The moon hung in the night sky, just a tiny sliver of gold amidst the black. No stars were up, and the sky was as black as the cloak of Death.

Solitary and strange on the crowded streets, a white-clad figure walked with a clear sense of purpose that automatically pushed others out of her way. At first sight, she seemed unremarkable, despite the disconcerting lack of aura that distinguished and separated her from the gaudily dressed crowd and the heady odour of perfume that hung heavily in the air and made one wonder how on earth the late-night shoppers, party-goers, gangsters and et-cetera managed to breathe. But, if you looked closely at her face, you could see eyes of aquamarine touched with amethyst and veined with living, crackling, even smoldering green fire, eyes which were frozen and empty save for the promise of vengeance to those who dared block her path, eyes which emitted a chilly, frigid radiance that shunned and forbade contact. And, today, the green in them was more prominent than ever as she strode towards a dark alley and uncertain consequences.

"Zdravstvutye." She greeted her contact in halting Russian, before surveying him from head to toe. Then she nodded, approving, and he nodded back.

"You are well, I hope?"

She started as he spoke in flawless English, without a trace of his native accent. Suddenly she felt ashamed of her achievements. Very well, she was – no, had been – acknowledged as a scholar of superior (and surprising) quality, but if she could not at least speak Russian as well as a Russian could speak English… Then she shook herself back to reality and nodded, well aware that her contact was smirking beneath the shadows of his hood.

"I take it you don't speak Russian very well?"

"No, but I speak German. Much good that would do you, though."

He nodded, then, smiling, took her by the wrist and led her out of the alley.

"We might as well talk somewhere else. The weather forecast says it will be raining."

"Yes, and it has been entirely inaccurate for the past three weeks," she retorted. As if on cue, pea-sized droplets on rain fell on them like marbles and lightning started to wave wildly in the sky, a sharp contrast to the black of night. It was a pretty sight, but one that they had no time to watch. Or at least, that was what she thought. Her contact didn't seem to share that opinion.

"Now, now," he said, wagging a finger at her like one might do to a naughty child, "you didn't really think that the people at the artificial weather generation station could slack off for that long, did you?" His words were accompanied by a roar of thunder, and he hastily drew her under his cloak, seeing that neither of them had brought an umbrella.

"Let go. I've walked home in worse storms with not much on other than a uniform."

There was no reply, and she could not see if he had shaken his head or no, but the grip on her shoulders did not loosen. Exasperated, she sighed and wrenched herself away.

"Tell me why you wanted to meet me here again?" she asked.

He smirked and reached into a pocket somewhere that she couldn't see, eventually producing a pendant on a chain.


She studied it. It was a silver key, not one of those fanciful ornaments you found in stores but the real thing from thousands and thousands of years ago when things had been beautiful and not hideous like they were in the present day. Tracing the outline with her thumb, she felt something that was rougher than usual and bent over the spot, inadvertently gasping when she read the small inscription in Russian.

"Yurii Valkov, born DA 57, deceased --- "

She raised her head, slowly, and glared at him, the fire in her eyes crackling, threatening to burn his body and what was left of the world to a crisp.

"What are you doing with his necklace?" she growled, every word dripping with venom. Suddenly, she found herself enveloped in warmth, surrounded by folds of black cloth.

"Surprise," Yurii murmured, stroking her hair like he has used to do when they were children.

Alyona looked up into his shockingly ice-blue eyes, then at the pendant she held in her hands, all thoughts of shelter forgotten and discarded.

"I had forgotten," she muttered. Then, smiling through tears of joy and gratitude:

"Welcome home."