Yuli and Ivan Go On an Adventure. [Part I]
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Like many others that day, Yulian Fyodorov was greeted one early August morning to a fully-armed unit of Task Force Officers, assault rifles in hand, standing in front of his office building's entrance. Mimeographed memorandums from the Directorate had been plastered on the doorway from top to bottom, and a throng of employees had crowded the entrance to read the order for themselves.

But even from this distance, Yulian knew what the memorandum was going to say.

He had seen the signs: the inflation rates, the protests, the coup attempt. The Soviet Union was failing, and everyone in the office knew it was only a matter of time before a shake-up from the top would put them all out of a job.

But even for bureaucrats of the GRU 'P' Division, it just happened a little sooner than anyone had expected.

Отдел "Психотроника"
Гла́вное Разве́дывательное Управле́ние
___

26 AUGUST 1991

MEMORANDUM NO. 1991 - 561

TO : All Branch Offices and Liason Offices of the GRU, Psychotronics Division not within the city limits of Moscow or Saint Petersburg

APPROVED : Yevgeny Rostislavin, Executive Director … … … …

SUBJECT : SUSPENSION ORDER. PROTOCOL КУЧА ГОВНА INITIATED.


In light of the precarious nature of recent events, please be informed that EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY, operations of all branch offices and agencies stipulated above are hereby SUSPENDED INDEFINITELY.

Protocol Куча Говна is to be strictly followed by all agents and employees affected. All records and data, in whatever form maintained, are to be DESTROYED without exception. Breach of Protocol by any agent or employee shall be considered grounds for IMMEDIATE EXECUTION.

All suspended GRU 'P' offices currently in possession of Объекты must relinquish any and all Объекты to designated Mobile Taskforce personnel without delay.

Failure to relinquish any and all Объекты shall be considered as an act of SEDITION, which shall be considered grounds for IMMEDIATE EXECUTION.


С наилучшими пожеланиями,
GRU - Central Directorate



Now Yulian Fyodorov was here, folding a purple origami frog on the bar counter a few minutes past 10. The bar was empty at this hour; in another hour, the regulars would arrive to nurse their 3 a.m. hangovers. The glasses had been shined, and there was enough watered-down1 liquor to last the next three shifts. With nothing else to do, Yulian resorted to origami frogs.

He sighed and smiled softly as he tucked the frog's little legs into place. Sasha was always so quick with her hands. If she was here, she'd have finished three by now.

The bar door clinked open, and Yulian hid the frog behind the bar. A paunchy man in a large fur coat shuffled his way towards the counter and lifted himself onto a barstool.

"Zubrowka, double," gruffed the fur-coat man.

"We have black and gold."

"Black," the man replied, not inamiably.

Yulian nodded and turned to retrieve the bottle of bison-grass vodka. His voice was… familiar. But then again, he also smelled like a morning cigarette, and don't all smokers sort of sound the same after a certain age, anyway? Letting the thought pass, Yulian took a tall shot glass from the side and poured his customer a double. An obligatory pickle on a small plate quickly followed.

"Nazdarovje,"2 murmured the fur-coat man to himself, knocking his drink back, and following it immediately with a bite of the pickle.

"Another," he spoke again, "but a single this time. And then the bill."

Yulian nodded and turned to retrieve the bottle a second time. But this time a cold sweat had begun to moisten his palms. There was no mistaking it - his body already knew what his mind had allowed to pass. This was a man he knew much about, but not a man he was supposed to remember.

In sudden recollection, his lips began to move, and before he could stop himself -

"You are Ivan Pasternak."

click

The unmistakable sound of a pistol hammer locked into place a mere meter behind Yulian's head.


"Your hands. Put them up. Don't turn around." The fur-coat man's intense voice shook the glasses in the bar.

Fool! Idiot! Why did you speak? You've doomed yourself! Yulian's eyes drifted in and out of focus, his cold sweat now dripping down the neck of Zubrowka in his hand. His shaky hands slowly rose above his head, bottle still in hand.

"Move, and I will kill you. Say anything wrong, and I will fucking kill you. Understand?"

A quivering "Yes, of course," fell from Yulian's lips. This was indeed Ivan Pasternak, and Yulian knew that this burly, gnarled old man wasn't dicking around.

