The headlines of every newspaper and every Internet news service ran the same story. His story; the story of Seth Rogan, 45 year old genetic biologist. Some were calling him a whistle blower.
Society tends to stick labels on everything and everyone. The label that is given to you will stick with you for a lifetime, especially in these days of the fledging Internet, which is swallowing up and replacing traditional journalism with real time news. The separation that once was between news and opinion has blurred and the two have bled into one another.
Some were calling him a traitor. The president of the United States said he was wanted for “espionage” and “aiding our enemies.” Somewhere between his good intentions and unselfish acts he had become the “bad guy.” Espionage was always something that Seth had read about in novels or watched in the movies. He had never experienced it in real life. Until now. He didn’t feel like James Bond. He knew he couldn’t step off this Aeroflot nonstop flight from Washington to Moscow clean shaven, shoot ten bad guys who were on his tail, and then relax in bed with a beautiful female Russian spy, sipping on a vodka martini, shaken not stirred.
Seth fidgeted uneasily in his seat, as the Captain made an announcement over the PA system.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. I’m afraid we have had bit of change of routing. We’re about 150 kilometers east of Kiev and have been directed by air traffic control to set down here. There is no cause for alarm – it’s only routine. After about an hour or so we’ll be back on our way to Moscow.”
The 777 lurched as the passengers moaned and groaned. They had already endured a long flight, preceded by a lengthy mechanical delay. They were tired. Tired of the bad food. Tired of the uncomfortable seats. Just plain tired.
No cause for alarm? Maybe not for them, but in Seth’s case there was definitely cause for alarm. The last time he had checked, the Soviet Union had long been disbanded, and Ukraine and Russia were separate countries. But, apparently, the Ukraine was now the 51st state of the United States, because the U.S. was forcing a Russian plane to land there. Seth’s heart beat as fast as a crack addict’s, almost thumping out of his chest. He clutched tightly to his briefcase, even though he had long since spilled all the beans by electronic upload. He held no more secrets on him to reveal – except one. The one without scientific backup and peer reviewed studies. The scariest one. The secret that he held onto to keep him alive. The plane began its descent into Kiev and with every air bump, Seth’s panic renewed. He became nauseous.
This was it. He was screwed. Doomed to spend the rest of his life in jail, or, even worse, to be shot on sight. Well, he deserved it for what he had done. Let the show begin.
Seth looked out the window at the cold, harsh landscape. It was barren and dry, a forest of a million tiny sticks. He tried to keep his mind clear. He knew what to do.
The plane touched down on the tarmac. The purser robotically performed her landings “voice over” on the PA system.
“Welcome to Kiev, ladies and gentlemen, where local time is approximately 6:30 a.m. We will be taxying for a while, so please keep seated with your seatbelts on until aircraft has parked at gate.”
Yeah, like Kiev was just where Seth wanted to be. How could this happen? He was so careful – he didn’t waste any time – got right out of there. How did they know he was on this plane? Russia didn’t have an extradition treaty with the United States, and he had chosen Moscow as his route of escape. It was easy to get a non-stop flight from the states and the government didn’t tag you when you were leaving; only when you were coming into the states. He was naïve to think they would let him bolt.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it will be necessary for you to deplane here. Please take all of your belongings with you, and hold on to your boarding passes so you can re-board aircraft. And please have passports out and open for police for inspection at door of aircraft,” said the purser.
The passengers fumbled for their belongings, and trudged down the aisle toward the front of the plane. Seth stayed put, clutching his briefcase. A cute blonde flight attendant came up to him, smiling.
“Sir you’ll have to deplane here. It’s only for about one hour.”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
The poor flight attendant didn’t know what to do. Her smile faded into a frown.
“Please call the Captain.”
“Sir, please, I…”
“Call the Captain, I need to speak to the Captain.”
The flight attendant, flustered, went to the intercom phone and picked it up. Within minutes, as the plane continued to empty, a pilot approached.
“Sir, what is the problem?”
“Are you the Captain?”
“I’m the first officer. Now are you going to tell me why you refuse to leave the aircraft?”
