Part 41: Nightfall
Chapter 41 - Nightfall
The Novistranan Coalition's merge with Konstantino Industries was the first step to a large-scale business takeover of Novistrana, and of stealing away the Stock Exchange from Vasily Karasov's control. Piotr Prokofiev's next objective would be to convince the majority of Berezina's wealthy elite to support the Coalition, and following that, to take over Berezina's City Hall and Central Bank, for they were joined at the hip to the Stock Exchange.
This was another race against time, however, as the only heavyweight players in the Berezinan political arena were the President's faction and Prokofiev's Coalition. Alexashenko's Army had given up trying to drum up support, preferring to sit back and enjoy the power struggle of others, and Organized Anarchy had all but folded in the face of the immense popular support for the Coalition.
Truly, the task of redistributing the nation's wealth had to begin with baby steps, but Petrov's fate would push the Coalition to further action...
* * *
Piotr Prokofiev's Diary - Hundred-forty-third Entry: 22/04/1996
I've managed to buy off Konstantino, having his faction merge with the Coalition and obtaining the harsh truth of the crash of 1994. Despite having done a deal with the devil, we are on the right track. The information given to us by Konstantino is more than shocking: it is earth-shattering. The bourgeois and the rich of this nation are sociopaths! Why would they want to enrich themselves further and rob the people blind in their greed? No, I know. It is their belief that the world is their oyster, that they deserve all they can grab, that drives them to do this. Capitalism is a disease, and it cannot be sustained as long as there are bourgeois attachments to the idea of wealth.
Releasing the details of economic fraud without proper preparation would achieve nothing. Strong denials would be issued, giving the Stock Exchange time to destroy the evidence. To make full of use of this information we need to have it in our grasp and being run by one of our members. A bunch of revolutionary Marxists taking over it is ironic, but it will give us the authority to assert where the money goes and how to best help the people by seeing what's going where.
I need to use Konstantino's leverage to help us take over Berezina's monied elite. Once the fraud information is in the public domain there will be total chaos, so to minimize the damage to our cause and control the elite we'll need the backing of as many financial figures as possible beforehand. We still have a number of them who resist our rule and prefer to cling to Karasov's teat in Molniya Mansions and Lobachevsky Park, but if we manage to take a majority of the elite's support city-wide, we'll make them more pliable to our demands. I need to speak to everyone, Anisimov especially, to plan this.
And try as I might... I cannot get Father Petrov out of my head. I can't abandon one of our men to Karasov, but what can I do? Tresori says he's a dead man, especially now that I've gotten word our old headquarters was found, but that can't be the case. Surely Karasov would keep Father Petrov around, maybe to get more information or to use as a bargaining chip? Or maybe I'm just being too optimistic in thinking that lunatic has any sort of compassion. Father, I'm sorry. There's nothing I can do.
* * *
: Mr. Prokofiev, any word from Comrade Petrov?
: Unfortunately, no, Nazerov. We don't have any clue what's going on in there.
: Rest easy, comrade. Piotr's got this.
: Sir, we've gotten Konstantino on our side, but now what?
: We use leverage, Churnyeav.
: I wasn't asking you, asshole.
: Hey, my good soldier, it's all right. Let it go.
: We have Konstantino and his cartel helping us, but we can't just use our merger to take over the Stock Exchange. We need to convince the bourgeois elite that it would be wise to help us.
: And how do we do that?
: By using our talents.
: Just you try doing that again, you fucking asshole, just you try it!
: Easy, Boris, easy! I told you man, he's not worth it!
: Let go of me, damn it!
: Boris, please calm down! We are not having Pugachev Two here, understand?
: Hrrrrnnnngg... We just HAD to keep this one, didn't we?
: Like I was saying. We use our talents.
: Do you have any ideas?
: You've already done quite well in taking over a number of districts. Just do what you do best.
: Easy for you to say. You don't know shit of what we're doing.
: On the contrary. I've learned quite a bit.
: Can you use your connections to help us?
: You blackmailed me into helping you because you know about them. Now you're asking me to use them in your service.
: It's all right, Mr. Vilnov. We can do it without his help. He's right that we did good work so far...
: Hmph. I suppose so. What do you think, my dear student?
: We do what we do best. Konstantino's backing will help us immensely in convincing them we're not all that bad. Knowing what I know about the Stock Exchange now, we need to proceed carefully... for all our sakes.
