"Thin World". Chapter 10

    The continuation of a fantastic story. The penultimate chapter before the big finale.

    Anatoly Sazanov's illustration

    The night before, the soldier-instructor did not find Marina in the classroom. But I found a note stating that the growth target is ready and stands where indicated. He went to check - yes, the cardboard silhouette, in full growth, and the proportions are correct, and even something on the face is painted - you can not make out at dusk.

    So with peace of mind, he went to report that everything was ready for the first lesson. Perhaps if he went to Dan five minutes later, he would have run into Marina on the way back. And also, if he had been more attentive, he would have noticed on the table — where he found the note — several dozen drawn flowers. All as one - wilted, dull. And only the last five - woken up, flourished.

    All this soldiers, of course, did not notice. He was just glad that he was able to shake off part of his assignment, and in the morning with the might of the rest he instructed the children who had gathered in recreation.

    “So, lad, hold the gun like this.” Hold fast. And you also look at both, I will not tell you twice. Well done. Get used to it, I'll turn on the light.

    The soldier flicked a switch and a growth target appeared at the other end of the recreation. He returned to the children and, if he knew the children at least a little, he would feel that something was wrong. Roma, Oleg's nephew, stared at the target and the pistol in his hand dropped.

    - Why are you tired? - the soldier inquired, - Come on, lift, aim as I taught, and try to hit the target.

    Roma looked at the soldier angrily, threw the gun on the floor and said:

    - I will not shoot her.

    The soldier, feeling how the connection of his head with his neck was being thinned, looked at the target. And then quietly, but essentially swore.

    Marina on the target painted herself.

    * * *

    Father came thrice a day. He removed the lock, fed her and took her for a walk, like a dog. The rest of the time she sat motionless, helpless, lonely. She was consoled only by the thought that all this was for her. “So dad said - for my own safety. We must bear it. ”

    During short walks, she clung to her father and looked incredulously at the bright crimson silhouettes of other soldiers - those with whom she used to sit by the fire, sang songs, chewed bread and apples. Many of them were injured or maimed. Some old friends Lisa did not see.

    Her father brought her dry rations and nutritional bars. While she was nibbling on them, drinking water from her father’s jar, he just sat beside her, stroking her head and saying,

    “Eat, eat.” What what, and rations we now have a lot.

    Then he led her back and put the block.

    - It is necessary, understand? For your own safety. If suddenly that, they will not touch you while there is a block. Soon it will all end, I promise.

    Lisa believed.

    Sitting in a dark, stuffy van, she could only hear what was going on outside. A lot of things happened. The first day my father brought order. Someone he drove back home, forbidding a kilometer to approach the camp, someone - more conspicuous - sent to reconnaissance. The less compliant went to the less fortunate who did not survive the failure of the COMF system.

    For two more days he waited for the testimony of the scouts. As Lisa understood, the hurricane knocked down a lot of trees, disfiguring the already bad forest roads. It was necessary either to go deeply to the detour, which is a long time, or to clear the road, which is noisy and attract attention. Some scouts did not return, and the thinned father army was even smaller.

    This is all he told her in one of their evening walks. Then they retreated into the woods, away from the gloomily depressed camp, and even lit a fire. Lisa dragged brushwood, and her father fitted a pot of water. When he finished, he sat down on a fallen trunk and gestured for her to sit beside him.

    “Such cases, Lizun,” he said to her and sighed.

    - Something happened? - excitedly asked Lisa, - Do you need help?

    My father looked at her kindly and suddenly whispered:

    - Listen, daughter. I believe you, understand? - Lisa blushed and embarrassed nodded, - I can not believe my guys so much. Just a little bit of a problem - and they are no longer on my side. They do not like it now that I sent out those who changed color. What else could I do? I do not want the flown drone to give me a massacre in the camp. And they don’t like that I didn’t send you away.

    “No, don't,” Lisa shook her head and clutched at her father’s sleeve, “I'm fine with you.” Still, Marina and Mom were here ...

    - I won't send you anywhere, - the father promised, - But anything can happen, you understand? And you should help me. Listen - he took her by the shoulders and turned to himself. Lisa held her breath. She was scared and happy at the same time. The spirit was exciting.

    - We should get to the rocket by any means. This is important, understand? Launching a rocket, we will finally end the war. There will be no drones, no colors except one. Everything will be back as it was. You go to school, Marina will return to college.

