A new dystopian title on Amazon: Moskau (an alternate history thriller) by G. Zotov, a leading Russian sci fi author.
Thursday, October 20, 2016
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Thursday, October 13, 2016
Mikado's Joy Street. Nagasaki Café.
BLOOD IS THROBBING in my temples. I feel even worse now than after I had fainted back in the Temple. I can't think straight. It's as if my head has been cut off — and still I can feel the rest of my body. A bit like sensing your own feet after they've been amputated. Phantom pain, it's called. My skin, my nails, my bones — everything seems to have peeled off. Actually, that's quite possible. To have survived this without losing any of your body just wouldn't be possible.
I can see myself as if from above. My priest's robes are gone. I'm wearing black boots, a black business suit and a bowler hat to match. Standard workday attire here in Uradziosutoku.
A paper parasol protects my face from the scorching sun. A waitress in traditional geisha costume clutters her geta sandals across the floor, then bends in a deep bow.
"Would you like something else, Sir?"
"Danke schön," I say with a frail wave of my hand. "Only... this..."
She nods subserviently. "The yakitori is coming. It's just as it should be, soy sauce and all. We're heating your sake slowly: we're doing our best. Irasshai... sorry for the wait. I have something else to offer you."
The geisha leans toward my ear, enveloping me in a fresh aroma of morning chrysanthemums. "We have our own moonshine," she whispers stealthily. "Clear as a crystal."
"Good," I agree, mimicking her. "Got some pickled cabbages to go with it?"
"We'll find some, darling... we could dress it up as funchoza, I suppose... these Japanese heathens will never know."
Her cheeks burning, the waitress walks back to a door marked in Japanese and disappears in the kitchen.
The mind boggles. The Japanese took Uradziosutoku on September 10 1941 — as soon as the Nippon koku had officially entered the war. Seventy years later, there's very little left of this old Siberian megalopolis which used to be equal doses of Bolshevik and the Tsar. The first thing the Japs did, they restored the Amur Republic[i] and even summoned the Merkulov brothers, its one-time White Guard émigré ex-rulers. Still, it didn't last: in less than a year Japan must have realized it simply had to have a prime morsel like this all for itself.
Now Uradziosutoku was a typically Japanese city sliced into neat squares just like Karafuto Island and built with identical gray and white cottages, their curved roofs inviting swallows to nest inside, its streets drowning in cherry blossom — made of plastic, of course, because real wild cherries aren't that mad to blossom at this time of year in Siberia. Street shops flash their fancy Japanese neons, their owners laying squid tentacles out to dry. You can hear the screams of fishmongers at the pier market.
Disgusted, I stare at the wasabi on my plate. Where's my moonshine?
These cherry blossoms
Mess with my head;
I think I need some booze.
The hokku comes naturally. The Nagasaki café occupies several cozy Buddhist-style verandahs atop a hill. They offer an excellent view of the bay busy with adorable little boats strung with red paper sails. They're called junks in China.
I vaguely remember us going up Calm Dragon Street the other day. Kimonoed shop assistants looked out of their shops and smiled to us, bowing and saying "Okaeri nasai!" — "Welcome!"
The Japanese culture has taken over the city — although not entirely. The locals have preserved a few more exotic bits, like the Lutheran church, the Polish Cathedral of The Most Holy Mother of God and the Arch of Tsesarevich Nicholas. Hokkaido tourists love taking pictures with them. Uradziosutoku means Salt Bay in Japanese but Russlanders still use the city's old name, Vladivostok.
Closer to the Harbor of the Morning Calm (called so in honor of the neighboring Korean Province) towers the Amaterasu Arch dedicated to the goddess of the sun. Newlyweds hurry there after their shintoist wedding ceremonies to pay their respects and drink tea in the shade of the goddess' true wisdom.
