Planet Rasputin [Prologue]

~~~

I’m gonna be putting Planet Rasputin out there on Monday [June 6th], so here’s the prologue to either suck you into, or put you off, buying the whole thing.

To summarise, it’s set in 2114 and features:

an ion-drive ship with Slovene dissidents

Martian bases

Void-Helenism + death

Undiscovered dwarf planets in the Kuiper Belt

Anarcho-communism

The Lem-12 Field to circumvent spin gravity

invented social theory

absurdism

and a lot more…

~~~

P R O L O G U E

Roughly Halfway To Mars

~~~

The Martians were indistinguishable from one another by rank, by fashion, by etiquette, all striving to ensure the red vegetation was maintained, working not because they were coerced, but through a deep sense of duty and fulfilment…

   ‘Why’s the vegetation red?’

…one day, they would work a shift in the clothing factory, the next they would switch to food production, eschewing any form of specialization, though there were some that did exist…

   ‘They change their jobs?’

…the elder Martian had previously been married to six other Martians, some male, some female, a concept that Leonid attempted to comprehend but with great difficulty…

   ‘Six people! Will I have to do that too?’

…the corpse of Sterni stared sideways towards the wall, at the poster of the first Martian factory, and Leonid stared too, falling onto the ground and weeping over the stained history, trying to pick up larger puddles of blood and return them to his friend’s body…

   ‘I don’t like it…’

…but the crime was as old as the first sharpened rock, as hellish as a nightmare based on other nightmares, as evil as the first devil that ever popped into man’s head, and there was no escape from it, not on Mars, not in this red-hued paradise of rotational shifts and unparalleled job satisfaction…

   ‘Rasputin, stop…’

~~~

The guards took him as he read Bogdanov[1] to the child princess. There were no declarations or excuses, just force. His arms were pulled behind his back and the little girl told to get back in the fucking bed.

Of course, she didn’t, she screamed for help, so loud two of the men had to stay behind and drug her.

The remaining guards marched their prisoner outside the palace and shaved his head, reading out a list of crimes he’d committed.

Rasputin stood with four men on him, looking around for faces he knew, waiting for the Tsar to come out from behind a tree, laughing.

It didn’t happen. These guards were strangers. There were no trees.

The list continued.

‘…led to the imprisonment of fifteen innocent miners who had the misfortune to have known you earlier in life…’

           ‘ублюдки!’

‘…the lady, who’d recognized you from your previous deviancy, fell to her death, landing on a surprisingly blunt…’

          ‘The girl, where is she?’

‘…stabbed him several times in the neck and the head before, finally, using a shovel to cut off the other…’

          ‘What have you done to her?’

‘…told untruths to the victim’s family then ingratiated yourself into their good graces until their usefulness had passed and…’

          ‘Lies! I didn’t…’

‘…night, you took a bread knife and cut Petr Petrovich into seven separate pieces, each one shaped like a…’

          ‘I did not do those things.’

‘…hooked his neck onto another hook using some kind of other hook procured from…’

          ‘That wasn’t me, it was…’

‘…left the two daughters at the bottom of the well with no food or entertainment, and no way to…’

          ‘Impossible…which daughters?’

‘…in someone else’s blood, which you had kept in an icebox for twenty-one weeks. These are only the victims we have records of, there are undoubtedly more.’

The man lowered the list and some of the guards stepped into formation. Rasputin tried, ‘I didn’t do anything,’ a few more times, but no-one with a weapon seemed to care.

‘Your time is over, monk.’

          ‘Wait…the Tsar. He’ll find out about this.’

‘Prepare yourself.’

          ‘He’ll execute all of you.’

‘Ah, actually…’

A tall, bearded man emerged from a carriage, not the spitting image of Rasputin, but close enough.

‘This is your replacement. He’s a bit of a lothario, but obedient.’

          ‘You’ll never-…’

‘Nyet, no more words. Soldiers, raise weapons.’

          ‘He has no abilities.’

‘Aim.’

          ‘His beard…’

‘Now.’

The soldiers fired fifty-seven shots, hitting him twice.

          ‘…is fake.’

‘Again.’

Forty more shots.

Rasputin took one in the throat, coughing up blood.

          ‘I won’t let…’

‘It’s not working.’

‘He’s moving his-…’

‘Plan B.’

The soldiers put him against a pole and used their bayonets to stab him, twisted the knife to the right then shot him again. It was done in a minute and a half, but…his legs did not drop, his eyes did not close.

‘He’s still breathing,’ one of them moaned.

          ‘I can’t…’

‘Why isn’t he dead?’

          ‘My arms…they don’t move.’

‘It can’t be, it’s impossible.’

          ‘Please…’

‘Dark magic. He’s in league with something.’

          ‘Nyet, no leagues, I’m…’

‘What do we do?’

          ‘I need doctors, the Tsar…’

‘I have an idea.’

The guards grabbed him by the ankles and dragged him to the river, tying a statue of Kropotkin to his back and throwing him in.

They waited five minutes then ducked under the surface to check. The statue was there, but Rasputin was not.

‘Shit, he’s…’

‘It’s not…’

‘Where could he…’

There was a noise by the river wall, a GRRRRRR in Russian, a pair of demon-red eyes.

‘There!’

‘He’s trying to climb up.’

‘Shoot him!’

They fired their rifles at the wall, then into the water as if the river itself were the enemy [it wasn’t].

