Chapter 1 - Mission to
UNITED SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS
The journey had been quite easy for Jack Myers, four days ago he had gotten the final travel documents and boarded an Aeroflot airship in New York. It had been an older model from the mid 1920s, but reasonably comfortable and swift nevertheless. During the journey he had a lot of time to think, and to write, sitting in his stateroom by the fold out desk making quick shorthand notes while he was looking out the window; either that or sitting on aluminium chairs in the lounge and chatting with his fellow passengers, a curious mixture of born again socialists and business men heading for Moscow.
This had been a good opportunity for him to get a closer look at the Soviet Union, or the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as they were formally named. He had heard all the warnings of course, and had a thorough talk with his editor and past Moscow correspondents, but still he had always wanted a closer look at the great winter bear. Now he was working for TIME Magazine writing an article "The USSR 20 Years of Socialist Rule"
Not to mention that the USSR was the entry pot of quite a few escapees from the Domination, and that the Russians were generally considered the greatest experts on that giant anachronism to the south. That'd be an interesting contrast, the so called "New Wave" government of the USSR versus the old plantation and slavery economy of the Domination.
After a little under three days they had arrived in Moscow in the dusk, the airship had attached to the mooring mast and a soft shudder had travelled through the ship as it docked at began taking in the large amounts of water ballast that helped keep it steady. Then the ship slowly descended towards the ground, as it continued to settle the engines kicked in with their now very familiar low rumble and the ship gently settled down on the ground before being towed into the massive airship hangars. The Moscow hangars had seemed just like any other airship dock, a big tower for receiving the ship, pumps, and a large reception area for the disembarking passengers.
The customs had been unusual for an American, he had drawn a deep breath and then immediately been greeted by Lieutenant Lapshov of the MGB, who explained "Lieutenant Nikita Nikitich Lapshov, I will be your primary liaison and guide during your visit Mr Myers". Charming young man, blonde sandy hair, blue eyes, he could have stepped straight out of a recruitment poster for the US Army, if it hadn't been for his green MGB uniform, looking far more military than anything the US army had, especially with the wide Russian style shoulder boards.
They walked over to the emigrations boot, and Myer gingerly handed over his passport, they gave it a quick look, with Lt Lapshov standing by to smooth things over, and then gave it two stamps and returned it. Myer held on to it tightly looking at the stamp, weird Cyrillic one, but at least they gave him his passport back and he tucked it back into the inner pocket of his suit jacket.
Myer looked around for a bit "Where's the baggage claim?" he asked no one in particular.
"There's no need Mr Myers, your luggage is being carried out to your car," Lt Lapshov told him politely.
"Is it now? There were some ... important things there lieutenant," Myers said thinking about his money and the tape recorder that was the latest and best that the American consumer industry could make.
"Your property is quite safe I assure you Mr Myers," Lt Lapshov said.
Myers hesitated, then he decided that there was no point to standing around in a cold hangar more than he had to "Yes I suppose it is Lieutenant."
They had gone outside the hangar building through a surprisingly modern airport complex, surprisingly busy too, with hundreds of people milling about, and many large kiosks, café's and small stores, many of them still open at the late hour. If not for the Cyrillic lettering, and the somewhat shabby uniform look to everything, he could have thought himself in a western airport.
Stopping at a kiosk Myers purchased an English language newspaper, Pravda for visitors, digging out a single rouble note to pay for the paper and a bottle of some kind of local soda. As he waited for the change he leafed through the paper, noticing a large section dedicated to International Solidarity and Cultural Exchange, it appeared to be something in the air.
Outside they had found the car, it had been quite interesting actually, an old pre-Great War Stanley Sedan, with original polished wooden sides, and a large comfortable interior with room for seven. It was really quite roomy when it was only him and the Lt, and of course the driver sitting in front behind a glass screen.
They drove down the long road towards Moscow, taking them maybe a quarter of an hour, it was a big paved road with two files in each direction and not really enough transport to justify the expense in Myers mind, and what traffic they did see was biased heavily in favour of trucks and busses with only every other car being a private vehicle of some sort.
As they drove he starting reading the newspaper, "Draka atrocities in Kirghizistan" one story shouted out; "Patriation Agency Rescue Serfs From Clutches of Demonic Masters" another informed him; and the third "Chairman Krasnov proclaims: 'Hate of the Drakan vermin and the desire for their total destruction should be on the education schedule for children as young as eight'". The last one made him blink twice 'they can't be serious' he thought as they approached the outskirts of Moscow.
Outskirts of Moscow were dominated by the new constructions, which were generally huge squat apartment buildings all of them exactly identical, all of them with the same square balconies going right up the twenty floors of the building, and of course here and there the outskirts were graced by a statue or a monument of some sort or other but it was too dark to see what. The area was mostly dark, but there were street lamps, and here and there the odd window was lit up against the night.
Things got better further inside Moscow, it was an old European city, and an Imperial capital, of the sort that Myers had often visited before, nice old buildings and monuments and paved streets with an increasing level of traffic the further they got inside the city.
"We're here Mr Myers" Lt Lapshov announced, and as Jack Myers looked up he could see a large building covering maybe a city block, eight stories high and ornately constructed and very brightly lit "Hotel Baltschug Kempinski Moscow, built in 1898, and considered the most luxurious hotel in the whole of Moscow" he announced in the style of an InTourist guide "You'll be quite comfortable I hope."
As he left the car Lt Lapshov accompanied him for a bit, and Myers noticed that liveried servants were picking up the suitcases and moving them into the hotel. He followed closely behind amazed at how smoothly things were running, his one quibble was having to give up his passport to the concierge but this he had been told was standard practise in the USSR. After that he was really too exhausted to pay attention, except to notice that he had a nice room and that the bed was very soft.
HOTEL BALTSCHUG KEMPINSKI MOSCOW
UNITED SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS
Jack Myers woke up with a start, then he drew a breath of relief as memory flooded back, he was quite safe in a big soft four post bed covered with white linen, and the big soft bed was in the rather luxurious suite in the Hotel Baltschug Kempinski Moscow. As his eyes opened he noticed the sun peering in through the curtains of the bedroom window, a hotel attendant was pulling the curtains open while another was bringing in his breakfast.
"Ooouf" he muttered as he got out of bed, and staggered towards the bathroom, he motioned vaguely at the breakfast and nodded, as he turned he heard the soft clinking sounds of the table being set up. Then he entered the lavish marble bathroom, damned but the old Russians sure now how to make stuff sumptuous amazing that a place like this survived the revolution he thought as he quickly relieved himself, and then washed his hand with the gently perfumed soap 'damn thing probably cost a weeks wages for the average russkie' he thought to himself as he headed back into the bedroom.
When he returned he saw that the setting was already made for breakfast in bed, "Alright," for a bunch of commies they were certainly very service oriented he thought to himself as he slid back in bed and tucked in. Lovely food, it really was, a proper American style breakfast, first time he'd been able to have that since he arrived in Europe. Good coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, eggs sunny side up and a lot of bacon, nothing like it. Feeling generous he tipped the servants 50 kopeks each, which got the desired reaction from them as they seemed happy before they bowed and quietly withdrew.
Then after he got up he put on his dressing gown, very comfortable of cotton, with a belt tied around the waist, and some very soft slippers for him to wear as he walked over to the table where the mail had been laid out. Newspapers ironed smooth, and of course the letters from his editor, which had probably been read by the local censor, and the latest invitation from the friendly neighbourhood MGB man.
The invitation was opened first, from what he had been told by his editor an invitation from the MGB was in reality more like an order from the MGB, turning it down could often lead to your visa not being renewed the next time around, or someone might "forget" to invite you to important press conferences. Either way it was a hassle, and in general not worth it, especially since the MGB invariably had some nice piece of gossip to give you.
This invitation was sent by Lt Lapshov asking for a working lunch at the hotel restaurant, and promising "an interesting story if you are interested," 'why the hell do they think I'm here?' Myers wondered as he wrote a quick affirmative reply before pulling the bell cord and handing the reply to the servant "Please have this delivered" he said and gave the servant a ten Kopek coin as a tip.
The restaurant was indeed very nice, it seemed a throwback to the age of the Tsar though with the ornately decorated chairs and tables, the expensive linen tablecloths, the white jacketed waiters going to and fro never running or rushing but still always moving quickly and elegantly. The guests too seemed pre-Great War, Russian officers with rows and rows of medals, and huge gilded shoulderboards, the Russians were talking to German officers who were also wearing full uniforms, something which seemed very odd to Myers. That and the businessmen, either foreign or Russian Bizniz men as they were often called, a strange thing to see in a nominally Socialist country, especially as they were often quite ostentatious almost as if they were playing at being Capitalists.
Then sitting there like some grey bird was his Lt Lapshov, he didn't stand and wave but gave an indication of having seen Jack Myers, and the maitre'd was very professional and very elegant "I'm Jack Myers, I'm with Lt Lapshov, he's right there" Myers said.
"Yes Comrade Myers," the Maitre'd replied, the whole comrade thing seemed a bit out of place given the scenery, and weirdly enough it had been the first time on his visit that anyone had called him Comrade, but he motioned with a white gloved hand and a waiter arrived to follow Myers to his table.
"Well hello Lieutenant, there you are" Myers greeted him as he arrived at the table, the Lieutenant stood up at his arrival.
"Pleasure to see you again Mr Myers" Lt Lapshov replied before they both sat down and exchanged some meaningless pleasantries.
"That is a very impressive view" Myers commented as he looked out the window, he wasn't being polite it really was astonishing, a very spectacular view of the Kremlin, the Red Square, and St Basil's Cathedral. The ancient buildings were perhaps the most famous landmark in the USSR, even the regular American could take one look at a picture and recognise it. The lividly painted or gold plated onion shaped domes, the wall surrounding the Kremlin, and the large Red Square was the very symbol of Soviet might and government.
"You should see it at night, when it is all lit up" Lt Lapshov commented "It is as if it is covered in light, a piece of the otherworld made visible for us, with the city behind it, it is the magnificent gem studded crown placed upon a black silk cloth strewn with diamonds."
"My that's quite a poetic image lieutenant" Myers commented as he leafed through the restaurant menu.
"I'm Russian, we have poetic souls, it's a long ancient tradition Mr Myers" Lt Lapshov commented, while he too leafed the menu.
"You know Lieutenant, I'd like to try some traditional Russian food, could you order that, I mean take care of the ordering?" Myers asked after skimming past a long list of German and French dishes.
"Certainly" Lt Lapshov commented, before he began to order in rapid fire Russian.
Luncheon was surprisingly full, starting with a salad, a nice chicken soup, and then over to a tasty meat stew with lots of mushrooms, all of it served with freshly baked rye bread.
They continued to converse during the lunch while Lt Lapshov presented him with a travel plan "If I understood it correctly Mr Myers you wanted to see a Patriation Centre, and to get a good look at the Soviet Union, all of which is of course admirable and eminently doable, I thought that we could discuss your schedule later on today after a brief tour of Moscow."
"Yeah that sounds fine, but I got two questions lieutenant," Myers said, and before Lapshov had a chance to comment he came with the first one "First is this going to be a tourist tour kind of deal?"
"Well a tour of Moscow, brief, not strictly tourism, but if you want I can get an intourist guide to give you the full tour," Lt Lapshov commented gingerly "But I was more planning on giving you an initial look at the capital."
"Fine, fine" Myers said being more businesslike now, he wasn't about to let these commies yank him around completely, being polite was one thing, playing the game to some degree was also alright, but he knew full well that bureaucrats had to be watched "Second why the hell do you call it a Patriation Centre?" he asked genuinely curious.
"Ah well Mr Myers it is like a Repatriation Centre, only that many people that come there have never been Soviet Citizens to begin with, and therefore cannot be Repatriated and so must be patriated" Lt Lapshov explained.
"That has got to be... who came up with that name?" Myers asked incredulously.
Lt Lapshov seemed a bit hesitant "It was a committee I think" he finally ventured.
"That explains a lot" Myers muttered under his breath.
"Nothing, nothing", Myers said "So a tour of Moscow, sounds excellent, but there was mention of a story Lieutenant?"
"Ah yes we got side tracked Mr Myers, the Patriation Centre is the story, or rather a, special, new Soviet Citizen that we have there, whom I think you will find interesting" Lt Lapshov said, "I can fill you in on the details after your tour."
UNITED SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS
Myers had gotten his initial tour of Moscow, it had been interesting and enlightening enough, but he was more and more convinced that he was being given the quick "Great Socialist Civilization" round about, even if he was assured that this was not the full tour. As it were he did relent and get the full tour or an abbreviated version where he wandered about the ancient city with a guide book trying to make Moscow fit in with what he had already heard and read.
Finally, Myers thought, his photographer had been available; his account of the bureaucratic troubles that followed him had been Myers first true understanding of the USSR. "They're spooked by camera's" John Smith had explained, "You get ten times the trouble if you're travelling with a camera as you do if you're just a regular journalist, hell they wanted you to have one of THEIR cameramen during your visit."
John Smith was a brown haired young man with short cropped hair, a normal build, and his most distinctive features had to be his multipocketed vest, or the camera bags he carried with him at all times. He would move about, flashing pictures like a storm, despite Lt Lapshovs occasional pained look, 'let the bastard stew a bit' Myers generally thought on such occasions.
Myers had decided on some fluff pieces before they continued on the Patriation Centre story, normally he would have pounced on it right away, but the Commies were being a bit difficult about letting him have his own cameraman. Of course they seemed eager to have the famous Jack Myers covering the story, so spending a day out chilling, even if it went against all his newshound instincts should hopefully clear up the trouble with the Commies and the camera thing.
UNITED SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS
The duo from TIME magazine and their MGB handler were out at a randomly chosen suburban project, Brusilov Prospects, gathering background information about just how old USSR looked after twenty years of socialism.
There were maybe twenty or so apartment buildings in this prospect, and there were many prospects surrounding it, all in all a giant urban expansion. Also of course there were attempts at decorations, parks, and the various propaganda measures. The roads seemed excellent, but oddly empty in the eyes of an American; the same was true for the large but invariably only half or quarter full parking lots that marked the prospects.
The apartment buildings were roughly twenty stories high, they were in general not very nice architecturally, looking much like giant shoeboxes with square balconies attached to each floor. Along the edge of each balcony there were flower pots, where the residents would grow flowers or herbs which made it look a bit more colourful. However there was one thing that made them stand out, each apartment building had two large areas more or less flat, but instead of leaving them barren these large areas were invariably decorated by huge murals depicting revolutionary or patriotic themes. It sounded very propagandistic, but the murals varied enormously, and added quite a bit of colour to the houses, and quite frankly it was the only think that made it possible to tell them apart.
"How's it done," Myers asked as he pointed towards the lumbering apartment buildings "The murals I mean Lieutenant"
"Well Mr Myers, all new Soviet apartment buildings are decorated like this, Soviet Engineers discovered a technique where you make a painting which is then analysed, and large scale painting instructions are written down according to a system, basically the painting is converted into what is more or less giant paint by numbers instructions." Lt Lapshov explained.
"Yes, yes" Myers commented "I think they used a similar system to make billboards before large scale printing was available."
Myers looked up at the huge mural in front of him; it was a mural of a strong beautiful woman smashing a writhing serpent under her heel. The background was pastoral, very fertile, and also very Russian. He did not understand the Cyrillic writing but the words Death and Draka were there. Seemed that wherever he went there was more Soviet propaganda of this sort.
"Do you really believe all that, eh, lieutenant" Myers asked as he pointed towards the huge mural, he half regretted the question even as he asked it realising that little good would come from expecting truth from an MGB handler.
Lt Lapshov looked at the Mural, then at Myers, finally he said "I find it more incredulous that someone doesn't believe in it Mr Myers, especially an American, the Draka are the anti-thesis of enlightened humanism," then looking back briefly at the mural "You see Mr Myers, humanism is the water you swim in, it is so pervasive you do not notice it except by its absence, whether you accept your Christian 'Golden Rule' or our more Utilitarian idea of the Greatest Good for the Greatest Number, you accept the ideas and ideals of freedom... Even the dictators of Europe enact their oppression with the word freedom on their lips, but here you see Mr Myers, the Draka do not, they are a relic, the survivors of the most reactionary aristocratic slaveholders, a demon from the inconceivable past. I know this, that they are evil, and that it is us or them."
Myers and Smith were a bit surprised, but then Smith whispered "I think we just got the party line, you don't make up lines like that on the fly."
The buildings themselves had the same standard double door entrance, which looked quite heavy, and two large buzzers on the door with a loud speaker over it. None of them seemed to pay any attention to the two foreigners and their handlers, though the pair had the feeling that they were being watched secretly.
"Who do the buzzers contact?" Myers asked pointing at one of the entrances.
"The Block Captain and the caretaker," Lapshov replied immediately "Originally every apartment was to have its own buzzer, but in these tall buildings that became too cumbersome, in some of the more ... modern prospects with smaller buildings this has been implemented." He studiously avoided the words 'richer' or 'well connected' in his statement.
"The Block Captain?" Myers asked as Smith took a quick picture.
"Yes Mr Myers, the Block Captain system is part of our organisational and civil defence system, the goal is to aid in enrolling volunteers and to place them in jobs or training in line with their capacities. The entire Soviet Unit is divided into Military Districts, and each of them has several Civil Defence Districts, which are once more divided into Blocks. Each block is headed by a Block Captain, whose duties are to enrol volunteers for service as air wardens, auxiliary firemen and police, emergency medical aides, and so forth, and of course it is also his task to aid in the implementation of government information and training programs."
This got Myers attention 'Now that sounds a bit, well Soviet' he thought, indeed when Lapshov wasn't watching he sent a glance over to Smith to see what he had thought but the photographer was busy photographing.
They continued their walk down the prospect, taking in the architecture, while Lapshov commented "In general we prefer to build outwards rather than upwards, but in highly centralised areas such as the region around Moscow space is at a premium, which is somewhat unusual for Russia Mr Myers."
The rest of the prospect was also interesting, there were of course propaganda posters everywhere, but oddly enough there were a lot of regular advertisements too, ads for movies, consumer products of various sorts, and informational posters too. Of course everything was very drab other than the posters and the painted murals, the preferred building material was concrete, and the roads were either asphalt or thick gravel. Certainly there were playgrounds for children, as well as the odd lawn and tree planted, but all of this was overshadowed to some degree by the architecture surrounding them.
To Jack Myers this began to confirm his views of the Soviet Union as a place somewhat bleak, and perhaps unpleasantly authoritarian, but still not the collectivist nightmare that anti-communists would talk about. After all he had seen the Baltchug Kempinski Hotel, and large apartment sections like this existed in America too.
"Of course near or in each prospect there is also a market or a convenience store," Lt Lapshov continued as they proceeded through the prospect.
He now motioned towards a mid sized two story building, the first store or ground floor had a set of large windows set in the front, and the second story had a set of regular sized windows along the front. Between the first and second floor there was a half roof jutting out maybe five feet into the air giving some shelter to passers by when it was raining. The whole building was painted in a mixture of straw yellow and yellowing white, creating a slightly disagreeable image. Naturally one of the windowless sides of the building were decorated with a suitable revolutionary image of The Revolution, or was it meant to be Mother Russia, holding a cornucopia from which flowed a boundless stream of goods into the waiting hands of the cheerful people.
"The Moscow Region Workers and Peoples Co-Operative Store, Brusilov Prospects Department" Lt Lapshov translated the text above the door, then he went on "First floor, or ground floor as some call it, has a small café, and a super market with a book and magazines section, the second floor above it contains a clothing store, and a general goods section with some general consumer products," he told the two foreign visitors as the three of them walked towards the entrance of the store.
"Been here before Lieutenant," Myers asked genuinely curious, as he looked through the dirty windows into the store, it seemed a bit drab from the outside but there wasn't much he could see.
"No Mr Myers" Lt Lapshov told him "They're all laid out the same way you see, it improves efficiency and ensures a single uniform experience to the customers, people like the idea of being able to find the same wherever they go."
"Same store wherever you go?" Myers asked "I don't know that sounds a bit odd to me Lieutenant, don't people want some diversity?"
"On the contrary Mr Myers, it seems that the people want familiarity and availability at least that is the finding of the Travellers Inns, who also operate on a similar principle."
"I think we got fast food joints in the old US operating on the same principle," John Smith shot in unexpectedly as they opened the door leading into the store.
"Isn't that the one being run by that Ray Croc fellow?" added Myers.
"Yeah, I forget the name though, MacGregor or something like that."
The store itself was unsurprisingly drab; there were the two cash registers behind which there were several large cabinets with metal doors that were kept closed. The store area itself consisted of shelves filled with various goods, and in the rear a refrigerator section where perishable goods were stored. There were also a collection of shopping hampers and trolleys.
The goods essentially came in one category, there was wheat flour, barley, rye, milk, cream, and so forth but there was only one brand of each product aside from bread where there were three kinds, and cheese where there were two kinds. All the products seemed to come in rather drab packaging too there was black and white lettering and some kind of image associated with that product, usually black and white, but once in a rare while it was in colour.
