Spring, 1954

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

Previous Story in the Arc: Interlude: Hero of Soviet Union by Petrograd (Monday, December 06, 2004)

Next Story in the Arc: Ex Machina by Petrograd (Thursday, February 09, 2006)

(posted Tuesday, February 15, 2005)

Petrograd, as he had finally come to think of himself after months of it being broadcast while his real name remained classified, sat in his official car, trying his best to ignore the droning propaganda official across from him. He had been ferried across the capital for months giving speeches and having photographs taken.

The official was excitedly describing the layout for a new seris of posters, pointing out the complex background and near seamless integration of photography and art. Petrograd merely sat and pretended to listen. Finally, when he could stand it no longer, he leaned forward and grabbed the officer by the collar.

"For the past four weeks you have shuffled me around like some sort of icon. I make speeches about my dedication, assuring the people their safety, but how am I protecting the Soviet Union from a podium or a photography event? And all this," he said, vaguely gesturing to the car and all around him, "I am an enlisted man! I don't know if I'm even a member of the military and I get better treatment than most politburo members! Where's the justice, where's the equality?"

"But comrade, you are a decorated Hero of the Soviet Union! You deserve such attention!" the propaganda officer whimpered.

"Bah, I have never seen war heroes treated like this, and all I did was fix a radio."

"But you saved our entire nation! Of course you deserve our gratitude!"

"I was flying a training mission! A TRAINING MISSION! It was luck that I found them, and only luck. What if they hadn't been lost, what if they had been sent as a suprise attack, what then? I'll tell you what. I would have downed them, I would have killed them and the Americans would launch their whole fleet of bombers! Who would have stopped them? The legendary Petrograd, Hero of the Soviet Union? Bah! And who would stop them now? Even if I could somehow magically make them all go away, I can't do any good from the back of a beorgios staff car!"

Petrograd released the idiot's collar and leaned back into his seat, the foam padding and springs creaking under the weight of his armor. He knew this car would have to be scrapped after he used it, just one more inequality. He stared as the brick buildings of old Moscow slid past them, the glorious buildings of Red Square offset by the thousands in line to see Lenin's tomb.

Correction, Lenin and Stalin's tomb. Only recently had Ivan learned what a strain Uncle Joe had put on their nation in the name of progress. Just one more injustice, a rather big one, but still just one more. At least the fool was dead.

The offial, of course, mistook the look in his eyes. Not a suprise, as all anyone else could see was shining metal and a thin red visor, and even that was tinted. No, Petrograd's moods were his and his only.

"Da, he is gone, even more reason that the people need you. Without our Uncle Joeseph, we are weak, with no one to protect us. You and others like you will fill the gap."

It appeared the scorn in his eyes pierced even the steel of his helmet. The man looked positively terrified, cringing as if Petrograd's very gaze could burn him down. It was easy, he supposed, for one so weak to fall to his own words.

After seconds or minutes, neither was sure, it abated, and the official streightened in his seat. He looked over at he shining silver man, as if sizing him up.

"Are you saying you will not do your duty?"

"I am saying you are keeping me from my duty."

"So you would abandon you country in her time of need?"

"Would you allow the imperialists to overpower us while you parade your only weapon around like a show dog?"

The official jabbed into his briefcase, his hand eventully flinging a folder into Petrograd's lap. He tried to open it for a few moments, fumbling on the thin paper with his cumbersome, gripless fingers.

"You were not supposed to know about this for some months, and our people are stillpushing it through the Politburo, but your medal has been of great assistance."

Petrograd skimmed the outline, barely able to grip the paper. The cover sheet was crumpled to the side, completely ruined by his almost worthles hand.

"Hm. So they have finally gotten serious about defense, eh?"

The official smiled.

"And they want me to run this outfit?"

"Of course, it could still fail in Politburo. Without popular support and a hero at its forefront, well... I'd hate to see Rodina under the thumb of the capitalists."

You have to give it to them, Petrograd thought, the devious little cowards knew how to spin things.