Prelude

From the Story Arc: A Day in the Life...

Next Story in the Arc: Spring, 1953 by Petrograd (Tuesday, November 30, 2004)

(posted Sunday, November 28, 2004)

The lab had been a garage, once, housing four of the sleek fire engines of Paragon City's old volunteer fire department. Now, just about anyone who wanted to rescue people became a hero, and rebuilt rikti drones put out the fires. Bad news for the firemen, but at least the rent was low.

Various scavenged parts cover several work benches, a mishmash of random junk. You could pick out a couple Sky Raider Jetpacks, Crey power suits in a variety of colors stood against the walls, and even a few deactivated robots missing most of their vital components. Mixed in with the more complicated technological bits are American and Soviet issue electronics and mechanical pieces, thrown almost haphazardly into organized bins. Tools cover racks and spill out of boxes. Some are obviously alien, a few look new, but most are bulky with long Cyrillic alphanumerics etched into them.

The few completed items are organized neatly in old lockers. Teleportation belts, rocket boots, jetpacks: if it moves, it can be found there. A heavy door in the back shows the word "Armory" in Russian, and racks of confiscated assault rifles and energy weapons are visible through thick Plexiglas. One jetpack in particular looks immaculate, likely the cleanest thing in the place. Its sleek lines would look more appropriate in some 1940's adventure serial than on the wall of this room.

The only person in the lab would be hard to spot if his armor was not so polished. Petrograd, in factory aluminum and patriotic red as always, leans over one of the workbenches, some infinitesimally small part on the table before him. But he is not moving.

He is staring at a fading photograph tacked to the wall in front of him.

* * * * *

Ivan and nearly fifteen of his friends sit around rough wooden tables in plain brown cadet uniforms, singing and laughing and harassing the waitresses. They are rowdy, but it is expected on the day of graduation. They pass around vodka and slosh their way through the Song of the Soviet Airmen:

"Our proud machines obey our every order
There is no flight our pilots do not dare
And overhead, a ring around our borders
The workers first squadron of the air
Y-C-L!

Flying higher and higher and higher
Our emblem the Soviet star
And every propeller is roaring
Defending the USSR."

The very walls of the tavern shake and rumble with these verses, as the men stomp their feet along. A few bottles are smashed in toast, but no one complains. They all know the mess will be clean by morning, courtesy of the Commissars as soon as they heard of the revel. But until then, they let them have their fun. A camera flashes.

Ivan takes a slug of vodka and laughs heartily before digging Pvt. Zapatov in the ribs. "Give it up Gregoriy, you have verses more confused than fascists in winter!"

"You should speak! Derinsky, the comic genius!"

They both fall over in laughter. Suddenly, Ivan's eyes clear up a bit, and he looks over to the window, at the rows of sleek Migs and Yaks lining the field down the hill. Their graceful forms are barely visible in the night at such distance, but he knows every one of them like the back of his hand.

"Just imagine Gregoriy, tomorrow, we serve Rodina!"

"Even better Ivan, tomorrow, or the next day, but soon.... we fly!"