the calm before the storm [story part 50]
June 15, 2013 § 19 Comments
I thought about what went on in that room, but I couldn’t really give it more than 10 minutes of my time. I ate everything that I could get my hands on and anything that was offered to me, found an empty bunk bed in a corner under a warm, big, smelly pipe and fell asleep, or rather completely passed out.
I slept for 16 hours straight without waking up for even a second. After I had woken I was pretty sure I had at least a general idea of how Sigismund must have felt when he too woke up two days prior.
In any case, we still had 16 hours or so more to go. We were headed to Novy Port, a small port inside mainland Russia, down a huge river (Ob) and inside a huge bay. The whole trip took just over 30 hours, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
I went to check the cabin where I last saw Regina and Sigismund, but it was completely empty as if nobody was ever there. I panicked for just a few seconds, because like it or not, a lonely ship sailing above the arctic circle is a pretty vulnerable place to be for someone like Regina. I quickly went to the upper deck and there they were, both of them, sitting at a table like they were on a pleasure cruise.
“Ahh, so he returns from the dead.” Sigismund said.
“We tried waking you…” Regina intervened.
“You need so much sleep. Like babies.” Sigismund added.
Now, by this point, it was already obvious to both me and Regina that he had more respect for a pet than for a human, especially for me. He wasn’t like the others, he wasn’t like Regina.
“Look who’s talking. And what the hell do you know about babies anyway?” I responded.
“Sit.” Regina said, and smiled.
The ship pulled in the port and things were getting back to ‘normal’. A car was waiting at the docks, empty, no driver but Regina went straight for it, hopped in, keys in contact, already warmed up. This was the way I remembered we left things.
Sigismund on the other hand was left way behind. He stopped every 10 meters and lost his gaze upon common things. The pavement, the gray metal cranes on the dock, powerful lights shining down the docks, etc. I guess the adaptation is not as good as we might see it in the movies. He was amazed, emotional, ecstatic, observant and excited in the same time.
The car was just the last drop. The moment we drove off he was… I can’t describe that expression properly. A kid that sees a theme park for the first time, maybe. The typical questions always included “How?” “Why?” “When?” and “How?” again.
We only drove for about 20km from where we were picked off by a small 4-seat helicopter. Now that was the interesting part of the day for Sigismund. The moment that thing went airborne Sigismund turned white. He couldn’t believe his eyes. I’d love to detail the discussions that we had, but at this point it was nothing more than just asking for random explanations about random common things and stopping in between for more assurances about how this is not going to fall down from the sky.
We flew for about 3 hours south to Nyagan Airport in central Russia, from where we stepped off and took a small private jet to Moscow. Sigismund was almost in Nirvana by now, he just switched from a steel ship to a car then to a helicopter and then a plane all in the same day, without knowing that they even existed prior to that. If time-travel was possible, then Sigismund came damn close to the feeling one might experience when time traveling that day.
Regina dozed off in an instant. We were safe. Plus, flying always made her tired. Even when flying commercially, 10 minutes after take-off she would doze off as if struck by a heart attack.
I went to take a shower. I was expecting this for weeks. You would not imagine the state in which all three of us were. By the time I got out not even 15 minutes later everything was going to hell. The nice lady that left clothes for me was already half-dead, drained by Sigismund. Regina was still sleeping and the plane, fortunately on auto-pilot, was now without a pilot, because Sigismund took care of that too.
He felt insulted because the pilot told him to go back and stay out of the cockpit. None of them were dead, neither the flight attendant nor the pilot, but they weren’t going to wake-up soon.
“What the…? Sigismund what happened?” I shrieked and he smiled.
“You idiot! Not the pilot! Who’s going to land this now?” I shouted.
“What do you mean?” He answered.
“Look, we’re still doing great without him.” He added.
Oh.. the naivety.
“Sigismund, this thing is going at over 500 mph.” I added.
Not a flinch for him.
“That’s over 450 knots.” I explained.
“Impossible.” Sigismund finally acknowledged.
“No, very possible. That’s the speed we’re doing. Look out the window. See that? That’s ‘almost Moscow’ already.” I added.
“Somebody needs to stop this, take it down, put out the wheels, step on the breaks and land it. See all those buttons? The only person that knows what to do with them is lying right there on the floor!” I was shouting by this point, and Sigismund was slowly realizing we might have a slight problem.
All the fuss woke up Regina.
“Morons…” She casually walked past us and straight into the pilot’s place. She closed the door behind her.
