Fall, 1953: Graduation

(posted Thursday, December 02, 2004)

Rows of generals and politicians lined a small span of bleachers. An eager propaganda officer was lecturing the audiance through a loudspeaker, expounding on the capabilities of the Petrograd armor. Ivan was mildly confused by this, especially considering that he himself powered the weaponry, but it mattered little. This was merely a show to convince the more conservative hard-liners that this new program was worthwhile.

Ivan turned quickly as his first target appeared. The antiquated Joseph Stalin III sat in the field, long decommissioned from service. Its armor was thick and slanted, designed to deflect the Germans' high velocity shells. Ivan exhaled quietly and took aim.

A rapid succession of blue bursts flew from his arms, peeling the armor from the tank like a can-opener. When it was finished, the hollow interior of the tank was clearly visible through a two-foot crater in the armor. Ivan then closed, running as fast as he could, the Freon boosters in his arms kicking in as he neared. He concentrated on stopping all motion in a certain portion of the tank. He wasn't near good enough to freeze time like some of the mystics in the program, but the armor did quickly ice over. Combined with the Freon from the sprayers in his arms, the cold made the thick metal brittle.

With a flourish, Ivan pulled out his best trick. Nearing the tank, he concentrated all of his energy on the air around two feet out from his hand. Molecules stopped, Freon jetted, and suddenly a shimmering blade of ice appeared in hand. Ivan jumped, jamming it into the brittle armor, shattering the thick steel like fine crystal. He rolled through the interior and out the hole he had blasted, hit his feet, and kept moving.

"Armor, Bah!" He thought to himself, "I am Petrograd!"

* * * * *

The Army generals, all hard-liners and old war heroes, were generally unimpressed. Sure, he was a man with the power of a main battle tank, but he was in limited supply, and main battle tanks weren't.

No, much to Ivan's delight, it was the Red Air Force who were intrigued. To them, he represented the firepower of an entire squadron in a man-sized package. And best of all, they could make do with only one. If he and similar units were to run patrols, they could redistribute their squadrons to better protect the rest of the nation.

They contacted the best and the brightest, the Migoyan design bureau, to sleeken the armor and make him airworthy. After only three months, he stepped out of the factory with his armor in traditional interceptor scheme, unpainted metal with red highlights. Ivan reveled in this. Finally, he was going to be a fighter pilot.

It was likely going to be the hardest part of his career. They taught him what he needed to fly: the variable speeds of the jetpack, the aerodynamics and flight principles, and the physics required to calculate maneuvers and turns. They explained the features of the suit: the adrenaline injectors and inflatable padding which would prevent him from passing out in high-G maneuvers, the upgraded targeting system to allow him to calculate firing arcs in three dimensions, and every thing he could ever wish to know about his Mig propulsion system.

However, all of this told him nothing of how to actually fly. He had learned little of any use from the books in military school, and he had been transferred out of the air force before they had even let him near an airplane. Aside from which, having flown in an airplane would have been a crutch for him, as flying a jetpack was a completely new idea. A few Germans in the 5th Column had done it, but most of them were dead or in hiding, and likely wouldn't teach him even if they could. The flight instructors and air force trainers they brought in were almost as useless: how does one describe flying a plane without wings or flaps or sticks? No, this was his problem, and his alone.

Petrograd strapped on the jetpack and walked out of the barracks doors, ready for anything.