With Friends Like These



Original poster

The year is 1978. It is the height of the Cold War, both sides refusing to cede ground to their opponent. The Soviet Union was coming off of several key victories, in which they gained control over several Western European countries, won in Vietnam, and looked poised for total global domination.

Things looked bleak for the West. But there was still one hope, and it lay on the shoulders of two spies...

Joseph trudged through the snow, shifting the grocery bags in his hands. It had snowed all night and nobody had bothered to shovel the sidewalks just yet. The cold nipped at his cheeks; he was trying to hurry back to his apartment building, where a hot meal was waiting for him. He gazed around the empty street, looking across at the field, the pristine snow untouched by footprints. For the last three years, this had been home. He was going to miss how serene everything looked, especially in the dead of night in the winter. Back home, it was always hot outside. Joseph took one deep, cold breath before heading in to the apartment building, seven long flights of stairs greeting him.

It didn't take him long to warm up on the way up. These were going to be his last few moments of alone time, before they went over the plan again, before they executed it tonight at the dinner party, and before they had to make their getaway. He liked his team, they were good, hard workers, and had been there every step of the way with him. He wondered if he would ever see them again after tonight. Most of them came from different countries, all brought together by the same goal: to topple the Soviet regime. Once he walked in to the apartment, there was no turning back; they would look to him for leadership, and he had to remain strong. He reached the apartment, staring at the door. As soon as he entered, it would be work from there on out. He mentally prepared himself, this was it he thought, taking a deep breath before opening the door and stepping in to the apartment.

Inside the apartment, there was a hush over the group inside. Each one of them was quietly absorbed into their own little world, taking in the last little bit of their free time before they had to fully devote themselves to the team. The group was mostly silent, save for two of the members who were quietly playing cards over the table. The hush was almost tangible, the tension palpable in the room.

Sitting in one of the chairs at the table, her head bowed with dark hair veiling her gaze, Cosmina was looking at the wood grain without really seeing it. There was the possibility that they would be going back through the country of her birth, which both excited and worried her. This currently was what was occupying her thoughts, though she had a hard time communicating her feelings with the others. Despite the fact that Cosmina was born in Romania, she had few memories of that place. It was the place of her birth, though she had only lived there for two years of her life. It was also the place that had spurned her mother, driven her away.

It seemed, however, that her rumination was at its end when the apartment door opened and the last member of the team arrived. The silence was broken in an instant as the members became suddenly animated. The two members playing cards reconstituted them into a deck, those who had been lost in quiet thought lifted their heads to see the door. It was now time for work and everyone present knew it.

The mood of the room had changed and everyone could feel it. Instead of the anxious waiting, there was a new electricity in the room. Everyone was now functioning at full capacity. They were no longer individuals in the room as there had been before, there was a new dynamic. There were no single parts, only a unified whole.

"Welcome, Joseph. Are you prepared?" Cosmina stood, pushing up from the chair with her hands so that they were splayed over the wood. She was no longer moody, simply the picture of sobriety.
[DASH=yellow]"I am ready for what needs to be done," Joseph replied in fluent Russian, his accent almost completely gone. One of his few fears was being discovered as a foreigner based on the way he spoke, but he had had no troubles so far. His mother had fled the Soviet Union with an American soldier shortly after the second World War. Joseph had been born in Southern California, and had spoken both Russian and English at home, but as the Cold War neared its peak his Russian had fallen in to disuse. What had once been near flawless Russian had suddenly become a giant mess of broken syllables, potentially endangering the mission. But Joseph had worked hard to rid himself of the accent; it was that hard work and dedication that had earned him his spot as team leader.

He surveyed the room. Everyone was at attention, a nervous energy coursing through the group at hand. Joseph held back a smile; they were waiting for him to get the meeting started. He stepped towards the large table, carefully setting the grocery bags down on top of it. The bags were full of explosives and Joseph didn't want to be responsible for ending the mission prematurely. The two sappers who had been playing cards eyed the bags closely, eager to get their hands on the contents, their eyes bulging like kids in a candy store. Everyone had drawn closer to the table; a single light in the room illuminated the table, bathing it in a golden glow. Six pairs of eyes stared at Joseph expectantly. It was time.

"Greetings everyone. You all know why we're here," Joseph started. He wasn't much for grandiose, inspirational speeches, but he felt he should at least say something to the team. "I'm proud of the work that each and every one of you have done so far. Without your efforts, we wouldn't be here today. Whatever happens tonight, know that I am truly thankful for your dedication. Now, let's get started."

"Vasili and Vitali, you are in charge of setting the bombs in place. Charges should be placed here, here, and here," he pointed to the blueprints of the building. "Try not to use too much, I know how you both enjoy your explosions."

