Part 42: A Leader's Will
Chapter 42 - A Leader's Will
There is goon participation in this chapter!
The Novistranan Coalition's takeover of Berezina and the stock exchange took a few days to do successfully, but in the end, they managed to convince the Central Bank and the City Hall to support their endeavors to take over the stock exchange. Alexei Konstantino's knowledge of the widespread fraud that plagued the country's financial institutions was a powerful weapon to throw against the leaders of the stock exchange, and with the proper leverage of support, Piotr Prokofiev was ready to attack the Minister of Finance, Sergei Shkvartsev, and convince him to step aside.
This would be a success for the Coalition, but Karasov was ready. With the knowledge given to him by Rostislav Petrov's admissions under torture, Karasov was ready to replace the bailing Finance Minister with one of his own inner circle men. Overcoming this obstacle would be one that would test Prokofiev's worth as a leader, and whether he was willing to take the ultimate step in his revolution...
* * *
Piotr Prokofiev's Diary - Hundred-fifty-first Entry: 25/04/1996
The candlelight vigil last night was exactly what we needed to rope in City Hall and the Central Bank into supporting us. Karasov's horrible crime must be punished, and we're going to make sure he gets exactly what he deserves at the end of the revolution.
Father Petrov... No, Brother Petrov, I'm sorry. Your death was entirely my fault, and now... now I've used your name to fuel our movement. I hope that there is some justice there, as despicable as it was using your death for politics. I will have Father Baturin take up your quest of anti-corruption, rest assured. Thanks to your sacrifice, we're ready to move on and take over the Stock Exchange.
I've explained the situation to my comrades, now that Petrov's death has made all of us (save Anisimov) brothers. They understand what happened two years ago, and they agree that the fraud must end. I contacted Konstantino last night to give us the proof of what happened, and it arrived this morning. From the information that Konstantino gave us there is little doubt that the fraud required Sergei Shkvartsev's full cooperation. I'll set up a meeting with him and tell him it's time to leave the country. With the position of Finance Minister open, we can install Vikenti Anisimov to handle the role and take full control of the Stock Exchange.
* * *
Novistranan Coalition Dossier - Sergei Shkvartsev: Business
Shkvartsev runs the Novistranan economy from his offices in the Stock Exchange. With the main floor below him visible through one-way mirrors, he can watch the hectic dance of monumental amounts of money rushing around the world. A constant reminder of his responsibility to the nation, he says that "as long as the floor is busy I am reassured that things are not as bad as the analysts predict".
* * *
A combination of Special Forces training, a little bribery, and fake IDs at the district checkpoint was enough to see a disguised Prokofiev through to Karasov Square, the financial center of Berezina. Stealthily removing his disguise and putting it inside the shoebox of evidence he was carrying with him, he slipped unnoticed to a bench at the southwest corner of the district.
It was on his way there that he saw a sharply-dressed businessman walking in his direction from the street intersection. Prokofiev walked to the bench, and sure enough, the businessman was already joining him. Shkvartsev.
"Greetings, Piotr Prokofiev," the shrewd-looking man greeted Prokofiev. "I trust our friend Konstantino is in good health?
"Minister Shkvartsev," replied Prokofiev, acting polite for now, "he is doing quite well. Yourself?"
"Couldn't be better," Shkvartsev answered, then motioned to the bench. "I have a meeting to get to in a while, so how about we get started?"
"Sounds good to me," nodded Prokofiev as they took a seat and shook each other's hands, getting comfortable. Prokofiev set the shoebox aside.
"I'm glad that your Konstantino-Coalition merger is working out well for the two of you," Shkvartsev said, making small talk. "You certainly are getting quite the attention from President Karasov, aren't you?"
"The political aspects of our factions certainly attract the worst kind of attention," laughed Prokofiev, raising his arm jokingly. "But in our shared goals, what can we do in this day and age?"
"Certainly, certainly," nodded Shkvartsev. "Now, let's get straight to business. Konstantino explained to me that you have an offer to make regarding your worth in the Stock Exchange?"
"That's right," replied Prokofiev. "What did Konstantino tell you?"
"Well, he said you had a good business opportunity for me," Shkvartsev said, unaware of the true nature of the meeting. "He said your merger had given you access to information that would make everyone a little bit richer, and if you don't mind me saying so, I never pass up an opportunity to hear it, haha!"