    “So she finished it a long time ago,” Lisa was surprised.

    “So,” her father interrupted, “If something happens to me, you have to do it.” Do you understand?

    - Yes! - Lisa blurted out, did not really understand.

    “I'll give you a mine and a rocket scheme.” The main entrance - here it is - most likely blocked. But there is another one about which these traitors do not know. Underwater hatch. And you already have the key, remember? And you know how to swim well, I remember. Get to the console and start. For me.

    - Dad. I will, I promise. I will never betray you.

    He smiled and stroked her head.

    - I know, Liz. You clever. I will do everything so that you do not even have to think about it. But if something happens ... you should know what to do.

    She scared clung to him. “No, nothing will happen. Neither mom nor marina, only you stayed. Do not leave me. ”

    * * *

    On the third morning my father woke Lisa earlier than usual, unblocked and brought out of the van.

    - We are leaving, - he said to her, - Get into the cabin, you will go with me.

    Lisa obediently climbed into the cabin and sat down in the middle, looking at the devices with interest. Directly in front of her was fixed navigator. Its screen showed no signal from the satellites.

    My father was distributing the squad into cars. Uncle Ignat jumped into the driver’s cabin to Liza’s driver’s seat and smiled.

    - Hi, Lizka! Long time no see!

    Lisa looked at him with obvious suspicion. Ignat, as if nothing had happened, slammed the door, turned on the ignition, and then fished out an apple from his pocket and handed it to Lisa.

    - Hold on. Straight from the tree.

    Lisa took the apple and said “Thank you” on the machine. I just got ready to hide it away, but suddenly I looked at it: the apple, green in itself, also glowed with a soft green color. And the fact that she took the wormholes, were micromachines that had not yet had time to change color.

    “Everything is more wonderful and more wonderful”

    The second door opened. The father expressively looked at Ignat, then with a gesture he ordered Liza to change seats - she hid the apple in her pocket and obeyed - and wedged between them.

    “They drove,” he ordered, and the column set off. Lisa, glad that she would not have to sit in one position for the whole day, pressed herself against her father’s hand and fell asleep unnoticed for herself.

    She woke up because her father shook her properly.

    “Accept,” he took the girl under his arms and passed, like a kitten, through the open door, to the already descending Ignat. He put Lisa on his feet and whispered to her in a friendly way.

    - Attacked the second car.

    “Watch this one now,” his father answered, looking around, “So, you three are following me.” Turn off the engine and wait here at the car. Behind her head, okay?

    - Yes sir!

    Lisa quietly stood to his left, squeezing between other soldiers. Father looked at her and grinned.

    - No, Lizun, you have to wait here.

    “I don't want to,” Lisa shook her head.

    - And I do not want to. It is necessary. Wait.

    Father with the soldiers fled into the thickets. The rest dispersed around the car and waited tensely. Lisa perplexedly crouched beside Ignat.

    - See what? - asked the soldier crouching a meter away from them. He had a bandaged brush, a snake tattoo peeking out from under the bandages. Lisa vaguely recalled this tattoo on that ill-fated day when COMF system failed. “This is me,” she thought woefully, “I don’t even know what to call him.

    ” No, Ignat shook his head. “How many are there, one wonders?

    “More than us,” said another soldier gloomily, with an emaciated, pale face. A grayish bandage bandage was peeking out from under the jacket. “It was necessary to retreat.

    - And what, before the winter pull? - Tattooed responded, - What are we going to do in the winter?

    “The boar will come up with it,” Ignat replied. “The boar will not leave.

    “Exactly, he won't quit,” the pale man chuckled. “Tell Vanka Nikolayev about this, and Semyon Peradze, and more ...

    ” Hush you cormorant, ”the tattooed snapped at him and leaned on Liza,“ Maybe she’s sitting there specially, overhearing. ”

    - Lizka? - the pale soldier suddenly smiled at her, - Yes, you would rather surrender me than she, yes, Liz? It does not hurt her father favors her.

    They fell silent when they heard a gunfire, and then single shots. Ignat intensely peered into the thicket, when suddenly a blast thundered clearly in the distance. Lisa almost screamed and grabbed Ignat by the sleeve - and immediately recoiled, stumbled upon a sharp blade.

