Part 38: A Monopoly on Antitrust
Chapter 38 - A Monopoly on Antitrust
There is goon participation in this chapter!
With the freedom of Father Rostislav Petrov and the Secret Police temporarily out of the picture, Piotr Prokofiev and the Novistranan Coalition had a chance to proceed in their quest. Tresori Vilnov's idea of taking out Karasov's support base via the three central institutions in Berezina would not work if the Coalition acted alone, so they would need to rope in another faction to help them.
After much deliberation, they decided to go after The Konstantino Cartel in a bid to seize the Stock Exchange. Alexei Konstantino's power, weakened as it had been in Berezina, was still rooted in numerous businesses and favorable connections formed in his ever-expanding empire encompassing infrastructure, oil, and recently, food conglomerates. He had associates all over Novistrana, and at Konstantino's word, they could give Prokofiev all of the resources he needed. But first, he would need to eradicate Konstantino's support on the ground level...
* * *
: All right, I've made my decision.
: Let's hear it, Piotr.
: I've decided we should target the Konstantino Cartel. A man like him doesn't deserve that much money and power, like you said, Josef. As a matter of fact, no man does.
: So does this mean we're going to target the Stock Exchange?
: That's right, Nazerov. It's a little ironic, considering our plans, but we've been following a pretty capitalistic path to power at parts, haven't we?
: Yeah... first the casino, then the celebrities, and now this...
: It's for the best, comrade. This time we were the ones who suggested this objective.
: Doesn't make me feel any better about it, though.
: Brothers, are we really turning back on the Church like this? What is there to gain from chasing money? A true man does not need wealth, he needs spiritual guidance!
: Come off it, Father! If we had it my way we'd have gone after the army way back when, but we decided to be polite. Don't question Prokofiev.
: Hmph! I hope this is not a sign of things to come. The Lord is not a patient man, and neither am I.
: Don't worry, comrade. Mr. Prokofiev knows what he's doing. I agree that Konstantino is a threat, even if removing Organized Anarchy's influence would have meant a safer journey after the revolution.
: We'll worry about them later, Nazerov. Right now, Konstantino is the visible threat we need to take out. You can weed out those fake anarchists in Parliament later.
: Right. So what's our next step?
: We have to target all of Konstantino's support in Berezina. Do what you can to take over his business associates, discredit his bourgeois ideals, and tarnish his image. With the national strike still fresh in people's minds, attacking a business tycoon should be easy.
: Yeah, his support's waning, sir. We should have him under our thumb by tomorrow morning!
: Show a little hubris, Brother.
: Whatever, Father. You should keep your mouth shut more often.
: Hey, hey, hey! Drop it right now, Churnyeav! I don't want you starting another Lavanov rivalry!
: *grumble* Yes, sir.
: Piotr, I've recently gotten a group of union men to help me. They have some nasty stories to tell about harassment in the factories. I can link their stories to Konstantino.
: Do it, Josef. Go to Zarya Green with those stories, as Konstantino is strongest there. The rest of you, move out and get more people to our side! The less chance we give Konstantino to build up his support, the faster his empire crumbles!
* * *
The sun was already setting by the time Josef Nasarov got his entire team set up at Zarya Green. Before he could begin tearing apart the Konstantino Cartel, though, he had to meet one person in particular: Vladislav Korolev, a local unionist who had been threatened by the Cartel for nearly publicizing an expose on their work practices.
He had already gathered a number of stories, but Nasarov wanted to hear from Korolev himself. The man was said to have seen some grim things in the Cartel's world, and from all accounts, it was explosive, but nobody heard the real story. If he could tell Nasarov what happened, the Cartel would be as good as ruined thanks to the national strike's lingering effects.
After a few minutes of waiting, a strong-looking man greeted Nasarov in the Zarya Green courtyard. Already Nasarov's men were setting up a podium for an impromptu anti-Konstantino rally, and a small crowd of people were forming, clearly curious. Nasarov had to be quick, before the police showed.
"Nasarov?" asked the balding man, his sharp eyes missing nothing.
"You must be Comrade Korolev," smiled Nasarov and shaking the man's hand firmly. "I'm happy you agreed to meet with me."
"Well, I can't say I'm happy about it," Korolev said, glancing about him. "I think I'm being followed."