Rosa, your job is to let them in unseen, and make sure they remain undetected by security." Rosa nodded in acknowledgement; she would be masquerading as one of the waitresses. "John, your task is to drive the sappers to the location, and make sure they get out safely. When you're ready, you go here," Joseph pointed to a map, a small red X drawn on a spot just outside of Moscow.

Herman, you act as chauffeur to Cosmina and myself. And my dear Cosmina, you are to be my fiance tonight. We enter the dinner party, make sure that all of our targets are in place, and then detonate the bombs," Joseph smiled at her. He had always found her attractive, and had they met under different circumstances he would have long since tried flirting with her. "When we meet our objective, we rendezvous at that location. I have all the necessary travel documents stashed away there for our escape, once I pass them out, we go our separate ways."

Any questions?"[/DASH]

A look around the room revealed a multitude of expressions on the people gathered. It was easy to tell their personality types when it came to this kind of intense planning; though each member already knew their role in the mission, the still showed clear signs of reaction to the task at hand. The two boys, in charge of laying explosives for the operation, could not have looked more excited if they had been children being told that they were the new owners of a sweets shop. Rosa seemed collected, almost bored, but the tapping of her foot betrayed her nervousness. As just a waitress, she would not be attracting too much attention but sneaking the men in would be a very delicate task. It was no surprise that the lovely woman was to be the one sweet-talking if any needed done. Hector looked calm, though his attentiveness to the others belied how he felt. Hector would be in no real danger this mission, it seemed.

As for herself, Cosmina was readying herself for the evening. It was not so nerve-wracking to be in her own shoes as it was to think of what might happen to the boys or Rosa if they were caught. By the time she and Joseph would be doing anything at all, it would be the final stage of the operation. The large part of the danger to herself would be getting away once the bombs were detonated. It was not daunting, they were capable of disappearing and had done so without so much as a hiccup in previous instances.

"Everything sounds good, Joseph. We should go to get ready, however. What names will we we be using tonight?" Their evening clothes were prepared, her silk chiffon dress in tonal stripes had been chosen beforehand. It was strapless and the tie around the waist was sown against the fabric so that she would not get caught on anything if she had to flee. The loose skirt was selected for mobility, so that she could run.

If it had been any other occasion, Cosmina might be excited to be going to such a party, especially on the arm of Joseph. Cosmina had seen Joseph in a tuxedo once before - she knew well that they would be able to distract women with little effort. Things were getting under way and Cosmina could feel the familiar tension bubbling in her stomach.
[DASH=yellow]Joseph watched as the team began their mental preparations for the mission ahead. Joseph closed his eyes, deep in thought, his mind playing the mission out in his head, step-by-step. It was a good plan. If things went smoothly, this would change the world. It had been fortunate that all the members of the Soviet government would be in the same place on the same night; every year, on New Years eve they gathered for dinner, celebrating together as their regime grew stronger and stronger. Joseph chuckled at the symbolism, the dawn of a new world coming with the new year, it was almost poetic. The hardest part of the mission had been securing an invitation to the dinner, but they had finally managed it several months ago.

Cosmina's question brought Joseph back down to earth. "Tonight, my dear, you shall be the lovely Svetlana, my gorgeous fiance," Joseph said, his hand reaching in to his pocket, pulling out an exquisite engagement ring. The ring had been an expensive, but necessary part of the operation. He took Cosmina's hand in his, gently placing the ring on her finger. "And tonight I shall be Yuri." Joseph stood there, staring straight in to her eyes, her hand in his. She had beautiful eyes. The sound of his team faded from existence, and he lost himself in the moment. He smiled at her, letting go of her hand. "Time to get dressed."

It didn't take long for Joseph to get changed. He stepped out of the lone bedroom in his tuxedo, his hair neatly combed, smelling faintly of cologne. The team was ready, all of them sitting around the table, gathering their thoughts, waiting for the order to start the mission. Rosa, the two sappers, and John would have to leave soon to begin the set up. There was still some time before Hector, Cosmina, and himself needed to make an appearance at the dinner. Joseph surveyed the team. They were ready. He gave them a nod. The first group stood up, walked over to him, and each shook his hand as they made their way out of the apartment, Joseph's only words to them were "See you on the other side." When the door finally closed behind them, Joseph went over to the window, and looked out. Small snowflakes drifted down from the heavens. He grabbed a cigarette from the pack on the windowsill, and lit it, the tip glowing faintly as he took a drag. He only smoked before tough missions; it helped calm his nerves. Out in the world below the first four members of his team got in to a car, and drove off.

