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The Game of VORs

The Game of VORs

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The Game of VORs

278 página
4 horas
Jul 14, 2017


A Russian Science Fiction Dystopian Novel You Must Read...

"The Game of VORs is gritty, tragic, and very emotional... a suspenseful, coming of age story in a dark world."
-- Readers' Favorite Five Stars

"I would recommend this to any person interested in twisted political discrepancies or learning about different takes on identity and morality."
-- LitPick

"The author creates a believable world, albeit a bit gruesome at times, and delivers the opposite of the typical view of nobility by expertly merging elements of mystery and suspense..."
-- IndieReader

"The story is filled with twists and turns and a surprise ending."
-- International Writers Inspiring Change

"The author did a good job of weaving in the political hierarchy into the story instead of spending the first section of the book describing it in detail as many of these types of novels have done. I very much appreciated this approach."
-- LibraryThing

"Speaking of reader experience, I can only say that this was a high class read that I enjoyed greatly, and the translation is so skilful that it wasn’t at all clear that it was a translation at all.
I see that other reviewers have compared the book to some modern YA books; personally I found it was most highly comparable to Dune...
In short, the book exceeded my expectations, and I highly recommend it on its own merit."
-- Goodreads

Kier Vorsmith, the youngest son of an influential count, dreams of studying at the University and living a quiet life as a historian. However, when he fails his high school’s final exams, whirlwind events force Kier to become the official heir of the Vorsmiths’ county and an officer in the Imperial Special Corps. At the will of his father, the young man arrives at a remote arctic base to serve as a local weatherman...

Jul 14, 2017

Sobre el autor

Greetings!My pen name is Andrew Orange.More info:goodreads.com/Andrew_Orangefacebook.com/AndrewOrange2017patreon.com/Andrew_Orange

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The Game of VORs - Andrew Orange


Chapter 1

Physical Training Exam

The tall instructor looked impressive in his bright red sports suit, his bulging muscles flexing under the cheap synthetic fiber. Even the ordinary comm strapped to his hip seemed like a weapon of doom as his fingers drummed it. The instructor gave a dispassionate look to the youngsters lined up in front of him. His face, the color perfectly matching the red of his suit, was like a frozen mask.

All part of the game, Kier thought. He stood in the cold gym, wearing only his pants and sneakers, and trying not to shiver too much.

Though it was the end of May, a cold north wind blew through the bars of the open windows set high along one of the cracked walls. This school for simples had been built full of defects that had never been repaired. Some cracks in the walls were so large that Kier could put a hand through them. This made opening the windows an extravagant redundancy, but then nobody here asked Kier his opinion.

I can’t wait for this comedy to end. Tomorrow is the main exam. If I catch a cold today …

His thoughts were interrupted by the thunderous roar of the instructor.

"Dress! Shu-un!"

The small crowd of half-naked youngsters moved jerkily about, gradually taking on rows that vaguely resembled a military stance. Kier tried to spread his skimpy shoulders, while enviously looking at his classmate, Arnold McGregor, who was first in the row. Arni was as tall as the instructor, with fantastic muscles playing under his dusky skin.

Even the cold won’t get him … I wish he’d break his leg, Kier thought angrily. He stood in last place of the row of his mates.

Meanwhile, the instructor kept shouting: "We are starting the final examination on physical training! Broad jump, time trial, push-ups, rope climbing! You start only on my mark! The standards are …"

Thirty-nine young men from three graduating classes of High School № 169 in New Roma, the capital of Northern Heartland, were to take the physical training exam. The graduation exam consisted of two parts, and intellectual condition would be checked the next day. Among this group, thirty-eight were from the social class of simples. Only Kier, the thirty-ninth, and the youngest son of the Count Vorsmith, was an aristocrat.

Kier Smith! shouted the instructor, continuing the attendance check.

