번역: Clef And Dimitri Hit The Road

"A sabbatical?"

"At least one month," Dr. Glass said, nervously fingering the panic button under his clipboard. The figure sitting in the chair across from him slowly blinked its uncannily colorful eyes (damn it, he could never figure out what color they were supposed to be) and carefully read the pink slip of paper in his hand. "Your psychological evaluation indicates that it's been years since you last took a break. You need to let off some steam."

"I did have a break. I took a very nice trip to Italy," Clef said levelly.

"I went to bar. Was fun. Met new friends," Strelnikov insisted.

"A covert mission with six MTF operatives to eliminate a target is not a vacation, and nor are the five weeks in the hospital spent recovering from that nasty gut wound either." Dr. Glass sighed. "Look. Just take the damn vacation. I don't care where you go, or what you do, just spend at least one week where you're not worrying about the fate of the world."

"That would be… difficult," Clef said, folding the piece of paper into precise thirds. "Might as well ask me to stop breathing."

"Is stupid," said the other man sitting across from the psychologist, as he glared at his own pink slip of paper. "Is not like Chechens will stop being Chechens because am fatigued. War is not nine-to-five job."

"Then… at least make saving the world a secondary priority. Think of it as… periodic maintenance. You take your car in for a tune-up every ten thousand miles. This is your time to get a tune-up." Dr. Glass sighed.

"Can't I get a tune-up in the shop? Perhaps I could spend some time at the training facility instead, or in the field…" Clef muttered.

"Can spend time drinking vodka. That is proper Russian vacation."

"No. No field operations, no training, no paperwork, nothing. Just… get some rest. You've certainly earned it. Enjoy your vacations, gentlemen."

The door closed with a kind of epic finality, leaving two of the most dangerous men in the Foundation standing in the hallway, clutching pink slips like a pair of delinquent teenagers sent to the principal's office. The entire support staff of the Human Resources and Training division sat in their cubicles studiously staring at their monitors. One of them, a young lady wearing a very nice pantsuit, was desperately typing the Lord's Prayer over and over into Notepad. Another was whispering a Buddhist sutra under his breath.

The tension was finally broken by a sigh from Clef, who rubbed the back of his neck with the pink slip of paper. "So," he said, "I hear Brazil is nice this time of year."

The airport bar was crowded, full of weary passengers stopping in to have a bite to eat and a few drinks before allowing themselves to be carted off in the big Airbuses and Boeings. Strelnikov and Clef strolled in quietly and took the only two empty seats at the long bar, nodding curtly to the bartender and those next to them before settling in for the two hour wait. Their attire was ostentatious and drew odd looks from the other patrons: Strelnikov in his olive drab dress uniform with peaked cap, and Clef in a Hawaiian shirt with obscene portrayals of people engaging in coitus printed in flamboyant colors.

Their chosen drinks said much about their character. The bartender, hair in a muss from a long day, pointed at Clef and made eye contact, silently inquiring.

“Bombay Sapphire Martini, stirred, not shaken, two ice cubes only, 6:1 gin and vermouth, two olives, one onion, and if you bruise the vermouth god help you,” Clef responded dryly, as if the bartender should have already known. The bartender’s expression went blank for a moment, before he nodded slowly and turned to Strelnikov. “And you, sir?”


“What with?”

Strelnikov gave him the dirtiest of looks. “…Ice.”

“Any preferred brand?”

Dmitri’s stare hardened and he clenched his fists on the bar. “Vodka. With ice.

The alcohol was forthcoming and it both lightened their mood and loosened their tongues accordingly as they imbibed. As the first rounds went through them, they developed a lively and appropriate discussion.

“You see, Dmitri, a good drink is smooth—you have just a small sip and the flavor and aromas combine and are enough to take your breath away. It’s like the touch of a beautiful woman, something exquisite and rare, something you hold in your hand and show people so they can see what a classy son of a bitch you are.”

“Drink? Drink is not status or class symbol, Doktor Clef. Drink is a drink. You drink it. And you get drunk. And then you are drink more, until you have drink so much that is make you sober again.

“…I don’t believe you’ve understood.”

Their spirited debate continued, beginning to draw the attention of the other customers. Slowly their heads and chairs swiveled to lock on the two oddly dressed gentlemen as they argued and jabbed at one another’s tastes. As their collection of empty vodka and martini glasses grew and grew, the argument mellowed and became a happy, family oriented story telling extravaganza.

“I wanted to see his face when I killed him, Dmitri. That’s why I had the snipers hold their fire. See, I came in behind him like this,” accompanied with gesticulation of the hands, “and swiped him across the face with my pistol. Then he stabbed me and some things happened, and blah blah blah, I ended up in a hospital for a few weeks. Good times.”

Strelnikov nodded approvingly. “In Chechnya, our supplies always run low. So I was force to hold my fire many time and resort to use of bayonet.” He waggled a finger and pointed at Clef, “Many Chechens get it in the face and neck, Doktor Clef. Many. Much blood.”

“Ever drive over thirty people in a tank?”

“Does armored personnel carrier count? What about unarm combat, you snap necks?”

“The spine is usually easier for me, Dmitri. A lot of people prefer the traditional twisting-head neck snapping action but I usually stick with grabbing them by the hair and shoving a boot into the small of their back as hard as I can. It’s a personal preference really.” Strelnikov couldn’t argue with that.

“Once, on night mission, we find rebel camp in bombed warehouse. I send two team, yes?” He holds up two fingers. “Two team, into each entrance, and I climb through window alone, with just knife and pistol. They were sleep, guards sleep, everyone was sleep. We come in and slit all of their throats in the night and leave them for crows.” He coughs. “Later that night I find out there had been a mutual cease fire called,” he concludes with a shrug.

“Oh, man, I know. Once, I was trying an experimental chainsaw that we thought was a possible item for containment. There ended up being a D-Class riot and, well, I was on hand with the chainsaw and one thing led to another. Next thing I know, I’m standing on a pile of D-Class bodies holding the saw over my head and screaming in bloodlust, then someone comes in and tells me it was just the annual costume party and half of my research staff is now dead.” A shrug. “Turns out the saw was just a normal saw, too.” Strelnikov nodded sadly, feeling Clef’s disappointment, pausing for a moment and then saying quietly:

“I was just kid about cease fire, Doktor Clef.”

“…Oh. I wasn’t. It really was a costume party.”

Dmitri sighed and turned back to the bar and asked for another drink, except nobody answered. He craned his head over the bar and found the bartender, pale as a ghost, trembling on the floor with a phone in his hand, poised to dial. Strelnikov shrugged and plucked the bottle himself, pouring a glass and turning back to face Clef. He took a quick look behind him.

The bar was completely empty.

"Considering who we work for, you'd think they could afford to give us better seats than coach," Clef griped. "Seriously. Charging us five bucks for a dry ham sandwich and a half can of soda. This is highway robbery."

