“So we’re going to get out?!” Aleksei exclaimed happily.
“Not exactly,” Doctor Hamid corrected.
Aleksei’s hopeful expression vanished.
Hamid elaborated, “You are to be flown to Kazakhstan for training. It is true that you will have considerably more freedom than you do now. The new location will be far better for your own personal safety as well, because it’s easier to keep track of who comes and goes, in a less crowded area.”
“Training? Why?” Mashka asked “Chekhov had told me that it was for control of my ability. But the fact is, most of what I’ve been learning is how to use it, not suppress it. I just want to go back to living a normal life.”
Hamid turned to Aleksei and exclaimed, “Of course Moscow beats St. Petersburg at hockey!”
The siblings were perplexed as Hamid reached into his desk drawer.
“Um, Hamid,” Aleksei spoke with concern for the man’s sanity, “That’s a little off topic, despite the fact that yes, I concede, Moscow is better. Didn't we talk about that a while earlier?”
“Yes we did,” he replied. “I recorded it so I could replay it on the security cameras now. That way I could say that line, press this button in my desk, and the video feed would appear as if it was live. Now we have a few moments to talk without prying eyes and listening ears.”
“Why do you need to do that?” Mashka asked, suspiciously. “Won’t the people watching the cameras notice the loop?”
“No,” the doctor smiled as he replied, “the work shift has changed by now. A new group is working in surveillance. As for the reason, I need to tell you what’s really going on.”
Aleksei’s heart skipped a beat, finally he would have some answers.
“What do you mean?” Mashka asked.
Hamid looked between them with a solemn expression. He waited a moment then stated flatly, “The two of you are going to be trained as assassins.”
“Excuse me?” came Mashka‘s incredulous reply. “Assassins?”
Aleksei remained silent, looking closely at Hamid.
“Our organization pretends to be a medical research firm,” Hamid explained, “However, that’s simply a cover for our real business. The Association is actually an organization of hired assassins, whose goal is to maintain the status quo in the geopolitical arena, while slowly shifting power back to the eastern hemisphere. We help in both starting and ending wars. And if you are taken to be trained, they’ll exploit your abilities for those purposes.”
“You are speaking as if you are appalled. Causes me to wonder why you joined this Association,” Aleksei said, giving him a critical glare, “I suggest you keep to the truth, Mashka can sense lies.”
His sister nodded grimly.
“Very well. The fact is, I did not join The Association as you see it now. About fourteen years ago, The Association that I began with, was part of a very small Soviet operation whose sole purpose was to track down and medicate Jinn, so they would not manifest. This was called the Chrysalis Experiment.”
“Wait,” Aleksei interrupted. “Please repeat what your job was about.”
“Umm,” Hamid paused to recollect his statement, “you mean track down, and medicate?”
“Yes,” Aleksei said, “That does not make any sense. Why would you have to track us down if it was you who made us?”
“Because we did not,” Hamid replied, “We have a lot of theories about why Jinn exist and how, but we did not create you. The Jinn’s existence stretches far back into antiquity. We have no claim to who you are.”
Mashka shook slightly; a confused rage boiled within her. She felt a strain in her fingertips and gums. She calmed herself quickly, not wanting to mutate. She seethed at being deceived, yet again. But most of all, she was angry at being so simple-minded to be toyed with. “How did you do it? How did you make these abilities awake?” she asked, through gritted teeth.
Hamid spoke softer, noticing Mashka’s distress, “We formed a drug to keep you in a constant middle state between a normal person and a Jinn, like how a chrysalis is the step between butterfly and caterpillar. By doing this we were not inhibiting development, we were preserving it, so you could manifest at a later date.
“We had successfully tracked down at least ninety-eight of the Jinn in the world. The reason we did this was that if the Union ever had an absolute crisis, we could tap into this resource of great power. We also recruited some Jinn for regular work.”
Hamid‘s tone became very serious, “However there were many dangers to our operation. We were not the only ones who were aware of the Jinn. NATO also had a small group that knew of your kind, SICA, a secret objective of GLADIO. They worked hard to hunt Jinn down and exterminate them, knowing that the they may be used as weapons against the West.
“Nevertheless, the Soviet Union collapsed before they could play the Jinn card, long before I joined The Association” He looked between the two and asked, “Are you still following?”
“Da!” Aleksei replied, excited about receiving some answers. He glanced at Mashka to confirm that the doctor was speaking truthfully.
She nodded, her face unreadable.
“Well,” Aleksei urged, “Keep going.”
The doctor continued his narration, “Now, how we got to the way we are today? Even after the major shifts in government systems, The Association continued to exist. Though we were forgotten and neglected by the new regime, we were free from any oversight, and this allowed us to work in the shadows. This freedom is what made us be able to track down almost all of the Jinn in a relatively short amount of time.
“But after that considerable feat, two years ago, a faction of The Association took over, led by the man you know as The Administrator. He killed the majority of the former employees and has expanded The Association’s current payroll from only three hundred and fifty, to include over two thousand people. They are now interested in manipulating the politics of the world independently, by using the mostly forgotten Jinn.”
