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Viktor Lih
“Right,” said Lih, hurrying after Costa. For an older, injured man, the cop could move.

He’d seen things, perhaps things his mind wanted to scrub out or deny as impossible.

He didn’t query. He trusted Costa’s instincts like his own, and knew they stretched further.

Lih raised his trusty pistol, panned the barrel round, and put its auto-setting on rapid (but devastatingly precise). He could feel his pulse racing now.

Costa led their way up into the old club himself. Finally the dust and darkness gave way and the two cops emerged out of the dark, blinking, into the manager’s room. Costa within Lih’s earshot cursed as he saw them.

“No…” Lih breathed, looking wide-eyed at the middle-aged woman kneeling, the children next to her. She had a face as lined and creased as old saddle leather. Her children? In the dim light, there were moans, crying, coughs.


“What…” the voice was soft and pitched on a feminine register. The female voice paused for a moment, in deep confusion, “what are you doing?”

It came from the girl they tracked; she standing nearby, looking up at them in deep quizzical fascination. She was small and lean, and Lih guessed her to be about sixteen years old, no more than a year or two more than Sabrina’s, Costa’s daughter, age. But there was something terribly old and horribly piercing about the gaze of her dark eyes.

Lih’s eyes through his lens were watery-blue and bright, very human. He flinched at her gaze, and lowered his weapon. He was breathing hard and his mind was reeling. Children… How … how was that even possible?

“What does it look like I’m doing?” he asked tersely, gesturing at Costa to include the experienced officer, “what do you think we’re doing?”

The girl - no, woman - was silent for a moment. Then she smirked humorlessly at them. “Looks like you just followed me home.”

It seemed a damp, dark, cold place to live. Viktor Lih had been stung by its bone-deep chill from the moment he stepped into this room. He wondered how she could live here. And how long? A year? Ten years? Her whole life?

“Now you’ve answered your own question. What’s your name?” Lih nodded and tried to smile reassuringly.
Viktor Lih
Officer of CCDPD
[Image: 11442-23809.jpg]

Costa inventoried the room. Blankets and pillows, couple of mattresses, microwave, a fridge, a tv, and maybe one or two toys. Fast food containers littered the floor. Likely there were rats and cockroaches everywhere too, though thank god he didn't see them. The room itself reeked of human sweat and mess.

Their home? This place was a dump. Certainly not somewhere to keep children. They were pale skinned, nearly as white as Lih, like they had never seen the sun. Clothing hung off their emaciated small bodies, wrists and ankles bone thin, teeth yellowed and hair in tangled disarray.

But it was the eyes that said it all. The broken look, the tiredness, the robotic faces that said that if they had once been human, something had ripped it out of them.

His stomach turned and his lip curled. The stim kept the pain of the movements on his face from being noticeable. Maybe it was the stim. But he knew it wasn't, not really. It was hard not to see Sabrina, Luca, and Mateo in front of him.

He knew what this was. He'd seen it before. Heard about it too. Women captured and held in chains, bound for years, kept alive only to satisfy the appetites of the man or men who took them. He thought about the things they had killed. Men were monster enough. But what would these have done to them?

The little children, two girls and one boy, both looked at them listlessly, affect blank. It was hard to tell the ages. The little boy and girl were the same size, though the girl's face seemed slightly older. The last of the children, a boy, was already showing man-signs, though of course he could be 10 by his height. Definitely more musculature too.

He called for an ambulance. Still holding his gun, but not pointing at them, he said, "We're just here to help. We're going to take you somewhere safe. No one will hurt you." His used the same calm reassuring one at home with his kids.

The oldest boy looked at him curiously, his eyes sharpening. The way his head moved. It was odd.

Costa turned to Lih.
Something was going on, and Viktor Lih didn’t need to be told that it was bad. Capital BAD.

He was getting cold and tired.

Lih had taken a battered tin out of one of the half open cupboards, took off the lid, sniffed inside, and then tilted the tin towards the teenage girl.

“Caffeine?” He asked, looking sidelong at Costa from the open cupboards.

Lih nodded, and began to look around the small room for a suitable pan to boil water in, when the girl beside him turned, and let out an anguished cry. He saw Costa looking at him.

It was when he first realized that things weren’t right. Something moved under the lowest shelf.

“Light!” Lih exclaimed suddenly. He swung around and aimed his pistol and infrared lens-beam down at the floor, his light flickered round to illuminate more debris and filth.

The child was very small, twisted with starvation and disease. He was dressed in rags, and weighed no more than half his proper body weight. His skin was brown with dirt. His eyes seemed fantastically big and wild, and he shielded them, whining, when Lih’s lens-beam found him.

Just a boy, he thought, and lowered his weapon.

Lih shuffled forward and cleared his throat.

“It’s all right, it’s all right,” he called, reaching out a pale hand as he bent closer.

Something made him hesitate. It might have been his increasing awareness of the boy’s strange gaze, or a soft, high-pitched sound, this drawn-out wail, that seemed to be emanating from the old woman beside him. He could see she had been crying.

Something told him that taking another step towards this boy was a Very Bad Idea.

“Careful!” hissed Lih, seeing the boy about to move.

The child, a boy of about six or seven, had straightened up again. Although it was much too big for him, he had picked up a pistol stashed under the lowest shelf and was pointing it at Lih and the older cop.

“Get back, Costa,” Lih breathed.

He looked at the child and smiled encouragingly. “Come on, little man, give me that."

The world was slow, like glue.

He crouched under the remains of a couch or bed that rotted in a terrible state of ruin, as the boy fired two shots, the weight and discharge staggering him. The boy paused as though in shock.