: You don't have to tell us twice, Piotr.
* * *
"Don't tell me he's out again," Karasov turned to his second-in-command, Anton Barankov. Both men took to torture as a fascinating hobby, but they only liked to exercise their talents on truly important targets.
"Guess so, sir," Barankov stepped back, eying his handiwork critically. Rostislav Petrov was on the rack and restrained, naked and bleeding from a number of cuts, burns, bruises, and broken bones. The doctor on call was attending to a particularly nasty gash that Barankov has just caused after drawing the knife a little too deeply. The elderly priest had been suffering Hell on earth for two days, and he had long since lost his mind on the table. Barankov had just kept him on it out of cruelty.
"Barankov, for God's sake, you have to restrain yourself," admonished Karasov, walking forward and looking over Petrov's newest wounds. He gave a low whistle. "But I'll be damned if you don't take this to an art form."
"Thank you, sir," Barankov grinned with pride as he put down his knife and picked up a baseball bat. "I try."
"So did you get anything else out of him?"
"He already gave us the location of their old headquarters, sir, but I also got something really interesting a few hours ago. Well, more like a babbled confession."
"And what is that?" asked Karasov, interested.
"Sir, I think his faction plans to take over the Stock Exchange," ruminated Barankov, absentmindedly tapping the baseball bat on his palm. "It would explain why Konstantino allied himself with Prokofiev yesterday."
"Is that so...? Hmm. That's an odd way to go about it. I wouldn't have expected a dyed-in-the-wool Marxist scum-sucking pain in the ass like Prokofiev to do that."
"Well, I couldn't get anything else out of him at this state," Barankov grunted, harshly poking the unconscious Petrov with the end of the bat. "It's hard enough getting him to form coherent sentences now."
"Tsk, tsk, Barankov," chided Karasov, slapping his right-hand man in the back. "I always have to play the good cop, don't I?"
"Don't worry. If he didn't reveal anything else of value when you were working him over, that means he's done," Karasov nodded as he looked over Petrov's sad form, then looked at Barankov with steel in his eyes. "Get him ready for elimination."
* * *
The Novistranan National Archive - Berezina Herald Article on Elite Supporting the Coalition: 24/04/1996
BEREZINA'S WEALTHY FLOCK TO THE NOVISTRANAN COALITION'S BANNER
Following the merge between Konstantino Industries and the Novistranan Coalition, a move that sent shock waves throughout financial institutions in Berezina, Piotr Prokofiev's underground faction has become a financial and revolutionary titan, challenging Karasov at every point since holding the national strike. Despite their crimes and President Karasov's efforts, many people of influence have been flocking to them and seeking contracts and associations thanks to Konstantino's presence. Their latest efforts in taking over support throughout wealthy districts in the city have been nothing short of stunning. In the past two days, they have successfully converted many people to their side via army drafts, music festivals, and poster campaigns, to name a few.
"I see a lot of potential here," one lawyer who declined to state his name for the record explained. "I've always considered Prokofiev an anarchic loon, but his partnership with Konstantino and his established credentials in Ekaterine and Pugachev had led me to reconsider his take on money."
A newly-converted banker added, "Konstantino was always a force of good tidings for this nation. If he has thought it best to ally himself with the Novistranan Coalition, then by heaven I will follow! Even communists can have money."
Despite wide support for Prokofiev's faction, the Central Bank and City Hall remain tepid and unwilling to pick a side in the conflict. Considering the crackdown that President Karasov has ordered on all Coalition activities and pursuit of their leaders, this is not surprising. A statement issued earlier today by the Central Bank told the Herald that "despite the merger between Konstantino and Prokofiev, we feel at this time that a monopoly may surge at any moment. In the interests of antitrust laws and the spirit of competition, we will not support one side over the other". This comes as a surprise, considering that but a month ago, the Central Bank was stoically pro-Karasov.
News on this development and further business matters can be found on page B2.
* * *
"Barankov," Karasov greeted his secret policeman and inner circle member, raising an empty shot glass to the man. "Will you join me in a drink?"
Barankov, having just returned from his duty, simply nodded and took a seat in front of Karasov's table as the President calmly walked to the liquor cabinet and poured out two glasses of whiskey. Karasov placed a glass in front of Barankov and continued to walk around his office, looking over his possessions. Some would call them narcissistic as a number of them were busts and majestic paintings of Karasov, but Karasov simply saw a reflection of his power and his wealth in having such a well-decorated office. The people of Novistrana were far too generous.