"Is better than Aeroflot in 1980s," Dimitri pointed out. "Food recognizable. Cabin actually pressurized. Stewardesses smile at you instead of scream." He raised an eyebrow at the attractive young lady coming down the aisle with the beverage cart. "And are much prettier. Aeroflot stewardesses all fat old bitches with horse face."

"I dunno, a boiled beet and some horse-leather meat might actually be a step up from this… thing. What the hell are these little green flecks, anyway?" Clef muttered, poking the sandwich with his finger. "Lizard bits?"

"Maybe is sperm from 682. Big lizard wet his beak in your sandwich, no?" Strelnikov quipped, making a "jerking off" motion with his left hand.

"I wish, it would improve the taste… excuse me, miss? Miss?" Clef said, reaching across Dimitri from his window seat to tap the stewardess on the elbow. "I'm sorry, miss, but you seem to have messed up my order. I ordered a ham and cheese sandwich, not a pus and plastic one. From the taste of this, it seems that you've confused the two."

"I see, sir," the stewardess sighed. "I'm sorry you don't like the taste of your sandwich. If you'd like a refund…"

"I don't want a goddamn refund, I want an edible sandwich," Clef interrupted. "Now, I'm sure that somewhere in that cart under the piles of dried-out human ejaculate and styrofoam sponge, you've got something edible, so how about bending that pretty ass over and looking a little harder, sweet cheeks?"

"Ahhhh," the stewardess said. She turned to Dr. Clef and grinned, a wide, mirthless smile showing too many teeth. "So, I see, what you're really trying to say is that you're the asshole here!"

She leaned across Dimitri, her voice low and stern, but carrying through the suddenly silent cavern, as she addressed the bemused Clef. "Listen up, bucko. I don't make the damn food, I just serve it. If you've got a problem, you can write a goddamn letter to the people who do. But wait until we get on the ground. Until then, it's another six hours to São Paulo, and I'll be damned if I have to spend it listening to you bitch the whole way. So either shut up and eat your sandwich or stop complaining about it, or I'll duct tape your mouth shut and tape you to the chair." She stood up straight. "And my name's not sweet cheeks, asshole. It's Lucy."

There was a moment of stunned silence, broken by a smattering of applause, then the stewardess continued down the aisle, serving sodas and coffees to the other, appreciative passengers. Clef leaned back and smiled. "I like her," he admitted. "Girl's got spirit."

"That's nice," Dimitri sighed. He unbuckled his seatbelt and stood up slowly.

"Where are you going?" Clef asked. "The in-flight movie's about to start."

"To take a shit… and pretend I don't know you," Dimitri said.

Clef shrugged and leaned his chair back as far as he could, ignoring the angry stare from the fat lady in the seat behind him. He was just drifting to sleep when a loud scuffling sound and scream drew his attention.

"DO NOT MOVE!" screamed the bearded man, who held a knife to the throat of Lucy the flight attendant. There were two other men, holding similar weapons: one held a hand grenade, pin out, over his head. All three were wearing kaffiyehs and camouflage t-shirts. "This plane now belongs to the Holy Army of the Chechen Independent Republic!"

"Allahu Akbar!" screamed one of the other men. "God is great! Long Live Chechnya!"

"Oh, you have got to be fucking kidding me," Clef winced.

The jostling of the aircraft in the turbulent skies made it difficult for Strelnikov to piss. It always struck him as odd; he’d have no qualms about jumping out of an airplane into a combat zone, but something as simple as taking a leak inside of one gave him hell. The complexities and nuances of the human psyche escaped him at the time, and he chided himself for “being a pansy.”

He finally got control of himself and was about to go when the door was rudely kicked open and someone grabbed him by the shoulder, dragging him into the aisle. He quickly buttoned himself and stumbled along, too surprised to offer effective resistance. The Chechen took a good look at his uniform and noticed the Russian crest on his hat—with a quick decision he began dragging him to the front of the aircraft.

“Caught with your pants down, Dmitri?” Clef muttered as they dragged Strelnikov between the rows of seats, the irony of his witticism wasted. Thinking quickly, he threw his foot out into the aisle just in time to catch the Chechen’s ankle, sending him face first into the carpet and taking Dmitri down with him. The two others immediately rushed forward to try and subdue Clef, one still holding the hand grenade over his head and shouting angrily in a Chechen-Russian dialect.

Strelnikov immediately recognized it.

They were Chechens.

They were on the plane. His plane.

There were Chechens on his plane. Three of them.

“…That is three too many,” he said out loud. Clef gave him an odd look as he immediately began biting the tripped man’s nose, drawing a short knife from the inside of a jackboot and proceeding to punch the man in the kidneys. With the knife.

Clef wasted no time and nearly leapt over the heads of the terrified passengers in front of him, lunging for the approaching men. He connected with the one carrying the knife, knocking him to the floor also. Clef hauled back and slammed the palm of his hand into the man’s face, quickly shattering the bridge of the man’s nose. The man winced and staggered back, clutching his heavily bleeding nose, as Clef casually disarmed him with a complicated aikido wrist lock. He then drove the knife into the man's heart as Strelnikov finished rendering his man into a bloody, dying mess.

There was only one left, still holding the hand grenade and seemingly unsure of what to do now that their plan had completely deteriorated. "Don't move!" he screamed. "I have a bomb!"

Simultaneously, Clef and Dmitri rotated their heads upward, rising from the bloodied corpses like something out of a cheap horror flick, except instead of a dramatic musical score, there was only the wailing of the outboard turbofans as the pilot increased throttle. "I don't care," Clef said.

Dmitri just smiled. Steel teeth gleamed.

The terrorist's eyes darted nervously between the two men, and he took a frightened step backward.

It would be his last. Lucy’s foot caught the man in the back of the knee and sent him stumbling forward, right into Strelnikov’s knife. Clef deftly snatched the grenade from the man’s hand, paying careful attention to make sure he kept pressure on the spoon. Dmitri’s bloodied steel teeth glistened underneath the cabin lighting, offering the man a most disquieting last sight of this earth.

He withdrew the knife as violently as he had inserted it, a spray of blood splashing across the passengers nearest him, letting the body collapse supine on the floor. The occupants of the cabin stared in shock and awe at the brief, bloody conflict, offering no applause as Clef took his seat, grenade in hand. Strelnikov walked past, heading aft.

“I have to make piss.”

"We have a problem," Clef said, when Dimitri came out of the restroom, buttoning up his pants. Compared to the Russian, who was a bloody, gory mess, the stuck-up prick had somehow managed to avoid getting any blood on him at all, despite the violence of the past few minutes.

"No problem. Chechens dead now," Strelnikov pointed out.

"That's the problem. Three dead terrorists on an airplane, a plane full of grateful passengers, media, heroism, a parade, our faces in the paper? Do you see where I'm going with this?" Clef pointed out.

Strelnikov considered the implications of the Director's words. "Inconvenient," he murmured. "Doktor Glass will lecture us muchly about definition of 'relaxation' and 'low profile.'"

"To say the least. Wait here. Then follow my lead when you have a moment."

