Happy Birthday Archana Ivanova:
By Bill Wolfe
Based on art by
William R. Warren, Jr., as well as characters and
situations created by Bill Wolfe, Casey Callaghan, and N.J. Kailhofer
Some of the
individual versions of the
stories in this series were written
for forum flash challenge contests to help create this "world." As
such, stories may not match the characters or settings of the
continuous version of the story, which blended all the entries together.
At 04:51, precisely—assuming you’re on Aphelion time—the computer
Limba noastră-i o comoară (A treasure is our language
Īn adīncuri īnfundată (From deep shadows of the past,)
Un şirag de piatră rară (Chain of precious stones that
Pe moşie revărsată. (All over our ancient land.)
Limba noastră-i foc ce arde (A burning flame is our
Īntr-un neam, ce fără veste (Amidst a people waking)
S-a trezit din somn de moarte (From a deathly sleep, no warning,)
Although the Moldavian National Anthem went on for twelve more
stanzas. . .plus the refrain, she hit the snooze button without opening
her eyes and immediately began her morning exercises. Her breathing
became deeper and more regular. To all outward appearances, she had
dozed-off for the nine minutes until the alarm sounded, again.
Your name is Archana Ivanova. You are a Geologist. You were born
in Balti and were accepted into the Institute of Geology and Seismology
in Chişinău at the age of sixteen, specializing in exogeology and
remote electronics. Your parents were killed in a bus accident when you
were seventeen, leaving no close relatives. At eighteen you were
selected to represent Moldavia in the Summer Olympics as a gymnast but
had to withdraw due to a shoulder injury. The records of your year of
gymnastic training will hold-up to the closest scrutiny. If questioned
about it, never never never think about the real Archana Ivanova. Never
think how much she looked like you, must have loved gymnastics as much
as you, must have had dreams of her own, must have died accidentally
before you entered the Olympic Facility using her name. It must have
been an accident. It must have!
She realized that her breathing was no longer regular, her emotions
were getting in the way of her training. Colonel Petrolescue would have
seen it, immediately; and the punishment would have been severe.
With an audible snort she “woke-up” from her snooze. It wouldn’t
have fooled the Colonel, but if another agency were recording her in
her quarters, it would look like she’d begun a bad dream and awakened
naturally. With the practiced flick of a key, she reset the alarm.
Before she disentangled herself from the sleeping net, she inhaled
deeply. Along with the normal damp-sock scent of six people living in
close proximity, someone was cooking rehydrated bacon. She assayed her
choice in clothing, all carefully chosen by the Colonel for maximum
sexual allure. One advantage to skimpy attire was that she probably had
more outfits to choose from than anyone else on the mission. She
decided on the white, form-fitting elastic body suit. She would have to
wear the tight black shorts with it, though. She hadn’t shaved her
pubic hair for a while and it would show through the fabric. That her
dark nipples were faintly discernable, was the point of the garment.
“You must seem unaware of the effect your body has on your
opponents,” the Colonel’s voice echoed in her thoughts. “Your
desirability may make them pause--if only for a second--before they
strike. Use every advantage that you have.”
She glanced at the improvised ‘Ship Calendar’ pasted to the wall.
Day 41, today, was highlighted in green. What was that for?
she asked herself. She had only routine duties until the NASA download,
tonight. Though she was expecting some encrypted instructions for her
remote units piggybacked with the updates, she certainly wouldn’t have
marked her calendar for that.
She looked at the date, again. She had a vague memory of having
marked certain ship days as having special meaning for the
corresponding date, back on Earth. Something about today had made
her--and then she remembered--today
was her birthday. Not Archana’s birthday, of course, but her real birthday.
“La multi ani, Mahai.” Her Grandmother’s voice was clear in
her mind, though she’d been dead for a decade. She wondered if, in some
sub-basement, Colonel Petrolescue was raising his glass to her. He was
possibly the only other living person who knew she was alive. When she
had replaced the real Archana Ivanova, her family had been told
she too, was dead.
Would any of them think of her, today? Would they remember that
today, their sister, daughter, niece, would have turned thirty-one?
Would Petru remember? Perhaps. He’d asked her to marry him on this
date when she was fifteen, and dreaming only of leaving the stifling
Russian-Ukrainian backwater town of Serata Mereseni.
How she had hated her hard-line, fanatical, old-school
Communist family and their insistence that Pridnestrovskaia
Moldavskaia Respublica was their true homeland. To them, Moldavia
was just a West-loving, Romanian puppet country. How proud they would
be of her, now, working to further the Communist resurgence. But at
what cost? That they mourned the loss of a daughter was one thing. But
if she died out here, she--like the real Archana--would not be mourned
She didn’t know why this bothered her, but it did.
So how would she spend her realbirthday? Well, like any
other day, of course. She would talk to her shipmates, listen to their
drab, ordinary problems, and pretend that she gave a damn.
The only problem is, of course, that she really did give a
damn. She really likes all of the people she works with. Whether it’s
the too-perfect Ophelia Dunsirn or it’s the goofy, nerdy Sidney Barnes.
She truly likes them all.
Once you get to know a person, how can you betray them all. How can
you betray any of them?
If--as the Americans say--‘push comes to shove’, will she be a GOOD
spy, or will she choose to put both the people, and the mission, first.
To herself, she whispers: “Happy Birthday, Mahai Lucinschi.
Even if you are the only one in the Universe who knows what
©2009 Bill Wolfe
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