“Rook?” Larry tried to remember if he’d ever heard the name before. “What, does he have some kind of chess theme?”
Alexis shook his head. “I don’t think so. He has wings.”
Larry frowned. “What’s a rook look like anyway?”
“His armor is black. It seems very like a crow. I do not think we have rooks in Cuba.”
Larry gave an grunt in reply, and looked back toward his suite. Could Lim be done debugging the room yet? He doubted it, and he doubted that the Feds would understand why he was friends with Alexis at all. Most of them wouldn’t have the clearance to read the reports they’d need to find out either.
“You want to go somewhere? Talk, maybe?”
Alexis looked up at him. “I might. I was about to examine the arena. I will be fighting tomorrow as well.”
“Do you know how to get there?”
A corner of Alexis mouth quirked in a partial grin. “Let’s say that I know the right direction to walk, and we’ll hope it becomes obvious on the way.”
Alexis pointed down the hall.
Despite all appearances to the contrary, the hallway didn’t go on forever. It seemed to at first. They walked past door after door, all exactly alike except for the room number. A few doors were open. Sounds of television leaked into the hall.
“I’ve barely seen you since, well, the moon base,” Larry offered.
Alexis nodded. “Viktor and I were very busy these last few years.”
“Yeah, with anything special?”
“No, nothing special.” Then Alexis said, “Here we are.”
Alexis opened the door at the end of the hall, and they walked into a room that felt big. In one sense, it wasn’t. They’d only walked into a wider hallway. Still, the ceiling had to be at least four stories above them.
Though it was day time, it felt like night. Barely half the lights that could have been on were.
“Here,” Alexis said, and they walked up a stairway, finding themselves standing near the back of several rows of seats. Past the seats, the arena sprawled. Larry guessed it was the size of a football field.
“Let’s go that way,” Alexis pointed down the field. A group of people were gathered in the stands. A few more were in the arena.
As they walked, Alexis said, “Viktor led an expedition back to the moon base three years ago.”
Alexis had talked quietly. Larry nearly shouted, “What? Goddamn. We told you not to. Why?”
“Well,” Alexis said, still quietly, “we know that you said that out of concern for our well-being, but the General Secretary, and the KGB do not know this, and believe that you were attempting to scare us away from technology vital to the defense of the Warsaw Pact.”
“Goddamn,” Larry muttered.
“He’s studying what he brought back. I haven’t seen him since then. He does send letters. I was not lying about that before. It sounds as though he’s close to several breakthroughs.”
Larry tried not to shout, and did not punch one of the seats, but he wanted to.
“I hope for all of our sakes he can keep his breakthroughs hidden. The Xiniti are going to burn the whole damn planet if they get wind we’re building technology based on Abominator tech.”
Alexis stopped walking, and put a hand on Larry’s shoulder. “I know it. We will have to do something. It can’t be here or now. You have another mission, correct?”
Alexis said, “I’ll find out more when I get back to Cuba, and I’ll find a way to contact you.”
They resumed walking. When they neared the group, Larry would have bet he knew them. He didn’t know their names. He didn’t recognize their costumes, but they seemed familiar. He wouldn’t have been surprised to find out he’d put half of them away under different names.
Big men and women in colored costumes lay back in their chairs, most of them napping, some of them talking.
It reminded him of a high school somehow.
Just ahead of him a thin kid—Larry pegged him as not more then eighteen—talked to the woman who’d met them at the hangar. They were a little further up the aisle from the main group. Larry remembered the woman’s name—Cheryl.
The kid wore a black flight suit, and he was talking and talking. Larry couldn’t catch any of it, but Cheryl held the same smile on her face. It didn’t move.
As he got closer, the kid glanced toward Larry, and then back to Cheryl, “You want to go over there and talk?”
Cheryl said, “I’m sorry, sir, I have to stay here.”
The kid grabbed her arm, and tried to pull her up an aisle toward the back. She didn’t move more than a couple steps, almost falling, catching herself on a chair.
A few of the costumed people glanced her way, but none of them moved.
“Whoops,” the kid said.
Larry walked a little more quickly, but didn’t make it.
Cheryl let go of the chair, and reached into a pocket on her suit’s jacket, pulling out a small spray can.
The kid grabbed for it, reaching across toward her right arm, but not catching it. She sprayed him in the face.
He wasn’t wearing a mask or goggles, and gave a small yelp as she pulled away.
That’s when the big guys in the chairs started laughing.