The gangly, big-nosed doctor took a deep breath, then squared his shoulders and walked back down the aisle, to where the rather shaken young stewardess was sitting in the front of the plane, nursing a cup of coffee. Strelnikov couldn't hear what he said over the sound of the plane engines, but he could see the way that their body language changed.

Clef said something while standing back near the front row.

Lucy said something back, still holding the coffee cup in both hands.

Clef said something else, leaning forward just a bit. He smiled.

Lucy smiled back. She rolled her eyes and wiped moisture off her cheeks.

Clef nodded and laughed. He leaned against the wall next to her, looking down at her and gesturing.

Lucy began to play with her hair.

Clef stroked his chin.

Lucy began to stroke her face behind the ear.

Clef winked.

Lucy stroked her throat and collarbone.

Clef came walking back down the aisle. He walked past the bathroom and into the galley.

Lucy bit her lower lip, then followed Clef into the galley. There was the sound of a latch being undone, and a door opening.

Dimitri counted to twenty, then poked his head into the galley as well. The ladder leading down to the baggage compartment was open. He slid down and into the darkened baggage compartment.

The first thing he saw was Clef easing Lucy's unconscious body onto a cargo compartment. There was lipstick on his collar, and the doctor's previously buttoned-up Hawaiian shirt was opened up a bit. He tossed a ring of keys to Strelnikov. "See if you can get our bags," he said. "They're probably in one of those locked cargo containers."

"Doktor," Strelnikov said patiently, "Please just tell me this. What is point of finding bags now?"

"I don't want to leave them behind when we jump."

“I no jump without chute. I have done this once, was not fun. Break many bone.” Strelnikov opened the lockers and riffled around, grabbing the baggage and motioning for Clef to follow. “I have better idea.” They navigated the depths of the aircraft, working their way through access ways and maintenance corridors that usually only the lowliest of wing wipers ever have to crawl through. The aluminum skin of the aircraft vibrated from the air moving around it, and the noise was deafening. Finally, they stopped in the very bottom of aircraft.

“We wait, now.”

The pilot had changed course, ostensibly heading where the Chechens had instructed him to, but in reality veering towards an abandoned military airstrip. The concrete along the runway was cracked in places, with weeds breaking through and angling skyward. The terminals had long since been bulldozed; all that remained now were a few rusting corrugated hangars and a dilapidated, disused control tower. He steadied his hands on the yoke, knuckles white and eyes alert, still shaken from the events earlier. Though he hadn’t seen the massacre firsthand, Lucy had told him about it in grim detail. Where was she, anyway? He needed a drink, badly.

The inboard flaps dropped a few degrees, then a few more, increasing the plane’s lift and drag, flaring the nose slightly and slowing it down. The whine of the engines decreased in intensity, causing the aircraft to slowly descend toward the runway below. Clef and Dmitri felt the shudder of the fuselage as they lost altitude, and heard the telltale hydraulic hisses that indicated the undercarriage was about to drop.

“Hold on! Wait until we slow!” Strelnikov shouted, but it was lost in the noise. Clef gave him a confused expression but knew enough about gravity to warrant already clutching the legs of the gear. The aircraft slowed, dropping to within a few hundred feet of the ground and flaring more, nearly within ground effect. The hatch covers dropped open and the landing gear unfolded, exposing them to a harsh burst of wind that threatened to tear them away, the ground below flashing by in a terrifying blur. The concrete rose to them with alarming speed as the pilot brought the big passenger liner down—the wheels made contact and screeched in annoyance, reluctant to carry the tremendous weight.

The pilot applied brakes and the aircraft decelerated, rolling to a stop at the end of the runway. They leapt from the undercarriage and sprinted across the tarmac to a nearby line of trees, looking back in time to see the ridiculous rubber slides inflate for the other passengers to make a considerably more undignified exit. They knelt in a small thicket of trees, watching to make sure nobody followed them.

Aboard the aircraft, Lucy picked her head up and groaned. That son of a bitch—and to think she almost liked him, despite who he worked for. She sighed and rubbed her temples, pulling a cell phone from a pocket of her uniform and dialing a secure line. The phone chirped and queried her for access codes, which she dutifully punched in, surprised that they were correct considering her foggy state of mind.

“Lieutenant Parks, reporting. I have two probable Foundation assets, track from my location and prepare to deploy a shadowing team immediately.”

"I have to admit," Clef said. "Your idea was much better."

The two men lurked in the treeline for a few minutes, watching the Special Forces soldiers board the plane and get the passengers out through the inflatable slides. A man in a black suit and tie was going from passenger to passenger asking questions: he seemed annoyed at not getting the answers he wanted. Up top, a young man in camouflage gear leaned out the left side doorway and vomited onto the tarmac. Finally, several men wearing medical garb started easing three stretcher-bound bodies down the slide.

"You want stay and watch more?"

"Nah, I've seen enough. Let's get going."

They moved silently through the underbrush, crossing the electrified fence with the aid of some wire cutters and a sleeping bag, and then made their way out into the desert. There was a cracked asphalt two-lane highway under the baking sun, stretching out into the distance.

"Well," Clef said, grinning. "It's not Brazil, but it's certainly far enough away from work for Glass. Let's go hitching."

"First we must find out where we are. Is not good if we wind up in Death Valley. Then is no other people for miles."

"No problem, I'll just check my GPS." Clef said. He pulled his phone out of his pocket, turned it back on, and brought up the mapping software. "FUCK," he growled. "This is bad."

"Where we are? Bolivia? Death Valley?"

"Worse," Clef said grimly. "Texas."

As if on cue, the silence was broken by the sound of a battered pickup truck coming around the bend. Two men in white cowboy hats pulled up to the agents, their rusty old Ford emblazoned with a Confederate flag across the back windshield, a pair of shotguns on the roof, and a dead deer across the hood. The strangers rolled down the window as their car ground to a halt by the side of the road. The man in the passenger seat, a grizzled-looking one-eyed cowboy with unruly black hair, spat tobacco juice on Strelnikov's shoes and sneered.

"Mind tellin' me what you pair of Mexican Jew lizard faggots are doin' in our neck of the woods?" he growled.

Clef and Dimitri shared a bemused glance. "You have got be fucking with me," Dimitri muttered.

The blood boiled behind Strelnikov’s eyes. He looked over their attire and felt a wave of nausea nearly overtake him—how could anyone dress like this? He felt a sudden need to adjust his cap in a vain attempt to counteract their atrocious appearance. Clef just laughed.

“What ‘n the hell are ya’ lookin’ at, y’stupid or somethin’?” The one-eyed cowboy leaned out the window as the driver turned down the radio, which had previously been blaring Toby Keith at an obnoxious volume. “Oh, lemme guess, you’re one a’ them commies, aren’t you?” He spat again. “I fought you assholes in ‘Nam.” The driver nodded. “He fought y’assholes in ‘Nam!” Clef’s smile grew to obscene proportions.

