For being a chemist and having a Ph.D, I've never been very good at math. Then again, you'd be surprised how very little advanced math goes into chemistry. There is math in it, sure, but basic stuff that just sounds really hard. In my branch of chemistry, I hardly use much, but when I was in college, oof… My most challenging classes were math ones.
Nonetheless, I learned enough and know enough now to do some quick equations. One being statistical in nature. The odds and averages of how things can work out. In this sort of fact-finding mission, there are lots of rules and laws that I must follow to find the answer, the right answer.
Now, this ain't the law of averages, that thing we just think is true and somehow works because it lulls us to feeling better. It's the Gambler's Fallacy. What people are really thinking of is the Law of Large Numbers. I deal heavily with the law of large numbers - a law that says the outcome of an event will turn out as predicted more often than not when the experiment or event is played out a great many times, or large numbers. That means, the more we spin the roulette wheel, the more times it's gonna hit red. In order for me to prove a theorem or hypothesis, I have to run an experiment thousands of times. The roulette wheel needs to spin a thousand times before we can truly determine a stable outcome.
The rule averages ignores the idea of numerous spins or experiments or matches. If I've won ten matches in a row, then the law of averages says I'm due for a loss. That's not how any of that works, though. You cannot predict that, not with any real accuracy, anyway. You'd have a fifty-fifty chance of being right, though. Those are some good odds nonetheless. If you tried that with something that had a more outcomes, the probabilities of making the right choice tanks.
Then again, Littlewood's Law states that a person experiences a one in a million type event at least once a month. Just reminds you that the universe runs off math and chemistry and very little else. Okay, anyway, nobody came here for a lesson in analytical and theoretical math.
The point here is to explain that I did some math and figured some shit out in terms of my upcoming matches and this tournament. I put in all the facts, figures, variables, and spent a lot of time doing things on my white board.
The reality is harsh and painful.
If I lose one more match, I'm out of it. There is no chance for me to get into either title match. The odds of me taking the whole thing, considering the others in this tournament and how well they've been doing, are even lower. I'm literally hanging on by a thread here and under the gun.
Do or die, motherfuckers.
And I got one foot in the grave.
I'd rather not fall in.
In the continuing adventures of our hero…
I stare at the weather worn plastic sign, trying to make sense of Cyrillic characters that glare back at me with this direct, seriousness. As a kid, Cyrillic had made me think that the people who created it, used it most, and refined it, were, somehow, dyslexic. They took the Latin letters I knew and twisted them up, seeing them backwards and upside-down. Thankfully I know better now. It's just an evolution of Greek uncial and Glagolitic, languages that predate Christianity, and like all written words, it was mainly created to pass along the teachings of Christ.
Doesn't make it any easier to understand.
Now, the sign isn't much; sunbleached, pitted, and chipped red letters embossed on a rust-stained rounded square that swings freely from metal chain. The whole thing has probably been hanging in this very spot for at least fifty years, put up after the war, and saw all the ups and downs of the USSR and Russia, from empty shelves during rationing and stocked shelves during the thaw.
Just above it are some real, true relics of the Soviet Era, of Lenin and Stalin. Three very rusty metal signs are bolted into the bland grey bricks of the building, perfectly aligned, signifying what the store sells without a single word but with cartoonish, colorful pictures. The top one has three sliced sausages, beneath that is one of three empty green bottles, and the last one, and probably the cutest, a single winking and smirking red apple. The happy apple, as rusted and dented up as it is, makes me smile. Even in the depths and derges of the tyrannical Communist regimes, they still had a sense of humor. Even if there weren't any apples to be had.
Little reminders of Russia's less than savory past linger all over, not just innocent grocery store signs, but more apparent sinister symbols linger all around the city. Much like Germany, if one looks hard enough and knows what they're looking for, it's very easy to find remnants of Nazism and Hitler's empire. There are Third Riech ruins all over, tourist sites, memorials and reminders of what can happen and to never repeat, things easier and cheaper to just let fade away and nature bury than to destroy. Then there are the many hidden in plain sight.
Nazi eagles, Reichsadlers, dot the country, standing proudly on building faces and momuments, with their Swastikas removed or covered with faceplates - fuck, there is even a self guided tour of them if you're that interested. The faded outlines of Reichsadlers stand out in the faded stone of repurposed buildings, tiny swastikas hide in iron fences, manhole covers hidden on the back streets… Germany is a little bit more eager to bury their past than Russia, it's former satellites, and countries still under their control.
Crowds didn't pull down The Red Stars from atop buildings like Germans did to eagles (even if artists did paint Patrick the Starfish on one of them). Statues of Lenin and Stalin still stand proudly. The undeniable and unmistakable symbol of Communist rule, the hammer and sickle, still remains on government buildings. And of course, last but not at all least, that unremarkable yet somehow beautiful to some architectural style known as Brutalism.