“Then why are they so desperate to have us?” Mashka asked, “There are ninety-six more. What’s the big deal about us?”
Hamid nodded, “Well, because of certain circumstances, there was a setback. When the current Administrator took over, some brave souls, including myself, helped cover up and conceal information on the vast majority of the Jinn, thus destroying his database. His catalogue fell to only a dozen people like you. You two were some of the few unlucky ones he could track down.”
The doctor’s mood became urgent, “Which is why we must escape today. If you are taken to Kazakhstan, running away will be next to impossible. There is nothing but open steppe for sixty miles around that station. If we don’t succeed, you two will become members of his army.”
Panic settled in Aleksei’s chest, they were trapped. They would be taught to kill without mercy, and gain the eyes that too many of these people had. Sad eyes behind grim exteriors, eyes that knew other lives were snuffed out by their hands. Windows to hearts so hardened, that more deaths would never soften them.
He stood up from his chair, “Well, what do I need to do? How do we stop this!” he demanded. “I don’t want to be killer!”
“Calm down. I have a strategy, but we need to execute it perfectly.”
Mashka sat silent. She bit her lower lip in nervousness but at last spoke, “Aleksei, what’s to prove that we can trust this man? The Association since we were brought here has been nothing but considerate, albeit awkward. And now you want to risk everything, and possibly get someone hurt, just because of a hunch?”
“Mashka,” Aleksei reasoned, “Doesn’t this all make perfect sense? You should be able to tell if he was lying or not. The Administrator said something about giving us a purpose. Assassin is the only possible thing he could have in mind. Furthermore, if The Association truly has good intentions, would they do us harm if we escaped?”
Mashka was still unsure. She had npt heard the doctor lie. But she was not certain if her ability was fool proof. One thing she was sure of, she had to stay with Aleksei. She was not going to lose track of him again.
There was still one burning question though. “Where did they get the letter?” she asked, “If our mother was not involved in this, why is there a letter in her handwriting?”
Hamid shook his head, “Do you still think that you’re the only Jinn? We have at least two people on file who could copy handwriting perfectly as side effects of their talent. The letter is a fake. Your parents were in no way involved in The Association, nor do they know of the Jinn.”
Aleksei was satisfied with the conclusion. “Mashka, did that letter seem at all like what mom would have written? She never lied to us, and was horrible at keeping secrets.”
“I suppose so.” she mumbled.
Taking her admittance as consent, he asked Hamid, “What is the plan?”
Hamid stared them both in the eyes. “Listen, before we go on, I need to know, without a doubt, that you are willing to do this. If you have any second thoughts, it will all fall apart. My life is in your hands right now, depending on what choice you two make.”
Mashka and Aleksei looked at each other. After a moment of silent deliberation, Mashka spoke up, “We’ll do it.”
Hamid nodded, and began dictating the plan, “In about fifteen minutes a helicopter will be landing on the roof. It will take both of you, me, a pilot, and two guards. That’s three on three. But the pilot will be occupied, leaving only the two guards to watch over you. I will be in the front seat with the pilot, who I can take out quickly enough. You two will take advantage of the guards’ distraction to throw them from the copter. Then I’ll do the same with the pilot, take the seat, and we fly off to freedom. We can only fly a certain distance before they send pursuit. Then it would be best to travel on the ground and force them to start all over. I have a car parked and ready where we can land and drive away.”
Aleksei nodded to the plan. It seemed simplistic but solid, despite the obvious risks.
“Could we not just play along?” Mashka asked hesitantly, “I mean, if we just go through the training we could simply disappear on the first mission.”
Aleksei was inclined to agree with his sister’s suggestion, but something felt off. He looked back at Hamid.
“No,” Hamid replied, “I don’t think you understand what this ‘training’ involves. It’s not like boot camp; it’s more about psychology than anything. They will make you believe and follow them blindly. If you don’t bend to their will, you’ll only break. Just look to how your Czech friend turned out.”
Mashka shrunk back into her seat.
Aleksei noticed the pressure change in the air. He smiled as he made his suggestion, “It’s raining, and if it comes to it, I can produce a fog screen to make shooting difficult.”
“Nice thinking. But if your water vapour came in contact with the propeller blades, it could freeze, building up weight and bringing the whole thing down.” Hamid responded, “Nice idea, though. If they have to refuel, the copter blades would not be spinning. Then again, we run into the problem of having to delay long enough to let the copter start up. It would be best to wait until we are on the vehicle starting to take off. If anything goes wrong, I want you to bail. This is where that plan will come in handy, Aleksei. Make a fog screen and get to the closest escape ladder.
“Now remember the plan. As soon as I hit this button in the drawer the cameras will return to normal. There’s no turning back, are you with me?”
Mashka and Aleksei both nodded.
The intercom on the wall buzzed. Hamid’s hand shot down into his desk and pressed the button to resume the live feed.
“Dr. Hamid," the voice from the wallmounted speaker chimed warmly. "it is time to bring Mashka and Aleksei to the roof. The helicopter is here.”
“Well, now or never.” Hamid said.