Not being one to let a statement like this go unchallenged, Strelnikov immediately rose to the occasion and jabbed a finger in the man’s face. “YOU KNOW NOTHING OF WAR. I FIGHT IN CHECHYNA BOTH TIME AND I MEET BABIES ON THE BATTLEFIELD THAT WERE HAVE MORE HONOR THAN YOU, COWARD. MY GRANDFATHER TOOK BERLIN WHILE YOUR ANCESTORS SIT ON THEIR ASS DRINKING SCHNAPPS AND HOPING THAT THEY NOT HAVE TO FIGHT LIKE WE DID. YOUR ENTIRE COUNTRY IS BABIES. ALL OF YOU, BABIES.” His finger trembled with rage while Clef suppressed a guffaw. The redneck stared at him in confusion.


Strelnikov punched him in the mouth.

The redneck tumbled over, knocking his compatriot out his seat and onto the pavement. Clef was on him in a flash, hauling him up and securing his arms behind his back with an unhealthy cracking of joints. One-eye regained his composure admirably, and stepped out in front of Dmitri. “Y’ stupid god damned commie, you god damned near broke my fuckin’ face! What are ya, salty because you lost the fuckin’ war?”

It was too much—such an insult to his Russian patriotism could not be allowed to stand. With one hand he lifted the man off the ground by his neck and carted him off towards a dead, wiry tree. The cowboy flailed wildly, trying to strike him or push him away, but Strelnikov had a considerable size advantage. He briefly considered hanging the man, but lacking the rope to do so decided to secure him to the tree with one-eye’s belt, Clef doing the same with the other. Two oversized lone star belt buckles shone in the hot southern sun as Clef and Strelnikov stalked away to their truck, leaving them to bake for a while.

“Who won the war now, jackass?” Clef quipped as he climbed into the driver’s seat. They drove for hours down the Texas highway, finding nothing but dust and clumps of rocks. Dmitri watched idly from the passenger seat, finding the vastness of the state reminding him somewhat of home, if much drier.

Far behind, the two cowboys were delighted to see a black SUV pull off the road, with uniformed men disembarking and approaching them quickly. “It’s about bloody time you got here,” one-eye said haughtily.

“Did they take the truck?” Both of them nodded.

“…Excellent. We’ve got them now.”

"Stupid fucking American car," Clef grimaced. He slammed the hood down on the smoke-emitting engine and kicked impotently at the front bumper of the vehicle. "Stupid fucking piece of shit. Ford really does stand for Fix or Replace Daily."

"We should be driving good Russian car. Like Lada. That is good solid vehicle. Not break down like shitty American car," Strelnikov offered.

"Do you ever fucking shut up about Russia? Ever?" Clef retorted. "Seriously, you've got like, a hard-on for the Motherland so big they can see it from orbit. Goddamn."

"You ever get tired being enormous fucking prick? Seriously, you have stick up ass so big can use it as flagpole!" Strelnikov snarled.

"Fuck you, Dimitri! Fuck you, and FUCK Russia, and FUCK this stupid FUCKING vacation," Clef screamed, nearly going into histrionics. "All I fucking wanted was to spend some fucking time in Brazil lying on the beach, working on my FUCKING tan, and maybe, just maybe, having sex with some South American honey, sex involving lots of cocoa butter and maybe some leather whips, and instead I'm out here in the middle of FUCKING NOWHERE TEXAS, Population YOU AND ME and we'll probably die of fucking heatstroke before too long!"

"And how this is any of my fault!?" Strelnikov shouted back, slamming his fists on the hood of the broken-down Ford.

"I HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA!" Clef screamed.

That was when the two men heard a car horn honk behind them. They turned to see a cherry-red Camaro convertible with the top down idling by the side of the road. The car gleamed like a jewel.

So did the three babes riding it.

The driver was a brunette, her long, curly locks flowing over her bare shoulders, her honeyed skin glowing with sweat from the warm Texas sun. Her red lips were pursed playfully as she lowered her sunglasses and gave the two strangers a slightly amused look. Her friend in the passenger's side seat (a tanned blonde with flawless skin and gorgeous green eyes) leaned over and waved, while the redhead in the back seat popped her gum and winked.

"Hey boys," the brunette said. "Seems like you're having a little car trouble. Need a lift?"

"… yes. Yes, we do," Strelnikov said.

"Well, it's a tight fit, but squeeze in! We'll give you a ride to town!" the brunette said. She got up and opened the door of the camaro. Clef and Strelnikov could see that all three of the women were wearing daisy dukes, sandals, and not much else. All of them had bodies that would make supermodels green with envy, their voluptuous figures threatening to free themselves from their straining tops at any moment.

Clef and Strelnikov gave each other a bemused look, their argument from moments before forgotten. "This doesn't happen," Clef whispered. "This NEVER happens. No one EVER gets picked up randomly by a hot trio of babes in the middle of nowhere, especially if they're a blonde, brunette, and redhead."

"Don't question it, just smile and get in car," Dimitri whispered.

Clef shook his head as he saw Strelnikov climb into the back seat, sandwiched by the blonde on one side and the redhead on the other, grinning as the two scantily clad women pressed up against him. He turned his eyes to the sky, beseechingly. "You've gotta be fucking with me," he whispered.

He got in the car anyway.

“How far away is this strip club you two work at, anyway?” Clef asked above the purr of the Camaro’s engine. The brunette next to him just smiled and shook her head.

They had driven for hours. Clef and Strelnikov had no idea where they were, but it wasn’t really a concern—they were more than content to allow the girls to fawn over them as much as they pleased. Clef sat in the front seat with the blonde in his lap, one arm around her waist and the other holding a drink. He whispered witty compliments in her ear like a suave Latin lover, making her laugh coyly and teasingly flick him on the nose. She smiled softly and threw her head back to check on Strelnikov and the redhead, her golden mane swishing across Clef’s face as it twirled around.

“Er, what is he doing?” She asked Clef, tapping him on the shoulder. He craned his head to look, hearing a sound that could only be likened to “blblblbblblblblb”.

“Oh, it looks like he’s motorboating her.” She gave him a quizzical look, and Strelnikov looked up from the other woman’s bosom long enough to say in practiced English, “It is a rapid motion of the mouth across the breasts.”

She giggled and handed him another drink, which he held forward to Clef and toasted, the girls’ smiles widening. Their heads lolled about and they couldn’t help but notice that the telephone poles were whizzing by like blurs, the road becoming a mishmash of grays and whites from the evenly painted dividing lines. The sky spun like a top and together they fell into the darkness.

"Well, they're out," the blonde said.

The other two girls sighed and relaxed. "I thought they'd never drop," the brunette muttered. "Seriously, how much flunitrazepam did we slip them, anyway?"

"About three times the normal dose," the redhead sighed, pushing Strelnikov away and buttoning up her shirt. "This guy was motorboating me all the way to the end, too."

"Well, we're done now," sighed the blonde. "Now it's time for the boys to do their work."