The white and blue mansion of the Manchukuo consulate is only a ten-minute drive away: formerly the seat of the city council, it's surrounded by a colorful array of Chinese restaurants. From what I've gleaned from Viking News, recently the city was in a state of mourning. Geishas stopped receiving visitors as a sign of their grief. Apparently, the city's ex-Shichō — a Mayor — had performed a seppuku, leaving behind the following inscription on silk,
I am forced to disembowel myself, unable to govern this territory where they smash their sake glasses on the ground every time they finish their drinks. I am sorry to have saddened your heart. I just cannot take it any longer.
True, Japanese nationals don't have it easy here. They're run off their feet trying to Japonize the Russian Far East — but to no avail. Things don't change. Shigemitsu Ivanovich still beats the holy crap out of Dzimmei Petrovich over the former's wife — the well-respected tea mistress Kumiko Sergeevna — who has been wearing a rather revealing kimono lately so that the latter just couldn't help himself and dipped a stealthy hand under the provocative silk. No bowing, no apologies, no poems describing the remorse eating through the black heart of the bastard Dzimmei.
The rising sun has set.
The three drunk samurai
Bow to their sake barrel.
This was the hokku that the Shichō wrote with his own blood after he'd sliced his belly with a katana.
The Germanization of European Russia has been much more successful. Everyone there seemed to be pleased with becoming a "blond beast" whose Aryan ancestors had arrived from Mount Kailash, the one with the swastika on its slope. It's true that in Moskau proper the Japanese culture is popular purely due to the distance separating it from exotic Tokyo. But here, the locals can't stand the sight of it. No matter how many times the police have raided underground samovar[ii] tea parties, they mushroom by the day.
"This is your sake, Master. I beg of you, in the name of Amaterasu, do pay attention."
Bowing deeply, the waitress offers me a china flask on a tray.
I nod. My hand shakes as I pour the liquid into a tiny cup. I down it in one gulp.
Holy fucking shit. My chest burns like the fire in Loki's eyes. It feels too good.
The pickled cabbage is crunchy to bite.
Life is flooding back into me.
Time for a second drink.
Here, one begins to think in hokkus. Who needs Aspirin when there's moonshine?
I don't expect Olga — but she's just appeared in front of me. At first, I take her for a waitress: she's wearing a kimono too. A black one embroidered with yellow dragons.
She flashes a sarcastic smile. "It didn't take you long to lose that Aryan veneer. So it's vodka now, is it? Where's your schnapps?"
I'm not embarrassed. After what happened, I can drink windscreen liquid.
"Schnapps is German for moonshine," I help myself to more cabbage. "Slightly more sophisticated, maybe. Do sit down. Have you got what I asked you to get?"
She nods and reaches under the table for an attache case. Inside is a portable Buch computer. A Sony, of course, the only type purebred Aryans would use. It's white and very pretty.
I lick a finger, then touch a button. The system IDs my DNA automatically. The computer begins to reboot.
Its screen lights up. The Sakura OS is slow and glitchy. Little bells begin to chime their sweet melody.
"I rented it," Olga answers my silent question. "Five hundred yen. I paid by card."
I type away, then open my personal Shogunet account where I have surveillance camera controls set up, allowing me to monitor them from any place on the globe. Three of the cameras are installed in the Temple of Odin and two more in my apartment. Password: asgard. Not very original, I know. I switch to real time and swivel one of the cameras.
The temple is absolutely packed with people. Some are wearing the camos and black uniforms of the SS special forces. Others are in plain clothes. They look around themselves as they walk, studying the interior. The camera is low-res but I can make out the puzzled expressions on their faces. I bet. I too was surprised when I'd come round after my fall.
The sacrificial altar is floating in the air, ghostlike, like a horror movie projection. It's translucent; you can see right through it. The grotto's walls quiver like sea waves, rippling.
One of the officers approaches the statue of Rübezahl, the king of dwarves. Yes, there he is, my stooping white-bearded old man, the work of a fine sculptor chiseled out of a whole chunk of cave granite.
Now the fun bit. The SS officer touches the statue. He is probably screaming with fear as his hand sinks inside. Rübezahl's body may look like stone but it now consists of a viscous jelly-like substance.
What he doesn't know is that there were four more stone deities lined up next to this one. They disappeared the moment I fainted. And not only them. The sacrificial goat is nowhere to be seen, either.
