That was the thing about the old men--you could never get rid of the bastards. They didn't die when they were supposed to, and even if you did finally manage to kill one off another one just sprang right up in his place. At least Arvin Sloane had never tried to murder him, which put him well ahead of pretty much everyone else Krycek knew.
There he was, all dressed up in some kind of fancy white suit with a fucking gin and tonic in one hand like he's been tossed up on the beach by the retreat of the British Raj. Those Alliance types had always been the best-dressed bunch of crooks Krycek had ever had the pleasure of dealing with. There was visible security standing at the bar--there would have to be, with Sloane dressed like that in a place like this-- and no doubt a few invisible watchers as well. Krycek didn't let it bother him. Sloane's really dangerous confederates were all MIA or in custody. That was why he was here, after all. That was why Sloane might take his offer.
No point trying to hide. Sloane saw him right away and waved the guards back when he walked up to the table and slid into a chair.
"Mr. Krycek," Sloane said. The way his eyes lit up when he smiled was almost enough to make Krycek reconsider the whole thing: the last thing he wanted was another crazy old man riding his tail. "What brings you to Khorugh?"
"I'm thinking of climbing a mountain." Because yeah, all he really needed was to lose a couple toes to frostbite in addition to the fucking arm. What the hell did Sloane think he was doing here? "And I heard a rumor."
Sloane raised an eyebrow and steepled his hands together.
Asshole, Krycek thought. Those old men never did any of the work. "A rumor about a weapon." That was it, though, He sat back and waited for Sloane to pick up the cue.
"I think you may be disappointed, Mr. Krycek. I'm no longer interested in weapons. I've had what you might call a change of heart. I received a message." Sloane's voice had gone soft and he was staring out past Krycek's shoulder. "A message."
Jesus fucking Christ. "This is a very special weapon, Mr. Sloane. It was used once, in Mexico City. In a church," he added, just in case Sloane really had found God and now cared about who got killed in his crazy plans. "You gave it to a third-rate Afghan warlord, and the CIA stole it from him before he could use it. You stole it back from the CIA last spring."
Sloane leaned back in his chair. "Alex--may I call you Alex?" and of course he didn't wait for Krycek to say yes or no, "Have you ever had a life-changing experience? Have you ever had your entire world-view turned upside down, and realized that the path you were on was leading you somewhere you never expected?"
Every fucking morning, Krycek thought. "Arvin," he said, because he was seriously, seriously unhappy with the way this conversation was going, "you made me an offer once. An offer of employment."
"Which you turned down."
"I had other projects. Important projects."
"And now you want to renegotiate." Sloane sighed and took a sip of his drink. "Alex, I want to be honest with you. I've seen something... something I can't explain. I've turned away from the life I knew, from everything I thought mattered. I intend to work to save lives, to repair some of the damage I've done to the world. I can't possibly let a weapon like the one you're thinking of loose in the world."
What the hell had Sloane taken? Whatever it was, Krycek knew an opening when he saw it. He leaned forward and tried to look earnest. "Can you protect it?" Sloane didn't answer, so he kept talking. "Listen, Arvin, I'm not the only one who's heard about that weapon. Someone else is going to find it, and they're going to try to take it from you. I'm willing to pay a fair price and in addition--" and if he'd misjudged Sloane he was in trouble, but the absolute truth was too fucking funny to pass up "--in addition I can guarantee to you that I will not use it against another human being."
The look Sloane was giving him made him wonder whether the old man had picked up special mind-reading powers along with whatever this revelation thing was. His head was tilted and his fingers were steepled again. "How long have you been lying about what you're doing, Mr. Krycek?"
"I'm offering you a deal that will benefit us both, Sloane." Half his instincts were screaming at him not to rush the negotiation and the other half were screaming at him to get the hell out of there. In another minute or so, self-preservation was going to win out. He could steal the goddamn weapon himself.
"I'm sure you are." Sloane was leaning forward now, and Krycek couldn't break eye contact. This was supposed to be a simple deal, a few jobs for Sloane but the payoff would be worth it. "How many lives do you intend to save, if I give you this weapon?"
This whole situation was fucking insane, and he was in well over his head but if there was one thing Krycek knew he could do it was improvise. "Six billion. Give or take a few." Take that, Sloane. Less than a ten year countdown to the end of the world and he had better things to do with his time than answer questions in this shithole dive in at the ass end of Tajikistan.
Sloane actually fucking smiled at him. "It's a relief to tell the truth, isn't it, Mr. Krycek. No?" He shrugged and kept talking. "The device you want is in a warehouse in Coventry. This is the address and these are the combinations for the security systems." Of course he was writing with a gold pen on some kind of fancy paper, Krycek saw: whatever the hell had happened to him hadn't changed Sloane's extravagant tastes.
"And the price?"
Sloane looked up from the paper and met his eyes. "There is no price, Mr. Krycek. I believe you."
That was the most frightening thing he'd heard in years. "There's always a price."
"Not this time. You may find other things in the warehouse that interest you. Feel free to take them."
"The price, Sloane. Don't jerk me around."
"I'm completely serious. Do you believe in fate, Mr. Krycek? Because I do. I believe that I have been fated to meet with you here, today, and to offer you my help." The paper slid across the table with a hiss. "Think about it, Mr. Krycek. I believe that I may be in a position to offer you a great deal of help."
His legs knocked the chair backward as Krycek stood up: the instinct to run was making him clumsy and he had to force his hand to remain steady as he took the paper and hid it in his jacket. Even his sense of self- preservation wasn't enough to make him leave it there, but he'd be very careful before he got anywhere near that warehouse. "We'll see about that," he said. "You say you believe me--that doesn't mean I believe you, Mr. Sloane." He backed away, scowling at Sloane, scowling at the protection, scowling at the whole goddamn room.
Fuck those old men. No way was he letting Sloane anywhere near his operations, whatever help the man thought he was offering.