Prokofiev shared the laugh, then, while Shkvartsev was still disarmed from his own joke, he said, "I'm here to offer you a single chance to resign and leave the country."
Shkvartsev stopped laughing almost immediately, his mouth still open in mid-laugh. He frowned, closed his mouth, and became angry in the space of a second. "What did you just say?"
"I said, Minister, that you have one chance to resign as Minister of Finance and leave the country permanently," snarled Prokofiev, his mask of civility entirely gone. "If you don't, then you and your friends are going to be the victim of an anti-bourgeois uprising not seen since the French Revolution."
"I don't have to sit here and listen to this shit!" snapped Shkvartsev, getting up and crossing his arms.
"You certainly don't," Prokofiev said, staring straight ahead, "but if you leave now, 1994 is going to explode in your face in the next five minutes."
Shkvartsev froze. "What did you say?"
Prokofiev motioned for the Minister to sit down, which he did almost like a robot. Prokofiev turned to him conspiratorially.
"You see this little shoebox here?" he asked, gesturing to the innocuous-looking container on the ground. "This contains all of the evidence of two years' worth of fraud and all the details you pulled in the crash of 1994."
Shkvartsev refused to believe it. "You're bluffing."
"Oh no," smiled Prokofiev, like a tiger. "Our friend Konstantino was quite willing to tell me all about it."
Shkvartsev's face contorted in rage, then panic. "He sold me out?"
"Oh yes," Prokofiev answered, still with his tiger's grin. "There's no honor among thieves."
Shkvartsev, getting a little pale, pointed at it in an effort to hide his fear. "Bull. That thing's empty."
"September 5, 1993," began Prokofiev, taking out a small index card from the box and reading it, staring at Shkvartsev's eyes coldly. "Sergei Shkvartsev meets with Andrei Lyubov of Greiyev Oil Co. to discuss withholding oil supply, thereby artifically increasing prices before taking it to the international market."
Shkvartsev somehow paled even further, shaking as he heard Prokofiev recite the date and details.
"Shall I continue?" asked Prokofiev, taking out another index card from it and reading. "October 24, 1993, Sergei Shkvartsev-"
"Okay, okay, stop!" the businessman nearly shouted, shoving his hand in Prokofiev's face. "I get it already!"
"I could go public with this and let the country fall apart," Prokofiev said, working a gleam of madness into his eyes. "I could pull an Organized Anarchy and send this country to Hell in a handbasket, and let your wealthy asses get put up against a wall and shot."
"Now, Mr. Prokofiev," Shkvartsev said with restrain, sweating to get Prokofiev's better nature. "We can discuss this like gentlemen."
"I'm sure we can," Prokofiev replied sarcastically.
"How much is this information worth for you?" asked Shkvartsev, a large drop of sweat rolling down his forehead. "Three million roubles? Five? How about-"
"I am not for sale," the revolutionary interrupted, getting angry at the bribery attempt. "I'm here to make you resign and leave Novistrana forever."
"B-but the Stock Exchange!" Shkvartsev babbled, still unbelieving. "They need me to run it!"
"No they don't," Prokofiev said confidently. "They need anyone with a business background. And believe me, there are plenty of people out there who can replace you."
"But what about me?" lamented Shkvartsev. "What about my family?"
"You and your kind have done enough damage to Novistrana," snarled Prokofiev. "You should be thankful I'm going to keep your involvement on this a secret and that I'm not releasing this information to the public."
"So what do I do?" Shkvartsev asked, defeated.
Prokofiev got to his feet and pulled the shaken Shkvartsev into his two-kiss and hug greeting. He kept the man close to him, whispering. "You'll take what you can carry with you and leave the country by midday today. Announce to the press you are leaving for some time. Do not say anything else, and do not return. Understand?"
Shkvartsev nodded, and Prokofiev felt the man bob his head. He released him.
"Get out of here," Prokofiev snarled, seeking to put in a last bit of intimidation. "You're done bleeding our glorious nation."
Shkvartsev quickly walked away, leaving Prokofiev behind. The revolutionary silently picked up the box of evidence, put on his disguise, and quietly walked away from the bench.
