Appearance is everything

Kidnapping the Girl

“Mr Sokolov.” Nicolai stirred and rubbed his eyes. He looked up at a bright light shining directly at his face. “Get up. We require your services.”
Nicolai covered his eyes and looked up at the light, attempting to see the person shining the light down into his face. He sat up and was about to ask for what when his question was answered.
“We need your brief knowledge on the foundation which has caused us much trouble. We have a client, he wants a very strange object and he’s willing to pay a lot for it.” The voice was smooth and quiet, speaking in a slightly demeaning voice. “We need you to take a small team into the foundation; we need you to supply us with a subject.”
“A subject?”
“You will know all you need to, now, get up Mr Sokolov.” The light was turned off and a tall man in a black slim suit walked away. As he turned, Nicolai managed to read the name ‘Marshall’ sewn onto the right breast of the jacket. “I hope you realise the seriousness of this task, if you fail us… we won’t be happy to say the least.”

Nicolai waited several seconds then crawled out of bed and switched the light on. His small room illuminated and he looked at himself in the long mirror lent up in the corner. After all, working with MC&D had its ups and downs, a down being the lack of anything allowed in your room when you work for them. It was rough, but the pay was good if you do what you’re told. He looked at his naked body and grimaced. He had a strong build, he was tall, muscular, and if it wasn’t for the scars which covered his skin he would be rather attractive. There was a pale patch of skin around his third finger on his right hand where a ring had been removed, and several rings on his other fingers.
He traced his fingers over a long one lining his chest from his right shoulder to his left hip. He got that from working within Division P. The lizard had breached again and he was stationed to watch over they’re current actions. He only just survived; the claw had broken six ribs and ruptured his left kidney. The foundation had saved his life still believing he was a researcher for them. When GRU division P had shut down he was left in foreign territory with a fake name and a slight knowledge of the foundation. Marshall, Carter and Dark had found him due to his skills and knowledge, and now they were calling for him again.
He looked up at his face and suddenly realised how old he looked. Nicolai was only thirty five, yet the wrinkles in his face were long and deep. His neck length black hair had streaks of grey running through it and his stubbly beard was almost entirely silver. He had the aura of a man much older than thirsty five.
He picked up his old soviet uniform and got dressed. He buttoned up the specialist uniform he was made, designed in the style of Tsar Nicholas the second’s military wear. He then moved on to preparing his large duffle bag and packing his essentials; a gas mask, tear gas grenades, two berettas, a garrotte wire and a hooked blade called a karambit. MC&D liked to supply a lot and they cared for appearances. A simple military knife was not enough; they needed to be known by marks. He shouldered the bag and walked out of his small apartment.
Outside there was a small group of people all dressed in suits. There were three men and two women all quite tall and with hair either gelled back or in tight ponytails. They women were blond and brunet and the men all had black short hair. They were all tall and all had an aura of danger, the feel you get when next to a group of hitmen and assassins. The closest person, a tall, slim man with a slimmer face which showed his bone structure a little too much, passed Nicolai a note reading:-
Take this pistol, you’ll need it.
You will be tasked with getting this group into the Foundation and locating object number 054 for our client. We only need you to locate the object, but if anyone sees you we expect you to use the pistol we have supplied you with. It will make sure they don’t last long enough to tell anyone about us.
We know you will not fail us Mr Sokolov.
Nicolai also checked the back, then screwed up the note in his hand as a tall woman handed him a colt 1860 revolver. It had a slight purple shimmer to its aged metallic body.
“Alright, I take it you know why you’re here?” Each person nodded, no one except Nicolai said a word. “Then you know where we’re going. I’ll lead you to the foundation, I’ll get us in, locate the object and you will help me remove it from the foundation, understand?”
Once again each person nodded. No words from these ones. ‘It’s going to be a quite mission’ Nicolai thought to himself.