Everything was in order now, for the mission to begin. Cosmina did not want to watch the others leave, knowing that seeing them depart would be the hardest thing that she would have to do today. Instead of watching people that she had come to see as peers and perhaps even as friends, she chose to take more time that necessary to get ready for the party. All it took was a little dawdling on her part, slower movements to slide the dress down over her head.

For the evening, everything had been arranged perfectly to perpetuate the guise of herself as Svetlana and Joseph as her fiance Yuri. An expensive ring had even been procured. Cosmina knew full well that the ring was nothing, not to Yuri and it should certainly be nothing to her as well. Perhaps it was because Cosmina had never been proposed to, had never seen such an exquisite piece of jewelry, and hadn't been given anything by a man that she felt this way. There had been something about Joseph taking the glimmering metal set with a spectacular diamond from its little velvet box and placing it on her finger for which she could not account. It was as if time had slowed itself and everyone had gone silent, leaving just her and Joseph with the ring.

Realizing that he heart was beating quickly, Cosmina broke herself of her reverie and began to brush her makeup on to her face. It was foolish, she thought angrily to herself, to think of such frivolous things. The lives of all of them were going to be in danger tonight and here she was, misinterpreting the situation like a pathetic schoolgirl. She tried to divert her thoughts elsewhere in light of this, tried to stay angry about her drifting thoughts, but she could not keep the anger.

Finally finished with her preparation, Cosmina stepped from the room. Her black hair was scented heavily with hairspray used to complete the look of her thick locks twisted into a knot at the back of her head and though she wanted to dawdle more, to avoid Joseph as long as possible, she could no longer stay in the room where the hairspray was thickening the air. It was, she reasoned, nearly time for them to be leaving anyway and it was important to get into character so as not to forget.

"Ah, Yuri, how handsome you look in your tuxedo" Cosmina crooned when she spotted Joseph near the window. A faint blush came to her cheeks when he looked up and to conceal this, she spun in place on the precarious black high heeled shoes. "How do I look?" She hoped that Joseph could understand her; it had been a long time since she had used her Russian in any frivolous capacity.
[DASH=yellow]Joseph looked up as Cosmina entered the room. He was speechless as she spun around, the dress conforming perfectly to her slender body, accentuating her curves nicely. Resisting the urge to walk over to her and wrap his arms around her waist, he took another drag on his cigarette, hoping it would stop him from fumbling his words, before he responded, "Svetlana, my dear, you look simply astonishing. I could not have asked for a more beautiful fiance."

Before anything else could happen, such as an awkward silences, Hector stepped in through the front door. He had gone downstairs to warm up the car, a Chaika, one of the newest models. It was used by most Soviet politicians due to its comfort and its bulletproof windows. Joseph had selected it as their getaway car so that, in the event that things had gone sour, it could offer some protection for the occupants. Joseph was thankful for the interruption; he did not want Cosmina to know that he was attracted to her. It might complicate the mission, and that was something they could not afford. With Hector here, he was able to divert his attention from his feelings for Cosmina, and re-focus on the task at hand.

"Yuri, Svetlana, your car is ready," Hector said, completely oblivious of what had just happened in the room. Joseph walked towards Cosmina, lifting her thick fur coat from the back of a chair, and slipping it around her shoulders, his hand resting around her shoulders a moment longer than necessary. Hector led Cosmina out of the apartment, Joseph not far behind. He grabbed his own leather jacket from the closet by the front door, turned the light off in the apartment, and closed the door behind him.

On the other side of the city, things had hit a snag.

The air seemed to be caught in Cosmina's throat when Joseph draped the coat over her shoulders, his hands lingering for a second before he moved away. Cosmina drew the coat against her with both hands, grateful for its warmth on the small walk to the car. Hector seemed to be getting more tense as time went on, too, though his coping appeared to be falling as far as possible into his role. Maybe it was wise, Cosmina considered while straightening her skirts. A mere driver would not be distraught over the death of his clients, would he?

There was no way of knowing what was going on from here on the other side of town. Communication was strictly prohibited to avoid implicating multiple members of the party. They had to trust in that their fellows would be where they said they would be when they needed to be there. It was important that they all had an affection for one another, because the entire mission was a test of faith.

Inside the car, the tension was no longer just hanging through the air, the entire atmosphere was thick with it. Cosmina settled in next to Joseph on the seat, her heart beating so quickly she thought it would be heard by him. Unsure of what to say, Cosmina lowered her eyes to examine the glittering diamond solitaire on her finger instead of risking looking up at Joseph.

Cosmina tried to think of something to say to Joseph, but none of the words seemed right. Instead, they sat in silence until she realized that they were nearing their destination. A glance out the window told her that the car was pulling up at the building of their destination. The car stilled and Hector moved to get out so that he could open the door for her. On a spur of the moment whim, Cosmina lifted her head and kissed Joseph on the cheek.

