When Hell Freezes Over by Wolf Sherman by Wolf Sherman - Read Online

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When Hell Freezes Over - Wolf Sherman

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Gibson

Prologue

This is not one of the places I would've chosen to spend my birthday. It's not exactly like I grew up in this part of the world, but then after so many years, it sure feels like it. Yet, here I am. All grown up and aged and cripple. Somewhat..., No one knew how to react to his unusual word choice, that had made it unclear whether it was his idea of a humorous kickoff to what was anticipated as his welcoming speech. Barely starting, he paused as a soldier rushed up behind him, Doctor McKenzie! They called! It's for you, sir! The soldier pointed up at the miserable dark clouds. Practice run. Is what they say it is, Doctor, sir... The soldier's voice was suddenly subdued to almost that of a whisper as he kept his palm over the phone at the same time as the ominous grey sky was ripped by what appeared to be a thundering jet engine - then another. The soldier's rushed kicking of the snow along the narrow walkway between the helicopters and the structure that appeared like a giant warehouse, somewhat startled McKenzie, and in reflex, he'd shifted his weight over to his other leg to turn better and face the silhouette as it approached. By the time he'd had time to investigate what the noise was behind him, and swapped his brass cane into the other hand, he was almost already expected taking delivery of what his cold audience presumed was a satellite phone. The soldier held out for him, and from the moment of taking the call, McKenzie remained silent for the duration of the conversation. And that was how his introduction and welcoming commenced. Suddenly they all wished themselves back to the warmer climate where the initial interviews were conducted. Sitting in sunny Italy and perched on a chair while appreciating the shade outside a restaurant, on the day, went hand-in-hand with paging the menu right past the elaborate selection of steamy coffees - over to an ice tea - for Tom. An inviting scene indeed compared to where the group had found themselves two weeks later. Like all who had arrived, Tom, Elana, and Jerome's wishes for the warmer and more hospitable part of the world, the old man knew, were shared by the other bus fulls who were poured into the military helicopters mere moments after emerging from the horrid winter weather. While trying to study their faces through the falling sleet, he absorbed the news on the phone, then with a sigh, lifted his eyes upwards as two steel birds overhead reminded that there wasn't much time left. Stating the obvious - Two. The soldier motioned with his fingers. Air-strike and virus outbreak, Wasn't two phrases he'd preferred in a single sentence. For a moment he considered pointing over to the line of military helicopters which were still slicing through the frigid air, and just apologise for the inconvenience - then tell them all to go back home. Mere two-hundred metres beyond the group of scientists who were staring at old man McKenzie, two soldiers emerged. Each dragging a highly stacked sleigh that was covered with a pure white canvas that had been stretched over its cargo. Knowing the helicopters needed to disappear into the sky first, he lifted his thickly gloved right hand and poked his thumb into the snowy air. As the helicopters took off; churning into the blizzard and out of sight, he waived the distant waiting men at the apron of the forest to drag the two sleighs closer. I would have wanted to introduce you all to my devout staff - who you'll be replacing... but it would seem that I was beaten by time. Or was that fate? The rows of freezing cold new arrivals turned to face behind them to whatever it was that he was waving at.

Chapter 1

The colourfully dressed group who was waiting on him, had reacted to an invitation where it seemed the scientific corporate world could simply not compete on a salary level - at least. Had they been honest; to have shared the time of the legend of a scientist who they believed had assembled them, they would have surely accepted even at a fraction of the money that had been dangled in front of them. But the climate on the morning when they got of the plane in Russia, soon after changed their willingness to continue. After we were ushered into a bus - right off the plane - that was driven to a hanger at the very back of the airport, the red flag should have risen for us. Tom thought while the man in the front who faced them, and was about to continue what was supposed to pass for a hearty welcome. He recalled a number of huge signs displayed as the bus left the apron of the runway. That they weren't directed to the main building to have their passports stamped, was one of the first peculiarities. Not at all. The bus driver's Russian accent smiled over. We will attend to the administrative formalities over there. He lifted his gloved hand which was poking out of the sleeve of a thickly padded military jacket, to where absolutely no buildings were. The visitors looked ahead of the bus, and seeing nothing of the sort, faced him again, but not after sharing a good number of perplexed frowns. Till it got stranger. It wasn't exactly custom anywhere they'd travelled to after a taxing flight, to have descended an A380's lengthy staircase that had been parked; pushed up near the plane, then hop on a bus where someone in a military camouflage uniform was the tour guide. All the while, there reigned from what the crowd could make out, no apparent urgency to have been reunited with their luggage. But serving higher on the ladder of importance, not rubber-stamping the legalities of entering Russia, was by far of greater concern. At first as the bus motioned away; all attached to the outside of hangers, a range of familiar logos of what they presumed were workshops in the aviation industry, greeted the visitors. Air France, KLM, Korean Air, Hainan Airlines, Alitalia, Air China and flydubai. But trailing further away from the main buildings, the advertising boards seem to dwarf and seemed less familiar, till finally, only numbers were marking whoever occupied the places. What were just dark specks in the distant fog, eventually grew into two armed soldiers who were planted near someone who seemed to have outranked them. Both soldiers had their hands up in air and waited for the bus to halt. And after much saluting going on at the front of the bus, between the bus driver and three who climbed on board, the doors closer behind them. Morning... Good morning... an older man alternated his heavy accented greets, with his hand outstretched, as the other two soldiers followed him from the front. One after the other the passports were stamped by the two soldiers who had followed the older one. Indefinitely. He remarked for a fifth time as he combed his way through the wave of passports which were eagerly held up in the air by the uneasy passengers. Apparently the senior military man's command of English was somewhat on the sparse side. Indefinitely, was the third word he'd demonstrated that he could use with some form of proficiency. The first two were, Morning, and Good Morning. The passengers needed to know whether the official-looking documents, of which they couldn't make a word out - that were folded double and shoved into the middle of the passports, before clamping them closed over the two new pages and handed back, whether these were working visas, or some extension of it. Thank you. But, excuse me... How long is it valid for? Another woman needed to know after she had briefly looked down and studied what she assumed was a paragraph in Russian, underneath the familiar Russian emblem. The only English on the document was DATE OF ENTRY, which for reason had been left blank. To which the man's third English word he knew - again - was, Indefinitely. The woman, from what Tom could estimate, needed to know much more before she was going to take her seat again. I'm sorry, but I don't know if such a thing exist? Indefinitely? The man paused, then turned his head towards the passenger who doubted his word, and from what it seemed by implication,