by Bryan Cole
The mesh confounded Hatcher almost as much as it had helped him. Designed for covert ops to mask artificial limbs against casual scans, the synthetic mesh was not quite as fragile as a butterfly’s wing, but it certainly did not appreciate rough handling. Hatcher had made it part of his post-op recovery regimen, and had gingerly kept it moist and wrapped using paper towels, old newspaper, and, on the Trans-Siberian mag-lev, rolls of toilet paper. He knew that Dragon would have the contacts necessary to get him some more, but he carefully worked the electric weave back into evenly dispersed bunches so that he could at least get to Dragon. His scan-defeating lacework back in place, Hatcher carefully re-wrapped his arm with the polyprene diving material he’d acquired during a lunchtime shopping trip. Putting his jacket back on he walked out from the bathroom stall after giving another flush to the pressure-toilet.
The highly attractive, if strangely calm, lady was back at the bar. She was one of those people who could look composed sitting in the middle of a typhoon. A beauty that came about from a strongly centered peace of mind. Hatcher felt uncomfortable with all the activity in the club. The urban jungle had never really taken to Hatch the way that the Malaygay jungles had, although he had since learned many tricks that would help conceal him in the concrete version.
“I hope you remembered to wash your hands?” The blonde vision remarked to him as he sat down to a (thankfully full) glass of bourbon.
“Yeah. They teach you that in the service.” He remarked, hoping to get something resembling conversation rolling with this snippet of voluntary information.
“Really? Big guy like you, I figured you for a dilettante, arguing at the cafe with the proletarianiks about the state of the world.” Hatcher wasn’t bright in the book-smart sense, but he got the jab.
“Well, I needed to do something to help me sound smart.” He was wandering out into deep here. Best to switch tracks if he got the opportunity.
“I need you for something.” She said to him, cutting the dialogue and looking directly at him.
“Sure ma’am. Is this professional….or personal?” Absolute cheese, he thought. Why did you even go there?
“I’m afraid it’s professional, but for you, I imagine, possibly personal as well.” Was this lout hitting on her? It’s a good thing Dragon doesn’t have tits, Alek thought. “I think you’d appreciate a slightly warmer climate. And Dragon would like to see you as well. That is after all why you travelled all the way from…”
“A good ways off, yes.” Hatcher finished her question. He had gotten used to the mixed feelings he could produce. A man could only carry so much death with him until the smell permeated all he wore. Or touched. He blanched, as he always did, at the thought of his past.
“Nothing too dramatic. No suitcases or disks, I’m afraid.” Alek handed over what looked to Hatcher to be a keychain. “I’d like you to take it to Dragon for me. He’s at his casino in Madrid. We can arrange for papers to get you to Spain, and I understand that I am to offer you a train ticket to assist you in getting there if you would like.”
“That’d be great.” Hatcher didn’t fume on the outside, but his pride took a moment to struggle with the concept: Errand boy. Still, he’d get to see Dragon, and that was why he’d come all this way in the first place, wasn’t it? Didn’t he want to see the man who’d helped him get free? A part of him realized that this was the foreseeable future. He owed Dragon; owed him a good deal. He’d need to learn to suppress these reactions or risk offending the wrong person…or worse still, isolate himself from a very powerful person in the European community. If he was going to play ball he would need to be ready to do mundane work, and he suppressed the urge to explore what else might be mundane. Time had dulled his sense to how much Dragon had helped him before and he reminded himself that he would do well to start remembering.
Within the hour Hatcher had finished two bourbons, been given his train ticket along with his bar tab. Hatcher clipped the keychain onto the aluminum keys he had picked up from a vendor in the streets of Korfovskiy: Better to look like he had somewhere that only he could get into. It was the little things that counted when you wanted to avoid surveillance.
He contemplated saying goodbye to the blonde, but thought better of it and faded into the Moscow streets. He was sure they would be watching for a portion of his journey anyway, just to make sure he wasn’t going to burn them.
The Byelorussky Station was every bit as matter-of-fact as it could be. The strata of society represented in the station’s lines was quite narrow, quite smelly, and very loud. Identity number two, Javier Pavlovovich, son of a Russian father and Spanish mother, boarded Express No. 3094 at 02:00 (a.m.) Moscow Standard Time. Settling into his coach carriage and getting the complimentary pillow and blanket from the storage bin, Hatcher got ready to grab some downtime before the sun beat a path into the carriage. As Hatcher nodded off he calculated in his head that he had about 12 hours on the train until they crossed into Spain.
Thinking about the blonde he wondered, as he always did when his brain was restless, how things could have been different.