Character: Michael Kostovik
Author: Amy
Universe: War AU
Word count: 1,039

It was snowing. Beautiful, soft white powder.

In the background, classical music played.

For a moment, Kostya took a second to appreciate it. The swirling tufts of white around him, the sound of violins and a piano underscore coming from the facility that was miles behind them. It was beautiful. The fields of nothing but snow falling and fifteen other boys and girls. He was number sixteen. Not a name to the two instructors that stood before them, just a number. Sixteen, a number that was three more than his actual age.

Like the others, he wore nothing but a white, starchy shirt that came just to his knees and pristine, pale colored briefs. No shoes, but at least he had sleeves to curl around his fists as he stood. He shivered, violently. Just like the rest. All little clones with shaved heads no matter what gender they were. He didn’t attempt to move, though. He made no attempt to wrap his arms around his body; no one stepped toward each other to share the heat of their bodies.

The instructors stood before them, tall and domineering with fur lined coats and severe faces that were hidden by bushy facial hair and reflective glasses. The classical music dimmed. Kostya was unafraid. It was the nature of his training. No emotions, nothing in his haunting, dual colored eyes but a fierce loyalty to the two men standing before him. They represented what he fought for with their broad shoulders and dark red coats. They were Russia, his motherland, his loyalty to them and his country was unwavering. He would do whatever they asked of him.

His feet were numb by now, the snow curling around his ankles.

Suddenly, one of the instructors spoke, stepping forward.

“Vy nashikh detyeĭ. Nashi shedevry. Vygordostʹ Rossii,” he barked, pacing the line of child soldiers in front of him. Kostya’s eyes fluttered to alertness, his chin tilted up slightly as the man passed by him. The pride of Russia. A swelling in his chest frightened him at the words. He was numb all over, from his toes to his nose, a pink and blue color covering his face and his lips. He had stopped trembling long ago.

“YA prikazyvayu tebe,” the instructor, the soldier, Russia himself, rose his arm, “borotʹsya!” he flung the arm down, but Kostya paid no attention to it. The command had been issued. Fight.

He dropped to his knees, narrowly avoiding the arm of the boy who stood next to him. Suddenly, it was chaos. Sixteen lithe bodies moving as fast as they could despite the hypothermia. His knees sank into the snow, but Kostya wasted no time in rolling forward, away from the boy who had aimed to clothes line him. This was a war. He didn’t think of the others as people; not as children like him. They were nothing but the enemy. He was swift, launching himself forward to wrap arms around the other boy’s waist and flip him onto the ground. His movements were sloppy, painful and stilted. The other boy writhed in his grasp. He was fifteen. He was also a boy named Nikolai, but that didn’t matter to Kostya. What mattered was lifting his fist and slamming it hard into the enemies nose. So hard it broke and spurted blood all over both of them. He didn’t stop. Eventually, the boy went limp, but Kostya only moved on, dodging a kick from a girl with darker skin than him. He rolled off Fifteen’s unmoving body.

Around him, others fought as well. Children, no older than fourteen, but trained in the art of war and fighting. Legs that knew nothing other than to perform a kick, savage beautiful faces turned to stone cold machines. There was blood soaking into the snow, turning it a dark, crimson slush.

Suddenly, a thudding sound made Kostya snatch his head to the side, to see the instructor who had commanded them to fight throwing a knife into the ground. Kostya’s eyes made contact with another girl who had seen it as well, but he was quicker. His lean body moved through the air easily, fingers he couldn’t feel grabbing the knife. He twisted his body, throwing his arm out to catch the girl in the throat as she tried to make a grab for it. Her tiny body spasmed as it hit the ground, jerking left and right.

Kostya spared her no second glance.

With the knife in his hand, the rest was easy. It cut through the others like butter. Their faces didn’t matter. Twelve, Five, Eight. Dead, dead, dead. Blood everywhere. These were boys and girls he’d trained with since he was nine years old, stolen from his mothers home to become this thing, this creature. They were his brothers and sisters and he murdered them because the man in a red coat asked him too. One left. Two. Natalia. Kostya split her face open with his elbow before driving the knife deeply into her stomach. She held him by the shoulders, brown eyes large as her face paled from blood loss. She smiled at him before he dropped her.

He felt heavy and light at the same time. His body was exhausted, his chest expanding and collapsing as he panted, holding the knife that held bits of flesh on the serrated edge. It wasn’t about winning. It was about surviving. If he hadn’t done it, he would have died. He reminded himself that as he used his shirt to wipe the knife clean of blood. He walked with a slight limp, his feet hardened with frost bite before he dropped to his knees in front of the instructor who had thrown the knife.

He stabbed it into the ground before the man and then stared up at him. His shoulders trembled. The instructor smiled.

“Moĭ rebenok,” he said, brushing a gloved hand over Kostya’s freshly shaved head. He leaned into the touch, his lips twitching into something that must have looked like a desperate attempt for a smile. He still needed more training. Pleasure wasn’t something assassins felt. Happiness and pride were emotions that they couldn’t have.

Kostya fell backward, his back hitting the slushy, bloody snow.