"Who isn't these days?" shrugged Nasarov. "But we'll be quick. Comrade, you've heard I plan to make a large public criticism of Konstantino tonight, in a few minutes, in fact."
"And you need my stories to help you, don't you?" asked Korolev, his lips a thin line.
"If you wouldn't mind, comrade," Nasarov said, "I would like to know what you saw in Konstantino's factories."
"But I've already been threatened with death if I speak of it!" protested Korolev. "I'm already taking a big enough risk as it is talking to you!"
Nasarov took out a Novistranan Coalition pamphlet out of his pocket. He had scribbled some notes on it for such an occasion.
"This is the address of one of our safe houses," explained Nasarov, handing the pamphlet to the stony-faced but jittery Korolev. "Give that pamphlet to one of the guards at the door and tell them I sent you. You can stay there as long as you'd like."
"And this is going to keep me safe?" asked Korolev, holding the pamphlet up and reading it.
"We've kept a man out of the reach from the Secret Police. A whistle-blower like yourself won't be much harder to hide," grinned Nasarov.
Letting a long and tense breath out, Korolev pocketed the pamphlet before launching into a tirade he had waited months to tell.
"That Konstantino fucker cuts every corner he can to make a profit!" snarled Korolev. "I acted as one of his factory's foremen and then got promoted to district supervisor, but the safety violations made me sick to my stomach!
"Konstantino and his men put the bottom line ahead of any Novistranan. I've constantly brought forth reports of injuries and risks for my men, but every time a horrible accident claimed a good life, the guys in the suits would just pay off the family a pittance and shut us all up with threats!
"Unionizing was impossible! Not only were they constantly undercutting our efforts and ordering the more desperate workers to spy on us for a measly bonus, they got scabs to work for them when we actually managed to strike! And then, then they would beat us for daring to unionize!"
Korolev paused, shuddering at what he was going to say next.
"But the big one... the big problem was Konstantino's desire to hide the bodies."
"Wait what?" Josef interrupted suddenly. "Did you say 'bodies'?"
"Konstantino is no stranger to hiring hitmen," Korolev whispered. "Ever since the two attempts on his life, he's become very paranoid about any sort of dissent and deals with it in the most extreme way. He's got a list of dead men as long as my arm."
"How do you know this?" asked Nasarov, horrified and covering his eyes.
"Because one of my most desperate factories served as disposal," admitted Korolev, shame-faced. "I wasn't aware of it at first, but then... then I found out that he had many of our more vocal union men killed and incinerated at the mill. I saw... I saw a group of bodies being stacked in there before being burned up. I couldn't stop them!"
"Jesus," Nasarov said, slowly sliding his hand down his face. "I never expected Konstantino to do this to his workers."
"And that's exactly why Konstantino wants me silenced... one way or another," Korolev said sadly. "I wish I had known so I could have stopped him... There were so many who had disappeared. I found out it was Konstantino's orders and his underlings who had ordered the murders by confronting one of my men who acted as the pick-up."
"...Thank you, comrade," Nasarov told the whistle-blower after a few moments of shared horror, patting him roughly on the shoulder. "You've done Novistrana and its workers a great favor. You had better go to the safe house."
"Hell no," refused Korolev, shaking his head and pointing at the courtyard, which was now drawing a crowd with the podium complete. "I want to see you rip that fucker, that murderer apart!"
"Then come along and share your story," offered Nasarov, letting Korolev take the lead.
"I'm no public speaker like you, comrade," smiled Korolev, "but I'll be there to emphasize his crimes."
Soon enough, Nasarov was standing in front of the podium, looking around at the turnout. It was quite crowded, for a fearful Berezina experiencing mass arrests left and right. No sign of cops or military police yet, but there was always the chance of an undercover cop. Nasarov turned to one of his new underlings, a burly man who went by the name of Mikhail Revonov, and brought him close.
"I'm afraid one of Karasov's thugs may try to crash the party," whispered Nasarov to Revonov. "I want you to act as a bouncer."
"Will do, boss," nodded Revonov, immediately beginning to patrol around the podium, giving suspicious people a glare as he passed them. Standing just behind Nasarov, another of his assistants was taking photos and acting as a media bridge.
Time to show those capitalists what happens when you fuck with the working man, thought Nasarov with a determined look on his face as he took the podium.
"My comrades!" Nasarov began, raising his hands and getting their attention. "I am Josef Nasarov of the Novistranan Coalition! I call myself an union man, a friend of the workers and the people, a laborer in every respect of the word! Who am I talking to tonight?"
