International Relations

From the Story Arc: The Charge of the Labcoat Brigade

Previous Story in the Arc: Theory of Relativity by Krasnaya Zarya (Thursday, February 08, 2007)

Next Story in the Arc: Social Science 101 by Krasniy Zakat (Sunday, February 11, 2007)

(posted Saturday, February 10, 2007)

((Co-written with VictoriaVictrix))

Various points during the week

Sofia dug frantically through the drawer of the closet where she kept the family's extensive archive of official documents. The drawer was a mess and full to the brim; it was amazing, the amount of paperwork that accumulated throughout a person's life. No wonder all these rain forests in Brazil were dying off; they all went into official red tape, forms and receipts. But where were they?

"Alexander!" Sofia hollered, pulling her hands out of the mess of papers. "Where did you stash our passports, for heaven's sake?"

"You mean you didn't put them in their usual place?" Alexander had, apparently, not been engrossed in some little detail of electronics, or mathematical calculation, because his response time was closer to Lunar than to Martian. He also sounded faintly worried. "We used them last for one of the conventions we went to in Europe; I thought you were the person in charge of everything being in its place."

"This is their place," Sofia pointed eloquently to the spilling drawer. "But somebody didn't put things in order from the last time he was looking for his medical records. Somebody dug through here like a raccoon and decided he'd just stuff everything in, rather than arrange it. Our passports - Russian or American - were not to be seen since. Congratulations."

"Oh, great," Alex knelt at her side and started pulling stacks of paper out, "now it's my fault."

"And you'd better believe it!"

Alexander glowered before bending his head back to his search.


Under normal circumstances, getting a ticket trans-Atlantic is a difficult matter. As it happened, however, Trans-Aero didn't lack in Russian employees - being a Russian company, and all - and some of them even lived this side of the ocean. Some of these, in their turn, felt quite obliged to the couple that, on a semi-regular basis, extracted would-be thieves out of their apartment buildings. So when Sofia called in the ticket office pleading urgent affairs, all she had to do was completely by accident drop the name Krasnaya Zarya. Oddly enough a pair of first-class - no less! - tickets were instantly found and the Rabinoviches' name prompted up the queue in less than five seconds.

Sofia - in keeping with her disgust of all things 'heroic' and 'special' - found this mildly distasteful; but one would do anything for a herring salad. She packed a small, careful suitcase for both of them. Not more than a handbag, really; on the way back, they will most likely be towing the suitcases of two new émigrés. And the will be flying back, too. Nobody wanted trouble with the border authorities of the U.S.

"Thrill," Sofia noted to herself crisply, still on English mode, as she rolled up a pair of socks and tossed them in. "I can avoid Malta caltrops, Rikti riffles and the head of department. And whom am I afraid of? The USCIS."

"That's because you've faced them before." Alexander was sitting on the floor at the foot of their bed, a large Crey rifle between his knees. Before they leave the house for longer than a few hours at a time, he went through and disassembled most of the formidable ammunition cache. They were in no mood to have some Hellion kids, or petty criminals, encounter any of the traps and safeguards they normally had out. That was civil lawsuit stuff, for sure, if not outright homicide.

"I've faced Rikti, too."

"Ah, but Rikti are not politicians." The rifle finally clicked and Alex tossed it aside. "Rikti are easy. They shoot you; you shoot them. What to do with the USCIS…? They know perfectly well how much we want to go back to Siberia, and so they will always have the upper hand. I suppose you could always call up the Hebrew University if they do decide to get pissed off."

"Fifteen years is an awfully heavy piano to run with, Sasha."

"That's why we need to hope that Vickie will do her job as well as we do ours. The government can overlook murder, assault and theft, but immigration offenses - never. Makes me wish I could deal with them the same way we do with all villains," muttered Alex darkly, "And I don't mean invite them over for tea."

" 'First thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers!' " Sofia quipped in her underlying, perfect Shakespearian accent. Alexander whooped, jumped to his feet and brandished his rifle, and the suitcase was rather quickly forgotten.

It was a carefully coded call, set up by a veritable novel worth of carefully coded emails. Not all from the same email address or even the same ISP. Thea had only the vaguest notions of how these things were done, but she would send out her email from a special program on her computer, and her adoptive parents would get one purporting to be an inquiry about tomatoes and who was taking over the business with a chatty little message--her message--on the end, apparently from some old customer. And the ISP would seem to be from some place in Moscow.

"Momma! Get Poppa on too, please? I want to tell you about my spring break."

That meant that the evacuation was imminent.

With both parents hovering over the phone, she continued.

"I have a load of research, so I can't come home."

I won't be coming myself, I'm sending someone to collect you.

"But there is a lovely married couple, professors from the University, that are actually going to be in Moscow over the time I was going to be there."

"Lovely" meant --- they are... eccentric... Sane, but you might not think so. The rest being all true.

"Sasha and his wife Sofia. Da, the ones I told you about. Please, can you be hospitable to them?"

"Hospitable"--no matter how mad it seems, do just what they tell you to.

"They will not be bringing much with them.”

