After a few hours of dusty and shaky road, Kai drove to Gor in his jeep. Before the trip, he drove into his apartment, changed into his black military jacket, trousers of the same color were tucked into comfortable high black lace-up shoes. He liked the black color, and it suited him, emphasizing the chic and elegance of the image. His clothes, including shoes, were expensive and made to order. Despite the war, he did not consider it necessary to deny himself good things.
At the entrance to the laboratory, they recognized him and immediately let him in. After driving downstairs to the underground parking, Kai went to the elevator.
“Most likely, Gor is in the common hall,” he suggested and headed down the corridor there.
He was not wrong. Gor was in the main hall with everyone else. They were standing and discussing something at a table with a monitor and a bunch of paper sheets on which numbers and formulas were printed.
No matter how many times he came back here, the feeling of fear remained inside. This fear, fear of those who were here.
They were kind of not quite people, although outwardly they look like people. They were always hidden by long black cloaks with hoods shading their faces or whatever they had instead of faces. He had never seen what they looked like. Only eyes, he saw their eyes from under the hood. They were yellow, like beasts, and glowed in the dark, reflecting light. Cold, merciless eyes, in which there were no feelings, emotions, soul.
They considered themselves to be supermen. Having removed all feelings from their lives, they became perfect. Exceeding all the limits of reasonable intelligence, ideal memory, deep knowledge in any fields of science, and the entire luggage of human knowledge for all centuries. Well, they were a superior race, a super-race of humans.
Their acquaintance began strangely but gradually grew into a long-term cooperation. Although they did not promise anything to Kai and did not guarantee his freedom and life. Despite this, he came to them. Maybe this was stupid. Unjustified risk? Probably.
But the risk was in his life all the time, so he got used to living this way.
They found common points of contact, the intersection of interests – this was the guarantee of his life, which they had not yet touched.
War creates common interests and common problems. It was beneficial for them to cooperate with Kai. He helped them a lot, knowing the situation at the front, although they were not interested in the war. They were completely indifferent to who won or lost. They were neutral. They built their world here so that later they could swallow this world. Kai knew it too, but what could he do? How to prevent this? It was better to be with them than to be in the dark about what was happening.
Now the project of their world was still far from being realized. They conducted their own scientific developments and experiments. Kai helped them with this.
Kai loved science, physics, and chemistry. This is another reality, you get there – and all the world ceases to exist. He enjoyed watching and understanding formulas and chain reactions. His analytical brain had no trouble finding the mistakes that the Araxes, as they called themselves, made when experimenting. Their brains worked differently. They did not have logical thinking, probably, in improving their personality, they considered it unnecessary. Without Kai’s help, they would have been busy with many experiments for months.
If it weren’t for the war, if not for his fate to be here, the choice made for him, he would have become a scientist. Formulas, analytics, experiments – how exciting it was. It’s good that at least here he could do what he liked. And that was the irony of fate. Yes, here, in a dungeon, in a secret laboratory, he could do what he wanted to devote his life to in his homeland.
They turned to see him appear. Kai froze for a second, gathered himself together, and stepped towards them, nodding his head to greet everyone.
“We’ve been waiting for you,” said an indifferent voice.
There was no emotion in that voice, but the hard gleam of the eyes shining from under the shadow of the hood spoke of the opposite. Gor was angry! Kai promised to come earlier, knowing that they needed him.
“I’ve come as soon as I could,” Kai replied calmly, then tried to immediately turn the conversation to work. “Fakhr, what about the experiment at the moment? What are all the stages?”
“Here, you see,” Fakhr pointed to a large pile of papers on the table, “this is what has accumulated during your absence. We’ve made a mistake again; the reaction is not proceeding.”
Fakhr’s voice sounded just as indifferent.
Fakhr then went on to explain in detail what stage the experiment was in, showing Kai the chemical formulas on the monitor and on papers.
“I see,” said Kai, collecting the papers. “I’ll go to that computer and work.”
There was a lot of work: everything needed to be revised, rechecked, and found in the chemical chains the mistake that had caused such a failure.
He was sitting on a freestanding computer desk in a comfortable chair, out of the corner of his eye seeing Gor. He did the right thing that he did not develop the topic with explanations, but immediately covered himself with work. Gor was angry with him.
Gor. He was in charge here.
Although they were all dressed the same and did not differ in any way from each other, Kai always intuitively knew which of them was Gor, he also knew Fakhr and Tonn. He also distinguished the others. How? He did not understand. Maybe so many years of communication gave the ability to distinguish them?