A man in a gray shirt and matching pants seems to be in command of the squad. He barks orders; they jump to attention. A big wig. I've never seen him before. I move the camera closer, just in case. He turns round. I take a snapshot of him. And another.
The picture disappears in a flash. What's happened?
"He shot at the camera," Olga explains. "They'll be over at your apartment at any moment. That's why we are here. I had a strong premonition that they might locate me soon. That they'd come for me... in the very near future. I was right."
I click the Buch's lid close and top up the bone china with more moonshine.
"Sehr gut," I take in the original aroma of good old home brew. "Let's try and reconstruct what happened. There isn't much to reconstruct, really. I came back home. You were still handcuffed to your bed. I walked over to you in order to remove them..."
I look over the bay. Seagulls squawk and squabble over the ocean. The waitress bows deeply to a new customer. I exhale sharply[iii] and down my drink, then hurry to pinch some cabbage with my chopsticks. "... and the next moment we were here. Seven thousand miles away from Moskau. What happened?"
She laughs softly and rearranges her black hair. She's unbearably beautiful. "I've no idea how it happens. It must be the danger that does it. I can't control these things. That's how I teleported into the temple where you later found me. You thought guerrillas had brought me there, remember? Even though the front doors were locked. You lay me under Rübezahl's statue to dress my wounds. It's the energy within my head... it works like teleportation. But I never know when it's going to happen."
"Why didn't you disappear earlier, then? Somehow I don't think my handcuffs would have stopped you."
She clicks her lighter. That's the Nippon koku: no one would arrest you here for smoking in a café. "Probably because I knew you weren't a threat."
Crashing noise. Howls of agony. Screaming.
As if in slow motion, I watch as Mikado's Joy Street caves in. A round crater appears in the middle of the pedestrian zone. The doll houses adorned with red lanterns begin to slide into the chasm; the St. Paul's Church crumbles, listing to one side, bell tower and all. Hundreds of human figures pour into the crater as it gapes like a huge, smiling lipless mouth. I hear the inhuman screams of dying people. Houses sink through the tarmac which is now fluid like sunflower oil.
The city dies before my very eyes but I can't do anything about it. People wail with horror, their bodies turning transparent as if made of fine glass. I can see their hearts, their livers, their brains, I watch their blood run through their veins. Crowds of glass people.
Uradziosutoku rapidly breaks out into a gossamer net of crevices. Trees snap like matchsticks. The ocean hisses, convulsing, spewing out dead fish. Instinctively I grab a knife from the table.
I sink it into my right palm already covered in scars.
Blood splatters onto the plate, mixing with the soy sauce. I look at the girl's face. Not a face: a skull. A grinning, scowling skull greedily drawing on a cigarette.
"What are you?" I croak. "What the hell are you?"
Her gaze alights on me. Her eyes have no pupils. They're filled with unfathomable darkness.
"What a strange question," she lets the smoke out. "Don't you know yet?"
[i] The Amur Republic: an independent state that existed in the Russian Far East from May 26 1921 to October 25 1922. Recognized by both the US and Japan, the Amur Republic ceased to exist with the taking of Vladivostok by Bolshevik troops.
[ii] Samovar: a traditional 19-century water urn that became synonymous with Russian tea culture
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Monday, October 10, 2016
Magic Dome Books is expanding from LitRPG to include other sci fi genres. Their latest release is The Illustrious (The Sublime Electricity Book #1), a steampunk action thriller by the bestselling Russian author Pavel Kornev.
Monday, October 3, 2016
Yebisu massage center, Tibet Lane 7
"D-D-DID YOU SEE that g-g-g-guy by the front door? He l-l-looked the spitting i-im-im... image of you. Don't you th-th-think it's funny? D-d-did you borrow his ap-appearance?"
"Oh, Jean-Pierre, for Thor's sake," Pavel said, setting aside his tea bowl. "Don't you have something better to do? He looked like me, so what? Every human being has a lookalike. I've no idea who my parents were; neither can I remember where I got his appearance from. Can a man forget? But seeing as it's entered into the SS database... All right, all right. Do shut up, will you? I need a break."