    Ignat turned to her and his face became raspberry-scary. He raised his arm-blade and returned her former form.

    “Do not go under the arm,” he said through gritted teeth, and turned away. Lisa backed away to the car in fear. Red-dangerous silhouettes surrounded her, with every second becoming more red, more and more nervous, more and more tense.

    “I wish dad would come back soon.”

    Another explosion rang out - on the other side. And from somewhere, from behind a bush, one of the soldiers who had departed with the father flew like a bullet.

    - People, ticking!

    - What's up, what are you bawling about? - Ignat braked him.

    “They were killed by a wild boar,” the man came running out, “It’s time to tear the claws.”

    The soldiers looked at each other.

    - Who said, who saw? - continued Ignat.

    - I have seen. He went to the freaks from the rear, about seven people probably put out of the machine. And then broads - a pomegranate - that's all.

    - What all?

    - He was gone. The dead do not shine.

    Ignat slowly looked around at the people who remained with him, licked his dry lips and commanded.

    - So. In the car urgently. There is a plan for such a case. Running march!

    Calmly, orderly, continuing to follow the perimeter, the soldiers one by one plunged into the van. Ignat, covering them from the back, approached the car and opened the door.

    - So, stop, - he said loudly, - Where is Lisa?

    * * *

    Lisa woke up in an army tent. At first she even thought she was in her father’s camp. She had her own tent, exactly the same. Only it was not embroidered with a red cross, but this one was.

    She suddenly remembered: she fled, trying to keep strictly to the north. I ran for a long time, and then, from fatigue, I began to stumble. Seeing a green silhouette among the trees, for some reason she was delighted. She decided that it was her father who was waiting for her, completely forgetting that three days ago their colors had changed. Then she almost collapsed on the ground, but she was picked up and brought here.

    Lisa turned her head. Sunlight poured through the tent's curved canopy, and someone's filthy boots strolled here and there.

    The girl got out of her sleeping bag, stretched out and looked at the folded jacket that served her as a pillow. She was wet.

    “I cried in my sleep,” thought Lisa and, remembering yesterday, sobbed barely audibly.

    The boots stopped, the canopy lay back, and a light-blond head stuck into the tent.

    - Hello. So we met. You are a spilled Marina, only a small one.

    Lisa wiped her nose and suddenly guessed.

    - Dr. Sasha? The one?

    - Marina told? Yes, the one whom she had just killed with an ax. You will not chop me with an ax?

    Lisa shook her head and sobbed again. Sasha became serious.

    - What's wrong? How did you even get here?

    “They killed my father,” Lisa said, and suddenly burst into tears.

    Sasha squeezed into the tent and hugged her, giving a cry. When she looked at him, he smiled sadly and kindly. When she did not look, vengeful and unkind flashes flashed in his eyes.

    “Trouble, trouble,” he told her, “And what, really nobody else ...

    ” “All are alive,” answered Lisa, “only they are all red.” I was scared. And my father warned me about them. And he said that he could die.

    “My mother died,” Sasha shared with her. Lisa fell silent, and he continued, “On that very day when it all began.” While Marina and I were sitting in the basement. We then got out and parted. She rushed after you to school, and I went home to my mother. She is already dead. Heart grabbed. Strange so. Around everyone cut each other, shoot, with faces twisted with anger. And she's like that. It would have happened even without war.

    I found her on the floor, I had a phone in my hand. She managed to call an ambulance. Only no one answered her. Everyone was busy with the war. Even me.

    Lisa wiped her nose with a sleeve and pressed herself against him.

    - And we did not wait for mom. And I don’t know where to look for Marina.

    “I know,” answered Sasha. Lisa looked at him happily.

    - You saw her? She is doing well?

    - I have not seen, but I know where she is. She is with good people.

    - Can you take me?

    Sasha hesitated and then replied with a sigh.

    - I'll try. The main thing that good people do not pull me up.

    - What? - Lisa did not understand.

    - Ah, so nothing. You are hungry?

    * * *

    Sasha and Lisa went very fast. Far faster than Marina and not so long ago. Lisa was even surprised to herself - after all, ten days had passed, no more.

    They immediately agreed not to go along the roads, but straight through the thicket, so as not to run into those or those. Lisa kept up with him, though with difficulty.

    - How much should we go? - She asked.

    - I will not say exactly, but today we will not get to the lake. And from there, even before Novozhilovo stomp. Only there probably already without me.