"Yuri, my darling, it is time."
[DASH=yellow]The drive to the dinner party had been uneventful. Nobody spoke, which made the tension in the car palpable. Joseph stared absentmindedly out the window, his thoughts were half focused on the mission, and half on his feelings for Cosmina. It would be difficult to avert his eyes from her at the dinner party; she really did look splendid in that dress. He decided that his attraction to her would benefit the mission, as any of the other guests would be able to see the affection he had for her, further solidifying their cover. As the car pulled up to their destination, Hector got out of the car, moving to open the door for them. Joseph started to turn towards Cosmina, wanting to ask her if she was ready, and before he knew it, she had kissed his cheek. He struggled to control his blushing, but failed.

Joseph followed her out of the car, hoping that the red in his cheeks would be thought of as nothing more than the cold nipping at his flesh. "Come, sweetheart, let us make everyone at the party jealous," he offered Cosmina his arm, unsure of how to interpret the kiss. Surely it was nothing more than to protect their cover, he thought. Joseph turned to Hector, "Wait with the car, keep it warm for when we are done with the dinner party." Joseph felt guilty talking to one of his team as though he was but a mere servant, but for the cover, Hector had to look like their chauffeur. Hector nodded acknowledgement to Joseph, who, perhaps because his mind was elsewhere, had not noticed the treacherous gleam in the driver's eyes. Joseph entered the building, Cosmina on his arm. There was no turning back now.

At the rear entrance to the building, things were not going as planned. Rosa had been in the process of opening the door for the sappers, when one of the staff had seen her and ushered her away, ordering her to return to her waitressing duties. Every time Rosa had tried to escape for a moment, to sneak the sappers in, she had noticed the man watching her with eagle eyes. The sappers would have to find another way in to the building.

Rosa had started to get more and more flustered. The whole plan rested on getting those charges in place. She tried not to act too distraught, and when she had seen Joseph and Cosmina enter the dining room, she desperately tried making her way closer to them, trying to find a way to let them know that something was amiss.

Back outside, the sappers had lifted one of the manhole covers on the street, dropped down in to the sewers, and were frantically trying to break through the wall in to the cellar of the building

It was easy to tell by the way that Rosa kept attempting to get near the pair of them that there was a flaw in the plan. Cosmina did not know the exact plight, but it was very easy to tell that something had gone wrong. Still, Cosmina could not reflect her emotions on her face and any attempts to get near a waitress would seem suspicious - Yuri and Svetlana were members of high society in the minds of everyone present.

Cosmina was nervous about the entire evening but it was not difficult thus far. The night did not require more than Cosmina extending her hand to show off the glittering diamond to the ladies in attendance who crowded around, admiring it, comparing it to theirs. The women were also eyeing Joseph, their elevator eyes making Cosmina uncomfortable as they slid up and down Joseph's body.

Reasoning that she was playing the part of Yuri's fiancee, Cosmina felt it acceptable to display the jealousy that she felt when they eyed Joseph that way. Pressing herself closer to Joseph's body, she nestled her face against his tuxedo jacket. There was a pout on her lips, facing away from Joseph so that it couldn't be seen, to ward away the other women.

It was not time yet to detonate the charges, even if they were in place. Judging by the look on Rosa's face, there was some doubt on the matter. Cosmina placed her hand on Yuri's chest and stood on tiptoe with her lips pressed against his ear. She wasn't able to think of any way to say more clearly what she was feeling but she figured that if she looked like just a loving fiancee, it would be taken in stride by the rest of the party.

"Something's the matter. What do we do?"

Cosmina lowered herself back from her tiptoes to her heels and smiled languidly. Cosmina traced a fingertip over the line of Joseph's jaw.
[DASH=yellow]The look on Rosa's face said it all - something had gone amiss. As far as Joseph could tell, the others hadn't been caught, otherwise the place would be crawling with soldiers and all of the government officials would have long since been evacuated. So it must be something else. The first order of business would be to find out what exactly had happened, and to see if the plan was still in motion. Cosmina had come over to him, pressing herself against his body, drawing his full of attention to her, and her alone.

Most of the men had spent their night ogling Cosmina, telling Joseph had beautiful she was, and how they didn't understand how a man like him had managed to secure such a lovely woman as his fiance. Joseph could only smirk at them, responding that women desired more than just money to be happy. Some of the remarks that followed had been uncouth - Joseph wanted to administer retribution on them through the form of physical violence, but that would only serve to get him kicked out of the party. So when Cosmina had come up to him, he had decided he was going to make the other men jealous.

