How Schuldig and Crawford met.
Five years ago
A silver BMW X5 plastered with dirty snow and mud stopped before a pitch-black painted four-meter high metal door. A man clad in a heavy brown fur coat with a cap drawn over his head to shield him from the heavy snowfall stepped out of the vehicle.
"Would you close the door next time! It's - 30Â°C out there!" called a young voice from inside the car and the door slammed shut on its own.
There was no reaction from the man standing before the metal doors.
To his left a small device moved out of the wall. "This is control post two. Please identify yourself and state your purpose." Cracked a metal voice out of the device in Russian.
"659482, Brad Crawford. I'm here on behalf of Eszet regarding one of your prisoners."
"Confirmed. Welcome to prison number two for political criminals." The voice said and the heavy doors started to slide away with a loud squeak of rusty metal.
"They are welcoming us like it is some sort of a holiday resort." the man in the passenger's seat had commented when the other started the car again.
Again, there came no reaction, he just rode inside coming into the inner courtyard.
Six huge barracks were lined up in a line and above each entrance was 'Personnel' written in fading white letters. Before the barracks was a group of balled men dressed in light dark green jackets and equally dark trousers loading snow into a truck. Twenty faces, blue from the cold and skinny from lack of food stopped their work seeing the jeep stop before them. The driver of the BMW glanced at them noting they had all an empty look in their eyes.
Prison did that to people. The rumours had been true the prisons in Siberia were the worst in the world. You had to be a very important prisoner if you had a bed not to speak of a room for yourself. It was considered like sleeping in a four stars hotel. Usually 30 people stayed in one small cell sleeping on the floor. This prison like others was build in the middle of wilderness with more than 500 miles away from civilization. The result was that there was no need for the Siberians to put with a lot of security. If someone thought of escaping, he had to survive the winter or summer, pass over mountains and then a desert. Without help form the outside world no one could survive.
"What are you starring at! The snow must be gone by evening or I'll make you eat it for lunch!" yelled an angry voice followed by a slam of a door.
The newcomers turned to the sound. A man hurried out of the biggest building located in the middle of the yard. "Mr. Crawford! You are earlier than we had arranged." Said the man in heavy accented English shaking first Crawford's hand then his companion's.
The Russian was in his early fifties had short blond hair, steel blue eyes and a clean shaved face. There was a bruise fading above his left eyebrow and a scar running under the right eye to his mouth.
"It was either that or facing a snowstorm." Crawford commented.
"Of course. I'm Tzarzinsky, head guard. Please follow me. I'll inform director Jablokov of your arrival."
Crawford nodded and followed him inside.
Something is not right. Tzarzinsky is too nervous. his companion warned him.
It has been a while they had someone from Eszet or Rosenkreuz. Crawford said his voice flat.
Inside the building, the newcomers lowered their caps but refused to give their coats to the Russian. "I'm here to take the prisoner Mr. Tzarzinsky and I want him now."
Tzarzinsky scowled at the dark haired man. "This way." He said leading them to an elevator that brought them to the fourth floor. The hall they stepped in was painted in ugly grey and two seats stood by every door. The Russian walked quickly to the second door left and knocked that was answered by a loud./ "Da!" (i)/
A bald man was talking on the phone when the three walked into the office. Crawford's companion, a small Afro-American sat down in one of the chairs in front of his desk. The man's eyes widened at his impunity and the young man just starred coldly at him. Jablokov's voice did not change a nuance during the rest of his conversation. Five minutes later, he greeted the visitors warmly and offered them tea.
"No, thank you. If you don't mind, I would take the prisoner with me right now. I have a thigh time schedule, Mr. Jablokov."
Crawford's answer seemed to stir something unpleasant. The director nearly spilled the tea he was filling in his own cup and had to swallow a few times. "Yes, yes. Tzarzinsky will show you the way, but first you have to sign the release papers." He handed him a small folder and a pencil. "A curious fellow that one is. Tzarzinsky had to accommodate him into our special cells. What kind of freak did Germany deliver us this time?"
"This, Mr. Jablokov is none of your business." Crawford's eyes bored deeply into the director's as he handed the papers back.
