There were tears streaming down their faces, their eyes swollen and red, their noses sniffling and runny. Some type of black clothing was worn by all who filled the chapel, as they mournfully looked upon the casket centered on the low stage. Pictures of young blonde girl were scattered around, with flowers filling the empty spaces. One by one, friends, family and even strangers walked by the casket to stay their farewells. The closest friends and family were left surrounding the casket, holding each other as if they too could disappear at any moment.
As side from the sad scene below, the church was beautiful. It was a small old style nineteenth century chapel, bearing high ceilings with large wooden beams crossing in a simple pattern; two story stained-glassed windows embellished with every color lined the walls; dark wooden pews with old tattered seating, and a well-used platform where the preacher of that young girl would give his sermons every Sunday.
Soon, that said preacher made his way to the collection of people in front of the casket. He said a few words, then prayed for them and sent them on their way. They joined the rest of the congregation outside of the church where the hearse was waiting.
Sitting on one of those high beams, it was a strange filling. Indescribable actually, how are you supposed to feel when you were watching your own funeral? I can’t come up with a word to describe this feeling as I am sitting on one of those wooden beams watching my loved ones cry over my dead body. I kept reminding myself that I’m not a ghost and I’m not actually dead. That body down there is fake, intended for my loved ones to be led to believe I was dead, and that’s how it’s suppose to be. Or at least that’s what the General ordered.
As the chapel emptied, I sighed and decided it was time to go. I didn’t need to watch myself get buried. That would take this odd feeling to a whole other level, a place that I just didn’t want to go. I hopped down from that high beam with grace, landing without a noise. I made my quick exit without being seen, and quickly jogged across the road to my black car that was sitting in a desert. It wasn’t my favorite car, but it was best choice, unmarked and unrecognizable with tinted windows; the kind you see on the streets everyday. I hopped in and peeled out of there. Not literally, that would have made a scene, which would have been bad for me.
I hit the highway and made my way home. As I drove, the scene of my friends crying over the casket played over and over again in my mind. I gripped the steering wheel tightly, trying as hard as I could to focus my current task of driving, but those memories were just too fresh. I took a deep breath, relaxed my grip and switched on the radio hoping the load music would distract me. It didn’t.
Hours later, I finally pulled in to the parking garage of my home; the guard nodded at me and let me through the gate. I pulled the car to stop in front of the small office in the garage. I hopped out and tossed the keys to the valet waiting for me.
“Welcome back, Colonel,” the young officer smiled at me.
I gave him a quick nod in acknowledgement, and then turned as I heard light footsteps coming my direction. I smirked at the young woman that was making her way towards me with a very brisk pace. The bottom of her dark hair was straight down her back, while the top half was pulled back into a ponytail, I believe they called it a half-up-half-down style. It was typical for her, as well as her straight black, knee-length pencil skirt, plain white button-up shirt, and those awful black slip-on shoes. She scrunched her face up into a scowl and pushed her frame-less glasses up while she power-walked.
“Where have you been, Colonel? You were suppose to be here three hours ago!” she reprimanded me loudly as she stopped only a few feet away.
Chuckling slightly, “I had places to be. My assignment was complete and I had time on my hands,” I said snatching the clipboard she was carrying out of her hands, “besides, you aren’t really in a position to be lecturing me, are you Lieutenant Riley?”
Straightening up in a little bit of shock that I used her rank against her, she shook her head, “no, ma’am.”
“Didn’t think so,” I shrugged and started walking toward the elevators located in the center of the large round parking garage. I flipped through the clipboard I had previously snatched while Riley was trailing behind me.
Lieutenant Marie Riley, my personal secretary, but don’t tell her that. She’s my second in command technically. She may look weak and fragile, but don’t let that fool you. Her combat skills are nothing to scoff at. She’s a fast draw with that pistol of hers, which she keeps very well hidden on her person. You’ll be dead before you even see her grab for it. She’s a hell of a doctor, one of the best we’ve got. As good as she is, she’s a little overbearing, but she does a damn good job at keeping the others in line while I am not present.
“Riley, what is this?” I said as we walked up to the elevator staring at one of the papers on the clipboard.
“They’ve spotted him on the Russian boarder about two weeks ago, but they have since lost him,” Riley explained as we stepped on to the elevator and it started making it’s way up.
“Why wasn’t I informed earlier?” slight irritation was laced through my voice as I flicked my eyes to hers.