The red convertible pulled into a side street that didn't appear on any maps. The black SUV reached them shortly after.

Wherever they were, it was freezing. They awoke groggily and were aware of only the blindfolds and the bindings around their hands and feet, the scuffling sounds they made echoing throughout the empty concrete room. A door opened and shut from behind them, and they heard the sound of boots on pavement approaching and circling them. Harsh light assaulted their eyes without warning when the blindfolds were abruptly torn off, a trio of unhappy looking men stand before them. They wore crisply pressed and immaculately tailored military style uniforms and were backlit by a naked incandescent light bulb.

It took a moment for their eyes to adjust enough to be able to make out the GOC insignia printed on their breast pockets.

“Where the hell are we?” Strelnikov asked, blinking.

“The data is, shall we say, ‘redacted’, as your people are so fond of putting it,” responded one of the men.

“You gotta be fuckin’ with me,” Clef sighed exasperatedly.

"No, we are not fucking with you," the man in the uniform said. He pulled up a chair and sat across from the two men. A golden eagle insignia on his uniform collar gleamed in the dim light. "We are through fucking with you. From this point forward, we are being serious."

He pulled out a silver Zippo lighter with the words 'FUCK COMMUNISM' written on the side and lit up a large, black cigar. Clouds of acrid smoke billowed from the stogie, filling the room with dense white vapors. "Now," the colonel said. "You are going to tell us exactly what you two Foundation personnel were doing heading into a GOC operation in progress. What is your game? What are you trying to accomplish here?"

Clef and Strelnikov glanced at each other, then turned back to the colonel. "What we're trying to accomplish… how do I put it…" Clef muttered.

"Are trying to relax, get drunk, and wet beaks," Strelnikov said.

"In no particular order," Clef added.

"Also am trying to work on tan," Dimitri said.

"Maybe visit some nice museums or do some wine tasting."

"Meet nice people."

"In other words, we're on vacation," Clef concluded.

The colonel pulled a boot knife from the bag next to him and stuck it, point-down, into the table. "Armed pretty heavily for a bunch of guys on vacation," the colonel pointed out, taking out a bunch of knives and small explosives from the bag next to him and laying them out on the table.

"Actually, we're not," Clef pointed out. "No guns, for one thing."

"Da, and only one knife. No hatchet. Left SVD at home," Dimitri added.

"Really, what's a bit of C-4 between friends? Here in Texas, that's almost like owning a car."

"Detonator is not even primed. Am not stupid, don't want blow up plane."

"Really. So… you aren't on a secret mission for the Foundation? You aren't the backup called in by a Foundation operative six days ago in response to escalating KTE activity?"

"Not at all."

"Did not even want to go to Texas," Dimitri insisted. "Wanted go to Brazil."

"Really," murmured the colonel. He gestured to the screen behind him. The image of a young man with a black eye, wearing a brightly colored hawaiian print shirt, appeared on the screen, flanked by gun-toting soldiers. "This is from our Rio de Janeiro office. Does this man look familiar?"

The guy in the hawaiian shirt raised his head groggily and stared at the screen. His eyes lit up. "Doctor Clef! Dimitri!" Agent Yoric laughed. "Are you here to rescue me?"

The two men stared at Yoric for a moment, then glanced at each other, then looked back at the colonel. "I have never seen or met this man in my entire life," Clef lied.

"Is total stranger," Dimitri said.

"… you've got to be fucking kidding me," Yoric whimpered.

"… and what happened after that?" Dr. Glass asked. The psychiatrist was resting his chin on his hand, gazing at the three men sitting in his office with an expression of spellbound fascination.

"Well…" Clef said. "We couldn't leave Yoric behind."

"… so we break free of captors and gun them all down," Dmitri finished.

"Then we highjacked a GOC plane…"

"Boat," Dmitri corrected.

"Was it a boat?" Clef wondered. "I thought it was a plane…"

"My report said boat," Dmitri explained pointedly.

Clef blinked once, very slowly, then smiled. "It was a seaplane."

"Da," Dmitri said, much relieved. "Seaplane. That explain confusion."

"Yes. So after we highjacked the GOC seaplane, we flew down to Rio de Janeiro, found Yoric, and rescued him."

"I see," Glass said, very slowly. "And this is why you guys were late coming back from vacation?"

"Well, we couldn't just fly back right away," Clef said.

"GOC was looking for us. Very dangerous."

"I didn't want to go back to their torture chamber," Yoric whimpered.

"So, we disguised ourselves as tourists and waited for them to give up looking."

"Disguised… as tourists," Glass repeated.

"Um… yes. As rich corporate executives on vacation…"

"I see. And this explains the…" Glass ran an eye down the page of the document in front of him. "… six nights at a luxury 4-star hotel, five thousand-plus dollars in restaurant and liquor bills, and… good lord, you bought HOW many condoms? And why six bikinis?"

"… the young ladies forgot theirs," Clef said, "and they didn't want to go into the hot tub naked."

"… Dr. Clef. My dear agents. I was not born yesterday. The Foundation Expense Fund is for emergency expenses in the line of duty. It is not to be used to fund a week of debauchery on the taxpayers' dollar, and your ludicrous story is both insulting to my intelligence and…"

Simultaneously, as if they had rehearsed this (and perhaps they had), the three men reached into the breast pockets of their hawaiian shirts and pulled out three newspaper clippings and laid them on the desk in front of Glass.




Glass looked from one newspaper clipping to the other, then back up at the three men.

He saw Yoric point to the rope burn on his wrists.

He saw Clef lighting up a cigarette with a battered, blood-stained Zippo, with the words "FUCK COMMUNISM" engraved on it.

He saw Strelnikov grin, his mouth full of steel teeth, his broad, slavic face the very picture of angelic innocence.

Dr. Glass took a deep breath and buried his face in his hands.

"You have to be fucking with me," he moaned.



“적어도 한 달은 떠나 계셔야 합니다.” 글래스 박사가 초조하게 클립보드 아래편의 비상 버튼을 만지작거리며 말했다. 박사의 건너편에 앉아있는 사람은 기괴하리만치 다채로운 눈을 깜빡이며 (그는 눈동자가 원래 무슨 색이여야 하는지 도저히 생각해낼 수 없었다) 손에 든 분홍색 결과지를 자세히 읽고 있었다.

“심리 검사를 해뵈 마지막으로 쉬신 지 몇 년은 지나신 듯합니다. 머리를 식히셔야죠.”

“이미 갔다 왔다네. 이탈리아로 멋진 여행을 다녀왔네만.” 클레프가 무뚝뚝하게 말했다.

“술집에 갔었네. 재밌었지. 친구도 새로 사귀고.” 스크렐니코프가 받아쳤다.

“MTF 대원 6명과 대상을 제거하러 가신 비밀 작전은 휴가가 아닙니다. 5주 동안 병원에서 내상 치료를 하신 것도 휴가가 아니고요.” 글래스가 탄식했다. “들어보세요. 그냥 여행을 떠나시면 됩니다. 어디로 가서 뭘 하시든 상관없으니 딱 한 주만 지구의 운명을 걱정하지 않고 지내보세요.”