“It’s me they’re after. I’m the reason they forced the plane to land here. My name is Seth Rogan and I’m a political refugee. I’ve petitioned for asylum from the Russian government, and the Ukraine has nothing to do with it. I won’t surrender to anyone but a representative of the Russian Embassy.”
“Did you hear what I said?” Seth clutched at his briefcase, nervously.
“Sir, what is in the briefcase?”
“Call the Russian Embassy. Seth Rogan. I’m not leaving the plane except with them. I’m not coming out. Period.”
The First Officer turned and left. Now the plane was almost entirely empty. After a few moments, he returned with another pilot.
“Sir,” he said, “I’m Captain Davidoff. I understand you have some kind of diplomatic issue. But can you tell me what is in the case?”
“Have you called the Russian Embassy?”
“Yes we have, sir. Now can you please tell me what you have in there?”
“Why are you so curious?”
“Because, sir, the way you’re holding it. And sweating – you look very nervous.”
“You’d be nervous too if you were about to be taken by the CIA.”
“CIA? Sir, I don’t know what you’re talking about, but…”
“Of course you don’t. I’ll leave your plane, but only with an official from the Russian Embassy.”
The Captain turned to talk to his First Officer and spoke to each other in Russian. “Is the crew off?”
“Good. I’m not getting off until I find out what’s going on.”
“I’m with you.”
Two armed police, accompanied by a man in a grey business suit, Jack Singer, one of the CIA’s men in Kiev, approached them. He spoke.
“What is your name?” he asked. Typical American accent, Midwest probably.
“What’s yours?” said Seth, facetiously.
“That’s not important. May I see some identification sir?”
“I don’t have any.”
“What happened to it?”
“It fell in the toilet.”
Singer turned to one of the armed policeman and ordered, “Go look in the toilet.”
The Captain interrupted. “Nobody is going anywhere in my plane without asking me first.”
“Sir,” said Singer, “This is a matter of national security.”
“Which nation?” Seth chimed in. “I didn’t know the United States government had the right to force a plane down in international airspace.”
“Neither did I,” said the Captain. “This is a Russian plane. And that’s not what I was told. What’s going on here?”
“I’m sorry Captain, I can’t tell you. It’s on a need to know basis,” said Singer.
“Well I happen to be the pilot in charge and I need to know. I’m responsible for this plane and everyone on it.”
“Captain, this is not about you. Sir, I’m asking you again, what is your name?”
“Don’t you know?” Seth replied. “I’m Barney Rubble, you know, Fred’s best friend?”
“I don’t think you realize sir, you are in a lot of trouble.”
In Russian, a voice from the front of the plane boomed out, “I don’t think you realize, Jack that the CIA has no jurisdiction here and this man is under my protection.”
The voice was from Yuri Streltsov, a strapping young Russian man, about 30, with a neck so thick it looked like his head was directly attached to his shoulders, biceps like Arnold Schwarzenegger, and not the best command of the English language.
“Hello Yuri,” said Singer.
Yuri flashed his badge at the police and they nodded.
“Let’s go Barney,” Yuri said, as he made a sweeping motion with his hand for Seth to come. Singer smiled slyly at them as they exited the plane.
“You may be able to walk through this airport, Yuri, but I can’t guarantee you safe passage once you leave,” said Singer.
“Oh Jack, I didn’t know you cared,” said Yuri.
“What did he mean?” said Seth to Yuri.
“He means they have team of assassins waiting outside and they have no problem killing me along with you because after we are dead they will disappear and our bodies will never be found.”
“Great. But you have men too, right?”
“Don’t worry. Here, put this on.”
Yuri handed him a heavy grey vest with straps, like a life jacket.
“Bullet proof vest.”
As they exited the plane, Yuri made it clear to the police to back off – this was not their affair. But Seth looked back and could see Jack Singer on his radio, and it didn’t look like he was calling his guys to tell them they lost the game. He had no reason to trust this Yuri Streltsov, but his choices were limited; liberty, albeit temporary, or death. He chose liberty.
Just outside the jet way, Yuri shoved Seth through a door with a red “circle sign” on it that Seth supposed meant, “No entry,” or something like it.