Kier glared at him, and then immediately regained his composure. The instructor had omitted the reverent prefix vor from his surname, which bordered on an insult. In the aristocratic milieu, one could be challenged to a duel for such an omission; some simples had been killed for it without a second thought given. However, Kier knew of the emperor’s decree, which had introduced an obligatory political correctness in the state schools by prohibiting officially titling the infants of vors or showing them any emphasized respect.

At the outset of the exam, fortune was on Kier’s side. He successfully completed the long jump without a run-up, and not only scored the standard mark but also didn’t end up in last place. However, the time trial (thirteen laps around the gym) became a severe challenge for him. His short legs and lack of training took their toll. Nevertheless, he hung on by the skin of his teeth, wheezing and crawling rather than running, and made it to the finish line. All the others had ended the trial long before and had looked at him with barefaced scorn. The instructor had shaken his head and written Kier’s time in a special journal.

Drop! Down! Another shriek from the instructor echoed painfully in Kier’s head. He hadn’t even caught his breath after the exhausting run. The standard is thirteen push-ups!

There was no time to reflect on who had invented such standards or why. The exhausted youth fell into position on the rough, unclean floor, but all he could manage was one push-up. Trying again, Kier only squeaked from the strain and collapsed facedown on the floor.

Someone laughed. Kier was sure it was McGregor.

When the young vor stood up with a groan, Arni was already concentrating on doing push-ups. A huge golden chain, normally dangling on his naked, hairy chest, now clinked rhythmically on the floor.

The instructor stared at Kier gloomily, but again said nothing. Having waited for everyone else to score the specified standard, he blew his whistle and announced the beginning of the last trial: rope climbing.

McGregor pretended he heard nothing and kept pumping his body up and down. Perhaps he wanted to beat the push-ups standard by two-fold, or even three. The instructor bellowed at him again and Arni had to obey.

Failed! I’ve failed, as sure as a gun! Kier thought with horror.

He pulled off his sneakers and grabbed the thick rope affixed to the gym’s ceiling. Once, long ago, it had been pure white, but generations of pupils had worn the rough synthetic fibers down to a dirty gray.

At the thought of failure, a sudden wave of panic pumped adrenaline into his blood and, to his own surprise, Kier flew like a flash up to the top of the rope, a height of some five meters. Whipped on by fear and hatred, his muscles and heart were working like crazy. However, the adrenaline-driven obsession to succeed disappeared just as fast as it came. Weak arm muscles suddenly started to ache. Kier was on the brink of falling. Everyone looked at him and someone’s mouth formed an O-shape in sheer surprise. Trying to fix his bare feet on the large rope knots, Kier started to climb down slowly and carefully. His arms could barely hold the weight of his body, but, nevertheless, he had nearly made it to the floor.

Well, vor? Afraid of heights? McGregor shouted with a foul smile.

That was the last straw. A wave of helpless anger inflated Kier and his hands released the rope. Like a stone, he crashed onto the hard mat, right on his butt. Kier screamed at the landing, but the shock of it quickly faded. He moved slowly and tried to stand up.

A thought flashed by: My bones are okay, but a bruise is guaranteed.

This time everybody laughed at him, even the red-faced instructor.

It’s obvious he’s wet behind the ears! And he’s a vor! How are you going to serve? The instructor wheezed spitefully through the laughter. His carefully hidden disdain toward vors, and personally to Kier, finally poured out. The instructor rubbed his hands happily, unabashedly delighted with the public humiliation of the only young aristocrat in the gym.

A menacing cough came from the doors of the gym. The instructor choked on his laughter; all the others went quiet in fear. A lone person who, up until now had been standing discreetly at the entrance, strode up to Kier and helped him to his feet. Retired Corporal Stranger Brutari was Kier’s personal bodyguard, and he had done more for Kier than his father, elder brothers, and all the other relatives put together.

Unlike the instructor or McGregor, Brutari’s appearance was most ordinary. He was a man of amiable demeanor in his fifties, a little in flesh, of middle height, and wearing a cheap, well-worn gray suit. However, everyone in the gym knew that, as a henchman of Count Vorsmith, Brutari had the right to wield and use weapons against the count’s enemies. In his holster, hidden under the worn jacket, was a loaded gun with a silencer. Brutari had many other dangerous surprises as well, and during his lifetime had killed more people than were now standing in the gym.