Pack lightly. Very lightly. She had argued it all out with them already and had compromised on having them ship out things with the last few loads of tomatoes. It would take months for those packages to get here but... what could be replaced, should be. All they really needed was that fat sheaf of Euros that the buy had paid for the greenhouse business, and the mementos and pictures that could not be replaced.

She gave them the day and time of arrival, told them repeatedly, fervently, and tearfully how much she loved them and how devastated she was that she would not be coming home for the break, and hung up before any of them could blurt out something that was not in the code.

Perhaps this was being overcautious, but she thought not. Nor did Vickie. Nor did Sasha and Sofia.

And she had the papers, the precious entry papers, the papers granting asylum and green card status, in her hands. Her parents would be that most valued of immigrant, someone bringing money and jobs into the country. She had already negotiated for their new business, a much smaller greenhouse with cottage attached where they would be growing organic herbs. Americans were mad for organic anything. Americans were all crazy. It was a good business, and would be easier for her parents to keep up than the huge hothouse tomato business. The US was ready to open its arms to anyone who generated income.

For once, capitalism was working in her favor.

Wednesday morning Rhode Island time, Wednesday afternoon Moscow time

"You don't really think they will get lost in the Paris grid, do you, Alexander?"

"Hmm..?" Alex's ponytail bobbed up and down as he rapidly skimmed a very unscientific Asimov, probably looking for new insane ideas to implement. Nonetheless, the reaction time for him to answer hadn't changed one bit. That was already a habit to Sofia - marry a man with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and that is what you get. Her husband's long legs were stretched out before him till the toes brushed the back of the seat before him, but even his gangly self could only do so much with first class.

"Sasha!" She poked him with an elbow and the ponytail shook violently before crawling out of the novel.


"I asked you a question, Sasha."

"I'm listening!" he yelped in protest, brandishing the book like a shield.

"Oh, really? What did I ask you then?"

"Um…" Alex scratched his head thoughtfully and guessed. "Something about the Paris electricity grid?"

Sofia just sighed. "I asked," she repeated patiently. Very patiently. "Whether you don't really think that Thea's parents will have become a scattered wave function in the European power grid. You can wave our salad goodbye then," she added, piteously.

"The tree made it fine, didn't it?"

"With half of the Earth's upper crust tied to it," Sofia noted dryly. "But this isn't a tree; these are two elderly people and their luggage, as I am sure you know."

"Uh... so much the better?" Alex hazarded and, withering under Sofia's glare, added nervously, "they weigh less than a huge pine."

He wilted under Sofia's glare a little more, but continued smiling awkwardly. From this Sofia managed to read the long and involved monologue of 'even though you doubt me, dear wife, and I wilt under your gaze, I am pretty sure we won't lose any of their limbs. More or less sure.' She was about to make a point of it, but there was far too much on her mind to continue with one worry for very long, when thirteen new ones assaulted.

"You think Aleksander and Sofia will be able to handle things back at home?" The alter-Rabinoviches, plus one small suitcase - as they will be using their twins' clothes - arrived a few days ago, to be dumped headfirst into a whirlwind of work. The first evening of their arrival, after the tea was drank, and the cake was eaten, and the conversation about physics and the follies of mankind subsided, the two locals briefed in their alter-egos, giving them detailed and careful descriptions of who was who, and what was what. And, except for a few trusted people, nobody knew that one set of Rabinoviches left, and another set took up its duties on a temporary basis. Vickie probably knew, as did Althea, for reasons that should be obvious. Other than that… one simply hoped that the alternates could quietly accomplish the long list of tasks left to them. Naturally, however, Sofia worried.

"I would have been fine," Alex said, amused, "So Aleksander is probably fine too. Sofia is fretting, though."

"I do not fret!" Sofia said indignantly. "I have perfectly justifiable cause for worry."

"Well, is there anything you can do about it, right now, from the plane?"

"Not… really."

"Well then, why worry about it?" Alexander exclaimed impatiently, as he had done a thousand times before. And, as in the thousand times before, Sofia gave the same answer.

"Because I'd rather I could do something about it." She said, acceding to the truth in his remarks without much grace and plucked at her own book. She stared at the cover of the Hitchhiker's guide - very aptly featuring large green, 'Don't Panic' script - and muttered. "And I do not fret."

"Oh yes you do," Alexander tapped her book cover eloquently. "Next time, take a dark horror or something." He ducked under her arm as she smacked the book on the crown of his head. Their quarrel was stopped by a feminine voice in the plane's loudspeaker.

"We now begin landing at Domodedovo airport. The descent will take approximately thirty minutes. Please fasten your seatbelts and remaining your places for the duration of the decent. The weather in Moscow is -1 Celsius, cloudy."

Sofia looked up at Alexander, whose expression was, for the moment, quite serious - and hence seldom visible. Together the two glanced at the bag at their feet, in which they carried a plethora of disassembled electronics.

"Well, here we are," sighed Sofia, snapping her seatbelt into place and pulling up the back of her seat.

Alex nodded. "Here we are."