"The people!" shouted back many of the audience amidst cheers and encouragement from Nasarov's assistants.
"Good, because tonight, the people will be shocked to learn of the horrible truth behind the Konstantino Cartel!"
"Booooo!" shouted the crowd. "Down with the Cartel! Down with Konstantino!"
"Before tonight, I would have thought that the Cartel was only an anti-union, anti-socialist, pro-capitalist cabal of wealthy fat cats and union-busters," Nasarov shouted with authority, then paused for breath. "But these are no ordinary parasites who fleece off of the hard work and labor of the common man and woman of Novistrana! They are murderers and enemies of the state!"
Many of the people gasped and others screamed in fury at hearing Nasarov's accusations. Nasarov continued, feeling the rage in the crowd.
"Tonight I met a man who had been forced to keep himself silent for witnessing a gruesome mass murder," Nasarov pushed, suppressing a shudder. "Vladislav Korolev, an old worker in Konstantino's factories, saw the bloody results of Konstantino's hitmen in the form of dead workers and unionizers who were trying to improve the conditions of the common people!"
The crowd raged and writhed, many hands going up in the air in fury and screaming bloody vengeance.
"Konstantino has resorted to murdering those who stand in his way, whether they be a wealthy political opponent to seize their territory, or a working man who just wants to set food on the table for his family!" continued Nasarov, letting his newly-budding charismatic side flow. "We have had enough trouble facing an uphill battle against the interests who want to keep us down, but now one of the biggest monopolies in the country, led by a man with delusions of grandeur to make this an uber-capitalist state, has decided that murder is the only debate there is!"
Many of the people continued to hiss and scream, and a few men in the crowd began to edge forward. Revonov spotted them quickly and motioned to Nasarov's men in the crowd, who quickly removed them. Nasarov had noticed, but he didn't draw attention to it. He just kept going.
"We at the Novistranan Coalition have had enough of Konstantino's bloody cartel, of his monopolies on industries around Novistrana, of his contribution to the oppression of the people! We have had enough of his aiding and abetting of Karasov's policies, and of continuing to supply the dictator with the funds necessary to prop himself up in a position of power! We have had enough of this capitalistic route, and we will crush those who stand in our way of a worker's paradise!"
Nasarov's pacing and the reaction of the crowd were perfect. The people alternated between cheering on Nasarov, cursing Karasov's name, and demanding Konstantino's head on a stick. Zarya Green was the Cartel's greatest stronghold at the moment. It was a district full of wealthy people and few working-class men with a great number of Konstantino supporters.
Now, Nasarov thought smugly as he prepared to launch a second wave of anti-Cartel rhetoric, it has a lot fewer ones.
* * *
Churnyeav was preparing to leave Chomsky Gardens after instructing another round of army drafts to take place when he was interrupted by a phone call.
"Churnyeav here," he answered the phone, stopping to get reception.
"Boris, old friend! How are you doing?" a genial but gruff voice greeted him.
"I'm sorry, who's this?" asked the veteran with a furrowed brow, walking again.
"Oh, that's right, we haven't spoken in ages!" the man at the other end laughed. "It's Makar! Makar Karimov, remember me?"
"Holy shit, Makar, is that really you?" Churnyeav busted out laughing. "Makar! Deadeye! How are you doing? Jesus, I haven't seen you since I left the army after Grodnistan!"
"I'm doing great Boris, or should I say, Ironman!" the man answered. "I've just dropped by your army draft, and after I asked around, I found out it was you who set the whole thing up! Hell, I even began recruiting a few Novistranans myself!"
"Goddamn it's good to hear from you," Churnyeav grinned widely, crossing the street and continuing to talk. "What's been up with you?"
"Well, I'm here with my friend Filipp Kravtchouk, you remember Filipp?" Karimov replied, and then a second, drawling voice popped on the line. "Yo, what's shaking, Ironman?"
"No fucking way!" laughed Churnyeav incredulously. "Filipp? Woodstock?"
"The Woodstock's in town, Ironman," Kravtchouk said with his drawl. "I managed to drag ol' Deadeye with me when I heard that the Ironman had gotten himself mixed up with revolutionizin'. Got so I was helpin' Deadeye with your recruitment for ya."