She had whispered in his ear, asking him what to do. Joseph stared down in to her beautiful eyes as she traced her fingertip along his jaw, his breath caught in his throat. He gently turned her around, one of his arms wrapping around her waist, softly touching her stomach, just enough force to pull her closer. His other arm had slipped around hers, his large hand seemingly swallowing hers, his fingers entwining themselves with hers. He bent down, just enough to softly breath on her neck, his lips barely touching her skin. He gently kissed her neck once, then moved his lips up to her ear.

"Go ask Rosa to show you where the bathroom is, make sure she comes with you to show you where, see if you can get a moment alone to find out what has happened."

Down below, in the sewer, the sappers were steadily making progress. The original plan had called for them being finished and out of the building by now, but they had packed shovels and pick axes in the event that something like this had happened. It wouldn't be long before they broke through the wall. They had lost a lot of time, and would need to hurry setting up the charges before dinner started; once dinner starting being served, many of the waiters would be coming downstairs in to the cellar to grab bottles of wine. If they didn't finish in time...well, they hoped it wouldn't come to that.

There was a slowing in time for Cosmina, as though the earth held its breath just for her. She too felt like the air was gone from her lungs, hard to breathe. Her eyes widened in surprise, but it was a pleasant surprise to Cosmina. Joseph's touch sent a jolt through her body, like sparks dancing over her skin and through the flesh. This electricity swept away any words she could have said and she yielded to the kisses before quickly realizing that Joseph was telling her something.

Cosmina scolded herself angrily - she was a fool for the way her heart was racing. Listening to Joseph's words with her breath bated, Cosmina tried to take a breath. The thumping of her heart nearly drowned out the sound of Joseph's words, but she swallowed sharply. All that Cosmina could do was nod to Joseph, trying to hide the deep red flush of her cheeks. Cosmina covered her lips with one hand, her cheeks still bright pink from Joseph's attention.

As loud as she could without seeming suspicious, Cosmina gave Joseph a playful push. "Oh Yuri, now I have to go freshen up..." Quickly, Cosmina's scanning eyes sought and located Rosa. The determined clicking of her high heels across the floor announced her presence to Rosa, who caught on quickly enough to nod politely. A hurried exchange took place, involving Cosmina asking Rosa to escort her to the restroom. Rosa eagerly agreed.

As soon as the pair of them made it to the elegant restroom, Rosa slipped inside before Cosmina did so that Cosmina could slip discreetly into the restroom. As soon as they were alone with the door locked, Rosa launched into a quiet, hurried explanation of what was going on. Cosmina was alarmed at first, until Rosa assured her that the boys had taken shovels with them. They would just be running behind schedule, though, they should be able to get in still.

Silently, Cosmina slipped away from the restroom and returned to Yuri's side before Rosa slipped away to the back to get a tray of food so that she would not be spotted near Cosmina anymore. Pressing herself to Yuri, Cosmina braced both hands around his neck and brushed her lips over his cheek in order to whisper across his skin.

"They had to find an alternate way to get in. We're somewhat behind schedule."
[DASH=yellow]Joseph couldn't help but watch as Cosmina walked towards Rosa. Her stride was confident, sexy, drawing the attention of all the men in the room. She was magnificent. Once the mission was over, Joseph was going to miss her, the way she spoke, the way her hair curled behind her ears. Joseph cursed himself; the mission, he had to focus on the mission.

"Yuri, come, share a cigar with me," one of the men said, offering him a cigar. "From Cuba."

"Thank you, my friend," Joseph replied, accepting the cigar. Smoking with the man was a pleasant distraction from his thoughts. They sat there telling jokes, waiting for dinner to arrive. Joseph had stuck to his cover story well, a story that he rehearsed countless times, carefully fleshing it out in each successive telling. To the men present, he was Yuri Koskov, aspiring politician from a small town in Siberia. Just as dinner was coming in to view, Cosmina had re-appeared. She immediately came to him, wrapping her arms around his neck, telling him the status of the mission. He curled his arms around her hips, holding her as though they were two young lovers caught in a timeless moment, dancing under the soft pale moonlight.

Joseph smiled at her adoringly. "My Svetlana, how I missed you while you were gone. Come, sit, dinner is almost ready to be served." He ushered her over to their table, pulling out her chair for her.

It was lucky for her, Cosmina thought, that she had made it back before dinner. Her absence would likely have been more acutely noticed if she was missing from Yuri's side at the table. The way that Joseph held her had returned the uncomfortable flush to her cheeks. The party was making Cosmina regret the fact that, after this was over, she'd likely never see Joseph again.

It was enchanting, this evening, even if their purpose was grim. They would push the time frame back a little bit which meant that Cosmina would get to have a little dinner at this beautiful party with Joseph. This one night, she was not Cosmina and he was not Joseph. For just a little while, she was Svetlana, Yuri's fiancee, and this dinner was dinner with the man who'd given her a diamond solitaire. When Joseph pulled the chair out for her, she smiled up at him.