“Can you run?” Yuri said.
“I’m still trying to put this vest on.”
“You wanted to be spy, learn to multi-task.”
“I never wanted to be a spy. I just wanted to warn people of…”
“We talk later. Have to go now.” Yuri grabbed Seth by the shoulders, buckled on the vest, then gave him a push. “Run!”
And Seth ran. Following Yuri, he ran as fast as he could. He ran so fast he could feel the stinging sweat pouring into his eyes. Through one door, then another, down one set of stairs so fast his feet barely brushed each step, then through a tunnel. Finally, they smashed through a set of double doors and Seth felt the shock of the cold, outside air filling his lungs. But only for a second, as he was thrown into an already moving black Mercedes, head first, like a criminal under arrest or a kidnap victim.
Yuri jumped in next to him, gun in hand, and the Mercedes took off, through the parking lot and out the gated exit. The driver accelerated as the man next to him began yelling something in Russian. He looked panicked.
“What is he saying?” asked Seth.
“He says they are after us.”
Seth looked in the rear window, but didn’t see anything unusual. “How does he know?”
Just then not one, but two cars emerged from the parking lot, the first one breaking through the gate arm, and the other right behind it. They were both swerving in and out of the line of traffic like maniacs, which is what their own driver was now doing.
“We will be at Embassy in ten minutes,” said Yuri.
“Can’t we call the police – for backup?”
“Look, Seth, you are not very good spy, are you? Police have no official business to stop us, but they are not going to help us. Once we get to Embassy, Russian Special Forces – Spetsnaz – they will be all backup we need.”
“Why don’t they come now?”
“This is Ukraine, no longer same country as Russia. On Embassy ground is only place they can act.”
The pursuing car behind them on the right, a black Mercedes jeep, sped up to catch them, and played a game of tag with their car, which lurched forward to avoid being pinned.
“Windows are bulletproof, but get down anyway,” yelled Yuri. Seth obeyed.
Their driver swerved evasively, as the pursuing jeep caught up. The driver of the jeep motioned angrily for them to pull over. Then the guy in the passenger side of Seth’s car pulled his gun out, rolled down the window and fired back their answer.
“What’s going on?” asked Seth, hearing the gunshots, and peeking out of his hiding place.
“He tries to shoot tires.”
The pursuing jeep swerved, and its occupants shot back multiple shots, which Seth could hear pinging against the metal sides of their car.
Yuri pushed Seth down further behind the driver’s seat, yelling “Get down!” and rolled down his window, shooting at the jeep. One shot, two shots, then the third blew out the jeep’s left front tire and the jeep lost control, hurling into oncoming traffic. Most of the cars swerved out of the way like a synchronized swim, but a truck hit the rear side of the jeep, sending it into an uncontrolled spin, and another car smashed into its passenger side, completely crushing the jeep and most likely its occupants. The second pursuing car, a silver Mercedes sedan, was stuck behind the resulting jam.
“What happens when they find dead CIA agents in that jeep with guns?” said Seth, rising from his hiding place.
“All will be clean. There will be no guns, no agents. Just American tourists involved in traffic accident,” said Yuri.
Just as it seemed they were out of danger, the silver Mercedes emerged, and pushed itself up on the shoulder of the road, away from the jammed up cars.
“They’re back,” yelled Seth.
Their driver accelerated, weaving through cars, making evasive moves.
“How many times do I say get down!” said Yuri, and pushed Seth down again. “We are almost there.”
The silver Mercedes was again on their tail. Seth’s driver floored it, swerving into the right lane, and almost hitting the car in front of them. He comes right up on the rear bumper of another car, hits the brakes, downshifts and powers around it.
“Embassy is here,” said Yuri.
One more screeching sharp right turn, and they were at the gates of the Embassy, which was opened by two Spetsnaz soldiers. The gates closed behind them, and the pursuing silver Mercedes rolled by slowly.
Yuri was an agent of the Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB. His assignment was Seth – to keep him alive, deliver him to Russia and monitor his ongoing safety pending the decision on his application for asylum. So far, it was a task he had not failed. As their Mercedes entered the grounds of the Russian Embassy, several armed guards took their watch posts behind it. A steel garage door opened and closed behind the Mercedes and Yuri ushered Seth inside.