“You were a little preoccupied at the time, ma’am,” she reasoned.
I breathed out hard in annoyance as the elevator dinged on for the third floor where my office was located. Stepping out I continued to look through the documents on the wooden clipboard. Not paying much attention to those around me, I blindly made my way on the familiar path to my office. Although I wasn’t paying any attention, I could still feel the eyes of those I command watching me as I past.
It wasn’t surprising as I have been gone for over two years and to show up suddenly would be shocking for anyone. I wouldn’t have come back so early if the General hadn’t order me to. I was doing a fine job of commanding my Sector from a distance, but I guess the General didn’t think so.
So, here I am back in my office, trying to get everything back together once more. It surprised me really that almost all of my orders were followed while I was away. I guess even if they couldn’t see me, my officers still believed I was around. Either that or Riley did a pretty damn good job keeping everyone in-line.
I let out the breath that I didn’t know I was holding as I threw the clipboard on my desk, making the other papers that were already there go flying to the floor and threw my self in the comfy black chair that was waiting for me. I leaned back, crossed my arms and closed my eyes, mentally preparing myself for what’s to come. All the chaos that would ensue now that I am physically here. There are several that still don’t know of my arrival. They know the orders, they know I’m returning, but they didn’t know when. However, they would know soon enough. News around here travels faster than the speed of light.
Taking another deep breath, I open my eyes and glanced around my office. Nothing has changed since I left. Everything was exactly where I had last seen it. My office was small. No windows, only a couple of long florescent lights on the white ceiling. The walls were white too. I had a dark brown desk with paper, and the typical office type things on it, a lamp, clock, pictures etc. My desk faced a glass wall where I could see all of those under my command working at their respective desks. The glass door was on the very left side of the glass wall.
After taking a moment to readjust myself in to the familiarity of my office, I turned to face the door. Riley was waiting for me to be ready. I guess she knew I needed a moment. I nod at her to express that I was ready for whatever she is about to throw at me.
“First, Colonel Romanov, I’d like to officially welcome you back to Area 84,” she spoke softly like if she didn’t I would disappear again.
To be fair, I did randomly disappear two year ago without warning. But, hey, I kept in contact, most of the time.
“Thanks,” I smiled at her while leaning forward over my desk, placing my elbows down to support me, and then I motioned for her to continue.
“Second, I’ve got every man I can spare searching for him on the Russian boarder as we speak,” she said giving me a grave look.
I shook my head, “bring them home.”
“W-what?” She stuttered. I don’t usually contradict her orders.
Looking back up I explained to her my reasoning, “if he was there two weeks ago, then he will be long gone now. Especially if he knew that we were on to him. There is no need to waste that manpower. So, bring them home.”
“Yes ma’am,” she nodded and made a quick note on her tablet that she must have picked up from her desk on the way to my office, “You also have a meeting with the General tomorrow morning at seven.”
“I have a what?” I asked staring at her.
“The General scheduled a meeting with you for tomorrow morning at seven,” Riley repeated then looked at me knowingly, “is that going to be a problem?”
“No,” I shook my head and let out a sign, “No, its not a problem. I just didn’t think he knew I was back yet or that he would want to see me so soon.”
“I see,” Riley nodded, “You also have a Black Ops planned for tomorrow night against Sector Eight. Thirteen officers allowed.”
“Seriously! A Black Ops? Already?” I practically yelled, “The General is trying to kill me, I swear!”
Black Ops. A training session devised and run by the General himself. Designed as a mock battle, it was originally intended to ensure that the Colonels were doing their job and that all operatives were being trained to up to par. Now it seems the General sees it as a game. The General selects two Sectors to go head to head. He then designates the amount of officers allowed, the location, time, and basically any other rule that he comes up with. The only permanent rule that stands is the Colonels always participate, no matter what.
“Yes, ma’am,” Riley nodded, “It was suppose to be tonight, but I was able to push it back to tomorrow because Colonel Mason of Sector Eight was scheduled to arrive from his latest assignment this morning.”
“Colonel Mason,” I repeated burying my face in my hands, “that is one person I really am not looking forward to seeing. He’s such an ass.”
I heard Riley chuckle softly at my blunt opinion of another Colonel. She doesn’t say anything, for fear of loosing her position, either through pissing me off or through bad mouthing a superior.
Then I realized the other piece of information she gave me, “Thirteen officers? He wants me to use all thirteen of my operating officers? Are they all even here?” When I see her nod I continue, “Damn, what’s the location?”