The refrigerators seemed to come in two classes, the rear wall model with glass doors that you had to open to get at the goods and the floor models which were covered with sliding glass covers to get at the goods. Oddly enough most of them seemed to have been converted into glorified iceboxes, because there were slabs of ice at the bottom of every one of them.
When asked what the Cyrillic lettering on the note stuck to all the glass doors where Lt Lapshov replied "It says 'close the door quickly please Comrade, help conserve power.'"
Looking at his charges Lt Lapshov commented "The Soviet stores concentrate on providing needed products cheaply to the consumer, ensuring that everyone has enough, diversity takes second place to full bellies and warm children, we would rather have one kind of bread and milk that the workers can afford, rather than five different brands that they cannot. I hope you understand Mr Myers."
Then after hesitating a moment he added, in a friendlier tone, but slightly sad as if remembering something from a less pleasant past "One of the parties slogans in the late 1910s and the early 1920s were 'a glass of milk a day for all the Soviet children, and bread for all the workers families' and now every Soviet citizen can buy as much milk and bread as he desires, before you've been truly hungry you cannot understand what a miracle this is in the eyes of the people Mr Myers."
Before Jack Myers inner eye came the images of scrawny children in the South, beset with pellagra and other ailments, that and the memory of things like rickets, caused because poor parents could not afford milk for their children. Indeed he was old enough to remember when similar demands were all the rage among Communist agitators in the United States proper, indeed perhaps they still were in the poorer states.
However he wasn't so dim that he did not also know that he had just been served up a line of propaganda mixed with some truth, and that of course was the best kind. The store may be a major advance over Tsarist Russia, but it was still drab and with a poor selection.
"I think I saw ads for a bunch of goods which are not here lieutenant," Myers commented absentmindedly as he picked up some bottles of soda and kvas.
"Those would be sold at department stores or at farmers markets," Lt Lapshov commented "They have greater selection, but often higher prices too."
As they drew near the cash registers Myers noticed three things, first the stands of magazines and paperback books; second that the staff were definitely curious about him; and third that something was odd, something seemed to be missing "What IS missing" he asked in a low whisper mostly to himself.
"Candy Mr Myers" Smith interjected, "There's no chocolate and candy stands near the exit."
Smith was of course right, there weren't, and when Myers looked about the cigarettes were also noticeable by their absence. "Where's the candy and the tobacco?"
"In the cabinets behind the cash registers," Lt Lapshov explained, "It is partially a health measure, and partially an anti-theft measure."
Looking up at the roof Myers noticed several rounded mirrors allowing the staff to see everything going on inside the store 'sheeze these guys are a tad paranoid' he thought to himself.
Myers then quickly scooped up a handful of adolescent level comic books, foreign literature could only be read in translation, but he figured he could look at comics and get the picture right away. "These any good," he asked holding one up.
"Yes those are suitable for the Pioneers," Lt Lapshov commented cheerfully "Printed by the various Peoples and Workers Printshops and Publishers that provide the Soviet Union with its free press."
The covers seemed a tad reminiscent of Boys Own Adventure comics, or the American Pulp comics. Big splash pages with a bit of colour, and the promise of glorious adventure inside.
As they reached the cashiers register Myers commented "I'd like a pack of cigarettes," he said "Could you translate please Lieutenant?"
Lt Lapshov obligingly did just that, and the cabinets in the rear were opened revealing their contents. For the first time Myers was surprised, eight kinds of tobacco, that is four different kinds of cigarettes, two loose kinds of tobacco, a snuff and a kind of chewing tobacco; yet that was nothing compared to the sixteen different varieties of Vodka, four varieties of cognac, and eight varieties of fortified wines, indeed they seemed to have a relatively well stocked tobacconist and liquor store tucked away in those large cabinets.
"Eh, I'll have those cigarettes with the big dog on them," Myers said as he pointed at the brand he wanted, he also noticed that there were not all that many packs of cigarettes but there were large long crates filled with loose cigarettes apparently they were mostly sold singly rather than in packs.
After Myers received his cigarettes and paid for the goods, which were quite reasonably priced, Lt Lapshov commented "They're called Friend Mr Myers, the cigarette brand that is."
The upstairs store wasn't any better, the clothes store had four kinds of clothes, child and adult, male and female, and three sizes small, medium, and large, explaining why most people didn't seem to fit their clothes all too well. Of course they also sold other knickknacks, tableware, needles, and oddly enough souvenirs, though these were in the back and seemed dusted down.
Still Myers was relatively pleased, as far as he could tell he had seen the real USSR rather than some Potemkin village, and his idea of a balanced report on the USSR seemed to be shaping up just fine 'In the best traditions of TIME magazine he thought to himself.
UNITED SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS
Back at the hotel room Myers and Smith sat down and checked the comics, feeling a bit curious about what Soviet youth were reading, so they spread them out on a desk and divided them in two piles before quickly flipping through them.
The stories within could be divided into three rough classes, first were the inspirational stories; second stories from Russian history, mostly pre-19th Century; third the war stories.
First category was pretty much what you'd expect, story lines were simple and along the lines of youth working long and hard to bring in a bumper crop; a group of youths discovering and foiling a wicked criminal plot; and a perennial favourite: the athletics competition. In short your regular boys and girls adventure books, nothing particularly interesting here.
Second category oddly enough included what you'd consider fantasy, at least one of the magazines they examined had a retelling of the story of St George and the Dragon; mostly it basically retellings of great events in history, but with a heavy Russian emphasis.
Third category however was... the enemy was the Draka and a very simple protocol seemed to apply: the Draka were all efficient and dangerous, but utterly evil and depraved with naught in their minds other than conquest, loot and rapine (the latter implied rather than shown openly), the Janissaries were either simple brutal thugs, or else oppressed proletarians who eventually defected or turned on their masters. The level of violence and the level of vitriol was however shocking for something that was meant to be read by teens.
"Are they serious?" Myers asked again, he had heard about the vicious Soviet anti-Draka propaganda, but this was the first time that he had seen it up close and personal like this.
"I don't know, but this one is set in the Civil War," John Smith commented, "and I think I saw my nephew reading this comic."
"Your nephew reads comics about the Russian Civil War?" Myers asked incredulously giving his photographer a long look.
"No, you don't get it, this one is set in OUR Civil War," Smith reported holding it up for Myers to see the familiar scenes of bluecoats and greycoats.
"I'm beginning to sense a pattern here," Myers said slowly "and I think I just figured out the answer to my question... They really ARE serious!" he said as put down one of the comics 'Well a lot of people back home are STILL pissed at the Draka, but this...' he thought to himself.
"Say, I don't think they got THESE panels back home in the states," Smith commented as he looked at what appeared to be some panels cleverly inserted into the story. They invariably showed some poor black getting his chains broken off, or some poor Southern farmer whose family was exploited by rich slave owners while he was off fighting for his State. Interestingly enough the style was almost identical to the other panels, and only by spotting "Commie Propaganda" could they figure out what was what.
Quite frankly this whole country was making less and less sense, they had one brand of milk and three of bread, but sixteen kinds of Vodka, 'The Soviet stores concentrate on providing needed products cheaply to the consumer, ensuring that everyone has enough, diversity takes second place, my aunt fannies backside' Myers thought to himself as he began scribbling notes in shorthand for his article.
GREAT MOTHER ROAD
EAST OF MOSCOW ON THE ROAD TO VLADIMIR
UNITED SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS
Myers couldn't help but notice the road that they were driving on, he had thought that the earlier two lanes in each direction between Moscow and the airport had been excessive, but this... Now this was a road which was four lanes of asphalt in each direction, eight in total, separated by an elevated concrete field in the middle. It reminded him very much of the famous German autobahns, or the proposed Highway network that automobile proponents wanted to build in America.
He was in the same Stanley Sedan as had picked him up at the airport when he first arrived in Moscow, he had asked for it since it was a very comfortable ride and right now that was what he needed. As he leaned back into the soft leather seats he looked at Lt Lapshov and John Smith the imaginatively named photographer. He was glad he had Smith with him, the photographer was more experienced with Soviet conditions and, unlike many, knew when taking photographs was a bad idea, and when it should be done anyway but very discretely.
The Stanley Sedan was moving quickly and quietly down the good road, it practically had the whole of the road to itself, and this allowed Myers to relax and enjoy the scenery. First thing that he noticed is that Russia reminded him a lot of America in a strange way that is the vast endless distances and the enormous never ending fields of grain that seemed to stretch out all the way into the horizon. As they went further down the road the farms and fields of grain became interspaced with enormous, also seemingly never ending forests which towered over the insignificant achievements of man.
Second he began to notice that the farmers were often using either motorized farm tools, or else at least mechanical horse powered ones, the image that he had of the vast primitive Soviet agriculture seemed to be more and more out of place; oh certainly nothing he saw here could measure up in modernity or efficiency to the American farmers on the great plains, but it wasn't the primitive agrarian society he had halfway come to expect. Where they came across lumber camps working the forests they too were surprisingly mechanized, to be sure there were many horses, but there were also many steam engines and trucks working there.
Third and very peculiarly there were billboards along the road, now these he had read about in guidebooks, but it was quite different to see them in the flesh as it were. The billboards were a peculiar mixture of regular advertisements of the kind he would expect to see in America, but as he was getting used to that there would suddenly come something that threw him for a bit. For instance after ads for soda's, radio's, and so forth there'd suddenly be some incredibly heroic looking fellow either doing something nasty to the Draka, or else holding a giant pinwheel or a bundle of grain.
"What does that one say" Myers asked as they drove past one big sign of a heroic fellow pouring molten iron into forms.
"That one says 'Twenty million tons of pig iron'" Lt Lapshov replied.
Myers looked back at the vanishing sign "Yes, yes, I can see how that's an inspiring slogan," then he added "What's pig iron?"
"I don't know what pig iron is, but" Lt Lapshov held up his index finger "I know that it is GOOD that we have twenty million tons of it!" He continued with enthusiasm in his voice.
Myers gave him an odd look, he could swear that Lapshov was pulling his leg a bit, but he wasn't really sure, still hopefully they'd reach the Patriation Centre soon and he could get that story that they had ballyhooed so much lately.
VLADIMIR WEST RUSSIAN PATRIATION CENTRE
UNITED SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS
The drive up to the Patriation Centre was quite interesting, the Centre itself was not in Vladimir proper but near it, and it was a couple of kilometres away from the exit ramp of the Great Mother Road. Surrounding the Centre were woods, tall great woods, with lots of signs on them with text written in big bold letters "Have your identification ready", Lapshov translated it as.
The entrance however seemed strangely prosaic, the road widened somewhat and you drove up to a check point where there was a small group of MGB men that carefully examined their papers and looked at all the men in the car. Then after a few moments they raised the gate and waved the Stanley Steamer through.
As they entered the Centre proper they passed between two huge statues, both of them depicting heroic labourers having broken their chains, and now proudly holding a hammer or a sickle up in the air. The road had now turned to gravel, and crunched pleasantly beneath the wheels of the Stanley as they proceeded further inside the Centre. The centre buildings rose up maybe a hundred yards away as they pulled into the nearly empty parking lot, as they got out Myers took a deep breath, there was a scent of forest, grass, flowers and barnyards.
The Centre itself was dominated by a wide open park square surrounded in a horse shoe pattern by some nine buildings all four stories high. The square was maybe two hundred feet by two hundred feet wide, close by the buildings there was a ten foot wide gravel walkway. Other than that the grass seemed very green and well tended to, in the centre there was a large pedestal with a statue on it of Lenin, Trotsky and Krasnov standing there looking suitably like the Great Leader. This pedestal was surrounded by a very well tended flower bed, red roses seemed to dominate appropriately enough though they were definitely early bloomers.
"Bit cold for roses" Myers commented, noticing that it was still chilly outside he zipped up his jacket and shivered a bit. Smith was flashing off a couple of photographs as they walked towards the centre, the photographer seemed unaffected by the cold, so did Lt Lapshov but he had his long Army coat, although he wore it open in front.
Lt Lapshov smiled "I am sure that the manager of the Patriation Centre will fill you in more thoroughly, but the Soviet Union is not a primitive nation in gardening matters either, there are heating pipes beneath this entire square, and especially around the flower bed, ensuring that it stays clear and fertile all year round."
"Right," Myers said as they walked towards the building complex, he cast a glance towards Smith and stifled a smile as he saw Smith mouthing 'POTEMKIN' in a rather exaggerated fashion while Lt Lapshovs back was turned.
As they drew nearer they could get a closer view of the nine houses making up the large horseshoe, they were all four stories high with a large mansard roof jutting upwards. Each had a number of balconies on the front side that was facing the square, the large windows had neat curtains covering them, and in many you could spot a flowerpot or two, and ascending from the balconies were fire-escape ladders made from dark iron. The front of each house was decorated mainly by smaller mural figures like workers and farmers, floral patterns and so forth, with a large ornate Soviet symbol over each main entrance door. The sides however, that is the narrow sides pointing towards the other houses, had no windows or protrusions and as such presented perfect areas for large scale murals, all the houses had their own unique mural which came into three classes rural designs, industrial designs, and of course Revolutionary designs.
The house in the middle of the horseshoe was different from the others though it had an extremely ornate Soviet coat of arms above the somewhat larger front door, and above it was an unusually large balcony with flagpoles on either side. There was also a large sign over the main door, with big official looking lettering.
"Main Administrative Building for the Vladimir Western Russian Patriation Centre" Lt Lapshov translated the sign as they proceeded towards the door.
The door was somewhat different in that there were multiple buzzers there, all of them marked neatly with Cyrillic writing, and of course a speaker there too. Lapshov however simply pushed the door open and walked inside, immediately they found themselves facing a short corridor and yet another door "Two doors Mr Myers" he commented "Helps to keep the heat in during winter you see."
Past the second door they entered a standard reception area, there were hat racks and coat racks, as well as a belaboured receptionist sitting behind a desk, she was wearing a corporals shoulderboards on her MGB uniform. Myers noticed that she was cute, and strangely re-assuring to see, upon their entrance she commented "Good morning Lieutenant, Mr Myers, Mr Smith, the General is waiting for you in his quarters."
"You speak English Miss" Myers commented, kicking himself for being surprised 'Of course they speak English, how the hell else are they going to talk to the serfs' he thought to himself just as the words escaped his mouth.
After casting a quick glance over to Lt Lapshov the woman replied "Yes Mr Myers I speak English, and I am Corporal Natalia Ivanova Smirnova." She gave him a friendly smile and tilted her head a little, in a very disarming fashion "I hope you will have a nice stay Mr Myers," she said sounding very friendly.
"I'm sure I will Corporal Smirnova" Myers said, feeling much less silly, then noticing Lt Lapshov he commented "Yes the general, the big story."
"I know the way" Lt Lapshov said as they proceeded further into the administration building, it wasn't that long a walk and the building seemed on the inside like any office building they had seen people going to and fro with folders under their arm drinking tea in glasses, typing, filing, and generally doing average office work. They then proceeded down a corridor where the doors were generally closed, the ones open peered into what appeared to be a pretty standard office.
Finally they entered another reception area, this one had a door with an imposing sign on it in the rear. The floor was carpeted with wall to wall carpets, and there were many chairs in the room surrounding small round tables placed upon the floor. Sitting behind a big wooden desk with tons of paper on it was another secretary, somewhat bleary eyed and not nearly as perky or pretty as the one at the front gate, but wearing more ornate shoulderboards to be sure.
She pushed a button on the intercom as she saw them coming and said something in Russian, after getting a garbled response she looked up and told them "Lieutenant Lapshov and Mr Myers please to go inside, the General will see you now."
They proceeded past her desk and Lt Lapshov opened the door, and they entered an office which was, well, hard to describe really it was one part Tsarist opulence, one part Persian orient, and one part something else but he wasn't quite sure what.
Multiple deep Persian carpets, very colourful and beautifully woven covered the floor, the intricate floral and bird designs were lovely, and they were deep, oh so deep too. Though not an expert Myers felt how soft they were and wondered just how expensive they had been, he had seen Persian carpets before and these seemed very high quality.
The walls were covered with oak panelling, and adorned with tapestries of intricate and peculiar design, as well as multiple paintings, mostly of landscape scenes, but also of ethnic people in colourful costumes, and the backdrop was always mountains or large steppes.
The weapons adorning the wall were peculiar looking rifles, not Russian for sure, and there were also long knives almost swords many of them seeming quite sharp and efficient being displayed there, all of them almost like trophies. Beneath them there were on the left and right side of the room two pedestals on each side, and an ornate glass bowl was on top of each of them, peering curiously at it Myers noticed that they seemed to be filled with rings, thin silver chains, and ear rings.
There were of course also some several bookshelves, all of them made out of dark heavy wood, and filled with dark leather bound tomes, all looking very official and foreboding. Against the side of one wall, near the desk, there was a large drinks cabinet also made out of dark wood with glass panelled doors showing rows of bottles and glasses inside.
Towards the rear end of the room there was a large window, it was covered with thin gauze curtains which allowed light to come through without allowing anyone to see in or out, on each side there were large heavier red curtains. Against the rear wall leaned a slim table upon which various objects d'art had been placed. Finally there was a Sovet flag in a small flag pole in one of the corners, looking very official and reminding Myers of similar displays made by American politicians.
All of this however created the centrepiece around the massively huge desk that was also towards the rear, it was a dark wooden desk heavily varnished much wider and broader than contemporary desks, it somehow seemed old. It was covered with a mountain of documents, a handful of photographs, and various other bits and ends.
Behind it sat an old man in a generals uniform, his chest covered with medals of various sorts, many of them looking forbiddingly huge and impressive. He himself was oddly enough your average old Russian gentleman, that was the air he gave of, old and white bearded with big bushy white eyebrows, a bit heavyset, and piercing eyes. Oddly enough Myers thought he vaguely recognised this man.
"Lieutenant Lapshov," the general said as he looked up from his papers.
"Greetings Comrade General Dzhambalov, please allow me to introduce to you Jack Myers, reporter from TIME magazine, and his photographer John Smith, then turning to Myers and Smith he added "This is General Dzhambalov, hero of Dzhambal."
"A nom de guerre," the General barked out "They are quite common in the Soviet Union Mr Myers, better get used to them." His English was understandable though with a heavy Slavic accent, though his French was pronounced much more properly. Then suddenly he pointed at the chairs and said "Please do sit down, sit, sit, I've been told why you are here, but... I wanted to meet you myself first, to get to speak to you."
"That is all well and good General, and I think I've read your book on the Dzhambal campaign, they translated the title to 'Eastern Memories'", Myers commented pleased that his childhood and adolescent reading frenzy had allowed him to pick up this book. It had been relatively well written and exciting, but of course when he was younger he had only been allowed the abridged version, and then when he had gotten the unabridged version years later it had been an eye opener.
Dzhambalov looked at him curiously "Hohumm, so you read the exciting one yes?" He said while looking carefully at Myers.
"Yes General you're one of the few men that have actually defeated the Drakan armies in the field," Myers said flattering him somewhat.
The General shook his head sadly, "No Mr Myers, no, alas I am ... I have become Brusilov, one single moment, one single campaign of blinding brilliance, and then," he motioned to the room "A giant monument to memories, and to my single vow, that I shall return."
"So you still hold to the vow you made," Myers was very pleased at remembering that detail from the book "That you should return to Dzhambal, you see it happening?"
"Yes" the General said with a finality that brooked no disagreement "Mr Myer, my office is a monument to memories, but it is a good memory, they can be beaten, and we shall return." He broke of "Tell me have you ever interviewed escaped serfs?"
Myers noticed the sudden change of subject, not exactly subtle either, he considered pushing with his own questions but then he figured that he might as well play along for a bit longer. At any rate he had already seen big chunks of the Soviet Union that were not commonly the subject of articles, and for some reason he found this interesting.
"Yes I have, I interviewed some helped by the Friends Service Committee, and of course I've been in contact with the Frederic Douglass Society," Myers began mentioning the two main US based anti-slavery groups, "Of course I generally spoke to selected spokespersons at that time, people that had been there for a few years."
"Good, you see though, you realise that these people are often fragile, and have had very traumatic experiences, and that people responsible for them worry before letting strangers ... hmm... inter... view them Mr Myer" the General said, though Myers could swear the word 'interrogate' had been on his lips.
"Sir, I can assure you that I am not some mud racker, and I assure you that there is a great difference between giving a friendly interview to a poor victim of misfortune, and grilling," realising where he was Myers added "Figuratively of course," before going on "a corrupt Senator or villainous businessman, I've interviewed disaster victims before and escaped serfs and none of them seemed the worse for it." He spoke calmly and collectedly, in a conciliatory tone realising that he was getting a bit agitated but he controlled it perfectly 'This had better be worth it' he thought to himself.
The General once more nodded and went "Good, good Mr Myer, but we must be careful you see."