Let’s get out of here, my lord. The bodyguard’s voice was sharp and pointedly dismissive.

Thank you, Corporal, answered Kier, grateful from the bottom of his heart.

* * *

Kier and Brutari lived in a little cubbyhole in a block of flats near the school. They passed a huge billboard with a call to buy vodka Oblomovka and approached a long, nine-storied building. The old concrete monster with dirty gray walls was surrounded by similar constructions. Combined with High School № 169, they formed an ugly, yet solid architectural complex.

The shrill voice of the comm-net broadcaster boomed from the open windows on the ground floor of the building. The outcome of trading at the New Babylon Stock Exchange is as follows: the rate of yellow currency units has grown and now equals 3.14 green units. The rate of greens has also grown and equals 33.13 red units. Moodfucks and Fools Agency has decreased the credit rating …

Kier and Brutari entered the dark stairwell to their dwelling, where silence and dust reigned. The code lock and entry phone had been broken long ago. Under the stairs, numerous cigarette stubs and glass shards lay scattered. The elevator hadn’t been operating for as long as the code lock. No one was going to fix it, despite constant complaints of the tenants.

The young vor and his bodyguard swiftly walked up to the fourth floor. The first wooden door, which opened into their cubbyhole, was no different from the other doors in the building. The corporal unlocked it quickly with an ordinary metal key. Behind the façade of this door was an armored door, without any visible keyhole. Instead, there was only a small black square that stood out from the dull metallic surface of the door. Brutari touched his palm to it and the door silently moved aside.

Kier stood behind the corporal’s back, watching for anyone coming up the stairs. This wasn’t actually necessary, as Brutari had excellent hearing and could react to any suspicious sounds faster than Kier could.

When entering the flat, the bodyguard checked that all was in order, and then waved to his ward. The youth swiftly came inside and touched a green circle on the other side of the door, which caused it to close. The monitoring system had checked and cleared them both as people authorized to enter. If their authorization had failed, it would have given an automatic signal to the nearest PriSec—privatos securitatos—agency. Their armed guards known as hounds were paid one hundred greens a month by Brutari, and had assured him they would arrive within five minutes of receiving the signal.

However, when their neighbor—an old professional burglar—had tried to break into their flat and kidnap young Kier, the PriSec hounds hadn’t arrived for half an hour. Fortunately, the burglar had clearly over-estimated his abilities and was arrested by the hounds at the crime site. The next day, the old mobster was brought before the local investigator and had to pay three thousand yellow dariks.

Brutari had decided not to overbid the investigator’s decision, but to ensure that the cocky kidnapper didn’t come back home by shooting him down that same evening. Since the corporal was the count’s henchman, he had the right to ignore prejudicial inquiries held by special investigators and instead come directly to the district judge. For the murder of their neighbor, a simple, which Brutari claimed happened self-defense, the henchman paid only two thousand yellows.

This had happened thirteen years ago, when Brutari and little Kier had just arrived to New Roma. Since that time, nobody had endeavored to intrude upon their life or property.

After the door closed, Kier pulled off his green jacket (stupid school uniform!), his shirt, and his sneakers. Then he, remaining in a T-shirt and jeans, went into his room and dropped onto the soft couch. Brutari went to the kitchen in search of some food and drink.

Kier wanted neither to drink nor to eat. He was too angry and anxious after his failure at the exam.

Now I have to ask Brutari to pay the instructor and headmaster for a satisfactory mark. One thousand xerxes, no less. And we’re short on money. A month ago, Brutari said we had only three thousand yellows and about the same number of greens left from my mother’s estate.

