Anya and Chekhov arrived at the train station and met with their comrades. Anya, noting the absence of the two subjects, said in an artificially sweetened voice, “Where is our quarry, boys?”
The tall agent took a limping step forward, his face was severely blistered. When he spoke he was careful to move his mouth minimally. “We have searched the premises. They are not here. They must have gotten onto one of the trains.”
“What happened to you?” Chekhov asked.
“Subject two used the steam from a train to scald us. And sir, what happened to you?” the agent nodded at the three angry scratches on Chekhov’s face.
Anya glanced impatiently at the agents, “Back on topic, you all can show off your war wounds later. Where are the subjects?”
“Right,” the agent continued, “there were three trains that left: a cargo steam train going to Moscow, then Siberia, a coach train to Luga, and another cargo train to Novgorod.”
Anya contemplated a moment. “They would not have gotten on a passenger train. They had no tickets.”
“So that leaves Novgorod and Moscow,” Chekhov said, glancing at the posted schedule. “They took Moscow.”
“How do you figure that?” Anya asked.
“Purely position,” he replied in lecture mode, “they would not have risked hopping onto the train to Novgorod. It was too close to the station. Furthermore, the one to Moscow was leaving almost immediately.”
“You can’t assume things like that.” Anya retorted. “And I think your professor cover is getting to your head. Next time you should be a factory worker!”
Anya’s phone chimed and she answered it. She nodded a few times as her demeanour changed reluctantly. She hung up and looked sulkily at Chekhov. “There apparently was a tracer placed in the outfit you gave her. It says that they are going to Moscow,” she said with a grimace.
Chekhov gave a sideways told-you-so grin. “Well, I guess there’s not any point in getting stressed out. They are on a moving train. We have them in our sites. And Lijewsky,” he addressed the tall agent, “get your face taken care of.”
“Yes sir,” he nodded gratefully.
After the agents left, Anya turned to her partner. “It was The Administrator who called. He wants us to go to Moscow, so pack your bags. The others can take care of the rest here.”
“Let’s ride then.” Chekhov beckoned Anya to the car.
Mashka shook her brother awake. “Get up! The train is decelerating.”
Yawning deeply, Aleksei asked, “Are we already at Moscow?” He rubbed his eyes trying to see in the darkness which engulfed them.
“Nyet," she replied, glancing through a peep-hole in the metal, "but we must be close. We were running along a wide highway not too long ago.” she explained.
“We are probably going to stop at a water station before entering the city.” Aleksei mused; “We should get off now.” he stood, brushing off the dust from his pants.
The two of them pulled open the door and looked at the thick forest as it rushed by. The trees were leafless and barren, looking like black, skeletal shadows against the indigo sky. The train screeched, as the engineers applied the brakes. The duo watched as the gravel and the trees moved by slower and slower.
Aleksei leaned out to glance ahead, squinting as the cold wind stung his eyes. Leaning back in the car he said, “I can see the water tower. I think now would be the best time to jump off. Remember to tuck and roll, like they teach in gym.”
Mashka nodded. Readying themselves they counted to “tri” and jumped off the train. They hit the gravel slope rolling and crashed down into the ferns. Besides receiving some bruises, and Aleksei skinning part of his palm, they were uninjured. Pausing a moment, the two took in their surroundings. They were in a peaceful glen, and trees stretched as far as they could see, before disappearing in the midnight void.
“Come on sis,” Aleksei pulled her arm, “we shouldn’t stay near the tracks.”
“Da…” her voice trailed off.
They both walked off into the night, heading in the direction of the yellow glow, cast across the eastern sky by the grandest metropolis of Russia.
A few hours passed and the fugitives were still trekking through the thick forest, pushing aside ferns and climbing over fallen logs. They came upon a break in the trees and found themselves atop a hill, looking at the Moscow skyline. They gazed in awe at the panorama before them.
Mashka gasped, “I’ve never seen so many lights. It looks so beautiful.”
“Remember when dad always promised us we would visit it?” Aleksei asked, “Never thought I would come here as a runaway.”
Mashka stepped hurriedly down the hill towards the woods below and changed the subject. “We need to hurry! If we stop, we’re going to get the chills.”
Aleksei jogged to catch up to his sister, “You’re still angry at dad aren’t you?” he asked cautiously, knowing it was a sensitive topic.
“This is not the time to talk about--” she paused, reigning in her irate tone before finishing. “… him. We have other things to worry about.”
“It’s not like we are doing anything right now. We aren’t in a hurry!” he exclaimed, “So what else should we talk about?”
“Hush up!” she snapped.
Aleksei was surprised at the harsh response. “Well, if you don’t want to talk you don't ha--”
“No, hush, I’m listening,” she whispered.
He paused a moment, straining his ears. There was not a sound. “What is it?” he asked quietly.
One word escaped her shuddering lips, “Dogs.”