"Thank you, sir, for the glass, I mean," Barankov spoke up after Karasov turned around to face him. The secret policeman knew from experience that in these quiet moments, Karasov liked to gloat and think in silence.
"Oh yes, I almost forgot," Karasov said gladly, raising his glass. "To our continued rule!"
Barankov raised his own glass, and both men downed their whiskey. Smacking his lips, Barankov gave a wide grin. "Petrov won't give us any more trouble, sir. I disposed of him myself earlier this morning."
"Excellent," nodded Karasov, walking around his table and taking a seat. He leaned forward like an expectant child. "Please, tell me he was conscious and begging."
"He most certainly was, sir, if you can call his whimpering begging," replied Barankov, grunting a few laughs. "I think he was praying at first, something in his head telling him this was it and somehow he remembered his psalms. I didn't want to do it at first, but I never thought I'd have fun taking out a priest."
"Did the others watch?"
"I had to make them," grunted Barankov uncomfortably. "A few protested at having to kill a man of the cloth, but I gave them something else to worry about before getting it done."
"We'll have to deal with their hesitations in our own time," shrugged Karasov. "Not that I don't want to hear you go on about Petrov, but we have to act on the information we extracted from him."
"Unfortunately it looks like Prokofiev was ready to move in case we caught the priest," Karasov said, his mood darkening. "We found nothing about their new headquarters, no matter how many people we arrested in the dragnet and how much we pushed those wealthy bastards in the Lodge. I don't think they know anything."
"Why can't you seize their property, sir? Wouldn't that make them help you, at least?"
"With that snake-in-the-grass Konstantino allied to Prokofiev, they would rather risk keeping their business connections than sever them," snarled Karasov. "We've grown weak, Barankov. Eduard Ivanov couldn't push them to give up their contracts. Konstantino is just too wide-reaching."
"So now what, sir?"
"Petrov at least was good for something," Karasov said, rubbing his chin. "Prokofiev wants to capture the Stock Exchange. I assume he's going to either try to work a deal with Shkvartsev, or spend weeks using Konstantino's influence convincing them to give him their support. But that's not going to happen, because they have too much to lose."
"The Stock Exchange groups, sir?"
"Exactly. And if Prokofiev tries anything stupid... then we'll send in Ivanov to replace Shkvartsev," Karasov said, plotting "He's been bugging me about a takeover for close to a year, now. With Konstantino out of his way, he may well get it so we can keep an eye on the Stock Exchange."
"Good plan, sir."
"That's all I wanted to tell you, Barankov," Karasov began to dismiss his lieutenant, but then stopped him. "Wait. Make sure nobody hears about Petrov's execution. I do not want him made a martyr of, understand?"
"Of course, sir."
* * *
: Report in, everyone. What's the situation?
: We've got it. The support of quite a number of financial figures is ours.
: Excellent! All right then, Anisimov, you're the business mogul. What do we do next?
: Hmm. At this stage, we need to convert the Central Bank and City Hall to our side.
: Why should we do that? Don't we already have all the rich people's support?
: The Stock Exchange maintains very close ties with these two establishments. Both are critical for trading to continue as the market relies on their interest rate policies and economic decisions.
: So let me get this straight, bean counter. We control those two places, and we seize the Stock Exchange?
: Not quite. We do need to take over them to make the transfer of ownership possible, though.
: I'm getting a pretty Churbanov vibe off Anisimov's plan, Piotr...
: It's a big 'if', but if the two institutions are joined at the hip, it's worth a try.
*A phone rings.*
: I'll get it.
*Nazerov walks to pick up the call.*
: Very well then. We target Berezina Central Square and Kamarov Town. That's where the City Hall and the Central Bank are located.
: Sounds good to me, Mr. Vilnov. We can have Nazerov hold an improptu rally, and you can organize another music festival for-
: WHAT? He's DEAD?
*The others fall silent, turning to look at a horrified Nazerov.*
: I... I see... thank you.
*He hangs up.*
: Comrade, what's wrong?
: It's... it's Comrade Petrov. H-he was executed earlier today.
: God fucking damn it!
: Who was that?
