See, sitting in a track full of automatic rifles tends to make you maudlin.
Being shot at makes you very alert and interested in the minor details of life.
Yes, there is a story, children.
So, last we saw, I was on a train inside of Uzbekistan, a country that still fits thumbscrews and scrounging into its idea of due process. You have the right to be tortured. Anything you say or scream made be held against you. You have the right to a lawyer. If you cannot afford one, a torturer will be appointed for you by the court. The poor are automatically guilty. Their president used to be well known for taking part in vigorous 'questioning' of malcontents himself. The US just gave him $500 million in aid. I have reason to believe that I have passed beyond the relative safe rules of my world.
As Doqz said (albeit very late and to my intense discomfort), Andropov did indeed activate me the second we hit the border. The laptop became government property, and so did I, apparently. They stuffed me into an ill-fitting uniform, dumped me into the back of the train, and put me in the capable hands of their non-English speaking NCOs. Serghant Ghlinka pulled me aside to explain the venerable Russian military tradition of 'dedovshina' - roughly translated as grandfathership, merciless rule by the older recruits over the newbies. The new recruits like myself are 'shesterky' literally the
sixes, jargon for punk, little bitch - from six being the lowest card in the deck.
I might be the lowest card in the deck, but at least I'm playing with a full set, unlike Ghlinka. After a great deal of mangled French from the one bi-lingual NCO there, punctuated by savage pummeling, I learned exactly what my worth was to the grand Russian army; above the strybat but slightly below the laces of my own boots. Fortunately, I was saved my basic combat training (I've got bruises in places I didn't know I had places) by a summons from der Furher himself, the Colonel. Seems that wingnut doesn't know my passwords and, gosh darn it, his own signals geek gets wobbly outside of Cyrillic.
Advantage, Telfer. Well, not really. He screamed for several solid minutes, and I recognized a few words that came up a lot in Doqz' mumblings of the last year. I had my options. I could give them the passcodes and not suffer horrific and regular beatings. I could not give them the passcodes, and pick out my very own spot near the tracks to be shot in the back of the head and then dumped.
I offered a third option. I could run my laptop, and not be placed back in the hands of the psychopathic Ghlinka. He agreed, much to my surprise, and left me with the signals geek to set things up. Russian military communications gear is pretty basic. My non-working cellphone has a better range than most of their radio headsets, and the programs look like they're running telnet or something. Anyhow, we get all hooked up. The signals geek confirms we are receiving transmissions, and then two soldier come in, grab me by the arms, and ally-oop me into a tiny tin shack. I have just officially been arrested by the Russian Army.
I'm getting used to jail at this point. Andropov sticks his head in and lets me know that I just might need to stay there indefinitely, unless I agree to cooperate. I let him know that I believed Ghandi say it best when he said 'Go fuck yourself, you third-world Nazi motherfucker!'
As I said, I think I'm getting used to jail. After twelve long and very cold hours, I was just trying to tell myself about the glories of the Russian state in advance of my kowtowing and spineless resignation to Andropov's terms, when the door opened and two soldiers marched me out into the pitch black night. Assuming I was really in trouble, I was about to launch into my girlish weeping and pleading for my life when one of the soldiers handed me my laptop and pointed me in the direction of a truck. I asked him what was going on. He replied in Russian, which I did not understand. He also slapped me across the jaw, which I did understand. Without any further delay, I made my way to the truck in a shambling run and got into the passenger side seat. There was the flicker blaze of a lighter beside me, and for one truly brief moment, I was sure that John Constantine had just busted me out of a Russian jail.
I think the madness as finally caught up with me.
It was not our John, unless John has taken to covering his few remaining teeth with gold. He introduced himself as Vasily, a vor v zakone who was attached to the local mining, oil, and transportation concerns of the area. Yeah, just screams criminal, doesn't it? In any case, Isstavan and Oleg had arranged for my kidnapping from the Russian army through him. It was a briefly terrifying moment before I remembered Doqz' little Hungerian experience and realized that I was safely back in the hands of criminals, and not state military forces. It's amazing how quickly your moral compass can change.
Vasily, while driving at high speeds with no lights on, told me that he was going to get me over to Eastern Europe, but he had a job to do first, so I was going to have to spend a day or two with him while he finished it. We stopped at a small clearing and waiting for an hour until four other trucks rolled up. Vasily had dug a coat and a hefty package of vile cigarettes out of the back of the truck for me, and we shared a flask of some godawful homebrew. Vasily explained that the job was very simple. Drive a truckload of automatic rifles, rifle-fired grenades and ammunition into Afghanistan, drop the off, collect some cash, get me into Kubal to fly out and Bob's your uncle.
So, our little convoy with the blacked-out lights and insanely fast driving wound its way through the mountainous roads and flat death-quiet earth patches with only the occasional ricochet to disrupt the silence. I smoke black tobacco cigarettes and watch a dead earth around me, traveling into the south and the silence.