An Alex Krycek backstory for the Sanctuary universe
After the first distribution of their
"A place I keep," she says, turning to me now. "Under the radar." There's a momentary sharpness in her gray eyes that says this is a secret she guards tightly, one she's trusting me not to give away. Then her expression changes. "I thought you'd need a place to stay. It seems prudent at this point not to stay where you could be noticed."
Hi, how are you doing? Have a nice flight? But I guess we'll get to that. As usual, her mind's probably on a dozen strategic details. And I can't blame her for that.
The door swings open and we go inside. It's a tiny place: little living room, a kitchen alcove and another door that I assume leads to a bathroom and bedroom. Just a couple of pictures on the wall, a plain sofa and chair, a small sound system sitting on a built-in bookshelf on the wall, with a few books above it. Not the vacant look you get from a hotel room, but not decorated--claimed--the way women tend to do with their personal space. Which is smart. Even though nobody's supposed to know about this place, she's not taking chances.
"So," she says, taking off her raincoat and sitting down in the chair. She's wearing a turtleneck sweater, kind of a creamy color, and gray slacks. I want to pull her up out of the chair, nip at the side of that pale neck, press her against me until we touch off the kind of white-hot fusion we sparked the last time we were together, in Cali.
But who knows if things will even go that way. It's business first--business that could mean the difference between life and death a few years down the road.
I sit down on the couch and rearrange the dead arm. "Like I said," I start, referring to the e-mail I sent her the day before, "for the most part things went pretty smoothly. The people with injection reactions who came back to the health center, the doctors didn't seem too concerned. No obvious panic about what it might mean. Still, they did say they were going to check with the manufacturer about the batch."
She looks tired suddenly.
"We got that covered?"
"We should. But it depends who they talk to. There's a phone number included with each shipment; it goes to one of our people who will address any concerns. The problem will be if someone already has a personal contact inside the manufacturer we're claiming to be, and calls them directly. If they go that route, we could be in trouble."
I let out a slow breath. "Outside chance," I say.
And so it goes for a while. We talk shop, compare notes, go over what's crucial, avoiding the messy work of figuring out where the two of us stand after Cali, when things took a turn I don't think either of us had anticipated.
Our first vaccine distribution hasn't raised any critical red flags--so far, anyway--and now we can count 12,000 people protected from the Oil: 2,500 vaccinated at the CamGen research facility in Toronto, 500 each at three universities in the Boston area, plus 7,000 staff and troops at Wright-Patterson air base and the Naval Training Station north of Chicago. The military base results have shown, though, that we're better off slipping in our product where other shots are being given at the same time, so any side effects won't be easily traced to our vaccine.
Eventually things start to wind down. Marita gives me a weary smile, the first real break in her Superwoman façade since we've been here.
"You look like you haven't taken that vacation," I say.
For a split second she starts to bristle, but then her head relaxes; she lets it fall back against the chair.
For a moment I just watch her, the way her hair falls onto the cushion, softer somehow than whatever she does to it during the work week. "More to deal with than usual?"
"Yes." She looks up at the ceiling, seeming to study the shadows or shapes or maybe just something inside her head. "I don't know which is worse," she says finally. "The preparation or the waiting afterward."
"I hear you." I let out a sigh and loosen a little.
"Two weeks until your orthopedic appointment, am I right?" She glances over at me.
I nod. Time to get the prosthesis retooled, pain that it is. "And the next batch of vaccine? It's going to be ready December 8th?
She nods, but her eyes are closed. She opens them. "I can't say precisely what my schedule might be then, depending on..."
I wait a couple of beats. "What?"
"I'm not sure if I'll be able to get away, either because of commitments here or because the board might be watching me. Would you be able to make the pick-up then?"
"As far as I know, sure." I give my most casual 'no big deal' shrug but this is exactly what I've been waiting for--a sign of trust, the kind that will lead to her giving me that access code. This place she's brought me is another good sign. Both really good; I smile to myself. When I refocus on Marita, her eyes are closed again.
I take in a slow, quiet breath and clear my throat. "Looks like you've had a long day," I say, as casual as I can. "Maybe you should take a load off."
But instead of the reaction I'm hoping for, she sits up, one of those quick switches she does, like the one from soft/drowsy woman in bed to near-instant strategist.
"I have a commitment," she says, reaching beside the chair for the bag she's brought with her, pale hair slipping to one side as she does it. "A function at the British embassy. It's imperative that I make an appearance."
She takes a small pouch from the bag and disappears into the hallway. I take a deep breath and force myself to switch gears and focus on my plans beyond this meeting: heading back to D.C., where I'll hang out until I need to fly to Brussels. Got to check in with Ché there's always the chance he'll have come across some useful intel. And I'd probably better make sure I know what Mulder is up to, in case he's on the road to causing some disaster we haven't caught wind of yet.
When Marita comes out again, she's wearing a long, skinny skirt--some kind of silky stuff, a deep blue--and a sleeveless velvet top to match. Diamond necklace, earrings to go with it. Her hair's swept up and fixed somehow at the back of her neck. I tell myself not to gape.