Finally Myers decided to be bold "General, please excuse me but I've been told that that there is this great story here for me, but no one has told me what it is. Now, if you forgive me General but I get the same feeling now that I got the last time I wanted to date a girl, when her father gave me a long thoroughly look over." Myers looked at the two Russians, he was starting to get a little fed up by now, but then he smiled realising something "It's a child or a woman isn't it?"
The general raised an eyebrow at this sudden outburst, but then he smiled and chuckled and said something in Russian which made Lt Lapshov seem somewhat uncomfortable. That brought out another comment which really made Lapshov uncomfortable, but he replied in the same language.
Finally the general turned back to Myers "You are brash and impatient, but," he wagged his finger "Perceptive, I'll give you that, good in a journalist, hmmmm, yes this is not some ordinary runaway serf story, we have many many of those," he motioned his hand vaguely "The Abolitionist Society publishes them by the barrel, and they are so sad but no one pays much attention."
"So I'm right am I not Sir?" Myers asked, now this was unusual a child or a woman? Now a child would be somewhat odd, perhaps not the scoop you'd imagine unless of course she was the child of some Drakan aristocrat smuggled out by her father, but how likely was that?
The General nodded "Yes, you are right, and this is a very special one, we are greatly concerned with..." he paused "her well being, you will be the first foreigner, the first reporter, to be allowed to speak with her."
"I assure you that..." Myers sighed inwardly 'Russians' he thought "I will not cause her any undue stress Sir."
"Good, then we will relocate ourselves, this office is far too dark and gloomy a place for such a discussion to be held," the General said as he rose "Come now Mr Myer we have a conference room suitable for such things."
Quickly the whole party shuffled out of the office, with Myer wondering why this entire song and dance act was necessary for an interview with an escaped serf, but at the same time not wanting to lose access to this story 'hell even an interview with the Hero of Dzhambal would be worth the trip here and the whole rigmarole' he thought as he went along.
VLADIMIR WEST RUSSIAN
UNITED SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS
The walk over to the conference room had been a short one, and quite undisturbed, during which Smith pulled out his camera and rewound it, it was a nice Leica with carefully machined parts and a metal cap in front of the objective. "How's the lighting in the conference room," he asked absentmindedly as they moved, reaching into his photography bag for his flashlight.
"Lighting is good," Lt Lapshov replied quietly "Don't worry, you'll get some good photo's, and please put that flash away I think the person you're meeting would find it... bothersome." Lapshov looked at General Dzhambalov who was walking alongside Myers, he nodded at the General "He wouldn't like that Comrade Photographer."
They reached the door, much like any other with a brass plaque on it saying something forbiddingly official no doubt, but since it was in Cyrillic Myers couldn't really read it. Lt Lapshov moved forth and opened the door for the general who strode into the room beyond, Myers and Smith exchanged glances, with Smith hefting his camera, before they too entered.
The room was decorated in a somewhat peculiar style, the pre-dominant colour was white, that is there was a large white wall to wall carpet, the walls and roof were also painted white. However there was also a touch of colour brought about by the use of red bricks in a very pleasing rusty red colour, set in one of the side walls was a large brick fireplace where a lusty fire roared, next to it was a large bronze cauldron with thin walls it was filled with firewood. Above the fireplace stood a mantel, whereupon was placed a single elegant clock, the only one in the room, it was gold and ivory and very pretty, a relic of the Tsarist period. To either side of the fireplace there were Spanish arches made from the same brick as the fireplace itself, they added some colour to the room and inside of the arches were bookshelves stacked high with various books bound in brown or black leather. The far wall itself consisted mainly of large arched glass windows, with a set of glass doors in the middle, and a balcony outside that again, the windows had lovely red drapes and white gauze curtains on either side of them.
The room certainly provided excellent contrast for a photographer to work with, but that wasn't really what drew their attention, in the middle of the room perfectly placed as the centrepiece was a round table with a beautiful samovar in the middle. Spread round the table lay pastries on painted ceramic plates, and Russian style tea glasses.
Sitting on one of the old tsarist chairs there was a young woman, she was wearing a white shirt and a long blue skirt, when she saw that there were visitors she rose and smiled shyly. Myers felt that his mouth opened a little come now, you've seen movie stars... but he hadn't expected to meet one here, she was beautiful golden blonde hair, deep blue eyes that peered innocently at the new visitors, she was so obviously white, and even her shirt though modest showed that she was a healthy girl, and her skirt showed the begins of some lovely legs. Yet attention immediately flew to the orange numbers tattooed beneath her right ear, the mark of the serfs.
A second later Myers had collected himself as he heard a single photo snapped by Smith right, bit of a surprise, but you can do this, and it should be a good story too he proceeded further into the room.
"It has nice, uh, contrast" Smith said sheepishly and clammed up quickly at Myers glance.
"Calista Simonova, let me introduce to you Jack Myers, journalist for TIME Magazine, and his companion the photographer John Smith," General Dzhambalov told the young woman, motioning to both of them in turn, and then turning to the two Americans he said "This is Calista Simonova Papadopoulou, a poor unfortunate of the Greek extraction that has through her own efforts freed herself of the yoke."
As he said the last bit her hand flew back as if to brush back some hair, but she briefly placed it just below her right ear as if to hide her tattoo, finally though she extended her hand and said "Pleas' t' make yoah ah'quatince suh, so sorry foh mah bad English, but ah speak it as ah was taught it." She smiled nervously, perhaps a bit embarrassed, as they shook hands.
Myers felt her hand, it was soft and smooth, the hands of an artist or an actress, not the calloused hands of the field workers or mechanics that he had previously met. He felt his heart go out to her poor thing, no poor woman he corrected himself, but she seemed so helpless and terrified that any man would want to protect her. I'm sure finding this one was enough to make the commies believe in god he thought in a more cynical moment, but there it was.
"Please let us sit down Comrades" the General said as he motioned towards the chairs, Lapshov quickly pulled out the generals chair before they all sat down around the table.
Calista immediately began serving the tea, the ritual of which seemed charming, first she pulled a protective woollen cap of sorts away from a small teapot and poured out some of the amber fluid within into a tea glass that was held in a metal holder with a handle for handleless glasses. Then she put the glass beneath the spigot of the samovar and opened it filling the glass. Looking at the guests she asked gently "Sweet'n?" as she held up a small vial of honey, getting an affirmative answer she poured some honey in before passing the tea on.
"It's very interesting," Myers commented making lose chit chat at first, he sipped his tea and looked at the Samovar.
"The essence of Russian tea is Zavarka Mr Myers, tea concentrate, that is the contents of the little pot, don't drink from it directly it is bad for you, the Zavarka is then diluted with very hot water that has been brought to a boil and allowed to cool a bit, and served in tea glasses," General Dzhambalov explained in the voice of a man that had made this little speech many times before to ignorant foreigners.
"Yes that's lovely General," Myers commented, then he looked at Calista, she was being very nice and helpful "Not to be too forward but what is your story," he began to work out his notepad and his much used pencil to take some short hand notes.
Calista first looked at General Dzhambalov, then seeing his nod she began to talk "Ah wuz, was," she struggled a bit to fight back her accent seeming very sweet as she did "Born in de Pontian Province, ah guess that mah mother was ah forced to da bed of the overseah, even though she married back then, but serf marriage they don' matter none. She tell me that they don' have any blue eyes on heah side of the family, but lucks has it that greeks do sometimes have blond haeah an' sometimes blue eyes too, but at any rates she didn' see much good in punishin' her own chil' fo' her fathahs misdeeds."
"We weahz good Orthodox the lot of us, an' we still 'membuh oah old tongue, that is Greek, language o' the classical era, the language o' the cradle of the west, but it be very bad form ta' speak Greek fo' the overseahs and de born serfs from Afreka they don' like it when yo talk a language they don' understand," she smiled a bit "so iffen they don' kill ya we be sure to use it a lot, and preten' we so dumb that we couldna figur' out English, even' that ugly form of it that they use in Snakeland."
"As ah wuz sayin' we weah good Orthodox, and we don' like it when people go on beddin' without proper rites and marriage an' all, so even when we don' have a choice we don' like it. You heah a lot about how the massah and mistis nevah have any problem findin' volunteers, but that a lie, iffen you out in the fields working yoah flesh to the bone, you may be despr'at enough ta do anythin' ta get out. I can tell you that ah nevah saw none gettin' any special benefit' from givin' it up, not that you had any choice in da matter, to the overseahs or the movers, but you better be actin' willin' or you be in real trouble."
Mentally Myers now began translating what she said into proper English as he took the notes damn this jargon, even the citizens sound like they stepped right of the buss from South Georgia and he could hardly write it down like this either.
"My mother wasn't a pretty woman, now I love her but that is Gods truth, all women are nice when they're young, or so I've been told, but aside from that wild rose beauty of youth they sure enough soon turn into old hags at the age of thirty five. Never mind, I just want to make sure you understand that no one figured I'd turn into being all that good looking, so I was out working with my mother and my family I was out working in the fields."
"Now the plantation I worked in it was an olive plantation, there weren't a lot of them about in Pontus because the land was so poor and the location so difficult that most of it had been turned into a big preserve. So we were olive pickers, now I know there's a joke about swarthy olive pickers, but let me tell you that most of the folks there were as white as I am, tanned a bit by the sun to be sure, but if you think being white protects you, heh, you got another thing coming. Never mind we were picking olives, crushing them to make olive oil, and pretty much anything that wasn't olives had to be bought from outside. When it weren't the season we were used as crude labour on archaeological digs, that was bitter for my mother and father, and secretly they whispered to me that we built that, we built all those magnificent monuments that we were now slaving to uncover."
"You have no idea of the suffering I've seen, there weren't anymore partisans around where we lived, but we heard rumours that there were still bushmen hiding up in the mountains. That's what they call anyone who isn't a serf or a Draka but live in the Domination, they call them bushmen, and they often hunt them for sport. I've seen dumb brutes with little scars right here," she tapped her temple "They cut your head open and stick in a knitting pin and twist it about, then you're so messed up that you don't do anything bad anymore, and once that's done I hear you don't even remember your own name. Citizens, even the bulls or strawbosses, they take any women they want, sometimes they force even young boys to come along with them."
"I had a boyfriend once, we were chaste, we were good Christians, like most of the people on the plantation, and we didn't do anything without our parents permission. I remember it because it was a nice year, I was maybe fourteen, he was maybe a year older, very handsome, he was... he was so kind and sweet, brought me flowers, whispered poetic things, he could sing, he loved me so, and he told me he did, that he wanted to marry me. I don't know if it was just a puppy crush, but he was so strong and firm and romantic, but then of course he also had thick dark hair, smooth bronze skin, he had a body like one of those Greek statues, yes women see those things too."
"The overseer, a new guy, nothing too bad by the way, he noticed too, didn't care for me, but he noticed my sweetheart. So the overseer took him to his quarters, and he came back different, refused to see me, or even talk to people, and I didn't know what was wrong. Then later I overheard two of them, overseers that is, talking about how good it was here, and the one that took my sweetheart, my sweet Demetrius, he bragged that it was good to be stationed here because he fancied boys the most and the Greeks invented it." A couple of tears ran down her cheeks.
"A few months later I was taken up to the big house, it was a lovely place, it looked just like a classical building, and it was filled with all kinds of looted antiques. They had noticed me you see, I had grown to be very beautiful, so had a few of the other girls and boys on the plantation, and we were being sold off. I'm not sure why the master decided to sell us off, for the longest time I wracked my mind trying to understand, but finally I realised he did it because it served his interests and we were cattle."
"We were all given a medical examination by the doctor on the scene, it was very thorough before we got a bill of health for our sale. We had to strip naked in the examination room and stand in line, then they'd call us over one after one and examine us. When they found out that I was still a virgin, even though I was pretty and nearly fifteen, they were very surprised... oh lord... they were quite happy actually, they mentioned how it boosted my sales price from five to maybe seven hundred Aurics, not just my... well... but that I had kept it suggested I was just right for a certain kind of buyer..." She stopped, her voice was getting a bit strained.
"Are you alright, we can stop a bit," Myers said, casting a worried glance at the General as well, he didn't seem too pleased either.
"No, no, thank you kindly," she sent him a brave smile and wiped her tears, and Myers felt so angry, he had to let go of his pencil not to break it those bastard Draka! he thought angrily, somehow hearing her story in person it was horrid.
"They... ah... they also sold of my Demetrius, I saw him get loaded aboard a separate autosteamer truck, I begged them to let me say goodbye to him, but they just cuffed me and told me to be obedient, and then they cuffed me again when I started crying. So they drove us to Trebizond, it's a lovely city, very pretty, I actually got to see a bit of it peering out from the truck, and later on when they were getting ready to sell us." She smiled "I know, but I did notice the city, I was so curious, I had never been of my plantation before, and you know people are curious about new things, even under horrible circumstances. I remember when we got to the top of this big hill, for some reason they let us out to stretch our legs and do our business in the road side, and I could see this big beautiful city stretched out beneath me. I was literally looking down upon the Draka, and I rather like that. I've seen pictures later on, in books, about classical Greece, and it looked a lot like that, except of course Trebizond was... it was like, I don't know, it was like they wanted to squeeze in as much decorations as possible."
Calista looked at the general seeming a bit befuddled, the General smiled and said "The word you are looking for Calista Simonova, is Kitch"
Calista beamed a bit "Yes Mr Myers, the General is very kind to remind me, the city and the Drakan taste is like, oh, someone who got very rich and now pretends to be an aristocrat to flaunt their wealth but don't know how. It's the same with their thumb rings and ear rings and personal jewellery, its like the Draka loves finding new ways to show of their wealth, and to play aristocrat. Just like those very rich southern planters I understand, the ones who abandoned America and fled to the Domination after the Civil War."
Myers couldn't help himself okay she may be real, but that last bit... "Tell me, did someone tell you about that last bit?" he asked her in friendly voice.
Calista nodded "Why yes, they taught us in history class, and General Dzhambalov made sure to tell me to make the comparison when I was talking to Americans."
Myers eyebrow perched that was unexpected "Were you told to say anything else?" he asked wondering how far he could push it.
"Oh no, just to be sure to mention how great things are here, in the Glorious Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, but mostly I should just tell my story," she said, and in the corner of his eye Myers noticed that the two MGB men seemed a bit too expressionless sucks to be you I guess, can't be too hard on your new protegee "I think they said, 'The truth about the Draka is so awful that it is better than anything you could make up'." She then peered at the MGB men and said "Wasn't that it?" in a very innocent tone of voice.
"Yes" came the reply in a grave tone.
"You're certainly very open," Myers commented, feeling quite surprised that she would dare to be so open definitely not a Soviet citizen and then secondly already too much of a protégée to push too hard, I think I'll take advantage of that
"I try to be, back in the Domination you had to lie all the time, well..." she blushed a bit "Maybe not lie, but you know, you had to hide your thoughts, and pretend, and not say what you thought, at least to the overseers and the bulls, because they might beat you up or..." she seemed a bit choked again "worse." After recovering she went on "The bible says you shouldn't lie, and now that I'm out I want to be a good Christian, never to lie or steal or, do... other things..." she was silent and then added "The priest says that I don't have to feel guilty about that, because it was against my will, and God forgives me no matter what, but I'm just glad I'll never again be made to do... that... So I always say what I think and what I know, I got a right to do that, it says so in the Constitution" She seemed surprisingly fierce at the last bit "I'll never let anyone say that I can't speak up no more."
Feeling warmed Myers decided to leave this line of inquiry shame, but I can hardly expect them to let me go on in this vein "Please Miss Simonova," he said not sure if that was the right address "Go on with your story."
"When we arrived at Trebizond proper they took us into a storage area, they rounded us up, lined us up, they checked our tattoos and we got taken in for a brief medical, and then... the doctor was nice, he confirmed that I was still intact, and gave me this..." she sighed "We all got these cards that were hung from our necks with thin rope, and they contained information on us and handling information to make it faster to process us, I was lucky... mine had this big mark on it that said I was off limits till after the sale."
Here Calista hesitated "You see, they took us to the cells, there were bunk beds there, and the doors had bars on them but they didn't lock them for us, only if they were housing difficult serfs. We got the run of the place, within some limits, that is we could walk around inside the building itself, go to the big cafeteria when it was time to eat, and they required us to exercise too, so we weren't at all treated badly in fact many of us we figured that this were the best we've had ever."
"Of course at night, or in the dawn, the bulls, that what they call the guards and security people, they could come looking for fun," Calista hesitated "I figure I was lucky, that they couldn't have me, but one of the girls, she displeased them somehow. Now they took her and punched her in the guts, that was a favourite trick of their because that didn't leave any marks you see, and they also like hitting you with rubber hose. Mind you in all honesty I didn't see that, the rubber hose, and only one girl got gut punched once, but we all knew what'd happen if we were difficult, that's what they call it, or uppity, and it was, how you say it, implied, we knew. People ask why they seem so cheerful the serfs, well we were cheerful too, we laughed and played and joked, and didn't look sad at all, but what were you supposed to do? Sit down and despair? I often see that folks laugh and joke the most when they're all together going through real cra, I mean real bad business, it was like that."
"Later on we were being moved about, and I got to see Demetrius again, but only for a little bit, I didn't dare to make any requests of the local citizens or bulls because I'd gotten cuffed for that at home, and I didn't know what strangers might do. Now of course I know I'd probably not get more than another cuff, because I was valuable, but back then I was too scared and unfamiliar to really think like that, understand that I was a girl right of the farm I really had no idea."
Myers felt a twinge at that, oh damn that will sell, 'right of the farm' indeed but he kept on listening to what she said.
"I think he was scared, he... ck I think he was terrified, but he put up this brave face for me, at least in private, held me tight and re-assured me, promised he'd always love me, and hoping and praying that we'd be sold off together. Of course we knew that weren't so, he was wearing this white loincloth and nothing but when we met, they'd rubbed him with olive oil too, made him look very handsome but we knew, we knew that folks that buy him most likely wouldn't be interested in me, but you know some folk fancy both ways." She sighed "I know that sounds awful, and I didn't like the idea of that, of both of us being owned by some evil pervert, but what could we do? We were in love, we were going to be abused, but maybe if we could be together, then maybe we could... I don't know, we'd be together, maybe married, both of us strengthening the other, but..." she began to cry now, genuine tears "Oh god."
Myers noticed that the General game around to comfort her, "Calm child, calm, we can do this later," he offered up.
"No, I'm sorry, I feel very silly," she dried her tears "I'm acting like a foolish woman, I just, I have carried this pain with me so many years, and now finally... I who could hide my emotions like all serfs, now I break into tears when I finally can talk, silly no?"
"No I don't think that's silly," Myers said quietly let her calm down the hysterical reaction sometimes occurred in strong people who had been under strain for long long times, and were finally free to express themselves, no doubt she'd get it under control after some time how long in freedom? Not more than a year or she'd have been more used to telling this story, but long enough to start losing her old inhibitions .
"That was the last I saw of him, we were taken to separate auctioning areas, later on I found that he was sold of to a bath house," she laughed bitterly "Oh God, you wouldn't think the Draka were up for euphemisms like that would you? With their talk of brutal candour, but yes a bath house, apparently an upmarket one at that, of course it probably had real baths too but..." she looked sad "Horrible to think of it, I knew he had no such inclinations, but that's what they do." She swallowed deeply.
"As for myself, I was brought in, they fixed up my hair and gave me a nice white dress made in the old Greek style, very sheer, sometimes they make girls strip naked entirely, but sometimes they let them wear native like garments, it depends on what sales approach they've chosen you see. Then you have go, smiling, looking happy, and strutting your self, offering yourself up, it hurts, or it hurt me, it makes you a thing, an object, and nothing more. IT was a small party maybe twenty or so buyers, most of them men but some women too," she looked at Myers and said "Yes women too, citizen women, they are just as evil and diabolic as the men, not women at all but reptiles, she-devils."
"I got sold to a man who wanted a virgin, now you got to ask yourself why does Draka like Virgins? Not all of them do you see, they say it's a matter of taste, some men like their land already tilled, their serfs already trained, but other likes to break both in themselves. That is their own talk, not just among themselves, or in front of serfs, no I hear them say this quite openly no matter where you go."
"But I digress as they say, I could hear them, walk among them to let them get a better look, even answer questions, and the bidding was quite fierce, there I was I was so afraid, I smiled and tried to act all as nice as I could, as I always had to in front of the citizens, but when you see that it's all an act. The old hands they don't mind, to them it's just a humiliating experience they've been through many a time, new people like me found it frightening though, still do."
"I was sold for a huge sum, 650 Aurics, and I felt quite pleased, that is the truth, many serfs are proud of the high sums they fetch, knowing that if an owner has a lot of money invested in his property he's less likely to risk doing damage to it. So I was quite happy, though I was frightened of the man that bought me, I'd like to say that he was this horrible looking man, or coldly handsome, but he was just regular... his face had some acne scars but he was just average, he was in his late twenties oddly enough I never really got to know his age."
650 Aurics? That is... Myers did a quick calculation About 2 400 dollars, about the same as a speedster back home, didn't I see a Cord 810 sold for just that price.
