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Yuki: Good evening, all! Let’s not waste any time and get on with it! The Void is up and running and ready to go.
Assistant: Woah, we’re just jumping right in?
Assistant: I mean, shouldn’t we be focused on—
Yuki: All work and no play and all that jazz. Yada yada yada.
28/04/1985 – 1320 hours
Starshina Arkady Volkov made his way, briskly, through the cramped corridors of the massive Oscar-class submarine. Asleep less than two minutes ago, his body propelled him toward the hatch nearest to the torpedo room. There were still a few photos needed for reconnaissance and not a lot of opportunities—with minimal staffing—in a given area to get the job done properly. Volkov’s legs brought him to a crawl as he neared the stockpile. He knelt down as if to tie his shoe and opened a small chamber in the heel, from it he pulled a camera smaller than his pinky, and discreetly captured the snapshots of the payload.
His heart raced with every photo taken. Relief washed over with every click that wasn’t met with a questioning seaman. A voice in the back of his head shouted at him: ‘Get out! Get out now while you can!’ He took four shots from around the room, attempting to capture as much of the torpedoes and control panels as possible. Once more, he dropped down to one knee and returned the camera to its air-tight container. He stood upright and in a smooth motion of straightening out his attire, activated a tracking beacon within his insignia. Once a day he sent out a signal that lasted three seconds at a time, long enough for him to be spotted back home, not long enough for the local systems to pick up any anomaly.
The passage to the starboard missile bay caught his attention. This was another area he hadn’t the time to access. Might as well get a quick look, he thought even as the alarm bells in his head continued to ring.
‘Dobrý den,’ he said to a couple technicians who were completing their own tasks and checks.
‘Dobrý den,’ they muttered in return, not bothering to look up from the spreadsheets in front of them.
Volkov ducked down and passed through the hatch. He flinched as his eyes took in the details of the scene before him: twelve SS-N-19 cruise missiles, each fitted with a five hundred kiloton nuclear warhead…and there would be twelve more portside. Jesus, what the hell are the Russkies doing with this many nukes? He shook the thought, frightening though it may be, it was not his job to speculate, he was merely to report the facts to his superiors. And not get caught doing it, the voice in his head scolded. He took heed of the warning and went back to his bunk for more sleep. He’d think of a reason to be in the missile bays long enough to get detailed pictures.
Volkov was out as soon as his head hit the pillow. Hours, unfortunately, passed like seconds and he was brought from his slumber with a shake of his arm.
‘What? What is it?’ he groaned, rolling over to face the person attempting to wake him.
A young man stood there, slack-jawed, holding two bowls of vanilla ice cream. He seemed stunned. ‘W-why are you speaking English?’
Volkov lunged at the ensign, pinning him against the bunks opposite. As he put him in a stranglehold, the plastic bowls dropped to the floor. Only a few more seconds’ worth of struggle and Volkov wrenched the man’s neck, killing him. He dropped down, face-first into the ice cream.
Not good. Definitely not good.
He pressed the emergency tracking beacon and made his way out of the dormitory.
Volkov passed through the corridors, trying to keep his composure and look as inconspicuous as possible. Upon reaching his exit, the emergency klaxon sounded.
‘Up ladder!’ he said halfway up the tube to the dorsal hatch. He poked his head into the cold spring air, squinting as his eyes adjusted to the blood orange glow of the twilight sun. Three of his shipmates who were still topside after the earlier drills had expressions ranging from confused to worried etched into their faces. Volkov continued upward as they questioned him.
‘What’s happening now?’
‘This another dri—’
‘Nyet,’ he answered, ‘Real thing. I think I heard that someone’s dead. Down in the dormitory.’
The three men shared looks of horror. ‘What the hell?’
‘That’s all I overheard,’ Volkov explained. ‘Everyone is being assembled in the canteen now.’
‘God help us,’ one of the sailors said, flicking his cigarette into the icy waters of the Atlantic. One by one they descended and he followed partway before climbing back up and shutting the hatch behind him.
‘This is not going to be fun,’ he muttered to himself, trying to mentally brace himself for the sting of the saltwater.
Volkov pressed a hidden button on his shoulder insignia, which let out a barely audible ping every second; he turned his body slowly until the ping was a constant tone. The boys weren’t far off. They had been catching his signals after all.
What exhaustion he felt over the past several days in a cramped sub left him the moment the choppy waters smacked against his flesh. He surfaced and brought in a lungful of fresh air and swam forward. Not the way he intended to leave the mission, Volkov thought, but there had been no other choice. Besides, even without the full mapping of the sub, he’d be able to help piece everything together with his memory. And the missiles…he didn’t have the photographic evidence, but the United States and British governments would not take chances with the Russkies playing around with that many nukes.
The Sevastopol began to submerge. Volkov halted his progress and turned around to watch. Not terribly surprising, he thought, they’ve a murderer on board, no escape from below. He continued with his swim for a half hour or so before his guys surfaced a good thirty metres in front of him.
His smile faltered as the water cleared from the sub’s matte black sail, exposing a blood-red star.
Assistant: That one was strangely…normal.
Yuki: Hey, they can’t all be horrors and other worldly beings.
Assistant: You’ve been acting weird all day…are you really okay?
Yuki: Yes. Of course I am. Why wouldn’t I be.
Assistant: *picks up a notebook, quickly scribbles down a message, and passes it to Yuki*
Yuki: *reads the message and nods*
Assistant: All right everyone, that’s all we got! Please take care getting home…if you happen to feel a little strange after your visit, please visit your nearest hospital for an x-ray…and, umm…definitely don’t harass electronic store employees for RF scanners.
Yuki: Good night everyone. See you all next time. We’ll definitely be operating as normal. Completely normal.
Assistant: Yes. Definitely.