'Mashka!' He gave a heavy sigh of relief. Somehow his sister had survived the fall. But she might be injured. That thought spurned him back into action. Before him was The Association building, which meant, since her headscarf was in this direction, she must have gone down the alley he was standing in, away from their captors.
He ran down the alley then stopped at the T in the side street. He noticed a sparkle to his left. He ran over and picked up familiar looking, gold-rimmed glasses. He was trying to imagine the face that had worn them, but he was drawing a blank. Whoever they were from, they appeared to be in the pathway his sister had taken.
“This way?” he asked himself, picking up the spectacles hesitantly, while takinga left turn. He ran down the alley until he reached a four way intersection. “Where now?” He knew if he was not careful, he would be the one lost.
'Who am I fooling?' he chuckled, 'I don’t know Moscow from Archangelsk. I’m already lost.'
Something caught his eye. He looked up until he noticed a freshly smashed fifth story window. He did not know how Mashka could have gotten up there, but it was somewhere to start. He walked into the first floor. He felt the relative dryness of the indoor atmosphere.
“Not much moisture to work with.” he mumbled nervously, glancing around the bare lobby as he stepped in. As if answering his concern, his foot bumped a two-litre plastic bottle. He ran out and dipped it into a puddle, filling it up then screwing the cap on.
'At least I have ammunition.' He reassured himself. He could not suppress an inner chuckle at his next thought, 'I became dependent fast.'
He had only learned atmidokinesis a few days ago, and already he felt insecure without the presence of water.
As he walked up the stairs, he began to doubt himself. 'Why would Mashka go through a window when the door is down here? She could be lying injured somewhere else and I am going to investigate some broken glass.' But something urged him to keep going. 'Maybe from higher up I might catch a glimpse of her, or at least orient myself.'
He reached the fifth floor and strode quickly down the halls. There was not enough moisture for him to scout ahead. Besides, he did not have the patience to be cautious.
Out of one of the apartments, Chekhov emerged. In one swift motion, Aleksei unscrewed the bottle lid, evaporating the water, and set an hissing stream at him.
The older man's eyes widened in astonishment at the rapidly approaching boy. He almost did not notice the baseball sized tip of the vapour stream, hurtling at his face. Chekhov dodged then extended his open palm to Aleksei.
The youth noticed the raised palm, thinking it was some call for peace.
'I don’t think so!' he snarled inwardly as he bent down, drawing the stream of mist around to strike Chekhov in the back.
It was then that he noticed, a little too late, the air rippling oddly in front of Chekhov’s hand. His mind had no time to react before he was being thrown violently backwards through the air, carried by a transparent wave. Aleksei managed to flip mid-air and land on his feet, skidding backwards a few metres, from the momentum.
Not pausing to take a breath, he yelled, “Where’s Mashka?” while he worked on retrieving the vapour, remaining tense and ready to dodge another shot, when Mashka stepped out of the apartment.
“Aleksei!” She cried as she ran up to him, and the next thing he knew, he was wrapped in her embrace.
“You’re alright!” she exclaimed happily, then held him at arm’s length. “How on earth did you get away?”
“I jumped,” he answered plainly, turning his attention to Chekhov. “What is he doing here?”
“He’s a Jinn, like us.” Mashka replied. “He flew and caught me.”
Aleksei raised an eyebrow, “You mean like that irritating American guy, what’s-his-face?” Aleksei asked.
“Superman?” Chekhov asked, wondering what was so irritating about the character. “It's more like a form of telekinesis.”
“I see.” Aleksei replied then he remembered the question and turned his attention back to his sister. “Mashka,” he said quietly. “Why did you jump?”
She looked momentarily stunned then stared at the floor, saying nothing.
A look of disappointment crossed the young man’s face. His words were quiet, but firm, “I see. You thought you could end your problems. But in reality, what would that have accomplished?”
Still she was silent.