Yuri took Seth into a waiting room. The room, and the entire building, was a classic throwback to the days of Imperial Russia. Original oil paintings hung from the richly wallpapered walls, framed by wood cornice. Seth sat down in one of the classic cushy French armchairs that ordained the room. He was offered water by a beautiful Ukrainian brunette, which he gladly accepted.
After gulping a fair share of water, Seth was led in to the ambassador’s office. The ambassador, a man in his early 60’s with graying hair, met Seth with outstretched hand. “Good morning, Mr. Rogan, I am Gregori Petrov, the ambassador to the Ukraine.”
“I know that Kiev was not your final destination, but we would like to welcome you here just the same.”
“Thank you, Ambassador. It seems I owe you my life,” said Seth.
“Gratitude is not necessary. Your safety is of utmost concern to us. On the other hand, your government seems intent to harm you, Mr. Rogan. Have you decided what to do with your documents?”
“First, I want to make sure the public knows the dangers of genetically engineered foods and how the government allowed them into the market despite the danger.”
“And the other matter?”
“That I have not decided yet. Can you tell me the status of my petition for asylum?”
“That is being considered by the president himself right now. But we have been instructed to give you safe passage to Russia and to protect you during your stay there. Mr. Streltsov will be your point of contact and I can assure you, he is very good at what he does.”
“I have seen that.”
“You will dine with me tonight, here at the embassy, and we have prepared one of the apartments for you for your brief stay with us. Tomorrow, we will escort you to the airport for your flight to Moscow with a full diplomatic motorcade of security.”
The Russians had always been the enemies to Seth as long as he had known, although the U.S. never had the war with them that everyone had anticipated. They had always been the enemies in every movie, and he remembered one day in high school when the entire school was ushered into the gym for an assembly, where they were lectured on the dangers of the “evil empire.” “Their newspaper is called Pravda, which means truth,” they had said, “but it’s filled with lies.” Seth had no reason to trust his new protectors, but his choices were limited to them and them alone at this point. He had willingly placed himself, ironically, in the hands of the enemy.
Seth sat in the green room of the studio of the news channel, Russia Today, waiting for his interview. He had selected Russia Today to tell his story because they were a new, up-and-coming international news channel which broadcasted news of Russian and international interest in English. Seth fumbled his thumbs together nervously. He had come a long way to tell his story and now the time was finally upon him. There was no turning back. A pretty blonde girl came in to bring him to his interview, while another girl powdered his face a bit more and hooked up a lapel microphone.
“Are you ready?” she asked.
“Ready now as I ever will be,” said Seth.
The blonde walked him into the studio. “This is Pavel Kargin,” said the girl. Pavel shook Seth’s hand.
“You’re a brave man,” he said, with a friendly smile. “I will try not to traumatize you any more than I have to.”
Pavel took his seat, and began the interview. “Hello, this is Pavel Kargin reporting from Moscow with an exclusive interview with Seth Rogan, an ex Germinat scientist who has fled the United States and sought refuge here in Russia. Good to have you here, Seth.”
“Good to be here, Pavel.”
“Tell our audience please, why you have selected Russia and why you thought it was dangerous for you to remain in America?”
“I chose Russia not because I’m a traitor, but because there was no way I could tell this story unless I kept my freedom. While I was working at Germinat, I came across some government documents that prove that the U.S. government knew that our genetically engineered foods are unsafe.”
“Can you explain to our audience what a genetically engineered food is?”
“A genetically engineered organism, or GMO, as it is commonly referred to, is a plant or animal of one species whose DNA is genetically altered in a laboratory by inserting into it genes from a different species, in order to breed a trait in that organism that does not exist in nature.”
“Haven’t famers been doing that for many years? They make a crop of corn, for example, that is sweeter than other types of corn?”
