The drab grey hallways of the Association’s Moscow branch headquarters made the place seem like a cave with hastily installed lights. Not even the windows could bring relief in the early morning, where the only light was the distant centre of the city, whose lights never went out. The complex was old, parts of it early soviet era, the newer sections being added on in the 1960s and 1970s and the utilitarian design was clear to this day.
Anya’s every footstep caused a small echo through the drab environment. As she passed one of the sharply dressed agents, she asked him, “I heard the subjects were apprehended, correct?”
He nodded to his superior and replied hesitantly, “Yes, err, well subject one, at least. Subject two is currently unaccounted for. We still have some assigned to combing the woods.”
Anya cocked an eyebrow. “I’m surprised. The boy was able to evade them, but the girl was not. I had heard she was more promising.” She grinned, then continued, “We should get him soon enough. He’s like a puppy, too loyal for his own good.” She made to leave when, as an afterthought she asked, “So where is the girl now?”
“She’s in holding cell four, sleeping off the tranquillizer.”
Anya nodded to him then continued down the hall and opened a door to her left. Inside there was a row of windows looking down into roomy, black foam coated cells. All of them were vacant, except the one holding Mashka. She lay unconscious under the blankets on the lone bed, surrounded by black walls. Her clothing had been switched for a red jumpsuit, solidifying the imprisonment scenario. She seemed so innocent and vulnerable, but Anya knew better. In a few months, this young lady would be a trained killer. And if they could not break her, she would be disposed of like the others.
Anya immediately despised her. This child had so much power within her but she had done nothing to deserve it. The thought left her with a sour taste in her mouth. Personally, she hoped that Mashka would resist. It would make breaking her so much more entertaining. After savouring the thought for a moment, she went back to her apartment.
In the uncomfortably cool cell, Mashka began to stir. Opening her bleary eyes, she took in her surroundings. For a moment she could not remember what had happened then it all came back to her in a flood: the building collapsing, rescuing Dasha, the hospital, Iosif's help, then betrayal, and finding that Dasha had been a deception. Her whole day had been a set up. Then there was her flight through the woods, and Aleksei--
Oh no! Where is Aleksei?
She had sent him out on his own. She wondered if he had been caught.
She stood up, but instantly regretted it. Her head seemed to explode on the inside as her surroundings spun. Whatever had been in the darts was still affecting her. She glanced around the room. There was a single door, and a giant mirror on one side, set five feet up. All other surfaces of the room were covered in firm black pads, even the ceiling and the floor, which felt rubbery under her bare feet.
She staggered toward the door, stopping to grab her mouth, and taking a deep breath to keep from vomiting. Once she felt confident again, she took the last few steps to the door and tried to push it open. To her disbelief, it was unlocked. The door creaked open to a short flight of stairs. Is this a trap, or a miracle? She thought to herself. After a moment’s hesitation, curiosity got the better of her. I’ll never know, if I don’t try.
Climbing the stairs, she slipped cautiously into a hall. On this side, she could tell that the mirror was actually an observation window. She tried not to dwell on the fact that she had been sleeping in a fish bowl. The hall continued down towards a dead end, with what she could tell, were more cells branching off on both sides. She did not stop to look at them, being more anxious to find an exit than explore. And she did not want to be met with the various dilemmas that would arise from encountering other captives. So she quickly went through the only door which appeared to be a way out, and entered a wider hall.
She suddenly felt self-conscious at her red coveralls. If she did escape she would look like a convict.
Back to the present, Mashka. We’ll deal with that later.
At a crazy moment, Mashka grimaced when she realised that she had been dressed by someone else. After a quick shudder, she walked down the hall searching for an exit. There was no sound in the gray halls besides the patter of her feet, echoing with each step. What disturbed her more was the lack of any scent. The place did not even have the ‘clean’ smell. It was just vacant, making her wonder if she had been placed in an empty building. Perhaps she was a participant in some sort of giant lab rat maze?
Such notions were banished, however, when she sensed movement, followed by voices from behind her. She ran down the hall to the first intersection and turned, almost smacking into the front of a black leather coat. There in front of her stood a bald man with the coldest grey eyes she had ever seen.
She quickly recognized him. “You- in the woods!”
He smiled and took a step closer.
She instinctively raised her hand to strike in fear. To her surprise, she did not feel the excruciating pain in her hands and body, as when she felt fear before. She glanced at her hand, both relieved and annoyed that there were no claws extending from under her fingernails.
The man chuckled and reached out to grab her. She snatched his arm and tried to twist and throw him. But to her dismay, he remained stationary. He spun her and pinned her arm, then lowered his mouth to her ear, “Going somewhere?” he whispered through his thick accent, “I think you should realize that you are powerless at the moment.
“However,” he ran his finger along Mashka’s jawbone, “I’m not.”
Despite her fear, she took a brief moment to recognise the irony. Her capabilities normally terrified her, but at this time, she desperately wished to have them.
Two security officers rounded the corner and one of them addressed him sternly, “Sir, if you are finished, The Administrator is ready to meet the subject.”
“Of course,” The Czech smiled, “we need to introduce Gzha Sharova to her host.”
After brushing some of her hair behind her ear, he released her and she backed away from him, trembling in fear. The Czech gestured magnanimously, “If you come willingly I, unfortunately, have no reason to deal so familiarly.”
Mashka obliged, but she kept ahead of The Czech. She would rather be close to the guards, who felt like a form of protection at the moment, than near the bald creep. She soon lost complete track of all the turns and elevator rides they made. Her nausea made the trip even longer.
At long last they arrived at an ornate wooden door, a striking contrast against the drab grey walls. The security guard to her right opened it and politely guided her in, as if she was an honoured guest.
The room appeared to be a typical executive’s office. Fancy bookshelves, wooden walls, and a large ornate desk, behind which sat an older gentleman in a plush office chair. He smiled warmly. His appearance was that of a Father Christmas that had gone to the gym, shaved and groomed his beard, and traded in robes in for a sharp business suit.
“Zdravstvuyte, Gzha Sharova,” his eyes sparkled kindly, “and welcome back home.”