Obersturmführer Carpe promptly did as he'd been told.
The masseuse's fingertips pressed down on the veins of Pavel's temples. A hot towel hugged his shoulders. A jasmine scent enveloped his nostrils. He could hear his own breathing, calm and level. The Yebisu massage parlor chain was the best in Moskau even though its employees weren't at all Japanese but Chinese and Kalmuck trying hard to impersonate young geishas.
The girl's touch became light and almost weightless. Pavel began mouthing his favorite mantra that he'd memorized in the special-training camp during his long internship in the Tibetan Tashilhunpo Monastery.
His eyelids closed of their own accord. He could hear the distant bubbling of a brook and the delicious singing of birds. The sounds grew clearer. Stronger. More defined.
Pavel looked around him. He floated along a jungle path amid palm trees of deep burgundy color entangled by masses of green creepers. Parrots fluttered in the scarlet-red sky. Jets of hot steam escaped geysers, enveloping the ground underfoot.
Funny how acidic my subconscious is, Pavel thought. It's probably the same with everyone prone to negativity.
Whenever he needed to have a think, he liked to go on a meditation trip. His thoughts would roam in a strange world, dissolving in a riot of color amidst orange birds and red grass. Sometimes he wondered if this was what heaven looked like.
Tummo - which meant "the inner fire system" in Tibetan - was a very special school of meditation. It indeed burned the brain from the inside, heating it like coals. Experts didn't recommend doing it often but only on special and very important occasions.
Now was exactly such a case.
Pavel walked up the orchid-entwined steps to the top of a hill. A carved ivory throne awaited him there, surrounded by four red drums. Pavel hit the drums one by one and began rocking in place, imbibing their hum. As soon as the last echo died away, he took his place on the throne. Immediately the vines entwined his bare feet; the sky overhead opened up, awash with lightning.
Pavel stared hard in front of himself. Now. It was coming.
He saw a penciled face. A delicate nose. Long hair. The black dots of pupils. Olga Selina, a Viking TV presenter. She'd died two months ago. Who would have thought: a celebrity, a University graduate, a TV star with her own fan club - a guerrilla fighter? A leader of a Schwarzkopf terrorist cell? Her group had attacked the cortege of Moskau's Oberkommandant von Travinsky by ambushing it on Aryan Street. The terrorist attack of the year. Armed with grenade launchers, the terrorists had set the front and rear cars on fire while their snipers opened up on them from the roofs of the München Shopping Center. The Oberkommandant had been the first to be killed, followed by fifteen security staff and all eight of the attackers, eliminated by the arriving Vogel helicopters. Four of the terrorists' bodies had never been found: they'd been simply torn to shreds. They'd had to be identified using the DNA tests provided by Gestapo researchers.
According to Jean-Pierre, all the top brass, the Triumvirate included, had been in shock when they'd discovered that one of the terrorists was a Viking TV star. Street cameras had registered the beginning of the attack: Olga, in black leather, a Schmeisser slung over her shoulder, snapping commands to the terrorists.
None of which was mentioned in the media, of course. Celebrities suspected of having been in contact with guerrillas were sentenced to a very special punishment: oblivion. The names of the actors, TV presenters or singers who'd had the imprudence to commend the Forest Brotherhood on the Shogunet network were forever expelled from the media.
This was death. No interviews, no talk show appearances, nothing. Already a week later, the ostracized celebrity was willing to star in the cheapest of porn simply to draw attention back to him or herself. It didn't help. The punishment erased their names, dooming them to oblivion - and no one was brave enough to challenge it.
Normally, such an ostracized actor or singer committed suicide within three months. Some proved to be of sturdier stock, but none lasted more than six months. Which was why Olga's disappearance hadn't really surprised anyone - neither the audience nor her ex co-workers. She must have done something, as simple as that.
The questioning of Kolychev - Olga's co-anchor - hadn't turned anything up. He seemed to have been Olga's only friend and clubmate. Apart from him, nothing: she had no family nor friends. They checked Kolychev's phone but found no calls from her made after the attack.