"For comparison, I am not sure if you know, but a regular field serf goes for 200 Aurics, a machine tender for 350, and domestics for 300 and up, but of course," she smiled bitterly "A Kellerman four seat mini-autosteamer costs you 800 Aurics, and usually comes with a mechanic trained at the factory," she told him.
"He took me to his home, it was a fancy town house, and I was made ready for the evening, and you see, this brings us to what we talked of earlier. The men that likes virgins, first there is the rarity, second there is the experience of being the first, and third there is I am told the sense of power, for my new owner it was all three." She hesitated for a moment, then she went on "Some people blame the woman for this sort of thing, but what can a woman do? What can a serf do? Even if you are determined to be chaste it doesn't make you a superwoman, able to fend of the violent... the violent attentions of those more powerful. He told me that he enjoyed the chase and the capture, like any good predator would..."
"It's suppose to be beautiful, your first time, after your marriage, and you have the advice of other women, and you go into the room together and it is special, something you never forget, something beautiful. You never forget that, and I will never forget what happened to me..." she hesitated for the longest time "Horrible things, when he was done he told me I had to stop crying, because I'd get tears on his cufflinks," she half laughed and half cried "He actually said that."
"There were other things after that, I, I received some training, in light house work, and ... other things... I never thought about harming myself or anything, I have a terror of disease and disfigurement, and doing so wouldn't have brought me any good anyway. I know of, of women who did just that, we thought they were stupid because they just ended up somewhere much worse, much, much worse." She looked at Myers and added bitterly "Yes you think that the shame of being taken by one man, that is bad, but you see if you hurt yourself you end up a place where you are done by twenty serf miners huffing over you one by one, they tell us these things and that fear too, that's fear. I see girls being sent down to bawdy houses as punishment for little mistakes, they come back a week or a month later and they changed."
"Yet I felt so guilty over my sin, even though the priest told me that I was not held accountable for those things I did on the order of my master, because it was his will and not mine. The priests were bad priests, they only encouraged obedience and saw bad thoughts about the masters as a worse sin than, well, anything, but the Draka selected them, the masters, they picked bad priests who lied about the gospel to keep us obedient."
"Now you think that this is horrible abuse, and you'd be right, it is, but there it's perfectly ordinary, you think this man was known for treating his serfs badly? On the contrary, he was seen as being very meticulous in maintaining his property, yes Sir that is Drakan kindness and consideration for you, making sure that they don't starve, get sick, or wear rags, do that and you are a good citizen even if you impregnate your wenches and enslave your own children."
"I was a lucky one mind you, that he was constantly working, and that he liked my company, that might seem strange but I managed to persuade him that I should learn my letters in order for me to have a trade. You must understand that I had no disciplinary record, according to their files on me I was a perfect little serf, oh so obliging and obedient, just a little religious at times but that was generally seen as good in a serf as long as it makes them obey and endure with good temper. Even so it wasn't easy since I was a bit old, fifteen years old, a woman not a girl by their reckoning, but I did it, they like it when you, when you play the perfect grateful serf, who worship the ground they walk on, and then they can often give you gifts and privileges, not rights mind, no serf has rights, only privileges that can be taken away."
"I was a fast study you see, still am, learned how to read and write properly in six months, within a year I was good enough to be a secretary and turn out neat handwriting, type a bit and do filing work, nothing fancy but enough to do scutwork around the office and believe me when I say that Draka positively hate scutwork. I guess this pleased him, quite a bit too, let him think to himself that he hadn't been too wasteful when he bought me, and he'd already have so much invested in me that it made sense to..." once more a crooked smile played around her lips "Upgrade I suppose the word is, that's how he saw it I'm sure."
"After a while he borrowed me to his sister, she'd persuaded him that I might take damage from too frequent relations when I was still fifteen, so she had him borrow me to her. She owned a store, sold luxury items, all kinds of knickknack antiques, she had some fancy things in there I can tell you, and some seriously frightening things too I can tell you that as well."
I thought you said the women were reptiles?" Myers asked, picking up on something here, but he wasn't sure what it was suddenly though a thought struck him oh no...
"Snakes Mr Myers, and they are, you ever hear of Sappho?" She asked, at Myers "She sure had, made me do, unnatural things, filthy disgusting..." she started sobbing a bit again "It says so in scripture, Paul warns us against such things, but she don't care about that. Well actually she did, she knew I took it seriously, and figured that breaking me in with women, that's her words, was a good thing least I be getting ideas. Yet I remember after one of the occasions, when I was hurting inside and outside after he was with me, she tells me"
"In this family we don't starve our serfs, let them get sick, beat them for pleasure or rape their children. Any of those would be abuse, perfectly within our rights, but grounds fo' complaint. You ain't bein' abused, just used. As a secretary; and fo' pleasure." Calista hesitated a moment "Fornicated with to be blunt", then guiltily "Well she used another word, I don't want to say it, and then she went on; and occasional sexual intercourse is no inherent problem to a healthy wench your age, particularly if you lubricate properly, which I'm told you do. If you choose to find it unpleasant, that's your problem." She looked at Myers and said "So much for sisterhood, eh Mr Myers?"
"That pretty much describes their philosophy too, but I hear you Americans find that kind of thing to be worse than anything else a serf can be made to do. I don't know if what I went through is worse than being locked up inside a compound for all your life, working ten hours a day, and having nothing other than drink, ganja and serfs singing to keep you going, and no hope, none, for something better for yourself or for your children. Is what I went through worse than what the quarry gangs in Egypt go through, when they work and get their lungs filled with stone dust, and their bodies broken from hard work. Is it any worse than the little chimney boys? Tiny boys to service all the chimneys of the domination and there are many of those, lower them down to sweep, their little hands, I've seen their hands, they grow covered in tiny scars and callouses, they lose all feeling in them, and when they grow up, short and stunted with a nasty cough. They like using new serfs for such things, but there are millions of them, and all of them can see their family abuse at any time, all of them know that at any time they could end up somewhere far worse."
"Then again what they take from you, what they took from me and other Christian women, maybe it is worse, or maybe I'm being selfish for complaining about my own suffering when there's so many other people going through a different sort of hell. I know this, when I was running away I got sick, I starved, I slept on rough rocks, but I wouldn't trade that for my old life even though there I slept in soft beds and was treated as a pampered pet, no matter what a serf is made to do it's wrong for people to be owned."
"Back where I was we had a cook, Tantie Bessie we call her, like Aunt Bessie, that weren't her real name but when they took her they gave her a new one, and that was so long ago she used it now. She used to be a pretty girl once, and was much in the position that I was, if ever there was a reason that I decided first to become a lettered serf, and then to escape, it was her. She weren't sad mind, she was a jolly woman, they captured her out in 1914 I figure, the early invasion of the Ottoman Empire, she wasn't Arab mind she was Syrian, it made a difference to her. Her story was that she grew up in a Syrian family, middle-class, married soon too, her family was mainly wiped out as undesirable due to high education, and she was sold off as a plaything. She could talk about what her old life had been like, better by far than what she had now, her family were Syrian Christians. She got old though, not terribly old but you age fast under abuse and hard life, and when she was too old she became a cook, and counted herself lucky for it that she wasn't returned to the fields or what not. I swore I'd never end like her, first that made me get my letters and my skills, second made me determined to escape."
"I guess I should fill in a few dates though, I was born in mid 1919, on one of the first plantations after the annexation, I got sold of in early 1934, and my education as it were took place in 1934 and 1935. Most of what I am about to tell you now took place in 1936 and early 1937, as I escaped in 1937 during the skirmishes between the USSR and the Domination of the Draka."
"Come '36 she sets up a shop in Kars, gathering up Armenian antiques, seems like the Armenians had hid away in caves and what not a lot of really valuable stuff, meaning that treasure hunters got a field day. Mind you there weren't all that much good stuff out there, but hope springs eternal you know, and that gave me my first big help, and the second was that her brother, my dear master, found a passion for hiking. To be precise he began to fancy Mount Ararat, and I gave him the odd nudge in that regard, so he decided to move with his sister and take the odd tour off to Mount Ararat to hike."
"The escape itself took a lot of planning, he just took me and no one else, didn't really see much point to dragging along a lot of useless baggage, but of course I couldn't just leg it. I was pretty strong from the plantation, and I'd kept in shape, and now I was so lucky that I was being trained in hiking too, mind you no one thought I was anything like an escape risk so they saw no problem with that. I went on a lot of those trips, and that gave me an excuse for having a prepared stash of travelling clothes, and food and other gear, so it'd be ready for the next trip."
"Then I waited, it was no good taking any chances before I was ready, but I gathered a lot of things that were good, I even managed to get my hands on some ID documents not that they were likely to be in much demand. I say ID documents but basically they were a set of school ID cards, that was about it, their equivalent of a library card or school pass."
"I knew I couldn't run away from Kars directly, too many people that might recognise me, a low chance but you know you're always recognised just when you wish you wouldn't be. It was either that or on the journey between Kars and Ararat, it was a trip you did with Autosteamers, but I couldn't drive an autosteamer and no one really bothered to teach me. I'd like to be able to acquire that knowledge but it'd look suspicious, still one advantage for me was that I didn't have to worry about anyone else, it was just me and him."
"I made many trips with him, I wanted to be sure that I knew the area inside and out, fortunately they'd made it a nature preserve, that helped me a lot, meant that there'd be no serfs, few Citizens, and since there was a lot of circulation the odds of running into anyone we knew was slim. Last couple of times that scared me off, fact that we ran into people that we knew, but then luck struck, real luck, local reserves called up due to the skirmishes and I knew this was it. My owner did one last trip before his call up arrived, so I stole an old icon, I had this idea that I'd pass myself off as a treasure hunter, and rounded up the stolen ID and off we went."
"We get to this nature preserve, and the few wardens we meet were third rate fellows, nothing, and I mean nothing, worth defending around Mount Ararat, all the first rate people had gone to Igdir in case of more Russian operations, they meant Soviet mind but they kept saying Russian. Weird thing is that in skirmish times it actually got easier to sneak around in that area, especially since, and I didn't know it then, but the Soviet Union didn't use female infiltrators then so a woman wouldn't, couldn't be an infiltrator, and that played to my advantage. A year afterwards that policy was changed, but for now it was working in my favour."
"I waited for a while and then during the night, after he had his way with me, he fell into a deep sleep, they say men do that after they've had their fun, they do with you as they please and sleep. At least Drakan men, perhaps outsiders are better. He was asleep the evil man, and I was so afraid, so terrified, you see I knew that if I just went off he'd raise the alarm and my chances would go down, far down." Her hands trembled a bit "I'm not evil, really, but..." she bit her lip "I..."
Myers stopped writing Oh damn, is this what I think it is? a strange suspicion began to grow in his stomach.
"I killed him... I know it is wrong, but he was an evil man, I've done penance for the sin of killing," she stopped for a while "It wasn't that hard, physically, I took a long sharp knife, placed it just so and cut his throat, just like we butchered animals back home, I remember that his eyes flew open, and his mouth opened and he tried to speak but only blood came out, and he shivered once, then he died. I thought I stood there for so long holding the knife, but I checked my clock and it was only a few minutes."
"Then I did what I planned, I changed my outfit into something a citizen might wear, and I grabbed his gunbelt, I had to make a few extra-holes to make it fit properly. I was going to take his shotgun too, but I didn't know how to heft it, and I knew that not being able to handle a weapon was the surest way to draw suspicion. When I had what I needed I wrapped everything else up, him included, in the canvas of the tent and I dragged it off and dropped it down his gully, not sure if they've found it yet but I figured it be safe there for months unless they sent a proper search party up."
"That was the fourth of May 1937, for what it's worth a few weeks after my eighteenth birthday, and then I started walking out of there, not all that long despite the moon being up but I wanted to gain some distance on the spot. I didn't really dare to sleep, I was worried sick I'd oversleep, but I did get some brief naps, and I had a small light alarm clock to help me, fancy stuff like citizens like. When the day broke I used some cosmetics to cover up my tattoo, make-up, you'd be surprised at how big a blemish that can cover up, especially if combined with a nice chic scarf. I also had some jewellery that I, well, stole not to mince words, should have mentioned it earlier but citizens are big on jewellery and mine was too serfish."
"I walked very hard that first day, very hard indeed, not quite sure how much distance I covered but I must have been close to forty miles, exhausting pace to be sure especially in the terrain that was there. Five times I ran across patrols, three times I just gave them a big wave and they just let me pass, I couldn't believe it, but two times I had to talk to them. I was pretending to be a citizen, school student out on leave, and I'd learned enough to be able to fake it. Would you believe that one of them even gave me some fatherly advice about how stupid it was of me to be out without a longarm?" She chuckled a bit "I mean seriously, I felt like I was the worst actress ever, but they all believed me, I guess that there's something about me. I never needed any of my fancy plans."
"My nightfall I reached a tributary of the Aras, or Araxes depending on where you live, and I turned my waterproof bag into a flotation device and began swimming, that was my plan for avoiding the mines and stuff alongside the Domination branch of the river. I could hear the odd patrol as I floated down, and I kept being scared that there'd be a searchlight and then some machine-gun fire, but there was nothing. Then when I reached the Aras itself I was freezing, water was very cold, but I kept on pushing and swimming till I reached the other side. I spent maybe half an hour on the other side changing clothes and trying to figure out where to go next, then I bumped into a border guard platoon and they took me in, and then I ended up here."
Myers was very quiet, the only sound he could make was his pen scribbling down notes, and the sound of Smith shooting a few new pictures this is good... oh man is she photogenic, hell we'll have to give her a section of her own in our next TIME "Your story is very moving Miss Simonova" he finally said, adding "I hope that we can meet again for some questions, I very much want to get this out." He noticed Lapshovs glance yeah you commie bastard, you were right, this isn't just some escapee, and if you get half the juice out of this story that I will then more power to you he thought feeling quite happy I can swing this into a Pulitzer.
DOMINATION OF THE DRAKA
[Ed Note: Made some minor changes here as I realised that I had forgotten a somewhat important plot element, and I have also thought of a name for Calista's owners.]
It was a typical meeting room in the Domination, there was a door of course, which was a solid dark wooden one with ornate brass hinges, the door itself was covered in an ornate pattern of gold filigree. The walls were naturally also heavily decorated, bottom and top of the walls were covered with heavy gold filigree, and so were the corners where the different walls met, making it appear as if the magnificent wall murals were giant pictures with gold frames. The murals were elaborate replications of famous hunting scenes from Turkish and Persian art, men on horseback hunting lions, deer, and other things, and in the corners scenes of revelry, servile women presenting cups of wines to nobles lying in reclined couches. The carpets too were deep Persian carpets, the older kind with the bright colours and the ornate inventive patterns of birds and flowers. The roof was painted in an ivory white, with two cut glass chandeliers spreading light across the room.
There was of course a long dark wood table, elegant mahogany in fact, The edge of the table was carved into elegant reliefs, the table had six feet due to its great length, all of them were carved into the shape of long smooth lions feet with ivory claw inlays. Surrounding the table were several padded chairs, soft brown leather upholstery, deep and comfortable, the legs carved lions feet, and the backs were topped with a lions head on each side. Upon the table itself there were several glasses and plates of pastries and fruits within easy reach, there were also large mugs with ice tea.
There were three people in the room, sitting at the top of the table was a security directorate man, tall blonde, a hard face marked by the passage of the years, he looked like he had been hewn from rock, eyes that stared out into the distance penetrating some spot in the scenery. His uniform was immaculate, dark green of the Security Directorate with the skull collar tabs, his right ear was marked by three elegant diamond ear rings, while he carried simple plain gold thumb rings on his hands, a statement of elegance and taste in the domination. His hand rested on a deep thick document folder that laid on the spot before him, bound with red silk ribbons. The other two were liveried serfs, standing expressionless by the side of a little cart filled with beverages, one of them an elderly black man with a salt and pepper beard, the other faintly Eurasian looking and much younger, with a heavier build.
The meeting room was unusual in one respect which wasn't clear right away, there were absolutely no windows, the room felt isolated in a way that was hard to describe, like a world of its own, and of course there were no sounds whatsoever from outside either. Suddenly the door went open and a couple of citizens in Security Directorate uniforms strode in, the door closing behind them but letting show a long wood panelled hallway before it closed. They sat down in silence, then a couple more moved in and sat down.
"Ladies, Gentlemen," the stone faced man began "I am Senior Chilliarch William Chester, Special Investigator for the Security Directorate, currently on a Floating assignment."
The others now introduced themselves, a man in his early thirties black haired and slightly more olive than than was common among Draka "Centurion William Walker Harrison, Bushman Affairs Section, currently assigned to the Kars District, Anatolia Province."
A woman in her late thirties blonde, short cropped and a look on her face that could best be described as worn "Centurion Jane Bester, Krypteria Counter-Espionage, assigned to Anatolia Province." The mention of the Krypteria might have raised a few eyebrows, or caused some discomfort elsewhere, but here the mention of the senior service of the Security Directorate passed quietly.
Another man, blonde blue eyed, in his mid twenties and appearing quite eager, like some predator with the scent of his prey teasing his nose, almost baring his teeth "Tetrarch James Ney, Security Directorate Anti-Escapee Section, currently assigned to the Kars District, Anatolia Province."
Next one down the line was a dark blonde man, appearing in his late twenties, maybe early thirties, he introduced himself "Karl Grüber, Psychologist of the Serf Supervision Section, currently assigned to the Anatolian province in a capacity as a psychologist and loyalty analyst." With that he leaned back and seemed to carefully look at everyone in the room.
Finally there was a woman in her late twenties, looking very plain with big teeth, blonde hair worn slightly longer than was the fashion for Citizen women "Tetrarch Karen Lindz, Interrogation Specialist, currently assigned to Krypteria of Anatolia Province."
Chilliarch Chester looked at the people assembled before him and these are the best we breed, sent forth to kill the brown man then he gently placed both hands on the table and slid the folder towards himself, he rested his hands on the folder for a moment before he tapped the table twice. "Citizens, I will be brief, we are here for the purpose of discussing Calista P19O114, property of the estate of Jacob DeVore, this will be a confidential hearing discussing evidence we have already gathered. We had our first confirmation of her survival, indeed her escape, when this was found..."
He slid over the by now famous article by Jack Myers, a whole section in the special TIME Magazine "Twenty Years of Socialist Rule" edition, "The Calista Story." There it was, initial interview, follow up, odd stories, notes by the people who 'rescued' her, and of course several big pictures showing her in detail.
"The matter of the intelligence failures that made us learn of this at such a late date, though to be fair we had notice before this printed," he tapped the open TIME Magazine "Though given the subsequent... ah... incident doesn't quite cover it, but at any rate this was our first in-depth source. Since there has been more, so that we have all the evidence at hand, and what we are to do here now is to first determine whether she had any assistance in her escape, and then a discussion on further steps to take."
"Do they involve taking her out, or otherwise sending a message?" James Ney asked.
Chester arched an eyebrow "Take her out? What you need a date? Why this pussy footing about?"
"Kill her, kill her," James Ney helped, "Doesn't look good to have runaways."
"No, it doesn't, but for now the question is did she have help or not? Her story as related in this newspaper, is it accurate or not?" the Chilliarch intoned "Lets take this in order of seating here, lets just have your views and then we discuss afterwards. Centurion Harrison please commence if you would."
The tanned man nodded "Yes I shall, I shan't comment on whether or not this wench got some kind of aide from other sources, but shall comment on whether she'd get some from the other sources, just about my speciality that is bushmen." He leaned back, opened his folder and said "Two answers, short answer and long, short answer simple enough, No."
Harrison half smirked as he added "But the Gentlefolk will no doubt want the long answer, which is a bit more involved but, first of all there's maybe a couple thousand Bushmen in the whole of Anatolia, chances of meeting a bunch by accident ain't that good. Second if she did meet a bunch they'd'a kill her or she'd have to run from 'em, they'd never trust a young house wench, especially a plaything of high quality, they've been burned enough by house serf informants to learn better. Third she'd have no way of contacting them, not except indirectly and through cut outs, which means she'd be found for sure. Fourth the Ararat Natural Preserve's absolutely clean, totally inhospitable to be sure, but too many people running about it's a popular hiking area, and more importantly too easy to get cross the border from there, they'd have gone already. So no there was no bushmen involved here, not a chance."
Chester nodded, and then attention turned to Jane Bester who, sighed, she sent a wink to Chester and to Harrison before she began to talk "The Soviet Union does have several 'underground railways'," she almost spat the word out "Operating in the Domination, we uncover a couple of them every year, but they put'em up as soon as we can shot, shut, them down, yet, well this doesn't smell like'em. You see like your bushmen the Soviet operations tend to shy away from seeming happy slaves, and especially from seeming happy pets, the risks rarely outweigh the gains. Not to say they don't target house serfs, or even playthings, but only if they think it's worth the added risk, or that there's some evidence of dissatisfaction. I could go into a lot of detail, but Calista here just don't fit their normal profile, however I can't quite rule it out, especially if this here was a GRU operation, it's unlikely though."
