Major Istsbo Tōakenkyūjo, originally from Takao Prefecture, was the highest-ranking officer to have survived on Araido Island after sea routes to the Home Islands had been severed and the resultant starvation and typhus outbreaks. His radio transceiver had received news of the Soviet offensive as well as the Emperor’s speech to the nation, but the authenticity of either was unclear.

It was evident enough that the Soviets were up to something, as their minesweepers had been active in the strait between Kamchatka and Ariado, even straying into Japanese waters. Maj. Tōakenkyūjo’s orders, inherited from the deceased Col. Oyakoba, were also clear: Araido Island was to be held for the Emperor at any cost.

During long and restless nights, Maj. Tōakenkyūjo and what remained of his staff had listened to tales from Private Tadashi, the unit’s Ainu translator. According to Tadashi, Araido Island had once been a peak on mainland Kamchatka, until the neighboring mountains grew jealous of its beauty and cast it to the sea. That, he said, explained the island’s perfect appearance, which Ito Osamu had compared very favorably to Mt. Fuji, as well as the existence of Lake Kurile in Kamchatka–the hole that had been left behind.

Maj. Tōakenkyūjo was faced with a choice: defile the ancient and perfect peak with battle, or defile the Empire with surrender. Surviving accounts testify that he grappled with the problem for days on end in early August, 1945, before coming to a unique and unprecedented conclusion.

This post is part of the November 2011 Blog Chain at Absolute Write. This month’s challenge is a back cover blurb from a book you have written or would like to write.

The early 1980’s: the depths of the Cold War. The Soviet Union has never been stronger.

Yet there are cracks in its monolithic facade in the form of a group of young anti-nuclear activists. Roman Korovin: the brains, a dedicated revolutionary with very personal reasons for acting against the “demon atom.” Mirya Meloa: the beauty, a deadly fighter and skilled propagandist inflamed with passion for the cause. Vasily Albanov: the brawn, and ex-KGB forger with a penchant for bad jokes. Together, they seek to create a Soviet utopia free of nuclear power…through sabotage.

But when a mission goes awry the three find the full resources of the Soviet state arrayed against them, from an aging despotic general secretary to a ruthlessly efficient KGB major. When one of the revolutionaries inexplicably goes wild and begins cutting a bloody path to the heart of the regime’s terrible secrets, the activists are caught up in an unfolding plot which threatens not only the survival of their country but the future of the human race. The stage is set for a confrontation that will shake the state to its foundations.

“Tunguska Butterfly” is a tale of the Weird East, mixing a dash of real history with intrigue and science fiction in an adventure that stretches from the dreary heart of the USSR to the poisoned steppes of Central Asia.

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“He said he saw something, in the heart of the reactor, just before the meltdown,” Valerian said. His eyes seemed to grow cloudy with the weight of remembrance.

It was painful to even hear those words, after what had happened in the Ukraine. “What did he see?” Vasily asked, trying not to let his voice crack.

“Captain Lebedev…he’d gone aboard to try and stop Berenty, to try and leave the rest of us a way off of this rock. We were in radio contact the entire time. There was so much static…so much gunfire…it was hard to understand, hard to make out.”

“Uncle Valerian…what did the captain say he saw?” Vasily pressed.

“I thought I heard Petr Ulyanovich say that he could see into the pod the Elbrus IV had constructed, into the heart of its design. Something even that snake Berenty couldn’t conceive.”


“The captain said he saw a young girl. Not unlike his wife when she had been a young woman. It was the last thing he ever spoke of.”

This post is part of the May Blog Chain at Absolute Write. This month’s challenge is to show a character’s approach to relationships in a short scene.

In a corner of Sasha’s basement, Mirya was sorting a pile of hand-typed literature into piles for distribution when Vasily found her. “So,” he said. “Why did the Siberian buy a refrigerator in winter?”

“Because, as a Soviet-made appliance, it was prone to overheating,” Mirya said.

