September 2, 2023
3:34pm somewhere in the city of Kaspivodsk, Sosozov.
3:34pm somewhere in the city of Kaspivodsk, Sosozov.
The journey to meet with Sergi took an hour longer than we were informed but I think our guide did this on purpose in order for the team to see just what a war-torn country looks like. During the hike we saw the usual burned out buildings, wrecked cars, tanks, and down helicopters littering the landscape however during this hike we saw more and more people actually out and about. Most were searching through wreckages to find something, others just walking aimlessly with what appeared to be no purpose other than to keep on the move. At one point Jenny asked "Where are the Van'stishi? We haven't seen any?" Our guide, we'll call him "Jun", says only that Sergi should be the one we ask, he isn't knowledgeable about such things. There was something about the way he said it that made me nervous but he was the one who was getting us to meet with Sergi.
Before we make our final approach to the dilapidated building Jun tells us a few things in order to not be "eyed funny". When we meet with the guards we're to give them a carton of cigarettes each then they'll let us in. Don't have our weapons in our hands but have them holstered in the open, they don't like surprises and a concealed handgun will get us killed regardless of the invitations we received. Lastly don't ask Sergi anything unless he lets you know you can. Seems easy enough and we all start putting our weapons in their holsters or over our shoulders. We're about ten feet away from Jun who's already at the doorway and waves us in.
Before we cross the threshold we see two guards in olive drab military styled clothing. One has a German flag on the left shoulder and the other a Soviet, not a Neo-Soviet flag but the old U.S.S.R. red and gold hammer and sickle style. We give each of them a carton of cigarettes and the German soldier looks surprised and opens it franticly, removes a pack then opens it and quickly lights one. "Is good is good! Marlboro 100 Red, is good! Spasibo! Spasibo!" They quickly wave us inside while starting a conversation amongst themselves, I don't try to listen in but from the limited amount of German and Russian I can speak I can tell their spirits have been lifted even if only for a few moments. However the moment is lost on me when a massive figure moves in front of the next doorway blocking our path. With what little light is coming in from behind us through the outer doorway I can tell it's an Ikwen from the reflection of its four eyes and size. As far I knew the only Ikwen that survived here were those still loyal to the Van'stishi. Perhaps this was a defector? This would be something I'll have to ask our host when and if the time comes but first I ask Jose to pull out the fish oil broth we were asked to bring and give it to the Ikwen. He/she (I never learn if it was a male or female) takes it and surprisingly replies with "Danke". An Ikwen speaking German? It looks like I'll have more than a few questions for Sergi. In any case the Ikwen takes us deeper into the building, down two flights of steps, and into what I assume was an old parking garage now turned into a makeshift headquarters. For obvious reasons I can't say exactly what I see down here but it's more than just salvaged equipments like I thought it would be.
The Ikwen leads us down yet another hallway that surprisingly has electricity. Plastered along the walls are old "The Terminator" posters from Poland (?) and just like that first film in the series this place very much reminds me of the Resistance hideaway of John Connor. There are more than a few makeshift homes in this place, some with homemade doors, others with simple cloths for limited privacy. When I was a kid this is what the apocalypse would look like to me thanks to movies and comic books. If it hadn't been for a real spaceship filled with real aliens this would still be the stuff of science fiction. Now it's science fact, and it's actually terrifying. Most of us, 80's kids, thought that if those old movies, comics, and television shows actually happened we'd be able to handle it no problem. Yeah, we were wrong.
The Ikwen stops Jun and mutters something to him in a mix of German, Russian, and another language I can't make out then Jun waves me over. He says Sergi will only meet with Jenny and myself, the rest of the team would be escorted to the guest quarters to rest and begin to collect the letters we're to be given from Sergi's soldiers as well as delivery the rest of the goods we were asked to bring. They don't argue much, but do as they've been instructed after giving me five cartons of cigarettes that we're to gift to Sergi. After they leave Jenny and I are taken down yet another hall, half lit with yellow bulbs with every fourth one being red for some reason. I remember something about red light being important but honestly I forgot. In any case Jun knocks on a metal door, it obviously has several locks on the other side as it takes a minute or so before the door opens and light pours out into the hallway. Jenny and I are told to take a seat on some old wooden boxes with pillows on them and wait for Sergi. Jun says nothing else then walks out closing the door behind him. I'm just sitting here wondering, who unlocked the door if nobody is in here? Then we hear footsteps and soft humming coming from around a corner we didn't know was there.
Our host, Sergi, has arrived.....