13 years later….
Tekno-jumpstyle pounded from all three floors of Club Underworld, out into the cobbled streets of Vinnitsya, Ukraine. The town was small and old, the club was new and dominating.
The bouncers at the entrance door surreptitiously assessed the three men approaching. Mafia and Bratva thugs frequented here and two of the three fitted that profile well. The bouncers judged, and nodded them inside without a word.
A hostess showed the three upstairs to the private booth, reserved in the name “Sergei”
Somerset entered the room first, scanning for threats. He was grey-haired and his face was lined and tanned. The scar down the left side of his face, halfway to his shirt collar, was a visible record of his life of violence.
Unconsciously he tugged his shirt cuffs out from his suit jacket, eyes passing over the coke dust and smears on the metal table, over the padded bench seat and to a glint from the floor.
“Vodka, ice” he ordered at the hostess.
On the floor was a hypodermic syringe. Somerset narrowed his eyes, focusing on the dark liquid in it. Blood? He crushed it under a brogue.
Behind Somerset entered Krupin, a tall, bear-like man in large coat. One half of his face above his beard was scar tissue and his eyes told the same story. He completely blocked the hostess as he passed her.
“To zhe” he told her. Ditto.
Patrick followed in. He still looked youthful, but ten years at a desk or on a sofa had padded him out. Nerves and lack of sunlight left him pale.
“Coke Zero please.” he asked, with a thin smile.
Katya entered as the hostess left. She wore fashionable jeans, fitted top. She looked good, healthy and relaxed carrying a clear drink.
“After our meeting at the church I was not sure you would follow through” she said to Somerset.
“Unfinished business. There are debts still to be accounted. Blood debts.” He studied her reaction. She smiled at him and turned to Patrick and Krupin.
“Good to see you both again.”
Krupin looked hard at her. “Sometime you tell me what happened with Yakovlev in the tunnels”
She held his gaze for a second, “He was a good man.” She turned to Patrick, looking him up and down “Taking it easy in London?”
He bristled, “I go the gym, not as much maybe- I’m fine. You still a b-, witch?”
“Relax, we’ve all changed. Well, maybe not all of us. Somerset.” She grinned. “Shall I tell you everything I know?”
“I doubt that’ll happen, but why don’t you tell me the bits you want me to know.” Somerset said.
Katya nodded, sat down and began.
“Dorjiev has a secret lab in a disused hospital near here where he, we, experiment. There are two ways in, either through the hospital and two security doors, or into the fortress at XXXXX and down the tunnel.”
“You suggesting we go in via the tunnel?” Somerset asked.
“No. The fortress is a Spetsnaz training base, so full of badasses.” She paused. “They test new serums there. Super-soldier badasses.”
Somerset nodded. He’d seen that before. “So get to the lab through the doors then…”
Katya shrugged. “Probably, yes. But a different problem there, Dorjiev has been making Zalozhniy. He’s made a platoon of Spetsnaz Zalozhniy, stored in the lab, and under his command. I have no power over them. There’s a gas chamber down there where he kills them, with Zyklon B.”
Somerset snorted ruefully, you could only kill a Zalozhniy the same way it was originally killed. She shook her head in agreement. “Yes, unstoppable. Who the fuck has Zyklon B still?”
“Well, Dorjiev does. And a handy gas chamber.” Somerset said. “We’ll need to keep one of course, to get the time effects to kill Dorjiev.”
Katya smirked, “You remembered that.”
The Ukrainian night was bitterly cold, heavy clouds waited to drop more snow. They crept down tiled corridors by torchlight, stepping carefully past abandoned equipment and bedding. Somerset watched their breath-clouds fade into the air as they descended stairs to below ground.
From the back Patrick said “There’s a horror game called – “
“Not now.” growled Somerset.
Katya waved them forward, pointing to a doorway on the left of the hall. Beyond, the room was stained and broken like the rest, except for a metal door that filled one wall.
“The lab entrance is through this door,” she said “but there’s a camera facing it on the other side.”
Patrick shrugged, opening his bag. “No problem. Just need to know IP or wired?” he asked, pulling out a ruggedised tablet and folding back the cover.
Katya didn’t realise he was asking her until he looked up, expectantly. “Not a fucking clue.” she shrugged.
Krupin moved to cover the hall behind them from the doorway, his rifle held casually. Somerset took the other side. The cold was making his knees and shoulder ache. He flexed them. Maybe he’d been too long in the warmth of South America.
