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THE TIME IDIOT
(2011) - a novel by A.R.Yngve - Sample Chapters

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CHAPTER 9

Joseph "Soso" Dzjugaswili, a gap-toothed heavyset man with a wide bushy mustache in a face scarred by smallpox, was giggling and smiling.

He was giggling and smiling because he was busy kicking and beating a man to death with his boots and his club.

The victim was a police officer whose main task that day had been to guard a safe. The safe contained a shipment of gold and cash. The safe was situated on a train.

The train had been stopped because Joseph and his gang had blown up the track. Now they were robbing the train to fund the Bolshevik Party. At first, Joseph had beaten the police officer in order to force him to give away the code to the safe.

Now, having lost his patience, he ordered his henchmen to carry the unopened safe into their truck, while he busied himself with murder.

Joseph Dzjugaswili had not yet become Stalin. He would change his name later.

"Hurry up, Soso!" shouted one of his men from the open cargo door. "Troopers are coming!"

Joseph spat on the bloodied, unconscious policeman on the floor and climbed out of the railway car.

***

Prescott's quick visit to Stockholm in 1906 had been uneventful. The Swedes were very polite to the supposed American visitor, and he had easily found a pawn shop where he could trade his iPod for a fair sum of money.

He tried to sell his loose change in a coin-collecting shop, but the clerk claimed the money must be forged, since the printing years were set in the future.

He bought an English-to-Russian travel parlor, American and British newspapers, canned food, spare clothes and a Kodak box-camera. (He figured that if he didn't bring back solid, physical photographs of his travels this time around, people just wouldn't believe him.) Then he returned with his load of supplies to a park in Stockholm where the pod lay hidden and prepared for his next stop in Russia.

He read the newspapers. They did not mention Joseph Dzjugaswili or Stalin - but the Reds, or "Bolsheviks" as they were mostly known, featured in the news from Russia; Bolshevik uprisings, sabotages and gun battles were reported from several Russian cities.

One British newspaper article mentioned the author and political activist H.G. Wells. Prescott recognized the name. H.G. Wells had written that old movie, The Time Machine. Perhaps Wells understood time travel better than most people... and might give Prescott some advice or help if he got into a pinch?

But then Prescott spotted a funny ad for Kruschen's Salt in the same newspaper, and it made him laugh so much he forgot all about H.G. Wells.

Prescott had already decided that this time around, he wouldn't use the pod's automatic homing device. It was too risky to return to the military base: that crazy Native American officer might be waiting for him, or the nutty professor Moh. Prescott was going to kill Stalin, and then travel forward to America only a few years ahead - just to get a peek at how things were developing.

And so, after a day's stop in Stockholm, Prescott arrived at the outskirts of Moscow after a journey only five minutes further into 1906...

***

He had chosen to land in the middle of the night to avoid witnesses, and it worked. The pod touched down perilously close to a riverbank among some trees, and wobbled against branches. But the Teflon airbags didn't break, and the pod settled safely.

Prescott studied the external camera view. City lights were scattered across the flat landscape; there seemed to be a great fire in the distance. It was too dark to locate Stalin now; he made sure the camouflage was turned on, and went out to take a leak.

As he stood there pissing against a tree, he heard gunfire in the distance. Prescott grew afraid. Perhaps he should have picked a different year? What if he just went lost, like that time he strayed from his wife on their trip to Mexico City? It was so embarrassing to get lost in a foreign country...

***

With the coming of dawn, Prescott felt his courage increase. He put on the clothes he had bought in Stockholm, exited the pod and turned on its camouflage. Armed with the machine pistol inside his coat and a blockbuster in an attaché case, he walked into the great city of Moscow.

Nafuth had instructed Prescott to visit the American consulate in the case of an emergency. Prescott went straight to the consulate, just to be safe. Even though he had not yet been born in 1906, the personnel might be willing to help out. Prescott went to locate the consulate building...

There were signs of violence in the streets: bullet holes in walls, platoons of soldiers marching about, and the occasional gang of youths running from or to something. Beggars constantly followed Prescott with outstretched hands, tugging at his coat sleeves, speaking in needy voices he didn't have to know Russian to understand.

Prescott had no money to give them. The sooner I get out of here the better, he thought. Once I get rid of the Reds, all these poor people will be better off anyway.

He opened his travel parlor and asked a police officer for directions. The officer smiled at Prescott's clumsy phrasebook Russian, but escorted him to the consulate gates.

***

An English-speaking guard asked Prescott about his errand. Prescott held up his box-camera and claimed to be Prescott Walker, a foreign correspondent from Texas who had lost his way in the city. (Which was sort of true: Prescott was totally lost.)

