Nuovi Arrivati : New Arrivals
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Nuovi Arrivati : New Arrivals


"She is beautiful and she responds to the name Fenja without me having to train her!"

The man enthusiastically patted the head of the creature that had been impaling Loewen with its eyes since she had entered the room.

"How do you know that this is a female?"

The man paused, leaned to one side and examined the underside of the animal with a critical eye. What he saw didn't seem to match his experiences in the dog squadron. "Oh boy, that … phew." He rubbed the back of his head and seemed to brood over what he had seen. Sarah continued her way with a small grin on her lips, knowing that this could take a while.

She had relaxed a little after the first shock when entering the room; it was really something completely different to read about the dog creatures and see pictures of them than actually standing there, facing them. The impressive physics of these beings amazed her deeply, but had also left her with a lot of careful respect towards them. Especially since the female at the agent's feet never let her out of her sight for once. Just like all of these dogs, this specimen also featured a hairless, armored body, consisting of chitin plates, which pushed into one another when moving, making them able to move in patterns impossible for normal dogs. A total of six of these animals, together with three guides and an agent from the Italian site "Vittoria", arrived up here in northern Germany three days ago. In her files Sarah had read the name Alessandro Draghi, captain of the SSM-IV, the mobile task force called "Pugnus Ferri".
She could make out the dark-haired man the moment she entered the room. While everyone gathered was busy with the four-legged newcomers, the man stood a little apart, apparently preparing for the training. Sarah was supposed to attend the first training session to learn how to basically deal with the animals and thus being able to better supervise her actual research.

"Do you mean her?"

"Nah, she's fucking that Swiss ghost."

At first Loewen didn't understand that the two whispering men meant her, but when they mentioned the "Swiss Ghost" she realized that there was no other option.

"That one?! Shit, no way, he's fucking scary."

Sarah wasn't sure whether to confront them or not. Ignoring them was probably for the better. Her free hand clenched into a fist, the other literally clawed at the clipboard with her notes. She quickly walked towards the Italian, who was standing infront the spectator's rows on which the assembled team would sit later. The light broke in the surface of the water of the underground training pools in a fascinating way and painted strangely peaceful patches of light on the faces around her. It also made the creatures look a little creepier. Somehow fitting.
When Sarah was within earshot, she could hear the voice of the Italian as well as that of Dr. Olga Derminov and the one of the current captain of the diving team. Olga was already sitting on one of the front benches of the rows, with a perfect view towards the pool for later training. Beside her lay documents and a box of cigarettes, which she would later smoke "in secret" on the toilet. Alessandro Draghi spoke to the captain in a calm, polite English, occasionally interrupted by Olga, who did not care about formalities or politeness. When Sarah approached, all eyes were directed at the young researcher, which caused her to pause and nearly stumble for a moment. There were some things she would probably never get used to. She shook hands in a friendly manner and greeted the men before Olga briefly took her aside to talk her through the process. First theoretical basics, with everything the team needed to know about the creatures, then practical diving instruction while handling the animals. Tomorrow the briefing should be gone through with the most important key points. Then the Italian should leave again. The three guides would accompany the expedition and leave later if everything went as planned.

Sarah was primarily responsible for external coordination and review of the records, so not everything the soldiers and divers had to go through was relevant for her. She nodded eagerly and smiled encouragingly at Olga before she sat down a few rows up between the others present and placed her clipboard on her lap.

Two hours of instructions with a short break and more theory afterwards followed. Sarah's mind wandered off the moment Olga stood up to take turns teaching the divers about the animals with Draghi. Sarah had read that often enough in the documents and so she reached into her skirt pocket and took out her smartphone. Bad news were highlighted on the lock screen:
3 missed calls from Johan Frey.
Oh no. That could only mean problems. Her insides felt like a sudden turning and she felt no longer that comfortable with the soldiers and archaeologists around her. Please tell me you did not screw up, Johan! She opened their chat and wrote:

what's going on?
i am at work,!

After only a few seconds, a new message flashed at her.

I wanted to hear your voice.

