Captain Yamaguchi stared impassively at his opposite number. “Yes,” he said. “I have some English. Why have you come here, armed, with reinforcements as if to battle an enemy?”

“Our man, Private Jones,” said Major Leigh. “You have him, yes?”

“If you are referring to the man who tried to shoot my officer, and did more than try to stab him, then yes. We have him,” said Yamaguchi. “We will spare you the bother of executing him for this transgression.”

The room was silent for a moment, with only the howling wind outside the old Czarist train station and the crackle of a fire in the hearth.

“We’d hate to…trouble you,” said Jones. “As our allies in the struggle against the Bolsheviks, anything that distracts you from your mission to bring stability to Siberia is…not in our best interests.”

“Not at all,” Yamaguchi said evenly. “As fellow soldiers, we recognize the importance of…discipline. It would be our honor to execute your Private Jones.”

“I appreciate your…honorable intentions.” Leigh licked his lips delicately; sweat beaded on the tip of his nose despite the cold leaking in between the slats. “But there is the matter of the private’s body. It will need to be repatriated, as per our government’s policy.”

“Of course,” said Major Yamaguchi. “We will return the body to you after the execution. For repatriation.”

Leigh flicked his eyes to his left and right. Davis had his hand resting on his holster, and Rosenthal’s rifle was shouldered but not slung.

When the major made for his pistol, the room exploded in movement. Davis pulled his Colt, and Rosenthal had his bayoneted Mosin ready, but they found themselves staring down the shaft of Captain Yamaguchi’s drawn sword, and the revolvers of his officers.

“Are you ready for a war between our two countries, Captain?” Leigh hissed. “Because that is what you’ll get if you strike one blow in anger here today.”

“And what,” Yamaguchi sneered, “about the blow struck in anger by your Private Jones? Perhaps the war has already started, and we are only now coming to realize it.”

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