The first course of the meal came out quickly, hot borsch served with sour cream and garlicky bread. The deep red broth made Cosmina's stomach grumble when she saw it. The smell was even more inviting and Cosmina felt almost as though she were enjoying this affair. She was almost sad that she was going to be the one to ruin the happy party.

In the spirit of the evening, Cosmina took Joseph's hand in her own and squeezed it gently, the smile lingering on her lips. The bowls of soup were distributed to the guest members in order of importance and in a matter of course, she and Joseph were among the last to be fed. Small dishes of sour cream were laid at intervals along the table, along with loaves of the bread.
[DASH=yellow]The smell of food caused Joseph's stomach to rumble. It had been some time since he had eaten, and tonight's meal was being prepared by some of the premier chefs in Moscow, a rare treat for a man such as himself. It was customary to distribute the food according to one's rank, which meant that Cosmina and himself would have to wait for their food. Joseph stared longingly as the borsch was passed out. Fortunately, the delay in their plan meant that he could enjoy at least part of this fine meal, before they had to complete the mission.

Finally, his bowl had arrived. The soup looked inviting, the red broth swirling, beckoning him to grab a spoon and imbibe it. Before he tasted the soup, he scooped a little bit of sour cream, and dunked it in to the bowl, carefully mixing it in. The broth turned a murky pink colour. As he reached to cut himself a piece of garlic bread, he turned to his fiance, "Would you like for me to cut you a piece of bread, sweetheart?"

When he finally took his first sip of the borsch, a delightful flavour filled his mouth, the sour cream blending perfectly with the broth to create an exquisite taste in his mouth. The garlic bread had complemented the dish well, serving as a way to soak up some of the excess liquid in the bowl. Joseph's next spoonful involved several pieces of meat, as well as a mixture of vegetables and potatoes. He had never tasted borsch so delicious, and had gladly finished his bowl. The entire time he ate, he struggled to remain composed; he was, after all, masquerading as a wealthy man, one who frequently ate at fine establishments, so a fine borsch such as this should not appear to be a rare treat.

Just as he was finishing his last spoonful, Joseph heard four gunshots coming from the back alley. His spoon was momentarily suspended between the bowl and his mouth, almost betraying him. He quickly finished the soup, while turning to Cosmina, smiling at her, his eyes darting around the room, looking for Rosa. She was nowhere to be found. His gaze fell back to Cosmina, a look of worry in his eyes. He feared that the mission was in jeopardy; what else could have explained the four gun shots and Rosa's disappearance?

Moments later, two men had entered the room, their dress exposing them as members of the local police. They glanced around the room, and, spotting him, walked towards the table. Joseph reached over and grabbed Cosmina's hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. They had been caught, he was sure of it. "Yuri Andreyevich Koskov? Please come with us, and bring your fiance."

Joseph stood, noticing the silence in the room, all eyes on him, Cosmina, and the two police officers. He was ready to spring in to action, if given the chance. He hoped that chance would come, and that it would buy enough time for Cosmina to escape, as he followed the officers out of the dining room and in to the cold night.

Following along behind Joseph, Cosmina kept her fingers wrapped around his hand. Her heart was thumping, beating a vicious tattoo against her ribs. Cosmina took a deep breath, trying to keep herself calm and focus on all the possible routes of escape. Holding her head up high, comporting herself with the poise of a queen, Cosmina allowed herself to be lead from the dining room amid the stares of the other guests.

It was most probable that they had been found out because they had been ratted out, but Cosmina didn't want to think that any member of their team had betrayed them. Cosmina was hoping against hope that they either hadn't been found out or that they'd been found out through some other means, anything but thinking that a member of their team was responsible for cutting short the lives of all of the others. Squeezing Joseph's hand in her own, Cosmina stepped into the chilly night air.

It was as if the world crashed down suddenly around Cosmina's ears. So surprised was she to see Hector, draped in the same jacket as the police, standing outside that she released Joseph's hand. Her eyes shot to the faces of all the men present, scanning each and every one of them only to find an icy chill in their gazes. Cosmina inhaled deeply once more, planning her course of action.

Joseph had, tucked into his jacket, the passports at least as far as Cosmina knew. This meant that they would be able to flee under a different name if they managed to escape from this. Cosmina and Joseph were to be shot, that much was obvious. They had no time to dally, they'd been sold out by Hector. Cosmina reassessed the men around them and saw that the one to the far left of the grouping was also standing near a car. To make everything better, there was a driver in the car which meant that the keys were in it.