Krupin snapped out the magazine of his rifle, checked it and slapped it back in. The sharp sounds echoed off the tiles.
“Loaded with banes?” Somerset asked .
Krupin checked if Katya could overhear him before whispering back “We meet not only Zalozhniy tonight. You know this is true.”
Patrick slapped the cover back on his tablet, sighing.
“No good?” asked Katya.
He gave her a look. “Of course it’s good, it’s looping an empty sequence frame. We can’t be seen.”
Katya inserted a small key in the large door and turned it. Stepping back she drew her pistol out and pulled the door open, keeping it between her and the other side.
Krupin grunted, “It’s clear” and walked into the brightly lit passage. The passage was clean and new, ending in another solid metal door, smooth except for a keypad. A camera above the door stared down, a red LED blinking slowly.
Behind the open door Katya flicked up the hood of her black gilet and covered her mouth with a scarf. Dorjiev would recognise her instantly, but others might hesitate for a fatal second or two.
At the door, her fingers hesitated over the keypad.
“We ready?” she asked.
“We were ready ten years ago.” Somerset said.
No, we weren’t, she thought, and typed in a ten digit number, pressing the keys hard. With a hiss the door swung silently outwards.
Krupin lead them down the metal stairs behind the door into a open area smelling of bleach. Gurneys and cabinets lined the walls and in a corner stood a huddle of medical electronics. Three doors lead out, next to the middle one was a large metal bath.
“It smells of death” Krupin said.
Katya pointed left, “That’s the gas chamber and storage, ahead is the tunnel entrance, and right are the experiment rooms.”
Krupin gave her a look, and she answered his question before he asked, averting her gaze “Not nice ones.”
“Shit,” Patrick whispered, peering into the metal bath “it’s full of blood.”
Somerset frowned questioningly at Katya, but she shook her head. “I don’t know, that’s new.”
“Let’s not disturb it then. Patrick let’s get the Zyklon. Katya, Krupin take a gurney and get us a Zalozhniy” he said.
The gas chamber was poured concrete free-standing room, fronted by a thick steel door, a wooden cupboard fixed against an outside wall. Patrick and Somerset extracted gas masks and pulled the tight rubber over their faces.
Patrick tugged the cupboard door. Locked. He knelt down, fumbling in his bag for lockpicks. After a few seconds, he lifted the bag up, trying to see in through the gas mask visor.
“Damn it” Patrick pushed the mask up, quickly found his lockpicks and seconds later the cupboard door was open. Inside, a fan and pipe arrangement was connected through the wall into the gas chamber. A metal hopper stood vertically, a faded label read ‘GIFTGAS! – Zyklon’ in German.
“Excellent.” he said.
Katya pushed the gurney slowly across the open area, her eyes on the other doors. The wheels squeaked quietly on the floor. Her skin tingled. Dorjiev was close, maybe waiting on the other side of a door. She angled the gurney out and down the corridor to the room where the Zalozhniy were kept.
Krupin waited for her at the storage room door, listening.
“The dead are quiet.” he said, in Russian.
“We haven’t got much time, let’s do this.” Katya said, but didn’t make a move. Krupin opened the storage room door. Floor to ceiling shelves held coffin-sized boxes. He stared intently into the dark trying to see or hear any movement.
At the other end of the gurney, Katya felt something touch her mind. Dorjiev was reaching out, trying to sense her, read her. He was alert, curious.
A hand landed on her shoulder. She jumped.
“Got some ZB” Patrick said, shaking a hopper noisily.
“Mudak” she swore.
Patrick and Krupin levered open a box on a waist-high shelf. Inside lay a dressed and armed Spetsnaz soldier, dead. They lifted it onto the bed of the gurney and all three busied themselves strapping the cold body tight with thick leather belts.
“I’ll deal with the rest” said Patrick nervously, flicking his torch around the other boxes.
Katya pulled the gurney out of the door, “OK, don’t be -” She froze. “Dorjiev. He knows, he’s running. He knows I’ve come for him.”
A wooden creak sounded from one of the boxes, dust floated down in Patrick’s torchlight. A groan sounded.
“Go!” shouted Patrick pulling his gas mask up over his face. Katya and Krupin banged the gurney down the corridor to the gas chamber, ramming it inside. Somerset slammed the door, and clunked down the locking bar as an angry roar came from the chamber.
Patrick popped the top of the hopper and scattered pellets around the storage room. More sounds came from the boxes, and the squeak of a nail being forced out.