“그건 좀… 어렵겠네만.” 클레프가 말했다. “차라리 숨을 쉬지 말라고 하지.”

“멍청해.” 심리학자 건너의 다른 사람이 검사지를 뚫어져라 쳐다보며 말했다. “이건 체첸놈들이 너무 지쳐서 체첸인이기를 포기하는 것과는 다른 일이야. 전쟁에 정시 퇴근은 없네.”

“그러면… 최소한 지구 수호를 부차적인 과제로 둘 순 있으신가요. 정기 점검이라고 생각해보세요. 자동차도 만 마일을 달리면 정비가 필요한 것처럼, 두 분께서도 정비를 받을 때가 되신 겁니다.”

“정비소에서 정비받을 수는 없는가? 아마 훈련 기지에 잠깐 가 있거나 아니면 현장에 나가서…” 클레프가 중얼거렸다.”

“보드카를 마시면서 쉬어도 되나? 완벽한 러시아식 휴가가 될 걸세.”

“안 됩니다. 야전도, 훈련도, 서류 작업도, 아무 것도 안 됩니다. 그냥… 쉬세요. 여러분께 주어진 휴가입니다. 그럼 즐거운 휴가 되십시오.”

서사시의 결말이 나듯 문이 닫혔고, 복도에는 재단에서 가장 위험하다는 두 남자가 교장실에 불려온 불량 청소년처럼 분홍색 종이를 만지작거리고 있었다. 인재개발부의 모든 지원직군 직원들은 칸막이친 자리에 앉아 애써 모니터를 들여다보고 있었다. 굉장히 멋진 정장을 차려입은 여직원 하나는 메모장에 주기도문을 절박하게 쳐넣고 있었다. 불경을 중얼거리는 직원도 있었다.

긴장감을 깬 것은 분홍색 결과지로 뒷목을 긁어대던 클레프였다. “그래서…” 그가 말을 꺼냈다. “올해는 브라질이 꽤 괜찮다고 들었는데.”

공항 바는 에어버스나 보잉 비행기에 몸을 싣기 전 목을 축이고 배를 채우려는 지친 여행객들로 가득했다. 긴 바에는 딱 두 자리가 남아있었고, 말없이 돌아다니던 스트렐니코프와 클레프가 자리를 차지했다. 둘은 바텐더와 두 시간 동안 비행기를 기다리며 앉아 있던 옆자리 사람에게 무뚝뚝하게 고개를 끄덕여보였다. 그들이 다른 사람들의 눈길을 끌었음은 어찌 보면 당연했는데, 우선 태도가 거만한데다 특이한 옷차림을 했기 때문이다. 스트렐니코프는 녹갈색 군복에 정모를 쓰고 있었고, 클레프는 매춘업 종사자들의 음란한 모습이 화려하게 칼라 인쇄된 하와이안 셔츠 차림이었다.

그들의 성격은 각자 주문한 술에서 잘 나타난다. 하루종일 일하느라 머리가 떡진 바텐더가 클레프를 보고는 다가와 나지막한 목소리로 주문을 받았다.

“봄베이 사파이어 마치니, 섞어서, 흔들진 말고요. 얼음은 두 조각만, 진이랑 베르무트는 6대 1로 맞춰주시고, 올리브 두 조각, 양파 하나. 그리고 베르무트를 망치면 저주받을 겁니다. 바텐더는 잠시 벙쩌있었지만, 이내 고개를 끄덕이고는 스트렐니코프에게 물었다. “선생님은 어떻게…?”


“뭘 넣어드릴까요?”

스트렐니코프는 그를 기분나쁜 듯 쳐다보며 말했다. “…얼음.”

“선호하시는 브랜드는 없으신가요?”

드미트리는 굳은 눈빛으로 주먹을 바에 내리치며 말했다. “얼음 넣은 보드카.”

주문한 술이 나왔고, 곧 분위기가 밝아지고 둘의 혀가 풀려갔다. 잔이 한 바퀴 돌았을 때, 둘은 활기차고 그들다운 대화를 시작했다.

“드미트리. 좋은 술은 부드럽다네. 한 모금만 머금어도 풍미와 향기가 조화를 이뤄 숨을 앗아가지. 마치 아름다운 여인의 손길이자, 손에 들고 있으면 내가 상류층 자식이라는 걸 보여주는 징표라네.”

“술? 클레프 밬사. 술은 지위나 계급의 상징이 아니야. 술을 마신다. 취한다. 더 마신다. 한계가 온다. 어느새 술이 깨있다. 이게 다야.”

“…전혀 알아들은 것 같진 않군 그래.”

계속 이어지던 둘의 활기찬 대화는 점차 주변 사람들의 눈을 사로잡았다. 괴상하게 차려입은 두 남자가 서로의 기호를 비방하는 모습에 사람들이 바라봤던 것이다. 빈 보드카와 마치니 잔 탑이 높아졌고, 논쟁은 사그라들고 둘은 괴상한 것에 대한 행복하고 가족적인 대화로 옮겨갔다.

“직접 얼굴을 보고 죽이고 싶었다네. 그래서 저격수들더러 사격 중지를 명령한 거지. 잘 들어봐. 내가 이렇게 그놈 뒤에 다가가서…“ 클레프는 손동작으로 설명했다. “얼굴을 권총으로 내치쳤어. 그런데 그놈이 칼로 나를 찌르는 바람에 온갖 난리가 일어났고, 뭐 어쩌다 보니까 몇 주 동안 병원 신세를 졌던 적이 있지. 재밌었다네.”

“탱크로 서른 명을 깔아뭉개봤나?”

“APC도 쳐주는가? 그나저나 자네는 무기가 없을 땐 어떻게 하는가. 목을 꺾나?”

“나는 척추 쪽이 더 쉽다네. 보통 사람들은 일반적인 목 꺾기를 택하지만, 나는 머리를 잡고 등을 있는 힘껏 차는 방식을 쓰지. 그냥 개인적인 취향이라네.” 스트렐니코프는 따질 수 없었다.

“저번엔, 야간 작전이었는데, 폭탄맞은 창고 안에 반란군 본거지가 있는 거야. 그래서 두 팀을 보냈지. 두 팀을.” 그는 손가락을 펴보였다. “두 팀을 양쪽 입구로 들여보내고 나는 창문을 타고 혼자 넘어갔었네. 칼이랑 권총만 가지고 말이지. 모두 자고 있어라고. 경비병들도 자고. 우리는 반란군들 목을 베어놓고 까마귀 밥이 되도록 놔뒀지.” 기침. “나중에 들어보니 거기가 휴전협정 장소였다더군.” 그는 어꺠를 으쓱이며 말을 끝냈다.