She hesitated a moment before responding, “training field 42.”
“Holy shit,” I swore leaning back in my chair and crossing my arms, “The General really is trying to kill me. He wants me to go up against Mason, and probably the best thirteen snipers he’s got, in Fatality Field?”
Fatality Field; also known as training field 42. The most dangerous training field Area 84 has. No one has ever successfully completed a training session there without at least one casualty. No one really knows what’s in there. Its fenced off so whatever's in there, stays in there and probably for a very good reason. According to the rumor it was designed as a torture device. They would throw prisoners in there to fend for themselves. If they lived after one week, they were free. The rumor also says that not one prisoner ever survived. That’s just the rumor though.
“Yes ma’am,” Riley nodded and I slumped forward on to my desk.
“Is that it?” I mumble just loud enough for her to hear.
“Yes, ma’am. Aside from the mountain of paper work that you have managed to spread throughout your office,” Riley answered with a slightly amused, yet irritated tone.
I must have messed up something of hers again, and I haven’t even been back an hour!
“Finally finished!” I said throwing one of my pens into the cup that held several more.
“Done?” Riley asked a moment later poking her head into my office.
“You’re still here?” I asked glancing over at the clock on my desk, “It’s like one in the morning!”
“Yeah,” Riley nodded stepping into the doorframe and leaning up against one side of it, “I wanted to make sure you settled in alright. You did just get back this afternoon.”
“Oh, thanks,” I said giving her a small smile, then standing up to gather my things.
“Heading home?” Riley asked.
“Yeah,” I nodded picking up my bag once I finished putting a few things in it.
“I’m sure Colonel Belovik and Lieutenant Belovik are waiting for you at home,” Riley smiled at me then walked to her desk and switched off the remaining lights.
Home. Daniil and Dmitri are waiting, I thought smiling. I couldn’t wait to see them.
I reached over and turned off the lamp on my desk and headed out of my office, locking it behind me. Riley was waiting for me by the elevator with her bag in hand. As soon as I got there, she pushed the button to call the elevator and it immediately opened.
As I rode in the elevator with Riley, I couldn’t help but feel excited. I was finally going home after two years of being away. Even though I left on my own accord, I still missed my boy. I even missed being here and working.
The elevator eventually dinged on the top floor, which really wasn’t a floor at all. It was just an enclosed platform for the railway to the dormitories, where we all lived.
Dormitories makes us sound like we’re in college or something, but really it’s more like a large apartment complex. Each place is nice but the Colonels had the top floor, which was like living in little pent houses. We lived rent-free and didn’t pay utilities either, although we had to buy our own food and keep the place clean.
Daniil and I lived on the top floor in one of the twelve apartments. Although Dmitri has his own place on the floor bellow us, he typically lived with his brother or stayed with me. His place as he says, “just doesn’t feel like home.”
Riley and I called for one of the fancy rail cars and stepped inside when it arrived. It was like one of those modern trains you see in the movies. This whole time we moved in silence, I think we were just too tired to talk. It had been a long day and we were both just ready to be home.
When the railcar reached the platform connected to the dormitories, we stepped off and got on another elevator. I got off first, then Riley who lived one level below me.
When I stepped off the elevator, I said good night to Riley then turned to face the familiar hall. My apartment was the last of the twelve on this floor to be built so it was at the end of the hallway. Originally the building had been designed and built when there were only twelve sectors, but when Sector XII was established a few years ago, they had to find away to add on another apartment at the end of the hall. Some how they managed, but to this day I didn’t know how.
I took a deep breath and made my way down the long hall. When I reached my apartment I pulled out my keys, unlocked my door and pushed my way in.
Walking in I could only smile softly at the scene before me. Daniil, my older brother, was sleeping on the couch, although being well over six feet tall made his feet hang off the end. Dmitri, who was also well over six feet, was curled in the over sized chair to the left of the couch. Apparently they had at least tried to wait up for me. I quietly shut the door behind me so I wouldn’t wake them.
I glanced around at my apartment in silence, like my office it hadn’t changed either. Straight in front of me across the room was my large, black baby-grand piano on the elevated platform with the large bay window behind it. To my left was the small living room, where my brother and fiancé were currently sleeping. It wasn’t a big area, but it was slightly sunken in with a few steps leading down to a dark hard wood floor. There was black leather couch facing a flat screen, with two over sized chairs facing each other and a coffee table in the center. The back left wall was lined with bookshelves and a small door leading to laundry room.
