Kirill Morozov was just a job. That’s what Number Seven kept telling himself, anyway, whenever the Olympian hopeful already with stars of gold in his eyes showed off his white-dagger smile in an effort to get what he wanted. Usually, those desires were harmless: a second bowl of ice cream, some extra time in the hot tub, an indulgent hour of playing videogames in the suite. Tonight, what Kirill wanted was to attend a party in the city to which the rest of the swim team had gone. Unfortunately for the young swimmer, the order that had come through Seven’s earpiece was that he was to escort Kirill back to the suite, give him his supplements, and put him to bed for a solid night’s rest. An agenda in which Kirill wanted no part once he’d received a series of photo messages from a teammate showing Darya Vikhrova, captain of the women’s diving team, already in attendance and already grinding upon three other men on the dancefloor.
“It’s just a party,” Seven said into his comm, while Kirill grimaced and made silent prayer hands in front of him. “I don’t understand why—”
“Yours is not to understand, Number Seven,” the voice replied in his ear, from Control Headquarters over three hundred kilometers away. “Yours is to follow orders. And Number One has given his orders.”
That tone – and the following silence as Control cut off their mic – made it final, and Seven turned to his charge with a look of apology.
“The old man says no.”
“That is not fair!” Kirill complained, there in the middle of the lobby. The woman standing behind the desk cast them a snooping glance but returned to her computer screen when Seven met her gaze. He had that effect on people.
“Please,” Kirill begged. “Ask again?”
“It would not do any good,” Seven said; they both knew that once Control made a decision, that decision was made. He pressed the button for the lift and stepped back, to watch the numbers come down. “Look on the bright side: they will probably break it up before we could even get there. You know how Two is about his curfews.”
Kirill groaned and cringed both hands in front of him, in a rather distasteful mime of groping a woman’s bosom. “But, Darya…!”
Seven sucked a click through his teeth, and gave him a shove into the opening lift. Kirill moved to the back, to rest his behind on the bar, and Seven pushed the button for their floor. As the numbers started to tick up, he turned to Kirill with faint curiosity.
“Do you like Darya?”
“What is not to like?” Kirill said. “She is strong, feisty, beautiful…!”
Seven rumbled a dubious hum. “Tell me: what color are her eyes?”
“Brown.” Kirill blinked. “Or blue.” He shrugged. “One of those.”
“What kind of music does she like?”
Kirill flicked his gaze to the ceiling. “Uh…?”
Seven furrowed his brow. “Do you know if she has any hobbies?”
“I have seen her sunbathing on the roof.” Kirill flashed a toothy smile. “Sometimes, in just her panties!”
“God,” Seven muttered, shooting him a glare. “I despair of you.”
Kirill spread his hands. “What?”
“You do not know the first thing about her!” Seven scolded, as the doors opened. He walked out, and Kirill came to pace him, protesting his innocence.
“Because she will not talk to me!”
“Maybe because all you seem to notice is her breasts!” Seven said, and kept walking.
Kirill followed in silence all the way to the suite, when he muttered, “She has very nice breasts.”
Seven faced him with a groan. “You do know a woman is more than the sum of her measurements. Yes?”
“Of course I know that.” Kirill bumped his wide shoulders. “But how am I supposed to get to know a woman if I am training, training, training all of the time? I want to live,” he said, baring his perfect teeth in a grimace.
Seven swiped the key card and opened the door. He walked in and flipped on the light, to emphasize Kirill’s private, two-bedroom suite – the only one given to any member of their division – where they spent at least a third of every day.
“You live very well,” he said, waving an arm over the main room with its kitchenette, sleeper sofa, large-screen television, and entertainment center.
Kirill walked past him, seemingly without noticing any of it. “Hotel rooms,” he said in a sneering voice, as he flumped down on the sofa. “Gymnasiums. Pools. It’s boring!”
Seven stayed standing, and crossed his arms. “I would have been happy with boring, at your age.”
Kirill sat up, his face going smooth as he relinquished some of his dissatisfaction. “I know swimming is not soldiering,” he said, his tone briefly hushed for shame before it rebounded in volume again. “But at least you lived! You saw the world. You probably had tons of women!”
“I also got this.” Seven indicated his face for its harsh reality, but Kirill snorted.
“I don’t know why you bring that up. The scar is cool. Everybody thinks so.” He threw out his hand and blustered on. “I swim better and faster than anyone else, on our team or any other, and those miserable old men punish me for it!” He jabbed a finger toward the east-facing windows, even if that was the wrong way toward Control headquarters.
Seven approached the sofa, offering the same reasoning that his superiors were so fond of spitting into his earpiece. “You are going to be a champion. That is a great privilege, but also a great responsibility. Wild parties with drugs and alcohol are not good for that.”
Kirill slumped back against the cushions. “Only Ullman takes those stupid party drugs.” He rubbed his belly. “They make me feel sick.”
“Then you should not mind missing them,” Seven said.
Kirill made one last attempt: “Number Four would let me go.”
“I am not Four,” Seven said. “And you are not Ullman. Or Adamski, or Baskin.” He held back a smirk. “You are Kirill Morozov, and you must be held to a higher standard.” He crouched at the edge of the sofa and offered Kirill a tiny smile. “Your time will come.”
The younger man sighed as he got to his feet and threw his arms out in a gesture of reluctant acceptance. “It has already been twenty-two years! What is one more night, eh?” he said, and headed into his room.
Seven took his place on the sofa and watched him go. Kirill was brazen and cheeky, but not without compassion. He was even thoughtful, in his sheltered young man’s way. It was part of the reason why Seven liked him so much.
He picked up the remote control for the television and switched it on. It landed on the news, in the middle of a report about border arrests of immigrants trying to come in and the marginalized trying to escape, complete with disturbing video footage of men in military armor threatening a line of protesting homosexuals with their weapons and shields. He switched it off. From the other room, he heard Kirill singing – badly – to some cloying popular ballad until his voice fell away a few beats later, no doubt due to his standard ritual of self-pleasure under the shower.
Seven pulled his mobile phone from his pocket, scrolling through the contacts list until he came to a particular name. He tapped the dial icon with his thumb and raised the mobile to his ear.
Three rings went by before a feminine voice sounding as rich as chocolate truffles answered, “Allo?”
“Natalya!” Seven said with a smile.
“Who is this?”
“Your favorite ex-war hero,” he said.
“You’ll have to be more specific.”
Seven frowned. “Quit fooling. You know it’s me.”
Natalya’s voice broke into a laugh of sharp delight. “Still so easy to frustrate!” Her tone became glib. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“Are you still in the city?”
“Where else can a girl make a living,” she said, more statement than question. “Why do you ask?”
Seven looked at Kirill’s room, from where the sounds of water and the radio still wafted, and smiled to himself. “How would you like me to owe you a favor?”
There you have it: part 1 of my original spec-fic story, “Number Seven and the Life Left Behind.” If you liked it – or you didn’t – feel free to add your feedback in the comment section, or send me a note directly at Mayumi[at]bonusparts.com. Once the next part is posted, I’ll add a link to go straight to it from here. Successive links will appear at the bottom of each part in the same fashion.
Update Schedule and Email Notes
I’ll be updating this story every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. So that I don’t spam anyone’s inbox, though, this will be the last time you receive an email alert, until the story is finished.
Thank you for reading!