- AUTHOR: NacDiggity
- TITLE: Comrades
- CATEGORY: Drama
- RATING: G
- SUMMARY: “Yuri stared at his computer screen. He blinked twice, squinted, and blinked again.”
- AUTHOR’S NOTES: All dialogue in this story is translated from Russian.
- DISCLAIMER: I do not own the Matrix, or its characters, or its ideas. I am indebted to the Wachowski brothers.
“We will bury you.” – Nikita Khrushchev
Yuri stared at his computer screen. He blinked twice, squinted, and blinked again. That couldn’t be right. He slowly reached forward, and tapped the monitor of his computer. The text remained the same. Yuri shook his head, and looked to his left and his right, to see who was playing the joke. The other two men in the room were doing a good job of keeping a straight face; Pavel was still in the corner, rechecking his Movements list, and Vladimir was looking out the window with the binoculars across the street at the Café below. Yuri let out a weak chuckle to see if either would bite, but they both merely looked over at him questioningly. If there was one thing Yuri had learned after 4 years in the KGB, it was never to say everything that you saw, and certainly all you knew, so he apologized “Sorry Comrades, remembered a joke I heard.” Pavel nodded and went back to his list, Vladimir looked annoyed and went back to his surveillance. Yuri thought to himself that Vladimir needed to lighten up some, but of course he would never say that.
He returned his attention to the screen in front of him, and looked at the display. On the monitor was a series of columns labeled Target, Escape Date, and Termination Date. Several of the entries were names he recognized, spies that had been executed by the state and criminals. Under Termination Date there was either a date or a status, such as “Terminate on Site” “Termination Under Consideration”, or several other options. Yuri’s eyes were focused about two thirds of the way down the screen. The name was impossible, but there it was. Mikhail Nikoleivic. It was a name that Yuri hadn’t thought about in hours, and spoken in years. It was the same Mikhail Nikoleivic, it listed his home address as his mothers house where he had grown up. Two houses from the house Yuri had grown up in. Mikhail Nikoleivic, Yuri’s best friend, dead these 7 long years.
Under Escape Date was April 18, 1982. That was the date Mikhail had killed himself, and despite himself Yuri remembered.
Mikhail had been acting strangely for several months. He had stopped going to the state-sponsored dances, and had begun talking to Yuri in a conspiratorial air about the capitalists being in league with the government to control the proletariat. He had been reading the underground pamphlets that were popular in the day, and he had begun to take a great interest in the writings of a man that went only as “The Sickle”. The Sickle wrote in vague terms of how the proletariat was the slave of what he called the “bourgeois of the mind”. He spoke of freedom, and he spoke of a mysterious organization called “The Matrix”. Mikhail grew more and more paranoid the more he read. For a while he appeared to return to normal, attending school, smiling, socializing, but Yuri knew better. Yuri knew it was an act, to appear normal so not to draw attention to himself. Yuri could understand this, as one never knew where the KGB was and what they were looking for. But this was different, and Yuri knew it.
At night, after their parents went to sleep, they would go to Yuri’s barn, and Mikhail would show him the latest pamphlet from “The Sickle”. They would have brash titles, like “People of the USSR Free Yourselves” or “Your Life is a Lie”, but inevitably they degenerated into mumbo jumbo that made no sense to Yuri. Mikhail, however, was deeply affected by it. Yuri was worried for his friend, and thought about contacting the authorities, but he had heard the horror stories of government men coming, and people never returning, so he kept his misgivings to himself. Finally, one night in April, Mikhail told Yuri that he was going to try to find the Sickle.
Mikhail emplored Yuri to join him “Brother, gain your freedom with me, what is life if not free? We are not stupid, and we are 18 now, we are men! We live in constant fear of the KBG, of the Americans, of Atomic war. Is this a way to live? I say NO!! I do not know what the Sickle knows, but I intend to find out. I will be the Hammer to his Sickle, and I will have my freedom, or I will die”. Yuri was no coward, but neither was he going to abandon his family, his nation, his belief in the inherent correctness of the communist system, and in the goodness of people. Mikhail made Yuri swear that if he would not come along, that he would at least not report Mikhail.
Two days later, he had not come to school, and when Yuri got home, there were police cars and government men all around the Nikoleivic household. They were questioning Mikhail’s mother and when they saw Yuri they pulled him aside. These must be the KGB, Yuri thought to himself as he looked at the black suits and the intimidating sunglasses. Their movements were precise, calm, but poised to explode at any moment. They spoke with an almost uncanny lack of regional accent, and they radiated an aura of complete, total control.
“You are best friends with Mikhail Nikoleivic, correct, Comrade Karelov?” The voice was soft, yet razor sharp. Yuri sputtered “Ye- No Comrade, we are all equals, and all citizens of the Soviet Union are my brothers.” The government man slowly removed his sunglasses, and his eyes were like two daggers, cold and deadly. “Yes Comrade, I am” The government man folded his hands. “Comrade Karelov, do you know his whereabouts for the last 24 hours?” “No, sir, he wasn’t in school today”. “Comrade Karelov, perhaps you can help us in locating Comrade Nikoleivic?” It was not a question. Yuri, his mouth dry, merely nodded his head. “Have you noticed any strange behavior from Comrade Nikoleivic recently?” Yuri swallowed, and told as much as he could afford “Yes comrade, he had been acting a little bit odd these last few months”. “And why did you not report this to the proper authorities, Comrade Karelov?”