Still Rasputin wouldn’t die.

Instead, his body floated near a sewer pipe, re-animating at the last second and disappearing inside.

‘If we can’t kill him,’ said the head guard, ‘we’ll have to settle for containment.’

‘For eternity?’

‘Two of us will keep a vigil here, on rotation. Switch every seven days. We’ll all rent apartments nearby, in case emergency back-up is needed.’

‘And if he comes out of the pipe?’

‘We force him back in.’

‘If he emerges somewhere else?’

‘We’ll seal all other exits.’

‘And if he’s already gone?’

‘Impossible. I can still see those red eyes glaring at us, over there.’

‘Da, you’re right.’

‘One of us stays put, the rest will go and fetch some concrete.’

The guards grumbled, but eventually shook on it.

~~~

Five years later, the Revolution came. It wasn’t so bad. Then the October Revolution came. The assassins were Tsarists, they had to fight. Leaving one guard to watch the river, they rode off to join the Whites, assuring him they’d be back when the war was won.

Five more years passed.

A few of them came back [now Bukharin stans] and found the guard still there. He said no-one had come out and no-one had gone in; the demon was surely dead by now.

He wasn’t.

For ten years, Rasputin had walked circles in the sewers, eating rats and scraps, going over and over and over all the ways he’d messed things up. There were many. The way he saw it, he wasn’t a villain. People were just scared of him. The next time I’m around people, I’ll normalize myself, he thought. But how?

First he’d have to buy a pair of glasses, look down more when he talked to others.

No, before that, he would need to deal with the imposter. If they hadn’t killed him already. And what about the princess? If she’d been-…if they’d hurt her in any way…

~~~

Another three years passed.

Stalin put on the Fouché[2] mask and did an insanely devious power grab. Trotsky made all the wrong calls and ended up in Japan [his stunt double went to Mexico]. Bukharin flirted with Austrian sociologists. Pseudo Communism put on a cabaret and changed costumes seventeen times before settling on the terror outfit.

35,040 hours passed.

Stalin began to execute people he didn’t trust. Stalin began to distrust a lot of people. Stalin got worried. Hearing the rumours, he went to the sewer pipe, put on another mask and met with Rasputin.

          ‘You’re the Tsar now?’

‘Da, in effect.’

          ‘And the old Tsar?’

‘Dead.’

          ‘The princess?’

‘Gone.’

          ‘You diseased son of a…’

‘Nyet, comrade. It wasn’t me, it was another guy. Kornilov.’

          ‘Where is he?’

‘Also dead. But there are others, villains who share responsibility for the princess’s demise.’

          ‘Their names?’

‘Da, da, that’s the way. We shall work together to…’

          ‘Their names, all of them.’

‘And you shall have them. Patience and cunning, my friend. We’ll get the bastards.’

On the bank of the river, they made their plan. Rasputin would scare the shit out of Anti-Soviets, Stalin would give him room and board [and the names of all those who’d wronged the princess].

The 30’s went quite well.

1931 – 721 killed

1932 – 835 killed

1933 – 1,349 killed

1934 – 3,207 killed

1935 – 37,439 killed

1936 – 55,966 killed, 2,498 imprisoned and then killed

1937 – 77,002 killed

1938 – 62,114 + Bukharin killed

1939-45 – Nazi sabbatical

~~~

In 1948, things spun. Stalin noticed the lack of creases on Rasputin’s forehead and decided he could no longer trust him. He told his best [stolen Nazi] scientists to build a spaceship and send that lunatic bastard up into Space.

‘But he won’t get very far,’ they warned.

‘How far exactly?’

‘Roughly halfway to Mars, if he’s lucky.’

‘That’ll do.’

Rasputin was told about dissidents hiding on the moon. He wondered when the Pseudo Communists had put a colony up there, but didn’t question his orders. He was to fly up in some kind of new technology he didn’t understand and put his face about a bit. Scare the dissidents into…something.

‘I don’t want to kill anymore,’ he told Stalin, the two of them making the bed.

‘You won’t have to.’

          ‘All those things I did, they were…’

‘Relax, comrade. There are no judges here. Space is made for guys like you.’

          ‘Like me?’

‘Da, survivalists. The next chapter of man will be written up there, by us. Russians.’

Rasputin nodded and the next day went to the ship. It was strange; there were 117 other people with him, all of them in chains.

They put chains on him too.

He didn’t argue.

The ship took off and made it through the atmosphere. For a second, Rasputin could see the moon and felt at peace. That, he thought. That’s the kind of rock a princess could play on, in peace, without any hairy soldiers trying to-…

The ship turned and went the opposite way.

Rasputin leaned back in his seat and breathed out heavy. He knew what had been done and half accepted it.

An hour later, he unaccepted it.

Fuck you, Josef. Fuck you and your stupid fucking chapters of man. You’re not even a communist.

The man next to Rasputin tried to lean across, but couldn’t. His neck was tied to the seat with a metal collar.

‘Friend, can you keep it down?’ he asked.

          ‘Huh?’

‘I can hear what you’re thinking. It’s really loud.’

          ‘You can hear my thoughts?’

‘Sure. Can’t you hear mine too?’

Rasputin focused, his eyeballs turning deep red.          

‘Da. I think I can.’


[1] Writer of 1908 Socialist sci-fi novel Red Star, excerpts of which were murdered in the intro.

[2] Or Robespierre depending on your views.

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