Sunday, March 20
On all ends, façades are mounted
Like paint, deceptions coat
A hidden reality…
Episode Forty One:
“This is insane!” John exclaimed, jumping up from his spot around the table. “That’s amazing! How do you do it?” he demanded, as he stared at the cloud of evaporated coffee spiralling around Aleksei’s hand.
“This is why they’re after us.” Chekhov said.
“Honest? So all of you can do something like this?”
“Yep,” Chekhov nodded. “Aleksei seems to be able to control mist. I can fly. And Mashka has enhanced senses.”
“This is insane!” John repeated. “Not in my wildest-”
“Yes, amazing I know,” Chekhov interrupted, “but we’re wondering if you could help us. I will stress that this could be dangerous.”
John thought a moment. His head was pounding as the alcohol left his system. He mulled over everything carefully then replied, “Ok, I’ll help you out. I could use a change of scenery.”
“Good, but it's very late, we need some sleep.” Chekhov suggested.
Three thousand metres above the vastness of Russia, The Administrator languished in the lounge on his jet, sipping a glass of water as he gloated at a plasma screen, which was normally hidden by the ornate wooden wall panels. It showed a map of the lake country of Karelia. A single yellow dot flashed on the screen.
“Oh Chekhov,” he said, “All you can ever be is a puppet.” He took a sip then rubbed his neatly trimmed beard. “I am curious how you will fulfil your purpose.”
The air shrieked with the sound of wheels kissing the runway as the Administrator’s jet landed at Karelia National Airport. Once the aircraft pulled aside from the landing strip, he walked down the ramp with the air of a dignitary. He was met by The Messenger, Anya, and The Czech. Behind him five agents also descended.
“I thought you would bring more capable backup.” The Messenger wheezed, its tone suggesting that its hidden face was staring dubiously at them.
The Administrator dismissed his jibe. “This is all we will need for what I intend to accomplish. We’ll discuss the plan on our way there.”
Mashka wrung her hair dry with the towel as she walked into the main room. John had given her a change of clothes, which she assumed had once belonged to the Japanese woman in his pictures. The woman liked red the most, judging by her wardrobe.
Aleksei, John and “Evan” were engrossed in conversation. She was still hesitant to believe that Evan was Chekhov’s real name. And even if it was, it felt weird calling her former professor that, despite the fact that he had only had that job for a couple of weeks.
“What is this early morning conference about?” Mashka asked.
Aleksei looked up and smiled, “We are deciding how best to get out of the country.”
“Yes,” Chekhov replied, “and John here has just the way we can do it. We’re going to fly out of here. Of course doing that would normally require us to go through a terminal, but there are far too many security cameras there, for my comfort.”
“But here’s the good part,” John began, where Chekhov left off. “I have a loophole, since I have an aquatic plane, also called a puddle jumper. I used it all the time back in Canada’s Northwest Territories, on those lakes. It takes off from the lake docks, where security is minimal. That is our mode of transportation. The real topic of debate is when we should leave. Soon as possible may be a mistake. I want us not to be the first ones to depart. There are a few other puddle jumpers at the docks and I would like some of those to head off first, give them a few more targets to chase after.”
“Wait, but we lost them, no?” Mashka asked.
Chekhov faced her and replied, “Yes, we believe so, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. I don’t know what they will try next.”
“Where are we going once we get in the air?” Mashka inquired. She could not believe that she was going to leave Russia.
This time John answered, “We can’t leave the country yet. That would involve some security procedures. I've already submitted a flight plan, just waiting for approval. You two must acquire some altered identification. And I know just the spot.”
Aleksei smiled and said, “Oh the wonders of a morally grey companion!”
Chekhov glared then countered with hurt dignity, “I prefer to see it as legally grey.”
A long ribbon of grass acted as a border between the port town and the freshwater sea, forming an attractive shoreline park. Modern impressionist statues were threaded throughout, from the edge of town, to the ports. Chekhov and Mashka waited together on the grass in front of one such statue, which was probably a running man, either that or a bird post-cat.
