Arkady Demitriev had been a young boy when the Soviet Union had been dissolved by Mikhail Gorbachev and had just enrolled as a student at Moscow State University when Vladimir Putin was elected president of the Russian Federation.
Demitriev was far removed from the Communist ideals that had inspired his father and grandfather, which did not mean he was not proud of his country and its accomplishments in war and peace.
However, after more than a ten years in the service of the FSB in London, Mexico, Europe and the US, he had lost his illusions and was no longer interested in tacky medals, his father had a drawer full of those, they were worthless, sops for fools, whilst the men in the Kremlin enjoyed the lifestyles of oligarchs. He had seen how others lived and though he was no traitor, he felt used, cheated, and didn’t want to end up a penniless old man like his grandfather who had fought in the Great Patriotic War, or his father who had seen combat in Afghanistan and suffered ignominy and despair under Gorbachev and Yeltsin.
Now Arkady coordinated the cyber penetration of the Irish banker Pat Kennedy’s interests on the French Riviera and observed at leisure the comings and goings of banker and his friends onboard his yacht anchored in the bay about a kilometre offshore from Beaulieu-sur-Mer.
At the same time he couldn’t help observing the extravagant lifestyle his rich compatriots had lived in London, Cancun, and more recently in Monaco and on the Riviera. It was a far cry from the austere days of the Soviet Union and Communism, an ideology that had no place in modern Russia, where it had been replaced as a driving force by the idea of getting rich and getting out.
PAT AWOKE WITH A START, HE HAD DREAMT he was in a desert, a Mexican desert, an ochre landscape covered by shrubs and cacti, under a blazing sun, in a desperate search for Larrea tridanta bushes, he was lost and haggard, he grabbed at the vegetation and in doing so he saw his hands, dirty, grimy with dust and sand, his nails long and cracked, the back of his hands wrinkled and burnt by the sun.
With his heart still beating he went into his bathroom and washed his face with cold water. Looking in the mirror he studied his appearance, everything appeared normal, that is to say youthful, his skin tight, smooth, his hair black, his eyes clear. He looked at his hands, they were sleek, his nails well trimmed.
He returned to his bed, looked in the drawer of his side table. The glass phial of Galenus-1 pills was there exactly as he’d left it when he had turned in.
He smiled, still a little shaken, a bad dream, but not the first one and with a recurring theme.
Pat was alone, Lili and the children had returned to Hong Kong for the Spring Festival—the Chinese New Year, leaving him aboard his yacht anchored off the coast at Beaulieu, where he had taken refuge as another Covid surged through France.
He looked at his watch, it was just before four in the morning, too early to be up. He lay down and switched off the light and soon fell into an uneasy sleep.
It was mid-day when he called Rob McGoldrick, his friend and physician, at his office in London. It was a routine call, part of the programme related to Galenus-1, he was in a manner of speaking a test subject, a laboratory primate. He was not alone, there was also John Francis and Rob himself had joined the trial programme.
After exchanging news Rob asked him how he felt, his health, the effects of Galenus-1. Pat had nothing new to report, his general condition was excellent.
‘Are you eating well?’
‘Your appetite’s good?’
‘Great ..., but I’ve been having some strange dreams.’
‘Yes,’ he laughed. ‘I’m in the desert, lost, looking for creosote bushes.’
Rob didn’t laugh.
‘I’m serious, I believe you.’
‘So what does it mean?’
‘I don’t know Pat ... but I’ve had similar dreams.’