once to drink its blood or I’d have gone mad with thirst.”

Philip still didn’t have a sight line. If he shot now, going by instinct and sound, he was reasonably sure he’d at least incapacitate the boy. But there had to be a catch.

“You can talk back, you know. I have your positions already. Two. I’ve been waiting for you…Directorate S.”


 

24 Hours earlier:

I.

It was Oleg who discovered the truth about Yuri Victorovich Silfigarov. He'd liked him, socialized with him, and when he figured out Yuri Victorovich was the man the American press had dubbed "the Ax Killer", he threw up. Then he reported to Arkady.

This was a disaster on so many levels, and the two Americans Silfigarov had hacked to pieces, if it was truly him, were the least of it. Yuri Victorovich Silfigarov was a decorated war hero. That, in fact, was why he was currently employed at the Rezidentura. It was supposed to be both reward and propaganda. Silfigarov had served in Afghanistan, had saved his company, had insisted on going a second time despite being wounded, and had been transferred despite his protests. A textbook military hero, well deserving of all comforts a place at the Washington Rezidentura offered. Arkady wouldn't have been surprised if Oleg had felt vaguely guilty in his presence at first; hence the extraordinary efforts to befriend the taciturn Silfigarov, efforts that now had led Oleg to discover human body parts in Silfigarov's fridge.

Silfigarov had vanished; he'd last been seen the previous evening, which was why Oleg had shown up at his place unannounced. If the Americans were already suspicious of him, they'd have made noise by now, insisting that diplomatic immunity be dispensed with. But it might be simply a matter of time. And then the U.S. would have a field day. They'd claim Silfigarov was acting on orders, spreading terror in their capital; they'd come up with retaliations, and the disastrous escalating warfare of two years ago would be repeated. At best, even if Arkady denounced Silfigarov immediately to the American police, and even if they believed him, they'd milk every last drop of propaganda material out of this as far as the war in Afghanistan was concerned. If this was the behavior of a hero of the Soviet Republic, how was the rest of the army acting? And so forth. Even with censorship in place, news would spread, precisely because Silfigarov had been built up by the media at home as an example.

"Do you want me to contact the Americans, Arkady Ivanovich?" Oleg asked, still pale but not shaking, and focused, as Arkady noted with approval.

"No," Arkady said grimly.

Arkady contacted Gabriel instead.