Story 18 - Reindeer Research.
She nodded. "So, go to her this afternoon. Look her up. She shouldn't be hard to find. Ask her about the reindeer
research. Ask her where the herds hold out in the winter, and so forth. Obviously, we need to bring reindeer pictures back with us. And keep your eyes open to her. I think she is a beautiful person when you get to know her."
"I suppose I may begin by asking her name," I said to Anton, and excused myself with a grin.
The major explained that they had been discouraged years ago, to use their real name at the base. So, rather than lying to people, she simply called herself by her title: The Major. "My real name is Nina Tuleyev, and my real home is in a small fishing village on the Black Sea. Its called Tuzly." She said, as children, their parents would take them sometimes to the big delta of the Danube river to watch the birds before their migration north. She explained that for some strange reason, this got her interested in coming
north, herself. "That's why I became a veterinarian and signed up with the Reindeer Research Center. That happened before it became what it is now."
"Are there any herds left nearby?" I asked.
"Fourteen," she said. "Would you like to see one?"
"Then you better come with me. Do you still remember the size of your flight suite?"
I told her that I didn't. Strangely, she didn't seem to mind going through the motion once more to find me one that fits.
"Our rickety old workhorse is often used to supply food to the herds in extreme weather," she explained when we were finally in the air. As it was, it didn't take long to find a few herds to give me an opportunity to use up some film, according to the script of my cover story. She also pointed out that she was hoping to find a herd crossing a frozen lake that we could land on. Eventually she found one. Slowly, she eased the airplane down in front of the herd, which soon surrounded us. She said it would be save to get out of the aircraft since the plane and its people are not unfamiliar to them. Of course she was right. None of the animals seemed in anyway disturbed by the encounter. They stopped briefly and snooped, just in case there was food forthcoming. When they realized that there was none they wandered off.
It was frightening at first, but also terribly exciting, to stand in this sea of fine animals who came and looked us over and then departed. I embraced her out of sheer gratitude, and with a kiss that said thank you. It all came so naturally.
Her eyes sparkled, reflecting the same excitement that I felt. She didn't seem to mind the kiss, but smiled instead, in a way I had not seen her smile before.
We remained on the ice for a while and watched the herd disappear in the distance. While helping each other to get back into the plane, she managed to return the kiss. After that it was my turn again. She explained that the engine needed a three minute warm-up, prior to takeoff, a time that was well utilized by both of us.
We checked on our herd once more after being airborne again, and then searched for others. Miraculously, we made it back to the base in time for supper. The flight suites were quickly shed, and our normal clothes put back on. When the bell rang we were back at our places, but things were not the same as they had been before. Anton was right, she is a beautiful person to be with.
After supper, Nina showed me the station's telescope. It didn't seem to matter that neither of us knew anything about the stars, but the stars were beautiful nevertheless. The sky was so brilliant with them. We just stood there and held each other, and looked up into this great ocean of lights.