"Nice," I say.
"You aren't, uh, expected to show up alone at these things, are you?"
"I have an escort."
Very matter of fact, but her words hit me like a punch in the gut.
"He's a childhood friend. From home," she adds. "He needs to be seen in certain social circles. As do I. It's convenient--an exchange of favors."
I try for a neutral shrug, wondering how far the 'favors' extend. Why has she bothered to come here at all if she's going off somewhere? "Have fun."
"It's business, Alex." She drills me with one eye, letting me know that I haven't exactly succeeded in hiding my reaction. "It keeps my contacts active, keeps critical doors open."
"Then it's a good thing."
"Tiring, but necessary." She picks her coat off the chair back and slips it around her shoulders.
"So will I catch you again tomorrow, or..."
Or is this it?
"I'm not sure how long this will go on." She hesitates. "Yes. Tomorrow, definitely. I'll call you first."
And with a few instructions about the phone and there being food in the fridge, she's gone, the door clicking closed behind her.
After a few seconds I stand and look around, wondering again what I've gotten myself into, working with a woman like this. After the first time, I told myself I'd never do it again. Apparently I'm a slow learner.
But this is different. Everything's on the line here; it's not like I have a choice.
I go into the kitchen, poke around in the fridge, take out the various deli boxes she's brought and serve myself up something to eat. It's been six hours since lunch and I'm starving, so I down the stuff quickly, then set my plate in the sink, wander into the bedroom and pause in front of the window with its small, bordered panes. It's nearly dark; in the beam of a streetlight below I can see the reds and oranges of leaves putting on their final show of the season.
Before winter comes. My head fills with cold, gray impressions, but not of the area around Sverdlovsk where I grew up: instead, they're images of cities left blasted and hollow, mass graves, temporary survivors with sunken eyes and hardly any meat on their bones. The insides of silos--
I catch myself, move away from the window, go into the living room and turn on a couple of lights. Push out a breath and take a glance around me. Well, no use wasting time and opportunity. I should take a look around, see what there is to learn here. She's got to figure I'll do it.
The place is more revealing than I'd figured on. In the built-in drawers below the bookcase there are pictures, family photos for the most part: one drawer of miscellaneous, one for her father and another for her brother. I think about it: the fact that she keeps them, but not at the place where she lives most of the time. She's got a penchant for compartmentalizing.
This flat is at the end of the building, so the bedroom wall slopes down on one end and above the window, giving the room a close, almost attic feel. For some reason--I can't pinpoint why--I think maybe that appeals to her. There's a double bed, a dresser with a doily on top and a little glass bottle shaped like a bird set in the center, a rocking chair with no arms. A shawl with fringes is laid over the back of it.
I check the closet: a small selection of clothes, pretty much something for every occasion; a shoe rack; an organizer with boxes on the shelves. I take one down and look inside. Trinkets: a pencil box, a brightly hand-painted bird, a ceramic pin of some primitive flying figure--things she probably brought with her from Peru when she was fifteen, when the old buzzard tightened the thumb screws on her father. I close the box and put it back in its place. It's like she keeps her past here, the life she's set aside--been forced to set aside--and once in a while she comes back to look at it, maybe touch it for a little while to remind herself it wasn't all a dream, that once she had a life that didn't revolve around the countdown to a nightmare future.
I find myself at the window again, one foot tapping insistently against the floor. It's dark outside now. Turning away, I glance around the bedroom and frown. I could use a wall to put my fist through right about now. I can't seem to shake the feeling that I'm treading water, or wasting time waiting for something undefined that I'm not sure will even come to pass. Probably just the aftereffect of watching hundreds of doses of vaccine being given, then waiting and hoping like anything there wouldn't be the kinds of reactions or unforeseen glitches that would expose us or halt the progress of the Plan. Like Marita said, it's hard to tell which is worse: the preparation or waiting afterward for one--or maybe both--shoes to drop.
Still, why did she even bother to tell me about this embassy party? Would have been a lot easier to just give me a line about having an appointment somewhere.
She could have changed her clothes somewhere else, too.
You don't own her. It's not like she's breached some kind of contract.
True. What happened in Cali seemed pretty overwhelming, but neither of us has made any professions of... anything. No rules were laid down; it didn't seem like that kind of thing. But this guy, her 'friend'...
You sound like your own little soap opera.
Maybe it's a test to see how far I'll trust her, one of her 'I don't know you well enough' things to see if I'm worthy of whatever privilege she may decide to grant me. Like Jeremiah Smith at his inscrutable best a couple of months back, telling me he had critical information to share with 'the right person', though he hadn't decided who that would be. Obviously not me, thanks for the big vote of confidence.
I sit down on the corner of the bed, let my head drop into my hand and close my eyes. Pretty soon a yawn overtakes me, and then another.
Go to bed, Aleksei. You're not doing yourself any good like this.