    - Why?

    “Because I am an enemy to them,” answered Sasha, “Anyone who at least stood next to your father is an enemy to them.”

    - So I, it turns out, too?

    Sasha sighed and stopped.

    - I hope no. Still, you're a little girl.

    - I am not small!

    “Okay, you're a rather small girl,” he suddenly became alert, “What's that sound?”

    Lisa listened. Crunched leaves and branches. As if someone is walking. Only the steps were not as usual - top-top, but as if ...

    - This is a horse! - guessed Lisa. She jumped up, caught on a branch and deftly climbed on it, - Well, yes, there's a horse! She exclaimed happily, pointing out her finger, "Oh, someone is on her."

    - Lies? - Sasha stretched his neck, narrowed his eyes, and finally saw her - in the middle of a small clearing in the valley.

    “He must have been wounded.” We must see, you're a doctor!

    Sasha sighed.

    - Doctor. Just let me go first. Who knows what?

    He came out from behind a tree and headed for the rider. Liza, disobeying, jumped off the tree and sneaked carefully behind. The horse pinched grass and suddenly lifted her head. The man clutching her neck did not move. His face was buried in a horse's mane, only dark uncombed hair and ears were visible.

    - Stop. Please do not come.

    Sasha froze. Lisa turned her head, not fully understanding where the voice came from. She thought that the words came from the horse’s mouth.

    “I am a doctor,” Sasha reached out with a conciliatory hand, “I can help if you are injured.”

    - Hardly, - Lisa heard, or the rider has a slight oriental accent? - That you will not cure.

    The horse turned the other side. In his sitting horse, his left hand was hanging helplessly, thin and black, like a burning match. The horse looked at Lisa, who was peeking out from behind Sasha's back, and asked her voice:

    - Are you Marina's sister?

    Lisa, surprised, straightened to her full height.

    - I

    am. - Come on.

    Lisa ran almost at a run. Sasha was already standing next to a horse and wanted to stroke her neck, but he straightened his hand - thin black threads stretched from a horse's neck to a human, like thin wire, like a metal web.

    “I've already seen it,” he said out loud. Lisa also noticed the threads and asked for no reason:

    "Are you a centaur?"

    The horse turned her head and looked with one eye.

    - Not yet.

    “I've already seen it,” repeated Sasha, and the horse turned to him, “How does that work out?” Who are you now?

    - I do not know. I really wanted to survive.

    Sasha waited for an answer, but realized that he would not wait. Because the horse was already crunching the apple that Lisa had given her.

    The paramedic examined the burned hand. Most of the micromachines were “dead”. “Live” micromachines pulled them apart and carried them away. Their ant-form trail ran from the remnants of the brush over the shoulder to the horse's neck. Sasha looked closely and realized that the movement was going in two directions.

    - I never thought that such a symbiosis is possible at all.

    - Who? - Lisa did not understand.

    “Mutual aid,” the rider explained, “The horse helps me so that I can help the horse.” While it turns out not very. However, I got an apple for her. Thank you, Marina's sister.

    - What's your name? - asked Lisa.

    - Timur.

    - And the horse?

    “Probably Timur, too,” the voice chuckled.

    The horse suddenly raised its head and pricked its ears.

    “Big cars are driving,” the voice sounded alarmed.

    - This is the father of the truck. Uh oh, - Lisa looked closer and saw a red glow in the distance. Far, far away - the cars were approaching, slowly but surely.

    - No other assault, - Sasha grew gloomy, - We must hide. And wait until it's over.

    “When everything is over, winter will begin,” Timur objected. “You cannot wait for winters.” I can take you to Marina.

    Sasha exchanged glances with Lisa.

    “Looks like your sister knows every tree here.”

    - No, - Timur answered seriously, - only one tree. Decide who is first.

    - Come on, Liz. She is waiting for you, I'm sure.

    Sasha crouched and put his hands. Lisa, leaning on this man-made step, climbed onto a horse behind Timur.

    - And you?

    “I'll get out,” Sasha reassured her. “Still, half of them I put on my feet.

    “I will come back for you,” promised Timur. Lisa grabbed his waist and asked:

    - Just do not need me to symbiotic myself.

    Timur grinned.

    - You are not suitable for this. You are not dying.

