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During the long flight the Russian officer with the vast swath of red lipstick on her mouth had been taking a motherly interest in Crow. She'd noticed the end of a bandage under his black thermal bonnet, and one of the overhead storage nets had come undone during takeoff, so she reached up and tied up the netting more securely. She'd also noticed Crow had eaten the two sandwiches she had given him at the start of the flight. She came over to him with a stainless-steel pot of dumplings with steam rising off them. The weather forecast had said very cold air in eastern Russia so the bulmeini was welcome fuel to build up Crow's core temperature.
The female officer sat down between Crow and Mr Votrin. She smiled at Crow. 'My name Natasha and this aircraft are very good.' She said in English. 'Ve have not so much money in Russia. But these engines have many good hours more of life. Many hours!' She said with both eyebrows raised. She laughed. 'I hope you like dumplings?' Crow smiled and offered some to Mr Votrin first, then asked her in English. 'How near are we to the drop area?' He gestured with his hands in a parachute downward motion. The other crew of about six watched from their seated positions. One of them was reading a book but sometimes he looked up to see if Crow had taken anything interesting out of his bag. In the last few hours only a second chocolate bar and a map.
Suddenly the aircraft lurched. There was a loud bang. A soldier looked out of a small window and shouted then turned and took something heavy from his waist. Then all went quiet again.
At this speed it would be over in half a second. An attack by a jet. A missile and nobody would know what had happened. Bangs during flight put the imagination in overdrive. Crow watched the solider put his gun back and wondered what his weapon would have done against an outside attack. Normal reflexes.
The bang was a big metal supplies container breaking loose.
'Oh yes I go speak viz pilot.'
Then she looked at Mr Votrin. This was his first military flight. 'Or perhaps you please go Sasha?'
Crow supposed this was Mr Votrin's name between new friends. Sasha got up and went to the flight deck . . .

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