For some reason I assumed Americans would arrive before anyone else. Call it national arrogance, American chauvinism… who knows. It didn’t matter now. They were in the halls, kicking in doors, shouting as they searched the station. I could only assume that they were informing the other soldiers that the rooms were clear, because unless they shouted da or nyet, I had no idea what they were saying.

Another door slammed open. Probably the supply room. Another door. The bathroom. More Russian. The sound of their boots grew heavier on the floorboards, their husky voices booming louder in the hall. Slam Slam Slam.


He was just a kid. Eighteen, nineteen, perhaps. He didn’t notice me at first. He looked around, behind the tables, then turned, sweeping the room with his pistol, and his eyes suddenly widened. He straightened his arm, shaking nervously, and I was sure I was dead.

“Don’t shoot!” I said, showing him my hands.

He said something like “ehh”, then called out to the other soldiers. Shouted the same thing two or three times.

Two other soldiers rushed in and they started speaking frantically. They were all about the same age and none of them looked like they outranked the other. I thought I heard the word English, or something close to it. One of them bent down and grabbed the bars. He had light blue eyes and smooth skin, and looked as if he should be in high school. He ran his finger over the weld, then turned to the others and said something. They nodded and the kid who had first entered the room said, “Who are you?”

“Da, da.” He turned back to me. “Who are you?” He said in a thick, Russian accent.

“Yes. My name is Wayne Robertson. I’m the operator—”

“American,” he told his comrades. They had a few more words and the first kid bolted from the room.

“Look,” I continued. “I’ve been held captive here for weeks. I’m the operator of this—”

“No English.”

I settled back in the cage and sighed. Moments later the kid returned with what looked like his superior officer. He was older and was carrying his helmet in the crook of his right arm. His sidearm was holstered, unbuttoned. The kids stood aside, tucking their pistols away, and he bent down. He had short, blonde hair, and sharp blue eyes, darker than the other soldier’s, but far more intense. He smirked at me, drumming on the cage bars with his gloved hand. His breath smelled like candy mints.

“You look like shit,” he said, his accent a bit lighter than the kids.

I ignored the compliment. “Please, can you get me out of here?”

He scanned the cage, rolling a piece of candy around in his mouth. “How long you been here?”

“I’ve been locked in here for almost a month. My name is Wayne Robertson. I’m the operator—”

“Enough,” he said, scratching the gray stubble on his chin. He rattled the cage door and drew his finger along the weld, just as the kid had done. “Bad for you.”

“Wait, what? What does that mean?”

The senior officer bit into the candy, chewing it up, and quirked an eyebrow at me.  Then he got up, barked some Russian at the kids and they stormed out of the room.

“Goodbye, Wayne Roberston,” he said, and strolled out.

“Wait!” I screamed. “What do you mean bad for me?! Don’t leave me in here! Open this thing! Hey! Nyet! Nyet!”



I heard his boots on the stairs, then there was more shouting and more heavy footfalls. I thought I heard one of the LMOs scream. They were leaving.


A few minutes later the helicopters spun up and the sound of the aircraft gradually slipped away.

I screamed until I lost my voice.