“Oh shit…oh crap…”
The last few pellets were about to fall out, he slammed the lid down trapping a couple that rattled. He bolted out, shutting and barring the wooden door.
“He’s running! For the tunnel!” Katya shouted and sprinted for the open area, pulling her Glock.
Somerset and Krupin ran after her, unslinging rifles. Patrick fumbled his gas mask off, thumps and inarticulate howls echoed behind him.
Somerset caught up with Katya as she stood in the middle of the open area, turning, concentrating.
“The tunnel, he’s going for the tunnel. Fuck.” she cried out, pointing at the middle door.
He followed her finger, out of the bath of blood had risen a small humanoid shape, it was letting itself down over the edge. Another appeared out of the blood behind it, and another. And another.
Katya weaved trying to get past them through the door, but more appeared blocking the doorway, their short arms grasping at her.
“Somerset!” Krupin called from the rear. Somerset spun, caught the bottle of anti-coagulant mid-air and continued round, pitching it hard against the metal bath. It exploded glass and liquid showering Katya, the bath and the humanoids. They shrieked, their blood bodies melting and dissolving.
Katya slipped and scrambled back, cursing, brushing the liquid off her, then jumped the blood and disappeared through the door. The two remaining humanoids slunk back into the blood.
She banged through open doors, down the corridor to the tunnel steps. Dorjiev was getting away. If he escaped he would finish what he’d started on Yasha and use his control of her. Her plan was in motion and she needed to survive both parts of it.
Somerset chased her, shouldering open still swinging doors, rifle ready. Things were out of control, this pell-mell flight felt it was leading into a trap. He didn’t, and couldn’t, trust Katya. But if this mission went as she promised, maybe he could. It probably wouldn’t. But, maybe.
Krupin glared at the bath of blood then at Patrick
“You want to stay here and guard?”
Screams of rage and dying grew louder from the storage room and gas chamber, then splintering wood.
“Not on your nelly” Patrick replied wide-eyed and began to run.
“My what?” Krupin asked.
The entrance to the tunnel was down a metal stairway, Katya took them three at a time, barely controlled. Somerset paused at the top, he could hear a train slowly rolling. He crashed down to the bottom of the stairs.
The stairs opened onto a long bare platform, next to train tracks. 80 feet ahead a train accelerated towards the dark tunnel opening. Katya stood there, staring.
“He’s got away…” she said, her pistol lowering.
Patrick and Krupin clanged down off the stairs, out of breath.
Somerset turned, “Stop that train” he ordered them.
Krupin raised his AK, aiming at the train, Patrick scanned the walls and pointed at an electrical junction box.
“No, that! Shoot that!” he shouted. Krupin opened full auto on it, metal and sparks flew and a terrible grinding sound came from the train as automatic brakes clamped.
Katya laughed and took off down the platform towards the train.
The gunshots were still echoing when a metal object bounced down the stairs. Krupin yanked Patrick away, Somerset stepped forward and booted the grenade onto the tracks.
The detonation was deafening, echoing back and forth off the concrete walls. Old dust filled the air for several seconds. Katya stumbled then recovered her footing.
“We got this Somerset, help her” Krupin shouted, pulling out a thick black disk. A squeeze and the motion sensor on the landmine activated. With a flick of his thick wrist he spun it along the ground towards the stairs.
Somerset pounded along the platform, wiping dust from his eyes. Katya was much closer to the slowing train. A front train door opened and he saw Dorjiev for the first time, the old man glared at them, then swung down and onto the tracks heading for the tunnel entrance. Katya cried out, “Dorjiev!”
Patrick started getting up, but his leg went and he sank back against the wall.
“You hurt?” Krupin asked.
Patrick shook his head tiredly.
A click echoed, Krupin turned to see a heavily scarred man already at the bottom of the stairs, his bulky SMG pointed at them. Krupin raised his rifle, but the SMG chattered immediately. Bullets punched Krupin’s body armour, knocking him down. They tore the concrete wall above Patrick, showering him with fragments.
“Zalozhniy!” Patrick shouted to Krupin
On his back, Krupin nodded and fired a three-round burst between his feet at the scarred man. His shots hit the SMG, buckling metal and twisting the weapon out of the man’s’ grasp. He grabbed for it, but missed and it fell. Anger flared in his eyes, he reached inside his combat jacket.