The creepers had entwined Pavel's entire body and closed in over his head. In places the vines had split, spewing out acid-red petals.
The body of the TV presenter had never been found. She, as well as three other terrorists, had been at the very epicenter of the explosion. A bunch of bone fragments, tissue and some blood had been the only material evidence available for DNA analysis.
But the unfortunate experiment that had resulted in the mental incapacitation of the three Gestapo researchers had only been conducted very recently. And at least one of the lunatics had recognized Olga as a fiery angel - the fact that had cost him his sanity.
That could mean at least two things. Either the afterworld indeed existed, revealing a winged fire-enveloped Olga to the Gestapo researchers. Alternatively, she was the "trigger agent" that the Triumvirate had ordered Pavel to locate. Olga Selina was the spitting image of the fiery angel on the picture. He was almost sure of that.
But how was he supposed to find her if she was dead?
The sky crumbled, turning into knots of squirming snakes. Geysers spat out jets of blood. The air thickened. Unseeing, Pavel could sense panthers circling him, growling and swishing their tails.
She hadn't died. He could feel her heart beat.
The body hadn't been found. Olga would rather everybody considered her dead. Fingernails, bits of skin and the scraps of bloodied clothing that had served as DNA material weren't really proof of death.
But how had she managed to escape the city center cordoned off by SS special forces? Camera footage had been thoroughly studied but you couldn't really see that much: Aryan Street had been engulfed by smoke and stone dust. The special forces had searched everything within a two-mile diameter with a fine-tooth comb but found no one, neither dead nor wounded.
He squeezed his eyes shut. Blood seeped from under his eyelids. The jungle came to life, each leaf wailing, a tornado swirling the water into an enormous splattering twister. Words began typing in his head, letter by Gothic letter imprinted on the typewriter ribbon,
The Ministry of Public Education
München Shopping Center
The Burgermeister's Residence
That seemed to be it. On top of that, the Shopping Center had been closed for renovation already a month. What else?
Oh yes, of course: the Temple of Odin. Neo Scandinavian style: a fake cave, a copy of the Islandic Viking temple. Well, well, well. According to Jean-Pierre's report, immediately after the terrorist attack, the SS Zondercommando Kalinka had searched all the adjacent buildings. They were all listed on a separate sheet of paper, including their street numbers - those Gestapo bureaucrats wouldn't have had it any other way.
There was only one building missing from the list. The Temple of Odin. That's right. Who would come to a holy place with a search warrant? That would defy reason. The priests of the cult of Asgard were the cornerstones of the existing regime, just like television was. They had enormous wages, houses, medals, SS ranks, the lot.
Which meant that no one had checked the Temple.
And it was only fifty feet or so from the scene of the attack. The smoke cover could possibly have allowed someone to rescue the wounded girl and hide her on the Temple premises. The congregation's noticing the bloody trail wasn't even a problem: sacrifices were frequent in Viking temples, priests slaughtering rather large animals like sheep and goats. And even if the search group had paid the Temple a visit, what then? "Guten tag, Herr Priest, is everything all right?" - "Oh yes, sons of Odin, all is well."
He had to go there, now. He needed to know whether she'd been there.
The wailing in his ears stopped. The orange birds exploded like toy balloons. The palm trees shrank, crumbling into flakes of wheat cream. The throne melted into thin air.
Pavel opened his eyes.
He sprang to his feet, easing the masseuse girl aside. The towel slid to the floor.
"Wake up," he shook Jean-Pierre. "We need to get to the city center. Aryan Street."
They were walking through the door when Pavel saw the Japanese man. He recognized him straight away: this was the same wrinkly old boy who'd sat next to him on the flight in. He stood not far away, next to the guard who, according to Jean-Pierre, was Pavel's lookalike.
The realization pierced Pavel's brain. He knew.
He's here for a reason. He's come to get me.
Pavel stopped. He whipped out a Browning from his pocket but failed to get a round off in time.
The thunder of an explosion ripped through the air. Yellow flames seared Pavel's face.