Instinctively Lih raised his weapon.

“Don’t shoot!” Costa called out.

Costa's warning echoed uncomfortably in his mind...

Dust puffed into powder as Lih flailing arms collided with the boy. The boy went down, falling hard, sending dust and bits of torn paper flying. Lih scooped up the gun, which fell on the worn floor, then proceeded to sit on the young child, restraining him with his slender frame and some cordage from his kit. The boy’s limbs thrashed harder, sending dust flying like clumpy snowflakes all around them.

“That’s really enough, boy,” said Lih in a voice that had a rod of steel running through it. “Why don’t you cool off?”

To the rest of the room. “Are you all right?” he asked.

Moments later, the caffeine was boiled and distributed into their mismatched, chipped enamel cups.

He tried to think of the best course of action.

Rescue, that was all he could think of.

They needed to find Doc Sonia and their backups. Then get these women and children to safety.

Failing either of those things, he could run. At full stretch, it was about fifteen minutes to the nearest station at the gate, and he was sure there was a CCDPD squad closer than that.

Lih took out the gun he’d taken from the boy, and examined it. He handed the old pistol to Costa, took a swig of hot caffeine from the chipped enamel cup, and sighed.

“I wonder where he got this? It’s ex-CCDPD issue.”

“Is it loaded?” the teenage girl asked.

“Yeah. Seven more rounds.”

They thought about it. There was a long pause.

“Can you shed any light on this?” Lih asked the boy he and Costa tied up.

The boy looked a little awkward, shifting in his nest of old blankets and torn clothes that looked as if somebody had been sleeping in it. “Daddy left it behind.”

“Left behind?”

The boy hesitated. It wasn’t so much as if he was trying to find the right words, it was more as if he wasn’t sure he’d be able to say them.

They heard footsteps down the hallway. Lih looked at Costa, then at the door on the far side of the room.

“What now?” said Lih, scraping back his chair and rising to his feet.

Doctor Sonia appeared in the half closed doorway. Her scrubs were badged with blood.

“We heard the shots.” She nodded, indicating something over Lih’s shoulder.

Lih turned and looked again at Costa, who frowned and shook his head.

Sonia said, “Costa, take it easy with your injury. Despite the fact that we couldn’t reply due to the lost signal on our comm, this area is secured, and we’ve come to help you.” As if signaled, a pair of cops suddenly swept in, hands touching their weapons.

“Doc. Officers,” Lih nodded in relief.

By this point, the doctor had come to a halt in front of the middle aged woman.

She moved to touch the woman on the shoulder, but paused when she realized her hands were red and wet. “I’ve done all I can for her.”

“Will she survive, Doctor?” the old woman asked.

“I don’t know,” she replied softly. “I need to bring her into a triage station to get her blood. She’s unconscious due to shock. I have repaired the worse of the blood vessel damage and staunched the bleeding. We need to wait to see how the healing meshes take. Her massive blood loss concerns me. As I understand it, at some time in the last hour, she got shot in the chest from fighting in the street… is that caffeine I smell?”

Ooc: Modded Costa here and there. Let me know if post needs to be changed.
Everything will be all right. Smile
Viktor Lih
Officer of CCDPD
Detective Lih of the domovoi wandered slowly away from the assembly zone, where the grass was bent over by truck tires, and stood by a hedge, overlooking the belt of woods. He sort of liked this place already. There were trees. There was greenery.

Lih, first name Viktor, was twenty-six years old. He was pale, but well-made, with protective lenses on his blue watery eyes. He had been born and bred on Sevastopol, a forest city that no longer existed. Lih was a CCD police officer— a highly effective one, according to his formal record.

He wore the standard issue field kit of a Russian cop: cross-laced black boots, black fatigue trousers and combat jacket over the standard issue vest and pants, with webbing—which supported his field pouches and a plump leather bag—and lightweight, matte-black armor. A tight, black buckle-under helmet made of nano polymer swung from his waist belt beside his gun. On his collars he wore the silver crest of the Moscow police and around his shoulders draped a camo cloak, the signature item of a domovoi, the so-called “monster” regiment.

A heavy pack was slung form his back. His standard long-nosed Vaia Plus railgun, its stock and furniture made of a blend of proprietary metals, as were all Vaia Plus stamped guns, hung on a sling over his shoulder.

Lih could smell rain and cedar on the air, the wet odors of a woodland floor. Just for a second, the smell was unbearably evocative. His heart struggled to accommodate his feelings.

He glanced back to see if he was missed, but already seemed some delay in loading the replenishment onto the supply trucks. Engines idled and grumbled, and an occasional wheel spun in the muddy grass that the convoy was quickly chewing up. Officers in long, black greatcoats hurried about, shouting instruction, directing trucks and trying to gather people together as if they were escaped cats.

At the end of the hedge, Lih found a paved path that ran away under an avenue of red-barked trees. This was clearly a park once, he realized, turned into a makeshift assembly zone for the military forces. There were benches facing the path, and he sat down on one in the damp shade of the trees. It was nice, he thought. Sure, the trees had none of the grandeur of the Sevastopol trees, but still.

He wondered how Costa was doing. He was Lih’s partner, though he was a fellow domovoi too. Costa had been assigned to a different mission because they were in different teams now. Detective Costa. It still made Lih chuckle. Another win for the team.

Between every other tree in the park, there was a large, smooth cube of gray stone. Each had a faded rectangular patch on the side facing the brick paved path. Lih wondered what they were. Markers of some sort, perhaps.

He heard someone coming up behind him, and turned.

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