Five minutes later the plane turned a hard left and started descending. I went inside the cockpit and sat behind her. I think this was the first time I caught a glimpse of the bigger picture of things in her life and around her. She signaled me to sit in the copilot’s seat. I put on the headphones and laid back.
“RX11 Oversight, contacting Moscow approach on 121.4. Authentication XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX”
“Stand-by RX11 Oversight.”
“Authentication acknowledged RX11 Oversight.”
She then switched what I believe is the frequency, because she was talking with someone else, in Russian this time. I couldn’t make everything from the discussion, but much of it was technical and absent from any ‘street Russian’ and was actually easier to understand.
“Moscow approach, RX11 Oversight, Level 1 inbound.”
“Please repeat that RX11 Oversight.”
“Level 1 inbound.”
I can swear what I heard next was hesitation and weakness of the voice of the controller. I can swear he knew who he was actually speaking with.
“Aaaa, RX11 Oversight. Please confirm.”
“XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX Red. Assistance upon landing required. Inbound 15 minutes.”
“Level 1 Confirmed. Welcome to Moscow!”
“Moscow approach, RX11 Oversight, level 12,000 feet.”
“RX11 Oversight, Moscow approach, turn right, heading 2-2-0.”
“Right to 2-2-0. Down to 8,000, RX11 Oversight.”
“RX11 Oversight, cleared runaway 1-6-left. Intercept (something) 1-6-left.”
“RX11 Oversight, contacting Moscow tower 123.9.”
Then the conversation switched back in English.
“Moscow tower, RX11 Oversight cleared to land on 1-6-left.”
“Confirmed. Cleared for landing on 1-6-left RX11 Oversight.”
After this the landing gear came out and the buttons started flying and I saw Regina take down the thing. She made it seem easier than anything we’ve ever done together, not that I was a part of this.
Sigismund either didn’t care or had no idea how lucky we were that one of us had an idea what to do because this could have ended very, very differently. I don’t care what movies you saw, nobody would survive a missed landing in this thing. Nobody.
As we walked out of the plane, Regina told me “Next time, keep a watch on him.” Which made me think, in what universe was I able to keep a watch on someone like him? But then again, maybe he wasn’t what I thought he was, and Regina knew better. I decided to stick with her instincts for the moment, and put my prejudice aside.
Two people and two cars were waiting on the runway.
“Inside.” Regina said as we left. The two people walked inside the plane but I saw everyone walk out safely out of the airplane just before we climbed inside the car.
“Good thing I was in the neighborhood.” A familiar voice said as soon as we climbed inside the car.
I looked closely and Viktoria was shining a bright smile from the passenger seat.
“Viktoria!” I exclaimed. I was genuinely happy to see her. She didn’t acknowledge me much, except a quick top-to-bottom look towards both me and Regina.
“Rough trip?” She asked.
“You have no idea.” Regina answered.
“Who’s the guest?” Viktoria asked.
“Oh, hello…” Sigismund quickly jumped into action, brought back from his dream world in which he spent every single second since we touched civilization, examining every single thing and being amazed even by the glass from which the car windows were made of.
“I believe you’re Viktoria?” He said and Viktoria nodded.
“Then I must be your grandfather.” Sigismund said.
Regina smiled towards her and Viktoria was in awe. She couldn’t believe her eyes. She jumped from the passenger seat “Move!” she exclaimed to me as she made room for herself inching closer to Sigismund.
“Ahh but this is too good to be true…” She said as she touched Sigismund and looked to Regina.
I took the passenger seat instead and left them with their little reunion, but I felt Regina’s eyes on the back of my head a couple of times. I knew when something was wrong, I learned to read it in her eyes and her smile.
Her eyes were piercing, not soft as they usually were, and her smile was fake, not the one that would mesmerize anyone. Viktoria knew also, she knew from the second we stepped of that plane. I didn’t see it right there, except later when I thought about it, but they had their own little plan going on based on two smiles and three looks.
The car pulled in front of a rather small but nice hotel. I was expecting the same hotel as last time, but this time we were staying at the Metropol Hotel Moscow. I still looked like a homeless person, not to mention Regina and Sigismund but we waltzed inside without anyone as much as turning a head.
Regina was in front, then Sigismund, then me and then Viktoria. We went straight to the room and as soon as we entered the room and the door closed behind us all hell broke loose.
I was pushed aside and managed to break a small table in the process, Regina just took a seat and relaxed and Viktoria…
Viktoria jumped on Sigismund and violently pinned him to the ground.