* * *
: Looks like Prokofiev is making his move, sir.
: Yes, yes he is. I don't like how he seemed to slip by the district patrol, so we'll have to do a little re-education. Hm. Oh, Barankov, would you please get Ivanov? I've sent for him and he should be arriving any time now.
: Of course, sir.
*Anton Barankov leaves. Karasov pores over the newspaper, critically looking over the article and thinking, plotting. A few minutes later, Barankov returns with Eduard Ivanov.*
: Mr. Karasov, it's great to see you again!
: Welcome, Ivanov, welcome! Please, take a seat. Barankov, watch the door.
: Yes sir.
: So what did you wish to discuss, my friend? Are my takeover tactics not working to remove the Coalition's influence?
: No, you're doing very well, Ivanov. However, it's time for you to make your greatest show of friendship yet.
: And what would that be?
: How would you like to be my new Finance Minister?
*Ivanov stares at Karasov in utter surprise, then nods with a wide grin.*
: ...When do I start?
* * *
Novistranan Coalition Dossier - Eduard Ivanov: Business
Finance Minister Eduard Ivanov has engineered Novistrana's fledgling new market economy. Ivanov is rumored to have benefited handsomely from his position; some might say too handsomely.
* * *
: We were caught unprepared. Karasov installed Eduard Ivanov as the new Finance Minister.
: God damn it! How was he ready for us?
: I think Petrov, God rest his soul, gave away the game, Piotr.
: Hnnnnggg... This guy just popped out of nowhere. Can we investigate him?
: We have no time to find out more about him, Mr. Prokofiev. If we let him get cozy with the Stock Exchange, he'll be impossible to shake. We need to act quickly.
: My dear student, he will certainly destroy the evidence to the economic fraud if we don't take action.
: Inanov is a businessman, through and through. In a way he's like me: working behind the shadows. He made the right connections and will destroy any evidence there is. I admire his grit, if you don't mind me saying so.
: Sir, given that this Ivanov maggot is an active member of Karasov's unit, I feel we are justified in helping him exit this world early.
: Boris, you don't mean...?
: I do, sir. Let's kill the fucker.
: Hold on a moment! Are we prepared to do this? Piotr, a man's life is no fickle matter.
: He killed Petrov, sir! It's only right we kill one of his men in return!
: I don't like where this is going. Piotr, I have to agree with Mr. Vilnov. Are we ready for this?
: I don't know... I need to make a decision, but... I need to know what you all think we should do. Petrov was a friend to all of us.
: Sir, this is the time to strike back against Karasov. An eye for an eye. Let's give this fucking Ivanov asshole exactly what he gave poor Petrov. Just say the word, and my Alpha Squad will pay him a visit.
: Are you sure that's a wise move, Mr. Churnyeav? It's pretty open.
: You're going to bring down a lot of heat on us if you go in guns blazing, comrade.
: Precisely. Killing a person should not be done so openly. You all seemed to hold the priest in high regard, so you need to strike back. With the help of my... trusted friends... I can hire someone to do the job for us with a good degree of deniability.
: Are we talking hitmen, now? That's nuts!
: Bah! With an assassin, who's going to know who pulled off the hit? No, we need to send a goddamn message!
: Murder is not the answer! Mr. Prokofiev, Ivanov may be innocent of these crimes, but we certainly need to get rid of him for what they've done to Comrade Petrov! I've gotten in contact with some friends from Parliament. I can write that Writ of Exile and remove Ivanov from the country permanently. Let him roam the world unloved and alone.
: That's quite cruel, putting it that way.
: I've got to say that's as bad as killing him.
: Piotr, as much as I'd like to spill some blood, I don't like having to resort to murder. Let's go with your original plan and substitute the Finance Minister with a businessman of our own. We can't become murderers... can we?
: What's the matter, Josef? Getting soft at the idea of violence? That's a pretty non-union thing to do, hiding like a cowering rat!
: Comrade Nasarov, remember, the more time we let Ivanov reign as finance minister, the more time get gets to destroy the evidence.
: Now hold on, I'm just saying! I am fine with a little hurt, but killing...? That's an entirely different thing.