Hoping that he would get her idea, Cosmina announced to the icy air, taking her time following behind the police who were leading them "Yuri, you know I'm right-handed, don't you? There's just something weak about the other side."
[DASH=yellow]Joseph narrowed his eyes when he spotted Hector, wearing one of the police jackets, smug satisfaction on his face for having betrayed the team. Vowing revenge, if they managed to live through this ordeal, Joseph took in his surroundings, trying to formulate an escape plan. Cosmina's hand dropped from his; she must have seen Hector as well. Joseph's heart started pounding in his chest, thumping harder and harder as the anger built inside him.

They were nearing the waiting officers, who were readying their rifles, casually smoking cigarettes and throwing around a little bit of chit-chat. Joseph spotted a man sitting behind the wheel of one of the cars, his friend standing outside, leaning down, trying to get his cigarette lit. Including the two men leading them to their deaths, there were a total of six officers, and the traitorous Hector. If they were able to catch the men by surprise, it would be quick work. Cosmina signaled him, telling him that she would take the right side. Now was their chance.

"Yes darling, just like my mother," Joseph acknowledged, his voice full of cold fury. One of the things that had motivated him in accepting the mission was his intense hatred for the Soviet government and the mistreatment of his mother. When she was a little girl, first attending school, she had been instructed to write. She was naturally left handed, and so she took the pencil in her left hand, attempting to please her teacher. Instead it brought down his ire, and her teacher beat her mercilessly, dislocating her shoulder and breaking every finger in her left hand. In attempt to stop her from writing with her left hand, her teacher constantly broke her fingers, never allowing her to see a doctor, never letting them go too long without mending. Years later, when Joseph had asked her why her hand looked like that, she merely responded "There is no room for uniqueness in the Soviet Union." It had angered Joseph to learn that his mother had a deformed hand because of a teacher, the same teacher who now happened to be the Minister of Education, one of the men he was tasked with killing tonight.

And with that phrase, Joseph sprung in to action, striking the man directly in front of him in the back of the head, grabbing the gun from the man's holster. He targeted the men to his left, firing off three shots, two of them connecting with their targets, their cries of warning choked off by the bullets entering their heads. The man in front of him groaned, attempting to stand. His progress came to a crashing halt as Joseph knocked him unconscious with the butt of the gun. He made his way towards the car with the man in it; that was their best chance at escaping. The occupant of the car was furiously trying to take the gun out of his holster, failing as Joseph punched him in the face several times. Joseph yanked the door open, grabbed the man inside and threw him on top of his dead friend. The keys were still in the ignition. Good, he thought. The passenger door thudded closed as Cosmina jumped in. A quick turn of the key and the car roared to life. Joseph floored it.

"I'm glad you made it," Joseph said, smiling in Cosmina's direction. They had made it, together. There would be time for mourning the team when they escaped from the country safely. Joseph's momentary joy was cut short: the passports that they needed to cross the border were in his jacket pocket, the jacket that he had worn to the dinner party, the same jacket that was still in the coat check at the party. Silently cursing himself for having been so stupid, Joseph checked for signs of pursuit. Nobody was following. "We need to ditch this car as soon as possible, they'll be looking for it." He paused, trying to catch his breath. He hadn't seen the traitor once the shooting started, and he had to know if Cosmina had exacted revenge. "Hector?"

"Thanks to Hector, the base is no longer a viable option for us to hide" Cosmina spat, running her hands along her arms. There would be time later for mourning those who had been lost. This was not that time, this was the time of surviving long enough to mourn. The single word dripped off of Joseph's lips like poison, dangling in the air. Hector. Cosmina turned her head away from Joseph so that he could not see the remorse on her face.

"I tried to kill him but the others helped him escape to the car before I could do it..." Cosmina had tried but in the fray, Hector had managed to escape. Lowering her eyes, Cosmina took a deep breath to focus. Anger was meaningless, anger would make them foolish and blind. Still, though, it would have been nice to kill him. Glancing at the countryside as it flashed past the windows, Cosmina turned her gaze to Joseph.

"I don't know what to do..." Cosmina didn't know what to call Joseph. Joseph was too formal, but he'd never given her a nickname to call him by. He'd never really been Yuri. Cosmina bit her lip. She wanted to offer Joseph some sort of consolation but she didn't even know what to call him, let alone how to comfort the searing pain she felt and knew he must feel too.

"I never thought, never thought we'd be ... sold out. We didn't have a contingency plan for this." There were, of course, things that Joseph already knew. Still, Cosmina had little else to say and she wanted to be a part of the planning, she could see the gears turning in Joseph's head already. They were certainly wanted now, they would have to lie low until they could escape the country.

