Illarion from Russia, tells his story of how he lived before the end of the world
"I seem to recall that you said that were once sequestered in the Kremlin," I suddenly said to Illarion, who was sitting across me in the cafeteria.
It was a random statement to make, as we hadn't been talking about anything up to that point. However I just realised that he had mentioned this and I hadn't asked about it. I mean that had to be cool right? To be safety kept in the central government building of your country. Although I certainly wouldn't want to have been holed up at Number Ten in all honesty.
Illarion was chewing on a piece of bread and he stopped and looked at me. He swallowed the bit he had been munching on and then said, "So?"
"The Kremlin?" Ivaylo interjected, who was walking past with her tray of food, she then placed her tray down and sat next to Illarion forgetting about her dinner and staring right at him. "What was that like?"
Illarion looked at me, then her, but offered nothing up.
"Come on Illarion tell us about it," I said.
He looked at us both again, then caved.
"When I was chosen to be the Russian representative on this gigantic grey trash can, at first I stayed with my parents at our house. I did the usual back and forth I guess we all did with Dr Ghost's people, you know to get the induction and the nanite shots. Then about two months before the end of the world, I was brought to the Kremlin to be safe.
"With the Moskva river now a small trickle much of the city was empty, with most of the population moving to the frozen north where water was locked in ice in abundance. The government had control over the military to some extent and so was still in control of the country.
"However there were elements of the military who were not under government control, instead they were under oligarch control."
"Oligarch control?" I said.
"Oligarchs?" Maiara said who was also passing by and stopped, "What are we talking about?" she asked.
"Were talking about Illarion's time in the Kremlin," I said.
Maiara sat down next to me, "I hate oligarchs, in the US we had plenty, all the dot.com billionaires and weapons manufacturers. They were still influencing the government even up to the very end, getting tax breaks in the form of water. You had oil oligarchs in Russia right?"
"Yes, great, back to my story," Illairon said.
"Now you don't get rich by not noticing shifting tides in economic fortune. After the Cold War Russian oligarchs made billions on oil, however when the primary resource that the world craved became water, the oligarchs started to plunder, hoard and control its distribution, keeping them rich. They brought generals' cooperation and fitted out whole armies to protect their assets."
"So what, they tried to take over the government?" I asked.
"Not all, most oligarchs were on the government's side, however one oligarch was a bit dim, not really good at seeing the writing on the wall and he had lost lots of money by buying the oil businesses his fellow oligarchs got rid of in order in order to focus on controlling the water. He didn't realise it was practically worthless. No one needed cars really. Petrol wasn't what people needed. No one was going to waste water putting it in the radiator of a car. Planes didn't need kerosene because no one could fly in the thinning atmosphere. People didn't need to heat homes anymore, with reduced water in the atmosphere the sunlight was getting stronger, the world warmed faster. So he lost lots of money and he blamed the government for not propping up his business. He never really got it, like that old American president who thought coal could make a comeback. So he used what was left of his fortune to hire mercenaries and he attacked the Kremlin. In the chaos I guess he wanted to seize control of the government and I don't know rule it himself, to make changes that would shore up his business once again.
"My family were living quite well until one day tanks started to surround the building and they turned their weapons inwards.
"Every single gate of the Kremlin was destroyed, blasted off the hinges, boom," he said with his hands he re-enacted the explosion.
Other Arkonuats stopped when they heard the explosion and listened in.
"My dad went to the window and saw troops who had been disguised as civilians suddenly throw off coats and blankets and rush the broken gates.
"Soldiers guarding the building were in disarray and were cut down by heavy gun fire.
"My dad then gathered up me, my older sister and mother and we rushed deeper into the building.
"Officials tasked with keeping us safe were there to escort us to more secure locations inside the building. As we moved from one part of the complex to the other it seemed like we were barely missing the gun battles erupting everywhere.
"In the end total panic swept through the building and my family were taken by the mercenaries. Adults were separated from children and me and my sister were placed in one of the bunkers at the base of fortress constructed during the cold war to keep the presidents of Russia safe during a nuclear strike.
"We were down there for days, fed and given water at irregular intervals.
"News reached us that the government still had control over small parts of the building. The oligarch who had paid for this was in charge of the official government communications network and apparently he was broadcasting propaganda and government secrets, really old government secrets too even stuff on Putin. I don't know why he was doing it, maybe he thought it gave his coup d'état legitimacy.
"In a way I didn't mind this state of affairs I knew that soon I would be teleported away. We weren't being used as hostages, so I just had to wait it out in that bunker with my sister, who was watching over me, she was nearly 18 and she understood that I had to live so protected me.
"How did she look after you?" Maiara asked.
"We didn't have guards inside the room, the door to the bunker was just kept shut most of the day. The room turned into a Lord of the Flies situation, with the bigger kids on top and the weaker kids at the bottom. Me and her were close and we had got into a fair few fights together during our childhood, but she was far tougher. I'm very strong and very big, yet I take a bit of time to think about my actions and the consequences. That delay works poorly in a fight. We were both like animals in a fight together, I was like a big dog capable of putting up a fight, yet I was domesticated, I assessed and waited and was cautious," he smiled for moment at a memory only he knew. "My sister was like a grizzly bear mother with something constantly between the cubs and her. She was always protective and it didn't matter what you were, you were going down. Plus she was older, so she understood that I was going to live and she was going die, but she wasn't going to die a coward. I was her wingman and she always led the way into battle. She kept me from starving and losing water. She refused to help any other kids in the bunker, even the weaker ones who sought protection. She knew they were good as dead, and I was the only one who was going to get out of there alive.
