Numbers Game

by There Is No Cat
originally published at 12:19PM on Tuesday, March 20, 2007

“Dva. Nul. Chetyri. Dva. Devyat.”

His pencil scratched the piece of paper. The signal on the radio was strong tonight.

“Tri. Shest’. Raz. Vosem. Nul.”

Probably just another drop. Microfilm, usually, although there were CDs almost as often lately.

“Pyat’. Raz. Sem’. Nul. Nul.”

After 20 years, he was getting tired of the game. He liked his neighbors, their friendliness. His kids played baseball in Little League. He was getting a little soft in his middle age. Back at the Tsentr, they had warned him about this. “We’ve invested too much in you to let you go easily, you know. Go native, but never forget, you belong to us.”

“Devyat. Raz. Tri. Chetyri. Dva.”

It was a strain. It would be so much easier to let go, blend in. Not that the work was strenuous. How hard can it be to pick up a package in a hollow tree, after all? Still, he had his doubts.

The numbers stopped. He pulled out his one-time pad and went to work.

He gasped and dropped the pencil. Not this mission. Not now. He had so much to lose.