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(This story happens right after 18. Republic Square Riots)
Karina ‘Bolt’ Ivanova walked out of the silent apartment block and sat down on a nearby bench. She was glad that Aunt Nadia had been relocated to a safe zone but disappointed that she wouldn’t get to see her. Hopefully the phone networks would be restored before too long and they could at least talk.
Safety wasn’t an option for Bolt. As a member of the National Guard, she had been called in to deal with the chaos. It had been kind of Captain Nash to give her a couple of hours but she knew there was no reason to delay heading back to base. Things could change quickly now in this chaotic city and she was alone.
As she stood, Bolt heard movement behind her. Spinning around, she dropped her rifle from her shoulder and into her hands.
‘Hello, stranger,’ said a familiar voice in Russian.
Bolt smiled. ‘Well, well.’
Only a few yards away was her old piano teacher, Sergiy Vovk. A celebrated musician in his native Ukraine, he had taken on a variety of jobs since arriving in San Lazaro many years previously. Bolt had first met him at a party with Nadia – the city’s Russian-speaking community was a small one.
Sergiy kissed her on the cheek then nodded at the apartment building, his face suddenly anxious. ‘Your aunt?’
‘Is fine. Don’t worry. There’s a notice on the board in the lobby. They were all relocated yesterday by some charitable group – hopefully to a safe area.’
‘Ah, that’s a relief. I was coming to check on her.’
‘And what about you?’
‘How can I put this? My … documentation isn’t exactly in order. I’d prefer to stay clear of the authorities if possible.’
‘Sergiy, SL is dangerous. I’m with the Guard: we have weapons, protection, strength in numbers. You’re on your own.’
‘Not quite. I have some very good friends. And a little experience of difficult times.’
Bolt didn’t know the details of the man’s past but her aunt always said he’d had a very eventful life.
‘Shall we?’ said Sergiy, gesturing to the bench. ‘I’ve not seen any CyMS in the area.’
Once they’d sat down, he reached into his jacket and retrieved a small bottle of vodka. He poured some into the cap for Bolt and kept the bottle for himself.
‘Cheers,’ replied Bolt.
‘What have the Guard got you doing?’
‘Nothing too exciting,’ she lied. ‘Patrols mainly.’
Bolt sipped the vodka. She hadn’t seen Sergiy in years but she’d always liked the man. She needed someone to talk to – why not him?
‘Actually, that’s not true.’
‘Two days ago, we were sent to reinforce the cops at Republic Square. There was a big crowd trying to get through the barricades. We had to … I had to … take action.’
The Ukranian nodded down at her rifle. ‘That kind of action?’
She nodded. ‘Wounded three – they all made it. But one guy pulled a handgun.’
‘It’s … not like an army kill,’ she continued. ‘He was a civilian.’
‘But he was a threat,’ countered Sergiy.
‘And you were following orders?’
Sergiy refilled the bottle cap with vodka, taking care not to spill a drop.
‘I know you killed people for the army, Bolt. Many, I believe?’
‘Yes. Yes, I did.’
‘Did you always know why?’
Sergiy turned towards her. ‘This time you did. You were protecting your colleagues and trying to do the right thing. It sounds to me like you took one life to save many more. Bolt, this might have been the best kill of them all.’
‘Thank you, Sergiy. Thank you for saying that.’
Next Story: 39. The Showman