"Well, yeah, it's true," admitted Churnyeav as he crossed the street, then he got worried. "Uh... you're not with Karasov, are you?"
"Naw, man, we're still in the army but we don't give two shits to that asshole," drawled Kravtchouk. "Matter of fact, would love to see some new blood leading the guys, y'know? Alexashenko, now there's a man I'd like to see in charge. He knows the score, yeah?"
"All right, so what can I do for you both? Man, we ought to meet up and catch up on the old days!"
"Actually we do want to talk to you about somethin' serious," Kravtchouk said with a dead serious tone. "I'll put Deadeye back on th' line."
"Makar, I'm here."
"Listen, buddy, we wanted to talk to you about... lending our services for your revolution."
"Services?" Churnyeav asked, then paused. "What kind of services?"
"We need to talk about... military matters," Karimov said quietly. "Specifically... Alpha Squad matters."
Churnyeav froze up, then nodded. Despite being right under a light near the park, he couldn't will his feet to move.
"All right, Makar. Tell Filipp for both of you to meet me at Pelmeni Heaven in the Petropavlosk Estate," instructed Churnyeav after a few moments of trepidation, or was that excitement? "It's a nice little hideaway, and if we're going to be discussing... that kind of detail, we need some quiet."
"Roger that, buddy, we know where P.H. is," replied Karimov. "We'll meet you there in ten."
Churnyeav hung up the phone, his heart beating rapidly.
* * *
The Novistranan National Archive - CIA Agent CENSORED 's Daily Report to Langley: 19/04/1996
I've met with Agent CENSORED and she told me about Samael Goshnov and the successful extraction. CENSORED , sorry for not getting to ya sooner, but I had to monitor the CENSORED . We have reason to believe Goshnov has been captured by Karasov's forces. He was caught trying to escape the country. Apparently he thought he could get away with his money. Didn't work out for him.
Our operations here are going to be limited as Karasov's still sweeping the nation for any dissidents. Agent CENSORED and me nearly got picked up by the local MP's. Still, it looks like Prokofiev's dogs are going to rip apart Konstantino's business empire, but there's nothing we can do. Interfering now would be a bad idea, sirs, business connections be damned.
Monitoring Churnyeav has become a new priority. It seems he's found a friend in CENSORED and CENSORED , men who have led some Alpha Squads before and during Karasov's regime. They were in the army together, and Churnyeav's got enough of a reputation to get a real partnership going with them without Karasov knowing about it. I don't know if Prokofiev will choose to use his own personal Alpha Squad, but if he does, then we'll have to keep an eye on them despite the increased surveillance here.
Agent CENSORED out.
* * *
Memos to Piotr Prokofiev - Boris Churnyeav's Alpha Squadron: 20/04/1996
I'm now in contact with certain people who can arrange for an Alpha Squad to be used against an enemy of our choosing. Army buddies and all. They were good friends back in the Grodnistan War. With the work we've been doing, I've finally got them to support us and they gave me full control over an Alpha Squad of our own!
They need a complete dossier of information detailing the target's capabilities before they act. This dossier needs to contain what actions the target is capable of performing, so we must scour the city for signs of their previous behavior. It's not just enough to know where the target lives, sir: they're likely to have friends, family, and safe houses they can run to, so my buddies are going to have to know everything they can about them. They're also working outside of Karasov's sphere of influence, so the more they know about the target, the more easily they can cover their tracks.
Sir, I suggest we use this new resource liberally. Sometimes, military might is the only thing people understand, and don't you keep saying that those with the will survive? This definitely shows what kind of will we've got!
Memos to Piotr Prokofiev - Alexei Konstantino's Defiance: 20/04/1996
I rarely write to anyone outside my business circle, much less revolutionaries I would never associate with. You have been chasing roubles out of Ekaterine and Pugachev, and now you've come to Berezina to continue picking a fight with my cartel?
This aggressive hounding of our faction has got to stop. We will not capitulate under any circumstances. I suggest you take your war somewhere else. Your bulldog, Nasarov? Best you put a muzzle on him and keep him on a tight leash, because he's just accused me personally of murder. And that, good sir, is something you'll regret.
Should you continue attempting to tear apart my support base in Berezina, we will take action and do whatever we can to protect our business interests. And I really do mean whatever we can.
