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Reap What You Sow


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Aleksei Tarkovsky

Aleksei, with his growing list of confirmed kills scribbled onto the back a rusty edition of War and Peace. Aleksei, with his blood-stained boots and the daringly loud click of their heels; and Aleksei, with the warmest smile this side of the West Siberian Plain... Has always been a little bit more than the military has bargained for.

During the long and patient years of his service training completed, hazing endured, information about certain creatures disclosed, ranks climbed Aleksei would do a fair share of learning about many a boring thing in regards to the code of conduct around the place. Would do just enough of retaining. And the application of acquired knowledge, alas, would happen with shameless selectivity and at his personal convenience only. An amused whatever it takes to keep us all warm, Polkovnik, for example, would on numerous occasion prove be a rather pathetic excuse for arson: Aleksei would do an astoundingly poor job at taking note of such reprimand, and spend the rest of what would seem like eternity listening to how certain people believe he should spend as much time on entertaining measures less drastic as he does on finding viable justifications for surpassing them.

Heartily and with utmost conviction, he would promise them to do better. Would never mean it; would always hope they would notice. But in what by then seemed like routine they would let it slide, because for them...

For them he would do much, much worse.

It wasn't always his fault. Hell, if you ask him now it still never is. Something in the young man, ever since he was all but a rookie, a green recruit with mind of clay, could never be quite still; something caught fire at the light of the smallest flame. And it was no pretty thing, fuelling what should've been put out right from the start... But with the curves of a metal trigger braided into the base of his spine and with gunpowder etched into the tips of his fingers, Aleksei has always been destined to have not more of Jekyll than he had of Hyde.

And back in the early days, when he would still have it in him to refuse, to throw the roguish belligerency aside and ask ( demand, bargain, beg ) for an out, the generals would only smile.


Smiles seldom came with anything good. At times he would be sent away, the distraught creators of this wretched unbridled thing they raised to tend to less palatable parts of their bidding and expected him to not fall in love with it; the disgusted makers of a killer, a slayer, that refused to reap what they sowed.

His life would become nomadic. Existence splattered across the globe, spent tracking down something ancient and ephemeral, this gossamer tracing bloodthirst and decadence, fangs and canines. The shadow of a black hood in the dark of the night, white teeth catching the light of the passing streetlights the thrill of the chase would take roots in his stomach and bloom like a rose garden, flow through his veins while rivers run crimson. So far from home, the lines he only ever had to bend would cease to exist at all.

Still, a slave to things so wasteful as duty and loyalty, Aleksei would always come back as summoned: as par for the course, only to find his methods criticized. His funds retracted in nothing more but a taunt. His successes reduced to a simple "hazard" burning bright and red across his personal dossier. Many years later he would still refuse to see that as anything but an asset.

What used to be not enough they'd now say became too much, and Aleksei would ask them to make up their damn minds; the generals would only smile.


In the hidden building just out of town, rusty cobblestone outside and identical corridors within ancient walls, the hushed voices sing the same tiring song.

There are threats worn-in and old, promises of dishonourable discharge if he doesn't stop - as if anything they do in that godforsaken branch of the military is in the least bit honourable, as if at this point it would be in the least bit meaningful or restrictive. There are promises of the same things if he doesn't do more.

Aleksei responds with patience disingenuous yet artfully feigned, and for what seems like the first time in the duration of his whole damn life, walks out without a single word: cigarette hanging from his mouth, haste perpetually in his steps as his hands itch for a box of matches and a bottle of Bacardi 151.

It's not long before the neck of the bottle turned upside down douses the cobblestone grounds in gasoline, and the fingers of Aleksei's right hand miss the box of matches merely by a few inches only to instead land on the beloved grenade still attached to a holster. At the end of the day, with the cold winter wind biting and clawing at his skin, Aleksei isn't sure how it happens; it simply just does. The safety pin detached and the incendiary little thing drawn above his head, with a simple yet eternally satisfactory pitch that would surely exile him to the new realm just a few days later...

He only smiles.
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