Lee Brunner sat in the dim solitude of his little Moscow apartment and tried to lose himself in a copy of Pravda, but to no avail; he wasn't quite in the mood to focus.
Not for the first time, he regretted coming to the Soviet Union. Not only was it alien, it was pretty damn terrible as well. In America, you could walk into a store at any old time and buy whatever you wanted. Here, you had to stand in long lines (especially thrilling in winter) just in hopes of being handed the barest necessities. And if you complained...oh boy. In the good ol' USofA, you could criticize the government until you were blue in the face. Here, telling a joke could get you ten years' hard labor. He'd seen it happen. There was a joke that his friends told (and speaking of friends, those were few and far between...Americans weren't too popular over here) that went: How does every Russian joke start? The answer: By looking over your shoulder!
Lee sighed. He missed America. He missed Virginia. He missed Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam and J.F.K. (was it really true he was shot last November? Or was that just commie propaganda?). He fucking hated Russia.
The phone rang, startling him.
Lee picked up the handset. "Hello?"
"Who is this?" he was starting to get scared. What, were they mind readers now? It wasn't as stupid as it might sound. He'd seen some really bizarre stuff in his line of work, things that would blow the average person out of the water.
"Who is this?" he demanded.
The fear that had suddenly built up in his stomach evaporated, and he tittered nervously. "Yuri, you son of a bitch!"
Yuri Zarknov laughed. "Did I scare you?" he asked.
"Yes, you did," Lee replied and said no more. In recent weeks, or so the black market grapevine said, a man claiming to be with Mosgas, Moscow's gas service, had forced his way into several apartments and killed the women inside. The scary part: Mosgas inspections were mandatory, and refusing the technicians entrance was not an option.
Of course, no such thing was recounted in the papers, but it had become a running joke within the city to phone someone and then do just what Yuri had just done.
"Are you coming over tonight? Me and the guys are playing cards. Gregor might bring women..."
Lee chuckled again. "No, I can't. I'm beat. I think I'll just head off to bed."
Yuri sighed. "Alright. You do that. I see you tomorrow?"
"Sure," Lee said and hung up.
Instead of going to bed, Lee dressed, threw a heavy overcoat on, and ventured bravely out into the February night. The streets were virtually empty, the brooding facades along the narrow, unwashed avenue host only to swirling snow and the occasional policeman. Lee strode confidently past the nearest one, who, as Lee had imagined, gruffly asked to see his identification.
Lee showed him his Communist Party membership card, and the cop backed off. If there was one thing the party didn't like, it was for one of their own to be persecuted.
Lee walked along the storefronts lining the street, over a set of railroad tracks, and into the industrial section of town. When he was sure he was alone, he ducked into an alley and removed a small metal object, no larger than a cigarette pack, from his pocket.
Licking his lips, Lee pushed a red button on the side and spoke.
"Big One-Two reporting home."
Instantly, HQ came back. "Proceed."
Lee pushed the red button again and slipped the transmitter back into his pocket. He stepped casually back onto the street, made sure no one was looking, and went on his way.
It wasn't his idea; in fact, he had no clue what he would be doing in Moscow when the CIA sprang him from prison. Spying, he thought, cool.
"No, no," he handler said as the helicopter chugged through the night, away from the prison, away from Marion, away from Virginia entirely. "You're going to be doing something...special."
Discord, they called it. Operation Discord. His stated objective was to cause... "Anger, panic, disharmony, disillusionment, and/or any other negative feelings in the Soviet people."
How the hell was he to do that, he asked.
"That's entirely up to you," his handler said.
So he started doing what he knew best.
Presently, Lee knocked at the door before him. The hall was warm and quiet. No one was about.
"Who is it?" came a voice from the other side.
"Mosgas," Lee said.