Monday, December 21, 2015

Stars of Heaven: Chapter 6

Chapter 6: Dima the Russian

There was nothing about the outside of Dima the Russians house that would call attention to it except for the fact there was nothing around it at all.  It was well away from the main complex of Mars City and from the Quarter, the collection of tent habitats where Jethro and his family had set up camp.  It was an isolated dome on the top of a small, nondescript hill.  It measured 20 ft across which would give it an area of just over 600 square feet.   Fairly modest.
Pressing a button a the front door, activated a view screen into which the face of a man appeared.  His hair was dark and was in a crew cut.  He was wearing a black t-shirt.
“Kak vas zavoot?” the man asked.
“What is your name,” A.I. translated in his ear.
“I am Jethro Smith,” Jethro answered.
The man looked down as if looking as a panel, and the door in front of Jethro slid open and Jethro stepped inside.  
Given the size of the house, Jethro had expected a small airlock.  He was surprised to discover that most of the house was an airlock.  The door slid closed behind him, and he could tell the pressure was starting to increase as pieces of trash began to skitter across the floor.
Jethro heard A.I.’s voice in his earpiece again.
“ I don’t know if you will be able to access me,”  he said.  “There is some sort of interference inside this building.”
He took off his helmet once the indicator light pronounced it was safe to breath.
Another voice, different from the one he heard before, came from over a hidden speaker from somewhere in the room.
“You may put your suit on hanger,” it said with a Russian accent.  “Then come down elevator.”
Jethro removed his suit and hung it as suggested on some hangers that were over to the side.  Then he stepped through the opened doors of the elevator.  The doors closed behind him and the elevator descended for a few seconds before coming to a stop and the doors opened.
Jethro stepped from the elevator into the most nicely appointed room he’d seen since he left his father’s hab.  It might’ve been the nicest room he’d ever seen.  There were huge view screens on every wall; there was a gigantic couch in the middle; there was what appeared to be a well-equipped bar over to the side.
There were four living creatures in the room with him. Three humans and what looked to Jethro to be a cat--he’d seen them in videos from Earth.  One of the humans was the man who had let him in.  He was about six feet, six inches tall, very broad in the shoulders with a large handgun strapped to his hip.  He was standing quietly to the side.
There was a woman with long blond hair hanging halfway down her back.  She was wearing a dress that, while going to her ankles plunged in all of the strategic places and did not manage to cover up anything very well, including the fact that she was wearing nothing beneath it.  She was stroking the cat who was huddled to her side.
Finally, there was another man who was about six feet tall, about the same height as Jetho.  He was dressed in black pants and a shiny white silk shirt.  He and the woman had only socks on their feet.  This made Jethro note a shoe stand by the door.  As he was now in his stocking feet himself, he didn’t have to use it.
“Mr. Smith?” the man in the shiny shirt said.  It was the second voice he had heard while coming in. There was nothing coming in from A.I.
“Yes,” Jethro said.  “And you are?”
“I Dima,” he said. “And this my wife Tasha,” he said indicating the woman. “Who must now leave.”
Dima turned to her, and said, “Business.”
She took Jethro’s hand, bowed slightly, and left the room, taking the cat with her.
The big man stayed, looking somehow even bigger than he had before.
“What you think of my place?” Dima asked.
“It is the nicest place I’ve ever seen Mr...” Jethro began.
“Just Dima.”
“It’s the nicest place I’ve seen, Dima,” Jethro said.  “Please call me Jethro.”
Dima seemed pleased to hear that.  The big man over to the side betrayed no emotion.
“Let me show you around,” Dima said.
He first showed him old guns. He had a Kalashnikov that had seen service in a conflict in Afghanistan.  There was a Luger from the Great Patriotic War.  Then there was a musket that had been used by the British against Napoleon.
Then he showed him some old books.  Most of them were in Russian.  There was a copy of War and Peace--which Jethro only new because Dima had told him.  There was a copy of a Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.  It was an autographed first edition.  One book he has in english was the first volume of Knuth’s The Art of Computer Programming.  Jethro looked through this one eagerly and for some time.  When he looked up, Dima was smiling.
Then Dima led Jethro to a small table on which there was a eastern-style cross with its footpiece at a slant. In front of the cross was an open Bible. Jethro tried to discern what scripture the Bible was open to, but it was in Russian.
“What scripture is this?” Jethro asked.
“It from Psalm,” he said. “It say : Arise, Lord, in your anger; rise up against rage of my enemies. Awake, my God; decree justice.”
By the Bible, Jethro noted an icon of the Virgin Mary and the Christ child and next to it a photograph of an elderly lady.  Dima noticed that Jethro was looking at the picture.
“This my mother,” Dima said picking up the photograph.  “Padre Gustavo says your mother and father not have seen your children, your wife, yes?”  
“No they haven’t,” Jethro said, “and I would like them too, but I...I had my father’s hab to leave on the run.  I am wanted by the authorities for reasons I do not fully understand.”
“Okay, if I help you I need to know everything,” Dima said. “There can be no surprises. Surprises bad.”
Padre Gustavo had told Jethro that he could trust Dima.  While Dima did deal in things that were not legal in the strictest sense of the word, such as being allowed by the law, he dealt with people according to a code.  A deal was a deal; his word was his word.  While he could be ruthless to those in the business, he was fair with the small fry.  So Jethro shared fully with him as he had shared fully with Padre Gustavo.  In addition, he told Dima his father’s name.
“Okay,” Dima said.  “I’ve heard of him. A good man of business.”
Dima was thoughtful for a while.
“We can do this, but I must think how,” he said at last.  “I will contact you. Now we drink.”
Dima went to a com panel on the wall and pressed a button.
“Tasha, prinecti vodku,” he said into it.
A few minutes later, Tasha appeared carrying a silver tray which held a bottle and two glasses.  She set it on the table and quietly disappeared.  Dima took the bottle and filled each of the glasses with the clear liquid it contained.  He gave one glass to Jethro and took the other himself.
“To health!” Dima said as he threw his head back and threw the drink down his throat.  
Jethro snift his and caught the aroma of pure alcohol.  Having been introduced to drinking by his father-in-law to the niceties of social drinking, he steeled himself and followed Dima’s example.  He managed to only cough a little.
By this time Dima had tossed down a second, poured himself a third, and was motioning for Jethro to let his glass be refilled.
Jethro smiled and thought to himself that he would get to see his parents again...if he lived.
Tasha returned with a tray filled with bread, sliced tomato, sliced cucumber, and cheese, along with, and Jethro thanked God for this, a bottle of water. She stayed with them this time nibbling on the cucumber.
After a bit more socializing, with Tasha inquiring of Jethro’s family through Dima, Jethro made to depart.
“Wait one moment,” Dima said.  He then spoke quietly to Tasha who left their company to step across the room and fetch something which she then handed to Dima.
“This for you,” Dima said, handing it to Jethro.  It was the copy of The Art of Programming.
Tears came to Jethro’s eyes.  Dima was pleased.

1 comment:

Ossian said...

It reminds me a bit of James Bond. I'm not getting a strong sense of time passing or time constraints. It does feel a bit dangerous now with the bodyguard and his gun etc. There must be terrible things that happen out there with freebooters and illegal goings on.