I-War

From Russia With Love

Somewhere in the unseen sea of recycled electrons and nigh-incomprehensible bandwidth, a user logged into a backdoor to a site named "From Russia With Love." A few minutes later, the user logged out. The following week, a package arrived for a man who lived alone in a middle-class Dresden neighborhood.

The man signed for the package, and gingerly carried what the mailman assumed to be a new toaster oven inside. Once inside, the man locked himself in his office and pulled out a box cutter. Opening it, he saw the item he ordered was inside.

It was almost by instinct he was able to assemble the product. The VSS "Vintorez" silenced sniper rifle was disassembled just enough to fit in the box. The weapon came with three magazines, each holding ten rounds of special subsonic 9mm rounds. Stroking the completed firearm like a lover, he opened and closed the bolt, loaded a magazine, and checked the safety.

Everything was as it should be. After inspecting the gun, the magazine was removed, and the firearm vanished into a hidden stash in the closet, sandwiched in between an APS underwater assault rifle, Heckler and Koch USP, and a silenced PP-2000 submachinegun.

Ever since America and Europe had enacted more gun control laws, sales of domestically manufactured firearms had dropped dramatically. Those declining sales were the reason Günter Ernst, a mechanical engineer who specialized in firearms, no longer worked at Heckler and Koch. He had moved to Dresden soon afterwards, and gotten work at a local engineering firm. It wasn't as interesting as working at HK, but it was worth it.

Of course, his collection of hidden firearms still managed to grow. While working at HK had given him access to certain "forgotten projects," such as a remaining G11 prototype, most guns coming into the European and American underworlds were manufactured in Russia.

The Russian Mafia had become the world's supplier of small arms. The Russian government was more or less a handmaiden of the Mafia bosses. Since the Vlad Putin's resignation, the kingpins had literally become kings.

It was no surprise to Ernst, of course. Russia was home to many intelligence officials, scientists, and soldiers who had been fired after the Iron Curtain fell. With no legal means of employment, many turned to illegal means. After all, a former KGB spy could easily use shady networks of Cold War contacts for profit.

Ernst was wary of them, of course. They did supply him with his beloved weapons, but they also resorted to more tradition means of criminal gain: extortion, prostitution, gambling, smuggling, assassinations, and so on. The irony, of course, was the land of the Red Star was now a capitalist paradise of sorts.

Anything that could be desired could be bought. Sex with women (and men) of almost every conceivable fetish could be found in Mafia-run bordellos. Protection in the form of very large soldiers holding large guns could be found much cheaper than any European or American "security contractor," (though Ernst also suspected their Russian counterparts were more heavily armed). Small arms, military hardware, and spy gadgets from the Cold War ranging from the practical to the strange to the Apocalyptic could be purchased. Even drugs ranged from almost legal medicines to the latest designer drugs to "old fashioned" crack.

It was a Brave New World of the anarcho-capitalist variety. Of course, there was more anarchy than capitalism, but it was working. Even the recently formed Chechnyan Autonomous Region, with its Islamic fundamentalists, could not escape the Russia Mafia.

It was also quite ironic that the Russian Mafia's bribes and economic strong-arming dominated and pacified the Chechnyans when the Russian military's firepower and sheer force could not.

Just goes to show the power of money, Ernst smirked to himself.

It was no secret the Russian Mafia was expanding. With the new Russian prime minister as a "handmaiden" of theirs, crime in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and even parts of China were falling under their control. If the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was the legitimate body behind the Eurasian bloc's powers, the Russian Mafia was its illegitimate counterpart.

Of course, there was worse things out there than the Russian Mafia. The Prophet's Guard group in the Middle East had well known criminal ties, being involved in activities that would even make the Russian Mob shudder.

Ernst had very clear intentions for what he planned to do with his collection of firearms. Online, he wrote a column on weapons of all sorts. He posted information on their reliability, performance, and mechanics.

Of course, he did not merely post schematics. He wrote notes on their operation any fellow engineer could understand. The information was intended for anyone who had interest in the technology behind firearms, rather than simply any moron who wanted to acquire guns. It was his duty as an engineer to inform the public on different types of firearms that criminals often used.

Günter opened his site with a quote from a favorite writer of his, Isaac Asimov: "If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance we can solve them." He had once received an email from a grateful member of Interpol. Both the public and police could benefit from such information. As long as criminals used such guns, it would be in the interests of all members of society to know what dangers they faced.

Sadly, certain politicians did not agree. After the Greatwood High school shootings in America, the USA and EU had began to crack down on any website with information on and pictures of automatic weapons. Thus, Ernst was forced to move his commentary on firearms to a much more covert level. Posting in forums and on a few remote servers, he managed to still provide some information on firearms. Countless fellow Modernists came to him when they needed weapons advice.

The virtual political correctness Gestapo still lurked out there, however. With a majority of the population supporting such measures, any political changes in the short term were unlikely. However, in the long term, there was a much better chance of that changing. Ernst and some online friends of his were working to change that. For now, they had to maintain a low profile online. The governments were looking for subversive and political incorrect materials, and several terrorist groups were looking for information on even worse weapons.

Ernst knew for any chance at a change, he would have to work gradually. The other members of the Modernist Network were well aware of that fact. All had their responsibilities, and all had their tasks. Other than weapons information, Ernst helped supply gear to the others.

While the bulk of gear was from the Russian Mafia's semi-legal fronts, Ernst made some of his own specials. Working as a mechanical engineer meant access to a machine shop and various machine parts. He had recently sent a few magazines of rubber bullets to Keshik in South Korea, placed in a board game's box. He now owed Ernst about fifteen time-creds.

That would be about fifteen hours worth of labor. Keshik's specialty was medicines and biological science, which would come in handy if Ernst had any run-ins with the Russian Mafia. Prolonged contact with them would definitely have a detrimental effort to one's health.

Ernst logged on his work and private emails. Nothing interesting. He went to a site named StalHimmel, a site for a computer gaming group he frequented. The out of the way place was were he had set up his network account. Logging onto his Network account, Ernst saw he had one from Daedalus. He ran the de-encryption, and the message appeared.

From: daedalusATclockworkguildDOTorg

To: maschinegottATstalhimmelDOTdeDOTnet

Subject: New Blut

Guttentag, Maschine Gott! Found potential recruit. Normal procedures are being followed, but he has shown interest in possessing DITDAF. Subject is an Arsian novice.

-Daedalus

Daedalus had written an email using normal intra-Network Lingo. DITDAF referred to "Defense Item That Doesn't Attract Feds." Arsian novice was a reference to the God of War, Aries, and the fact one was an amateur at any military or fighting-related arts. Without the encryption or the Lingo, various government phrase-sniffing programs would add his account to a blacklist of some sort.

So, essentially, a potential new member of the Network with no weapons experience wanted a concealable weapon. Great. Just the sort of person who shouldn't have weapons in the first place. Still, he had to make some sort of reply.

From: maschinegottATstalhimmelDOTdeDOTnet

To: daedalusATclockworkguildDOTorg

Subject: Re: New Blut

Hey, Daedalus. You know my thoughts on Arsian novices and DITDAFs. Still, if you want some advice, don't go with my girlfriends. Go with upgraded toys. Seriously. Slingshot. Even with trank-coated pellets.

-Maschine Gott

He encrypted the message and hit the "send" button.

After browsing a few favorite sites of his, Ernst logged off. His girlfriends was Lingo for firearms. Women came and went, but firearms were there to say. He returned to fondling the latest Russian beauty before going to sleep.