“Sverdlovsk-83,” said Yuri. Even with headphones it was difficult to hear him over the roar of the Crocodile’s rotors. “Down there.”

Jen looked out the window. The snow was blinding at first, even with the goggles she’d been issued, but once her pupils painfully jerked smaller she could see a number of structures casting stark shadows against the snow. “How far are we from the actual Sverdlovsk?”

“We call it Ykatrianburg now. Hundreds and hundreds of kilometers away!”

“Why did they call it Sverdlovsk-83 then?” Jen said, shouting a little to be heard. “They didn’t really brief us very well,” she added.

“Of course not, why brief you when we have a nice long quiet helicopter ride?” laughed Yuri. “It was a closed city used for research. Aerospace and the space program mostly. They chose the name to throw people off the scent. But if you knew someone who worked there, they’d get their mail through post office box 83 in Sverdlovsk. Hence it has a name like an isotope!”

The Crocodile banked, and Jen felt her stomach protest roundly. “Does he have to do that?” she cried.

“Looking for a lading spot!” Yuri answered. “There should be an old helicopter pad, but it’s covered with snow!”

Jen pointed out the window. “There,” she said. “Right there. That’s the building from the schamatics I saw.” A large satellite dish loomed over the complex, pointed skyward. “That’s the RB-1 Reciever?”

“Correct,” Yuri said. “The centerpiece of Secretary Brezhnev’s plans for space, and the only one we ever built.”

“The original purpose of the RB-1 was communications with astronauts on the moon,” said Jen. “We ultimately didn’t need them for that, so they were never built. What was this one being used for?”

The Crocodile banked hard again. “You’re going to laugh at this,” said Yuri. “But it was intended to recieve transmissions from Soviet space colonies on Mars. He was an ambitious fellow, our Secretary Brezhnev. Loved medals. Never did anything small.”

“So what’s the problem?” Jen said. “The dish clealy isn’t calibrated properly anymore, and couldn’t be without major repairs.”

“The problem,” said Yuri, “is that last week, our RB-1 recieved a signal.”

Inspired by this.

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