An Alex Krycek backstory for the Sanctuary universe
"You make late calls, Mr. Krycek," she says from behind the slightly-opened door. In the dimness, I can't tell whether she's frowning or not.
"I have a schedule to keep."
The door goes nearly closed, the chain drops and the door swings fully open. She's mannequin-perfect in gray slacks and a cream-colored turtleneck. Never a hair out of place. I bet when the wind blows, it goes around her.
She leads me to the living room without any further small talk and settles in a tapestry-print chair. I take my place on the love seat. An overlay floats in my mind--the sway of her hips as I followed her into the room. I push it aside.
"Were your questions answered to your satisfaction?" she asks, one hand coming to rest in the other as she tries to strike a pose somewhere between in-control and negotiable.
"Your people explained themselves pretty well." I lean forward. "The doctor's known you for quite a while, but where did you get the others?"
Her eyes widen.
"Ansbach said this plan was your father's," I coax her. Guess he didn't mention that he'd talked about her family.
She clears her throat. "George Ellison was an associate of my father's." The pharmaceutical exec. "He's dependable and very discreet."
"And Ahsani? She works with you?"
"We have contact, yes. Overlapping projects."
"She know what this is about?"
"No." Her lips close and then open again. "We operate through mutual assistance. Her family wants to come here from Iran but they're not allowed to take any money out of the country, which makes it virtually impossible. I'm working on bringing them here."
"By converting their assets?"
"And in exchange, she'll work your additions into her aid packages."
"She's been told the vaccine is to counter a military threat--an engineered biological weapon."
"Just not engineered on this planet." I'd laugh if it were funny. Instead I shake my head and smooth my thumb along the arm of the loveseat. "So how many of these people know about colonization?"
"Only Miguel." She pauses and drills me with those crystal gray eyes. "Who else would believe it, Mr. Krycek?"
"He works for consortium research?"
She stops, her mouth half-open.
"Your father place him there?"
A muscle in her cheek twitches. "Yes. He's been part of the program since the late '80s."
I glance around. "And your father?" Not a picture of daddy anywhere. Strange, for someone who's taken over his legacy. "How did he end up in this? Was he career syndicate?"
Finally a little heat. She sits up straighter; the corners of her mouth harden. "My father didn't ask for this, Mr. Krycek; he never would have supported the Project. His participation was the result of an accident--chance. And he paid for that turn of events--"
"You think he's the only one?"
The sudden sharpness of my voice stops me. I swallow and make myself sit back against the cushions. Blindsided. Her eyes widen, then slip down to wander among the magazines on the coffee table. One hand presses against the arm of the chair.
I look away and study the pattern of the fabric beside me. Nice move, Aleksei; just let yourself go like a young pig bolting through a hole in the fence.
My mind goes back to the orphanage garden. A pig's managed to make it out of his pen and he's tearing across rows of cabbage and turnips for all he's worth. Vlad goes sprinting after him, knowing he's in for it if the pig gets away. He dives for the squealer but the pig races on--right into the path of a tractor. Instant bacon.
"How long have you known?" Her voice is softer this time, more subdued.
I pull myself back to the room.
"The old man recruited me in '85," I say, clearing my throat. I shrug as slightly as possible against the too-tight harness under my shirt. "I was working as a lab gofer on some of the early research. Didn't have a clue what it was about at the time." I laugh, but it's not very convincing. I'd envied that pig at first, running for his freedom.
Her mouth opens--that preliminary 'ah' comes out--and she closes it again. Silence swallows us. The seconds stretch out; I see the soil of the fields overlaying the carpet, hear Vlad's cries when they beat him for the loss of the pig. The pain of my clenched fist brings me back to the room. I backpedal as best I can, trying to assess how much I've let out. Covarrubias gets up from her chair.
"Would you like a drink, Mr. Krycek?"
"Don't call me that," I say, and shrug. "It's not like we just met. Anyway, it reminds me of the old men in the board room."
She lets out a smile at that, blushes, turns and leaves the room.
Full-out schoolgirl smile. She's actually alive inside that perfect shell of hers.
I get up, stretch my legs and start around the room slowly. A little oval photograph sits on a lamp table, a sepia of a young girl, probably in the early 1900s or before. Another picture sits on the mantel, this one of a couple with three children, about the same vintage as the first. Everybody's giving their best serious portrait pose. The house behind them is big--landowner's housing.