“No, what you are talking about is natural breeding within the same species. Combining one strain of corn that has a trait we want with another strain, like breeding dogs or horses, is not genetic engineering. What we do in genetic engineering is to take a gene from the DNA of one species and insert it into the DNA of a completely different species. This is a type of breeding that could never occur in nature. For example, the first genetically engineered crop was a tomato that could stand cold weather without freezing. We took a gene from a fish that lived in cold waters, and inserted it into the DNA of the tomato. The result was a freeze proof tomato.”
“So, genes of a fish go into genes of a tomato?”
“What is the danger in that?”
“The danger is that we don’t really know all the consequences of what could happen. Did you ever see the movie ‘The Fly’?”
“In “The Fly,” when the scientist tested his teleporter by using himself as the test subject, his genes were “spliced” with the genes of a fly that was in the teleporter with him, and all kinds of unexpected things began happening to his body and he eventually turned into a monster. When we splice a gene from an animal or a bacteria into the gene of a plant, we don’t really know everything that will happen. Evolution has had millions of years to work with the present species that we know on earth. Because of the genetic engineering process, which is very new at the moment, the GMO plant we make today could produce toxins or even viruses that we have never seen before, and we may not be able to control them. The government says that if the genetically engineered food looks like conventional food, then it is safe. But that ignores what is happening on a cellular level.”
“So you are saying that, even if the food looks the same, the dangers are hidden inside?”
“Exactly. The government reports that I obtained from my company say that the project I was working on, for example, produces a food which is not safe for human consumption, but it has been approved anyway. We were taking a gene from the DNA of a bacteria that is a natural insecticide that makes the stomach of an insect explode, and planting it into the DNA of a corn crop. That way the corn will produce its own insecticide and when insects eat it, they will die. The problem is that the corn produces a poison which is far more potent than the bacteria found naturally. In the process, we also use a potent plant virus, which is similar to the AIDS virus, to stimulate the production of the toxin, which could lie dormant and reactivate later, or produce an even different virus that we have never seen before. And we use antibiotic resistant genes in the process, which could cause resistance to very common antibiotics, leaving us open to all kinds of bacterial diseases.”
“Toxins, viruses, antibiotic resistance – that doesn’t sound like safe things to be putting into our food.”
“Exactly. That is what the reports from the United States government say, and my company, Germinat, has succeeded in burying those reports from public view.”
“It’s a good thing that these foods are not yet on the market.”
“But they are – they have already been approved and are in 70% of the processed foods eaten in America, and almost all animal feeds.”
“So that’s why you left the States and are afraid of prosecution, because you have these government reports that they don’t want to make public.”
“They’re after me because I have a top secret government report that details experiments using the same genetic engineering to make biological weapons.”
“Are they making biological weapons with this technology now?”
“Not yet, but I don’t think it is something that should be done. The current technology being experimented on is for the so-called “war on drugs.” It consists of strains of viruses and fungi that can be inserted into areas of opium poppy and coca plant farms that would kill all of the coca and opium.”
“But that’s a good thing isn’t it, to destroy the plants that produce cocaine and heroin?”
“It will also kill beneficial plants and wildlife and infect the rainforests where a lot of these drugs are grown. Colombia, for example, is not only known for growing these drugs, but it’s also the home of rainforests that are called “the lungs of the earth,” because they produce up to 20% of the world’s oxygen for our atmosphere. This could have devastating consequences for life on earth as we know it.”
“What have you decided to do with this classified report?”
“I haven’t decided yet how to make it public. I don’t want it to get into the wrong hands, but if we are a country that doesn’t believe in weapons of mass destruction, then we shouldn’t be developing them.”
“So now that you have gone public with this information, what do you think is the solution?”
“I am calling for the U.S. Congress to conduct a special investigation into the safety of this technology. The FDA is not ensuring that it is safe for public consumption and the EPA is not ensuring that it is safe for the environment, and it’s definitely not something that should be used as a weapon. It’s my opinion that, at this stage, this technology is not safe for use as a food or a weapon of any kind and that years of study should have been undertaken before releasing it to the public.”
“And why was this technology released upon the public?”
“Money. Germinat engineered corn, soy and cotton that resists its own weed killers. They did it to sell more weed killer and to corner the market on that particular weed killer because their patent on it was expiring.”
“You sound like an environmentalist.”
