When I wrote The Hive, I wanted to incorporate some aspects the story of finding my beautiful wife, Larisa, in Ukraine. Believe me, it was an adventure that I will never forget and one that I have woven into the sub plot of my novel.
Ukraine: Dnipropetrovs’k Airport
The Antonov AN-72 was on a final approach to the Dnipropetrovs’k commercial airport. The aircraft was certainly comfortable to fly in despite its odd appearance—affectionately called the Cheburashka after an incorrectly manufactured toy character from a Russian cartoon. Colin Hewette could see how it got this name. While most jets the size of the AN-72 had their engines slung under the wings, the Cheburashka had its two engines mounted on top, like two large ears, as if someone had assembled the aircraft’s wings upside down.
The hazy sunshine of a chilly late November afternoon shone through the cabin window accentuating the delicate features of Marina Asimova seated next to him. They had talked and held hands during the flight from Moscow. Colin felt that a real connection was growing between them. This was a military flight and except for a few hundred kilos of computers and documents, they had the plane to themselves. Colin’s thoughts were in conflict as to open the door to his heart or not. Finally he saw the path he should choose and there would be no turning back. He turned to look into Marina’s deep-green eyes, into the depths of her soul.
“I was almost married. It was six years ago … but I lost her, and now I feel like I have to say this to you. “
Marina searched his brown eyes before answering. “So, did she find another? Is that the hurt I can see in you?”
“No, it was a little before December about six years ago. She wanted me to go down to San Diego with her for the weekend. I decided to stay up in Burbank to work through a design problem on the Venus probe. She was angry and upset with me that I’d put my work first. It was late and she was driving back on the Pacific Coast Highway. A truck crossed the divider; I guess the driver fell asleep. I got a call from the hospital in Mission Viejo. I got there as fast as I could, but… she was already gone. The police said it was instantaneous. If I had gone with her, she’d still be alive. I blame myself for her death… , and the hardest part is the things you wish you had said … when you had the chance to say them… , the things you’ll never be able to say … .”
Marina could see the set of his jaw and the forced tension in his lips, but she could also see a single tear form and well up in his eye. She felt her own emotions forcing their way to the surface. “Oh Colin, I wish to say I share your pain. Five years ago I was nevesta, it means fiancée. Ivan Simonov was to be my husband as soon as he completed cosmonaut training. He … he was flying a specially modified MiG-25 fitted with rocket packs. He had taken his aircraft to the threshold of space. Something happened to the computer that balanced the thruster controls. At that altitude there is almost no air and his ailerons were useless. The computer was to take those corrections and translate them into commands to fire the thrusters. Something went wrong. The thrusters overcorrected, and his plane went completely out of control. His MiG, it broke apart. He never had the chance to eject.”
Her eyes grew red as she told the story and tears stained her cheeks. Colin reached across the seat and held her close to him, letting her tears flow as she buried her head in his shoulder.
Through tear streaked eyes, Marina continued, “He called me just before he took off. He was so happy and said he would pluck a star from the sky for me… . I never got say good-bye.”
Colin knew they had more in common than their work in the field of space exploration; they had both been the survivor, left to carry on when the person that they loved had died.
“Colin is that why you have not married either? Are you like me? Can you not bear it: to be the one, the one left behind? I couldn’t live through that again … ever.”
He held Marina close and stroked her chestnut-hued hair. Holding her, he felt both strong and at peace with himself, ready to face the inner demon, the one he’d tried to bury along with Susan. Is it my fear of being the one left behind, he thought, or is it my guilt for being responsible for the death of a woman that I loved? Whatever the reason, Colin vowed not to let someone as special as Marina slip away from him. “No one knows what the future holds for us or for humanity. We have less than three years to stop whatever ’s coming. Maybe it’s time we both stopped dwelling in the past and start to live each day for what it is: A gift to the living."