Piotr Prokofiev's Diary - Hundred-thirty-fourth Entry: 20/04/1996
God damn it, I knew I should've talked to Boris sooner! Father Petrov obviously convinced him to go chasing after his old war buddies and get them to prepare a shadow Alpha Squadron we can use. I cannot believe it, but I've actually been seriously thinking of using it. I thought I would have not been a second Karasov, but the more I think about it... god, the more I want to use it. What kind of leader can I be, though, if I order the deaths of my political opponents? After what we did in Pugachev, how can I think that using murder is a good idea?
No, no, I've got to put it out of my head. If I play my cards right I will never have to resort to assassination. Let Churnyeav play the soldier with his brand new toys, as long as he doesn't use it on anyone. If he does so without my permission, then I'll deal with him. But for now... I'll keep it in the back of my head.
The other memo I got this morning was from Konstantino. The bloody man told me he would never bow to our demands, but I think we can prove him wrong. If we can recruit one of his key staff then he will have been greatly weakened. He may not have a problem with a small support base, but hitting him ideologically by stealing an inner circle member will make him rethink his opinion. Moreover, while this in itself may not cripple Konstantino, the information that the defector will bring with him is bound to enough to deliver the final blow.
I need to consider my next move carefully. Which of Konstantino's men should I hire? I better not tell my own lieutenants of this plan: I'll have to remove one of them temporarily from the Coalition, if not permanently, to convince one of Konstantino's men to defect to our side...
* * *
Taking out the Cartel's support was surprisingly quick. They were already weakened from our previous attacking and support-grabbing, and the three-day support degradation penalty kicked in at just the right time, completing the objectives for this chapter. However, Konstantino was not fazed by our defaming tactics, so we need to go in and show just how little power he has left. The best way to do this would be to recruit one of his own inner circle members to our side to extract all the information he knows and deal an ideological blow to Konstantino. This is a three-voter (!), so read carefully!
Your first vote is to decide which of Konstantino's men to recruit. Here are his flunkies...
Novistranan Coalition Dossier - Oleg Nesterov: Academic
Nesterov is the head of the School of Economics at Berezina University. He has had a long association with big business in Novistrana, and many future CEOs and Directors graduate from his courses.
Novistranan Coalition Dossier - Vikenti Anisimov: Business
Vikenti is a very secretive man, and rarely seen by anyone other than his closest business associates. There are rumors that he is part of a secret sect within the elite of Novistranan society.
Novistranan Coalition Dossier - Anton Ermakov: Celebrity
Anton Ermakov is a renowned Novistranan novelist. A former politician, his thrillers are packed full of suspense and political intrigue, although Ermakov more likely to be in the headlines for his lying and cheating ways rather than his latest novel.
Novistranan Coalition Dossier - Leonid Kovalev: Media
Leonid Kovalev is a big supporter of Konstantino and acts as one of the Cartel's more public figures, ensuring that people get to hear about the faction's good work in the national media.
Your second vote is to decide which of our inner circle members we kick out (at least temporarily) to make room for Konstanino's man. Here are our current members, without a summary of their skills...
: Josef Nasarov, our anti-capitalist unionist, life-long friend, and blood brother.
: Boris Churnyeav, our gleefully violent but tough and fair army veteran.
: Tresori Vilnov, our mentor and good comrade who has prepared us for revolution throughout our life. (Currently in a safe house. Removing him will take an extra day.)
: Maxim Nazerov, our honest, idealistic steel-worker turned (moderate) politician.
: Rostislav Petrov, our firebrand preacher who wishes to see political and spiritual liberation.
Your third and final vote is to decide what is to be done with the new lieutenant we just got. Like Nasarov and the NPP debacle, we need to recruit Konstantino's man, but we don't need to keep him around. So do we...
Keep the defector from Konstantino? Some new blood could do wonders for our image in taking over the Stock Exchange... as well as get rid of any bad apples in our group. Keep the Wealth-oriented turncoat and march on!
Get the Novistranan Coalition member back? We'll get what we want from Konstantino's man and then remove him right away to get our kicked-out member back. Our current inner circle has to stand together no matter what!
Don't keep either and get a fresh recruit? We can't keep Konstatino's turncoat with us, but we can't keep the man we kicked out, either. Let's replace our previous member with someone new! Check Chapter 31 for the list of Berezinan candidates.
Again, like with Nasarov's vote in Pugachev, I will be taking the three votes' results separately, so vote wisely...