Old Men, Young Men
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They sat across from one another, between them a table with a chessboard, two glasses of vodka and one ashtray. The elderly man rubbed his stubbly chin, bushy grey eyebrows furrowed in consternation as he plotted the advance of his queen. His counterpart, the very image of youth, sat quietly, patiently, as he waited for his turn. He had plenty of time.

The old man placed his queen delicately in the center of his chosen square; the younger man immediately swiped it away with a pawn.

“Fuck you,” Dmitri said in Russian as he toppled his king in forfeit.

“You always say that,” responded Bright with a tepid smile.

Dmitri tapped some loose ash from his ever-present cigarette, leaning back in the chair and sighing tiredly. “How are you, Jack,” he asked, again in Russian.

“Alright, still getting used to this body. I think it’s a bit too young but, it was next in line, so…” He trailed off, eying Dmitri intently. “Are you going to ask me, or not?”

“Fine,” he grunted. “Did she say anything about me? Anything at all?”

“She hasn’t said anything in years, Dmitri,” he answered without emotion.

“Karen always was tough.” Dmitri shifted in his seat. “I had to send her in, you know. There was no other choice.”

“I know, I’ve read the reports. Oh, while we’re on this topic, Everett sends his best wishes from his containment cell.”

Another grunt. “I always told him, you know. I told him that too many of those experiments were going to get him locked up. I told him.”

“You did, Dmitri.” Bright began putting the chess pieces away.

Dmitri swirled his glass of vodka slowly, looking into the clear liquid as if it were a crystal ball. “What about little Agatha? Is she out of school yet?”

“She graduated from college two years ago, you know that. I told you that last week.”

“Are you going to-“

“No. We are not going to recruit her, Agatha left very specific requests against that,” he interrupted, his exasperation with the old man growing clearer in his voice. With that, the two lapsed into an awkward silence. Dmitri took a sip of his vodka and looked out the window, admiring the beauty of the spring day. The lilacs on his windowsill were blooming, and it reminded him of home and better days.

“…Jack?”

“Yeah, Dmitri?”

“Whatever happened to Alto.”

Bright stood and folded the chessboard. “I can’t tell you that, Dmitri. You’re retired, remember?”

“Fuck you,” he said with a raspy cough, taking a long, spiteful drag from his unfiltered cigarette.

“Watch it, or I’ll tell the nurses on you,” said Bright with a wagging finger. “I have to go, Dmitri. Gears is just down the hall and I promised I’d bring some technical manuals for him to read.”

He sighed again, standing and hobbling to the window with his cane. “Alright. Tell him Mitya said hello.”

“I will, Dmitri. See you next week.” And with that, Bright left to continue making his rounds of South Cheyenne Point Retirement Center.

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