Patrick lobs remaining ZB. Krupin shoots his SMG out of his hands – he looks pissed off. Freaks out, fumbles for grenade.
Dorjiev ran past the front of the train. For an old man he’s moves fast, Somerset thought. Katya was close behind Dorjiev, passing the final window of the first carriage. Something moved in the train headlights, further down the tunnel Somerset noticed. Someone, or something, was coming down the tunnel towards them.
The situation was still out of control. Katya hadn’t noticed the second figure, Dorjiev was heading to an area on the tunnel wall and whoever was coming down the tunnel was getting closer and closer.
Instinct took over, Somerset fired from the hip while running over the rough tunnel floor. An impossible shot hit Dorjiev in the back of the head. He tumbled to the ground, rolled and started to get up again.
I need a fucking dying Zalozhniy right now, Somerset thought.
Beyond Dorjiev and Katya the figure coming down the tunnel moved into the train headlights. Somerset recognised him. Joe Lisky, the former head of the Lisky Bratva. Now a servant of Dorjiev.
Krupin sprang to his feet and opened full auto. His spirits sank as the bullets hammered home on the scarred man, but he didn’t die. Patrick was right. Zalozhniy. Around his neck were a line of stitches.
“Gas!” Patrick shouted over the deafening rifle fire. He lobbed the Zyklon metal hopper, past Krupin, and limped back and away, pulling out his mask again. The hopper landed past the bottom of the stairs, sliding on the floor, scattering pellets.
Dorjiev was up and moving again despite the head shot when Katya caught him. She slammed into his back, her combat knife flashing down into his thigh, cutting tendons and muscle.
“You die! My Yasha!” she screamed.
She yanked the bloody knife out, swinging back for a second stab. Joe Lisky punched her hard in the face, she rocked back on her heels. Dorjiev shrugged her off, struggling to his feet.
Get out the way Katya! thought Somerset. The three people were a tangle, too confused. He wanted to shoot Dorjiev, he didn’t care about Joe, but Katya… He felt a cool wave as he imagined hitting her. He couldn’t risk it.
“Katya, drop!” he shouted, she made no sign she heard.
“Shit”, he knelt, rifleman position, drawing a bead on Dorjiev trying to get a clear shot past Katya. She was in the way. His finger squeezed the trigger slightly, on the edge of pulling.
A blast wave rolled over him, the afterimage filled his vision and dust coated his mouth. He could see nothing for a second, all sounds were muffled. He checked quickly over his shoulder. Krupin and Patrick were flat on the floor twenty feet behind him, covered in dust and smoke, a grenade hole in the platform near them. The scarred man at the stairs, walked forward, pulling a pistol, eyes boring into their prone forms.
Not got time to deal with that. He turned back to his rifle squinting down the sights.
Katya blocked his view. She had her back to Dorjiev now, looking straight at Somerset.
His heart slowed. Breath caught. Finger tightened.
She dropped out of his line of sight.
Dorjiev. He slid the crosshairs to the centre of Dorjiev’s forehead.
He could see beads of sweat on Dorjiev’s skin.
He could count his hairs.
Somersets finger squeezed harder.
The gun kicked.
He heard a report as if it was a long way away.
Dorjiev’s head jerked, blood sprayed out and he crumpled, hitting the tunnel wall.
Further back along the platform, Krupin raised his head. The scarred man took another step towards them. Krupin heard, finally, the ping of the motion sensor activating. The scarred man and the stairs disappeared in an explosion of flame and dust as the mine detonated.
After long seconds, the clouds cleared. He stood there still, swaying. Half his face was missing, an arm hung from a few ragged tendons, still holding a pistol. Slowly he fell forward, hitting the platform face first, dead.
Joe Lisky swung again at Katya, hitting her shoulder as she stood up. She staggered sideways but stumbled forward towards Dorjiev’s body, ignoring Joe.
Somerset fired again, over Katya, hitting Joe in the face. From kneeling he sprang into a run towards them.
Katya was wildly sawing at Dorjiev’s neck, his blood coating her hands and knife, splattering across her face. She grabbed a handful of Dorjiev’s hair as Somerset got to her and lifted his head free, scraps of bloody flesh dangling. Tears streaked her face, she wiped the back of her knife hand across her mouth, leaving a thick smear of blood.
“Dead” she said.
“Yes, he is.” Somerset replied.
Krupin and Patrick staggered up, grey from the dust, Patrick looking askance at Katya.
“Soldiers ahead and behind” Krupin said grimly to Somerset.