"Then she realised something..."
"What?" Ogwambi said.
"Yeah what?" said Saibou and others, all standing around listening in.
"The bunker was built to protect people from a hydrogen bomb, from radiation. There were no phone signals, no internet, she was worried that the teleportation beam wouldn't be able to lock onto me.
"We needed to get of the bunker, get to the government controlled areas. So she came up with a plan.
"We went to the door of the bunker, outside was a single soldier, with a gun. She figured he would be the least effective, least capable, after all he was just guarding kids.
"She opened the door from the inside, I heard the gun the soldier carried click as the safety went off.
"My sister smiled at the soldier and behaved all attracted to him, flirty. It was more that enough to get the guard's attention. She closed the door to the bunker, when she opened it again she was covered in blood and the soldier was dead from several nasty stab wounds.
"Wow," Ivalyo said.
"Yeah, she was like a female version of One only more brutal. She was only concerned for my well being. She led me up from the bunker and we both managed to make our way through empty corridor to a sort of perimeter, the line between the mercenaries and the government's soldiers.
"There was one way through, a part of the perimeter, guarded by two mercenaries. They were at a makeshift barricade of desks and office chairs at the end of corridor with one door leading off it into an office we could access from another corridor.
"My sister had a gun taken from the soldier she had killed and she came up with a plan that needed me to draw upon all my acting skills.
"So I walked down the corridor towards the two soldiers, crying my eyes old. That was harder than most actors make it out to be. In truth though I had lots of good reasons to cry. I was sure the end was very near and I hadn't seen my parents for a week and probably would never see them again, I never got to say a proper goodbye. I was worried for my sister and the awful realisation that I would be leaving her behind.
"The soldiers heard me crying and turned their attention to me, they saw a kid who was balling his eyes out like a baby.
"I fell to my knees and waited for them to come to me.
"The soldiers both raised their weapons. They were yelling and screaming and I refused to move.
"Their mistake was not checking a side office.
"Once they passed the door my sister stepped out and shot one guy in the head.
"The second turned and managed to get a shot off clipping her shoulder, I grabbed him and threw him against the wall, he was however bigger and stronger than me so he grabbed me by my clothes and threw me up against the opposite wall.
"That's when I decided I had had enough."
All of us listening, were totally enthralled and we said together, "What did you do?"
"He must have thought that as a kid I was no harm, however I grabbed the straps of a military combat vest he was wearing like this..." he said and he mimicked holding the man with his clenched fists.
"Then bam," and Illarion did a headbutt into the space were we all imagined the mercenary was.
"I headbutted him in the face and his nose exploded in a gout of blood," he described.
"The soldier let go of me, his eyes filled with tears screaming in pain, then my sister then shot him from her prone position on the floor."
"I then helped her temporarily bandaged the wound, and then all hell broke loose.
"The oligarch's rhetoric had roused the remaining citizens to riot. They were unhappy with the oligarch, unhappy with the government. Thousands stormed the Kremlin in a frenzy. Me and my sister just decided to climb to the roof. Once on top of the building she broke the door handle so we were stuck there.
"We watched from the roof as the building was torn apart, then the city itself collapsed. The Destroyer at that moment started it pre-flight systems. We felt the rumblings through the ground as its engine fired up. A crack in the crust of the Earth swallowed up half the city."
"Same happened where I was," I said.
"Me too," Maiara added.
"Someone then started pounding on the door to the roof, at any moment they were going to break through. Me and my sister didn't know if they were government soldiers, mercenaries or raving citizens.
"Thankfully the teleport started. It felt like my body was there and not there at the same time.
"I grabbed my sister's hand and held it tight, I thought that if I didn't let her go then she would be taken with me."
I turned away for a moment, I had been trying the same thing with my family when the teleport had come for me. I turned back to Illarion and he was wiping a tear from his eye. Other Arkonauts were doing the same thing. We all had siblings, parents, friends that we wanted to take with us, but couldn't.
"My sister watched me start to fade in and out as my body appeared in two places at once. She hugged me one last time then stepped away. She turned back to the door and pointed the gun at it, ready to defend me to make sure the teleport couldn't be interrupted.
"The mob burst through and she fired the gun at them, keeping them away from me. I disappeared right after she ran out of bullets and went hand to hand."
He paused, "I hope she fended them off, I hope she managed to get back into the building and find our parents and spend her last moments with them," he said, almost completely in tears.
We all let his final words sink in. I think we all wondered what had happened to our loved ones the moment we appeared on the Ark. I think we all presumed they had final moments of peace rather than horror.
After a few moments of quiet reflection Koyla said, "It's a shame she didn't come with you," he suggested, wiping a tear from his eye too.
Illarion wiped his whole face with his sleeve smudging his upper lip with a little snot that was leaking out his nose. "Why's that?" he asked.
"She would have made a great blind date for One," he said.
We all chuckled at that.
"She would have been too much for him," Illarion said wistfully.
We all burst into fits of laughter.
"Too much for whom?" One said, strolling into the cafeteria suddenly, his amazing hearing having caught the words from outside the room.
Those of us who were standing turned on the spot or those sitting down scraped their chairs on the floor. Ivaylo ended up sweeping her tray of food onto the floor in surprise.
"Nothing!" we all said in unison.