The metal doors slid open, and the young man stepped out. His clothes were disheveled and he looked out of breath. The look of unease on his face spoke volumes.
The short man, with the wiry white hair noticed none of this, his eyes glued to a viewport, his fingers fiddling with multiple knobs and dials. On occasion, his slim delicate hands stroked his silver goatee, as if in thought. Only when the young man was close enough to touch him on the shoulder, did he pry his face away and look at him.
“Michael? You are very late.” He spoke, his accent carefully polished, but with a hint of his native Kaliningrad.
Michael smiled at the man, his weariness slowly ebbing away. He sat on one of the aluminum stools that littered the place.
“I have…interesting news, Sergei.”
The man tut-tutted disapprovingly.
“Michael, I am not your best friend. Doctor. I am Dr. Sakharov to you.”
“Sure thing, Serge. Look… there’s some really important news that I have to get to the boss. When can I meet him?”
The old man’s face scrunched up in surprise.
“What news is this? What have you been up to?”
Michael sighed deeply. This next bit was not going to be easy.
“I know you told me not to, but I followed Vladimir. Into the Netherworld.”
The old man froze, his eyes wide.
“Kretin! Are you insane? That you followed the Count against my express orders was not enough, you had to follow him into the Netherworld. How did you even…”
Michael steeled himself for the explosion, as the doctor sat down, realization dawning upon him.
“Did you… did you jump through his… one of Lord Malchus’ portals? You IMBECILE!”
Michael flinched, but waited for the old man to stop shaking with anger, even as he spoke, his words incoherent.
“The sheer ramifications… if Malchus investigates… How will I answer upstairs?”
Finally he sat down on the stool beside Michael, who waited for the old man to catch his breath before he spoke again.
“What I suspected was true. Project Helios. Count Vladimir is trying to recreate it in the Netherworld.”
“What proof do you have?” The doctor’s eyes were steely and hardened, piercing through Michael.
“Look, I was only able to snoop around for a while. I narrowly escaped being caught by one of the Count’s flunkies. This pasty white guy tried to impale me on his nasty black sword. Nicked me too. Had to flee. Took a circuitous route to get to a portal that I knew I could use. Unfortunately…something followed me back.”
“What was it?”
Michael told him.
“A carnivera? You’re saying there is a carnivera loose here now?”
Michael nodded. The doctor swore inaudibly, in pure Russian.
“So to sum, you tracked Count Vladimir into the Netherworld, which you were expressly told not to, using one of Lord Malchus’ portals, nearly got caught, scurried back here, and brought a carnivera back with you?”
Michael gulped. When put like that, it seemed like a lot. Not to mention…
“Oh and on my way back, I think the Coven tagged me for an illegal crosser.”
Dr. Sergei Sakharov stood up, his face an unreadable mask.
“Perhaps you are right. I think it is time you met Mr. Skorios.”