Part 26: Satirical Departure, Prodigal Reunion
Chapter 26: Satirical Departure, Prodigal Reunion
The New Peace Party's collapse was swift and decisive. Josef Nasarov, old friend of Piotr Prokofiev, was now desolate and planning to depart from the country. Prokofiev recognized the need to recruit him back into the Coalition's fold to solidify the support of the workers and ex-NPP members that were already back in the Coalition's banner. However, he honestly and sincerely planned to keep Nasarov on his side, rather than making a political move and then parting ways.
To make room for Nasarov's return and avoid any further rifts, Prokofiev decided to remove Lavanov from the inner circle. The satirist, by all accounts, seemed to be resigned to his fate and made no objections, but it appears that he took the sacking a bit personally for a while before returning to his old self.
With Nasarov back in the inner circle and Lavanov sent on his way, Prokofiev slowly built the Coalition's support back up, and then met the accountant Oleg Numenas for the evidence necessary to destroy the Red Mafia...
* * *
Piotr Prokofiev's Diary - Ninety-sixth Entry: 02/04/1996
I have made up my mind. Josef is my friend, and these are his darkest days. I cannot call myself his blood brother if I am not there to forgive him for doubting and for leading a mistaken path. If there's a chance I can convince him to return, then I must take it. We've been comrades for far too long to do otherwise.
Now... I don't have enough space in my headquarters to hold Nasarov and everyone else at the same time, not if we want to be effective at our work. Moreover, I need to avoid further rifts between us. If Nasarov is to return, then my mind is clear: Felix Lavanov must go. He has been loyal and done exceptional work for our revolution, deserving of his blood brotherhood, but he is also not a true believer and I've grown tired of his attitude. He would depart from us as soon as a higher offer was made, and the offer may well be Karasov's. If he is to be believed, he will not share information about our operations or inner circle, but I should offer him a little something extra just in case.
I feel a little saddened to make a man I've done the pact with leave my side, but it's for the best. Josef deserves his place at my side, and I must have a tight-knit community rather than one with a weak link of greed. Lavanov must go and we must return to our roots of the proletariat.
* * *
"Felix Lavanov, I need to speak with you," Prokofiev called, exiting his room in the headquarters and carrying a briefcase. His mind was now set on its ways, and it was time to do what he needed for Nasarov's sake.
"What is it, taskmaster?" Lavanov replied, getting up from the round table walking up to Prokofiev. "Gotten over your shock about union-man so quickly? Don't be modest, it was only fifteen minutes of us waiting around for you."
"Take your seat at the table," Prokofiev said, pointing at the empty chair. "The rest of you, I need you sitting down, as well."
The other lieutenants, who had gotten up and were busy minding their own matters, obeyed, shuffling back to their seats and watching, expectant. Lavanov returned to his seat while Prokofiev remained standing behind his own chair.
"I have made the decision to recruit Josef Nasarov back to the Novistranan Coalition," began the revolutionary, "but this is not going to be a temporary recruitment just for political purposes. This is permanent."
Prokofiev's men began to murmur amongst themselves, and after a bit, Churnyeav spoke up. "Sir, I don't mean to question your orders, but are you sure about that? Comrade Nasarov was set against your ways of thinking because of what you did."
"I agree that Josef was right about my drifting," Prokofiev conceded, "but not about my goals. The revolution must continue, and Josef is my brother. You, Churnyeav, know this is true."
Prokofiev raised his bandaged right hand, and Churnyeav, after a moment, raised his own. Lavanov snorted while Father Baturin remained silent, looking at his hands on his lap. Federov just sat, confused.
"I do not abandon my brothers," Prokofiev continued. "Josef may have left us because of me and for reasons outside of our control, but now he needs me. He needs us. He needs the Novistranan Coalition to call home."
"But we have no space for him," Father Baturin said. "I would like to see Mr. Nasarov back in one piece, but we have established ourselves comfortably here."
"I don't care about that," Prokofiev replied. "I know we need room for him, and I have made up my mind as to who should go."