: He wouldn't give me his name, but he said he was one of the guards who witnessed the execution! Petrov... Oh Petrov! He had been tortured and-
: Sir, I request permission for us to get the Alpha Squad ready RIGHT NOW and-
: Boris, stop! We cannot attack blindly!
: Sir, we're a man down! We can-NOT just sit here and do nothing!
: Piotr, he's right! Karasov just killed a priest!
: Calm down, damn it! Calm down!
: Easy there, big fella. I sympathize with your loss, but like Prokofiev said, we can't just go in, arms flailing.
: Fuck you!
: Shut up you goddamn-
: Stop, stop! For God's sake, think about this for a second!
: About what? Piotr, Petrov is dead!
: I... I'm sorry to hear that Petrov is dead. I know, I know I should have helped him! But keep cool! If this is the truth and not just something to make us storm out, then ask yourselves why we're not hearing this from the media?
: ...What do you mean?
: Listen. Karasov was making a big spectacle out of arresting Petrov. Why do you think he isn't doing the same now that he's dead?
: What kind of question is that? He just murdered one of our men in cold blood, sir!
: Yes, he did, but he needed to keep it secret. Petrov was a powerful man, comrades. We would never have known he was dead if one of Karasov's guards hadn't decided to confess to us. This means that we can go to the streets, and mourn Petrov's death publicly.
: Are you seriously suggesting we use the poor man's death as a political prop, Piotr? What kind of-
: No, Tresori, no! We'll hold a vigil for him, political but not revolutionary. We'll be respectful to yet another victim of Karasov's crimes... And it is another reason why we must press on in our revolution. Father Petrov died having done his work, and if we just lash out and get ourselves caught, then we will be doing his spirit a disservice!
: But how are we going to exact justice on that murderer, damn it?
: We'll get to him soon enough, Josef. Believe me, nobody wants vengeance more than I do. I should have put him in a safe house even if he didn't want to. It's my fault he got arrested, tortured, and killed. Now, all we can do is carry on in Petrov's name and make Karasov pay!
: Yeah... yeah! We'll take over the City Hall, the bank, the Stock Exchange, and we're gonna storm that fucker's palace! Nobody fucks with MY unit!
: Karasov did not want to make a martyr out of Petrov.
: No, he didn't. And thanks to some brave soul, we're going to press Karasov to produce evidence of his crimes.
: Piotr, that is dangerous, and what you're suggesting is quite... cynical. I thought you were above politicizing death.
: I... I don't know if we can continue going on like this, Mr. Prokofiev. How can we fight a man who can kill at will?
: Tresori, Maxim... Come with me for a moment.
*Prokofiev leads Vilnov and Nazerov out of the room.*
: This is a dangerous time, and we cannot leave Petrov to rot. This isn't about politics.
*He produces two ornate gilded-handle knives.*
: This is about solidarity.
* * *
The Novistranan National Archive - Berezina Herald Article on Candlelight Vigil for Rostislav Petrov: 25/04/1996
NOVISTRANAN COALITION HOLDS VIGIL FOR ARRESTED PRIEST, ACCUSE KARASOV OF MURDER
In a surprising turn of events last night, the high-ranking members of the Novistranan Coalition stepped out of hiding to lead a massive candlelight vigil for the arrest and alleged execution of the priest Rostislav Petrov, an ex-member of the faction arrested a few days ago and accused of treason. Piotr Prokofiev, leader of the faction, blasted Karasov for continuing a campaign of fear and intimidation on all Novistranans, and for having the gall to execute a man of the cloth whose sole goal in life was to improve the purity of the Church.
Following the candlelight vigil and strong calls for a proper burial of a priest, a double rally took place in Stepanova Village and Kamarov Town, earning spreading the fire of discontent. Both the City Hall and the Central Bank have decided to put their support behind the Novistranan Coalition's efforts, at least temporarily. This support was encouraged by Alexei Konstantino, who expressed sadness at the Coalition losing one of their members, but acting neutrally on all accounts that did not deal with business. Incidentally, he managed to get Finance Minister Sergei Shkvartsev to give Prokofiev a personal meeting sometime in the future to discuss matters following the merger.
The President could not be reached for comment during the vigils and the rallies, but his media spokesperson, Filipp Goryachev, dismissed the vigils as false and that the Coalition was just striking out maliciously at having a domestic terrorist arrested, priest or not. There was no word on whether the priest was alive or dead from the Berezina Police.