Taking this as a cue to continue, he gritted his teeth, and then shouted, his voice overflowing with pain, “Would you have some sense of victory before your entrails were scattered across the sidewalk? Did you even realise that you would be leaving me alone? But no, you jumped!” He almost screamed.
Mashka was wincing at every word, tears beginning to fill her eyes.
Aleksei continued the bombardment, “You wretch! What were these past few years to you? Is everything we’ve worked for mean that little to-”
He was interrupted when a sturdy arm pushed him against the wall. Aleksei looked up to see Chekhov’s glare. “That is quite enough out of you. I know what you must be feeling right now, but I think that she’s been through enough for one day.” he stated firmly, with a hint of sympathy in his voice.
Aleksei’s eyes widened and turned to look at his sister. She was leaning against the opposite wall, quietly weeping.
Chekhov released his hold and Aleksei walked over and carefully touched his sister’s shoulder. He raised his other hand, offering a hug. Mashka responded by wrapping her arms around her brother’s neck and resting her head on his shoulder.
“Prastite,” she whispered her apology, “prastite, prastite, prastite.”
Aleksei buried his face into his sister’s hair. Joy swept over him, knowing she was safe. The doubt, despair, anger, and distrust were washed away. At that moment, he didn’t care that they were being chased, that they could not go home, or that they were in danger. The important thing was that he was not alone.
Chekhov stayed back, allowing the siblings their moment.
When they broke the embrace, Aleksei wiped his eyes with his sleeve, composed himself, then he walked up to Chekhov and offered his hand. “Listen, I don’t know what happened in the last hour, but whatever it was, it seems my sister trusts you. You saved her, so I suppose that means you deserve a chance.” After they shook hands, Aleksei continued, “We don’t trust you, but more questions will have to wait.”
Then the boy scratched his head nervously. “Listen, I’m at a disadvantage here. Would you know a good, discrete way to get out of this town?”
Chekhov smiled at the mafia accent Aleksei had adopted for his last phrase. The man thought a moment, considering his options. “The sewers in this area are barely used. We can take them almost to the edge of the city. I know a spot, a dacha, where we can stay.”
“Sewers, yay,” Mashka cheered with fake enthusiasm.
The Administrator sat in his office, his face calm, but inwardly he seethed, imagining how he would punish Chekhov when he found him. His office door opened and a certain irritated hit-woman walked in.
“So I heard they escaped.” Anya said as she flopped into a chair.
“Da, they did,” The Administrator replied, rubbing his white beard. “And Chekhov is with them.”
Anya cocked her head in surprise. “Huh?! Then they didn’t escape if he’s watching them.”
“You misunderstand. He ran away with them. It appears Chekhov has switched his loyalties. And it seems that he has an ability.” He pounded his desk once, knocking over a pen stand. “He’s one of our best. He knows Moscow like the back of his hand. It complicates matters.”
Anya did not know what to think. Chekhov was one of them? She knew he had secrets, but she never expected him to be a Jinn. She shook her head. Whether he was or not, did not matter. He was still her comrade, and this was not the first time he had done something unorthodox. He may be taking them on a joy ride that would simply lead them back to The Association, perhaps, to teach them a lesson. Whatever was going on, she knew she was going to find him and get a thorough explanation.
“So do we know what ability he has?” she asked.
“Hmm?” The Administrator seemed to break out of his thoughts and answered dismissively, “It seems he can fly, which is a useful ability, but right now I would much rather let The Messenger give him a thrashing.”
Anya shuddered at the thought of the hooded agent. She always found him--, it unsettling. Suddenly her face lit up. “Shouldn’t they have tracking devices implanted already?”
The Administrator sighed and grumbled. “Due to the budget cuts from the quarterly meeting, we are no longer using GPS implants.”
“The recession, huh?” she asked in sympathy.
Sitting back he gestured as he explained. “Da, and there is the risk that the signal frequencies might be compromised. We still have not plugged all our leaks.”