Previously: Twain stopped for a meal on the outskirts of the Czar’s territory, when he heard shouts outside. And now…
Twain kept his eyes down on his bowl as the men walked in: three of them, a big one flanked by two smaller men, like fighters escorting a bomber. They walked up to stand in front of the low table where Twain sat, so he looked up at them, taking in their rough, dirty clothes and jackets of almost-but-not-quite-matching blue.
The blue marked them out as the Czar’s men. The elite soldiers the Czar kept camped close to his palace (though elite was a relative term where the Czar’s men were concerned, having as much to do with loyalty as skill) wore proper uniforms of matching cut and color. The bully squads the Czar had patrolling the periphery of his territory were like these men, wearing whatever clothes they had that happened to be the right colors. They were more like gang members than soldiers, which made them simultaneously less and more dangerous: less because they weren’t as well trained, but more because they weren’t as disciplined, and therefore unpredictable.
The big man reached down and plucked the small bowl from Twain’s fingers. “You come.”
Twain was confused by the man’s demeanor. On the one hand, it certainly seemed as if they had come here looking specifically for him. On the other hand, they didn’t seem angry or even especially cautious, so it didn’t seem as if they knew he was the man who had escaped from the Czar’s dungeons and killed a guard with a door on the way out. Maybe they wre just generally more wary about white men since the incident.
“I haven’t done anything,” Twain said.
[blockquote type=”blockquote_quotes” align=”right”]They were more like gang members than soldiers, which made them simultaneously less and more dangerous: less because they weren’t as well trained, but more because they weren’t as disciplined, and therefore unpredictable…[/blockquote]“No question,” the man replied. Twain wasn’t sure whether he meant for Twain not to ask questions or that he hadn’t asked a question. Or that there was no question that Twain had done something.
The smaller men each seized one of Twain’s arms and hauled him to his feet. Twain didn’t resist as they led him outside. They were more than a mile out of town. The yurt sat by the side of the road surrounded by open steppes. There was nowhere for him to run if he did try to escape. Better to let them think he had no fight in him until he got someplace where escape would be a more feasible option.
More men were going through his car. If they ever decided to let him have his car back, he knew that anything valuable that had been in it would be gone. Fortunately, all the good stuff was flipped. Except for the blue crystal hanging from a thong around his neck. If they found that, things would get messy. He really needed to get away before then.
He was led to their truck, an old military transport that looked to be of Soviet vintage. The big man got in the cab with the driver, while four more got in back with him. The other two remained with his car. Things were looking worse every second.
Will the men take him straight back to the Cobalt Czar? Is his mission over before it has begun? Be here tomorrow for our next exciting episode!
To read from the beginning, click here…