Now Tetrarch Ney waited a moment, and then seeing that everyone was paying attention to him he gave a polite nod "Ah yes, I have studied the profiles of escapees, both the ones we captured and the ones that actually made the escape, it's very interesting, however I shall be brief. I have seen escapes done by way of underground railways, by raids, with bushmen aid, escapes in groups and singly, and, well I really can't see how this can be anything other than a single escape. Especially with the testimonies we have from the troops in the area, it's... well unlikely, so I think this was a single escape. I have a long explanation as to why this is so, but that goes later."
"Tetrarch Grüber?" Chester asked quizzically.
The dark blonde man gave a little nod "Yes well, aside from the technical skills needed to pull of a lone escape there are also the necessary mental aptitudes. To begin with from a psychological point of view, from analysing her dossier, and from speaking to the family of the deceased, I could not see how Calista could have done what she is supposed to have done." Then tilting his head a bit he added "Now however I think it was a single escape, but one done by a very rare individual, very rare indeed, I can go into detail if you would like me to I would say single escape."
Lindz took over, being very brief "I got no indication from any of the interrogations that I made that anyone helped this woman escape, nor that they knew of her escape. Mind you I interrogated for information, I can always interrogate for confessions, torture'em not to mince words, but they know Jack Shit."
"Anyone have any questions?" Chilliarch Chester asked as he looked up and down the table. Meanwhile a few of the other people snacked on some of the fruits, or sipped the ice tea, relaxing in the soft cool breeze from cunningly concealed air conditioners.
Lindz leaned forward a bit and spoke up "I got a couple, to the last two speakers actually, ah, the psychological analysis I'd like to hear a bit more on that from ah Tetrarch Grüber," she gave him an appraising look "In my own take from the interrogations they don' even s'pect her of nothin'"
"Yes well, that actually, that, yes, it had be stumped for a while," Grüber wagged his finger a bit, then slowly rubbed his chin with it "First I thought she was too much of a perfect serf, even as I analysed the materials, because you see all escapees have some things in common, aside from the technical skills needed it requires a certain mental aptitude. First you need a strong sense of self-reliance, the feeling that whatever happens to you is in your hands. Second there is Intellectual Adaptability, the ability to adapt quickly to a new situation, and constantly try new approaches if the first ones fail. Third is pleasure in Risk Taking, that is what some call the Gamblers Mentality but it's not quite the same but close enough for an example here. Fourth is the Ability to Maintain Focus, to keep focussed and working on the task at hand despite any distractions." He spread his hands demonstratively and added "So yes, you see some of those are the qualities we would like to see only in Citizens, though some adaptability is needed in serfs, well, those are the qualities of a difficult serf."
"Come on now, no disrespect, but surely this one was one of the ten or twenty percent exceptions?" Chester asked quietly, perhaps playing devils advocate to test the young Tetrarch.
"No Chilliarch, you see that's just it, she's..." Grüber sighed and spread his hands "She should have been docile and easy to handle, but you see, her childhood... she lied in the interview she had a relatively hard childhood, had to take care of herself, other serfs didn't like the overseers brat, even if her mother protected her and, ah, well." He nodded a bit "Yeah the differences between the interview and what actually happened, ah, I did some investigations here trying to get her psychology, thank you Tetrarch Ney for those papers you got, but anyway..."
"It's fascinating to see how reality differs with the story she told to the press, and I have some theories as to why, uh, perhaps that ties in with what should be done?" Grüber looked at Chester "Do you mind? I haven't really presented this analysis to anyone yet."
"Please do go on, a psychologists view is good to have here," Chester replied and motioned with his hand.
"Well lets begin with her childhood, her father was indeed an overseer, I am pretty sure that this is true, surprisingly Centurion Besters people actually, ah, found the overseer in question, well the man we consider the best candidate for the role. I am not sure how much of Calista's personality comes from superior genetics, but for what it's worth her father was a physically formidable individual a natural athlete in fact, though with a streak of sadism, he was not popular in the quarters." He chuckled a bit "Yes I know being an overseer means that you aren't popular in the quarters, but this one, they lived in terror of him, not just fear. I find it likely that her mother flat out lied or glossed over these aspects of his personality, but since he didn't leave the plantation before Calista was nine, she almost certainly did know who he was and must have seen his behaviour first hand."
"Also her statements that her mother wasn't very attractive is only partially true, though her face was plain she was apparently well built, and at any rate not a common field worker. Calista too was a privileged serf, certainly she did a lot of hard work but by the time she was twelve it was clear that she would be a great beauty." Grüber pulled out a picture of a naked serf girl in her early teens, but already quite attractive "They took this, very nice, even at this time she was marked for sale or training, and she was taken away from regular outdoors duties and spent most of her time either indoors or working on the archaeology project nearby, I got this" he pulled out another picture showing a row of serf girls using big brushes to clear up archaeological remains there was a red circle around one of them "She was apparently quite good and hard working, truth be told one of the archeologists wanted to buy her due to her talent for spotting objects in the dust, and here is the first big lie... THIS is when she learned to read and write, not a lot but enough to be able to bag and tag finds, not sure why she'd lie about this except to make her childhood more pitiable but there you are."
"He wanted to buy her?" James Ney asked "Why didn't he?"
"She actually, but the reason why is that she offered too little money, and she didn't think it was worth the rather high price tag," Grüber told them.
James Ney nodded to this "Right I see, too costly."
Grüber went on "So now the religious angle, like most serfs there she was very religious, there was even a priest on the plantation, Greek Orthodox beliefs, and a few icons too. It's all very pretty and keeps the serfs quiet so it was encouraged, but that part is very true, and she seems to have been, and be, genuinely religious. I make this clear because it becomes important later on, and it greatly affects her personality." He stopped and took a drink of ice tea to wet his throat, and give himself a moment to think.
"Her boyfriend, and would be lover, ah... yes he existed and it would seem that he was..." Grüber pulled out a picture of a naked male maybe eighteen or nineteen, athletic and very handsome "Everything she said he was, very suitable as a pretty buck, I don't usually go for that but for this one I'd be tempted to make an exception," there were some chuckles at that "That part of the story seems absolutely true in all of its parts, there's a chance she may have had more direct proof of the act, I found a mention that it was done in part to teach the boy a lesson, but I think she pretty much told the truth here. Obviously this didn't endear us to her, but I don't think that this engendered any desire to escape in her, but rather a desire to keep her head down."
"As for the sale, yes everything up to and including her arrival in Trebizond is accurate, there are some photo's," he spread out the photo's of Calista's medical examination, as well as one frontal view, one side view and one back view of her, all rather functional, she had an empty expression on her face "These were taken for the sale, usual sense of disorientation when a serf is sold for the first time, details of the holding area seems accurate, and it would seem she really did meet Demetrius again briefly, there's a few places where it could have happened. I would say that this meeting him again and being separated from him is definitely a defining moment in her psychology, so would seeing him oiled up and prepared for sale as a prettybuck, in many cases the dissatisfaction required to escape comes from separation from or abuse of a loved one. However given that this was basically puppy love she'd normally simply get over it when she got with her new master, and happily accept her new fate."
"Which brings us to the sale itself, she was put up as a special item, obviously a concubine, but the sale was actually of virgins, or to be precise 'lamb meat'. I'm not sure if any of you gentlemen or ladies like that, but they are virgins and or innocents, preferably with a serfish faith that makes fornication somewhat objectionable to them, though generally they are not particularly difficult otherwise." Grüber continued.
"That is something I never understood, this obsession with virgins," Harrison chimed in "What's the point in buying, for a fucking fortune if I may add, for a concubine that doesn't even know the first thing about screwing, that ought to be a discount not a reason to notch the price up."
"Sir, with respect," Grüber began "To the men, and some woman, that like 'lamb meat' there is something very special about forcing a virgins legs apart, watching her lips move in silent prayer, and then... then you take her like some god of the Olympus picking a mortal virgin and taking her, making sure you'll be her first, and then seeing that first tear on her face, and the hurt expression when she knows that her God isn't going to come out of a cloud to rescue her." He smiled softly, almost wistfully, before he added "When you see it like that, it's like buying a fine bottle of wine, certainly expensive, but the wine can only be enjoyed once, like a virginity, but the serf remains after the virginity is spent."
There were some chuckles around the table, a couple of the people around the table were also smiling softly, and nodding in understanding with Grübers description, but Harrison said "I still prefer a woman that knows what she's doing, but yeah I see your point."
"Now then, we come onto the first night," Grüber continued "After the purchase, apparently there are some photographs of the occasion, it would seem," he flipped through his folder "Yes from the talks with his sister, Jane DeVore, give the price and rarity he liked to take photo's to watch later, but she wouldn't give them to me now... she did say that she'd turn them over if there was a pressing reason, but I could hardly lie and say there was. Anyway her story here seems reasonably true, odd she wouldn't mention the photo's but she's probably ashamed of them, it's a serfish thing, they're ashamed of certain bodily functions and of nudity. Also the event, well, highly traumatic to her."
"Traumatic? We're talking an initiation here, it's done to millions of wenches each year!" once more Harrison chiming in, then adding "If they choose to find that traumatic then that's their problem."
"Yes Sir, but with respect," Grüber replied "Her owner, ah, Jacob DeVore, in particular liked to begin breaking the 'lamb meat' during the first encounter, in short ensuring that it is as... memorable as possible, I'd say painful or humiliating but though it no doubt was that's not the point, the idea is to ensure that the subject remembers her treatment and her place in the greater scheme of things. In short it was deliberately painful and degrading to accomplish those facts, as it happens it seemed to work just fine, it generally does, she was already obedient but now she seemed to acquire a more appropriate serfish attitude."
"I think the precise term is pleasantly submissive, there are other terms used for it, it is when a serf begins to realise his or her place in things and identify with and sympathise with her master instead of their fellow serfs. It seemed that she had reached this stage, she became more attentive, friendly, submissive, and delighted to go into the role of pampered pet. It's here that we run into the real problem, there's no doubt that unlike many serfs who genuinely hold these sentiments Calista did not, indeed her trauma made her enter a Chameleon mode fitting in with what her surroundings expect of her, but without truly holding those sentiments. Being able to act and maintain a front for so long without accepting the views of that front is very difficult, it is particularly hard to pretend to love and fear and respect someone without genuinely holding those feelings, but aside from the fear she seems to have done just that... and that is the first thing that differentiates her from most other serfs."
"Ah I should make it clear that she was obedient before this, obedient and submissive, but in a way suitable for a normal work serf, not for a courtesan. She was quick and eager to please, and suitably meek, but from a courtesan one expects the feeling that she wholly enjoys it, that she delights in your presence, beams up at your gifts, in essence a sense of worship and subsuming her identity wholly into serving you. Now after her initiation she did come somewhat along in this respect, but not enough, but more on that later. At any rate most of the rest of her account is truthful enough."
"The priests of course were our plants, though most did not outright betray the sanctity of the confessional, we were recording what went on there, and most would also give us hints if any slave bore watching. It's actually a very effective method of both subduing serf dissent, and of keeping an eye on their dissatisfaction, in my personal opinion the confessional is one reason why Orthodox and Catholic Christianity should be promoted. Now a handful of these tapes actually survived, and I've had a chance to analyse them, very interesting. She confesses to feeling guilty about her sexual encounters with her master, and also to feeling guilty about not being able to please her masters properly. Naturally she was counselled that she should not feel guilty about doing anything her masters told her as it was under duress, and that God's law is that slaves are to be submissive and obedient to their owners. However it seemed clear that her sullen behaviour has, or had, to do with her religious attitude, and that once she realised her helplessness and the need to obey she would be more obedient."
There were some nods about this, the policy of using priests as informants had proven very effective in many parts of the Domination, both in Cyprus and Crete Orthodox Priests had turned informant. Of course in new areas worries about 'hell' and 'eternal damnation' had kept many from doing so directly, too many to impale, but luckily ubiquitous recording equipment had solved that while a new generation of priests were raised and the old one snuffed out if they didn't change their minds. Of course the new generation of priests were carefully trained to make serfs stay down, with the threat of damnation to rebels and runaways.
"I may seem to skip a bit here but actually here's a quote from her story 'There were other things after that, I, I received some training, in light house work, and ... other things... I never thought about harming myself or anything, I have a terror of disease and disfigurement' that is very interesting. You see she is either lying, or maybe she has suppressed the memory of what happened, but this is interesting because this statement suggests suppression or avoidance. Why mention a terror of disease and disfigurement if the subject did not come up? Also the vagueness of the training, I personally would suggest serious avoidance but that she does remember what occurred."
"Why is this difference relevant Tetrarch" Chester asked, rising his eyebrow a bit "This is no doubt interesting but, the relevancy if you please?"
"Ah yes if this is avoidance then I'd suggest that what occurred next is very important, part of the program of breaking her in involved getting a new more amenable priest before commencing his new program. Of course I say breaking her in rather than breaking her, the object of course was not to make her obedient like a wild serf, but rather to engender in her the right worshipful and even playful attitude that a concubine should have. However he found that this was going too slow, and decided upon shattering her and rebuilding her, part of that program was forcing her to spend some weeks at a courtesan school where she received surprisingly high grades when you consider how short a time she spent there. Apparently she was a natural."
"However in conjunction with the courtesan school a method for shock breaking her was devised, one which was either brilliant or insane, I am not quite sure which, but it was excellent for smashing her psychological defences and then aiding in rebuilding her. Ah yes, I got some of the photo's here," he began to spread them out on the table "In essence he found a statue of the Virgin Mary I think it was, a small one actually, without any sharp edges, which was obviously important. With the support of some of the better bulls of the courtesan school, experts in causing serious pain without injury, or welts and bruises that leave no permanent marks, they told her that she had to masturbate with the statue. This time she actually outright refused, and that of course was not acceptable, serfs are allowed their faith but only when it is not stronger than their obedience. So she was disciplined of course, beaten quite brutally till she cried quite heavily, she actually prayed but that did not help of course. Finally she was made to worship her master, and I quote 'Yes Master, you're my God, my only God' and then she did use the statue, and a small crucifix."
The pictures showed Calista covered in welts and bruises, tears rolling from her round terrified eyes, as she uses first a Marian sculpture and then a small crucifix as a masturbatory aide. There were some interested looks, and extensive nods, some thought it excessive, but other found it strangely interesting.
"Obviously she went to confession after this, and was told that her sin was grievious, and that it was all her fault from being insufficiently sincere in her obedience of her master. That, and I quote 'your only chance of forgiveness is to love your master more than you love yourself'. For what it's worth this seemed to work most excellently, she became very attentive and adoring, seeming delighted and very grateful for the slightest privileges, in short finally acquiring the right attitude for her position."
Lindz nodded at this, then she commented "If I may," seeing that Grüber didn't seem to mind she continued "I myself find similar methods very effective in breaking down religiously minded slaves, especially in conjunction with using clergy to enforce our message. Though I am mainly in interrogation, from what I've heard this is a very reliable method for making certain personalities willingly and almost obsessively submissive and pliable."
"Psychological transfer, the religious fervour is partially transferred into submissive behaviour," Grüber assented "Of course this is somewhat risky as if they find out they've been lied to, how we've twisted their bible, it sometimes backfires, and of course some find it excessive if the serf is already submissive. In short it has its uses, but not nearly to the degree that enthusiasts claim."
Moving on he said "The incident however caused some injury to her genitals, that and her sexual relations, nothing permanent as of yet but our Citizens sister believed that Calista shouldn't have that much vaginal sex at such an early age. Also of course since Lesbian sex is considered particularly sinful it would help to see if Calista was willing to submit as willingly to that. Jane DeVore actually seems to have rewarded Calista for obedience and submission, and found her to be 'playful and entertaining, and with a delightful masochistic streak, like a cute puppy really' and it was actually the sister, Jane DeVore, that ensured that Calista's reading comprehension was improved and that she received secretarial training. I am not quite sure why she'd claim that it was the brother who did it, unless something about the lesbian regime upset her."
"There's also something else Calista left out, she did mention her occasional forays with Jacob DeVore even during the time she was with his sister, but Calista neglected to tell the extent to which she was involved with Jane DeVore. Also Calista did not mentioned at any stage the fact that she was subjected to a rather strenuous amount of physical exercise, mainly swimming, but quite a few other exercises as well, in addition to of course courtesan training. She's in excellent physical shape, good natural foundation for training apparently, some people just have that and she's one of them, but she doesn't mention it at all."
"Why give a serf that kind of training?" James Ney asked "Won't regular duties keep'em fit?"
"Eh..." Grüber gave him a look "Look come on, you're in escape prevention, surely you've, well, not many courtesans that escape are there?"
"No, they're pretty close to the bottom of the list" Ney agreed willingly enough, but he added "But serfs with a lot to lose don't generally try dumb things."
"Well yes," Grüber replied "Thing is they wanted her fit and firm, both brother and sister, from their point of view a soft wench was little better than masturbation. So they trained her up to quite a high level, and ah... I got to say the level and skill of the training she received makes me wonder, it seems almost as if they tried to make her body as citizen like as possible. Now I'm not one for theorising much on the subject, but if I were to guess the fact that she was so white, and so fit, was probably a strong selling point, she looks very close to the citizen ideal of physical beauty, though they normally had her wear her hair a lot longer."
"Are you saying?" Bester burst in.
"Not saying anything Centurion, except that they got of on owning a serf that was very white, not a lot of those around, especially if they are also really fit, and to be honest I can see their point of view." Grüber replied.
"At any rate the transfer to Kars coincided with a great upswing in personal wealth for the sister, she lavished quite a bit on her pampered pet," Grüber explained "I got some home photo's from her, of Calista," there were several and in all of them Calista seemed genuinely happy, even the ones where she was wearing jewellery and lacy underwear and nothing else "Very pampered and very playful at this stage, by now she was trusted implicitly she seemed delightfully masochistic and to genuinely put her masters above herself, and to be so pleased and so happy about any gifts she received. That does something to a Draka, to be worshipped like one of the more disreputable Olympian Gods, and yes they definitely got that willing, delighted, ecstatic worship from her... and yet deep down, there was some aspect of her that was already pondering escape. I must confess that I would have trouble believing that, she was displaying all the right signs for a wench by now, practically delighting in her treatment, and in general escapees are sullen or difficult before their escape, not ecstatic and loyal."
"Some theorists, among them Jung, state that it is possible for the mind to fragment or to create a chameleon defence, where part of her retains her original desires and drives, while another part of her interacts with the outside world and does whatever is necessary to survive and endure. However these theories are hotly debated, other more respectable ones state that repeated trauma can trigger Runaway Insanity that is the irrational desire to escape from servitude. Obviously Calista was very well off, and it is possible that having been greatly abused only to suddenly receive much kindness could have triggered Runaway Insanity, eh, there's another more technical term but most of you citizens are probably more familiar with the old Confederate term for it."
That brought a snort from Chester "Runaway Insanity? Come, come now, we all know that all but the most loyal serf would skip if they saw a chance to do so without risk, that's why we are all here after all."
"Ah yes Sir, but," Grüber replied "You see, Runaway Insanity is more than the desire to escape, it is the irrational drive to do so, and obsession if you will, that can materialise itself in slaves that otherwise lack the essential qualities that a successful or likely runaway bushman needs."
"Basically Tetrarch, you are saying that it's an idée fixe that suddenly strikes down in the head of a serf that does not have the 'mental aptitudes' that were mentioned earlier?" Chester asked.
Grüber nodded before replying "Yes that really would make explaining her a lot easier, the technical term is Radical Dissatisfaction Disorder, which means basically a sudden strong dissatisfaction with the current condition and a deep set desire to change them regardless of consequences. This is to be blunt a dangerous insanity in serfs as it makes them do very stupid and bad things, sane people adjusts to their society, insane people expects that the world will do as they like, or at least they'll put up a good fight and then get to gloat about it on top of a cloud. It's an irrational belief that your conditions are unbearable and that a radical attempt to change them is possible."
Seeing that everyone expected him to go on Grüber did just that "The thing is that there were no danger signs, she seemed to have adjusted excellently, and, ah, Tetrarch Ney, you've seen her file, you've examined runaways, did you see any warning signs?"
"No as a matter of fact I didn't," Ney replied "And I've got some, how to put it, practical experience in the field of runaway psychology, there are warning signs and she just didn't display any of them. Indeed if I were to give her an assessment I would rule her perfectly safe, at the time of course."
"Yes, and that's exactly what I'd have done too," Grüber replied "I would have given her an A rating or maybe double A rating in terms of reliability and obedience. That to my mind is rare, most runaway show some warning signs, but here, there was nothing, unless you probe very deeply indeed, which of course you wouldn't unless you had already found a warning sign."
"I got to say though," Ney suddenly broke in "Ah didn't meant to be rude Sir, sorry" he said waiting to see if Grüber minded.
"No please," Grüber said.