Nicolai had driven his Chrysler royal convertible coupe 1938 up to the foundations entrance. He didn’t like the car, but MC&D enforced their staff to be smart, appearances were everything after all. He was trailed by the operatives in their own smart car. Nicolai admitted to himself that this is a lot better than Division ‘P’, but the downfall of the Soviet Union had thrown the Russian branch of the unknown into an unrepairable state. Without it groups such as the Chaos Insurgence had taken advantage of Russia and ruined its chance of regrowth. Even the Foundation have a Russian branch and use their prisoners. It’s better than the overall population, but it’s still no good. At least MC&D have the decency to keep the casualties down.
Nicolai was snapped out of his thoughts when he noticed the small drycleaners which was on the corner of a small unmarked road. He slowed the Chrysler to a crawl and pulled up to the curb. He flashed his tail lights twice, signalling the MC&D operatives and stopped, and pulled a white lab coat over his uniform. He opened the glovebox and grabbed a small lanyard with a security card and placed it around his neck, then he stepped from the car and walked into the drycleaners.
It was a small building, with a table in the centre and several lines of clean clothes hanging along the walls. There was a tall man behind the table. He had a long frame, small wire rim glasses and a small ring of hair around the back of his head where he had neglected to shave. He wore a beige coloured jacket and white trousers, and standing behind the table he had the aura of a librarian, not someone you’d expect to work at a dry-cleaning store. The man eyed up the security card then looked Nicolai directly in the eyes. For a moment Nicolai though the man had seen directly through his disguise, then the man spoke.
“You researchers really need to be more careful with how you travel. If there were other in here… you know the drill.”
“Ah, sorry. I’ll be sure to be more cautious next time.”
The man raised an eyebrow when he heard Nicolai’s accent and took a moment to look over his security card again. After a moment which felt like it lasted a lifetime the man pointed to a rack of dirty clothes which were never going to be cleaned, just as none of the other dirty clothes would be cleaned or the cleaned clothes would be collected.
Nicolai nodded to the man in thanks and walked to the rack or clothes. He separated them and found a metal set of doors behind them. The man pressed a button and the doors opened, revealing an elevator behind it. Nicolai leant back and looked outside; he could see the car was ready with the MC&D operatives. He nodded, and almost instantly he heard a crack of glass.
The man at the counter looked shocked, Nicolai looked at the window which was on one side of the shop and saw a section of broken glass, shattered in a spider web pattern. A bullet was lodged at the centre.
‘Idiots, they tried to shoot through the glass! Of course its bullet proof. How foolish do they thing the foundation is?’
The man at the table looked shocked. Nicolai could see him reaching under the table to the button which opened the elevator doors. Nicolai put his bag down and reached into it. He moved his hand past the revolver he was given, the noise would be too much for the area; instead he reached for the garrotte wire he had kept from the Soviet Union. He pulled it from the bag and left it on the floor in the elevator, then walked behind the man and swung the thin metal wire over his neck. The man instantly pulled his hands up to the wire, forgetting about the button he should have pressed, and attempted to stop the wire from crushing his larynx. The man caught one finger under the wire and began pulling it away from his neck. Nicolai kneed the man in the back and turned his body so he was pulling the garrotte over his shoulder. He leant forward and lifted the man off the ground.
The man kicked, struggling for a minute before his body went limp and Nicolai lowered him to the ground. As he let the man drop the operatives sent with him walked into the shop, one holding a sniper rifle.
“What the FUCK was that?”
No one responded. Nicolai stormed to the woman with the rifle.
“I said, what was that! You nearly ruined the entire operation, do you know nothing about the foundation! Give me that!”
Nicolai went to grab the weapon from the woman, but she stepped back and two of the other operatives stepped in-between them. Nicolai looked one directly in the eyes, and then remembered his place in this mission. A moment of tension filled the air as Nicolai squared up the two men blocking him from his original target, before he stepped back and walked to the elevator.
“One of you stays here. We need someone at the door to make it look normal still. The rest of you, blend in. I’ll give you your coats in the elevator.”
The tallest man glared at Nicolai and dragged the unconscious Foundation guard behind a rack of dirty clothes. He undressed himself and the man and swapped clothes with him. He walked to the table and looked out the window, instantly assuming the persona of the gentleman who was there before. The rest of the operatives followed Nicolai into the elevator and reached removed their suit jackets. They looked at Nicolai, who reached into his lab coat and pulled out four, folded identical lab coats. Each operative reached into their own pocket and pulled out a Foundation security card.

After several minutes of silent, slow traveling the elevator, the doors opened to reveal one of the Foundations underground sites. Men and women of various nationalities walked around in various wear walked through shining white hallways. Several men in orange overalls walked past, escorting two men in body armour with pole collars connected to a being imitating a witch doctor. It looked at Nicolai on the way past and attempted to reach out to him, but its hands were chained and the guards were keeping it away from any other personnel. Nicolai watched him pass and was thankful he wasn’t the one stationed to watch that thing.
“Come, we know what we’re stationed to do.” He stepped out the elevator and turned to the operatives, “I’ll show you to your position.”
Nicolai began to walk, noting the direction the plague doctor was being led.