The guard led him into the waiting hall and a clerk came to greet him.

"My editor wants me to write about them Bolsheviks," Prescott told the clerk. "I'd, uh, I'd like to ask them a few questions too. If you can direct me to their top men, I'd sure appreciate it. I've got a few names to look for, but I haven't the foggiest notion of where to find them..." Prescott picked up a notebook and read the names. "Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Joseph Djuz... Juggz... Dzjugaswili."

The clerk shook his head and removed his spectacles. "Mr. Walker," he said, "please accept my soundest advice and take the first train back to Europe. Russia is teetering on the edge of anarchy. These Bolsheviks are violent revolutionaries, very dangerous people. They'd rob or kill you as soon as answer questions. And the Russians are suspicious of all strangers, especially as the Czar's secret police has spies everywhere. Those leaders you wish to see have no reason to trust you."

"They don't scare me," Prescott said. "I've negotiated with some tough guys before." (He thought of the Russian president in his own time; that son-of-a-bitch was cold as ice.)

"I salute your courage, if not your wisdom," said the civil servant and put his spectacles back on. "If you should get yourself arrested, notify the consulate and we might be able to negotiate your release. You should also talk to other Western correspondents in town; they are easy to find. If you haven't booked a room at their hotel already, I suggest you do. It's less dangerous than being on your own."

Prescott thanked him and left the consulate.

***

The very next day, Joseph "Soso" Dzjugaswili's informers on the street brought him the news: An American journalist, Prescott Walker, was looking for him. His first reaction was to suspect another police spy or decoy.

With Lenin in exile in Europe, and Trotsky busy organizing an army to overthrow the Czar, the American was Joseph's business - but he couldn't speak a word of English, much less read or listen to it. He sent a henchman who could speak English, to question Mr. Walker at the hotel where he was staying with other foreign correspondents.

***

"I never hear of your newspaper," said the henchman, who called himself Oleg. "Is big, this 'Drudge Report'? Many readers?"

"Biggest in the world!" Prescott assured him. "Um, where I come from. Look, I understand your boss is a busy man, and perhaps he needs some, you know, things to help his work for the, uh, revolution. Perhaps I can sell him some good weapons..."

Oleg peered nervously around the hotel lobby. "Not so loud! Secret police has ears everywhere." He took Prescott out of the hotel lobby and into an alley. "Say, friend," he continued in a conspiratorial tone, "you support revolutionary struggle of Russian people, yes?"

"Do you want to buy guns or not? I will only talk to Dzjugaswili."

Prescott did not like this piggy-eyed man Oleg. He smelled real bad and looked at Prescott in a resentful way, as if he wanted to cut his throat at the first opportunity.

"Let me see one of them first," Oleg said.

Prescott took out the small machine pistol, removed the ammo clip and let Oleg examine it. The Russian fondled the foreign hardware with an almost erotic intensity.

"And there's many more where that came from," Prescott said.

"Good, good! How many? Ten? A hundred?"

"Make that... twenty. I travel light."

"My boss, he does not speak English. Perhaps you should leave business arrangement to me..."

Prescott shook his head. "Take that gun with you, show it to Stalin... I mean, to Chuggawiener... and tell him I will only do business with him present. Come to the riverbank over there..."

With some difficulty, Prescott showed Oleg the directions to the spot just outside the city limits, and gave him a date and time: tomorrow at midnight.

Oleg tried to beg for the ammo clip, but Prescott did not feel safe and refused. They bid each other goodbye and Oleg hurried off.

Prescott went shopping for a few bottles of lemonade and found several vacant horse buggies and drivers outside the store. As he picked up the bottles from the store counter, he noticed on the shelves other bottles - vodka, wine and other assorted alcoholic beverages. And then he felt the familiar old thirst.

Perhaps just one drink, he thought, to celebrate a successful mission. Then he shook his head. No, I can't. Lord, give me strength now. I'm so far away from home and I miss my family. Oh my darling wife, you're not going to believe me when I tell you what I've been through.

He walked out to one waiting buggy and, using his travel parlor, told the driver to take them in whatever direction Prescott pointed.

During the ride, Prescott looked behind him many times to see if they were being followed. They were: a four-horse carriage with a flatbed was galloping down the dusty road, overloaded with men. He had anticipated that the Reds were going to try and follow him, but not this fast. What if he didn't make it to the pod? Now that he thought about it, choosing the same meeting spot where he had parked the time pod wasn't so clever.

Why, wondered Prescott, is there never a cop around when you need one?


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