“Shit, it’s Orlov,” said Kaminski. Pale from the cold and from the sight of his fellow guard’s mangled body still staining the Siberian snow red with weeping blood.

“Are you going to give me a weapon now, perhaps?” said Maksim, sarcastically. “Or would you prefer for me to take it off your still-warm body, assuming that whatever it is doesn’t tear through the rest of us first?”

“You’ll kill me,” Kaminski snarled–though he didn’t cuff Maksim with his rifle butt as he had before. “As soon as my back is turned.”

“You think I can survive out here, in prison clothes, on my own? You think any of us can?” Maksim snapped. “Arm us, and we can help you against something that makes the Gulag seem like a resort–death.”

“They’ll shoot me for even the thought of arming a prisoner, an enemy of the people,” Kaminski said. “Or worse, throw me in with you.”

“Wouldn’t that be a shame?” said Maksim. “I would suggest that we deal with the problem at hand, the one that tore Orlov’s throat out even when he was as well-armed as you. You can make up any story you want, later, and who are the other guards going to believe? Assuming we can find them again.”

With an exasperated, grudging intake of breath, Kaminski retrieved Orlov’s pistol and his spare magazines. He handed them to Maksim. “Do you know how to use it?” he sneered.

Maksim released the Tokarev’s magazine, checked the chamber for brass, and replaced the bullets. “I was a combat engineer during the siege of Sevastopol,” he said, racking the slide and half-cocking the hammer before putting the safety on. “I know more about how to use this pistol than you do. My unit killed a hundred fascists in the tunnels under the city before we were ordered to lay down arms. Nothing that is out there could possibly carry more horror than that.”

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