Object 054. The containment was mostly simple in comparison to most objects: a watertight room with environmental controls to keep the room optimum for the object and simple safety.
‘This should be easy.’
Nicolai slid his card through the slot to open the control room. He led his small group though into the small room with the control panels and looked down into the enclosure which contained the object. Well, not object, girl.
Within the enclosure, an ethereal girl was dancing by herself around an ornate water feature. She looked to be entirely blue, and shimmered like a sapphire as she moved. Nicolai looked at the chart and realised that the girl was in fact an object, as she wasn’t a girl. She consisted entirely of water, no fully solid part to her.
“So, Nicolai,” The woman spoke Nicolai’s name with the same amount of spite she would use for someone who had insulted her entire family bloodline, and Nicolai was shocked to hear she had quite a pleasant voice. Her tightly tied back blond hair gave her face quite a stern look, but her voice sounded as smooth as an angels. “How are we going to get it out of here? She’s completely liquid.”
“Well, girl,” Nicolai smiled as she glared at him even more, “She is liquid for now, but not for much longer.”
Nicolai began typing into the control panel and managed to bypass the password to control the environment. He dropped the temperature to freezing temperatures and a red light appeared above the viewing window.
‘That can’t be good.’
Nicolai watched as the girl shaped object’s movements began to become slower. She stopped dancing and looked around her enclosure, then directly at the window which should have been camouflaged with the rest of the room. She waved up and looked around, indicating that she knew something was wrong. When she sat down and wrapped her arms around her knees Nicolai almost felt sorry for the thing in the room, but as it progressively turned whiter as its frame froze over Nicolai lost any compassion he had. It wasn’t a person; it was an object, an object just like the one which slaughtered his wife over twenty years ago.
It was the tall one, she saw its face, and he hadn’t. It ripped her apart next to him. The Foundation had picked it up and attempted to wipe his memory, but GRU Division ‘P’ had come into the situation and saved him, causing significant casualties to the Foundation. Since, Nicolai had worked for them infiltrating the Foundation. That was until the downfall of the Soviet Union. Division ‘P’ didn’t instantly close down, it lasted until the twenty-first century, but eventually it just disappeared. When the word got to him he found other work against the Foundation and their work with Marshall, Carter and Dark. Now he was here.
“Nicolai!” One of the operatives with black, crew-cut hair spoke, snapping Nicolai from his thoughts. “Someone’s at the door!”
“Deal with them then. Silently.”
The man opened the door and a woman dressed in white lab coat over a tee-shirt with a band logo on it and ‘MCR’ written on the front, stepped in. She had long blond hair, blue jeans and glasses which didn’t match the rest of her clothes. A quick glance over her security card revealed her as Tia Smart, twenty seven years old.
“What are you doing in here! You haven’t been stationed to this object!”
The black haired man stepped behind her and closed the door. She turned around to see what he was doing and the blond operative slid her karambit though the back of the girl’s neck. Tia tensed up then fell to the ground. The blond haired and black haired operatives moved her body out of immediate sight of anyone entering the room.
“Right, follow me. We need to transport the object from here to your vehicle. We have a crate to move it in, its water tight, but when it wakes up its going to be angry. You need to be careful. MC&D won’t be happy if we deliver damaged goods. Now move.”
Nicolai left the room and the operatives followed him. Before leaving he pulled the clearance card from Tia’s lifeless form. He led the group to the door to object 054’s containment room and swept Tia’s card though the slot, opening the doors. Instantly Nicolai’s breathe crystallised in the freezing temperatures as he stepped into the containment room.
“Right, two of you go secure the object. I want the rest of you to come with me. I want you to do me another job.”
The blond woman and the shortest man, who was still a foot taller than Nicolai, went to secure the crystallised woman shaped anomaly, whilst the brunet and the largest man walked with Nicolai. Nicolai only just now noticed, as he walked with the man, that his lab coat was stretched over his muscular body. He was still thin, but in comparison to the other operatives he was a veritable strongman.
Nicolai was happy that they didn’t ask questions, it would make this part of the plan much easier to perform. He remembered the note on the back of the letter and smiled to himself. He led them through the foundation, occasionally opening doors when he could to cause minor breaches and pull the foundation personnel away from 054’s containment room. He walked to the containment room for object 049 and slid the card though the door panel. He thanked his luck for Tia holding a high clearance card and opened the door.
“Right, I need you to execute this object. I was given two missions, this was one. Use your knives only. This needs to be silent.”
The man smiled and cracked his knuckles, stepping into 049’s containment cell. The brunet followed him. Within a few seconds the brunet ran out.
“Close that door, now!” Nicolai did so, shocked. “Raphael is dead. We need to regroup with the rest and leave, that… thing doesn’t wound easy.”
“No, we don’t leave until it’s neutralised. That’s the mission.”
“We can’t even use our guns though; it killed Raphael with one touch! I’m not going back in there.”
Nicolai punched the woman in the throat and reopened the door. She gasped for air and Nicolai pushed her back into the containment room. He closed the door and walked away from the room. That was half the other mission completed; now he just had to get away with 054 and complete the rest of the mission.