Somerset knelt quickly, examining Joe Lisky’s body. Next to his new cranial hole was an older bullet hole, crudely sewn shut. A Zalozhniy. Dead.
“Cool, there’s a secret passage here.” Patrick called out, from the tunnel wall. Where Dorjiev had been heading, the wall had moved back, revealing an unlit parallel passage beyond.
Somerset studied the pitch black hole, hearing alarms and the approaching crunch of boots.
“Let’s go. Whatever’s down there is probably better than what’s here” he said. Krupin and Patrick quickly moved inside, guns held ready.
Somerset turned to Katya, who hadn’t moved. “Come on. Drop that.”
Her eyes slowly focused on him. She dropped the head and walked unsteadily towards the hole. He watched her as she unconsciously raised a hand to her mouth and took a long lick of Dorjiev’s blood, swallowing.
What did they do to you? he thought. Or what did you do to you?
The passage was wide, solid and wound its way underground for hundreds of yards. It changed into a brick-lined tunnel. Smaller passages and room complexes opened up on either side. Soon there were no other sounds than their footsteps and breathing.
“Katya, are you ok?” Somerset asked as they walked. She had been quiet, subdued.
“I’m fine.” she said, not looking at him.
He sighed, trying to find better words. “The team can fix things. It’s not too late.”
“All the things I needed fixed have been fixed now.” she spoke sharply. He could see her lips pressed tight.
So much for the subtle approach. He mulled several ways of asking, but couldn’t decide, so he just said it. “Did Dorjiev kill Yasha?”
She stopped and stared at him.
“Oh that.” She took a deep breath, “Sort of. Yasha got ill, really ill. Dorjiev had him and threatened, he threatened to…”, she started walking again, “…you know.”
“To make him into a zalozhniy?” Somerset asked shocked.
“Into my zalozhniy.” she said, not looking at him.
Ahead on point, Krupin whistled in surprise, and stopped. He flicked his torch beam around waiting for the others to catch up.
“What’s up?” Patrick asked him.
Krupin shone his torch on a large, tiled swastika on the wall next to him. “This is Wehrwolf bunker.” he said.
Brick tunnel, concrete tunnel, hundreds of yards of it, a virtual maze.
Long journey through old base. At padlocked gate. Moonlight beyond. Blast off padlock, out into trees and surface ruins. Pool. Snow/winter.
Bright moonlight lit the tunnel with a ghostly light, reflecting off pristine, fresh snow. A cold wind drifted flakes through the bars of a rusted iron grate across the exit. Sparse trees and undergrowth lay in front of the entrance as far as they could see. The only movement was foliage in the wind.
There had been no sounds of pursuit from the underground. Outside even the sound of the wind was muffled by the trees and snow. The world was at peace.
Patrick grinned happily. He gave the padlock on the grate a yank and it broke off in his hand, rusted through.
“Let’s get out of here” he said.
Relax – have we actually escaped?
S, Kr, & P’s weapons fly out of their hands.
Maria Orsic’s voice – well done K, now just the final part of your initiation.
K goes for gun, S faster, grabs her, pulls her close, kisses her, she’s surprised, then S bowie knife into K heart, but awkward angle and she’s surprisingly strong.
K fires Glock PB into his heart. He’s hurt.
P calls in helicopter. Maria – So looking forward to seeing you die like your father Somerset.
P and Kr slump asleep.
S pulls gun & shoots K – chunks out of her stomach, spine, but she’s still going. K grabs him, picks S up and slams him onto the ground. S kicks K knee, cracks, then follows up with kick to K head, she falls dead.
S pulls his knife out , takes a moment to close her eyelids. Regret?
Maria appears, lifts S up without touching him, slamming him hard into the ground. Kr wakes up and autofires, P grabs K’s gun.
M slams S down again, he taunts her with how many of her kind he’s already killed, and she HTH.
Kr fires again at her. P shoots M in shoulder, slows her down, she looks shocked..
Helicopter arrives overhead. M staggers, but shakes head and slaps S hard. Hammer grip Bowie knife, punches into M heart. Steps back leaving it there. Kr shoots M. P shoots M.
M runs backwards very fast, spins, drops.
S goes to M, her body aging very fast, she expires. “For my father,” he says. Heli lands.
S finds note in pocket from K. Address in upscale Ukraine. 6 year old boy, Katya’s eyes. S sits him down.
“Let me tell you about your mother.”