Tzarzinsky who was standing behind Jablokov's seat guided the foreigners back to the elevator. "He is in the cells underground." He said in a sour voice.
As the elevator moved down the brown-skinned man spoke for the first time. "You were saying special accommodation. In what way?"
"We isolated him from the rest. Other prisoners were saying he was telling all kinds of obscenities into their heads and we had numerous violent outbreaks whenever he was around. In the last one, we lost three guards. We put him in the cells underground and on a diet. He is now too tired and underfed to cause trouble anymore." He smiled wickedly.
When the door opened, a foul smell filled their nostrils and intensified as they moved further. The reason was obvious as the three came to a sort of hall. There was an office desk, computer and a filling cabinet, the rest of the space was taken up by barred cells build around the office in a circle. The smell of human waste rose strongly when one of the creatures in the cells had moved.
"Are you sure he's still alive?" The young man looked up at Crawford.
Crawford's' jaw clenched slowly. "Tzarzinsky for your sake you better start praying he's alive."
The said Russian quickly took his keys opening the last cell with shaky hands. "He's alive, alright. Checked on him only two hours ago."
The young man leaned on the bars peering at the lump lying in the corner. A battered, longhaired creature.
Crawford entered the cell to look a the prisoner. The stench was appalling, and not just from the hole in the ground that was supposed to be the toilet. The man was unwashed, had been for some time and was encrusted with blood, dirt and god knew what else. There was a metal bowl filled with what had to pass through as water. Judging by the sparse light it had adopted a dark brown shade and he could have sworn something was living in it.
"Raish, check him over," Crawford commanded, pressing his lips together in anger. Eszet had sent him all the way to Siberia to get a scrawny little boy out of this hole. This must be his lucky day. "Tzarzinsky get me all his personal belonging. Right now."
When Crawford had raised his voice at the Russian, the figure on the floor had curled up hiding its face in the mess on the floor.
"Hey, you. Come on, wake up." he whispered gently not to startle the creature any further than he had when yelling at Tzarzinsky. "I'm here to get you out."
"You...lie..." The creature croaked and went completely limp.
Crawford heaved an annoyed sigh, instructed Raish to rouse him and went to the desk where he had seen a bottle of water.
The dark skinned man took the prisoner in his arms trying to wake him by shaking him and tapping his bruised face. His efforts were rewarded as the man's eyes opened to slits. He whispered something, Raish bent down and asked him to repeat it, but could not understand what he was saying. He ignored his feverish talk systematically placing his hand first on his forehead, chest and lastly his belly.
Crawford returned with the bottle. "His condition?"
"Not good. Aside from the countless bruises and cuts, he has a sprained ankle and high fever. I think I don't need to say he has been systematically starved and dehydrated."
"Great." Crawford muttered under his breath taking the prisoner back in his hands. "Here, water."
The redhead made week attempts of protest thinking they wanted to feed him the brown gunk from the bowl again.
"I told you he's trouble." Tzarzinsky announced himself standing in the cell opening with the boy's belongings. Raish immediately jumped to his feet and snatched the cloths out of his hands.
The American sprinkled some water on the filthy face washing off blood and dirt. He let some flow in his mouth and sure enough, the youth complied drinking desperately from the bottle, nearly chocking on it.
Don't you dare dying, boy. I didn't come half way through the continent for your rotting corpse. Crawford said unable to contain his anger, knowing the boy would hear him.
The prisoner grabbed Crawford's arm weakly. What do you wan-
My name is Brad Crawford. He cut in. Eszet assigned me to take you back to the Rosenkreuz facility.
"We must go. Now. Before the weather gets really bad." Raish said, keeping an eye on Tzarzinsky, while Crawford was wrapping the boy in his heavy coat.
By the time, they made it back to the jeep the boy had passed out completely. Raish took the backseat with the telepath in his arms and Crawford the driver's seat.
"I will inform the Council of your maltreatment." Crawford's eyes glittered unpleasantly at the Russian. "Should the prisoner have any permanent damage you and your prisoner warden will hear from Eszet."
(i) Da (Russian): Yes