Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Novikov is pale and breathing rapidly. He was having some kind of attack. He hopes it’s only a panic attack. Beria better have switched those files. It was his only hope. Stalin was sure to have him strangled if he found out his mistake and fixation with defeating the RAF and how it had led to the oil fields … the life blood of the Red Army and Air Force … being unguarded. Those files made Vershinin look guilty. He supposed that he should be feeling guilty but all he was feeling was fear.
…” Yes comrade, not one single bomb fell on Baku and repairs continue on the damaged caused by the atomic bombs. The other remaining facilities were not touched as well. The raid sent by the Amerikosi was turned back after slightly damaging our airfield infrastructure…”
Novikov is alone in his office and is in an almost complete state of disarray. He is sweating and looks like a man who is talking to the devil himself. Some say he is. Some consider the man on the other end of the phone line the devil incarnate. He almost misses the cue to further twist the reality of the situation because of the lack of sleep. He had been dreading this call for hours.
“Yes comrade that is true but the losses are minimal in the larger scope of things. The oil is still flowing at the same rate as yesterday and the other facilities are being repaired rapidly. With our reserves and the captured supplies we should be able to carry out normal operations for the next 4 months in defense of the oil facilities. I am confident that we can beat back any more attempts at attacking Baku and soon any of the other facilities. I will admit that many of the other operations will have to wait until the spring. We will not be able to support fully all the operations in the West and still defend our vital oil fields.”
His mind was reeling with the possibility of his death being very imminent. His only salvation seemed to be that Stalin was under heavy sedation. He was not probing for weakness like usual and not mining his every sentence for mistakes and lies. This is what probably saved him…this time.
He did not fear that Beria would stab him in the back, for that bald cretin had as much to lose as he did. Both could be found fully culpable for the disaster that had occurred to the oil production facilities. Both could easily be tied to a chair and experiencing excruciating pain at this very moment if not for both of them holding to their agreed upon version of the truth. He had seen Beria’s second in command in action and he had no doubt that he would enjoy working on his superiors.
“Yes Excellency I fully understand the consequences of allowing others under my command to fail again and I do understand that it is ultimately my responsibility.”…
The phone in his hand suddenly jumps to life with the familiar ferocity he has come to know over the years. Stalin has garnered some strength from somewhere and is as menacing as ever. Besides being scared almost witless, Novikov wonders at how a small and frail old many can be so threatening over a phone line. How can a pocked marked, old man be so intimidating from thousands of miles away? He personally could manage it but only when he was physically present.
“No comrade I will not let those responsible avoid responsibility and they will be punished appropriately.”…”Yes … I understand perfectly.”
“Marshal Vershinin do you know why you are here?”
“I have no idea Comrade.”
“Novikov and Beria have framed you in the debacle in Baku and the other oil production facilities…”
“But Excellency I had nothing to do with the failures, comrade. I was the one who fought against stripping our forces and…”
“Quiet Konstantin I know all this. You are in the right. You did all you could do. I know who is at fault but someone has to pay and Novikov and Beria are too valuable to sacrifice, at this time. You are not.”
“I don’t understand Excellency. What are you saying?”
“I’m going to have you arrested on various trumped up charges in one hour. You can save yourself the torture that surely awaits in Beria’s favorite chair or you can go back to your room and use that gun at your side. The fact that I am telling you this in person is testament to your devotion to the Soviet Union and the communist cause. The fact that I am giving you this opportunity to take matters into your own hands shows how much personal admiration I have for you but we must be practical Konstantin.”
“I am speechless Excellency.”
“As well you should be. Now go to your room and contact your family and then do what you must.”
“Yes Excellency. One question if I may…will my family be treated well?”
“Yes Konstantin they will have the best and your son will enter the service academy next year as planned. In time you will be exonerated and will be named a true hero of the Motherland and Beria and Novikov will visit the chair meant for you. But for now you must do what I have told you.”
“Yes Excellency…Thank you.”
“You are welcome Konstantin.”
Something was happening to his eyes as they were getting cloudier by the moment, but before he started to lose his sight he had witnessed some horrible things. He was down in the root cellar when the hot, ill wind hit and the screams started. He ran up the stairs and outside to see what was going on and witnessed a glowing sun where the east end of Baku had been. It was only a glance but that was enough and he ran down the stairs again blinded by what he had seen.
He cowered for hours in the dark and soon realized that he heard no sounds outside of his own breathing and tapping noises he was making. The outside world was almost completely quiet. He smelled burning flesh and petroleum products but the fires must have been far off for he did not hear the flames. And flames there surely must have been, for the miniature sun was so intense it gave him a sunburn in just the few seconds he experienced it.
He had not heard of atomic bombs and knew very little about even regular bombs. He had not even fired a gun. They were too poor for such things. Now goats…he knew a lot about goats…with goats he was an expert but not with suns he was ignorant of such things. All he really knew was that there was only supposed to be one sun and it was the giver of life. This other sun brought only death.
The fact that he had a shelter to run into was a foreign concept as well. He was used to sleeping outside and watching over the goats. He had just come into Baku for the wedding of his favorite nephew when the small sun exploded.
He was frightened like never before. Not even the day he faced down the great bear in that meadow in the mountains, compared to this. He understood the danger and the risk of that encounter but he did not know what the little sun would do to him.
If what was happening to his eyes was an example it was going to be horrible.
He ventured into the sunlight but could not see much for he was already going blind. He thought of the beggars in the streets of Baku and supposed he was going to become one. He became really worried when he saw that there was no Baku left. No nephew, no brother, no bride … but there was wine.
He had heard of people drinking themselves to death. How come you could drink gallons of wine and beer but not the same amount of water? The mind wanders when you are going blind he supposed. His religion forbade killing himself so he quickly turned his thoughts to survival. Imagine surviving in a world with two suns and he could not see either of them. God worked in strange ways and he hoped that he could join his nephew in eternal peace soon. In the meantime he knew that his trials and hardships had just begun, in this new world with two suns.