"So..." Chekhov attempted to end the silence. "You have been quiet this morning."
"Have I? I don't ever talk much."
"Well, you seem to be quiet for a reason..." He dug his boot toe into the sidewalk resembling a truant schoolboy caught in his crime. "And I feel that reason has to do with me."
Mashka cocked an eyebrow at Evan as he scratched his beard to ease his nerves. "Is that so?" she prodded. She knew it sounded passive-aggressive, but she was quite curious.
"I have been two-faced all this time, and I would not blame you for distrusting me. But, I want you to know that, even though Chekhov acted on his career, Evan is acting on his-my conscience... and regrets."
Her confusion was now clear on her face.
"What I'm saying..." he sighed. "I do not want to be your professor, captor, or co-conspirator. I would like to be your friend. So once this is all over, can we start fresh? As friends?" his tone became even more sheepish, "I need a friend..."
With eyes wide with incredulity she responded, "How can I--?"
Aleksei and John’s taxi pulled up, and Mashka cut her words short, there would be time later, presuming this hackneyed plan worked. It had been decided that they would arrive separately to avoid attracting too much attention. Aleksei and Chekhov unloaded the trunk of their luggage. Each had taken the chance to pack a few things John had given them, as well as stop by a thrift store for some changes of clothes. Mashka had abandoned the red dress for a pair of loose pants and dark jacket.
Aleksei looked around at the vacant streets, save the unique and sometimes creepy statues. “So where is this guy?” he asked.
Chekhov coughed and replied. “I will go meet him soon, he's another acquaintance of mine. However, you three are not going to meet him.”
“Why?” Aleksei asked, as he zipped his turtle-neck sweater.
“Because he is unreliable and I don’t currently know what mischief he’s into.” Chekhov pointed to a brick edifice thirty meters away. “So first, see the white wall over there? Go stand there. We need some pictures for the I.D. cards.”
John pulled out his camera as they stood in front of the wall.
“Smile” he said.
Aleksei, Chekhov and Mashka all smiled calmly. The light flashed and John looked at the picture. “Those should make some good prints, Aleksei looks a bit girlish though.”
The youth bristled but kept his lips tactfully sealed.
“Excellent, be right back.” Chekhov said, taking the camera and walking away from them. He stopped and walked back, “What names should I use for you two?”
“Oh,” Aleksei mused, “I suppose we will need fake names.”
“Hmm,” Mashka pondered, “How about our mother’s parents?”
“Tatiana and Nikolai?” Chekhov responded.
Mashka looked at him with incredulity. “When did we tell…” her voice faded. “Oh da... you know everything about us.” she answered herself, with a hint of irritation.
Chekhov shrugged in apology. “Tatiana is a common enough name that it shouldn’t raise any notices. But if both of you use your grandparent’s names they could track you down. So Aleksei, being your cheerful and lucky self, you are henceforth Nikita.”
Nikita?! Aleksei winced. Is that supposed to be a pun, or another jab at my masculinity?!
“Now,” Chekhov continued, “You still need a patronymic and family name. I'll leave those up to my associate.”
Chekhov grinned at the sibling’s worried expressions. “I’ll be going now.” He walked away from them, headed towards down-town Petrozavodsk.
Watching him depart, Mashka nervously rubbed her wrist. “I don’t like this idea.” she said. “He should have someone to watch his back.”
John huffed dismissively, “I assure you that Chekhov is more than capable of caring for himself.” He turned in the opposite direction. “Come on, we’re going to the puddle-jumper.”
“What about Chekhov?” Mashka asked.
“He’s going to join us later.” John answered.
Aleksei glanced back, just in time to see Chekhov take off into the sky. “But he said he would be right back. We’re supposed to wait here. Except-,” Aleksei paused as a light turned on. “You two have not told us something,” he surmised.
"Guilty as charged.” John admitted, “At this point, it’s best that you act as if you have no knowledge.” he continued walking ahead of them, “Well are you coming?” he asked.
The siblings reluctantly followed, struggling to dispel their concerns.