"We have seen similar things before, in wild serfs" Ney began, feeling the eyes of the group on him damn this could have waited "However it's rare in born serfs, like Calista, but you know what I notice? I notice that her society seems to have survived unusually intact, normally we atomize the survivors, but here... they got a chance to preserve their language and parts of their culture for another generation, and with Calista that blew up in our face. Basically we are looking at a born serf whose personality was formed almost exclusively by serfs born free, and she was born in the first year of settlement, so her formative years were while freedom was still in recent memory. That's our problem, we see her as a born serf, while in reality she wasn't really anything of the sort."
There was silence for a moment, then Chester commented "Very astute Tetrarch, do you have anything to object to?"
Grüber felt like kicking himself damn, that's brilliant, why didn't I see that? "No Sir, I must say that it is indeed very astute, damn... that clears a lot of things up... but doesn't that mean that there is a large class of first generation serfs that are not as servile as you'd expect serfs to be?"
Harrison chuckled a bit "Where do you think the Bushmen come from? We kill so many that if they didn't have new recruits they'd have withered away by now, and since the escape routes are cut off it's only the mountains. We've been aware of that problem for quite some time, and I think that the efforts to atomize their society are ongoing, but of course... many of these serfs are private property and can't just be moved about without the consent of their owners."
"Yes but that is neither here nor there right now" Chester commented "Let us please hear the Tetrarch Grüber out and then continue the discussion."
"Yes well, as for the rest of her story, I dare say that she was telling the truth more or less, she planned the escape and due to her masters preference for hiking she was brought along. Apparently in addition to being a porter she was also the cook and the plaything for the trips, a very convenient thing to have with you on your trips when you want to be all alone. He apparently liked solitude a lot so went out on these trips alone, bringing only the bare necessities, and yes Calista did suggest Ararat National Park as a good place for the walks, apparently she thought they might spot the Ark there, and everyone thought that was so cute and adorable." Grüber informed them.
"The rest of her story seems to be the truth, as far as I can tell, the troops in the area reported seeing her, and in two cases talking to her, describing her as 'your typical know it all just out of school'. The few serfs present claims she scared the hell of them for some reason, but that could be that they are merely buttering us up or that they remember it differently now, she did however fool everyone, no one even suspected anything was wrong... that suggests excellent acting skills, but you need to train to learn how to act a part, and that and her disguise is my main problem, but then again I'm not a technical expert." Grüber finished.
"I think I can fill you in on the escape," Ney began, seeing that everyone seemed to pay attention he continued "Most serfs cannot even consider pretending to be a citizen, the idea wouldn't enter their minds, and if suggested it would horrify them or seem utterly ludicrous. Moreover even if they realise that Citizens are made, not born, they have a serious problem in that they do not really understand what makes up a citizens behaviour. You see they don't see us as we see ourselves, what they see is the power, the whip, the masters, and that is good, but there's more to the Super Man than that. However there's an unfortunate caveat to that, and that is that most citizens would see it as equally impossible, indeed in the cases where it was tried and it failed, two thirds of the time the failure was due to a failure of the disguise, not a failure of the acting. Of course the two are often closely related."
"The big problem is of course that you need clothes fitting a citizen, and that is what Calista had, she had the right clothes, they were very fine, tailor made for her, so were the shoes. Problem for many runaways is that fancy clothes isn't enough, they have to fit you as if they were made for you. Then you got paperwork, ironically what Calista had would almost certainly be enough to allay any suspicions, we don't like being asked for papers and as a result we rarely carry much in that respect."
"The acting however, that is hard, I've seen serfs try to act like citizens and... the results are often very amusing, either they are outright insulting thinking that being bold and crude are the trick, or they are excessively ornate and polite, both of which make you stand out like a sore thumb. Then you got the posture, the bearing, not to mention that you need to have the right physique, all of which Calista had due to her training. I think that she probably acquired the citizen way of hiking because she learned her hiking and climbing skills by watching one, namely her owner, so when the time came to leave she walked the way she was taught. By the way, I fear that she was, or is, in better shape than most citizens, I've seen the area that she walked across and I'm telling you that most citizens could never have covered that much distance in such a short period of time."
"I beg your pardon?" Bester asked sounding quite disbelieving "Citizens are raised since birth, twenty years of a scientific diet and scientific training to make them fit and strong, you're telling me that they would have problems doing what this SERF did?"
"No," Ney commented "I'm flat out saying they couldn't do it."
Harrison nodded to this "Absolutely, I've hunted bushmen in similar terrain, and, I have to pick my best men to be able to travel the same distance, but mind you we were able to tactically and strategically outmanoeuvre them on foot, none of them could keep up with our speeds. If she could do this, walk that distance in that terrain, quite frankly even if she was acting weird I'd have trouble believing that someone I saw moving that fast through that terrain was anything other than a citizen."
"Gods," Chester commented "We cannot allow ourselves the luxury of self-delusion," then after a moment of contemplation "Anyone given any thoughts to the methods used to hide the bar code?"
"Cosmetics," Bester replied.
"Wouldn't they smudge or smear out under strenuous exercise?" Chester asked.
Bester stifled a smirk "Look Sir, I hate to break it to you but you are about thirty years out of date, ever since we got women in combat services it's been essential to have good make up, and the Domination is the leader in the field." She reached into her jacket and pulled out an elegant slightly thick four by six sized cosmetics kit, it was an oaken box with a beautifully engraved lid showing a scene from greek mythology. When she carefully pushed two buttons simultaneously the box opened, revealing a waterproof interior filled with various brushes, lipsticks, tiny extra boxes, all of which folded out beautifully.
"If you don't mind," Bester looked at Lindz "Tetrarch Lindz would you help me in my demonstration please?"
"Certainly Centurion," Lindz replied "Be delighted to."
Bester got up and walked over to Lindz, taking with her the make-up kit, she gently placed it on the table in front of Lindz and commented "So I'll take this," she pulled out a large magic marker and removed the cork "And draw two lines like so..." she drew two lines both thick and bright orange against Lindz's skin "Against her skin, this orange tone is identical to a fresh tattoo, and remember now that Calista's tattoo would have faded a bit so we are faced with a harder task than she was."
Bester then began to carefully, but quickly, work at the make-up, within two minutes she had covered up the markings entirely leaving something that looked perfectly like regular skin.
"Now this is just quick and improvised work, and it takes a bit longer to do it yourself, but I've done this in the field a lot when I want to cover up a bruise or a blemish that looks like shit," Bester commented, then she took a thumb and rubbed it against the make-up area "It's really quite good, sure it will smudge a bit," she held her thumb off showing very little discolouration "But a few decades of large scale efforts spent on make-up that lasts under pressure and ah, well we rule in the field of applied cosmetics."
Lindz acually smiled "Yeah, gods know that I don't fancy going out in the field without a little kit, a girls gotta look her best no matter what eh?" She looked at Bester who also had a wry grin as they shared a private little joke before Bester returned to her seat.
Chester sighed "So in short, from all the evidence, she conceived of her escape on her own, prepare for it on her own, and carried it out on her own, outwitting several citizens on the way, that won't be popular," he sighed "For all the of being rational some instincts are instilled deeper than conscious thought, a lot of people will think she had help no matter what we say. It's a question of what's most upsetting, the belief that she could do this on her own, and by extension other white serfs might."
Several nods around the ornate table, and Ney commented "Yes Sir, it's funny but I've heard it put almost precisely like that a couple of times today, a lot of the guys and girls at our outfit are having a hell of a time dealing with it."
Chester hmmm'd and nodded "Yes I see."
"Retaliation Sir? Lex Talionis?" Harrison asked, taking a keen interest in this field.
Chester nodded a bit "Yes of course, round up some randomly selected slaves from her plantation and from where she's at now, but... does she really care?" The question was aimed at Grüber.
Grüber sadly shook his head "No Chilliarch, sorry but she doesn't, there are only three people in the world she cares about, other than herself; that is her mother, who is dead, shortly after Calista was sold, no relationship there; Tantie Bessie, or Elizabeth T18P224 to be precise; and Demetrius T17P334. Kill either of the last two and the news would hurt her, if that should somehow matter, she never expressed any interest in any other serfs."
"Not even her family back home?" Harrison asked this time, sounding surprised, Ney however was knowingly nodding.
"No, she never expressed any interest in them whatsoever from what I've learned, ah, Tetrarch Lindz?" Grüber asked turning to Lindz "You did the interrogations?"
Lindz perched up a bit "Yes, I mean no she expressed no interest in them, I interrogated all the house serfs there and, well she talked about Demetrius a lot, she spoke to Tantie Bess a lot, and she mentioned her mother... from what I heard she did on occasion see if she could somehow get in touch with Demetrius, but she was never able to. I think she even pleaded twice if he could be bought?"
Grüber nodded "Apparently yes, she did not form strong relations with any of the serfs in the household, and had little sentimentality overall, which of course fits the psychological profile."
"Yes most runaways either bring their families along, or they are willing to sacrifice most everyone they leave behind," Ney commented "It's practically a requirement, and loners are often overrepresented among runaways."
Chester sighed again, "Well I don't think we need to spend more time on this, if I may, our finding is that she carried this out on her own, and that there is no evidence of malfeasance or incompetence on anyone's part. In addition we recommend that more attention be paid to first generation serfs of European extraction. One hundred serfs to be executed, including this Tantie Bess and Demetrius, anyone have something to add to that?"
"If I may," Bester shot in "I'd like to have Demetrius."
"There are laws against that sort of thing," Chester said deadpan.
Bester looked a bit surprised, then she began to chuckle "Chester, you're bad, you know what I meant," she said wagging a finger a bit trying not to laugh out loud "I meant I want him for purposes of blackmail, this Calista might be worth the effort, and we can always kill him, killing's easy, unkilling's impossible."
"Very well, you may have him," Chester replied, knowing full well that the Krypteria agent didn't strictly need his permission "Now unless there's anything further I think we can call it a day."
VLADIMIR WEST RUSSIAN
RUSSIAN SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLIC
UNITED SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS
WEDNESDAY 20 APRIL 1938
Dzhambalov looked out the window at the departing Stanley Steamer, he nodded as he saw it pass through the gates, a big smile spread across his face, strong white teeth appearing in his big bushy beard. He rest his hands on his hips "Excellent," he said in a cheerful voice as he turned around "It did not seem rehearsed at all, even the little admission towards the end."
"Thank you Comrade General," Calista replied, a bit smile on her face too, and with the suns rays hitting her just so the air around her air seemed to light up, and it was as if she had a halo. She modestly straightened her jacket a bit, then she looked after the car and added "He was a nice man."
"Yes, Republican, but in propaganda, in propaganda," Dzhambalov gently moved his hand out and brushed her cheek poor child, they shouldn't send you out yet, not for many, many months "The messenger is as important as the message," he noticed that she blushed a bit from the touch, but smiled happily even so poor, poor child, if only I were more than an old relic from a lost age, I might protect you yet "Move along now, I am sure you have things to do," he said with a fatherly smile, "I think Nadia needed some help with her penmanship."
"Thank you Comrade General," Calista said, seeming even happier now, then suddenly she moved forward and kissed his cheeks, very innocently. "I'll go help her now," she said cheerfully before adding "Do svidaniya Tavaritsj General" and walking quickly towards her quarters.
If only I were thirty years younger he thought sadly as he watched her disappear, then he turned himself and walked down the hallway away from the windows towards the office again. His footsteps echoing through the empty barren hallway, unlike the fancy hallways that the American had seen this one was not carpeted, nor did it have panelled walls, no it was like most hallways in the Soviet Union painted concrete with propaganda posters seemingly plastered up every ten feet or so.
After once more reaching the reception room to his office he turned to his secretary "Marya Yakimova, two notes,"
"Yes Comrade General", his secretary said as she pulled out a dictation pad from somewhere in the enormous pile of paper that adorned her big wooden desk. She placed the pen to the paper and gave the General an expectant look.
"Regarding Calista Simonova, first a note that her Russian is improving, and her comradely attitude to her fellow escapees remains constant, but make a note..." he sighed a bit "Ensure that her training in propriety and normal etiquette is stepped up."
The secretary quickly took down the notes, then looked back up at him.
"Second the Orthodox escapees, and their attending services in Vladimir," he continued "Everything according to plan, the American will certainly be coming now."
"Yes Comrade General, everything will be done according to plan," the secretary replied in her usual dry slightly nasal tone.
General Dzambalov turned to leave, but just as he reached the door to his office he turned around, wagged his finger a bit and said "One more thing, very minor."
Marya looked up, an eyebrow rising slightly "Yes Comrade General?"
"We are doing another anti-exploitation drive, order the necessary posters, call headquarters and ask what the latest slogans are," he said before turning back to the door and entering his office.
"Yes Comrade General," Marya said to the closing door cute, but old, still nice catch she half smiled to herself as she began typing up the necessary documentation on her aging Cyrillic style typewriter, the sound of her fingers dancing across the keyboard was accompanied by the merry clicking of the keys striking the thin typewriter paper.
CITY OF VLADIMIR
RUSSIAN SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLIC
UNITED SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS
WEDNESDAY 20 APRIL 1938
It was a nice little café, or bistro, in Vladimir. The smell of freshly baked pastries filled the air, along with whiffs of strong green tea, and strange smells of fat dishes rich with dairy products. The windows appeared slightly dirty, that grey film that seems to cover all windows in a city unless they are regularly cleaned, a mix of dust and dried rainwater. Yet inside it was cheerful enough, big oblong tables, plain uncovered wood but the tables were at least reasonably clean and not overly defaced. The chairs were also plain dark wood, reasonably soft wicker models making them easy enough to sit in, and surprisingly solid too.
Myers wasn't quite sure what he was eating, it was dark and it smelled good, and there was a taste of meat and thick cream to it, but it was quite good. So too was the dark green tea sweetened by honey, though quite frankly he was a bit sceptical to the hygiene of the place. Smith, his photographer, seemed to think much the same, even if he almost had to be physically restrained from taking pictures. Then of course there was Lt Lapshov, their communist watchdog from the MGB, Myers belatedly noticed that he was not the only foreigner in the bistro, nor was Lapshov the only MGB man I wonder if they take all their journalists here he smiled at the thought probably.
"Vladimir really has a lot to recommend it," Lapshov commented, "Especially now that Easter is near."
"Yes I suppose so," Myers commented absentmindedly as he looked out the window, through the grey film and onto the surprisingly animated street what do I do now.
"Of course in the Soviet Union such things are mainly for the uneducated and the elderly, but it is a great spectacle for the whole people, and of course there are many Orthodox Christians among the escapees at the Repatriation Centre," Lapshov added, sounding a bit like an intourist guide.
"Yes well, I must admit that with my last name the idea of spending Orthodox Easter in Russia doesn't," Myers suddenly stopped wait a minute.
"Doesn't? Mr Myers?" Lapshov asked.
"Wrong century..." Myers said, then he sipped deep from his tea, and asked seemingly casually "Would all of the Orthodox Christians from the Patriation Centre come here?"
"Of course, unless they were too sick," Lapshov replied "After all it is the most important feast of the Christian faith." Suddenly his eyes widened a bit "Now wait, you're not supposed to meet her before the arrangements have been made, and it won't be more than a couple of weeks!"
"A couple of weeks?" Myers asked sceptically.
"A month at most" Lapshov assured them, "I mean it's much better to do things through official channels."
"I hear that the Orthodox service is very visually appealing," Myers replied, and nodding towards Smith he added "I'm sure smith here would like to get some good shots."
"Sure would" Smith chimed in, smiling and winding one of his cameras.
"Ah yes, it is very lovely," Lapshov commented, sounding a bit insecure "And you are of course welcome, but the Moscow services are much..."
"Done, everyone photographs the service in Moscow," Smith said "Vladimir is something new, and though I'd love to get some shots of Calista in the church, we needn't bother her or anything."
God bless you John Smith, you're the best wingman I could hope for Myers thought, as he too piled up before Lapshov could reply "Will the general be there?"
"No I don't think so, he will probably be very busy, organisation for feasts is very time requiring," Lapshov admitted weakly, he looked from Smith to Myers seeming quite sceptical about where this was going.
"Well then, he won't be around and won't mind if we get some photo's, and you yourself said this was a lovely town," Myers said triumphantly oh yes the Russians, either at your throat or at your feet "And don't forget you were told to take special good care of me, right?"
"Yes," Lapshov said "I suppose you taking some photo's won't hurt."
"Of course not, could we get a hotel room here by the way?" Myers asked eagerly and you won't notice if I have a few words with her, and if she suddenly decides to talk to me, where's the harm? He dismissed the thoughts of the general, and instead thought of his Pulitser and I won't push her hard or anything, just need to get a few shots and some words in the right setting.
A HOTEL ROOM
SOMEWHERE IN VLADIMIR
WEDNESDAY 20 APRIL 1938
"Yes Comrade, it worked perfectly according to plan."
"They don't suspect anything Comrade?"
"No Comrade, indeed they think it was their idea, and that they dragged my reluctant backside into their scheme."
"Yes, these Americans, so easily manipulated... be sure to keep an eye on things, and ensure nothing happens."
"Yes Comrade General," Lapshov said, then there was a click and a soft humming from the phone right he hung up the phone and looked around the room, it was surprisingly nice, even had a bathroom attached, not very big but a nice bed, and a radio ah yes, luxury he threw himself up and landed on the bed on his back, feeling the metal springs buoy him up and down as he spread his arms oh yes, everything going according to plan. How astonishing that the Americans can build so much, and do so much, yet not recognise the most obvious rouse and trick.
CITY OF VLADIMIR
RUSSIAN SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLIC
UNITED SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS
FRIDAY 22 APRIL 1938 - OLD CALENDRIST GOOD FRIDAY
Myers looked around, the local kremlin was on top of a hill, like these things usually were. A Kremlin is really the name of the heavily fortified core in the centre of any old Russian city, and the Moscow kremlin was simply the most famous, or rather it was the Kremlin, as opposed to A kremlin. All of this he had gleaned from the guide books, and from Lapshov who was surprisingly friendly.
It was quite a pretty place though, the Klyasma river flowing gently below, as they had approached the Kremlin they had crossed a bridge over the same river, and seen the magnificent golden domes and round arches of the Uspenskyi Cathedral rising up high above, the lower half concealed by the forest covering the bluff. Smith had flashed of a few photo's there, it was a very beautiful scene, indeed the city of Vladimir was very picturesque, small narrow streets filled with lovely sights, and surrounded by rolling hills whose slopes were covered with vast cherry orchards.
"There is no place as beautiful as Vladimir when the cherry trees blossom," Lapshov had said wistfully "The smell, so strong that you can almost taste it, when you breathe through your mouth you still feel it, and when the blossoms fall the ground is covered in a carpet, a pink carpet floating in the wind like a sheet of the finest silk."
Then they had ascended into the Kremlin, past the Golden Gate, one of the most unusual sights Myers had seen. It was like an Triumphal Arch that had been built through a church, the massive white building had a big triumphal arch through it, flanked by what appeared to be bastions of sorts, and then surmounted by an actual church with a onion shaped dome. Very unusual, and of course endowed with the kind of history that everything else here had, ancient, ancient, ancient, something is young here if it's only had a bicentennial...
Then there was the Uspenskiy Cathedral, the Cathedral of the Dormition, it was an unusually beautiful sight. In front there was a beautiful free standing belfry, a white square tower, with a turret tower in each corner, and with a magnificent golden spire pointing towards the sky. Then a few hundred feet further away was the Uspenskiy Cathedral, a large square building looking very light pink, the façade dominated by Byzantine rounded arches, and a large central domed turret surrounded by four smaller domed turrets, and all the domes were covered in gold with crosses rising up from them. The edges of the roof was also covered in gold frieze work, as if to demonstrate the richness of the constructors.
[Ed Note: A turret is a small tower, often at the corner of a building, it is different from a regular tower in that a turret is a smaller structure while a tower begins at ground level. In short this is an architectural turret not a military one.]
Now they waited, the interior of the church was splendid as well, especially the baroque iconostasis, and the magnificent icons covered in thin gold leaf, indeed all of the interior of the Cathedral had a certain haunting beauty as the outside sunlight made the gold reflect the light like a second sun. There were of course no pews, and people would mill about aiding in lighting candles, or standing in small groups, occasionally casting a curious look at the foreigners, there weren't many of those around. All the women were modesty dressed, and wore shawls around their heads and hair, covering themselves up before they entered the church. Calista did just as she was about to enter.
She was a magnificent sight, the sun playing in her golden hair, chatting amiably to another woman that was walking next to her, a woman with much darker hair and skin, a chocolate brown complexion to Calista's almost milky white. Both of them were wearing long blue skirts, blue jackets, and white shirts beneath, with simple sensible cloth shoes with rubber soles. They were carrying with them purses, Calista had a black leather purse, or perhaps it was imitation, and the darker woman had a purse made from wicker, both of them pulled out long elaborate shawls that they wrapped around their heads and hair, Calista's was a multi-coloured one but otherwise quite simple. They smiled happily as they entered the church, behind them a small group of similarly dressed women, and some men in dark trousers and blue jackets came in, most of these were dark skinned and Myers felt a shiver up his spine as he saw it all of them have those damnable tattoos he thought to himself. For the most part these escaped serfs kept to themselves, seeming very reverent of the place they were in, and in their eyes an almost ecstatic fire seemed to glow.