Closing her eyes, Cosmina could only see an image that would haunt her for a long time, she knew. Hector, slender and tall with auburn curls, smiling wickedly with the knowledge that he'd just sentenced three people he had called "friend" to death and was about to watch as two more were killed. Cosmina's eyes fluttered open and she felt sick. How could they not have noticed something, some evil emanating from the man? There had been no signs, no indications...

"If we ditch the car in a city of at least decent size, they would have a difficult time tracking us down based on the vehicle" Cosmina offered, toying with the fabric of her dress with one hand. A nervous gesture she could not suppress, Cosmina was folding and pinching the fabric between her thumb and index finger.
[DASH=yellow]Joseph listened in silence as Cosmina explained what had happened with Hector, the venom on her voice permeating the car. A single tear formed in his eyes, full of pain and anguish. He never thought he would lose his team like this, to a traitor, someone who he had called friend. And it was up to him to write letters to the families of the dead, explaining how they had died valiantly in the line of duty. He quickly rubbed the tear away, Cosmina should not see his emotions. As the leader, it was up to him to remain stoic, a picture of calmness, his only goal to get the job done, never letting his emotions come between himself and the objective.

Snowy hills sped by as the pair fled Moscow, heading away from the city and further in to the countryside. It was a cold night outside, the car's heater barely keeping its occupants warm. Joseph was busy formulating a plan. They needed to get rid of the car, find a change of clothes, and determine the best route of escape. He listened as Cosmina suggested they ditch the car in the nearest city, it was a good idea. She was a smart girl, and Joseph decided that he would include her in the planning, he could use her ideas, and, as they say, two heads are better than one. "Excellent idea. Check the glove box for a map, we're going to need one."

There were flashing lights up ahead. A roadblock. Joseph slowed the vehicle, pulling over to the side of the road. Chances are the roadblock was for them, and he couldn't risk trying to sneak through, the officers might have their descriptions. Surveying the surroundings, Joseph decided it would be best if they just left the car on the side of the road; there was no good place to hide it. Trees lined the road, packed together densely, offering no vision of how large the forest was. It would be a treacherous walk in the dead of night, no light to guide them, but they had to get away from the roads. He grabbed the pistol from the back seat, it might come in handy later. "Quick, in to the forest! I don't know if they spotted us pulling over, we need to get away as hastily as possible."

Joseph led the way to the edge of the forest. The cold was already nipping at his cheeks, and he couldn't begin to imagine how cold Cosmina must feel only wearing a dress. He pulled off the jacket to his tuxedo, draping it over her shoulders. "You need it more than I do." Joseph glanced back at the car, it was nearly impossible to see their footprints in the snow. Good, that would buy them some time. Taking Cosmina's hand in his, he began their journey through the trees.

The chill air wrapped itself around Cosmina like a frozen blanket when she stepped into the night air, her eyes flashed with alarm toward the roadblock. The icy weather nipped viciously at her arms but before she could wrap her arms over one another, she felt the fabric of a jacket being laid across her bare arms. Tilting her head upward, Cosmina locked eyes with Joseph for a moment before lowering her head once more. Cosmina slipped her hand around Joseph's and gave it a reassuring squeeze.

"We'll get out of this" she whispered, her breath drifting in white tendrils from her mouth. The difficult part of the walking was the height of her heels, though she was glad that she'd opted for closed toe shoes. Her feet sunk into the packed snow and she wobbled trying to walk. There was no way that she would be able to evade anyone for long like this. Despite the jacket, the calves of her legs began to feel frozen and Cosmina shivered still.

Noticing a faint light up ahead and through the trees, Cosmina pointed silently at it. This beacon was most likely a farmhouse with a candle or some other light in the window. This light, Cosmina thought grimly, might be their only hope. Joseph indicated that he saw the light as well and began heading in that direction, Cosmina's hand still wrapped around his own. After several paces, however, Cosmina began to lag behind with her heels catching in the snow and making it difficult for her to walk.

Cosmina weighed her options between removing the troublesome shoes and freezing her feet or keeping them on and stumbling every few steps in the snow. Nearly past the trees, Cosmina saw with dread that the snow only became deeper once the cover of the trees was broken. Emerging near the farmhouse and thankfully out of sight of the roads, Joseph glanced over to Cosmina, whose pitiful fight with the snow was becoming a close competition.

Cosmina struggled to dislodge her heel from snow with what appeared to be some sort of semi-frozen mud just beneath the surface when she felt a hand at her back. In a fluid movement, Joseph hoisted Cosmina into his arms and carried her with one arm beneath her knees and one at her back. Opening her mouth to protest, Cosmina realized that this unexpectedly kind deed was better left uncontested. Quietly, she slipped the jacket over her arms and contented herself with the fact that the farm building was close at hand.