Week 9

Out the Lada’s dingy window, Putin watched the dark wall of old-growth fir blur past. Despite the bucolic landscape, he felt ill at ease.

“Well, Comrade,” said the doctor, glancing over at his passenger, “let me welcome you to Moscow’s best-kept secret.” He simulated a smile.

As Putin watched the massive nuclear complex come into view, Antonosky chattered on. “This facility is actually a secret military base.

“The nuclear plant is merely a ruse—chicken wire and papier-mâché.” The doctor chuckled. “Beneath it, however, we are building the future.”

Still the looming plant grew larger, dwarfing the yellow Lada as it approached. Antonosky gestured toward the seemingly solid structure.

“Deep below that husk, we have technology you cannot imagine. Our experiments will change the world … once our subjects stop dying.”

Both men laughed. “How does our subject fit into this?” Putin asked. “Well,” Antonosky replied, “he survived. And we want to know why.”

“The subject, he is … different now. Yes, different.” The doctor showed his credentials to a guard and they drove into the complex.

Antonosky maneuvered the Lada into a lift that could hold a cargo plane, and they began to descend. He lit a Sobranie. “Soon you will see.”

Putin said nothing; he disliked the doctor’s evasiveness. Minutes passed in silence, and then the lift settled and its doors creaked open.

They exited the Lada and walked down a long, white hallway. Through glass panels in thick metal doors, they could see scientists working.

Suddenly, Putin stumbled and put a hand to his head. He tasted metal, and the hallway seemed to tilt. “Where … is the subject?” he gasped.

Dr. Antonosky froze. “Are you all right, Comrade?” Putin turned, eyes blazing. “Where is the particle accelerator, Doctor?!”

The doctor stepped back, away from the reeling KGB chief. How could this be? How could Putin know about the particle accelerator, unless …

Not waiting for an answer, Putin spun away and ran down the hall. Antonosky hesitated, still in shock, then slapped the panic alarm.

Klaxons echoed through the subterranean corridor as Putin raced past bewildered workers, heading straight for a massive door marked DANGER!

He charged into the particle accelerator’s control room like a blinded bull. Circuit boards shorted out as he passed. Flames. Screams.

Putin spun in the center of the room. The terrified cries and blaring sirens were only a distant murmur. This place … so familiar …

Driven by an unknown power, the particles flew at velocities the facility could not contain. A violent white flash preceded the shockwave.

As far away as Homyel, the earth groaned and shuddered. The blast was seen by Cosmonauts aboard the Mir. Surely nothing could survive.