The night passed unnoticed, at work. He was not disturbed. Here work was going on around the clock, someone came in, went out – here it was always like this. Kai abstracted himself from everything. Several times a night he went to smoke and pour himself some coffee. By morning, he rechecked everything and found errors in the formulas.
In the morning Gor, Tonn, and Fakhr arrived. Yesterday, after Kai sat down to work, they left for another laboratory.
Kai slept at the table with his head in his hands. The whole table was littered with papers, an unfinished cup of coffee, cigarettes, and a lighter lay next to him.
Tonn walked over and put his hand on Kai’s shoulder.
Kai woke up at the touch.
“I seem to have fallen asleep,” Kai said in a slightly apologetic voice, looking at the three black-hooded silhouettes standing next to his desk. Even after so many years, they still frightened him with their appearance. Now, right after sleeping, he had no time to hide his emotions. Fear flashed across Kai’s face.
They saw fear in Kai’s eyes.
“Go to sleep. People need to sleep. Otherwise, you will not work well,” Tonn said in a monotone.
“Well, cast-iron logic: I will work badly! They have frightened me by their appearance, in addition,” thought Kai. And he added aloud: “I’ve checked everything and found errors. Then I’ll sleep, but now we’ll better go to the laboratory – we need to start the reaction again. Here is the file, where all the error data and new formulas. But I would like to be there myself to conduct an experiment.”
“Have you checked everything?” Fakhr’s voice sounded monotonous. He took Kai’s seat at the desk and skimmed through the data, opening the file. “Okay, I’ll tell now to prepare reagents.”
“I’ll go to wash and smoke,” Kai said, grabbing cigarettes and a lighter. He decided that it was better to go out now than to feel them next to him.
The day was spent in the laboratory – this was his world: cones, test tubes, reagents, something hissed, poured, monitors and sensors were working. For Kai, it was the life of a real scientist, as he imagined it in dreams of his future, which was not destined to come true.
For the next week, he was completely immersed in work. Time flew by unnoticed. There was no war here, although he regularly reviewed frontline reports and force movement data. There was relative calm on the fronts, and he could afford to delve into science, even if only for a while to become a scientist.
The experiment was quite successful, although pitfalls or unforeseen moments were constantly discovered, but he solved these.
And now Kai was struggling with another chemical formula, which did not work at all: he had already checked everything again, but there was no result.
A monitor screen lit up on the table, and a faceless voice said that Gor was waiting for him in the conference room.
Kai was upset that he would have to leave everything at the most interesting moment, but he went, since making Gor wait was not an option at all.
In the main room, at the table, there were all the major Araks, including Tonn and Fakhr.
Gor motioned Kai to a chair at the table. He sat in the center.
“We are ready to convey the information we are interested in,” as always, without any prefaces, Gor began in a monotonous voice. “This is a diskette with the latest works of Gunther. The Japanese defeated parts of the British and captured this information. They don’t need it. They offer it to us. I’ve received a file today with this proposal and a couple of pages of Gunther’s experiments on this diskette. We are interested in this.”
Kai listened distractedly, on the whole, he was indifferent.
“Toyami Takeru is ready to give the floppy disk at the meeting, but he has one condition. That concerns you.”
At the word “Takeru”, Kai jumped up from the table and stood listening to Gor.
“What is the condition?” Kai’s voice for some reason trembled with a bad feeling.
Gor, not taking his yellow animal eyes off him, continued:
“There will be a second diskette. This concerns Sheikh Arshad. Takeru asks to meet at the closed Enpole Hotel in Izir. There he will give the floppy disks to us and Arshad if you fulfill some condition.”
“What is the condition?” Kai was already starting to shake; he slowly sank into a chair.
“Arshad will tell you the condition, it was written in the file. Call him on speakerphone, we must know this condition.”
Kai realized that he should now dial Arshad’s number in front of everyone and listen to terms from Toyami. For some reason, he did not like this idea but seeing the yellow unblinking eyes of Gor looking at him, he began to look for the phone in his jacket pockets.
For a long time and nervously he was taking out the phone, which was stuck in his pocket, then for a long time he could not cope with getting his finger into the monitor. Finally, the call went through.
“Hello, Arshad. I’m calling on the terms of the meeting. Everyone is listening to us,” Kai hinted, then asked. “What does Toyami want?”
“Hello, Kai,” Arshad’s voice was mysterious, Kai did not like it right away. “First, I want to say that on the diskette that Toyami wants to give for me there are maps of fortifications in the Sabar desert area. It’s important to me.”
“I’ve understood you. What does he want?”
“Are you nervous?” it seemed that all this amused Arshad.
“What does Toyami want?”
“We all meet at the Enpole Hotel in Izir. It’s safe for everyone, agree.”
