Mandatory Draft Announced

From the Story Arc: New Years 2007

Previous Story in the Arc: Pining Away by Krasniy Zakat (Saturday, December 30, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: The Long Way Home by Dr. Bella Dawn Parker (Monday, January 01, 2007)

(posted Saturday, December 30, 2006)

Sofia loved her husband. She really did.

She reminded herself of the fact at least thrice as she swept the floor of the immense CCCP mess hall of melting snow – it was already forming into puddles and leaking under tables, stools and couches – and frozen Siberian dirt. With all her nostalgia, she was disinclined to bend down and kiss the earth, really…

She reminded herself of the same fact as she watched her muttering souse’s disappearing back, fading into one of the workbench spaces while she struggled vainly with a huge garland of lights that kept snagging onto her sweatshirt. Yes, she married a genius who had just broken one of the most commonly known laws of the world; that teleportation doesn’t happen beyond line-of-sight distance. If you wanted to go any further, you had to use Portals, which were incredibly energy consuming and bulky. And rare, as they bankrupted the airplane companies. Luckily, universities were among the institutions that were deemed portal-worthy, and the Other Rabinoviches should, at this point, be making their merry way to the one at Berkeley. Sofia tagged a corner of her brain to remind her to have them picked up from portal corps in a half an hour.

Be that as it may. The mere fact that Alexander got this brilliant, creative… and quite lucrative idea while searching – in Siberia, yegods – for a New Year’s Tree just made her point. Now he had retreated into the lab, muttering numbers under his breath and left her alone to deal with decorations. Nu, what else is new?

Sofia expected that as son as Aleksander arrived, he would follow Alex into the lab and the two women – herself and her alternate – would find the two men screaming murder at each other while waving slide-rules. One of hem would be playing Devil’s Advocate, and would be carried away in the process. At least she could always guilt alter-Sofia into helping her cook… the woman hated cooking as much as she herself did, but she would react the same way to standing around while others were doing the work. She’d twitch and wander and mutter and finally steal the sharper of Sofia’s knives to cut the onions. Afterwards, she would slink near one of the walls and try very hard not to be seen by the CCCPers. Sofia thought that, despite the fact that her urbane alternate didn’t show it, she was still severely weirded out by half of them and simply shy of the other half. For that matter, Sofia herself still felt uncomfortable in big gatherings.

Sofia shuddered briefly at the thought of the four of them, together, festive and possibly sipping on some wine, in front of the entire CCCP. If they thought that two Rabinoviches were an invincible team, what will they make of four? Not to mention very few people actually knew that they were, in a way, sheltering alternates. She imagined the looks while pinning a large ‘Do Not Throw Up Under Tree’ sign to the wide base of the atrociously gorgeous blue pine her incorrigible husband fetched.

From the corner of her eye Sofia saw Althea sneaking into the communal kitchen, carrying a large pot by the handles, her face almost completely hidden behind the aluminium bulk of it. Of course; Sofia would not have to cook alone. She hoped that Thea’s enthusiasm would not provide food for five hundred people in a place where there would be only thirty. She also hoped that she won’t find her traditional Russian meal overwhelmed with… well, junk food. Yesterday and the day before that Sofia bullied her husband into helping her actually make, rather than buy in the Russian store, a huge batch of pelemeni. Alexander, who detested cooking – though rather liked eating - even more than Sofia herself, grumbled constantly while beating the elastic, tough dough against the counter. She counseled him succinctly, and rather dryly, to use the opportunity to work out his aggression against his tormenting, controlling wife.

For some reason the only response she got was a snarl.

The food was mostly put away in the giant headquarters freezer, and Sofia, atypically, found herself fussing over the adorations of the stark warehouse walls. She’d pressed Anna into service by looping a tangled string of lights o her elbow and telling her to ‘just untangle these’. There was, for that matter, some monotonous cursing coming from that corner. Something about ‘light that I can’t see anymore, but get all the trouble from, regardless. Hah. At least Anna didn’t have to share Bear’s fate of painstakingly folding napkins. Or Tao’s patient standing on a chair trying vainly to crown their astonishingly tall tree with a big red star someone from the old fanatics dug out of their attic.

Everything seemed to be working rather well, and, as Sofia cast the dirt and pine needles into one of the garbage bins, she realized the time has long since come for her to go pick up her… relatives. After which she can safely draft Sofia into the onerous, but well worth it, task of making blintzes.