Dystopia Chapter 39

From the Story Arc: Dystopia

Previous Story in the Arc: Dystopia Chapter 35 by Krasnaya Zarya (Tuesday, September 19, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Dystopia Chapter 36 by Krasnaya Zarya (Friday, September 22, 2006)

(posted Thursday, September 21, 2006)

With all the awe, tinted with both fear and reverence, that the guard had for this “Comrade Viy”, Alex had been expecting to be escorted down a wide wall-papered hallway underneath the watchful gaze of portraits of former base commanders and other Soviet notables. Instead he was escorted down a long heavily-guarded hallway to a rather nondescript metal door. Upon his approach, a faint humming sound buzzed just within hearing followed with sound of a rather heavy bolting mechanism unsecuring the door.

And while he might have been expecting a large well-furnished office complete with potted ferns and a giant painting of the current General Secretary of the Central Committee, all he found waiting for him on the other side was a long series of filing cabinets lining a mostly empty space. In the middle of the room sat a single empty chair facing a large oaken desk. A single overhead light was positioned precisely so, casting shadow on the man patiently sitting on the other side of the desk and hiding the corners from vision.

Somehow, he found this much more intimidating.

The door slammed shut behind him, the bolt sliding back into place, locking him in with his soon-to-be interrogator. He stood perfectly still, staring impassively into the space occupied by his shadowy opponent, mentally steeling himself for what lay ahead. He remembered his numerous battles with the Council and the Malta Group, his times trapped within a 5th Column base... And smirked.

Intimidating, but not intimidated. Fearful, but not afraid.

“I take it I'm supposed to have a seat?”

“If you would like,” came the response from the shadows. The voice, even tinged by the slight echoing effect of the room, was familiar.

“So the diplomatic welcome committee has a name, and its name is Viy?” Alex mused aloud, still remaining where he stood. “I think you'll find that scientists are made of stronger will than mere philosophers...”

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Rabinovich, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” The voice carried naught but a hint of mirth, telling Alex that his enemy had long since gotten over puns on his name.

“Infinite things, given the multiverse,” Alex corrected. He started approaching the chair, his arms still cuffed behind his back. “Science denies them not, fears them not. I lack Khoma's faults.”

“The great scientific arrogance. You make your observations, then your assumptions, then your actions; your perceptions trick you. You believe in your eyes like your eyes do not lie...”

“One betrayal a day is enough for me. I take everything with a grain of salt, now.”

The gong of a clock split the air, sounding the toll of midnight. The irony of this was not lost on Alex, nor was it lost on Viy, given the deep, throaty chuckle he heard behind him.

Behind?!

He started to spin around, but was halted by strong hands on his shoulders. The firm grip of his opponent became a not-too-gentle shove, pushing him down into the chair. The hands remained, preventing him from looking back at whoever was manhandling him. The overhead light, now shining directly into his face, shrouded the rest of the room into inky blackness, barely even letting him see the edge of the desk in front of him, let alone the man on the other side.

“Verbal sparring is fine and expected from an Aleksander Mikhailovich Rabinovich, any of them,” Viy continued, the voice still coming from the figure behind the desk. Whoever was behind him was unresponsive once more. “But it seems that they will resort to violence when threatened, using weapons that cannot be removed from their bodies except by death. This is both unsatisfactory and dangerous to me, a situation I rarely find myself in.”

“Thus, Sofia...” Alex murmured. “I help you, or she dies.”

“Wrong.”

Alex blinked.

“You help me, and she dies a swift, painless death once I have what I want. You do not help me, and the torture begins...”

“Torture? Sofia?” Alex burst out laughing. “I'm tempted to say no, just to see what happens once she's done with you.”

“You doubt the effectiveness of me and mine?”

“No.” Alex grinned. “You doubt the effectiveness of me and mine. There will be a rescue party, and we will survive long enough to welcome them.”

“Oh, I already have a welcome waiting for whoever comes through the portal anchor...” There was a small creak from Viy's chair, followed by a length pause. “The anchor makes a great trap, where an entire squad of Spetsnaz wait for any comers, backed up by a team of rippers... Who you already met.”

Alex winced, thinking back to the mysterious sessions with the mind readers. Or rippers. The name had a decidedly unpleasant ring to it, cementing further in his mind the necessity to stay away from the telepathic soldiers; bullets he could defend against, but not psionics.

“Yes...” The voice sounded amused. “You fear the name, and that is good. They are the ones who will torture your wife, delving into the darkness parts of her psyche and dragging the hidden demons out into the light. She will become nothing but a vegetable, trapped within her mind forever, facing nothing but the nightmares I impose upon her. And I can be very creative.”

“I'm sure.” He was quiet in his reply, his mind hovering over the hidden fear: to live as a vegetable. Sofia had always told him that this was her worst fear, the one case when she would rather he pulled the plug on life support. He had always fought her on this, saying they should err on the side of caution, but she was adamant. She feared that worse than her phobia of snakes.

Something else was bugging him, something that had been bothering him from the moment he saw his wife during the failed escape attempt. It had been hidden away within his subconscious, taunting his waking mind, and only now been brought to the surface... Was this his Sofia? Or had he been duped yet again by his traitorous counterpart? If one Rabinovich could betray him, another could.

Besides, it was a new day.

But how was he supposed to find out?

“Can I see her? Can I see my wife?”

“Of course not,” Viy replied. “She is kept in a safe and secured location, where you cannot save her.”

“But how am I to know that you haven't killed her already?” Alex asked. He was liking where this was going: Viy wouldn't let him see her up close, since that would immediately prove that she was the fake.

“You will just have to trust me.”

Alex burst out laughing. “Trust you? Now why would I do something like that? As I said before, a grain of salt. I think it is far more likely that this is not my wife, but rather the traitor's wife, playing along with your little game. After all, if my wife had come through and met your squad, then you would already have an open portal to my universe; it has to be closed manually with a device only I have.” He grinned broadly, proud of his deduction. The lengthy pause from the enemy only made him happier.

“Clever. Very clever.” Viy's voice was monotone, carefully measured. Still unable to see his face, Alex imagined the classical bulging vein of the officer who was outwitted and up against a winning enemy. “Yet still incorrect. While she is not your wife, she is not 'playing along'. She thinks her husband died years ago, and seeing you has lifted her spirits. I will enjoy crushing them.”

“She's not my wife, why should I care?” Alex narrowed his eyes.

“She has your wife's body, her mind... Can you really consign her to the terrible fate of my attentions?”

“Better that than let you out of this rotten dimension...”

“Are you so sure?”

A series of overhead lights flickered into existence, bathing the room in a sterile white glow. The shadows fell away from his opponent across the room, revealing not Viy, but the just recently discussed Sofia, bound, gagged, and unconscious. Under the closer inspection, it was obvious that they were not the same woman: the hair shorter, the cheeks sunken, the skin pale. She looked significantly older, too. The years had not been kind to this woman.

Alex's heart leapt. They were not the same person, but the similarities teased his senses. He could not help but feel anger at seeing this woman bruised and abused like she was, and pain at the thought of anything more happening.

The hands on his shoulder were removed, and the owner walked around him and the desk to stand next to Sofia. It was, indeed, the man he seen when he first arrived, the thick aging soldier. He pulled a military dagger from his belt, thick and sharp.

He held it to her throat.

“Then I should just kill her now.”