Aleksei cast himself onto the gravel, overjoyed to be on solid ground again. “I’m alive!” he exclaimed, grasping at the pebbles at the edge of the train station loading yard.
Mashka rolled her eyes as she carefully closed the car door. “My driving is not that bad. The worst I did was lose one mirror and dent a mailbox. Both are easy enough to replace.”
Aleksei slowly turned his head to look at his sister, wondering where she had been hiding this inner fiend.
“Don’t look at me that way!” she huffed. “Besides, we have a train to catch, right?”
The horrified look on her brother’s face vanished as he set his jaw and stood. “Da,” he said, as he ripped out a pen and searched his pockets.
“What are you doing?” Mashka asked.
“Need paper, we should leave a note for that doctor.”
“Oh… him…” Mashka shrugged her shoulders sheepishly. She produced an old receipt and Aleksei jotted down a quick apology and thank you note, which he stuck under a wind-shield wiper.
Feeling a little less like thieves, the two of them slid between the cars of the closest train. They ran towards the station platform, ducking and scurrying behind containers and train cars. Aleksei was about to walk forward to check the schedule board listing the destinations, arrival, and departure times, but Mashka pulled him back behind the car.
“Don't you see the two men in suits?” she hissed.
Aleksei peeked around the storage crate. One of the men was the blond who had been on the receiving end of Aleksei's front bike tire, and the other was the guy outside of the high school. Ducking back behind the car, Aleksei commented, “Well he recovered fast. I would be in the hospital if I was him.” Thinking a moment, he continued, “I can’t see the schedule. It’s too far away.”
“Let me try.” Mashka leaned over, just enough to peek, and closed her eyes. After a calming breath, she opened her eyes to reveal bright amber orbs. “There are three trains that will be departing in the next ten minutes. One is going to Moscow, one to Luga, and another to Novgorod.”
“When does Luga leave?” Aleksei asked.
“Ten minutes,” Mashka responded.
“Hmm,” he thought a moment, “We can’t hide here for ten minutes. What about Moscow?”
“That leaves in three, and Novgorod won’t work because it is right next to the station.”
Aleksei shook his head thoughtfully. “I guess that leaves Moscow. It’s a big place, we could disappear for the short term. It would buy us time to figure out what is going on.”
They backed away and slid between the cars behind them, and found themselves just feet away from two agents: one was tall and fair with a prominent nose, and the other shorter, and Turkic in appearance. Both gents were surprised at the sudden encounter.
The men stiffened and whipped out their guns. Their gritted teeth parted simultaneously as they began to yell some form of “halt” at the two.
With frantic speed, Mashka lifted her brother bodily and jumped back to the other side of the train cars. She pressed her back to the car and Aleksei followed suit. She tensed, ready for them emerge from between the cars. But they did not. Her sharp hearing could pick them up, moving around their position a down opposite ends of the cars, so even if she ambushed one, she could not get to the other.
Aleksei voiced her thoughts "They are surrounding us." He looked up at his sister. She returned the look, a quiet understanding between them. Then he looked past her. "Steam!"
Immediately Aleksei broke away from the wall, lowered himself down. He motioned with his arms towards an old steam locomotive beside them which was preparing to depart. It had to be one of the few steam engines still running outside of Siberia. With carefully measured movements he reached out to the waters in the depths of the engine, and then when he rose, billows of white erupted from the top. The steam arced over the two of them. Mashka could feel the balmy heat on her skin even though the cloud was metres above her. Then her brother spun and cast his arms towards either end of the cars. The billow split in two and rushed where he guided and vanished to the other side of the train. Cries of pain confirmed the scalding steam had reached its mark.
He shuddered. Never before had he inflicted pain to such a degree, not to man or animal. And yet, in desperation, the action had been easy and guiltless, it caused a sick feeling in his stomach, but he had to ignore it.
Mashka had not moved. Her brother had been a blur of motion before her eyes. The power and calmness with which he had dispatched them was both disturbing, and in a strange way inspiring to her. The power her brother wielded was fascinating and frightening. Aleksei grabbed her arm, and they fled.
They passed one of their scalded pursuers, his cries of pain and scorched red skin went unheeded as the fleeing duo ran around the front of the train and back the direction they’d come. They were between the old steam train and the diesel train running to Moscow. Arriving at one of the box cars, Aleksei climbed up and tried to open the door, but the lever was heavy and rusted over with age. Mashka tugged him down and gave it a try. The metal creaked reluctantly, but the lever finally gave, unlocking the door. Mashka pushed it open and climbed inside offering a hand to Aleksei, who wore a mildly impressed expression.
When they were both inside, they slid the door shut. They were closed up in the dark compartment, but there were a few holes in the rusted metal walls letting in small dots of light. The two siblings stood, listening closely for the sound of pursuers. The car lurched forward, throwing them back against a large crate. Mashka found herself right next to a larger gap in the metal and she saw the two men who were at the station platform run by. The train accelerated and they breathed a collective sigh of relief. For the time being, they were safe.