There is a certain haunting beauty about the Orthodox service, the elaborate incense censers, the magnificent gold embroidered vestments of the priests, their mitres and the long melodic Slavic chants. The sermon was in an incomprehensible language, but it was all very beautiful, Lapshov had declined to attend them but he had told them "An Orthodox service is meant to give you a taste of heaven, it is literally a piece of heaven taken down to earth, to give you something sweet". At first it was hard to understand such a statement, but then the mystical feeling of the service gained power, the long singing and you felt the beauty of the music, he was astounded that there were no instruments for he could have sworn that the songs had to have instruments, but the only thing they used were voices. Then there were the candles, the processions, and the icons, adding to a haunting mystical beauty that seemed to make all other church services seem pale and lifeless.
With the permission of the priests Smith had been able to take some unobtrusive photographs, catching pictures of the cathedral, the procession, the rituals, and of Calista circumflexing and crossing herself, a look of innocent virtue and piety on her face. She seemed positively saintly in the light, as she looked up upon the images of Christ and the saints.
After the service Myers was surprised to see her approaching him well it saves me the trouble he thought. She was however with the dark complexion young woman that she had entered the Church with.
"Pleasure to meet you Mr Myers," she said to him, clearly working very hard to enunciate properly, her thick accent sounded cute and innocent to his ears. Then turning to the dark complexioned woman she added "This is Jack Myers, an American reporter, and this is Nadia Nemova, she's a senior at the centre, we're in the same study group."
"You too Miss Simonova, and Miss Nemova" he replied, then looking uneasily at the Church relax man, the Cossacks hordes seem to have cancelled "Very nice service, I had heard of them, but never seen one before." He stifled a desire to ask 'do you go here a lot', it sounded incredibly corny and definitely not right for the occasion.
"It's Papadopoulou," Calista remarked sweetly "Simonova is the patronymic that the Russians like to give me, though of course..." she looked sad before she added "It's not the right one."
Not the? Oh, right... instantly Myers realised I don't suppose they'd like her to use the overseers name. Fortunately they could strike up a quick conversation, and much to his relief he found that she had been tasked with purchasing certain items for the "anti-exploitation drive"
"So you're in a study group together?" Myers asked [i]interesting, bit of human interest that he pressed his mind to recall the deal hmmm yes, they get this study program to allow them to fit into society he thought recalling that he had read about this before he went out here.
"Yes we are actually," Calista said with a smile "This is part of it, they think it's good for us, to move about and do things without being supervised, it teaches independence and necessary skills in handling yourself, and Vladimir is a small safe city for putting on the training wheels." Calista explained all of it, appearing quite happy that she had some time for herself "I also have to pick up some olive oil for the oil lamps."
CITY OF VLADIMIR
RUSSIAN SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLIC
UNITED SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS
FRIDAY 22 APRIL 1938 - OLD CALENDRIST GOOD FRIDAY
After meeting at the Cathedral was easy enough to persuade the pair to let him come along and help them out a bit, and of course talk on the way. Something in the back of Myers mind felt something a tad odd about this, especially as their friendly MGB contact person was curiously absent even though this was definitely a press function, and he too found himself unsupervised for the first time since he entered the USSR. I'm too paranoid he told himself and shrugged even the commies can't watch everyone all the time, and at any rate if they're not watching me they can hardly complain if I got looking for a story.
The regular stores of the city were much like the ones he had seen in the Brusilov Prospects area, but the department stores were surprisingly well stocked, albeit it rather expensive. As he looked around the stores he subconsciously compared them to American supermarkets, and they rarely came out ahead in that respect. The bulk of them reminded him of larger versions of the old local or corner store, same higher prices and same low selection, even the layout and appearance of them were much the same. Also of course in many of the stores you didn't go around among the produce, but instead approached the desk, said what you wanted, and then the staff would go out to find it for you.
"Everything is so expensive these days, tea and olives in particular," Calista commented, she was still cheerful despite high prices "Armenian olive oil, Georgian tea, the Soviet Union tries not to import any staples." She held up the metal can of olive oil, big square looking like a miniature gas tank, but with a glued on yellow brown paper etiquette with a black and white bucolic scene of grapes being pressed and the vast olive groves in the background "I wish we could afford something better, but these days second pressing is the best we can hope for," then leaning in conspiratorially she added "It's not very good you know, no matter what the snooty shop people say, and you can't really get the really good olive oil in Vladimir anyway. Truth be told we have to import most olive oil from Greece anyway, which is a bit funny what with Greece being a Fascist country and all."
Nadia remained mostly quiet throughout, staying close to Calista, indeed the pair was never more than five feet apart, they'd occasionally talk in a low voice, but Nadia seemed very shy around Myers. The two would however talk in a low tone of voice and occasionally giggle a bit, making Myers feel that something was going on that no man could ever quite understand.
"We're going to have a little talk with a very famous mural painter, he is using Nadia as one of his models, he just happens to live nearby" Calista suddenly stated as she carried an enormous bag filled with groceries. Then looking at Myers she giggled a bit and added "Oh no, please, it's nothing like that, but just to make sure no one talks I am going as a chaperone."
Myers hadn't thought that he had seemed all that surprised or discomfited strange comment unless being a mural painter or artist is somehow... well they do have a reputation with the ladies. Yet strangely enough he had this feeling that the whole shopping route had been calculated to bring them very near to the latest project.
CITY OF VLADIMIR
RUSSIAN SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLIC
UNITED SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS
FRIDAY 22 APRIL 1938 - OLD CALENDRIST GOOD FRIDAY
The building in question was a large one, not just one of the standard apartment buildings, but rather a somewhat ornate building in a pseudo-Russo-Classical style that nevertheless left several large walls suitable for the painting of ornate murals. In front there was an elaborate set of long stairs leading up to a classical colonnade, in front of this colonnade, evenly spaced, were several statues of larger than life workers performing their craft, and on top of the building was a large onion dome surrounded by four other domes.
Myers knew that standing there gaping with an open mouth was a bad thing, so he didn't, instead he looked at the building oh yeah the murals are a good deal, cover as much of it up as possible then on second thought he realised well it's not that bad, when the domes get some colour on them, and the murals are up, but still.
Smith was flashing away pictures as if he didn't notice the somewhat odd architecture, or perhaps he just didn't care.
It was now that Myers first spotted the erstwhile artist, he was observing the building and making sketches. He was dark skinned, a light coffee complexion to his skin, fine features, long dark hair worn in a pony tail, dark soulful eyes, soft sensuous lips, a slight stubble on his cheek, and when he moved he seemed athletic and refined. Beneath his ear was a tattoo, an elaborate one, presumably to cover up his serf tattoo. He was wearing blue jeans and a white buttoned shirt, a curious combination to Myers mind, but then again Myers had heard that jeans were highly priced in the Soviet Union.
If this guy isn't the local lady killer, then I'm a toad He looked at Calista who seemed to be watching everything with a mixture of friendly awareness and motherly concern and now I see why you were so keen on insisting on the chaperone deal.
Nadia and the artist met, and exchanged one of those deep looks that only people deeply in love can manage, the kind that you either see as sweet and beautiful, or simply cloying. They began to talk, and the artist showed Nadia various sketches, Calista smiled a bit but kept a close eye on them, but now she and Nadia were somewhat separate and Myers could talk to her more or less privately.
"It's an interesting building," Myers began "Is he going to make the murals for it?"
"Some of them yes, normally murals are done in a more, ah, craftsman like fashion, is that the word?" Calista asked, peering curiously at Myers.
"Yeah, done like giant posters"
"Ah yes, I wondered that the right term was, that is how they do it, we like to have everyone have art and beautiful things, instead of it being for the pleasure of the few."
"Tell me is he good? I didn't hear his name" Myers asked looking at the young couple chatting amiably just far enough away that he couldn't hear what they were saying.
"Aristotle, and yes he's very good, he's kind of the pride of the repatriation centre."
"Really? Mind if I take some notes, it's for the background."
Calista smiled a bit "Of course not, please do, after all that's why you're here, to take notes and tell people about things right?"
"Yes, I suppose so" Myers said as he pulled out his pad and started doing shorthand notes well that was easy he thought to himself.
"Many of the murals are a bit, well" she blushed a bit "too craftsmanlike, but Aristotle is a real artist, he is very sought after, he did that one," she pointed at a nearby building "Well he did a four by six foot painting that was blown up, but that's his."
Myers looked at the painting, it was quite nice actually, unlike many of the slightly crude and propagandistic messages this one portrayed a scene of a dark skinned man, a farmer by the look of him, wiping his forehead as he looked upon the days work, with the sun setting in the horizon. It was quite well balanced.
"It's quite clever," she added "He made the whole building into a, ah, what is the word? A tableau? Anyway four times of the day, morning, the daily meal, the work, and then the evening... if you walk around the building it is a day in the life of a farmer."
"It is clever," Myers admitted Aristotle?
Calista smiled and whispered "I know what you're thinking, you are thinking 'What kind of name is Aristotle'," she smiled a bit again "You see the Draka liked to give us classical names, for their amusement, and so... Aristotle. I have been told that this was common for Romans to do with their serfs."
"Told after you got to freedom?"
Calista's eyes seemed to go cold "No, before," she said, then she gritted her teeth a bit "They told me a few anecdotes, and of course I overheard them talk among themselves." With a bitter smile she continued to speak "They didn't care more about my presence, or that of any other serf, than you or I would if a dog was present in the room. To them there are only serfs and masters, that's no way to live a life."
"I suppose you have a right to hate them," Myers commented, quickly noting everything down oh this is good, much better than what I got earlier
"Hate them? I don't hate them," she smiled sadly as she added "Not anymore, God forgive me," she crossed herself "But once I did, I hated, it is an unworthy feeling. I don't hate them anymore, I now know that there will be justice in this world, as well as the next, for which good men and women rejoice, and criminals tremble..." She sighed softly "I try to be a good Christian, and not hate or feel angry, and I pray, even for my dead master Jacob DeVore," she smiled sadly again "Especially for him."
"You pray for the man you killed?" He felt like he could bite his tongue off idiot! Who knows how fragile she is? Lord knows she don't need you messing with her more. Maybe I should just blow it off, but then... there was an internal struggle, part wanted to not push Calista further, and part wanted her segment out before the special 1st of May issue.
"Oh yes I pray for him, though he was most certainly unrepentant, but," she smiled again "The true Christian prays for all, even for the devils in hell, for who needs it more? The true Church grants comfort and brings us closer to God, unlike the false Church of the Domination..."
"The False Church?" Myers asked interested, carefully nudging her on.
"They are evil apostates to be sure," she looked sad, and quite a bit angry too "They lied to us, deceived us, told us God adored us for submitting meekly, even for submitting to the sinful wishes of our masters, and then..." her accent grew thicker as she continued talking "They even violated the sanctity of the confessional!"
Myers nodded sagely "Is that why you decided to run away?" he asked realising that she has never said why.
Calista looked at him, "I didn't know better, how could I? No..." she looked at the couple standing by the side of the Peoples Palace "I ran because I wanted to be safe, safe from being sold, and safe from being beaten, and safe from... safe from so many things, and true safety is only found when you're free."
She pointed at Nadia and Aristotle "Look at them, so beautiful, so in love, and I love them too like I would a brother or a sister," she looks at Myers "and my heart breaks at the thought of what they've endured, I shan't tell you that is up to them, but not a day goes by that I don't weep at the thought of what is being done in the Domination. They're free, free to play little courtship games without worries that Master will do something hideous to one of them, and if some fool does try something Aristotle can punch his lights out. What are you if you can't even defend the woman you love, or be defended by the man you love? You're nothing..." She smiled beautifully as she watched them.
Smith took a photo, and Myers made some notes, Calista looked at them "I probably talk to much."
"No Miss Papadopoulou," Myers replied with genuine sentiment "I assure you, you talk just enough."
RUSSIAN FEDERATIVE SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLIC
UNITED SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS
SUNDAY 1 MAY 1938
It was the early twilight, the air brought with it a slight chill, and somewhere in the distance you could hear an orchestra performing the international, but the sounds only intermittently reached you. Somewhere in the distance a bird started chirping, but stopped as a honking horn could be heard in the distance, as Moscow began to wake to life. There was a certain feeling in the air, a certain sense of expectation on this cool summer morning.
The square had been cleaned thoroughly last night, and now a couple of officers sauntered across the square making sure that everything stayed that way, behind them came a small group of bedraggled soldiers with garbage bags ready to scoop up anything that seemed out of place.
Jack Myers shivered a bit as he pulled his jacket around him don't be ridiculous Jack, it's not that cold, it's just that you just got out of bed Fortunately someone had been foreseeing enough to provide a small mobile kitchen for the foreign journalists, it didn't serve anything other than tea, coffee and some kind of soup, but it was enough to get you up and going in the early morning.
Today was the day for the legendary May Day parades, where the Soviet Union would display samples of their latest military hardware, and of course have massive floats and other displays. For a political observer the May Day speech by the Chairman was of course far more important, but for a journalist describing the USSR the parade was very descriptive of what the Soviet Union wanted to show off.
It wasn't required to be out here so early, but a lot of journalists chose to be here anyway. Myers had stood there chatting to them, they were men or women aged from the mid twenties to the fifties, but most of them nicely dressed people who stood by quietly and waited. Of course external appearances aside they came into two main groups, the kind that viewed the Soviet Union as the Evil Empire on Earth, and the kind that viewed it as the New Wave of the Future. People like Myers, neutral though slightly suspicious of the USSR seemed to be rare, of course their deceptions are often so easy to see through he thought to himself, musing on the Russians secretive but not very subtle.
Lieutenant Lapshov was also there, looking very spiffy in his brand new uniform which fitted him suspiciously well, officially he was there to continue his liaison work. However unbeknownst to Myers Lapshov's real mission was to make sure that Myers stayed the course in his article, being marginally critical of the USSR was permitted as long as the project went without a hitch. He gently touched his collar again, making sure his necktie was done right and his collar stiff and fine, he had spent close to three months wages on a tailor made uniform, and that out of his own pocket as the capitalists say, it's an investment, it pays to look good in front of the superiors.
"Comrade Reporter," Lapshov greeted Myers "What a pleasure it is to encounter you here so fortuitously on this lovely May Day morning."
"Is it always this cold in the mornings Lieutenant?" Myers asked as he sipped his mug of coffee, it was big and white with a big stylized red star with hammer and sickle design, it had a chip in it.
"It will be nice and warm later on, or so the meteorologists promise" as if they have a clue, my grandmother, God rest her soul, could tell the weather better than them Lapshov said amiably "Moscow gets quite warm in summer, like your inland states, warm in the summer and cold in the winter."
"The Kansas of Eurasia," Myers said absentmindedly as he sipped the coffee.
"If you will," said Lt Lapshov.
"You know Kansas," Myers asked, suddenly feeling imposh.
Lapshov smiled at him "We're not in Kansas anymore Mr Myers"
Myers laughed Hollywood, God bless'em "So what happens next?" He asked just to have something to say.
"Next you get good positions to see the parade and the Comrade Ministers and Comrade Krasnov, after which you are cordially invited to stand in the reporters section and receive instantaneous translations of the May Day speech by Comrade Krasnov, after which you may attend the state dinner in the Kremlin," Lapshov seemed almost wistful as he added "They have an excellent menu."
"Fancier than anything the average Soviet citizen ever sees I'd imagine," Myers said, regretting it as it came out now is not the time, and here is not the place, shit I'm more tired than I thought
"Sumptuous dinners are the norm for such things Comrade Reporter," Lapshov said easily enough "The Soviet Union is a deeply cultured country and we the Soviet People are willing to make certain sacrifices to ensure that the world can see that on such occasions," We didn't make these rules, and if we serve borsh and kasha people laugh and say 'look at the silly Russians, such uncivilized clods they are'
PARADE REGIMENT BUILDING
RUSSIAN FEDERATIVE SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLIC
UNITED SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS
SUNDAY 1 MAY 1938
Unlike many other countries that had units from all over the nation parade on their national day the Soviet Union had found a different and rather typical solution; the Parade Regiment, a reinforced regiment of highly motivated and competent full time soldiers whose duty consisted solely of making parades in Moscow of which the May Day parade was the most important. This unit was unusual in that it did not rely upon conscripts, but also in that every single member, from privates and up, had to have a high-school equivalent in practical mechanics.
They were currently doing last minute inspections of their vehicles, everything up to and including stethoscopes were used to ensure that the vehicles were in the finest working shape; a consistent nightmare for every officer and sergeant was that their vehicle should be the one that sputtered and came to a smoking end in the middle of the Red Square.
Everything was in perfect working order when the Colonel walked down the line, stopping at every single vehicle and waiting for the crew to stand at rigid attention before he would make a vague hand motion and then bark out the word "REPORT!" Then the only reply that you could give was "REPORTING VEHICLE READY FOR DEPLOYMENT COMRADE COLONEL!" God knows that if there was actually something wrong that you couldn't fix you were better off quietly removing the vehicle altogether and trying to acquire, or steal not to mince words, another one from wherever you could find one.
Of course with the plethora of mechanics and Special vehicles the chances of having more than a handful of permanents every year were quite slim. The Parade regiment received the very finest of the Special vehicles, that is the ones that were submitted to testing rather than the Production vehicles that were sent out to the consumer.
In addition to the military aspect there was of course the civilian aspect, first the participants in the celebrations that would burst forth completely spontaneously. Many of them had at first been a bit unsure of how to celebrate spontaneously and socialistically, indeed they had been running about chanting slogans and waving banners in one unruly mix. Fortunately Comrade Nanutva had explained "No no Comrades!" Clearly they had been spoiled by years of Tsarist and Capitalist oppression! "This is spontaneous," she had said as she demonstrated the right postures and hand movements, they had to learn how to be spontaneous and that took a very long time.
Today the floats would be more magnificent than ever, and of course the banners would also contain the usual bombastic slogans promising further tons of pig iron, the electrification of the country side, and the bloody overthrow of the Imperialist pigs. That and of course the celebration of the cultural diversity of the Soviet Union, something which would be treated with all due reverence on May Day, unlike normal days when such displays of ethnicity would solicit such loving Russian terms of endearment like chernozhopyi, kosoglazyi, and ashotik. Usually followed by a swift exchange of punches and kicks, all in the name of Socialist Fraternity of course!
RUSSIAN FEDERATIVE SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLIC
UNITED SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS
SUNDAY 1 MAY 1938
Jack Myers wasn't shivering anymore as the sun began to rise, indeed temperatures seemed to rise and soon he felt quite warm, it was turning out to be quite the nice summer day. Pretty soon he had unbuttoned the heavy coat that he was wearing and let it stay open, even so his toes still felt cold. Fortunately a good shot of Russian Vodka helped get the blood circulation back and running again, he smiled widely as he felt the blessed warmth spread to every extremity of his body.
"It's good Vodka" Lapshov commented, he himself had quaffed down several tumblers, unlike the foreigners who usually sipped gently Lapshov simply placed it to his lips and threw his head back emptying it in one gulp.
Myers was watching him intently, but to his great amazement there was not a hint of a slurred voice or any sign of inebriation Damn their livers must look like month old leftovers. Trying to keep up with his guide was impossible, and he had to limit himself to polite timid little sips, something which annoyed him a bit as he felt it looked a bit effete.
Damn is this good Vodka, I'd have to pay a weeks wages for a bottle of this Lapshov pondered as he gulped down another shot Too bad I can't really indulge, oh this is smooth "They say..."
"Yes?" Myers said.
"They say the Tsar," Lapshov held up the glass "The Tsar was drinking this brand of Vodka, when they come for him, yes imagine..." Lapshov made a hand motion "There he sits, this hereditary lord, who thinks that his birth somehow gives him the right to be master, he sits in a room with gilded walls, filled with beautiful art of centuries, and he sits upon an expensive chair... he is drinking, and then... THEN the Revolution comes! BAM! The door torn open, the tumbler falling to the ground and rolling away, as they drag off the autocrat of Russia to a well deserved doom!" He smiled at Myers and added "If not for the audience I should toast the death of tyrants and break my glass, but it would be too much I fear."
Myers smiled at that and chuckled "Yes I think so too," he felt strangely at ease in Lapshovs company, if there was one thing that Lapshov had really done it was show him the very real human face of the Soviet Union.
Already many people lined the Red Square as the early birds had gotten in place early on to get the best spots, many of them were families that had brought their children to watch one of the greatest displays in the Socialist Motherland. Some of the parents let their children sit on their shoulders, and everyone had hammer and sickle pins and badges, with tiny red flags to wave, all of which was provided for a very low price by various vendors if anyone should, somehow, have forgotten.
Moments later developments began to occur, people in fancy uniforms began to ascent onto the elaborate podium that had been set up earlier, Myers could recognise a few of the people there from newsreel broadcasts All the high mucketimucks are turning out.
"Who's that?" He asked Lapshov pointing at one of the figures.
