Curt walked through into the observation room – other than Ivan, who seemed to be far into watching a young woman getting beaten, most of the others had drifted away. It wasn’t that unusual – this facility, one that wasn’t even supposed to exist, was understaffed. Whatever their daily operations, it was unlikely they could they could spare the man hours to let everyone watch an interrogation.
He snapped to attention in front of Zheleznova. ‘Sir, I need a new pair of pants.’

The Solstice Captain looked up, resting his chin on his hands for a moment. ‘There’ll be some clean clothes in the laundry. Four doors down, on the right.’
The laundry was on the same floor as the interrogation room – that spoke volumes about the small size of the facility, sundry operations like that were usually separated as far as possible. The separation often allowed civilian employees to come and complete at least some of the task – for those clothes not completely covered in blood or blue at the least.
Curt nodded, and stepped out of the observation room – this was, by far, the most dangerous part of his act. He was leaving the room, he was leaving Stef, and the situation was now completely out of his hands.
If any of them chose to act now – to beat her, to-
It was out of his hands, and he’d just have to sit by and watch. For Solstice, they weren’t completely stupid – they’d allowed him a gun for around two minutes, one of the nameless mooks had handed him a gun, seemingly as a matter of course; but the Captain had taken it from him before they’d restrained Stef.
It had been a tiny window of opportunity…opportunity to fight bravely and die within ten seconds.
One gun meant nothing when everyone else was armed and ready to fire; one gun meant nothing when the person who had to escape with you was dazed and bleeding.
The laundry was precisely where Zheleznova had said it would be – a hot, muggy room, industrial-sized washers and dryers going, doing their very best to wipe away the stains of Solstice sweat and fae blood. Washing away their sins.
He closed the door behind him – no need to expose his naked arse for all to see.
The situation they were in could get worse. It was fucked up beyond belief, and there was still very little chance of them living until the end of the night, but it could be worse.
For the moment, he had the situation under control. They were allowing him some autonomy, and some movement without supervision. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than expected.
He needed to scream. He needed to cry. He needed to take one breath for himself, and not the sick version of himself that he had morphed into.
But there would be security cameras, and there would be someone watching.
He shrugged off his outer jacket, then quickly got rid of his pants. He found a towel, dipped it in hot water, and wiped at the tacky urine on his leg. He dumped the towel, pants and boxers and began to dig through the piles, looking for clean clothes in his size, trying to estimate the number of men in the facility by the initials on the boxers.
The door opened, and he quickly snatched the next pair in the pile and slipped them on.
There was the sound of a folder being slapped down on the sorting table behind him. He pulled up his pants, redid the belt, then turned, slipping into the jacket in what he hoped looked like a casual manner.
Andrei Zheleznova stood, his arms folded – a small pistol in his left hand – staring down at a newly-printed copy of his Solstice personnel file, the one that had the oh-so-subtle red watermark of “traitor” across the entire page. ‘I hope you can give me a good explanation.’
This had been expected.
He flashed a smile, leaned on the table – putting himself lower than Zheleznova, allowing the man the fantasy that he was still in charge. ‘I haven’t seen this in a long time,’ he said, trying to sound loving. ‘I take it by this that you’ve contacted my cell and commander, and this is the result?’ He ran his fingers across the word traitor. ‘That you feel fooled, and my life is forfeit?’
The Captain stared, his calm manner was obviously putting the man off. ‘Explain. Now.’
‘My cell captured a proxy and his knocked-up bitch. I had the pleasure of working on the woman,’ he said, smiling. ‘I cut the kid out, and to all eyes, turned traitor by returning the child to the Agency.’
Zheleznova said nothing.
‘There is no record of the deep-cover mission as I’ve described. There is no chatter to counter this. These were the terms I accepted when I took this mission on. Plausible deniability for all parties involved. No paper trail, no chance of extraction. Succeed or fail, those were the only choices.’
‘What is your success condition?’
‘If I don’t become Aide by the time the initial time parameter has elapsed, I’m to take down the Agency I’ve been assigned to, killing as many proxies and recruits as possible. If I do, make brief contact, and work towards taking down the entire network surrounding my assigned Agency. Once I make Aide, it is my directive to start sending intelligence. Anything I can access as a regular recruit isn’t worth the chance of exposure to deliver.’
‘That is…convenient,’ Zheleznova said. ‘I’m going to need you to prove your loyalties. I’m going to need you to-’
‘Kill the girl?’ Curt said, interrupting the Captain. ‘Good. No problem. I’m not having fun anymore anyway.’
To this, the Solstice raised his eyebrows. ‘Just like that?’
Curt shrugged. ‘I’ve only been dragging it out to demo my talents for you.’ He zipped up his jacket, casually flipped the folder closed, then pointed to the door. ‘Shall we?’
‘I think that would do it, yes,’ Andrei said after a moment.
Curt nodded, and walked from the laundry, still careful to moderate his speed, he couldn’t hesitate.
He didn’t allow the weight of what he was going to do settle, it was their one way out, even if it was dangerous, based on facts he had only confirmed through fleeting glances, code words and deduction.
If he was wrong, he was a murderer.
If it went wrong, if his two-minute plan didn’t come out exactly as he’d extrapolated, then…there was still a slight chance that he could rescue himself and Grigori. He felt his breath catch – that was not a result he wanted.
He made a mental note to ask Stef exactly what had happened with Grigori if they survived. And if they survived, and it matched his theory, it was going to be her choice what happened to the other agent.
And if she wanted to leave him to die, that was fine.
Curt steeled himself, walked back through the observation room – where Ivan sat playing with his phone – and into the torture room. He quickly took in the details of the room – Stef didn’t look to be in considerably worse shape than when he had left. Good.
He stopped briefly to pick up a knife from the tray, a nice clean one, one that he hadn’t already used to cut into her.
She was shivering, badly – but hypothermia was the least of her worries. She, for her part, had barely moved – more than the inch of his threat, but that was really a moot point.
He tore the pair of wet pants from her head, and waited for her eye to adjust before beginning to speak.
‘I’m going to give you the chance to repent before you die,’ he said, lifting the knife, giving her all the warning her could. ‘To cleanse your soul before you die.’
‘B-b-b-b-’ she stuttered, her body shaking too much to speak. He grabbed one of her shoulders and pulled her up. ‘Bu-bu-but I didn’t move an inch…’ she said.
He pressed the knife to her cheek. ‘That doesn’t matter now. Your time is up. You’ve got one last chance to repent, be glad that I’m giving you that.’
‘No.’
‘You really are a troublesome bitch. Let me ask you one question: do you think today is a good day to die?’