Konrad Selivanov lay back in a recliner, trembling, with a wet cloth draped over his forehead and empty eye sockets. His shirt, permeated with sweat, stuck to him like
flypaper. His hands knotted at his sides, squeezing the plush arms of the chair, and he moaned. Charlie Drenth knelt, sober-faced, beside him.
“What do I do, sir?” Charlie asked.
“Forgive me, Master!” Selivanov whispered. “Forgive me!”
“Sir?” Charlie said. “Please, tell me what to do.”
“Charlie.” Selivanov found Charlie’s hand, gripping it. “We have to repair the Engine, Charlie. The Master is so angry, so angry!”
“We will, sir,” Charlie said. “We will.”
“That light!” Selivanov said. “Did you see it, Charlie? So bright!”
“No, sir,” Charlie answered.
The door to Selivanov’s private chambers opened and Charlie stood. A guard entered.
“The boss, is he better?”
“Does it look like it?” Charlie snapped. “Now what do you want?”
“My men have returned from the border camp,” the guard said. “They only located two survivors. Two white women. The reporter woman and another.”
Charlie looked back at Selivanov. “Bring them here.”
Deb and Gale were escorted into the room a moment later, where Charlie had resumed his vigil beside the chair. Selivanov groaned.
“What’s the matter with him?” Gale asked, walking towards them. Charlie stood, blocking her way.
“I’m a doctor,” Gale said, stepping around Charlie. She knelt beside Selivanov, checking his pulse. “Do you know what happened to him?” she asked. Charlie only stared. “Has he been sick?”
“Is he gonna be okay?” Charlie asked.
“He seems to be in shock,” Gale said. “I don’t have any of my equipment, any medicines.”
“So what happened to him?” Deb asked. She stood a few feet away, beside the guard who had been her escort only hours before, during her first visit to Selivanov’s camp. She still carried the AK-47.
Charlie turned to her. “You shouldn’t have that,” he said. “You were exposed. You shouldn’t have that.”
“Exposed to what?” Deb demanded.
Charlie turned back to Selivanov and Gale. “Is he gonna to be okay?”
“I don’t know,” Gale said.
“Do you know anything about what happened to us?” Deb demanded.
“Take that away from her,” Charlie said.
“What?” Before Deb could react, the guard next to her grabbed the AK-47. He drove his elbow into the side of Deb’s head. She crumpled to the floor.
“Hey!” Gale jumped to her feet. Charlie backhanded her and she spun around, falling.
“Take that one to the kennels,” Charlie said, indicating Deb with his thumb. The guard had been joined by another from out in the hall. Grabbing Deb’s arms, they pulled her from the room.
“And you, doctor lady,” Charlie said. “You don’t do as I say, you’ll end up just like your friend. No, worse!”
“What are you going to do to her?” Gale said, getting to her hands and knees.
“We’ll need her to get the machine up and running,” Charlie said.
“What machine?!” Gale said, dabbing at her bleeding nose.
Charlie kicked her, the toe of his boot connecting with her hip, rolling her over. Gale cried out in pain.
“You don’t talk unless you need something for Mr. Selivanov,” Charlie said. “And you don’t leave this room until he’s better.”
Gale sat on the floor, watching him. Charlie couldn’t tell whether she was more afraid or angry. And then he noticed something for the first time. Because he was so concerned for Selivanov, he had failed to see it at first. Charlie wet his lips with his tongue. His anxiety alone kept him from smiling. For the first time, Charlie noticed that Gale had red hair. Just like his little sister.