"You will tell me how you know that name."

Yulian took a deep breath as his eyes glazed over in pure and unadulterated recollection of facts and events.

"My name is Yulian Fyodorovich Fyodorov. I was assigned as a class II bureaucrat to the Lviv Branch Office of Acquisitions in 1989 and worked there until the office was raided two years ago."

Pasternak was silent.

"I had level 1 security clearance due to the nature of my work, and that, among other things, meant I knew who you were." Yulian gulped. His words had been shaky and bumbling, perhaps even a little suspicious. The bottle of Zubrowka was getting heavy, suspended above his head.

"Okay. Why shouldn't I kill you." said Pasternak. "And put that damn bottle down. Slowly."

Yulian put the damn bottle down. Slowly.

"Speak."

Yuli's thoughts were flying fast in his head. I need something unbreakably true, though I never spoke once to him my whole life. It was almost worse, having said what he said. Too much knowledge to be innocent, too little knowledge to prove his loyalties. He could easily be working for the UIU, or those Повстанцы Хаоса3 who were often talked about in hushed tones, for all Pasternak knew.

If he died today in this bar, it was entirely his own fault.

And then it hit him, the perfect story that would jog Pasternak's memory. But wasn't there anything else? Something more sensible, something less shameful?

"I'm waiting," Pasternak growled again.

"There was a time…"

"Yes…?"

"But I cannot say it… Please just let me…" Yulian groveled.

An odd, almost inaudible sound broke the silence. It was almost a shot from a handgun, but much, much quieter. This coincided with the sound of shattering, pelting Yuli's side with small shards of glass and Zubrowka. Although the sound of the gun was only barely heard, the heat coming off of the newly-fired gun was intense, pouring deep into Yulian's back as if it was being held there.

"I'm sorry for this, Federov."

"Okay okay okay, please listen. There was this time in the… bathroom."

More silence. Yuli could feel Pasternak's frown burning a hole in the back of his head.

"You must be shitting me," Pasternak snarled.

"And I was taking a piss in the urinal," Yulian continued, "the only urinal in the second-floor bathroom that would ever flush properly, and you entered and took up the urinal next to me. And then I caught my dick in the zipper."4

Pasternak did not reply for a second. "…What?"

"I howled very loudly, and you asked me what was wrong. And I told you it was nothing because you were respected in the office and your name was on every paper I filed and I didn't want to show you something so pitiful. But you knew exactly what happened and laughed yourself silly." Yulian's cheeks were beginning to grow a little red, though the adrenaline of the gunshot may also have been part of it.

"And then you continued to laugh and, without helping me, you finished your business and laughed all the way to the bathroom door. And I know you told other people because for three weeks, I was Penis-in-Zipper man, and my office-mates never looked at me the same again."

Pasternak was silent.

"What, is that enough? If you do not remember that, then kill me now because there is nothing else for me to tell you." Yulian's lip quivered with every word. "I was…er, just…"

Yulian's rant was cut off shortly by a quiet, stifled laughter.

"Uh…"

Which blew up into loud, raucous laughter.

"Oh, good God, it's you! Of course it's you, Penis-in-Zipper man!" Ivan Pasternak put his still-red-hot silent gun on the bar, and the counter smouldered a little. He was back to sitting on the barstool, laughing wildly.

Yulian began to put his hands down very slowly.

Pasternak saw this. "Come now, comrade, no need for shyness! You have convinced me. I will do you no harm." He gestured to Yulian with his hand.

"Put down your hands! Come now boy, I'm very sorry for our misunderstanding. Let us drink."

Yulian turned around. A broad, rugged smile bridged Pasternak's grizzly face from one ear to another. Yulian wiped a drop of sweat from his temple.

"I can't believe it's you, Penis-in-Zipper man! How did you survive the fall-out?" He pushed his shot-glass toward Yulian, as if he were to fill it up like nothing happened. "Oh, and Zubrowka again."

"You shot the last bottle of black. And how come I didn't hear that gun?"

Pasternak's nose scrunched up in disgust. "Bah! I knew I would regret shooting the bottle. Too damn flashy. And this -" he picked up the gun that had now returned to the color of gun metal, "- this converts acoustic energy into heat energy. Almost soundless, but it gets too hot to touch after the third shot, even with gloves as thick as mine."