The tension within her immediately disappeared, giving way to a feeling of relief. Even though he was acting really clumsy, he at least wasn't in danger or caused problems. A slight smile crossed her lips. Nevertheless, it was strange and she began to think about this… relationship. Neither of them had ever called it a relationship; and yet it felt that way sometimes. A long-distance relationship over a thousand kilometers. With a man who was barely keeping himself in control.
She decided to answer him later and tried to follow the instruction. It was something about the amount of time the creatures could swim and how far exactly without oxygen. Beside her she heard the eager scratching of a pen on paper. The smell of chlorine was also unpleasantly present in her nose, so she started to lose concentration again. She leaned forward in her chair and rested her chin on her fists. Then she looked at her superior. Olga looked very satisfied, but also firm. Sarah knew how important this upcoming excavation was to her. But something was different - whenever Olga was through with her part of the instruction and the Italian continued in English, Olga's gaze was fixed on him and she seemed to be in thought. That was more than unusual.

Sarah took a closer look at the man her superior apparently seemed to have a liking in - and it suddenly dawned on her: Draghi! Of course, how could I be so blind! Ludovico had mentioned his brother several times when he had worked with Olga on the Shard - and during some other stuff - a while ago. Sarah rolled her eyes in amusement, but couldn't help comparing the brothers with each other - Olga was probably doing the same thing and was therefore acting so strangely. The mountain of a man, in contrast to his brother, was very muscular, as was to be expected with a soldier. His hair was dark brown and he was a little more tanned than the desk servant. Still, both had the same angular features and unusual grey eyes. Interestingly enough, a series of scars adorned his face, which inevitably made Sarah think of the Swiss man with the scar on his nose.

In fact, both were about the same size, even though Johan looked like the man's reverse image: light blond, white like a ghost - as the soldiers had already mentioned - restless and constantly suffering from this inner tension. The man there in front of Olga looked like calmness itself; authoritarian and professional. She couldn't really imagine Johan in such a situation. He probably would have tried to drown Olga in the first ten minutes of this…

Now completely absorbed in her thoughts about Johan, Sarah did not notice that it was getting busy around her and the group broke up to get ready to dive. Olga's grumpy voice made her jump and saved her from the loop of memories; part of them dark, part of them beautiful and, particularly intense, the rather lewd ones.

"Girl, where did you leave your last few brain cells this time? In the sheets in Switzerland? Move your cute ass down here, we do not have all day!"

She turned crimson and jumped from her bench, which ended in her almost falling over the front one and landing at the feet of her superiors and the worried-irritated-looking Italian. She hastily apologized in English and then helped Olga prepare the practical lesson, which Sarah herself would only watch from the edge of the pool. The thought of diving alone made her shiver, even though she knew that Olga would never take her into the water.

The troop, now geared up, slowly moved back into the hall and gathered near the training pool; some excited, others very relaxed and sometimes more focused on the creatures than on the actual task. In general, none of those present seemed tense in the least, which irritated Sarah. The team around Johan had a different dynamic whenever she saw them. Was it because of the members or the leaders? Or was it just a different situation in general, since no acute danger was assumed in this case? Sarah resolved to investigate later so that she might be able to react better should she ever discover a problem in similar situations.
After everyone had shouldered their equipment and even Olga had got ready to dive, Loewen sat down again on one of the spectator benches at the edge of the pool and watched the group who moved into the water together with the crab dogs. Later she would be in a similar situation while sitting in front of a monitor.

Alessandro sat down near her and also started watching the group. He still exuded calmness and she wondered if she should start a conversation with him. She turned slightly, opened her mouth and immediately froze when she realized she didn't know what to say. Excuse me, Sir, do you know how to have a relationship with a soldier? She turned around again before the Italian could see the blood that rushed into her cheeks for the second time. The noise of someone clearing his thorat from his direction told her that she has been noticed anyway. A deep voice said in English: "Would you like a coffee, too? I think Dr. Derminov won't hit the ceiling if we breathe something different than chlorine for five minutes."
Sarah jumped up relieved and beamed at the man. She bubbled up like a waterfall, told him about Olga's manner and the terrible coffee the machine would spit out while the two of them left the hall through the double doors that connected the training pool with the other underground tracts. The Italian seemed to be more than welcome for having a break and he kept answering politely, but let her do the talking most of the time. When they both got their cups of brown water from the machine, they stopped to chat. They agreed on the broth, which was mainly good for warming hands on the hot paper cup. Sarah also took the chance to check the display of her phone again and sighed in relief when no further messages were displayed. The Italian noticed her reaction and looked at her with an inquiring expression.