These worries brought about thoughts of his mother, who had passed away long ago, and Kier became even gloomier. He didn’t remember her at all, as Lady Judith Vorsmith had died when her third and youngest son was only four. Brutari had told Kier that the old Count Petr, Kier’s grandfather, had murdered her. The old man was eighty at the time and suffered severely from cancer. He suspected that Judith had cheated on his only son, Ariel, and had shot her in the Vorsmiths’ family mansion. After that, he took his own life.

Kier learned of this story from Brutari when he was ten and they had already been living in New Roma for a long time. Just two years ago, on his sixteenth birthday, Brutari had finally told him all the family history.

Lady Judith had received a small legacy from her early deceased father-vor soon after she married Lord Vorsmith. According to the family legend, Judith became a hostage of terrorists in the jungles of Southern Gomorrah, where she had travelled as an ordinary tourist. Judith was a beautiful, strong, and brave woman. She’d managed to seduce the terrorist leader and then waited for the right moment to kill him. Cutting off the leader’s head, she hid it in a plastic bag and fled from the camp with this trophy. She successfully hid in the jungles of Southern Gomorrah for several days, when she met a small squadron of the Imperial Special Corps under the command of Ariel Vorsmith. He and his squad were under orders to capture the leader of the terrorists, whom had already been murdered by Judith. The Imperial authorities had set a bounty of one hundred thousand yellows for the leader’s head.

According to Brutari, the sudden appearance of a beautiful woman alone, and with the precious bounty, had made a big impression on Ariel Vorsmith.

In the end, Lord Vorsmith got both the bounty and the heroine.

Judith, once and for all, left her native city of New Athens, the capital of Western Rimland, for the sake of her husband. She then gave birth to his three sons and met her death at the early age of thirty-six.

After Judith’s death, her official bank account mysteriously went short on money. At the time, the newly-minted Count Vorsmith was actively drowning his sorrows in large portions of the family booze, and no one took notice of his late wife’s financial matters. In the telling, Kier’s mentor confessed that Lady Judith had secretly transferred fifty thousand dariks to the account of a bogus company several months before her death. Only Brutari had access to this bank account.

At sixteen, the story had really shocked Kier. He had supposed that his allowance had been provided by his father. In reality, the administrative department of the Count Vorsmith transferred only five hundred green xerxes a month to Brutari’s official bank account.

Kier was further shocked when, after some reflection, he realized that his granddad’s infidelity suspicions were not the insane fantasies of an old geezer. His mother, Lady Judith Vorsmith, had cheated on her husband. And not with just anyone, but with Brutari. For a moment, Kier even thought that Brutari was his real father. However, the genetic test, which by the emperor’s decree was compulsory for all the closest relatives of the ruling counts, excluded such a possibility. Kier was proven to be Ariel Vorsmith’s offspring. However, the count made it clear that he didn’t love his youngest son. Kier’s elder brothers, Petr and Mark, had graduated from posh private schools for the vor children, and had been participating in the affairs of the county for a long time. Kier, on the other hand, had been exiled to New Roma with Brutari and was studying in a general state school for simples. During all these years, the count had never contacted his son on comm-net. Brutari, for all purposes, had become the father of the youngest Vorsmith and, as Kier conceded, it was for the better.

You need to eat something, my lord, Brutari said. He soundlessly came up to Kier on the couch.

The youth wanted to brush off his annoying concern, but arguing with Brutari was generally useless. Kier shuffled off to the bathroom, and then to the dwarfish kitchen where he was met by the habitual mountain of dirty dishes and empty beer bottles.

The cleaning of the kitchen—and the flat in general—was the duty of Elena, Brutari’s daughter. She was Kier’s age and enrolled at the same school. According to the corporal, Elena’s mother had died soon after their daughter’s birth, and he’d brought her up on his own. It soon became obvious that housekeeping was not Elena’s calling, and she was in blunt agreement about this assessment. Thus, dust, dirt, and general mess became a common feature of their indoor landscape. From time to time, her father gave Elena a roasting for the dirty dishes and clothes, but his efforts never were successful in producing any change in her. More than once, Elena suggested he hire a maid, but each time Brutari refused, saying it was a matter of security. However, it was more a matter of saving money.