: My student, this is not a decision to make lightly. Murder and exile are very extreme things. However, the path Mr. Nasarov offers may not work. Instead, I suggest you make Ivanov defect from Karasov. Hire him to our ranks, and then convince him to step down if you so wish.
: Can we really recruit him, just like that?
: A very public show of recruitment would destroy Karasov's plans. We can always weaken Ivanov's resolve to his way of life.
: Are you planning on doing to him what you did to me?
: Hmph. Entirely justified in your case, bean counter.
: I... I need a moment to think about this. Excuse me.
: Of course, Piotr... Take your time.
* * *
We've hit a major point in the story, one that will determine what kind of leader Piotr Prokofiev really is, and what kind of will he has deep in his heart. We need to take over the Stock Exchange... but will we have to resort to cold-blooded assassination or exile to get it? Will our revolution take place at any price? Vote to determine Eduard Ivanov's fate...
Use Churnyeav's Alpha Squad: The time has come to fight fire with fire. Karasov has resorted time and again to removing his opponents from the political arena, and Petrov's torture and execution was the last straw. The people have suffered at the hands of this tyrant, and it is time to send a clear message to Karasov that we will do anything to stop him. Send in Churnyeav's men to remove Ivanov with extreme prejudice! (I hate to be a buzzkill, but this option, or any other "kill" option, is impossible to achieve as the game intended. We need to know every action Ivanov is capable of doing, and he will not use certain actions because they cannot be tracked due to perfect secrecy. The game is broken, pure and simple. If you choose this, though, I will kill him in the narrative and work something out photo-wise if I can... Nice work, Eidos/Elixir. You broke the game at a crucial plot point and made an action entirely unusable.)
Have Nazerov forge a Writ of Exile: Murder is not the way a real revolutionary deals with his or her problems. Rather, s/he manages to remove his/her opponents in a more... subtle way. By tapping the resentment in Parliament and other political and influential institutions now that Petrov's death has hit the news, we can forge a Writ of Exile and send Eduard Ivanov in a long, long trip out of Novistrana. Sure, we'll probably be causing ripples in the pond, but that's the price of revolution. (Again, this is impossible to do. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this game is broken. Choosing this means I exile Ivanov, at least in writing.)
Have Anisimov and the Red Matroyshka hire a Hitman: An Alpha Squad is too overt, and a Writ of Exile can always fail diplomatically. Assassination is a business, and there are truly talented dealers of murder in Novistrana. Let's apply a little grace to our... problem. A carefully-placed hitman at the right place and the right time can remove even the most hardened of targets, as well as keep our hands (mostly) clean. (Once more, impossible to do. Choose this to deal with Ivanov in the best way a businessman deals with their opponents: blood money.)
Train Anisimov (or any other businessman) to replace Ivanov as Finance Minister: We cannot allow ourselves to sink to Karasov's level after what he did to Petrov. Revolution is one thing, but political removal is another, and we will not bloody our hands and reputations by relying on Alpha Squadrons, Writ of Exiles, or Hitmen. Instead, we will foil Karasov at his own game and replace Ivanov with one of our own businessmen in a peaceful political maneuver. We can either use Vikenti Anisimov, or we can replace him with any other available businessman in Berezina if he's outlived his usefulness. (Servant corrected me that this would have only worked if we trained Anisimov BEFORE forcing Shkvartsev down, thus skipping this extra mission. Despite my error, though, I'll pretend that this is a possible path and give you an extra choice of "peace".)
Recruit Ivanov into the Novistranan Coalition: Let's take a fifth option, one that does not rely on assassination or playing the wealth game any longer. Rather than wasting time and resources mobilizing assassins or prepping our businessman, let's kill two birds with one stone by doing the unexpected: recruiting Eduard Ivanov to our side. We won't be required to keep him around, but the act alone will make Karasov extremely paranoid and give us time to make Petrov's death count for something. If we decide to go this route, name a person to drop from our inner circle and whether we keep Ivanov with us. (Because of this damn game, this is the only path that's guaranteed to work legitimately. Any other choice will go through this in-game, but changed, of course, in the narrative.)
This vote is split between "kill" and "do not kill", with the first three options being "kill" and the last two being "do not kill". I will aggregate the votes between the two groups, and then take the most voted-on option in that group. So, my fellow comrades... What will it be?