“이 사람도 참. 알겠네. 한번은 연구 중이던 전기톱을 써보고 있었네. 격리해야 된다고 판단된 물건이었지. 그런데 D계급들이 난동을 피운 거야. 뭐, 그 상황에서 내 손에 전기톱이 있었으니 무슨 일이 일어날 지는 자네도 알잖나. 내가 다음으로 기억하는 건 D계급 시체더미 위에서 머리 위로 톱을 들고 피에 굶주려 소리지르던 내 모습인데, 어떤 사람이 와서 이런 말을 하는 거야. 방금 그건 매년 열리는 코스프레 파티였고 내 밑에 있는 연구원들이 반쯤은 여기서 죽었다고.” 으쓱임. “알고 보니 톱은 그냥 평범한 톱이었다네.” 스트렐니코프는 클레프의 슬픔에 공감하며 고개를 끄덕였다. 잠시 정적이 흐르다가 스트렐니코프가 조용히 말을 꺼냈다.

“휴전협정 이야기는 그냥 농담이었네.”

“…음. 난 농담이 아니었는데. 진짜 코스튬 파티였다네.”

드미트리는 한숨을 쉬고는 술을 더 주문했지만, 아무 대답이 없었다. 바 너머를 보려고 고개를 길게 뺸 그가 본 것은 창백하게 질린 바텐더였다. 바텐더는 바닥에 나동그라져 어디론가 전화를 걸려 하고 있었다. 스트렐니코프는 어깨를 으쓱하고는 스스로 병을 가져와 잔에 부은 뒤 다시 클레프를 보았다. 짧은 순간이지만 그는 뒤편의 상황을 보았따. 바는 완전히 비어있었다.

“우리가 누굴 지키는 사람들인지 생각해본 건가. 그랬다면 비즈니스보단 좋은 좌석을 줄 수도 있었을 텐데.” 클레프가 툴툴거렸다. “아니 정말, 건조햄 샌드위치랑 사이다 반 캔에 5천원이라니. 완전 날강도 아닌가.”

“그래도 80년대 아에로플롯보단 낫네.” 드미트리가 꼬집었다. “무슨 음식인 지 알아볼 수도 있고. 객실 공기가 새지도 않고. 승무원들은 소리지르는 대신 살짝 웃어주잖나.” 그는 음료수 카트를 밀며 다가오는 매력적인 아가씨를 보고는 눈썹을 올렸다. “게다가 예쁘기까지 하지. 아에로플롯 승무원들은 죄다 뚱뚱하고 못생긴 할머니들이었는데.”

“그건 모르겠고. 차라리 삶은 무에 말가죽을 씹어먹는 게 이…것보단 낫겠네. 도대체 이 초록색 즙은 또 뭐야.” 클레프는 샌드위치를 가르키며 투덜댔다. “도마뱀 오줌?”

“682가 싼 정액 아닐까. 거대한 도마뱀이 샌드위치에 대고 잔뜩 적신 거지.” 스트렐니코프가 빈정댔다. 그는 왼손으로 ‘딸 치는’ 동작을 해보였다.

“맛이 좀 나아지면 좋겠는데… 실례합니다. 아가씨. 아가씨?” 창가자리에 앉은 클레프가 드미트리 너머 승무원의 팔꿈치를 건드려 불렀다. “죄송합니다만, 주문이 잘못 처리된 것 같아서 말입니다. 저는 햄과 치즈가 든 샌드위치를 주문했는데, 오줌과 플라스틱이 나왔습니다. 맛으로 보건대 둘을 헷갈리신 것 같습니다.”

“알겠습니다, 손님.” 승무원이 탄식했다. “샌드위치가 마음에 드시지 않았다면 죄송합니다. 환불하시려면…”

“나는 지금 빌어먹을 환불이 아니라 먹을 수 있는 샌드위치를 원하는 거요.” 클레프가 말을 끊었다. “이제 당신이 말라붙은 정액이랑 스티로폼 밑에 진짜 식품을 숨겨둔 걸 확실히 알았습니다. 그러니까 그 예쁜 엉덩이를 굽혀서 조금만 더 자세히 찾아보지 그래요, 이쁜이?”

“아아아아!” 승무원이 소리쳤다. 그녀는 클레프에게 웃어보였는데, 이가 다 보일 정도로 큰 억지웃음이었다. “네. 알겠습니다. 손님께서 말씀하고 싶으신 건 네가 병신이란 거지!

그는 드미트리 너머로 몸을 기울여 당황한 클레프에게 설교했다. 그녀의 목소리는 낮고 엄했지만, 주변이 갑자기 조용해진 덕에 모두에게 울려퍼졌다. “잗 들어 이 새끼야. 이 벼락맞을 음식을 내가 만드는 줄 알아. 그냥 갖다주는 거라고. 문제가 있으면 요리사한테 항의서를 쓰든지 하란 말이야. 근데 항의서를 보내려면 착륙을 해야 한다고. 상 파울루까지 여섯 시간 남았는데, 그동안 너 같은 새끼 말을 들으려면 돌아버릴 것 같다고. 그러니까 닥치고 샌드위치나 쳐먹던가 불평 좀 그만해봐. 안 그러면 청테이프로 입을 싸매서 의자에 묶업버릴 테니까.” 그녀는 기울인 몸을 되돌렸다. “그리고 내 이름은 이쁜이가 아니라 루시야. 이 빌어먹을 놈아.”

어리벙벙해진 사람들이 잠시 침묵을 유지하는가 싶더니, 이내 어설픈 박수가 터져나오기 시작했다. 승무원은 복도를 마저 내려갔고, 감사할 줄 아는 승객들에게 커피와 사이다를 나눠줬다. 클레프는 의자에 기대 살짝 웃었다. “난 저 승무원이 좋아. 활달하잖나.” 그가 인정했다.

“멋있네.” 드미트리가 말했다. 그는 벨트를 풀고 천천히 일어났다.

“어디 가나? 조금만 있으면 영화가 나올 텐데.” 클레프가 말했다.

“오줌 좀 싸러… 그리고 자네랑 모르는 사이인 것처럼 보이고 싶어서.”

클레프는 어깨를 으쓱이고는 의자를 최대한 뒤로 기울였다. 뒷자리 뚱뚱한 여자의 따가운 시선을 무시하고 말이다.

그가 막 잠에 빠져들 쯤 큰 싸움소리와 고함이 그를 깨웠다.

“움직이지 마!” 소리친 수염난 남자는 루시의 목에 칼을 들이대고 있었다. 비슷한 무기를 든 두 명이 더 있었는데, 하나는 안전핀을 뽑은 수류탄을 머리 위에 잡고 있었다. 셋은 모두 두건을 쓰고 위장무늬 티셔츠를 입고 있었다.

“이 비행기는 지금부터 체천독립공화국의 신성한 군대가 관할한다!”

“알라 후 아크바르! 위대한 신이시여! 체첸 만세!” 다른 하나가 소리쳤다.

“이런 씨발… 장난하는 거겠지.” 클레프는 몸을 움츠렸다.