Before the others could voice an opinion or react, Prokofiev immediately pointed at Lavanov, who simply remained silent and staring at Prokofiev's eyes with what appeared to be grudging understanding. Federov was quite surprised, as he was sure he was the one who would get the ax.
"Felix Lavanov," Prokofiev said, using his full name again, "your services are no longer needed."
The others stared at Lavanov, and Churnyeav began to laugh, low at first, then steadily increasing in volume before Prokofiev snapped at him to be quiet.
"I see, taskmaster," Lavanov began after a while, his voice straining to hold in... sadness? "It was a nice ride and it sucks to get off before it's over, but I suppose our business partnership is at an end?"
"It is," Prokofiev replied, frowning. "It was not an easy decision to make, but it's the correct one. Lavanov, I grant that you are intelligent, talented, and useful to anyone who may need your skills. However, you are also arrogant, disbelieving of our ideals, and a royal pain in the ass."
"Stop, you're flattering me," Lavanov sighed, rolling his eyes.
"Despite me making a blood pact with you, I cannot hold you with us any longer. You're a liability," Prokofiev continued. "If I am to succeed, I must have men at my side that believe in us ideologically, not because we pay well."
"Fair enough," Lavanov said, getting up. His eyes flared with greed. "But I'm not going without a severance package of some sort! You mutilated my hand!"
"I've already arranged for that," Prokofiev said grimly, raising the briefcase and putting it on the table. He opened it, then turned it around so it faced Lavanov. The satirist's eyes shone as he saw its contents: bills upon bills of roubles. The other men at the table speechlessly gawked at the amount.
"I have NR80000 in here," Prokofiev said, sliding the briefcase forward. "It's more than enough to pay you for all your 'discounted' services, and before you go complaining, it also covers the little treatment I gave you earlier. Consider it your final paycheck for your last act for the Coalition."
"And what would that be?" Lavanov said, getting up and licking his lips as he picked up the tight bricks of roubles, eying them over lustily.
"I need you to write something for the people of Pugachev," Prokofiev replied, a smile playing at the corner of his lips. "But before I give you the details, I suppose I should let the others say their farewells."
Baturin was the first to get up and shake Lavanov's hand sadly. "You were a good man to work with, Mr. Lavanov. A shame you couldn't say the same for us."
"Aw, robes," chuckled Lavanov sadly, "I always did like you best."
"I guess we weren't meant to be together after all," Federov went next, shaking Lavanov's hand. "You've got brains and a sharp tongue, Felix, but I'll be damned if it doesn't get you killed someday."
"I can survive, books," Lavanov said smartly, "but I can't say the same about you."
Then Churnyeav approached. Lavanov and the soldier stared at each other for a little bit, then Churnyeav gave the satirist a small salute, which surprised Lavanov. He returned it.
"You're a bastard of the highest order and a man any sane soldier would sooner throw on a live grenade than pull him back," Churnyeav rapped out as he stood at ease. "You're a weakling, a coward, and I never liked you."
"Are you going to insult me all day, jarhead?" Lavanov said angrily. "I've got business to take care of."
"I would if I had the time," Churnyeav snapped back. "I would love to throw you in a windowless room and give you a beating you would never forget for the rest of your insignificant life."
As Lavanov stared at Churnyeav in something akin to mutual hatred, Churnyeav put his bandaged hand forward, inviting Lavanov to shake it. "It is a shame to lose you, maggot, and it has been an honor to serve alongside you."
This again puzzled Lavanov, and he cautiously put his hand on Churnyeav's own. The soldier was actually gentle in shaking it, then they both smiled, not as friends, but at least as respectful rivals.
"We can say our farewells later, Lavanov," Prokofiev interrupted after a few moments. "For now, we need to discuss your last job."
Lavanov let go of Churnyeav's hand and turned to face Prokofiev, his spirits up. "I'm listening."
