Dystopia Chapter 40

From the Story Arc: Dystopia

Previous Story in the Arc: Dystopia Chapter 36 - Cont. by Krasnaya Zarya (Wednesday, September 27, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Dystopia Chapter 38 by Krasnaya Zarya (Friday, October 06, 2006)

(posted Wednesday, October 04, 2006)

Out of habit, Alex pawed his empty hip pocket, looking for the cell phone that wasn't there, and cursed silently to himself on his habit of not wearing a watch. Viy had said that in the morning, once the workers show up, Alex would begin his long demonstration and explanation of his “toys”; for all he knew, that was only in 5 minutes.

Or 5 hours.

Regardless, he found himself unable to sleep. His “interview” with Viy had had interesting results: he had gone into the meeting devoid of hope and returned with spirit anew. The laptop was the source of it all...

“The laptop, Aleksander Mikhailovich...”

He turned to the aforementioned device, the bright blue and white screen demanding for a password to go with the login account. His hands quickly flew across the keyboard, entering the requisite digits and characters and following up with the enter key. Viy was not impressed.

“What was the password? No tricks. Do not try and obfuscate what you are doing.” The ISB soldier placed a hand on the desk and leaned over him. Alex ignored him and stared at the flickering loading screens. “Tell me.”

“It's random, not a word, if you have no paper, you will forget it.”

“Try me.”

“Eight-six-one-two-en-jay-ay-see...” Alex replied calmly, slowly. It made no sense normally, unless one knew Hebrew and paid attention to the fact that keyboard had both Russian and Hebrew characters, as well as English ones. En-jay-ay-see were the keys that spelled “machshev” -
computer.

“I see...” Viy cocked his head to one side, getting a better look at the loading desktop. “A visual operating system? It would appear that the Americans made a great leap in computers in your world...” His eyes scanned the screen, reading the names of files and folders. “Hmm... What is in your documents?”

Alex sighed and opened the folder. He had been hoping that Viy would not be able to read the English, but that was silly – any member of the GRU or KGB would have learned it. The screen was filled with documents, named in a variety of languages – Sofia's documents from university. Hidden amongst the myriad files were several called “Sofia's Notes”; Alex's heart leapt into his throat when he noticed the timestamp on the file.

“Nothing useful here...” Viy's gaze turned to him. “Where are the schematics? Your notes from your experiments?”

“I don't keep them here.” Alex replied, smiling softly. Luckily, Viy was paying attention to file names, not dates. “This is all my wife's work, and I doubt that a linguist's notes would be useful to you.”

“Where are your notes?”

“Do you think I'm crazy?” He laughed. “The last thing I'm going to bring with me into an unknown portal dimension is technical schematics.” He narrowed his eyes and glared at the looming agent. “Keep it out of the hands of people like you.”


Alex paced back and forth through his cell, wracking his brain. Not only did he learn that his betrayer had been killed by the ISB, but Sofia had already followed him here. He needed to read those files, find out how Sofia had gotten here and where she might be. But how could he get the laptop from Viy's clutches and examine it in private?

Of course, there was the alternate Sofia: somehow the pair of them had met up, and the laptop changed hands -

A sharp pang interrupted his thoughts, forcing him to sit down on the concrete slab that made do for a bed. The stronger migraines were starting a day early, the stress of the last few days causing his condition to deteriorate more rapidly than normal. The blackouts would start tomorrow, ruining any chances for an escape.

Dammit...

Alex sighed, breathing at a constant, measured rate while rubbing his temples. He started reorganizing his thoughts, creating a detailed list of priorities and deadlines, writing it down on an imaginary notepad. This was one of the techniques that had helped him back when he was working on his Ph.D., trying to prevent his seizures, blackouts, and overeager orderlies from interrupting his experiments. It also helped with prisons and torture, though he’s only had to endure the latter rarely – surprising, given his dangerous hobbies.

