The meeting that never were
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The man's back was against the wall.
Long coat, black hat, black scarf. He was reading a newspaper, but not just any newspaper. It was The Guardian, three days old. No one cared that a man dressed like that was reading a British newspaper that wasn't up to date, in a steamy alleyway in the middle of the Bronx.
Yet if it had been a woman, not a man, or another color of scarf, or a leather jacket instead of a long coat, or if this man had read another newspaper, or even this newspaper, but less than two days old, Sergei would have turned around, and boarded into the first plane to St. Petersburg.

But, it was the guy, there was not a single doubt about that.

He made the sign, as expected, to the man in the coat.
Sergei Ivansky was about to make history. But first, he was about to enter the only building more heavily guarded than the Kremlin's abnormal bunker on Earth.

After passing half a dozen sophisticated tests and controls, Sergei was invited to sit at a table where his colleague of the day was already sitting.
A Chinese man.

Needless to say, he had been selected among his country's finest spies, and he, his family and acquaintances all had impeccable records from start to finish.

Sergei also knew that he had undoubtedly been briefed for hours on what he would have to defend here, too, to the point where he was merely an extension of the mind of an obscure puppeteer expert in the new category of geostrategy that had been dramatically raising tension in the international community for quite some time.

There was no greeting. Directly a projector displaying the agenda. In English.

Fearing that the Foundation might spot an attempted agreement between several countries, China and Russia had reached an agreement that all transactions between the two Eastern powers should not take place on their soil.
Firstly, because it would be easier to exonerate oneself in the event of discovery by the Foundation, or a third party, and to shift the blame to a particular country.
The one who, through his initiative, had made himself the spokesperson for the AntiFounda (sad deformation of the Antifas), for example.

It had been nine months since Sergei moved to New York. His interlocutor, five, in order to avoid creating any form of correspondence in the dates.
The question of the "first gone" had been a thorny one. The opportunity to be first on the scene provided a significant advantage.
Of which Russia had not been deprived, moreover. Chen Man was under permanent surveillance by the Russians. Or almost.

Chen addressed the first and only point they had left to negotiate.

- About the presence of code name "Helmet Breaker" on the border between Alpha and Bravo points. We reviewed our positions. As long as he stays there, there's no way we're signing anything.

Sergei smiled. Inside only. His face, of course, was as cold as the frozen Siberian lands of his childhood.

Alpha point. China. Point Bravo. Russia. The names of the two countries had never been pronounced before. No names were ever pronounced either, in order to facilitate a possible transfer of responsibility to another country, should the operation be discovered.
"Helmet Breaker" referred to a weapon created by Russia at the beginning of the so-called conflict, using anomalous artefacts. It was currently one of the only weapons the country had against the Foundation in the event of an open war.
The problem was that Helmet Breaker could not be moved from the border. 100 km from the Russian lines was Point Charlie. AKA one of the Foundation's most important operational sites. The perfect hub to prepare an attack on the Kremlin.
For China, Helmet Breaker was a threat. To the Russians, a security they couldn't get rid of as long as Charlie was active. It was also the last thing that kept the two countries from coming to an agreement. Although the last of their small meetings had highlighted a clear Russian advantage and allowed a lot of points to be clarified, it still seemed far from a deal, unless there was a miracle.

- Not possible. Not as long as Charlie's standing this close to Bravo.

- We've had time to think. Charlie won't be here the week after we make the deal. But if we can come to an agreement before the day after tomorrow.

A miracle. Or almost. The Chinese were playing the clock. More information was needed.

- How do you plan to do that?
- We finally made contact and managed to reach an agreement with Mr. Red.

Sergei couldn't believe his ears. How was it possible to get along with Mr. Red, who represented nothing more and nothing less than the Chaos Insurgency? And how could the Chinese dare to break the transparency clauses between them?

The transparency clauses. Thanks to this, Sergei had his loophole.

- What are the terms of your agreement? The latest news is that the agreements we make together require total transparency. My employers may not like this behavior at all, Mr. Black.
- Mr. White. I actually think they're going to love it. Mr. Red has graciously informed us that Charlie will totally cleaned, as long as he's guaranteed free access to certain areas of Alpha and Bravo.
- Leaving these lunatics on our soil? I'll let you keep those measures to your country.
- They won't get out of the territory.
The Russian surprised himself by blinking.
- You're saying…
- That we're going to make them disappear as soon as they've washed Charlie away. For our adversaries, Mr. Red will have gotten the better of Charlie, and we will have intervened after detecting hostile presences between Alpha and Bravo. And God knows our adversaries will never listen to what Mr. Red has to say. Two birds with one stone. Then you will be able to put "Helmet Breaker" right next to Echo.

Echo. Ukrainian website. Threatening, though not as threatening as Charlie.
The Chinese's proposal was brilliant. Not only did it make it possible to reach an agreement, but it also allowed to get rid of a major asset of the Foundation without bearing the responsibility, while strongly reducing the forces of the Chaos Insurgency, a growing threat although not yet a priority.

Moreover, it would avoid being scissored between Echo and Charlie in the event of a simultaneous attack and would allow for a judicious repositioning of Breaker Helmet. Sergei had no fear on the Chinese side, once Charlie was destroyed, China was able to defend its coasts effectively thanks to recent anomalous equipment. As for the land borders… Sergei knew as much as Chen, even if the latter did not know it, and Chen was letting his eight-year-old daughter and his wife sleep without any problem 100 km away from the Burmese border, which was, however, the least secured of all.

And even if the Chinese, or the Chaos Insurgency, or anyone else, tried something during the operation, at that distance, "Helmet Breaker" would destroy them in a second.

The Russian paused.

- That seems appropriate to me. Do you have the necessary authorizations?

The Chinese nodded.

- Of course I do.

He slipped an enormous document in two copies.

- I've already signed both copies. You keep one.

Sergei reread the contract several times, even though he knew by heart each point of the contract, which was written in Russian, Mandarin, and English. Eventually, he signed it.

Then he went for the second copy. Better to be careful.
The Sino-Russian Coalition was born.

Two weeks later, "Helmet Breaker" was positioned on the Ukrainian border, and the O5 Council launched more virulent vendetta operations against the leaders of the Chaos Insurgency.

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