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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Axler James
 

«Northstar Rising», James Axler

There's night and day, brother, both sweet things; sun, moon, and stars, brother, all sweet things; there's likewise a wind on the heath. Life is very sweet, brother; who would wish to die?

Lavengro by George Barrow

Chapter One

Blackness.

Blackness.

Laughter.

The hands on his throat remorselessly strong.

Someone laughed.

A voice breathed in Ryan's ear. "You who are about to die..."

Pocked skin.

Circle of silver and bald head.

A smell of burned cloth and hair.

*  *  *

Major Commissar Gregori Zimyanin, of the Internal Security Section of Moscow, felt as though someone had pushed a brass-hilted bayonet into the center of his skull, then stirred it around, puddling his brains. The Russian was immensely strong, and he was recovering from the jump with remarkable speed.

As consciousness began to creep back into the blurred fringes of his mind, so shards of memory also lurched out into the open. There had been a dreadful firefight, with many corpses; a body of one of the enemy, flaming like a beacon of defiance; the Yank flag; a winding staircase, shrouded in choking smoke.

The brawl had ended with swirling blackness and his fingers clawing at the throat of the leader of the terrorists. With a massive effort of will, Zimyanin managed to open his eyes.

Something was wrong. Something had changed in the glass-walled chamber. The colors had altered and the air tasted different. The thick choking smoke was gone, and the air was thin and cold. The Russian had lived at altitude in winter and knew the sensation well. Somehow, while they were all unconscious, the Americans had succeeded in transporting the whole mysterious complex to a mountain.

In his attempts to master the language of his bitter enemies, the officer had been secretly learning the English tongue, using a book with a publication date of 1911, nearly two hundred years earlier — The English Tongue for the Benefit of the Russian Gentleman Abroad.

"I beg your pardon, but could you inform me as to the whereabouts of my entourage?" he whispered through dry lips.

Where could all of his men have gone? Dozens of troops couldn't just disappear into space. He fumbled for the pistol at his belt, feeling the familiar shape of the 9 mm Makarov blaster.

Now his eyes were focusing, settling on something opposite him that was colored dazzling white and vivid crimson.

"By the anvil and the hammer," Zimyanin muttered.

It was a young, skinny albino boy, his hair like the tumbled snow around the hamlet of Ozhbarchik in the far, far northeast. A thread of fresh blood inched from the lad's nose, his mouth sagged open and his eyes were shut tight.

Next to him lay an old man with wild, silver hair, clutching a small, unconscious puppy.

A woman with hair as red as blazing pitch was stretched flat on the floor, but she was moving, fingers opening and closing as she approached consciousness.

Ryan Cawdor blinked, opening his one good eye. The patch over his ruined left eye had shifted during the fight with the Russian, and he lifted a hand to straighten it.

And saw Zimyanin.

The stocky Russian was crouched on the far side of the gateway chamber, like a beast waiting to spring. His heavy features were smeared with soot, and a worm of dried blood from the corner of his mouth had clotted in his drooping mustache.

"Bastard," Ryan said quietly. His own blaster, the 9 mm SIG-Sauer P-226, was bolstered in his belt and he began to reach for it.

Zimyanin had a glacial moment of frozen time to make up his mind. Somehow the Americans had disposed of his men and moved him to a different location. The one-eyed killer was fumbling for his pistol, and at least one of the others was coming around from the sleeping gas. Or whatever it was they'd used to knock everyone out.

He made his decision, diving for the door to the glass-walled room. If he was to escape this could be his best and only chance.

A hand grabbed at Zimyanin's ankle, and he kicked out, his heavy, ash-crusted boot hitting Jak Lauren on the side of his pale skull. The fingers relaxed their grip and the Russian was at the door.

Ryan's pistol had cleared its rig and his finger was tightening on the trigger when the Russian darted through the doorway. There was a glimpse of the room beyond, then the door slammed shut.

"Fireblast," Ryan cursed. "He's triggered the jump mechanism again. Everyone down and get ready."


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