[community profile] daily_prompt: #953, "Finance"

Feb. 19th, 2013 07:59 pm
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Title: The Times Are Dismal, Dreary, Dolorous, and Dollar-Less
Author: Wang Xi-feng
Challenge: [community profile] daily_prompt. Original.
Warnings: Language.
Summary: 1942. As long as they're a team, Filipp knows they aren't screwed yet.

After a few hours, the dossier in front of him has started to lose all meaning to Filipp II, Tsar-Imperator of the Four Nastránas. He's been trying to make sense of it; of course Nastrána is at war, and of course their industries have suffered from German incursions and the air raids that seem to become more and more frequent. "Thank fuck we're not Britain," Anna said not long ago, and Filipp said, "I wish we were. We'd stand half a chance." He wishes he could share her optimism, wishes the people liked him half as well as they do her. Oh, they stand when the national anthem plays and applaud politely at his speeches, with the odd cheer thrown in, but Anna is the one they adore. He gets on the radio, talks into the can, and people listen; it's for her that they tune in once a week.

How irrational of him to be jealous of her, this cousin who's practically a sister. (In more ways than one: Filipp is married to her younger sister.) He knows he can't do it alone, and that's why he chose the ablest of his father's servants. No one is more loyal, more devoted, more hard-working than Comrade Goldshtein, whom he promoted to Prime Minister over the scandalized sputterings of the old men who made up Petr III's cabinet. He should be grateful to have her, and most of the time, he is; he knows, too, that she should be grateful to have him. Who better than he can serve her boundless, grasping ambition?

Outside, the sky is already grey-blue and dusky. Filipp winces, and shuts off the light; if there are to be raids tonight, he's not going to give them any cause to zero in on the palace. A line from a propaganda poster that he passed on the street earlier today bounces, discordant and clanging, around his head: Nastrántsy citizens! Lights Out For Freedom! Filipp rubs his aching head and assembles the sheets he's already marked up. He's about to go, when he sees the faint shadow fall across his desk.

"Have you read it?" Anna says. Her own copy is clutched to her chest, riddled with notes and ferocious pen marks. (Filipp saw the arrow next to the Minister of Finance's name, and Anna's comment: Does not understand how the economy works!!!)

"Yes." Filipp grabs his overcoat, and hears the click as Anna shuts off the hallway lights. "We have no money, and we're screwed."

"Sounds about right."

"Is it time to flee the country?"

Anna snorts. "No. I'll tell you when it's time to flee the country." She frowns, and he sees new lines around her eyes and mouth. "Seriously, Fipka. It's bad, but there's a ways to go before we hit rock bottom. At least we can pay our troops, and we haven't done near the rationing we might. If you'd let me institute war communism, as the Soviets did twenty years ago--"

"I don't think we need to do that yet."

"It wouldn't be just me, Fipka. Or even just the Party. It would be a coalition, and you'd be at the forefront of it. But you're the Tsar-Imperator. If you don't think it's necessary..." She shrugs.

"I don't. I'll tell you if I do. When I do." One word, a sop thrown to her. Because if I don't pretend I'm willing, you'll do it anyway. You always did, even when we were children.

"You sound beat."

"You look beat."

"I am." Anna lights a cigarette when they're still inside the building. She sighs; Filipp doesn't say anything, but he knows that for some weeks now, she has been weighing whether to send her husband away, and where to send him if she does. "It's been a long day. Hell, it's been a long year."

"It's been a long war." Filipp holds the door for her and puts his coat on. "I'll see you tomorrow?"

"You bet your ass. Not even a German bomb could keep me away."

Filipp hears the sirens begin as he turns the corner to the train station, and manages to keep calm as he joins the other running commuters in the tunnels. Anna's going to be here tomorrow; that means he'd better be, too.


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Wang Xi-feng

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