“That’s a label I never thought I would have. I thought I was just a traitor, a spy and a whistleblower.”
“Whistleblower, traitor, or just concerned citizen of the world? That is the question that is being asked around the world today about Seth Rogan, who is perhaps the world’s most wanted man. This is Pavel Kargin, reporting from Russia Today.”
Yuri helped Seth settle in to the safe house in Moscow. Tomorrow night he would take the nine hour flight to the Far East. From the apartment he could see the colorful and distinctive towers of St. Basil’s Cathedral from his window, and the glittering gold onion domes of the Church of Annunciation in the Kremlin. This was the Kremlin he had seen so many times on television. Back then, during the cold war, it had represented the seat of the Empire of Evil. Now, it was oddly beautiful.
The American press was already doing damage control on Seth’s report to Russia Today. The president called it “propaganda” and said that “The United States was against the manufacture of biological weapons.” Spokesmen from the company said that Seth’s report to RT should be disregarded as the words of a “traitor” and a “thief.” Because of his fleeing the country, Seth’s story was discredited in every mainstream media report.
“Okay, your name now is George Aimers,” said Yuri, smiling, holding out documents. Here is new passport.”
“Does that mean I have to say ‘eh’ all the time?”
“Seth, Russians don’t care what you say. But don’t talk to people.”
“Don’t talk to people?”
“And don’t go anywhere. Just to work and back home.”
“Isn’t that what you guys do in America anyway?”
“Okay. Don’t make friends. If you want girl, we get you girl.”
“Look, it’s only for six months. Then you can do what you want. If you see anything suspicious, call me.”
“Six months, eh?”
“Yes, six months. Oh, and shave mustache and color hair.”
“You prefer shave head and color mustache?”
“No, no, that’s ok. I’ll take the hair color.”
“And we fix nose.”
“What’s wrong with my nose?”
“Nose too big.”
“We fix anyway.”
“Okay. Let me see if I’ve got it. Don’t go anywhere, don’t make friends, sleep with prostitutes that you send to me and wear a disguise.”
“Yes. You are smart. Don’t forget to use lenses I gave you for eyes. And…”
“Lose some weight.”
Seth worked on his disguise with the materials Yuri had left in the safe house. He said a fond farewell to the mustache that had been with him since high school and picked a dark brown color to mask his light brown hair. With the contacts in, his eyes changed from green to brown. He didn’t even recognize himself. The surface disguise was the easy part. Being George Aimers would be the true disguise to master.
Seth sat in the covered balcony in his small apartment in the Far East that had been provided him and looked out through the dusty window at the frozen Russian landscape. The onset of winter was an amazingly beautiful contrast to the dingy, dusty look of fall, which started out rather beautifully, raining falling leaves of yellow, orange and red, but then changed to a dusty dead collection of sticks, followed by rainy, muddy streets, littered with discarded bits of human invention. Winter was a much better look. The sun glistened on the glittery crystals of snow that covered every branch and every needle of every pine tree, which made the entire town look like a village in the middle of a Christmas forest.
Winston Churchill said Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. That pretty much summed up the place. The young women were beautiful; the old women were hags. The people were highly educated, but most of them held down lowly jobs. The summers were brutally hot and the winters stingingly cold. It was a country of constant contrast and vast inequality. But Seth found the people in the Far Eastern provinces to be warm and generous. And if you knew when your last day of life was going to be, it was the best place to spend your last night on earth, because in Russia people party like tomorrow will never come.
Seth had never thought he would have ended up here, so far from home, so out of touch with everything and everyone. He couldn’t even use his own name. He was a man without a country, without an identity. A traitor, a spy, banned forever from his own country, and all because he wanted to do something that he thought – no, knew – was right. Set things right. Like Einstein’s great mistake, he had helped to unleash Armageddon on the world and now he felt responsible to stop it.
Yes, the company had been good to him, and had fulfilled his every material need. And he had reciprocated. But sometimes one man must fight for what he feels is right, even against the majority. Something that is wrong does not change to right just because the majority approves it, ignores it, or the government says it is right. It is still wrong.
