“Comrade, do you think we can make it?” The wind slowly fingered its way through ruined factories, sending will-o’-the-wisp snow-clouds intruding into the men’s overcoats, waltzing between the dense overhang of crumpled office towers. Yesenin turned to face his companion, the tumbling reek of home-grown tobacco billowed into his eyes, a reflection in miniature of the boiling sky overhead. “Comrade Pasternak, how much further must we travel?”
Pasternak eyed the boy suspiciously, the heat of his motorised legs slowly melting the snow beneath him. It would not be beyond the Commissar Lermontov to use one so stupid. Yesenin was either an honest, hard-working if too-earnest peasant or one of the finest agents Pasternak had ever had the pleasure to work against. Regardless of which was the truth, the boy was being used by Lermontov, of that there was no question? The peon or the prince? No matter, not in this moment. He let the boy wander forward, coming closer toward the shimmering haze. “Come closer, Comrade, warm yourself – otherwise the heat will be wasted.” It was involuntary, Pasternak reflected, these little moths always come chasing the flame. Yesenin smiled, and shuffled into the heat, eager at the threadbare gloves on his aching fingers.
A fire sprung up in young Yesenin’s eyes, and Pasternak felt his hand edging toward his rifle, felt the warmth of it resting against his chair. The ropes slackened as their cargo slid toward them through the snow, the metal behemoth’s head was all that remained. “It was a successful test, no, Comrade?” His gun slid into his lap, sighting blind at the boy’s spine. He reached into his battered coat, searching for the flask hidden in its depths. “Some vodka, Comrade?” His hand actually shook, while he offered out the vodka to the boy.
Yesenin’s eyes tightened at the flame in his throat, gasping at the harsh taste of the filthy copper still Pasternak decanted his homebrew vodka from. They snapped open into the rifle’s maw as it barked. They would stay open across the Styx. What was another betrayal?
The Americans were coming for him. He would be a millionaire! In New York City! They had promised much – so what was another betrayal?
Written for an ancient io9 writing prompt posted by Lauren Davis…set in an alt-history Cold War.