* * *
The Novistranan National Archive - Pugachev Post Satirical News Column by Felix Lavanov: 03/04/1996
MY LIFE AMONG THE SAVAGES
I was asked the other day, "Mr. Lavanov, is it possible to live life to the fullest in Novistrana?" To which I answered, "Yes, if you like crowded prisons." It's not every day you get to join a political faction, and it's certainly not every day someone admits they're part of one. Nobody fancies the five-star treatment at our glorious penitentiaries, which rate higher than our hotels in every way possible. And yet I'm going to come out with it and admit that I've been having a tragic, torrid love affair with that forbidden fruit of revolution. That is, shortly before I was dumped by the side of the road like a political pamphlet.
Only in Novistrana and in times like this could a man of the media join a proto-Marxist organization that employs unionizers, priests, and deranged military types that work together to take over casinos and start charities in an attempt to overthrow a government Ceausescu would be proud of. The one I joined? It did all of that, turned around and claimed it stood for the people. The one I was a part of before that? Same thing. Nothing new to see here, folks, just your average underground faction trying to do everything at once. Not unlike a certain man in his comfy castle in Berezina, who certainly enjoys seeing everyone run around like they're on fire, which they probably are, considering the response time of our fire department.
Regardless, life in a political faction is certainly no joke. You need to work hard! You need to lie! You need to cheat! You need to attack your fellow man! You need to sever all forms of old friendships and proclaim your undying loyalty to the leader, or else you-
Oh, wait. That's everyday life here in Novistrana.
Well, it certainly wasn't an easy job, going underground and working to undermine the fabric of our nation. It really wears a man out, not unlike having to run to cash in your next coupons for toilet paper before you get stuck with the rough kind. I was put to defame, discredit, distort, and destroy whoever and whatever I could. Excuse me, Mr. Karasov? Where's my invite to the Ministry of Propaganda? I've got plenty of experience!
If I must name names, and I better in case the secret police ever decide to tear my nails out to admit it, the Novistranan Coalition has been an eye-opener for me. These folks? Man, they're nuts! They're just like our glorious government who want to change things for the better, i.e. themselves. And yet they go and start charities for the poor and plan to destroy crime syndicates as a side-job to trying to overthrow our dear leader. Is our national government slipping, or are the revolutionaries just trying to play a game of chicken to see who they can take to their side? Right now, my money's on the revolutionaries, because they're hot-hot-hot like the tongs at Vostok Green.
I've decided to step out of the grimy underworld of political factions and get back to what really matters: the grimy underworld of media. I've got deadlines to meet, people to make rumors of, and factions to mock and harass. Life among the savages of factions was good, but life among the savages of the government is better!
But if I may be perfectly frank with my readers for just one paragraph, I must admit I'm sad to not be a part of the revolutionizing anymore. It was fun while it lasted, and it's something I encourage everyone to do at least for a day. Just don't get caught!
* * *
Prokofiev's heart was racing.
He was not sure how to talk to Nasarov and what to tell him. He had walked to and exited from the metro on the way to Buran Gardens, and he still had not settled his mind on how he should approach his friend now that the New Peace Party had been destroyed. Early on he knew exactly what he wanted to say, but now that he was nearing the meeting place? He all but forgot it.
Prokofiev fidgeted as he waited near the meeting point, checking his watch and glancing around. Soon enough, Josef Nasarov was crossing the street and walking to meet Prokofiev. He appeared to be as nervous as Prokofiev was.
"Hey there, Josef," Prokofiev spoke up after the two stared at each other anxiously.
"Hi, Piotr," replied the unionizier, just as coolly.
"So," Nasarov repeated, shuffling his foot.
"Well, where do I begin?" Prokofiev said. "I have to say, I have no idea where."
"Neither do I," Josef admitted. "Maybe I ought to start by apologizing."
"Oh, you don't have to-"
"I'm sorry, Piotr", Josef continued, ignoring his friend. "I can't say I can be as articulate in person as in writing, but I'm sorry for everything that happened. I should not have abandoned you like that and risking destroying everything we worked for."
"No, listen to me," Josef pressed, needing to say his piece. "I can't join you, Piotr. Not after what I did, and certainly not if it means being a weak link in your chain. I couldn't bear the weight of being the one that would bring your movement to ruin. Especially not after our bonding as brothers now and ten years ago."
