Part 69Update 32
Maks heads back to Hotel Hotel to regroup and retrieve his equipment.
: I hope they took nothing important from your room.
Maks rushes upstairs to discover:
That the unknown burglars took all his stuff as well as the body stashed in the closet. Convenient?
A short shower - only cold water is available, naturally - to wash off the Leningrad bay grime, Maks paces across the room, trying to figure out his next move.
: Think, Maks, think! What do we know? The extent of the conspiracy? No. Its goals? No. The content or purpose of that crate? Just some baseless assumptions. Their next move? Not as such. Except...
: At 09:00, the fourth member of our group will pick up the package and transport it to its final destination. Now I must beg your pardon, as I should ensure everything is going smoothly on deck.
: The fourth member! I only know one more person who's involved in the conspiracy. The mysterious Mr X.
: Let's just hope this lead pans out - I don't have anything else to go on.
A nerve-wracking wait later...
A car drives out of the Department 7 garage.
You hail a cab!
The cab driver follows Agabekov's car towards the suburbs, but suddenly loses him! You order the driver to patrol the area... Turning into a three-lined street, you catch sight of the major climbing into his parked car.
You get out of the cab, which turns around and roars away.
There's nothing about the building that identifies it - I suppose if we have to ask, we don't need to know. Nothing for it but to head inside.
: Captain Rukov, KGB.
: I must see some I.D, comrade.
You show him your I.D card.
: I will take you to comrade Litvinov, the director.
: He said he would call me later, but made no mention of your coming. What more can I tell you?
: There is little to tell. Protopopov arrived on schedule. The crate was opened, and drugs were administered to bring him gradually back to consciousness.
Unfortunately, the duty nurse, Saneyeva, seems to have wandered into room 3, in a flagrant breach of my clear instructions, and noticed Protopopov.
: Some twenty minutes later, Saneyeva activated the alarm and both guards rushed to the scene, leaving the entrance unattended. It was child's play for the group of four men to penetrate the building and kidnap Protopopov. That's all there is to the story.
: Who were these four men?
: Traitors, comrade! Armed hooligans hiding their faces behind masks!
: What do you know of New Birth?
: Nothing. This is the first time I've heard of it.
: What was to be done to Protopopov?
: You don't know?
: Merely testing you, Litvinov. You stood up well!
: Yes... Thank you, comrade captain!
: Where did Agabekov take the nurse?
: What else do you know?
: That's all I know, comrade.
: I see. Thank you comrade, I'll see myself out.
: Right. I'm sure these glorified hall monitors know a great deal, but just for the sake of formality:
: Bagrichev, comrade captain.
: Akulov, comrade captain.
: We didn't see them.
: We were investigating the alarm.
: I dunno.
: Nicht spreche zie Russlish.
: Where did you go when the alarm sounded?
: To the store-room at the end of the corridor.
: It was a false alarm, triggered by Saneyeva.
: Well done! Have a cookie.
: Why do I have the impression that the patients may know more than the guards and administrator both?
A nondescript hospital room. Everything appears to be solid and well maintained. The window is barred from the outside. The occupant appears to be nervous.
: And how are we feeling today?
: What do you imagine will happen to them?
: Now that our shop and properties were confiscated by the Reds - I mean, the heroic Bolshevik Liberators, what is to become of them?
: What Bolshevik Liberators?
: I see.
: Trotsky was killed a long time ago.
: Oh! His sacrifice will spur the comrades to heroic feats!
: What can you tell me about the nurses?
: There are no nurses here.
: Then who takes care of the patients?
: Ah. Anything you can tell me about Saneyeva or the recent disturbance?
: I know nothing, I swear!
: What of Litvinov?
: A true Bolshevik?
: Hmm. What about... Tsibulenko?
On the way out, Maks notes:
The next room is identical, and holds a disoriented patient.
: And how are we today?
: Can you tell me about...
: The sky, the sky! It was here! I can't seem to... last time I could?
: Right. Just calm down, I'm sure you'll be healed soon enough.
The next room holds:
The patient is catatonic, and fails to react to outside stimuli.
However, there is something different about this room. A door. A door through which Maks slips.
: Hey! Let me out!
A bare room with two doors. No one responds when you knock on them. The chair is bolted to the floor.
A tinny voice comes from the direction of the metal grating.
: Do not be alarmed. Be seated, if you wish. No harm will come to you.
After a few moments, the voice continues.
: I know that being locked in a strange room can be distressing; I myself am not immune from claustrophobia. This will not take long, however; I'm just going to ask you a few questions.
: I'm a KGB officer. Open the doors!
: Fascinating! But first, my questions, yes?
: I have no intention of answering your questions until you open the door!
: What are your feelings at the moment?
:... I feel frustrated.
: What would you like to do in order to relieve, this, uh, frustration?
: I want to speak to professor Tsibulenko.
: This may indicate a desire to be healed. Excellent! Will you answer my questions now?
: Are you Tsibulenko?
: Who I am is not at issue. We must work to discover who precisely YOU are, beneath your psychosis. This is why you must submit to my questions. Shall we begin?
: If anyone's psychotic around here, it's not me!
: Perhaps you will calm down in a few moments.
: Hey! Hey, let me out!
The minutes trickle away. The room grows suffocating.
The voice speaks again.
: All right. I'll answer your questions.
: A sensible attitude! Please answer the following questions as truthfully and sincerely as you can.
: What color do you associate with carrots?
It may be just your imagination, but it seems as though the room temperature increased several degrees over the last few minutes.
: Is water dry or wet?
: Water is rectangular. As you should well know, doctor.
: You haven't been entirely honest in your answers. Compulsive lying is a symptom I am familiar with. Let us continue.
: Yuri Gagarin.
: A lie. What is your name?
: Uh... my name is Protopopov.
: Intriguing. You evidently do not believe it, yet it's true. What is your profession?
Are the ventilation ducts in this room malfunctioning? There appears to be something wrong with the air circulation.
: Just open the doors. I work for Agabekov.
: A typical paranoid ploy - identification with the perceived persecutor. Please give what you believe to be true answers. Your profession?
: As I told you, I'm a KGB officer. Now open the doors!
: You have completely deluded yourself into believing this to be true. Paranoids are frequently subject to this syndrome; you identify with your "persecutor". Do you think art is a significant aspect of culture?
: I've had enough! Call Litvinov. I'm Rukov!
: The delusion appears to be deeply rooted. Have you always been a traitor, Protopopov?
: I am not Protopopov. I'm looking for him!
: Yes, you honestly believe what you say. In your deranged mind, you became a KGB officer, and your quarry is your real self!
Your temples pound fiercely. Black spots swim on the edge of your vision.
: I am going to help you, Protopopov. Will you trust me?
: Yes! I will trust you to make me better.
: You are lying, Protopopov. Answer the question.
: Call Litvinov! Ask about Rukov! I'm Rukov!
: Nobody informed me about your new personality. This could take longer than I expected. Excuse me for a few moments.
You wait, taking careful, shallow breaths. A few minutes (or is it hours?) later, the voice speaks again.
: Captain Rukov? I have checked with Litvinov. Please come in.
The doors both click loudly. Their remote-controlled locks have been released.
Maks controls his urge to bolt out. Instead, he straightens himself up, and tries to look as relaxed and authoritative as possible before he calmly walks through the door.