난기류에 비행기가 흔들리는 바람에 스트렐니코프는 제대로 오줌을 눌 수 없었다. 언제나 이런 문제가 그를 괴롭혔다. 그러니까 그는 비행기에서 전장으로 뛰어내리는 데에는 일말의 거리낌이 없는 사람이지만, 이상하게도 오줌을 누는 것같이 간단한 일에는 항상 문제를 겪었다. 이런 인간 정신의 복잡함과 함축성이 동시에 빠져나갔고, 스트렐니코프는 스스로를 ‘계집애 같이 굴지 말자’고 나무랐다.

그가 정신을 다잡고 나가려 하자마자 누군가 밖에서 문을 걷어찼고, 그의 어깨를 붙들어 통로로 끌어내렸다. 그는 너무 놀란 나머지 바지를 올리려고 비틀거릴 뿐, 저항도 제대로 하지 못했다. 체첸인은 제복을 유심히 살펴보다가 모자에 달린 러시아 장식을 발견하자마자 그를 비행기의 앞쪽으로 끌고 갔다.

“바지도 못 잠그고 잡혔군 그래.” 스트렐니코프가 통로로 끌려오자 클레프가 빈정댔다. 그렇지만 그의 유머가 이번에는 별로 먹히지 않은 듯했다. 순간 클레프는 통로로 발을 뻗어 체첸인을 넘어뜨렸다. 체첸인은 바닥에 얼굴을 찧었고, 드미트리도 덩달아 넘어졌다. 다른 둘은 클레프를 제압하려 바로 달려왔는데, 하나는 여전히 수류탄을 머리 위에 든 채 체첸식 러시아 억양으로 성내고 있었다.

스트렐니코프는 그 순간 알아차렸다.

이놈들은 체첸인이다.

그들이 비행기에 있다. 이 비행기에.

체첸인이 이 비행기에 있다. 세 명이다.

“…세 명은 너무 많다!” 스트렐니코프가 고함을 질렀다. 클레프가 특이하다는 눈빛으로 바라본 것은 스트렐니코프가 갑자기 넘어진 남자의 코를 깨물고, 부츠에서 단도를 꺼내 남자의 콩팥을 찌르는 모습이었다.

클레프는 그 즉시 겁에 질린 승객들 위를 뛰어넘어 한 놈에게 나가갔다. 그는 칼을 든 자를 아까처럼 바닥에 넘어트렸다. 클레프가 상대를 뒤로 당기고 손바닥으로 얼굴을 내리치자, 순식간에 콧대가 무너져내렸다. 클레프가 합기도식 손목꺾기로 무장해제시키자 상대는 비틀거리며 뒤로 물러섰고, 피가 쏟아지는 코를 움켜쥐었다. 클레프가 적의 심장에 칼을 꽂아넣었을 때, 스트렐니코프는 아까의 상대를 죽어가는 핏덩어리로 만들어놓은 참이었다.

이제 한 명이 남았다. 그는 여전히 수류탄을 들고 있었고, 계획이 완전 틀어져서 뭘 해야 할 지 모르겠다는 듯한 표정이었다. “움직이지 마! 이거 폭탄이야!” 그가 소리쳤다.
클레프와 드미트리는 시체더미를 보다가 그에게로 고개를 돌렸느데, 웅웅거리는 엔진소리 대신 드라마틱한 음악만 깔렸다면 싸구려 공포영화의 한 장면이었을 모습이었다. “어쩌라고.” 클레프가 말했다.

드미트리는 그저 웃었다. 은니가 반짝였다.

테러리스트는 초조한 눈빛으로 둘을 번갈아 쳐다보다가, 이내 황급히 뒷걸음질쳤다.

그의 마지막 순간이 다가왔다. 루시가 오금을 차자 그는 앞으로 고꾸라졌고, 넘어진 곳엔 칼을 든 스트렐니코프가 있었다. 클레프는 능숙한 솜씨로 손잡이가 눌린 상태를 유지하도록 그에게서 수류탄을 낚아챘다. 객실 전등빛에 드미트리의 피묻은 은니가 반짝였다. 그것이 테러리스트가 맞은, 세계에서 가장 불안한 최후의 장면이었다.

드미트리가 찔러넣을 때만큼 난폭하게 칼을 빼내자, 주변에 핏방울이 튀고 시체가 풀썩 쓰러졌다. 사람들은 모두 순식간에 일어난 피튀기는 싸움에 대한 충격과 공포로 얼어붙었기에, 수류탄을 든 채 자리에 앉는 클레프에게 박수치는 이들은 없었다. 스트렐니코프는 비행기 뒤편으로 걸어갔다.

“오줌 좀 싸고 오겠네.”

“문제가 좀 생겼네.” 화장실에서 나와 바지를 잠그던 드미트리에게 클레프가 말했다. 피투성이가 되어 피비린내를 풍기는 러시아인과 비교하면, 어떻게 된 건지 클레프는 몇 분 전 일에 전혀 휘말리지 않은 것처럼 깨끗했다.

“문제가 왜 생기나. 체첸놈들은 다 죽었는데.” 스트렐니코프가 따졌다. “바로 그게 문제야. 테러리스트 세 명이 죽었다. 승객들은 모두 고마워한다. 매스컴. 영웅 행진. 우리는 신문에 실릴 거라고. 뭘 말하고 싶은 지 알겠나.

스트렐니코프는 글래스의 말을 다시 되짚어보았다. “불편.” 그가 중얼거렸다. “글래스 박사에게 허구한 날 불려가서 ‘안정’과 ‘근신’에 대해 들어야겠군.”

“듣기만 하면 다행인가. 여기 있게. 잠깐 기다리다가 따라오게나.”

꺾다리에 코가 큰 박사는 심호흡을 크게 하고 어깨를 으쓱이고는 복도를 걸어갔다. 그가 향한 앞켠엔 약간 충격받은 채 커피잔을 꺼안고 있는 승무원 아가씨가 앉아있었다. 엔진이 울려대는 통에 스트렐니코프는 둘이 무슨 얘기를 하는 지 듣지 못했지만, 몸짓은 볼 수 있었다.

클레프는 첫째 열 근처에 기대선 채 뭔가 말했다.

루시는 대답했다. 여전히 양손에 커피잔을 든 상태였다.

클레프가 또 말했다. 몸을 앞으로 약간 기울였다. 그는 미소지었다.

루시도 살짝 웃었다. 그는 눈을 굴리며 뺨을 닦아냈다.

클레프는 끄덕거리며 웃었다. 그는 루시 옆의 벽에 기대어, 루시를 내려다보며 손짓했다.

루시는 머리를 만지작거리기 시작했다.

클레프는 뺨을 닦았다.

루시는 귀 뒤쪽을 문지르기 시작했다.

클레프는 눈을 찡긋했다.

루시는 목과 쇄골을 문질렀다.

클레프는 통로를 내려갔다. 그는 화장실을 지나 galley로 걸어갔다.

루시는 아랫입술을 bit하고, 클레프를 따라 galley로 들어갔다.