Prokofiev remained silent. Maybe it was best to let Nasarov rant, and then he could find a way to convince him to stay.
"I don't deserve to be at your side as a right-hand man," continued the crestfallen unionizer. "I can't organize people to do what I want, especially not as their leader. What can a guy like me bring to your movement? Father Baturin is charismatic, Comrade Churnyeav can draft people in the army to show our patriotism, and even that weasel Lavanov can come up with plans and rumors to tear down opposing parties. But me? What do I bring? I bring just discontent and rifting."
"Are you quite done beating yourself up? It's sad to watch," Prokofiev said forcefully, surprising Nasarov. "Are you forgetting what you've done for the people of Ekaterine, helping them unionize over these dark days? What about joining me, and then bringing that promise of the worker's paradise to Pugachev, the city that needed you the most? Have you forgotten that I once called you the voice of the worker, the body of the laborer, the mind of the proletariat?"
Prokofiev was surprised at how easily the memories of his first conversation with Nasarov after ten years came to him, but he was on a roll. Nasarov just watched, eyes wide.
"You are a fearsome man, Josef Nasarov," Prokofiev continued, as if possessed. "You managed to take with you and the New Peace Party every last worker that supported us. Every. Single. One. Do you understand the sway you hold with those men and women in the factories? Do you have any idea at all?"
"But I..." Nasarov mumbled, unsure how to reply. "You managed to get them all back..."
"You're my friend for life, a comrade-at-arms, and my first blood brother, Josef," Prokofiev nearly shouted, not listening to his friend and taking out the gilded-handled knife to show it off for emphasis. "Why did you think I was so panicked to hear you abandon me? It was a lot less than your considerable abilities to organize and unionize, and more because I felt that you betrayed me as a friend rather than as just a random supporter."
"But that's exactly why I can't come back!" Nasarov argued, voice strained with emotion. "I don't belong at your side if it means I broke your heart!"
"Bullshit!" spat Prokofiev, close to angry tears. "You broke my heart, yes, but to hear you say you can't come back is just breaking it again! I forgive you, do you understand? Novistrana needs you, don't you get it? It needs you! And... and I need you, too."
The two men stared at each other for a while longer, and without a sound, both began to cry in silence. With the force and emotion only two brothers could muster, they hugged tightly, letting the tears flow.
"Piotr," Nasarov said, holding back a sob and breaking the hug after a while, "thank you."
"No, Josef, I'm the one who needs to thank you," Prokofiev replied, equally stoic as best he could and pocketing the knife. "Your words brought me back to reality."
"What do you mean?" Nasarov asked, rubbing his eyes clean.
"I think you'll see when we get back home," smiled Prokofiev.
"All right, home sounds nice," Nasarov said, grinning slightly.
"Before we go, I think we need to bring you up to speed," Prokofiev said. "Let's get inside, order some food, and talk."
"Sounds good, friend," Nasarov replied, sighing with relief.
The two men walked inside the nearby restaurant. They had met as uncertain enemies, and left as reunited brothers.
* * *
: Hey, guys! Look who I brought home.
: Mr. Nasarov!
: Comrade, welcome back!
: Hey there, man. Guess you belonged in here after all.
: I... Thank you, thank you all. I've... made a grave mistake. It took a humiliating defeat at your hands to make me realize just how wrong I was about everything.
: We turned the other cheek, Mr. Nasarov. Let bygones be bygones.
: Heh, never change, Father.
: Comrade, we belong with the Coalition. Comrade Prokofiev was wise enough to realize that.
: I know, I know. Thank you again, Piotr. This forgiveness means a lot to me.
: The return of the prodigal son, in a revolutionary format. It warms my heart.
: Speaking of prodigal... where's Lavanov?
: He won't be bothering us any longer, Josef. I replaced him with you.
: ...That means a lot to me, Piotr. It really does.
: The maggot will be missed, in his own little twisted way, but we have to move on.
: That's right, and speaking of moving on, I have the next step of our plan ready.
: Ah-hah, about time, sir!
: For the dossier, Piotr?