He cocked his head to one side to listen to the sound of a series of metal boots on the concrete floor approaching his cell. He contemplated using it as an opportunity for another escape attempt, but quickly thought better of draining what little reserves he had left. Not to mention that they would probably be prepared for his antics.

The door slid open, revealing a pair of soldiers, their rifles making a quick sweep across the room to level directly on his chest. A third guard entered and crossed to the still Alex, tentatively grabbing him by the wrist. Word has gotten around, Alex mused happily at the noticeably nervous soldier.

Once his hands were manacled behind his back, the three soldiers led him out into the hallway. It was obvious from the first wrong turn that they were not returning him to Viy’s office, taking him further away from the laptop that he would need to confirm his wife’s presence in this dimension. Instead, they brought him through a series of large pathways to a pair of giant metal doors, guarded by an additional squad of four soldiers.

Alex’s escort said nothing to the guards, bypassing them and stopping in front of a large panel on the right. One of the escorts slid a keycard through a slot, then removed his glove and pressed his palm to the panel. The doors creaked open, a loud grinding sound nagging Alex to bring out the WD-40.

The room on the other side was drastically different from the rest of the base, and reminiscent of the traitor’s laboratory. It was expansive, with bright fluorescent lights dangling between metal beams across the exposed ceiling illuminating a couple score worktables, each table staffed by one or two men in worn and old clothes. If the poor quality of their standardized, yet badly fitting outfits had not clued him into their identities, the numbers painted onto the patches sewn on their shirts tipped the secret.

Zeks.

That is to say, prisoners, of course. Scientists, engineers, academics, all serving time for some sin or other. And why should the great Internationale allow – just as the old Soviet Union had not – to these minds to escape serving with their best utility while in prison?

In his universe, the forced labor of scientists had ended decades ago, but it appears that this universe had kept the practice alive. Here was a chamber full of his comrades, putting their brain to work for an uncaring government for an indeterminate amount of time. An infinite period of time. And this was the future that Viy had in mind for him.

“Welcome to my think tank.” Alex turned his head to the right, where the spoken-of devil was standing on a large dais, from which he could oversee the entire operation. “Here is where I solve the greatest problems plaguing our people.”

“The solution is easy,” Alex replied, “but finding a new government afterwards is difficult.”

The zeks continued their work, pretending not to hear. Statements like that were the kind that gave them their ten and twenty-five years in the first place.

“Cute.” Viy swept an arm across the room, stopping to point at a large table near the middle. “You have no time for jokes, Aleksander Mikhailovich, only time for work. And you will do the work, happily or no, because you have no choice... It calls to you.”

“Calls to me?” Alex snickered, looking at the various zeks pointedly. “I'm sure people flock to join your little sweatshop of science.”

“More than you think.” Viy stepped off the dais and started walking through the middle of the room, Alex and his escort in tow. The zeks continued to ignore them, but they still stole glances at their newest member. “You are a scientist, research is a part of you, the pursuit of knowledge. And you are also an engineer, you must build and you must do. Endless work is preferable to eternal confinement; hard work vindicates the soul.”

“I thought the official Party line was that there was no soul?”

“There isn't.” Viy snickered. “But prisoners like to think so; if you don't know, Aleksander Mikhailovich, you will by the end of the week. You'll believe that there is some better life waiting for you at the end of your servitude, and that there is some private, personal hell for me.” He sneered. “You can keep that small bit of hope.”

“Hope? You'll let me have hope?” He shook his head. “Hope is for those without knowledge or power.”

“Funny that your only hope lies in your knowledge.” The pair stopped at the large table that Viy had pointed out before. It was covered with Alex's gadgets, though the laptop was noticeably absent. “You will teach the prisoners how to use your devices. And no attempts to escape, they will fail.” Viy gestured left and right, his eyes pointing out the various cameras and armed guards.

“I have all the power, and for now, you have all the knowledge. That will change.” Viy turned on his heel and marched out.

“Knowledge is power, power corrupts...” Alex muttered to himself, his eyes twinkling as he stared at his various tools, a plan forming in his head.

“Study hard. Be evil.”