Comrade Kovalenko: Come in, comrade. Why did you want to meet with us?
Comrade Samsonau: There is an unusual rumor circulating in the camp… I was hesitant to say anything – it is nothing, truly – but I thought perhaps I should make you aware so that you may judge for yourselves. You know how the men can get with too much time on their hands…
Comrade Romanovich: Thank you, comrade – it is important for us to know about anything that could be affecting morale. What is the rumor?
Comrade Samsonau: The strangeness of the tale prevents it from being discussed openly, which of course only serves to fuel men’s imaginations even further… I have only heard it from drunken men, speaking late at night in hushed tones… What I can relay is fragmented, and all the more strange because of it…
Comrade Kovalenko: Such is the nature of rumor.
Comrade Samsonau: Yes, of course. It goes something like this:
Our enemy has in their employment a man known as The Salamander. In appearance, The Salamander is a man like any other, but in ability he is hardly human. Some hold that he is a kind of psychic vampire whose aura drains men of hope, resolve, and trust; less credulous men believe that he is simply a man with an extraordinary talent for sowing discord, and that he works through the spreading of lies and half-truths, through offhand comments and subtle expressions designed to incite anger and paranoia. Regardless of the origin of his abilities, it is agreed that The Salamander has been hired by our enemy to bring us down from within, and that he is now amongst us, having infiltrated our camp as one of the new recruits that has arrived in recent weeks.
Comrade Kovalenko: Thank you, Comrade - a most interesting story. And what is your opinion of the matter? Is there a Salamander among us or should we be more concerned with the effects of the rumor itself?
Comrade Samsonau: Personally, I think the tale of the Salamander to be nonsense, a bored soldier’s fantasy. Of course it is not inconceivable that an undercover saboteur has infiltrated our ranks, but our counterintelligence unit has their methods for dealing with these issues as you know… As for the rumor itself, I have seen some men grow wary of the new recruits, but this is not on its own unusual – you remember the incident with Comrade Volkov and Comrade Novikov from some months ago. It is difficult to say what, if anything, should be done at this time, and I worry that addressing the situation in any direct manner would simply fuel paranoia…
Comrade Kovalenko drew his pistol and shot Comrade Samsonau in the face.
(after a minute that seemed an hour)
Comrade Romanovich: Why did you kill him?
Comrade Kovalenko: Was it not clear? He was The Salamander.
Well of course he was!