Yuri knew this question was important. He did not know how, or even why, but he knew that if he somehow answered this question wrong, he was in trouble. And with these strange, terrifyingly calm men, he knew trouble was not what he wanted. “Comrade, I had thought it was just him being nervous about going to technical school in the Fall”. The government man looked at him for a moment, the longest moment of Yuri’s life, with those intense eyes boring into him, into his mind, into his soul, but the moment passed, and the man seemed satisfied.
The next day they found Mikhail’s boat on the still frozen lake with a hole next to it. His body was never recovered.
Now in 1989, KGB Special Intelligence Agent Yuri Karelov looked at his computer screen and wondered why Mikhail’s name was entered under “Escape Date” instead of “Termination Date”. What had Mikhail been a target of? Where had he escaped? Yuri’s mind raced. Over the years, as Yuri entered the Academy at the Kremlin, he often thought of Mikhail, and dropped subtle inquiries about “Sickle” and “the Matrix”. He never got any answers, but sometimes, when he asked, people would “know nothing” a little too rapidly, and as Yuri advanced, he learned to keep his inquiries very private, dealing with only his most trusted sources. He never found anything definite, but sometimes, while on surveillance missions like the one he was on (a mid level bureaucrat taking bribes from the Soviet Mafia) he would use his computer access to take anonymous peeks into the system. He also asked about the KGB men that questioned him, and found they were part of a highly secret group of operatives, highly trained, capable of almost superhuman feats. Nobody ever spoke of them, and some weren’t sure they existed, but they were referred to (in hushed voices) as “Agents”.
Yuri shook his head as he scanned the list until his eyes locked onto the last name he ever expected to see. Yuri Karelov. It had his home address, phone number, his job with the KGB, everything. Even more shocking was the “Termination Date” status; Termination Under Consideration. Yuri thought wildly “Why terminate me? I’ve done nothing wrong, I’ve never aided a defector, I’ve never spoken out against the system (to anyone other than my parents), I’ve never done anything!” Yuri felt sweat at his brow. He couldn’t believe what was happening. The government was considering his termination? His hands began to shake. Just then the screen went blank. Yuri looked around, but Pavel and Vladimir hadn’t noticed, entrenched in their work. Yuri was about to cycle the power when a message appeared on the screen.
“The Matrix has you, Yuri, and it’s coming for you.”
Yuri was bewildered, he stared at the computer screen, not knowing what to do. Finally he typed “What?” A message typed itself across his screen “Look out the window.” Yuri did, and 100 yards away, slowly approaching the building, were two Agents. He sat back at his computer, eyes wide, heart pounding. The screen began to type again “If you don’t want to talk to them, come to room 809, and hurry”. The screen went blank.
Yuri was paralyzed. Time passed, one second, two seconds, three seconds, four seconds. Yuri stood up suddenly, causing his chair to fall over and make a loud bang. The other two men in the room turned quickly to look at Yuri. He looked at them, and walked backwards towards the door. “I’m going to have a smoke” Vladimir shook his head “It’s not allowed Comrade, we’re to maintain strict surveillance at all times.” Yuri gritted his teeth, “How many pairs of binoculars do we have?” “One.” “Well then we only need one person using them, and I’ve been cooped up here for hours, and I’m having a damn cigarette.” He turned and walked out the door. Vladimir and Pavel looked at each other and shrugged. Vladimir went to pick up the phone, but Pavel motioned him off “We’ve all gotten stir crazy Vlad, even you”. Vladimir thought about it, and sat back down at the window. As he grabbed the binoculars, he noticed two men in black suits approaching the building, but thought nothing of it.
Yuri sprinted up the stairs, 5th floor, 6th floor. His mind raced and his lungs burned as he pounded the steps. “Curse these old buildings for not having elevators” he thought to himself as he ran. He reached the 8th floor and walked briskly to room 809. He reached up to knock and the door opened before him He walked in and saw people in a frenzy of action. One woman was fiddling with what looked to be a dentists chair, another in front of a bank of computers, a man attaching a telephone to the computers. He heard a voice behind him. “Yuri”. He turned around and saw a dead man. It was Mikhail. He was older, and he was dressed in fashionable leather, but it was unquestionably Mikhail.
Yuri’s mouth was open, and all he could manage was “How”. Mikhail smiled and said, “There is no time for that now brother, I gained my freedom, and so may you.” Yuri looked around and said “What is this?” He looked back at Mikhail, and he was holding out his hands, a red pill in one hand, a blue pill in the other. “All I’m offering is the truth, Yuri, nothing more, nothing less.”
Red had always been the color of true communists.