When Nicolai caught up with the other two operatives they were at the elevator with 054 secured in the crate. There was little blood shed on the mission, so the Foundation would pay less attention to it. The object stolen was designated as safe and thus wouldn’t lead to much done. If they had been as stealthy as Nicolai had though they were then they wouldn’t even change the entrance, but that was the best case scenario. The Foundation weren’t fools; they’d change anything which could have led to the breach of security. The elevator would probably be caved in and the drycleaners closed forever.
As the doors of the elevators closed an alarm rang out. They must have found the bodies in 049’s room or that 054 was missing, nothing out of expectation. This was going just as planned. The doors closed as a man with a red amulet hanging around his neck ran past. Nicolai was sure he recognised the piece of articulate jewellery, but couldn’t quite place from where. Then the doors closed.
Nicolai got out the elevator first and ushered the operatives out, pointing them to their vehicle.
“Wait for me once you’ve loaded it in the car.”
The operatives moved and Nicolai looked at the remaining one who was still dressed as the foundation personnel tasked with guarding the door. Nicolai walked up behind him and slid the karambit across the man’s throat. The man turned around, his mouth open wide in a silent scream as he attempted to drag air in through his lacerated oesophagus. Blood squirted from the man’s neck as the jugular veins pumped blood out of the operative’s body. Several gushes hit Nicolai and he walked out of the shop, removing his lab coat as he did. He stepped into the dimming light in his full Russian military wear and pulled the purple-tinged revolver from his bag, loading two bullets and aiming at the male operative first. The bullet shattered the man’s hip, glancing his femur. Instantly cancers began to grow inside the man’s body, causing his skin to bulge slightly. He fell down in pain next to the woman and Nicolai aimed at the woman. As he began to pull the trigger the man pulled a derringer from his pocket and shot back at Nicolai. The shot grazed his hand and Nicolai hissed, aiming back down and shooting the man through the cranium, exploding blood out of the back of his head and over the long black car he had loaded the object into.
The woman had ran past the man on the floor and pulled a kukri from the boot of the car. She ran at Nicolai and he dropped the gun, no time to reload. She swung at his head and Nicolai ducked, sending his fingers under her sternum and winding her. She doubled over and he kneed her in her jaw, knocking her back off her feet. He stepped over her, stamping on her face, glancing it with his boot and breaking her nose. He grabbed her blond hair, noticing that it was bleached, and pulled her struggling body to the car. He opened the boot and she looked up at him, realising what was coming.
“No… no, no, nononono. Please, don’t do this… why, why us?”
“You know that already. You upset the bosses. They knew you stole off them, once they were willing to forgive, twice was too much. Your squad was pushing it too far.” Nicolai opened the crate which contained the girl shaped thing made of water. She was only just recovering from being frozen and her movements were sluggish. “MC&D knew what else I did when I was working for Division ‘P’, and that was assassinating foundation staff whilst on the job. I made accidents happen.”
He pulled the woman up by her hair and pushed her head down into the water woman’s leg. 054 recoiled, disgusted. If Nicolai knew it had feelings he might have thought differently about his actions, but he knew it didn’t, just like the one which killed his wife. The blond woman’s face moved though the anomalies leg and Nicolai pulled her head up, forcing her into the creature’s stomach. The object looked horrified, open mouthed in an imitation of human emotion. The woman was screaming inside it, air bubbled rippling its body as they travelled upward and escaping from her hair. It remained like this for several minutes, the object looing horrified but still recovering too much to move enough, and the blond operative, struggling to breathe and push her head from out of the water. She didn’t. Nicolai waited to be sure then pulled the body from the car boot and dropped her on the floor.
He closed the crate, closing off the light from the object, then closed the boot and locked it. He got into the jet black car and left, knowing he wouldn’t need to pick up his own, MC&D would take care of that and the bodies before the foundation knew what had happened.
He had the story for the underlings about the fatalities. He would have to explain to Marshal or Carter, they knew what had happened, they had arranged it. Dark was never seen anyway, but they liked to keep up appearances. They can’t be known for killing their own, and they wouldn’t be. A Foundation member with a very strange gun attacked them before they entered, killing one operative. Two strayed and were caught by another object. The object they were securing attacked the last two, killing on with his knife on the way out and savagely attacking the final woman. With Marshal and Carter backing his words no one would argue. His mission was a success, and he managed to secure the object with minimum casualties. MC&D would be happy with his work.