    The horse rushed off the bat, skillfully skipping over fallen tree trunks and fire ditches, while heavy vehicles climbed over bumps around the bend. Sasha followed Liza with a look and turned doubtfully to the approaching noise.

    And then he disappeared behind the trees and became out of reach for Liza.

    * * *

    After an unsuccessful breakthrough, the remnants of the Boar detachment camped at the site of the previous camp and waited.

    “My order is simple,” Ignat declared, “Wait twenty-four hours.”

    - And then? - someone has cast a vote.

    - That will be twenty-four hours, then we'll talk, - Ignat snapped, - We rest, while you can.

    An hour later, the Boar emerged from the darkness and sat down next to the fire as if nothing had happened.

    “To devour, to distribute, perhaps,” he threw to the distributing soldier with a spoon in his hand. He was not particularly surprised and gave him a full bowl of porridge.

    “This is normal,” the sniper put in, beside which the father sat down, “masking is always eating a lot of energy.” But intact.

    The boar nodded grimly.

    - Would be even more whole if you had not missed them.

    “There are few people left, Commander.”

    - Nice to whine. Liza not found?

    - Yes, we are not looking. Thought you sent her to where.

    The wild boar thoughtfully chewed and thought hard.

    “So,” he declared, having eaten, “We, of course, lost some of them, but they also died a lot.” If we come forward now, they will not have time to pull off fresh forces. So stop cooling off.

    He rose from the log.

    - Get ready for cars and leave. Come what may, wait no longer.

    * * *

    Marina sat on the shores of the ill-starred lake and threw stones into the water. Nearby lay her backpack, filled with ammunition, which Denis entrusted to her.

    She hardly ever understood how she decided to approach and accept his offer. When she went on a journey, even joy filled her. Finally, something was determined, finally some important matter. And a little pride in yourself. “Outwitted”.

    But all this remains in yesterday. Today, the prospects were no longer bright. And there are no prospects left.

    She took a handful of stones and threw everything at once, watching dozens of circles on the water shimmer and extinguish each other.

    Initially, her idea was to take the children and lead them away. But where? And how to persuade her to leave her, leave her parents and home? And how to avoid the inevitable chase?

    Then it occurred to her that we should at least try to arrange negotiations. She tried to imagine Denis and her father sitting at the same table - and could not. Not now. Nothing will come out, as long as they have something to share.

    There was one more option. Destroy the rocket. To do what had to be done from the very beginning, but no one did.

    Her plan was full of white spots and assumptions. You had to be a very big optimist in order to close your eyes to all these inconsistencies, and Marina lost her optimism. Maybe if she could confer with someone, that someone could tell, or dissuade, or even help. But she was afraid to tell anyone. Who knows which way it goes to Dan. Dan, obviously, does not intend to part with the rocket.

    Marina looked at her backpack. Penetrate it into the mine, in the course would go to the acid, which could burn, but could not burn through the body of the rocket. Then - a grenade that could cause, or could not cause a fire ignition. And then there would be an explosion that could detonate, and could not detonate a warhead.

    But all these “could-could not” had no meaning when the very first paragraph of the plan failed. Marina hoped that by agreeing to Dan’s proposal, she would be able to extract more information about the mine. Maybe there is a spare entrance, where you can ambush? Maybe this input can be made? Denis just shook his head. Either the truth was not, or he chose not to tell. There was still hope for a garrison at the entrance to the bunker, but they knew nothing or did not say.

    Dead end.

    Therefore, Marina just sat on the beach and threw stones into the water.

    When she got tired of her, she opened the backpack to inspect the contents. A respirator, honestly borrowed at school, a tube with an “acidic” gel, ejected from Denis. He certainly wondered, but still gave. He handed her a pistol with new bullets in person. Marina took it out, held it in her hand - heavy - and put it back.

    Zipped backpack. Shouldered. I looked around - small, which is full on the Karelian isthmus, the lake rested as if at the bottom of the bowl. The flat beach, the farther from the water, the steeper up to a height of several meters. The trees growing up there seemed incredibly tall. Marina looked there and almost screamed in surprise: at the very edge of the bowl stood a horse, transfixed. Two people were sitting on it. The adult horseman practically lay on the neck of the animal, and behind him ...

    Marina's heart trembled happily.

    Behind him sat Lisa.

    Go to the final

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    Thank you for your attention.

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