Reichskommissariat Archives #1
File ZL8. Politicians
"... ON OCTOBER 20 1941 Wehrmacht troops entered Moskau. After two more months of fierce street fighting they took control of the capital, including the Kremlin. The search for Joseph Stalin garnered no results. According to the Main Security Office report, he was behind the terrorist attack Vengeance '42 at the Nibelung square that had wiped out the entire Reich elite. According to Abwehr's intel, later Stalin used to hide in an underground bunker in Kuybyshev (now Führerburg) from where he coordinated the Resistance's actions. After the taking of Führerburg, he disappeared off the radar. The Ural and Siberian guerrilla groups still consider Stalin their spiritual leader. Daniil, the patriarch of the Forest Church (the sect that had united those of the Orthodox clergy who hadn't recognized Russland's yielding to the battleaxes of the gods of Asgard) worked hard to support the legend. According to it, Stalin had become a hermit living in the thick of the Siberian taiga praying for victory. Between themselves, guerrilla fighters call Stalin "the holy man" - he's a bit of a religious icon for them.
His military commander Klim Voroshilov escaped to Iran and went into hiding in Kurd-controlled areas as "invited by Masoud Barzani". In 1948, he was apprehended during a razzia by SS paratroopers but blew himself up with a grenade during his arrest.
Russia's ex-Head of State Mikhail Kalinin publicly denounced his old masters. He produced paperwork proving his Aryan descent and got himself a job in the Reichskommissariat Moskau. Later he worked for the Ministry of Finances under Walter Funk.
Having retreated from Moskau, the Generals Georgy Zhukov and Konstantin Rokossovsky formed the "forest brigades" near Murmansk whose secret undergeound factories produced everything they needed, including tanks and howitzers.
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Winston Churchill was captured during the taking of London and imprisoned in the Tower in the same cell as Rudolf Hess had been. Churchill committed suicide in 1949 by cutting his veins.
King George VI had managed to escape to Canada on a submarine; from there, his trail was lost. General Charles de Gaulle became the leader of the French resistance in Africa and died in 1955 in the Madagascan jungle during a Luftwaffe air raid.
The Emperor Hirohito, as tradition required, didn't leave his country during the entirety of his rule; he even refused to visit the first Japanese nuclear test in 1948 on one of the Indonesian islands. Hirohito refused to grant Japanese citizenship to the residents of the occupied territories. Which is why, unlike the Japanese themselves with their white-bound passports, the Australians and Alaskans have to make do with a temporary yellow ID card. Mixed marriages between Japanese and Europeans are forbidden. A similar "racial purity" law had been introduced in the Reich in 1935.
Now the Nippon koku is ruled by Akihito who is indifferent to politics and spends his spare time writing hokku. Both President Harry S. Truman and the US Commander in Chief Dwight Eisenhower were tried by a Neuer York Tribunal and publicly hanged at the Zeit Platz on December 11 1958. Both the Democratic and the Republican parties had been banned as "loathsome samples of plutocracy in politics". The remains of President Roosevelt had been exhumed and thrown into the Hudson River to drum rolls.
Tens of thousands of Americans died during pogroms (the so-called 'D.C. massacre') started by Japanese released from relocation centers[i]. The Mikado's army didn't interfere, announcing the slaughter to be their 'rightful revenge'. The pogromists burned down the Capitol and the White House, causing many congressmen to choke to death in the fire.
Chinese communists have never stopped fighting the Nippon koku, their guerrilla units still going strong in most of the country's provinces. Their leader Mao Tse-Tung made it his goal to leave as many successors as he could, calling his project The Hydra of a Billion Heads. By the time of his death from cancer in 1982 in the rainforests of Yunnan Province, he'd had three hundred children from a hundred young female guerrilla fighters. Other field commanders had adopted the same system, supplying Chinese communists with plenty of new cadre.
Stalin's deputy Nikita Khrushchev was arrested in Moskau in 1980. All that time, he'd been hiding in his own apartment but no one had thought of looking for him there.
Permitted for public release
Signed: Deputy Reichskommissar Paul von Breuwitz