To my right was a modern, updated kitchen, complete with black sleek cabinets, dark granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances. The whole kitchen sat on an elevated platform with a few steps leading up to it. The back wall of the kitchen had fridge with the stove and oven next to it. The large island was higher on the side that faced the living room so the bar stools would fit underneath it. The sink also sat in the island with the dishwasher next to it. The typical appliances sat on top of the counter tops, coffee maker, toaster, etc.
To the left and the right of the piano were doors leading to the bedrooms. The left side was the guest rooms; it was a Jack and Jill type layout with two rooms with a bathroom in between. To the right was my bedroom. The large master suite was beautifully simple with a king sized bed, huge bathroom and a walk-in closet. I couldn’t wait to sleep in that bed again.
I looked over to my brothers once more and I figured that I should wake them before they sleep in that awkward position. They would fully regret it in the morning. I put my bag down on Kitchen Island and walked over to where Dmitri slept.
I studied them both before I woke them. Dmitri looked mostly the same, while Daniil looked a lot older then I remember. Although it still gets me how much they look a like. They both had the same deep chocolate brown hair that always lightened a little bit during the summer, the same almost black eyes and the same strong jaw with a hint of a five-o-clock shadow. They were the exact same height too. They were they type that if you look at them you would think Russian.
Dmitri always wore his hair a little longer and a little shaggier. I mentally laughed and thought he needed a haircut again. While Daniil’s hair was always short and tamed. Of course they were wearing similar clothing too. Cargo pants, combat boots, leather jacket and tight black shirts. Aside from the age, you would think they were twins.
I frowned when I looked over at Daniil, his dark hair a little bits of gray in it already. He wasn’t that old. I mentally did the math, if I was 27, that would make him 38. I shocked myself; I didn’t realize Daniil was almost forty. Most operatives retire or are killed by the time they are forty. I shook my head, pushing the thought to back of my mind.
I gently put my hand on Dmitri’s shoulder and shook him slightly. I jumped when his hand came flying and grabbed my hand that was holding his shoulder.
“Oh, Gin,” Dmitri said with his steady deep voice when he realized it was only me.
“Good morning, sleeping beauty,” I laughed quietly as he let go of my hand and I stood up straight.
Surprising me again Dmitri shot up from the chair and embraced me in a tight hug. As he held me, I leaned into him wrapping my arms around his waist. I had forgotten how much he towered over me. I was only five and half feet tall, while him and Daniil were well over six feet.
“You have no idea how much I missed you,” he whispered.
“I’ve missed you too,” I say back.
We stay like this for a few moments before he lets me go and pushes me back a little to look at me.
“You’ve gotten older,” he comments as he studies me.
“Are you calling me old?” I ask.
“Of course not,” he snickered, “but you must be exhausted. When did you get back?”
“This afternoon, but Riley had a bunch of paper work for me to do before the morning,” I shrugged.
"Lieutenant Riley is such a slave driver,” he laughs gently and suggests, “We can catch up more in the morning?”
“Yeah,” I nodded then looked over at Daniil, “you can wake him.”
Dmitri sighs, knowing full well that it is never fun to wake Daniil up. Dmitri lifts up his foot and pushes on Daniil’s side, using me to balance himself. As soon as his foot makes contact, Daniil’s eyes snap open and he grabs his brother’s foot. I could tell Daniil was about to flip him over but as soon as he realized what’s going on he drops the foot. Daniil jumps up and micks his brother by embracing me tightly.
“Gin,” he whispered gently, “I am so glad you are home.”
“Me too,” I replied as he softly let me go.
“You should get some rest,” Daniil said, his voice deeper and more gravelly than Dmitri’s, “I’m sure we can catch up more in the morning.”
“Of course,” I nodded smiling at them and suddenly realizing that I am more exhausted than I thought I was, “I am exhausted.”
“I’m sure,” Daniil nodded and glanced to his brother, “You are staying with me tonight.”
“Right,” Dmitri nodded.
“We should get going then. Its late but we wanted to make sure you got home alright,” Daniil told me.
I only nodded in reply as I watched Daniil head towards the door. Dmitri came over and gave me a quick kiss goodbye. Then they were gone.
Even though they are literally across the hall, I missed them already. I sighed and decided I need to get to bed. Glancing at the clock on the TV, I noticed it was now two in the morning and I had to be up in three hours.
“Great,” I mumbled before heading to my room.