"Excuse my asking, you don't have to answer if it is too private, but is everything alright?"

Sarah thought of the stupid question that had crossed her mind earlier when she didn't know what to say and suddenly it didn't seem that inappropriate anymore. There were few people at this site besides the divers and researchers, Draghi was the first more experienced soldier she could talk to just like that and he seemed very attentive. She thought about it for a moment and chewed her lip before nodding and looking straight into his grey eyes.

"I…hm… Are you in a relationship? I mean, …"

The man hesitated slightly, but then slowly nodded when he seemed to understand what she was trying to ask. Sarah, in turn, squirmed when she realized how strange this situation had suddenly become.
"I mean, how do you deal with being in a relationship with someone-", she gestured as she spoke, pointing to his badge of rank, "-like you?"
Alessandro nodded again to make it clear that he understood, but said nothing. He sipped the adulterated coffee and looked past her, obviously carefully weighing his next words. Sarah became restless and worried that she might have crossed a line. What was she even thinking? What kind of impression did it make when she, as Olga's assistant, took the Italian captain aside and talked about relationship issues with him? She was about to interrupt his train of thought and divert the conversation to something else when she noticed that he was already about to speak. When he started, he looked very serious, and Sarah regretted ever bringing up the subject.
"I suppose you1 are worried about someone. You will always be; this life will always be hard, fear always will be hanging over you like the Sword of Damocles. If you are not sure about this, then end it immediately. But-", he noticed that her shoulders had dropped a little and made a gesture that Sarah interpreted as something that should encourage her. "But if you really love this person and can stand behind their actions, do it with all your heart." Sarah felt a small stab in her chest when the Italian remarked that one should 'stand behind' it. Could she do that? Standing behind Johan's actions? She hardly knew anything about his work and what she knew she sometimes wanted to forget the moment she heard it.

"He… yes, I want that, but…" Sarah cleared her throat and stepped restlessly on the spot. Why the hell are you blabbering about your private stuff with this guy? Apologize to him, end the conversation and try to make it the least amount of awkward possible! Her mouth no longer obeyed her. As if she had lost control of her own words, she just kept talking - maybe because it was the first time she ever could talk about it in detail without it ending up in a file?
"I want to be there for him! But he pushes me away, tries to hide everything from me, as if that would change something - and I don't know if I can even ask what he is doing when he looks at me like that. At the end of the day we didn't exchange a word; we both are dissatisfied and one of us has to go back to a mission or on the plane. And then - then I don't even know if I'll see him again! "
Sarah took a deep breath and noticed how a lump had formed in her throat while she was talking and her jaw had started to shake. She apologized and turned around briefly to not burst into tears in front of the almost stranger. The Italian waited patiently and seemed more than familiar with such situations, because when she turned she did not meet a gaze of pity or concern, but a gaze that looked very knowing and understanding. Sarah apologized again, but the soldier waved it off. "No need to apologize. If I may give you one piece of advice: talk about what's going on; your emotions, not the work. He does what he has to do, probably very conscientiously. He tries to protect you. The rest is irrelevant, so take care of each other. The things you don't tell him now, you will eventually regret one day."

He took the empty paper cup from her hand and disposed of both cups before gesturing to her to leave. Sarah was completely lost in thought and followed his request mechanically. He was right. Johan could have an accident - and she wouldn't be able to tell him what was on her mind. Just like her mother once told her that she and her father had split up in an argument before he had his accident. She was never able to say goodbye. What if Sarah couldn't say goodbye to Johan? What if one day he wasn't coming back from a mission and she was sitting in Northern Germany, unsuspecting, and waiting for a message? Suddenly seized by a feeling of fear but also determination, she grabbed her smartphone from her pocket and quickly said goodbye to Alessandro, adding that he should somehow explain to Olga that she had to go - and ran down the hall to call Johan back in a quiet corner.

The Italian, meanwhile, smiled softly. It was astonishingly often the same type of situation.

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