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Feels Like Freedom


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"Oh I do all sorts of things," said Frost cheerfully. "But here we are in valley of Kondoma River, and is fine place." He walked underneath the curving bulk of an unfamiliar tree, and tapped the bark. "Hills hereabouts kept place ice-free even when the glaciers came. These trees here, the linden, some like this were growing before Ice Age." He put his hands in his pockets and turned, heading down a rough trail in a nearby hill. "Are you expected home soon?" he inspired. "There is business we can conduct in town below if not." The town below looked like a small, lively village built along a river, loomed over by mine tailings and bustling with life. It was morning here, the sun not having banished a lingering chill. 

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Casper frowned under his mask. No. He was not expected home soon. Not like anyone was waiting for him. 

 

The only good thing about being alone was that he wasn't running late all the time after dealing with super hero stuff.

 

"Nah. I've got time." Casper still wasn't sure what he thought of Frost, but he sure as hell wasn't going to start talking about the whole divorce and kid and being on his own with him just yet. That part was easier with Fleur, at least.

 

He floated alongside Frost, following him as he moved. "So, what's the business? Seems like a peaceful place."

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"Sure," lied Frost cheerfully, "is village full of priests and gentle peasants, nothing to worry about..." The village turned out to be a mining town from what Ghost could see, with cars on a track heading down towards a mine built straight into the side of the hill, and rock-stained workers walking onto the streets to greet the new day. It actually looked a bit like something from the last century; he was pretty sure Russian mining towns didn't look like 1950, even in the backcountry.

 

Frost was greeted everywhere they went with roars of delight and firm embraces; this was obviously a place where he was known and respected. Frost made introductions as they went, but it was hard to tell since nobody seemed to speak much English beyond "Yankee!" and "Coca-Cola!" 

 

Soon Frost had led Ghost to what was clearly a tavern, a few bleary-eyed miners stumbling out to greet the day. Frost headed right in and introduced Ghost to the bartender, a one-eyed, fierce-faced woman named Ivanka who peered at Ghost suspiciously before demanding, "What you have?" The room was small and low-ceilinged, the wooden ceilings of the cramped little place almost brushing Frost's head. The latter had already taken a seat by the nearby fireplace and seemed to be trying to spark the coals. The place wasn't clean and it wasn't neat, but it seemed to be the best place to go in town, a sooty-faced Lenin watching them from a picture frame in the corner. 

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This was weird, right?

 

Casper had decided to stop floating and just walk alongside Frost as he led them through the village. His whole white and grey costume was weird enough already, floating might freak people out here even more and... he really had no idea where here was. It was weird.

 

He greeted whoever Frost introduced him to, but aside from a few attempts at responding with Pepsi, Casper didn't really make much progress. The way everyone talked to Frost, it felt too obvious to ask if they knew him around here. 

 

Casper looked up at the one eyed woman, and... yeah, alright. Not too happy to see him? Cool, cool, he'd deal with it. "Vodka?" he asked. When in Russia, right? 

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"Vodka! Hah!" That got Casper something like a smile, and then what appeared to be a repurposed glass bottle full of something clear with the strong scent of something high-proof. She walked away, humming something Casper didn't quite recognize under her breath, and began polishing the dark wood of the bar near the other end, where someone had carved "I+B, 1957" some long time ago. 

 

"Careful when you drink," said Frost, sitting amiably by Casper's side now that a crackling fire had begun in the inn's hearth. "They brew it from certain local ingredients indeegenous to Siberian taiga. Will curl hair on chest, as saying goes." He settled in, watching Casper watch the place, and said, "So, you spend much time in places like this? Have hangouts back in Freedom City?"

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  • 2 weeks later...

Casper looked at the glass in front of him with some apprehension, especially when Frost warned him.

 

The liquid was clear, see through. Looked almost like water, but didn't smell like it at all.

 

Pulling the mask up to clear both his mouth and nose, he reached for the glass and raised it to his lips, quickly emptying it.

 

And oh god that was strong. He couldn't resist a quick gasp for air, shaking his head lightly.

 

"Oh. Yeah. That... that was something alright." Casper shook his head. Better leave the mask up for some air, at least for now. "I, ah... no. Not really. At least not like this," he said, gesturing to himself and the costume. "Kinda tends to attract the wrong kind of people, y'know."

 

"So, what's the story? What is this place? People seem like they know you, and they don't even care that I'm all dressed up like this."

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"In Russia, in old Soviet days, relationship between metahumans and the people was very different than in United States." Frost looked thoughtful, toying with a log he'd pulled out of the stack by the fireplace. As he held it, a faint frost slowly crept up the bark. "Instead of many independent agents, running around in Leagues and Societies and the like, all served the people. All were the People's Heroes. This meant we never had supervillain problem, for example." He smiled thinly. "Of course some would say we were the supervillains, but tell that to all the dead Fritzes we left in Eastern Europe, hm?" He set the log back down, its surface entirely covered with ice. "So people know me here the way they might not any other place, and they are not surprised to see me with caped vigilante." 

 

He looked around and said, "This is Siberian village of Old Suntar. Mostly Yakuts and Russians here, had roots going all the way back to before Cossacks claimed land in name of Tsars. People worked hard, lived day-to-day, was all right. Came here after war when there was scandal involving attempt to summon ghost of Marx and Lenin to consult at local Party meetings but it was fine, was not even a real ghost." He waved a hand cheerfully. "New Suntar is down by uranium mine, is dirty and overgrown, far inferior in my humble opinion." 

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"Home sweet home, then?"

 

Ghost leaned over the table. He kept the mask pulled up to free his mouth, it always felt odd if he kept moving it up and down.

 

"So, all a matter of perspective, then. Everybody's a hero to somebody and a villain to someone else. I know there's a fair share of people that got opinions about me, anyway." 

 

He kind of wanted another glass of that vodka, but on the other hand... he really shouldn't ghost and drink.

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"It's not really so typical, is it?" 

 

It was all so very Russian, but there had to be something more to this place, didn't there? Some reason that Frost had brought him here. Was it just part of the standard meet and greet for people that wanted to join the league? Casper kind of doubted it.

 

"So, why'd you bring me here? I mean, the sights are nice and everything, for a cold Russian town, but I kinda doubt you'd bring a new guy here without having some kind of point?"

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