: That's right, Josef. I have a plan set out for this, and I we need to pull it off flawlessly. I don't know if we'll get another chance.
: Let's hear it, Mr. Prokofiev.
: The good news is you all were wonderful with spreading misinformation in the Mir Stadium. The conflicting reports and the different people you convinced to keep their mouths shut or confuse the Red Mafiya all amounted to making my meeting with Nemunas in a few days safe.
: That's great to hear!
: Feels good, man.
: Nemunas will be bringing the documents in a black briefcase. The operation thus rests on me being able to pick up the briefcase and walk out of there as if it was my own. A simple hand-off, but dangerous considering how Nemunas needs to slip out and slip back in the stadium.
: We've got that covered, Piotr.
: Yeah, man. Got the free food set up and everythin'. And if the guards suspect anythin' they'll just get delayed by our guys in the seats nearby.
: Excellent. Gentlemen, in a couple of days we'll have what we need to take down the Red Mafiya. I hope you're enjoying this as much as I am.
: More than you think, Mr. Prokofiev.
* * *
Oleg Nemunas was leaving the Mir Stadium parking lot with a black-gold briefcase in his hand. He kept checking over his shoulder for any tails, but the parking lot was devoid of people, just a sea of cars. It didn't help his nerves any.
He walked briskly to the crossing point on the street, where he saw Piotr Prokofiev doing the same on the other corner. Prokofiev was already taking a seat on the same bench they had met in three days ago.
Prokofiev was relaxed, languorously leaning back on the bench and checking his watch. He looked at Numenas lazily, and made no move to show he recognized him.
Nemunas approached the bench, doing his best not to plop himself down on it immediately to get it over with, and slid the briefcase next to the bench. He sat down, and the two men remained silent and staring at the street.
Then, as if the two were just fellow travelers waiting for a bus, Nemunas and Prokofiev shook hands, greeting each other politely.
"I hear that the New Peace Party has disbanded," Nemunas stated the obvious, making small talk to add to the misdirection.
"Yup," Prokofiev replied, looking at the street. "Was on the papers."
"Nasarov, ex-leader of the NPP, said he rejoined Prokofiev's banner, that he was misled."
The two sat silent a little longer, the briefcase ignored. Then, Nemunas got up and stretched.
"Well, I must be on my way," he said over his shoulder to Piotr. "Good meeting you."
Nemunas began to walk away, leaving the briefcase behind. Prokofiev made no move to retrieve it until Nemunas had rounded the corner.
When Nemunas was out of sight, Prokofiev subtly slid over the seats, picked up the briefcase, and got up with it, looking around calmly to make sure nobody had seen him. He began to walk away as, around the corner, Nemunas took out his phone.
"Hello? Hello? Hey, where the hell are you two?" he shouted to his guards over the phone, trying to keep a shaking voice, not that it was difficult with how nervous he was. "I just got out of the bathroom and some hood just jumped me and took my briefcase! Help me, you morons!"
Nemunas hung up before the guards could ask where he was, and he quickly made his way back to the stadium.
* * *
Piotr Prokofiev's Diary - Hundreth Entry: 05/04/1996
I have it! The financial dossier from the Red Mafiya is ours! Nemunas came through and got everything we needed to proceed.
I contacted Lavanov for a small fee to read over the documents, and I also got Churbanov on the line to make sure that the forms and papers were all in order and enough of a legitimate evidence to hang the Red Mafiya. Both agreed that the dossier was sufficient, and most importantly, explosive. If the government were to get its hands on this, they would have no excuse to sit on their hands while the Red Mafiya continues its smuggling business. The economy of Pugachev is ailing due to their forgeries and contraband, so information like this would lead to a quick and clean raid.
I need to contact Mayor Antonov again. Despite him saying that our business is concluded, I need to make him agree that taking out the Red Mafiya is the correct thing to do, politically and morally. I know that a move like this would cement his position here as Mayor for a long time, and men like Antonov like nothing more than cushy power. If I manage to get him to agree to a meeting, I'll bring the needed proof to make the city act and remove all traces of that foul crime syndicate.