A scene from my novel-in-progress

Since the POV breakthrough, new scenes from my novel have been much easier to write. The tone of the book is becoming darker. It's more of a thriller now than ever before.

"A little farther out!" Drasc called to the two men who lugged a dynamite charge into the forest. Then, to Nikolai, he said, "The trees will absorb most of the blast."

Nikolai shrugged. In truth, he found this entire scene remarkably distasteful. He longed for a clean stand-up fight -- or, at the very least, for a scope-mounted rifle and a place of concealment. He flexed his hands. He could almost feel a Dragunov's hardwood stock pressed against his shoulder, the black face-mask of an OMON infidel filling his crosshairs. Drasc's way of fighting was so indirect sometimes, so arcane. Nikolai had never had th epatience to play chess, as Drasc was fond of pointing out. Drasc himself had been a small-time celebrity, playing exhibition games against opponents both human and computer, and made a decent living for himself. But that was before the war. Now they scurried from place to place and spent more time covering their tracks than fighting the Russians. Nikola tasted bile and wanted to spit.

"That's far enough, don't you think?" Drasc murmured. He shouted to the two men, "Now, comrades, do you see the writing on top? Look close, it's quite small."

Nikolai watched the two men, small in the distance. They could be a comedy duo: first one, then the other, then both lowering their heads to the pile of wiring and dynamite Nikolai had cobbled together the night before. One of the men was willowy and young, too soft for this kind of work. The other was older, a short broad-shouldered who could've been a retired NCO. They were both half-Sakha and both members of the resistance -- and both affirmed pacifists.

Drasc pressed the CALL button on a plastic, battery-powered two-way radio -- the kind children used to play spy with, back when children were allowed to play. The two distant men vanished in a wisp of gray smoke.

The expanding shock wave knocked snow from trees as it approached. The sound was a punch to the chest -- quieter and less sharp than a tank's main cannon firing. Louder than an anti-personnel mine. Disturbed snowflakes danced in the air.

"Perfect," Drasc said. Hes tuffed the toy walkie-talkie into his pocket and spoke into a military-issue handset. "Comrades! There's been an accident."

Nikolai would help the others recover as much of the two men's bodies as possible. After all, he was more accustomed to this sort of thing.

Drasc shut off the radio. "You could've used a smaller charge."

"Possibly," Nikolai said.

Drasc raised an eyebrow. "Possibly? I've come to expect only perfection from you." Drasc leaned closer, lowered his voice. "Tell me the truth. Do you find all this -- beneath us?" He made an elegant gesture, as if to flick something sticky from his hand.

Nikolai considered lying. If he told the truth, Drasc might think he was going soft. That he needed replacing. But it was a mistake to lie to Drasc. The man had an eerily accurate knack for detecting lies and bluffs. It was probably all the chess-playing. Finally, Nikolai said, "Yes."
"So do I," Drasc said. He patted Nikolai on the shoulder. "I must keep a brave face on for our friends, but to you, to my closest and dearest companion, I can reveal my true feelings." Drasc sighed and Nikolai was amazed to see a tear glistening in the corner of his eye.

"Yes, this is all so far beneath us." Drasc's free hand made a wide sweep that took in the two dead men, their cave hide-out, Siberia itself." "Demeaning work for a man such as yourself. But it is necessary." The open hand clenched into a fist. "We will avenge our fallen friends. Countrymen. Our fallen nation. Nikolai, we will make the Russian bear regret the day he challenged the Chechen wolf."

Nikolai knew Drasc was right. But, later on, while he helped the weeping and vomiting revolutionaries pick rapidly-freezing bits of their friends out of the snow, he began to wonder just exactly how Drasc's plan would accomplish this goal.

Nikolai fantasized about concealing the remaining dynamite under a heavy coat and blowing himself up in the middle of the Russian police barracks. What a clean and glorious end that would be! But he had to trust Drasc -- who knew the importance of sacrificing pawns when necessary to make his larger plans succeed.