Dystopia Chapter 15

From the Story Arc: Dystopia

Previous Story in the Arc: Dystopia Chapter 14 by Krasnaya Zarya (Thursday, July 27, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Dystopia Chapter 16 by Krasnaya Zarya (Wednesday, August 02, 2006)

(posted Sunday, July 30, 2006)

Could the portal have crossed time, as well as space?

Alex's dealings with portals had never involved a path along the t-axis; portals generally led to the same place in all four dimensions. It was entirely possible for the anchor, which had pulled the portal halfway across the globe, to have also pulled the portal out of time, but highly unlikely: the energies involved in time travel are known to be incredible. This meant that any time differences would be due to temporal properties of this universe, but his search was limited to those universes with similar chronologies, a similar flow of time, so that his stay in this dimension would equate to a similar amount of time in his home dimension. He had thought that far ahead, not wanting to become out-of-synch with Earth, gaining extra days here, or worse, losing days.

This must have been the same year, then. Seeming anachronisms or no.

The short history lesson that Aleksander had given him had left out the part of the Soviet Union still existing, a very important aspect of history. This was surely why it had been left out; Alex would've been much more wary of what he said. Maybe. In all fairness, it probably would've gone out the same. He hadn't expected a trap from himself – not like this – and had made the kind of classic blunder that filled short stories and cheap films.

Of course, that didn't make sense: how would Aleksander have known that in his world the Soviet Union had collapsed? What if the collapse was the big improbable event, what if in most universes, America had lost the Cold War?

Still... The Soviet Union? He had heard what had happened to America, and was under the impression that the rest of the globe had gone the same; was it the USSR that sounded the death knell, and not the Rogue Isles or some conglomeration of America's numerous other enemies? How we wished he had access to a library, a history book, Wikipedia... Somehow, he didn't think he was going to get an answer from the gentlemen before him.

The two standing by the door were grunts, massive brutes of men whose sole purpose to existence was fulfilled by their mere presence. And they did a decent job, Alex thought to himself sardonically. He had seen better, in his time. The Fifth Column had had it's share of thugs, though ever since the Council had taken over there was a marked change towards emaciated men in bondage gear. These people looked more like the goons hired by the Family, but with much nicer outfits.

Alex wish he knew more about the Soviet army, at the least which insignias met which rank – where these people small time, or was he in some crack KGB facility? Would he have to deal with Spetsnaz in his big prison break? Americans were foolish, easy to get past; Russians not so much. Of course, there was a good chance that the Russian soldiers would be too drunk...

Not his interrogator, though; this man even lacked the telltale red nose that was an epidemic to the people of the Motherland. He carried himself high and mightily, stiff-shouldered and stiff-necked; a man used to getting what he wants. If anybody might be KGB, or at least ex-KGB, it was this fellow, certainly. Even those dark eyes carried an intensity of purpose that caused Alex to doubly steel his resolve. He'd faced down time traveling Nazis without breaking a sweat; he could handle a middle-aged interrogator.

Or so he hoped.

His opposition seemed a little taken aback by the fierce resistance in Alex's jaw, but the show of surprise was fleeting. He turned towards the two guards, nodding to them some prearranged signal – to which they turned away and walked out the door, closing it behind them – then turned back to Alex and did the last thing expected of him.

He smiled.

Not a stiff smile of determination, or a grim smile of some ancient inquisitor, but a jovial, friendly grin.

“Aleksander Rabinovich,” he began, his Russian light and playful, “it saddens me that your first trip to our great world should start off in such a terrible manner. Your alternate self, the Aleksander of this universe, lacks tact and diplomacy, and was afraid that you would be an evil duplicate, seeking to plunder our world and destroy our nations. I am not nearly so suspicious, and would like to start things off anew.”

“Hard to start things anew when I am in bars.” Alex smirked. A game. Good cop, bad cop, so the Americans call it. But in the Soviet Union, the good cops are replaced due to incompetency.

“Yes,” his captor replied, giving a small, sad frown, his head nodding in agreement. “You can understand: we were quite afraid that, after the cold reception you received in the lab, that you might lash out anyone upon waking, and use whatever devices you might have in order to take revenge. We are just trying to keep our people safe, you see.”

“Safe, yes...” Alex muttered, disbelieving every word. He had never personally witnessed an interrogation, had never been faced with anything more dangerous than an officer asking for his papers, but everybody in the Soviet Union had a pretty good idea what kind of craziness to expect from such a session: anything and everything. The big thing was to mess with the mind, take people of their guard; there were tales of being woken up at odd hours throughout the night, being given random senseless tasks, and going from one session of terrible torture to another of pampering, with no seeming rhyme or reason.

Of course, that was the reason; to confuse and befuddle the poor man that was the target of KGB attentions. Alex knew all this.

“Once I have your word that all is forgiven, I will see you moved to a pleasant suite,” the officer continued. “In the meantime, we do want to know what we are dealing with: what is your intent on visiting our world? Do you represent yourself, or are you here on a diplomatic basis, representing your world?”

Alex paused before replying, his mind ablaze with possibilities. If he had somehow wound up in the old Soviet Union, he had to be careful what he said. If the KGB thought they could make him vanish without any repercussions, they would do so; but if the KGB thought he was a spy, they just might do the same. A diplomat, though? Maybe...

“Yes, diplomatic. The government of my planet desires a peaceful co-existence with all favorable dimensions.” This, in and of itself, was quite true, which assuaged Alex's conscience a little; he and his wife were both uncomfortable telling falsehoods, but neither had any problem twisting the truth to serve them. Something about the sanctity of truth and knowledge... “To replace the Internationale with an Interdimensionale.”

“Wonderful to hear.” The officer glanced towards the door, then around the room, as if taking in the squalid environs that they had forced a powerful diplomat to endure. “Is the rest of your delegation due soon? Do you need to make the contact back?”

What is the right answer? Alex pondered. If he said another group was coming, they might pamper him so as to give a good report, or they might keep him captured and claim he never showed up, to save face. If he said he needed to make contact back, then it would imply that there would be repercussions if he didn't, and maybe they would let him near the portal again. Or they might just interrogate him further, and keep him hidden. Educated guess?

“The delegation is expecting me to make contact with myself, and with his assistance, to the local government,” Alex lied, finding it easier than he thought, given the circumstances. “They will come through shortly, where I am supposed to meet them and give a full report.”

“I see.” The officer nodded to himself. He glanced towards the door once more, and a faint knocking was heard from the other side. He bowed his head slightly to Alex and smiled. “If you will excuse me, I have urgent work to attend to, but I shall see you moved to more fitting chambers.”

“Thank you,” Alex replied, forcing himself to smile. He couldn't believe he'd pulled it off.

Once the door had shut behind him, ISB Agent Viy turned to his right, where a pair of oddly-dressed GSF soldiers had just arrived, a tray of strange and frightening instruments on a cart between them. The two guards to the sides of the door remained silent, secretly uncomfortable by the appearance of rippers.

Viy smirked as he addressed the leader of the pair – rippers always worked in pairs. Viy suspected it was a trick to add mystique, but there were rumors about weird telepathic powers, the two of them acting as one mind. They certainly never talked to each other in anyone else's presence, so perhaps it was true. Or just another trick.

“He lies worse than our Aleksander,” he said out loud, more to hear the sound of his own voice than to prove any point; he never needed a reason to do what he did. “Nobody is coming for him. Find out what he knows, and how to work that portal; he must have a way home.”