Michael ushered me down several flights of stairs, along a well lit corridor, and into a galley at the bottom of the carrier. The room was packed with a mixed crowd of survivors, mostly Japanese and Korean, but there was a big table crowded with hungry Eastern Europeans, and another with a Jamaican contingent near the back. A short Korean woman with a giant mole on her ear presided over the winding chow line, spooning out red and yellow globs from stainless steel bins. I wrinkled my nose.
“Hope you like kim-chee,” Telders said.
“What, you gonna spoon feed me?” I replied, wrestling with my cuffs.
Michael grimaced. “Keep talking and you’ll eat with your face.”
“C’mon, this is ridiculous. Everyone is staring. Just take these damn things off.”
“Yah, I don’t think so,” Telders laughed. “I release you and the next thing I know you’ll be running around swording everyone and screaming about time travelling fish.”
“You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”
“I’m happier for it.”
The line moved and Telders nudged me forward. I sighed and scanned the room again.
A group of South Korean soliders and a tall, very thin, blonde woman were seated at a round table near the exit. The soldiers seemed clean and in good spirits, chattering and chopsticking bits of fish and cabbage into their mouths, but the girl had obviously been through hell. Her hair was wrecked with mud and twigs, her face spattered with filth, and she wore a shredded cocktail dress splotched with gruesome, dark stains. A tear on the dress’s left breast had been covered with duct tape. The woman stared lifelessly over the crowd, making no attempt to acknowledge her food, nor the men seated around her. I followed her gaze to a blank spot on the far wall, then looked back. Her eyes slowly moved my way. They settled on me, paused, then slid back without the slightest hint of emotion. One of the soliders next to her took note and shot me a hard look.
“Already making friends, are we?” Telders grinned.
I glared at him.
“You know, you’d probably have better luck with the mole lady,” he continued, nodding at the woman behind the counter. “Though honestly, that’s still probably kind of a long-shot.”
“Aww.” The line moved again and Michael gave me a shove. “Seriously, though, I’d keep my eyes off blondie if I were you.”
“And why is that?” I growled.
“You don’t know?”
“Ugh, Robertson, you’re such a philistine. That’s Kseniya.”
Michael stared at me, clearly disappointed. “Kseniya Sakharov? The world-famous ballerina? Bolshoi Theatre? Ring any bells? No?”
I shook my head.
Telders rolled his eyes. “Well just keep on gawking at her if you wanna get your face yanked out of your ass. Those SK’s aren’t infantry, they’re special warfare.”
“Well what the hell is she doing with them?”
“I don’t know, dumbass, why don’t you go ask?”
“Maybe I will.”
“Maybe later,” Michael said, pushing me toward the counter. “We’re up.”
Telders rattled off something in Korean to the mole lady. She nodded, then spooned a few heaps of vegetables and fish onto two silver plates and slid them across the counter. He thanked her, then smiled at me.
“Okay, turn around,” he said, rotating his index finger.
“Christ, finally,” I said, turning my back to him. “These cuffs are fucking killing me.”
“Alright, then,” he said. “Now if you drop this plate I’m not getting you another one.”
Telders pushed the edge of the plate into my palms. “Grab it with your thumbs. Real tight now. Hah. That looks uncomfortable.”
“Son of a bitch,” I said, gripping the plate behind my back. “You’re a right son of a bitch, you know that?”
“I try,” he said, stuffing a pair of silver chopsticks into my front pocket. He slapped me on the back. “Now let’s go find you a nice, dark cell to curl up in.”