Wandering around VIP tables, the most hilarious occurrence that Gromov experienced was the talk of two congressmen, who enthusiastically discuss today's choice of food. Last week, he watched them in a hot debate that almost ended up in a fistfight. Now they were the best buddies, betraying so the trust of poor misled voters.
After having introduced him to the others, Steiner disappeared to catch another victim. Gromov stood in the corner, avoiding contact with anyone and drinking some bitter drink. Judging from a few curious looks, the others might want to approach him in conversation, but he did his best to discourage them.
Only one woman in the brown suit, around fifty, with a business-like attitude, could not resist, so she came closer, pointing at his distinctions: "Are you the major?"
"No," Gromov answered with the light head. The liquor was stronger than expected. "It is the general, actually."
"Really? But they appear different from what the others wear."
"Surely they are. I'm from the different military corpse."
"Not from Space Forces, then?"
"From the Intelligence department."
"On duty, performing surveillance."
Her eyes widened: ""Surveillance?"
"Exactly. We are at war, madame. I am monitoring people."
"Monitoring?" she almost screamed. "Are you eavesdropping us?"
"Sort of. It is only a security measurement, madame, no need to be so agitated."
"Do you realize, sir, we are all people with the high level clearance? You cannot just say you are monitoring us. I must demand an explanation."
"What is she thinking?" Gromov wondered silently. "What explanation she needs except for the obvious one? Is she really so dense?"
"I have to repeat, madame, we are at war. You know, with big power comes big responsibility. Those who talk too much have to bear consequences."
She gasped loudly.
"What consequences? You are threatening to prosecute us?"
"Surely you jest," said Gromov gravely. "Do I look like a prosecutor?"
She shook her head, confused. "I can't figure you out. I know people from the Intelligence; you are not like them. Say, what will happen to those who talk too much?"
"We'll eliminate pifflers," said Gromov, hardly keeping a stern, serious face. "Painlessly, if circumstances allows."
The woman didn't appreciate the joke at all. She was pale and panted heavily. "I-I knew it. You are from DOZOR, aren't you? I knew it. Oh my God, I knew it!"
"Oh crap," thought Gromov. "She is an idiot! Getting hysterical, isn't she?"
The DOZOR was the famous urban legend within the military. Allegedly a secret organization, responsible directly to the Prezident, running the brutal under-cover operations, some of them involving kidnapping, assassination and state terrorism.
The most favorite subject of individuals who reveled in the conspiracy theories, but not exactly something one would expect from the Ministry of Defense's employee.
"DOZOR is a myth," he said, trying to calm her down. "I am Captain Gromov from Space Forces. Nice to meet you."
With the look of mouse hypnotized by a snake, she repeated. "Yes, of course, DOZOR is a myth. I understand."
"I scared her to death," realized Gromov, feeling guilty. Initially, she suspected her to play along but unless she was a superior actress and could fake anxiety at the unbelievable level, that seems not to be the case anymore. "Well, I should write a letter later and apologize properly. Explaining anything to her would be pointless now."
"What's your name?" he asked instead.
The question startled her even more.
Gromov wished he had never drank the liquor, made the stupid joke, and met this woman.
"Nevermind!" he blurted, noticing she was wearing the guest tag. "Annabela Corbin, isn't it? The Ministry of Defense, I guess. This should do. I'll write you the letter. Enjoy the evening, Mrs. Corbin."
Born in the Czech Republic, Pavel Morava is not a native English speaker. Having been twenty-two years old, he published his first book, which did not become an international bestseller. After a few other attempts, Pavel Morava abandoned the literary career for over twenty years, during which period he has been focusing on processing of plastics, programming, and raising of children.
Recently, with more time at his disposal, he returned to the forgotten ambition, fighting a futile battle with English language, procrastination, and the tendency to give up too early.
Being vivid reader of not Anglo-Saxon origin, Pavel Morava was fortunate enough to experience books from different countries, including Czech, Russian, Polish, Chinese, Swedish, Dutch, Japanese, French, German, and English. Such a vast literary variety heavily influenced his own work, which typically relies on an one-point-of-view narrative, consecutive storytelling, and elimination of unnecessary details.
Web novels and online publishing made him reevaluate his approach to style and building blocks of the text; the result should be, hopefully, lighter, shorter, and more intelligible for reading on electronic devices.