Lapshov looked at him, and then squinted in the direction of the podium, "Please Mr Myers, it's rude to point," he tried to make it sound casual and friendly but he was a bit nervous "who's who?" He added.
"Fourth guy from the left, next to Marshall Tukhachevsky" Myers said.
"That would Nikolai Vavilov, head of the Institute of Applied Botany and new Crops, twice Hero of Socialist Labour, there is talk of making him a non-voting member of the Politburo," Lapshovs voice approached awe as he added "The Giant that makes deserts into orchards."
"The what?" Myers asked.
"There was a movie when I was younger, ahm," he smiled a bit "About great projects, the Virgin Soil projects in Northern Kazakhstans to find suitable crops to grow there, they also experimented with the first large scale plantings of teff."
There was the longest wait now, to build up anticipation before the Great Man himself would arrive, and in that time more and more people could arrive. Indeed people were starting to get excited about the prospect of seeing the great man himself, and they were starting to seem excited. Then slowly the cavalcade holding the great man began to move up the Red Square, then he left his limousine and ascended up to the podium, immediately the chant of Krasnov, KRASNOV, KRASNOV began to rise from the thousands of throats. There was a certain hypnotic quality to this chant, and Myers had to stop himself several times from joining in.
The Great Man himself ascended up the podium, and there at the top he stretched out his hand to the cheers of the people, the chanting rose even higher until he signalled for the Parade to begin, at which point it slowly died down as the first rumbling vehicles began to pass by.
First came the workers and peasants of the Soviet Union, chanting slogans and holding banners covered in more slogans, and with pictures of Lenin and red stars. They were dressed like workers and peasants, and indeed you could scarcely find more stereotypical people there, you had your square jawed stout workers, your pretty farm girls, your old fashioned farmers, and your big stout working class girls holding banners, all of them extruding joy and health. 
Then came the elaborate floats displaying the wealth and produce of the Soviet Union, all to build up a suitable feeling of progress, prosperity, and a sense of belonging and beauty. A way of saying to the people "This is who we are, this is what we need to defend," which of course was thematically very well suited to lead up to the introduction of the Armed forces.
The tanks came force, the rattling of the tanks sounded like distant thunder to Myers, as row upon row of tanks arrived spearheading the military aspects of the May Day parade followed shortly by an enormous marching band orchestra covered with more gold epaulets and braided ropes than Myers had ever seen outside of a Doormans Convention. Then the main parade itself began, all the while the air was filled with the sound of various military marches being played very loudly, so much so they could be heard over the sound of the Soviet machinery being displayed.
Now there came row upon row of uniformed soldiers holding strange rifles with box cartridges, they were marching in perfect unison goose stepping down the Red Square with the sound of their boots reminding Myers of the sound of distant gunshots. Behind them followed seemingly endless rows of army trucks, each and every one of them filled with soldiers sitting bolt upright, with firm immobile faces. It was like watching some great and terrible machine advancing, then he noticed that there was text written on the side of many of the vehicles.
"What does it say!" he shouted to Lapshov and pointed at the trucks.
Lapshov peered, then he grinned and said "For the Motherland!"
There was a strange smell in the air, and something about those trucks didn't look right, Myers couldn't quite figure it out and he frowned as he thought What is WRONG with them? Then suddenly realisation struck They're not autosteamers! "They're not steamers!"
"No Mr Myers, THOSE are the Soviet Unions finest diesel trucks," Lt Lapshov said with a smile "You try operating a steamer when it hits minus forty degrees centigrade."
Myers looked blankly into space as he did the conversions in his head "Oh my God! That would..."
Then before he could continue his thoughts the next aspect of the parade continued, and now the Soviets eyes began to shine a little as the first armoured cars began to roll down the square. They were angular things, quite ugly to Myers eyes, but there was a lot of them driving in perfect unison, dozens, hundreds densely packed like some massive cornucopia of armaments were sending forth an endless stream of rattling Russian BA-10 Armoured Cars.
"Light tanks, production at least twenty thousand a year, soon to be ramped up to sixty thousand," Lapshov commented absentmindedly, then as the light tanks began to come he added "Every year we make more armoured cars and tanks than the Draka do in a decade." 
The T-60 light tanks were dinky things to Myers eye, certainly not the massive impressive machinery that he can come to expect, but still there were a lot of them.
Then Lapshov began to whistle a little tune, "The rattling of the tanks were like a thunder on the plain," he half hummed in English.
Before Myers could ask what he meant he realised it, tanks, hundreds of them, so densely packed and so close that he could almost touch them, and he felt the vibrations of the hundreds of tracks carry through his body and making his teeth chatter slightly, or perhaps it was the cold. Bright red stars painted on the side of the T-31s and T-34s, with the commander of each echelon standing up in his cupola and saluting, while row upon row of the biggest tanks Myers had ever seen rolled by. Then came the LT-1s and LT-3s, named for Leon Trotsky, the heavy tanks, the turrets looked like gigantic boxes mounted on top of another gigantic box.
However what really shocked him was the T-28s and T-35s, the three and five turreted models, rumbling ominously down the Red Square like some land dreadnaught, and it was so huge! They seemed to extrude power in a way nothing else could, the big Soviet tanks seemed to dwarf the self propelled guns and the tank destroyers, and damn it! The sound of the tanks WERE like a thunder across the Red Square! As he watched the five turreted tanks roll down the Red Square Myers could not for the life of him imagine how anyone could stand against such power.
Then came massive floats, pulled by the enormous tractors so beloved by the Soviet union, and on those floats were displayed scale models of the various ships of the Soviet Navy, they were all of impressive workmanship showing astonishing detail, including a line display on the railing to give the viewers an idea of the scale. The most impressive of these displays were without doubt the massive Dmitrityii Donskoy class ships, still in their shake down cruises, but never the less even the models brought awed looks from the locals as the massive model turrets turned sixty degrees showing that they were fully operational.
The other impressive detail was the large model of the new Red Square class carrier, it was a tiny thing in real life but the model certainly looked impressive with several model airplanes stacked on its deck.
"Models?" Myers asked, even though he had heard about it, hearing about a thing and seeing it is quite different.
"In the old days they had big photographs, but I think this works much better, yes?" Lt Lapshov said.
Then suddenly it changed from giant floats to another marching band and this time a jaunty march was struck up as row upon row of young men wearing air force uniform began to march down the Red Square. Even as they marched Myers looked up and saw a great number of Red Air Force airplanes flying over, just low enough to be safe, and he could actually read the text written on their wings, and the troops marched on, and the music played. For the first time he felt impressed, the whole thing was simply magnificent, very theatrical but very impressive. All young boys everyone dreamed of the air, there was something about airborne displays that brought back childhood memories for Myers, even one where they just flew over in perfect formation.
Now however it was time for the greatest love of the Russians, and that of course was the artillery, big artillery pulled by big artillery tractors or big trucks. Indeed for the Russians the love of artillery was a major cultural quirk, there was nothing like a big gun making a big boom to bring joy to a Russian soldier.
Now there was another jaunty march, and then multiple rows of towed AA guns were introduced, starting with the light stuff like 20mm, 40mm, 50mm, and 127mm, the little peashooters for the Russians. Even so there was a lot of it, even a battery of Cossack AA was drawn past, with Cossacks in colourful uniform and sabres at their sides, and horses pulling light mountain AA. It all looked very splendid.
Then however came the real guns, the huge 203mm and 250mm anti-air guns, "Those Mr Myers will slap any airship out of the sky, and there are many of them, many! Those 250mm guns you see, they are based on an anti-SHIP gun, rapid velocity naval, so it has the good range!" 
Then came the endless rows of heavier artillery 128mm field artillery, 155mm field artillery, 203mm field artillery, 250mm field artillery, and giant vast 280mm and 304mm artillery pieces that were pulled in using special tracked vehicles and a massive bed that looked like a railway artillery case carefully configured for roadside use. Here there were guns, guns so big that the ones Myers had seen on American displays seemed like little peashooters.
Yet when he thought he had seen the biggest artillery in the world another march began, and a small army of artillery men marched in lockstep forward, followed closely by two tracked vehicles pulling the biggest custom design artillery vehicles he had ever seen. On these vehicles stood something huge, it was so big that the men standing by the side of these cannon were dwarfed, here then was something the size of a battleships cannon. Not satisfied with this, behind these there were floats carrying the shells to these cannon, and beside the shells stood men in Soviet artillery uniforms, they looked almost tiny next to the enormous artillery shells that in many cases were taller than they were. 
"406 millimetre, or 16 inches in your terms," Lapshov said "Heavy mortars, when we bring these up there won't be anything left of anything they hit, BIG boom, and then the slavocrat fortress is gone!"
"SIXTEEN inches?" Myers asked in awe "And this is for land?"
"Big Guns of Russia", Lapshov replied "Oh it makes you wish you joined the Artillery branch don't it?"
"So you could have a really big gun?" Myers asked mischievously.
Lapshov smiled "I decline to answer on the grounds that it might incriminate me."
The massive Parade now began to move towards the end, with the last of the enormous cannon vanishing into the horizon. The whole thing ended up with another massive marching band which patriotically enough played the Soviet National Anthem, recently changed from The International in order to appease certain European interest groups.
Then it was time for the speech, Myers shuffled over into the reporters section and was gratified to receive a pair of surprisingly elegant and light bakelite and steel earphones that linked to a very small and light radio. It was one of the buttoned models, each button had a tiny flag painted on it, there was one that was half British and half American, a French one, a German one, a Spanish one, an Italian one, and even a Portuguese one. The radio was lovely, metal and bakelite with carefully rounded forms, no cracks or deviations, a nice leather strap you could use to hang it over your shoulder. 
"Comrades, please push the button with your language flag on it, and you will hear the speech translated into your language," the aides that handed it out told everyone, in six different languages mind. They were very pretty and charming the aides, wearing neat uniforms and Komsomol pins, indeed most of them looked like American cheerleaders much to Myers surprise.
"This is a splendid product of Soviet Ingenuity, designed and built in the Soviet Union, but the hard working intelligencia and labourers of our Union," they said in chirpy voices that resounded with joy and enthusiasm.
"Amazing isn't it," Lapshov commented eagerly, "They are wonderful devices, allowing you to have difficult speeches translated immediately!"
Myers looked at him with a bit of surprise "What you got a relative working in the factory Lieutenant?" He said half joking.
"How did you know Mr Myers?" Lapshov said sounding genuinely surprised "My brother works there, he is a section supervisor."
Now however there was no time for the speech, while Lapshov and Myers had been getting ready to hear the translation the Red Square had been filled with carefully arrange groups of workers and soldiers standing there in a seemingly spontaneous mixture of the workers and soldiers of the Soviet Union. In reality what appeared to be chaos was really a carefully choreographed display placing "neatly disordered" ranks of attractive and healthy people in front of the back rows of regular citizens.
Then to the thunderous applause of the crowd the Great Man himself advanced towards a microphone, there was no squeal as he began to speak, but he smiled a little as he saw a small blue point on the side of the microphone Blaupunkt, that German habit of marking the best gear with a blue dot, and now our habit was the thought that went through his mind. Now however he heard the cheering of the people, the way they called his name, and the roar of the masses was like the voice of a god Remember Ivan, you are mortal he reminded himself as he reached out his hand and watched the crowd go silent.
"Brothers and Sisters of the Socialist Motherland," the crowd exploded in the chairs and chants once more "Gaze now upon our nation and rejoice! For our nation is great, our nation is prosperous, our nation is fertile, and our nation is governed by the people! Our nation is free!" There were once more applause and chants.
"Our nation which has suffered greatly over the years, has finally broken free of the evil spell that laid over it for all those long years of oppression. Today a peasants son can get the highest degrees, today the coalminer, the farmer, the factory worker, all of them can truly work themselves up. There used to be a joke in the coalmines, when a man said that he would work himself up they would say, how? Will you dig upwards? It is not thus anymore, the evil days are over, we are prosperous."
"No longer do we see the class envy of the wicked people hold down our nation, we know truly the sweet taste of Socialism and Liberty. We are the masters of our own fate, no longer bound to harsh labour in return for the bare necessities of life."
"We shall continue to grow more prosperous, to this purpose the Government of the Soviet Union will continue its New Economic Policy, ensuring the growth of the Workers & Peoples Enterprises throughout the Soviet Union. It is clear to us that when the Workers themselves control the means of production, unprecedented growth and productivity is bound to occur, and so these policies shall naturally be continued!"
"Certain ignorant persons have suggested that it is unfitting for the Soviet Union to have trading relations with Capitalists, what utter nonsense! The Great Lenin himself said that there is much that we can learn from the Capitalists, and he did not hesitate to trade or negotiate with them when doing so would benefit the Soviet Union."
"Today we find that the Capitalist states still retain many things that the Soviet Union desires, and that the only way to spread Communist ideas in their countries are to have trade and diplomatic relations with them. If we were to break of these relations we would not only deny ourselves access to various goods that we need, but we would also deny our Comrades abroad the moral support of our the Soviet Union. Therefore the idea that the Soviet Union should cut itself of from the rest of the world is an idea that borders on the anti-social." 
"Therefore it remains the policy of the Soviet Union that we shall honour all the agreements we have made, diplomatic and economic, with the foreign world. It is the Categorical Pledge of the Soviet Union that we shall not be the ones to dishonour our commitments!"
"There is much talk these days of foreign involvements, the Soviet Union does, as always, believe in supporting the progressive governments of the world. Despite certain unfortunate events in the recent past  we will continue this policy of supporting all progressive governments that require it. It is unacceptable to abandon our comrades abroad! However that should not be taken to be a desire to spread Communism by way of military adventurism, unlike the Capitalists we do not send small bands of filibusters out to overthrow governments, nor will we send our armies against any nation that has not attacked us first. Instead it must be seen as what it is, our categorical pledge to support those legitimate progressive governments that call upon us for our aid!"
Myers blinked once, then twice to this, What the hell did he just say?. However now he began on a new tack, his mannerism and voice changing subtly, and the crowd being swept along by his words.
"We are not expansionists, we have nothing but love and understanding for our fellow man, and hope that he shall take the same step we have, and we know that History, that ancient force of destiny that goes beyond any man, History shall see World Socialism!"
"When I look upon you today, I feel great joy in my heart, for I see a people that have shaken off the chains of oppression and tyranny and greed, today we celebrate the worker, the builder, the creator. We celebrate our own hard labour, by which we have turned our great nation from one that was backwards and ruled by a dictator, and into one that is prosperous, advancing, and ruled by the people in accordance to the traditions of the enlightenment. On this route we have suffered much, we have endured the unendurable, we have slaved through the long centuries of autocratic darkness, of slavery, of oppression, and of ignorance; but we have come forth into the light of day, now we stand bathed in the light of knowledge."
"I see now before me the many peoples of the Soviet Union, united in fraternal love, having cast aside old fashioned prejudices and realised that all men are truly brothers. That is true without a doubt, no man should be happy if he knows his brother is oppressed, no man should be joyful if he knows his brother is starved, and if a man saw his brother being beaten and abused truly it is his duty to strike down the oppressor."
"We have struck down our oppressor, we have realised how easy it was, hear now the cries from a thousand throats, can you not hear the power behind them? Can you not feel the power that comes when you all raise your voice as one? Now we raise our voice as one, today we stand united, and we feel the strength of our unity, for we are one, one family united in Socialism, and there is no force in this world that break apart that family which stands firm!"
"Yet even though we are peaceful, even though we seek peace, there is an Empire of Evil on our border, a force malign and dark. Some say all evil comes from treating human beings, even yourself, as things, I believe this, and I see evil, dark and vile. It is our duty as thinking people to revile this force, it is our duty as Socialists to work towards its destruction, and it is our duty as Heroic Beings to crush the serpents head beneath our heel."
"We see our homes, they are cozy and warm, we see our beloved motherland, her expanses are great and her soil life giving, we see our people bound tightly to the land, connected to it as we are connected with sacred bonds of Kinship. Then on the other side there are the evils that would tear us apart from our land, break our blood links. We know what this evil is."
"The Domination of the Draka are our great enemy, and we shall destroy them utterly, we shall smash their monuments, burn their plantations, break the chains of serfdom, and give all the lands and factories to the people that work them. To this sacred purpose the whole of Soviet Society is dedicated, there is no cause more noble, and no sacrifice so great that we should not make it. God will not forgive us if we fail."
There was a ROAR of chants and applause to this, the entire crowd seemed to loose everything resembling sense in expressing their appreciation. Myers felt his heart pound faster, and he clenched his fist, the speech, the people screaming around him, he found himself hating, HATING the Draka and suddenly found that his own voice had for a moment joined those of the crowd around him. Then shocked he came back to his senses and wondered what had happened, but he could see that the same spell had affected many of the other journalists, while others appeared stony faced.
What is it? He turns from a brief discourse on economic subjects and suddenly turn people into screaming fanatics, it's Myers realised what it was, it was fascinating, to see so much power in the hands of one man, and to see it aimed at one purpose Dangerous... even if the Draka are bad.
"Today on May Day, let us make a sacred vow, that we shall continue to build our economy, and our glorious Red Army, Soviet Navy, and Red Airforce, until we are ready to sweet the Abomination of the surface of the Earth!"
Another roar rose up, cheers and wavings of red banners as Krasnov continued yet again.
"When it is all over, and the enemy is destroyed, that is not the end, for after that... we shall have freed the world, and it shall be a beautiful world," his voice seemed to drop to a whisper "We shall create the perfect state, with enough for everyone, we shall create bliss upon this Earth, imagine it, live it, and it SHALL... BE... SO..." He held up his clenched fist in the Red Front salute "RED FRONT!"
The whole assembly exploded into cheers again, they waved and they shouted slogans, and all over the two slogans rose higher and higher "RED FRONT RED FRONT! KRASNOV KRASNOV RED FRONT!" Their clenched fist salute against the background of the Hammer and Sickle creating a hypnotic rhythm, and at that moment Myers knew that as Krasnov looked into the crowd their eyes met and the Great Man looked at him and him alone.
After that it was practically a delight to turn back the radio to the smiling Komsolets girls, Myers noticed that his Radio girl seemed particularly nice Naw, I'm imagining things he thought sadly as he began his walk towards the Kremlin itself for his attending the dinner.
FORMAL DINING HALL
RUSSIAN FEDERATIVE SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLIC
UNITED SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS
SUNDAY 1 MAY 1938
The formal dining hall was the usual Tsarist extravaganca, the walls were lined with amazingly intricate gold filigree work, and wherever you looked there was gilding, detail, beautiful ornate vases with landscapes on them, and big paintings of suitably magnificent looking battles, and men standing in dramatic poses around a table where some document was signed, or the ornate bed were someone was laying and dying (in most cases half the gentlemen depicted were in the first place glad the bastard was dead, and in the second place weren't even there in the first place, but bribed the painted to paint them in later).
That said it was much like any such occasion would be in any country, sumptuous palatial surroundings, fine linen tablecloths, polished shining silverware, elegant blue and white china tableware, fine cut crystal glasses, and of course a small army of servants moving silently to and fro to make sure everyone was satisfied. Indeed you might think yourself back in the age of the Tsar.
To the clinking of silverware, and the low murmur of conversation he began to finish his article in his mind. He also noticed that a lot of the Russians would, as each dish arrived, first look to Krasnov or one of the foreign diplomats, and only then pick the right fork or knife Russians... He thought.
A fitting ending to my mission to Moscow Myers thought as the elegant dinner began, and he watched everyone eat and maintain quiet polite conversation. Next week he'd return home with the airship, but the food was good, the wine was good, and his job was done.
 A cynic might point out that they seemed to have unusually good teeth, and be rather photogenic for peasants and workers. Further a cynic might comment that they look strangely like the extras from various propaganda movies, almost as if they had raided SovFilm for participants. However such horrible people have nothing to do with the May Day, and will be taken away by nice men and shown the errors of their ways.
 You would of course be wise to take any numbers Lapshov provides with a good heaping spoonful of salt.
 Likewise your hypothetical cynic might wonder why on Earth someone might make a 250mm AA gun, and might find upon closer inspection that it's not a gun but rather a piece of big pipe attached to an artillery mount. Then our hypothetical cynic would be shot for espionage, problem solved.
 The guns pulled are of course giant pieces of oil pipe carefully dandied up to look real, however the artillery shells themselves ARE real and were borrowed from the Dmitryii Donskoy project. Of course the men picked for the task of standing next to cannon and shells were picked for their small stature, to make the ironmongery they were next to all the more impressive.
 Of course the speech has been previously translated, and somewhere there sat a Russian with a copy of the speech ready to read it off in the same pace as Krasnov did. Naturally the radios themselves are specially made models on a German pattern using German tools.
 Note: Therefore the idea that the Soviet Union should cut itself of from the rest of the world is an idea that borders on the anti-social Means something like: Keep talkin', keep talkin', plenty of room in Siberia.
 Spanish Civil War, Communist lost this time around as well.
 If you say that no communist leader would ever say God will not forgive us if we fail you'd be wrong Brezhnev said just that, although not in the May Day Speech.