Kier himself loathed housekeeping and everything connected to it, preferring not to even discuss the subject.

With a great effort, he rummaged through the kitchen and found a clean plate, then put a soft bun, a pickle, and several slices of delicious ham from the old fridge on it. He also took an unfinished bottle of red wine, as well as a silver fork and a heavy goblet made of strong dark glass. Kier put his feast on a small plastic table with wheels and dragged it to his room.

Aristocrat’s nooning, he thought with irony.

Meanwhile, grumbling under his breath, Brutari was dusting an enormous wall screen. He had hung his well-worn jacket on the back of a chair, but still wore the holster holding the gun and other weapons.

Kier dropped onto the couch again, poured half a glass of wine and greedily drank it. Brutari stared at his ward, but said nothing. At last, finished with cleaning the screen, the corporal threw down the dusty cloth and activated the television mode through the comm-net.

… and also, free evacuation to the auto impound! a cheerful voice instantly said from the wall dynamics. Brutari grimaced, sat on a chair and switched the channel with a remote. He was unlucky again. The same cheerful voice continued, Insurance company …

One side of Brutari’s mouth gave a few nervous jerks.

The corporal seems to get annoyed quite often at nothing, thought Kier, noticing the twitch from where he lay on the couch. Having drunk the wine on an empty stomach, he felt dizzy, so he helped himself to a pickle.

Brutari continued playing with the remote, and eventually the image cleared up on the TV channel owned by the private information company, Vorduck. There was news. Another explosion up in Northern Gomorrah, this time in front of the residence of an out-satrap in New Babylon. Cameras had recorded the terrorist sneaking into the counseling office of the out-satrap of the westernmost province of the Empire. The images revealed a tall, thin man, wearing a black hoodie. The follow-scanners spotted danger, but as the guardians were taking out their weapons, the man put both hands somewhere under his hoodie. There was an explosion. The screen showed the bodies of numerous supplicant-simples, who had been waiting in the anteroom, and who were now victims of the terrorist attack.

Then, with a background of fussing blue-uniformed subordinates, the boss-general of the regional headquarters of the Imperial Security Service appeared. He announced that the out-satrap of Northern Island, as the Imperial authorities officially referred to rebellious Northern Gomorrah, had not been harmed. The responsibility for the terroristic act was habitually laid upon the elusive head of the Gomorrian underground, known as Mister Lemen. The screen showed a glimpse of the Empire’s main terrorist as a morose, dusky face with dark, slightly slanted eyes.

Interesting. Why do outs never appear on the screen? The sudden thought popped into Kier’s head. The satrap of Northern Island has nearly been blown up and he delegated the announcement to his ImpSec dog. Come to think of it, none of the outs’ faces, except for Prime Minister Dwarfin and Emperor Darius III, are known to the majority of the population. And even those two are only known from videos.

Having finished with Gomorrian terrorists and other news, Vorduck started broadcasting some nerdy talk show about the moral upbringing of youngsters. As if to confirm Kier’s thoughts, they showed a fragment of one of the emperor’s speeches. Darius III—a pale-faced, silver-haired old man—was sitting on the throne in a purple mantle while fervently blaming libertines and pedophiles. Then the well-groomed spokesman of the talk show added something about the horrors of teenage sex and the benefits of sexual continence before a marriage and how that was blessed by the gods. By that time, Kier had eaten his dinner and was feeling an irrepressible urge to sleep.

Chapter 2


Kier woke up to a sharp signal issuing from the wall dynamics. When he had fallen asleep, Brutari had switched the screen to sleep mode before going to his room. But now an image appeared in the lower right portion of the screen and the sharp signal sounded again.

For a moment Kier tightened, not fully awake, but then he relaxed.

Elena has arrived. The thought floated by, soon followed by another. It’s good she passed physical training exam yesterday with the rest of the girls and hasn’t seen

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