And he still saw the company and his country as being two separate and distinct entities. How had the lines blurred between the two and where had he crossed over from loyal citizen to traitor? Had not the company betrayed his country and become the true traitor, and he merely the bearer of the news of that betrayal?
The Russians had been good to him. His choices were either Russia, Nicaragua or Venezuela. Not much of a choice, but Russia seemed the logical one, for some reason. Initially, he thought, “Well Moscow’s not so bad, or maybe St. Petersburg.” But Yuri said, “Are you crazy? Do you know how hard it would be to keep you safe in a big place like Moscow?”
It was too close to the Western world, too accessible. Instead, Yuri pointed to a tiny place near the Chinese border in the Far East-about as far away as you could get.
“Khabarovsk? What am I gonna do there?” asked Seth.
“Stay alive. You’ll be English teacher.”
“An English teacher? I’m a scientist, we can hardly even speak English.”
“Well, as I see it,” said Yuri, “you have two choices-how do they say in cowboy movies-dead or alive? Anyway, look at bright side, we have some of the prettiest girls in world there.”
“Great-become a spy and meet women.”
“You should have thought of consequences before you became spy.”
“I’m not a spy.”
“Just saying. Everything you do in this life has its consequences.”
“Don’t I know it?” Seth reflectively played back all the decisions he had made that set him on this path to such an uncertain destiny. This destiny had not been left to chance; it was a matter of choice, but the ultimate outcome was uncertain. He had been brave enough to do what he thought was right, which meant that he had to pay for that freedom of choice by accepting whatever consequences that flowed from that decision. And the effects of that decision would last a lifetime, because destiny never closes its accounts.
“What’s the big deal about these UFOs anyway?” asked Yuri.
“GMOs. Genetically modified organisms. You take one gene from one organism that has a trait you want and force it into the DNA of another organism to get the desired result.”
“My uncle has pig farm. He’s been doing that for years.”
“No, this is different. You take a gene from, let’s say, a cow, like my company did with rBST. You inject that gene into E-Coli, a deadly bacteria, then separate the bacteria and inject the solution into the cow, to increase milk production.
“Isn’t E-Coli bacteria from shit?” Yuri’s face wrinkled with disgust.
“Yes, it is. Or you take a human growth hormone gene and engineer it with a pig, to make it grow faster.”
“Mixing humans with pigs? Disgusting!”
“That one failed, Yuri, it’s not on the market.”
“Why you not die from eating this horrible food?”
“You don’t die Yuri, not yet, you just get sick.”
“And this GMO, this is why Americans are fat?”
“Obesity, cancer, diabetes, digestive problems, allergies, attention deficit disorder, gluten intolerance, autism…”
“Okay, stop, stop. So why you get involved with this GMO?”
“I thought it was a good technology that could be used to feed the world.”
“We already have enough food to feed world. You don’t make money feeding poor people is problem.”
“I know. I made a mistake.”
“Like Einstein when he ask president to make atom bomb?”
“Yeah. Just like that.”
As Gloria Steinem said, “The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.” In the process of learning the truth, Seth also learned how gullible he was. He was pissed off. Pissed off at Bill Penner, pissed off at Germinat, pissed off at the government, and pissed off at himself for being so stupid.
In his former life, he was Seth Rogan, graduate of Stanford University, considered one of the top genetic engineers in his field. Now he was George Aimers, the loveable English teacher from Vancouver. Well, at least he had been to Vancouver a couple of times and kind of knew what it was like. And it was true, there were a lot of pretty girls here in Russia. Seth worked at the local university. English was the only subject he could teach, since his Russian was so poor. Russian had to be the most difficult language in the world, with its masculine, feminine and neutral, and ridiculously infinite number of inflections. “How did the Russians even know what they were saying to each other?” Seth wondered.
For Seth, freedom now was a process. A process he had to fight for every day. Because every day, someone was out there, waiting to grab him and take it away. And he still had not had the chance to tell his story to the audience it was intended for – the American public. Whatever he said from Russia would be censored in the mainstream American press. What would get to any media outlets would be downplayed as coming from the mouth of a traitor and a spy. Seth had left America. He couldn’t very well claim he was a good American citizen and wrap himself in the flag while he was, at the same time, hiding out in the enemy’s backyard.