“Arshad! Can you finally tell me what he wants in exchange for these floppy disks?!”
“He is handing over the floppy disks after he kisses you on the lips in front of everyone.”
Kai waved his hand in surprise. Three folders on the table beside him fell to the floor with a crash. He immediately bent down and began to pick them up.
Arshad’s voice came from the phone:
“Are you all right there? Has something fallen?”
“He’s crazy! You see, psycho!” Kai jumped up from the table, then sat down again. “There’s a war here, and he’s playing kissing!”
“There is always war here. Now what?” Arshad’s voice was completely calm. “You can refuse.”
Kai looked around the table. Yellow eyes, twinkling with a strange brilliance, gazed at him. A bad chill ran down his spine.
How? when you are surrounded by these and your life depends on their mood?
“Toyami! Bastard! And what is he just thinking about? Apparently, all his thoughts are only about sex. He is mad!”
“I agree,” Kai’s voice sounded low, he coughed and spoke a little louder, “I agree.”
“You are pronouncing it as if you are going to the scaffold.”
“It definitely amuses the Sheikh,” Kai understood from his voice.
“Do not be sad. You will like it,” then Arshad’s tone became official. “He will send by mail the day and time of the meeting.”
The call was interrupted, beeps sounded in the receiver.
There was silence in the hall. Kai laid his hands on the table and dropped his head on them. Now he wanted to sink into the ground, but since it was unrealistic, then at least hide his flaming face from the eyes looking at him.
“Why does Takeru need this?” Ton’s indifferent voice sounded beside Kai.
“What?” Kai asked without looking up.
“Kiss you on the lips?” Tonn continued indifferently.
Kai felt like complete s***.
“This is a setup! This Toyami is a bastard!”
He did not even think that Kai would have to sit in front of the Araxes like this and try to explain something to them while feeling how their looks burned him.
Fakhr’s voice rang out, indifferently, as if the machine were reading out background information:
“A kiss on the lips is a sign of manifestation of love among people. It is customary for humans to kiss an individual of the opposite sex. A kiss between individuals of the same sex is forbidden among humans.”
“You don’t want to do this?” Gor spoke for the first time, asking Kai this question.
Kai straightened and leaned back in his chair.
“Both Arshad and you need this diskette with information. I have already given my consent.”
“We can just kill everyone and take this data,” Gor said indifferently.
“It’s not profitable for you to kill them. They will do more good for you alive. You know that very well yourself.” Kai realized that things were now taking an undesirable turn, and if Gor made a decision, he would not be able to stop him.
“If you don’t want to do this, I’ll kill them.”
Kai was amazed at what he had heard.
“It’s strange, Gor is ready to do for me, what is not profitable for him? He only does what they need and will benefit them. How strange … “
“Not. You are welcome. It doesn’t mean anything to me. And you will have a floppy disk with useful data and people who may still be useful.”
“Good. I will accept your decision. You can go. They will tell you when there will be a meeting.”
Kai didn’t force them to ask him again and quickly left. When he reached the first hood in the corridor, he lit a cigarette. There was one, then another cigarette.
“Toyami plays with death! He decided to play with Gor. He makes a knight out of himself. If he had not convinced Gor now, the end would have come to Toyami. Gor would kill everyone. And why did Toyami go for it? “
There was a voice deep in his mind that he didn’t want to hear. This voice whispered: “For you.” He drove this thought away from himself, but it persistently entered his head.
“What stupidity. Ok – because of me! What am I supposed to do now? What? I told him in Russian, no, in Japanese, I said: I’m not interested in this! What did he imagine?! Has he decided to prove that he always gets his way? Crazy! Abnormal!”.
Kai went to his room and, opening a bottle of cognac, drank a glass, the second in one gulp.
When the bottle was coming to an end, Fakhr came to him.
“I’ll be right there,” just now Kai realized how long he had been sitting in his room.
“You are useless to us in this form. You will come tomorrow,” Fakhr’s eyes looked from the shadow of the hood.
“Thanks,” Kai said quietly.
Fakhr once again fixed his strange yellow eyes on him and then left the room.
Kai leaned against the back of the couch, realizing that he had allowed himself an unforgivable weakness – instead of working he was sitting and getting drunk. It was strange that Fakhr did not say anything but simply gave him the opportunity to rest. And Gor also amazed him today: he decided to stand up for him.
Then Kai’s thoughts returned to Toyami. He thought how stupid it was of him to commit such a childish, rash act.
“And all for what? Does he want to prove that he always gets his way? Well – he will prove, and what next? What does he count on?”
Kai thought about kissing him. He remembered his face, voice, eyes …
“It’s all nonsense! I don’t want to think about it!”