Yes, it's called Brutalism. I suppose because it's brutal in its design. Those familiar scenes from anti-Soviet propaganda films warning you against the dangers of Communism, of how it turns society into a bland, soulessl creature, devoid of individuality and personality because in Soviet Russia, buildings own you. They huge, monolithic buildings of harsh design, often lacking in ornamentation and, if they do, it's strange crosshatch patterns or sharp, dangerous points. The FBI headquarters in D.C. is the most recognizable building in this style.
Ask Scully about it.
These buildings surround me, mainly in the high rise apartment buildings and I must admit, they are boring, and from what I've seen of modern building in the States, apartment buildings are starting to look exactly like these. Small, perfect copies of each other, lined up in neat rows. Except they're just cheap wood frames plastered with concrete to look neat.
It's one of these apartment buildings that I have to go to, an apartment in one of them for a small gathering. "Vecherinka."
How I even got to Russia is one of those fun stories people love telling but in reality, it's not as exciting as it sounds. It also involves a lot of liquor and shit talking. I could embellish and one day I might… For now, Agent Ringlet has a mission. She just isn't totally sure what that is right now.
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The party swirls around me, dozens of men and women coming and going, drinking vodka or pale beer out of cans, smoking skinny cigarettes or Marlboro Reds, and chatting in slurring Russia. I was promised that Porsche would be here, a much needed friend and translator. All I have is Roman and he's not exactly someone I'm going to trust. But I know one thing for sure, I've gotta stay on him like white on rice, especially with him inviting me here.
With his help, I'm going to get close or at least get some information that might be useful for someone somewhere. All I know is, I took an oath and I'm all in to protect the very foundation of democracy - fair and free elections. Right now, that ain't happening and Roman is one step to making that stop.
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This pretty dark haired girl started chatting me up. I guess I looked lonely enough to attract her attention. According to her it's because I 'looked American.' My new friend, who's name I've already forgotten, loves all things American, including American romantic partners. She drinks Budweiser, which I didn't even know they sold in Russia but it's apparently one of the most popular beers in the country, smokes Marlboro cigarettes even though they tend to make her feel gross sometimes and they're a bit expensive, and thinks McDonald's is a true representative of traditional American food.
She also thinks that I'm the bee's knees.
We have moved ourselves to a small room just off the main area of the apartment. Russian apartments are strange and I'm not sure how to describe them. Our mouths have gone from talking to kissing. I'm not even really attracted to this chick. Her bones protrude through her skin and when I grab at her hips, all I get are handfuls of hard bone. When I squeeze her ass, there's just nothing there to squeeze. The kissing is nice, though. She's warm and soft, smells like a smoke and oleander, tastes like mixture of hops, tobacco, and salt.
Just as I'm about to sneak my hand under her sweater, I'm smacked over the head with something hard. It hurts like a bitch.
I lift my head. "Dafuq?"
...to be continued.
I'm not one to give up, not until it's absolutely clear that it's time to set my sights elsewhere. This trait comes with bring a trained scientist. But it also came with this ability to problem solve, figure out where things have gone wrong, what needs fixing, and how to fix it to get the intended results. You don't always have to scrap the whole thing, just rearrange, refocus, and check your work. It's even more paramount to do that when so much has been put in, when things are so close, when it can be done, when it means so much.
This means a lot to me because I have put so much work into it, because I've been in this for so long, and because things are so close and the end is nigh.
Not all hope is lost.
Those statistics, those probabilities and outcomes, are not in my favor and a thousand things need to work out for me to even just have breathing room, it doesn't mean I'm going to cut the thread and jump on into my grave. Zolton isn't going to cut my thread, push me in the grave, and throw dirt on me. Not when I'm this determined, not when I want to live.
Let me live!
I'm holding onto that little sliver, that small outcome off on the corner in bright pink, that tiny thing I'm living for - that everyone atop this tournament loses this week and I come out as the winner. That, however, is too small, too unreliable, too… variable and out of control. And while it is important, it is not what I should be focused on or am focused on.
But I will say this - while I'm never one to root for someone's failure, I am now. May the mathematical gods bless me and curse my enemies. And yes, they're my enemies.
Just like Zolton is my enemy this week. He is my focus. I'm going to pack away the math and do something that I'm much better at - wrestle and win. Yes, Zolton, you heard me. I'm not worried about your standing in this or mine. All I'm concerned about is winning, of surviving. Now I'm sure you know, but there is no more dangerous animal than that which is near death and trying to survive.
You've seen me wrestle, you've seen me lose, you've seen me lose… You've seen my record, in this and in the past. I always manage to come through. Even at the last moment. Everybody loves a good comeback.
Just ask Cubs' fans.
I'm still in it and I'm gonna stay in it. That means you're out of it, Zoltar… I mean Zoltan. Look at that, one letter off and we've got a whole other can of jokes to dump out. Damn, I do love a good joke.
'I wanna be big!'
Right now, you get to be small. You might be a shark, you might be eating well in this, but Zolton, Imma eat you up, spit you out, and keep swimming like the big fucking shark that I am.