Lila squelched the urge to look behind them. “What color car?”
Joe replied sarcastically, “There’s only one. It’s black.”
“Okay, so it’s easy to spot. I guess they don’t want us losing them.”
“I’m not about to lose them. They get very angry when spurned. I don’t much fancy walking out of the nuclear plant and seeing my lovely Lada keyed up with garbage thrown all over it.”
“Wow, they really don’t like to lose people,” Lila said amazed.
“Let’s just say I’ve heard it’s not a best practice,” Joe said dryly.
Lila snoozed in the backseat as Joe drove cautiously across the rough surface, while Ian kept a casual watch on the black car.
As they approached the city, Ian leaned back to tug on the hair that had fallen over Lila’s face. She waved his hand away and mumbled, before awakening in a rush. Her first view of Bilibino was less than inspiring. “Looks like a bunch of Legos put together into long barracks.”
“I’m guessing this isn’t a place where you want to go it alone in the tundra,” Joe remarked.
“Our friends are passing us,” Ian said quietly as the shiny black sedan zoomed past them and two men waved at them.
Lila’s jaw dropped. “Did you see that?”
“They want us to know that they know that we know,” Ian said tensely.
“They really stick out here,” Joe commented. “Can’t be good for their suspension – or paint job – to go that fast.”
“I think they’re making a point,” Lila said, “that their car has more get up and go than ours.”
“Not true.” Joe patted the steering wheel. “This girl’s got a lot of giddy up in her.”
“You sound like you’re talking about your girlfriend,” Lila said with amusement.
“I’ve always wanted to drive a Lada,” Joe admitted. “First times are always memorable.”
Ian snickered. “That’s too easy.”
Lila sighed. “Will you two give it up?”
Both men burst out laughing. Ian turned his head back to face Lila. “For you, darlin,’ anytime.”
“I can tell we’re all punchy from being tired,” Lila said. “Speaking of tired, where’s our hotel?”
“Oh, not yet,” Joe cautioned. “We still have an appointment at the nuclear plant. I got a business to run, and a tour to give.”
“How about you give it to yourself, Joe,” Lila advised.
Ian laughed out loud. “This just keeps getting better.”
The group drove slowly past four monolithic Cyrillic letters that identified this as БАЭС [BAES], the initials for Bilibino Nuclear Power Plant. Round twin-headed streetlamps lined the drive leading to a series of large square buildings separated into yellow and gray sections.
Hanging from the top of one of the buildings was an enormous white banner on which giant, black Cyrillic letters proclaimed the toughness of these northern dwellers: СЕВЕР-КРАЙ СИЛьНыХ [NORTHERN EDGE STRONG].
As they pulled into the parking area, Lila marveled at all the windows in the buildings. “I guess when you live somewhere as far north as this, you want to let in all the light possible.”
They entered the building, where Joe introduced them as the expected tour members, and they walked one at a time through the metal detector past guards wearing camouflage uniforms and caps.
As they neared the heavy, metal door marked Turbine Hall, Lila felt the hair on her arms rise.