a new book on hybrid war by Alex Alvarova

Chapter Twenty-Six

Three weeks passed. Joan didn’t show up. Her parents had no idea what happened. They called the editor office several times and then they reported her missing.

Her portrait was broadcasted on the local news that night. Scott had one sleepless night and then he went to see Grigory in New York the following evening. They were sitting in a lonely arcade in Brooklyn, the only shop open being a hot Russian pierogies stand. Grigory remained calm.

“What the fuck have you done?” Scott opened the conversation so loud that the girl in the pierogi stand turned on them, startled. It was a cool spring evening with a pot of pasties steaming among the metal tables, and two bad old lamps flickered above them.

Grigory signalled him to lower his voice. Scott took it seriously just for a while. He tried to keep his voice low, but he couldn’t keep the rumbling out of his tone.

“I said, what did you do to her?”

“Scott, relax, we’re not completely private here.”

Scott looked around the passage. The young pie vendor was smiling at him through the dense steam. She wore a knit cap on her greasy, rusty hair and a thousand spattered freckles on her face. She looked like a female cyborg from Blade Runner in the yellow lamplight that permeated the steam, exposing the dirty masonry around her. Pretty but unreal.

“It couldn’t have been anyone else. She wasn’t suicidal,” Scott continued menacingly.

“How do you know?” Grigory turned the game’s momentum. “How do you know she wasn’t troubled?”

Slowly, Scott slumped in a metal chair and appeared suddenly smaller. Instead of words, there was a kind of gurgling coming out of his mouth.

Grigory continued.

“That was the last time I had to intervene for you. Understand?”

“She’s dead, isn’t she?” Scott said.

“You screw up one more time, you go after her.”

“This wasn’t . . . part of our deal!” Scott fumed in pain.

“Cleaning up your mess? No, you’re right, that wasn’t part of the deal.” Grigory’s blood pressure rose slightly, but since he never screamed, he didn’t this time either. Self-control was part of his training.

There was silence. Scott thrust his chin forward like a child who doesn’t know whether to punch or whine like a baby.

“What if I turn myself in?” he said suddenly, quite unexpectedly.

Grigory watched him for a moment. He thought. Suddenly he forgot his training and laughed out loud. Scott looked rather frightened. Grigory laughed so loudly that the rusty girl in the steam rolls began to laugh politely back. She didn’t know what is going on, but it seemed good to mirror the cheerful mood of the two fellows who had ordered as much from her as others did in two days.

When Grigory finally stopped cackling and dropped some of the accumulated tension, he slowly pulled the cigarette out of its holster and said,” I haven’t smoked in a long time, but I do occasionally.” He offered a mute gesture to Scott. Scott accepted, noting that his fingers were shaking. They lit up and said nothing. Then Grigory’s soft but firm voice broke the silence.

“Look, I picked you, I vouch for you. I was the only one who saw who you really are and what your potential is. You’re good at both the propaganda and the technological processes. But other than that, you’re pretty delusional about yourself. In fact, you’re a pussy, you know that? You’re afraid of effort and pain. That’s why you didn’t last in the NAVY.

That’s why I picked you. To put together an online army of shitheads who are frustrated just like you. Their egos are as hurt as yours. You know their dreams, you’re their idol. That’s why I need you. You are like the Roman god Janus, thinking for yourself and against yourself at once. You’re so fucking good with them. They are our army on U.S. territory. Which is why I’m not killing you today. Not yet.”

Grigory got up and walked out through the passages until he was completely lost in the clouds of steam. Scott sat in his chair like a pile of wet rags, watching the white cigarette in his trembling fingers. A girl came in, meowing in a Russian accent, “Would you like anything else, sir? If only everyone here was like you… I haven’t had a sale like this in a long time.”

Research of Russian disinfo, seminar leader and public speaker. Author of books on Information Warfare. www.alvarova.com

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