I check the bookcase. Classics: Shakespeare, Dickens, Cervantes, Tolstoy. A pricey-looking copy of Hugo's Les Miserables lies at the end of the stack as if on display. I lift the cover. There's an inscription inside, a long paragraph. Apparently it's a gift to her father from someone named Jaime but it's in Spanish and I can only make out a few of the words.
I close it and move on to a little glass case beside the love seat. On top there's a book of poems--Anna Akhmatova. I run my finger across the cover--dusty, not something she set out tonight for my benefit--and flip it open.
How can you bear to look at the Neva?
Without thinking, I'm back in St. Petersburg, walking along the Neva's frozen canals and feeling like the last man on earth. I can almost feel the chill in my fingers, the bite of the wind against my face.
The clank of glasses pulls be back to reality. I shut the book and turn.
"You read her?" I say, picking up the volume casually.
She stops, surprised by my question. "Sometimes. She has no illusions. I like that."
I tell myself only one drink. She pours, hands me a glass and starts to tell the story of how in 1982 her father's best friend, a scientist, talked him into a trip to the Siberian forest to look for evidence of the mysterious 1908 event. Martín, her father, wasn't crazy about the idea but the two had known each other since they were kids; they were like brothers. In the Tunguska woods, Martín witnessed a period of strange behavior in his friend, characterized by black streaks that seemed to swim through his eyes, though eventually it passed. Back home again, he'd inquired about the phenomenon that had left his friend with no memory of part of the trip. Within weeks he was contacted by a mysterious chain-smoking American who warned him never to speak of what he'd seen. There were threats, and later negotiations, and Martín moved his family to New York to fill a 'diplomatic' appointment. Evidently he was a man with a talent for making valuable connections. But he hated what the group had him doing, and the fact that the old men were only out to save themselves.
"He did what he could. He risked his life to set this--" Her lips close abruptly. She swirls the last of the liquid in her glass and stares at it. She's like a sepia herself. In the next room a clock chimes ten.
"More?" she says, pulling herself together. She stands and picks up the bottle.
She pours us both a little more and returns to her chair. We toast the vaccine and its successful retrieval. I tell her a little about the history of the Russian vaccine--not the politics, but the research itself. She tells me how the old man stumbled his way around the group's demand to see the DAT tape I'd taken with me to Singapore.
Eventually we toast again, this time to fortune: for the luck to pull this operation together and enough time to fulfill it before the colonists come screaming down from the skies.
The talk gets less focused. She quotes a little Akhmatova. Her accent isn't the greatest but she speaks with conviction, not holding back. I say Akhmatova was right about her description of the snow in St. Petersburg. I speak the lines in Russian and they feel good rolling off my tongue; it's been too long. She asks me to recite the whole poem but I change the subject, pleading failed memory.
She's just Marita now and I'm just Alex. She learned about the Oil seven years ago, when her father found out he had less than a year to live. I say the old man had me shoveling horse shit right under the Brit's nose when I first came here. She knows what it's like, pulling up roots and then having to reinvent yourself in another culture half a world away.
Our final toast is to clear, dreamless sleep. I can't even say which one of us suggests it. When I leave, it's with a promise to contact her again within the next few weeks.
In the too-bright light next to the elevator I squint, then step to one side to check the micro-camera I planted earlier on the trunk of a fake tree. Knowledge is power. Still, it was a nice, strange interlude, like one of those Christmas truces on the battlefield at midnight, both sides coming up out of their trenches to exchange what few luxuries they have or to kick a ball around. I wonder what we looked like, two descendants of the project sitting on opposite sides of a room, the mood halfway between a wake and a mutiny, offering our little scraps of stories and information.
I watch the numbers light up overhead, the elevator slowly making its way to where I wait. Finally the doors slide open and I get in, punch 'lobby' and close my eyes against the sudden downward drop. Will I make it through the night without waking from another crazy dream, or from the gnawing of the ghost pains? I feel loose now, warm and fluid, but there's no telling what a few more hours will bring. Maybe I'll luck out and get a rerun of that smile.
The end of the poem hovers in the shadows at the edge of my mind like
an informant waiting to make contact. If I'm careful, I can handle it
without pulling it too far into the light. The black angels' wings are sharp,
The black angels' wings are sharp,
© bardsmaid 2005 |