He was officially charged with violation of the Espionage Act, and he didn’t expect that he would have a chance to tell his story if he were caught. He would probably end up in Guantanamo Bay prison with the rest of the traitors and “terrorists” who are held without the right to counsel and without proper trials, and all because of the label assigned to them on their arrest. Seth couldn’t count on the Constitution to protect him any more than he could expect his leather jacket to stop a bullet.
Yuri didn’t understand what the “big deal” was about genetically modified foods, or why Seth’s own government wanted to kill him. But the stakes were high. Hundreds of millions of dollars had been spent on GMOs by the big chemical companies. They had decided that genetically engineered foods were the foods of the future. Those same chemical companies had inserted their top management into the top management of the United States government. They controlled the FDA. They controlled the USDA. In third world countries, government officials get bribes. In the States, they get job security with large corporations like Germinat.
The government knew the GMO food they allowed to be put on the tables of the American people was not safe, but they certified it as safe. And Seth had irrefutable evidence of this in secret government reports. Not only that, he had in his possession a classified report that revealed this technology was being developed to be used as a powerful weapon. They could not let him live.
Yuri picked up Seth and took him to a rundown boxing gym, which smelled like dirty socks. The wooden floors of the gym were covered with soft matting.
“What are we doing here?” Seth asked.
“Well, spy man, you need real spy training so you can survive out there. I’m gonna give you training,” said Yuri, handing Seth an oversized and baggy jacket. Yuri himself was wearing the same kind of jacket. He looked like a worn out Michelin Man.
“Is that what these stupid jackets are for?”
“Exactly. This is Russian Sambo, best way to defend yourself without weapon. Put on jacket.” Seth slipped it on.
“Anyone hits you, you hit back, harder. Smart ones stay alive. Best to be prepared like Russian Pioneer. First thing I show you is back flip. Now, you come running at me like you are going to attack.”
Seth ran at Yuri and he easily flipped Seth over his back, onto the mat, and pinned his helpless body against the mat with his torso; then he pushed down with his left hand on Seth’s arm and raised his right fist within striking distance to his throat.
Yuri released his stronghold on Seth and stood up. “Get up,” he commanded. “Now you flip me.”
“It’s easy. I come running at you,” said Yuri. “You take me by elbows and pull me to you. If you want, hold jacket at elbows and pull. Then bend right knee, crouch down and roll me over your back.”
Yuri charged Seth, and Seth grabbed Yuri’s elbows. “Now, bend right knee, crouch down, and roll me over your back.”
Seth tried and tried, but each time, he was not able to incapacitate Yuri.
“This is no use Yuri.”
“Shut up, never give up. Again!”
After much trial and error, Seth was able to flip Yuri. “Now pin me down.” Seth did.
“Good!” said Yuri.
Seth practiced throwing Yuri over his back until he was good and sore.
“Now I show you front blocking. I come at you, and you take me by elbows, pull me into you and trip me with leg.” After practicing this a couple of times, they went back to repeat both exercises.
“Okay, now I show you how to get out of handcuffs and zip tie cuffs.”
Yuri taught Seth how to fashion a makeshift key and pick the lock of handcuffs and made him practice with them both in front of and behind his back. He taught him how to break apart zip tie cuffs by centering the zip tie cuff lock between his hands and breaking the lock with a fast hit against his butt or his stomach, depending on whether he was tied in front or behind his back.
“Since you are such good student, now I show you how to defend against gun or knife. Now you put gun in my face.”
Yuri handed Seth his gun. Yuri turned his head out of the way, and at the same time, grabbed the barrel of the gun with one hand and struck the wrist holding the gun with the other, rotating the barrel and putting pressure against the trigger finger.
“Now you break finger,” he said. “Then after snap finger, rotate upward, shift body and throw him, kick head and step here, take gun, then shoot that fucking son of a bitch.”
Yuri was a good teacher, and insisted Seth meet him to practice self-defense and work out at least three times a week.
“You never know when you may need it,” he said. And you got nothing to do anyway.”