I sit up. There's no TV here to waste time in front of, either, so I dig through my bag for a clean pair of boxers, shower and get ready to turn in. When I'm done I set a clean socket liner beside the arm and harness on top of the dresser and pause. Reaching for a drawer knob, I hesitate and then pull it open. A camisole or maybe a short nightgown, all folded nicely, a soft gray-green color in some sort of silky material. Skinny little straps. I run the back of a finger across the smooth surface and close my eyes.
Lying in bed a few minutes later, I glance up at the dull pattern of light on the ceiling. Marita's right. I don't know her, and a couple of rolls in the hay doesn't change that. But we're making progress. She brought me here. And she wants me to pick up the next batch of vaccine on my own. That has to say something; hopefully it means she's getting closer to giving me that retrieval code, which could be critical down the road if something goes wrong.
Sighing, I roll onto my back to escape the thump-thump-thump of my pulse in my ear. There's got to be a way to get away from this tension, the buzzing that never seems to completely leave these days. At least long enough that I can fall asleep.
Deliberately I make myself picture the approach to the island: the first
glimpse of the mountains in the distance, cool and blue, each paler than the one
in front of it, like a series of cardboard cut-outs in graduated colors; the
gentle dipping and rocking of the ferry and the brisk, salt bite of the breeze
that makes me squint as my destination inches closer.
"Alex?" Marita's voice comes tentatively.
"Yeah." I'm thick-headed, groggy as hell.
"Sorry to disturb you..."
I squint toward the alarm clock on the bedside table--4 a.m.--and pull up, my heart beating a little faster; anything happening at this hour can't be a good sign. Marita comes in and stands beside the bed in the dark.
I frown. "What's up?"
"When I got home I received some news from Davies." The Brit.
That 'ah'-and-a-pause thing she does, and then her voice. "He's been shot." She puts one knee on the edge of the bed and sits down there. "He's dead, Alex."
"What?" I blink in the darkness, trying to work some moisture into my eyes.
"Apparently the board finally had enough of him."
"They had it done." It's a question and a statement both. For years I've dreamed of getting news like this--fantasized about a hundred ways to take him out myself. But this, now... "Details?"
"I don't know," she says. I can hear the smile in her voice, though, see the corners of her mouth upturned, even in the shadowy light. "It was just a brief message. Voicemail."
Part of me wants to get up and dance on the bed; the other part feels strange. He's always been there, the NKVD agent parked at the curb of my life in his Black Maria, its motor running.
"I thought you'd want to know," she adds, a seeming afterthought.
"Yeah." I shake my head. I know the reality of it isn't sinking in. My mouth wants to grin but my brain is stuck in neutral. "So when'd you find this out?"
"About three hours ago. I'd gotten home and was putting my things away when I noticed the light flashing on the phone. I was... shocked. I think I still am."
"And between then and now?"
She turns away slightly. "I tried to sleep, but--"
Probably she couldn't. But it's not what she says.
"I thought you'd want to know."
Flashes of memory flicker through my head: his visits to the orphanage; the first time he took me to the camp and made me watch the Oil invade a man. The strange little 'homecoming' he had for me in Tashkent after I'd finished my tour in Afghanistan. The car bomb, and the smothering blackness of the silo with its thick, chilled walls. I shiver in spite of myself.
" 'S cold in here," I say.
"You haven't slept, have you? It's the middle of the night."
She shrugs. Lets out a sigh.
"Come on," I say, pulling back the blankets. "Take a load off. Warm up." I wait for a reaction. "It's nice in here."
She shrugs, smiles just slightly.
"I give a passable back rub."
She seems to take a minute to consider that. Then she's standing, slipping off her sweater, unbuttoning her pants. She lays the clothes over the back of the rocker and slips into bed beside me. I reach out, pull her close. She turns away and settles back spooned against me. I reach for the side of her neck and start to rub, but she takes my hand, pulls it around her waist and holds it there.
"I always thought it would make a difference," she says finally. "Through the years, thinking about this happening. That it would change things. But it doesn't. The situation's still the same."
"Let it go, Marita. Get some rest."
I bury my nose in the hair at the back of her neck and close my eyes.
And we doze off for a while, maybe an hour or so. When we wake up, we're pretty much wrapped around each other, and you can guess where things go from there. "Smile," I say at one point, looking up at her when we're in the thick of things. And she does. For some reason it makes us both laugh--the old man's dead, after all, never to breathe his sour breath on either of us again--and everything moves pretty quickly after that.
Lying there afterward, my fingers trace the place where her hairline dips into a 'V' in the center of her forehead. Marita's loosening, starting to drift. My fingers slip down to her shoulder, touching on something soft that got pushed aside in a hurry a little while ago. Curious, I pull up slightly, careful not to disturb her. Slowly my mouth comes open: it's the little pink camisole, the one she wore in Cali.
I ease my head back onto the pillow, arch carefully to stretch my neck and lie there smiling to myself, listening to the soft rhythm of her breathing, the weight of her body against my hip. Until a sudden soberness comes over me.
"About the old man. You should check for details. Just to be sure."
"Yes," she says drowsily. "In the morning."
Beyond the window, the sky's beginning to lighten.
"Sleep, krasavitsa," I whisper. "While you can."
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