Yuli's eyes widened a little. This man, who was a trigger away from blowing his head off a moment ago, now spoke candidly as though they were old friends.

The more Yulian thought about it, though, the more he recalled Pasternak's rumoured antics in and out of the office.

It wasn't very surprising, after all.


"Amazing. Is this…" Yulian kept his voice down. "…an 'объект'?"

"No, no, not at all. Russian material scientists worked this technology out a decade ago." Pasternak looked around with a mischievous, surreptitious scan of the entire bar, like an old storyteller looking for монстры hiding in the corners.

"But let me show you something else."

"Fine," Yulian agreed, knowing Pasternak could still blow off his head at anytime.

Pasternak grinned, taking a small box out of his coat pocket. Inside was an empty monogrammed shot glass. Cyrillic letters spelled out "ИАП" in long Russian cursive.

"Go ahead, slam it on the bar counter as if you just took a shot. And don't fucking break it," Ivan directed.

Yulian slammed the shot glass down upon the bar counter. Instantaneously, the shot glass was full to the brim with a clear liquid.

"Nazdarovje!" Pasternak called out.

The shot went down straight. It was a very strong vodka, the kind that could peel paint off of walls. Yulian coughed a little, and slammed the shot down upon the counter. Once again, the glass was full to the brim with vodka.

"Mother of God." Yulian exclaimed, his eyes still watering a little bit.

"Indeed," Pasternak gloated. "This glass was very hard to come by, and I have no idea how many of these are still in existence. They're probably all gone by now, though." Pasternak looked down at the bar for a second, thinking over something.

"Anyway," he continued. "This is by no means an 'объект'5 either. It's more of a novelty. An 'аномалия,'6 if you will."

Pasternak took the shot now held by the glass with a sigh, leaving a drop of liquor in the very bottom. "If only it would produce fine alcohol, not this Polish schlock. Pah!"

His thick fur gloves carefully placed the glass in the box, closed the lid, and slid it back into his coat pocket.

"Now that we've shared a drink, what do I call you, Penis-in-Zipper man?"

"Call me Yulian. Please do not call me Penis-in-Zipper man again."

"Fair enough. I've told that story at many bars just like this one, so I'll give it some rest… Yulian." Pasternak smiled.

"Ugh. But thank you."


"So…" Pasternak said after a short pause. "It is time for us to go. Come on, we'll grab your important belongings and be out of this town quickly."

"Wait… what? What do you mean, 'us'?" Yuli stammered.

Ivan laughed, but without mirth. "You don't know? We're dead men if we stay here," he said, pulling a cigarette out of his coat.

Yulian was shocked. "What!? Did you lead them here or something? Why am I suddenly involved?"

The cigarette was lit, and Pasternak blew out a cloud of smoke. "Why, did you think that the dissolution of Отдел "Психотроника"7 meant we were free? No! They're always watching."

"They want me, and they want you." he said, taking another drag.

"This is impossible," Yuli spoke. "Surely this is all because of you, Ivan Alexeyevich Pasternak," he said in a respectful manner.

"Sadly, it is not. They've been restructuring the whole system. Redrawing political lines between the Directorate and the world. They've grown drunk with the new powers granted to them in this time of crisis. Now they are tying up loose ends. And you and I, Yulian…" putting out his cigarette on the bar, "…are the loose ends."

Yuli's stomach sank deeply. He thought back to the odd people who would stand around his apartment block at night. The cars that seemed to come and go whenever he had an errand in the town.

"Okay, Pasternak. l believe you. What do I do?"

"We are getting your essentials from your apartment, and we are getting out of here. If we survive that," Pasternak smiled. "then we are going to be in business together."

Federov raised his eyebrows. "We? Business? Together…?"

"Of course!" Pasternak exclaimed. "After all, you know something about me you're not supposed to know. Either you work with me…" Ivan picked up the gun from the bar. "…Or I kill you, here and now." Ivan slipped the gun into his thick coat pocket.

"Alright alright, I understand. Just… what kind of business is this?"

Ivan Pasternak's smile grew large and deep, and his eyes began to sparkle.

"Isn't it obvious?" Ivan chuckled. "We're going to rebuild the GRU-P."





Yuli and Ivan Go On An Adventure.
Poputchik.
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