“Close! Since it was -20 outside and -10 in the fridge, it was the warmest place in his igloo!”

“Very funny,” Mirya said.

“Where’s that revolutionary idealist of yours off to?” Vasily asked, pulling up a chair.

“He’s got a meeting with our sponsor,” Mirya said.

“We have a sponsor now?” Vasily said. “I’m not sure I like what I’m learning about this job after the fact.”

“I was completely honest when you came begging for work,” Mirya said, sticking out her tongue. “Wanted: ex-KGB agent to forge official-looking documents in service of sabotage, revolution, and other acts of all-around hooliganism. Well-adjusted individuals with no penchant for telling corny jokes need not apply.”

“Nothing in there about a sponsor,” Vasily said. “I have to report you for misrepresentation.”

Mirya crossed her arms. “Trying to keep me from getting work done, Vasya? That wasn’t in the description either.”

“I just want to talk, Mirya,” said Vasily. “All I have to go home to is a dank corner and a shrew of a landlady, with toaster assembly to follow at work. Being here, with you…that’s the high point of my life right now.”

“Oh, stop it,” said Mirya. “Roman wouldn’t like that kind of talk. He’s very protective, you know.”

“Roman’s not here,” Vasily said.

Mirya raised her eyebrows. “And?”

Vasily sighed. “What do you see in him, Mirya?”

“You of all people should know,” she said. “He’s everything we both left home to find.”

“A lot’s changed since then,” Vasily said. “Help me out here.”

“Roman is a revolutionary, Vasya. He believes in things passionately and he’s willing to risk everything. He’s got big ideas, big plans.”

“What about me?” Vasily said. “I’m a part of his cause. Without the passes I forged and the uniforms I found, Roman would still be sitting down here passing out cheap copies of banned books.”

“Don’t you see, Vasya? Even that was something,” said Mirya. She gently took Vasily’s hand. “You being here is the best thing that’s happened to either of us in the struggle. But you’re aimless; unless there’s someone strong to lead you, you’d just sink into a rut with only a few jokes to lighten the way.”

Vasily squeezed Mirya’s hand. “You could be that someone. You’ve always been the strongest person I know, even when we were children.”

“Like when I convinced you to steal sweet potatoes from your mother’s garden? That’s not strong, Vasya. I need someone to show me the way forward, and you do too.”

Drawing closer to Mirya, Vasily dropped his voice a note. “What about just before I left for university. The attic, remember?”

Mirya blushed. “That was just us being children,” she said.

“That’s not what you said then,” Vasily said, only a few centimeters from Mirya’s face.

“Vasya, I…we…no,” Mirya said. She pulled away. “That was a mistake. It’s different now.”

“Does it have to be?”

“I need you here, Vasily,” Mirya said. “The cause needs you here. But please don’t ask me to choose. That choice was made a long time ago.”


“Please, just go.”

Vasily stood up and trudged toward the door. “The General Secretary’s son felt out of place riding to university in a limousine instead of the bus like other students,” he said over his shoulder. “The General Secretary told him ‘don’t worry, I’ll buy you a bus so you can drive it to school just like your friends!”

“Good night, Vasily,” Mirya said. She was able to suppress a smile until just after he left the room.

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“They regularly visited gymnasium physical education classes to pick out promising students, and I was plucked out of my school for tryouts before coming in at the top of their little class of gymnasts. The Soviets weren’t as bad as the East Germans in that we weren’t relentlessly doped up with anabolic steroids, but the training program was still merciless: a medal at the Olympics was a matter of national security. They altered my state records to make me seem two years older than I really was, to keep me competitive longer.”

“But it wasn’t just that–we were suddenly pulled out of obscurity into the elite, something few managed in the ‘egalitarian’ society they had at the time. My family was given an apartment near the IOC complex in Moscow, jobs, and a stipend. My father was so proud; I know because he would sometimes come to practice to watch me. Once he even bought me an ice cream afterwards, which brought the coach to our door, red-faced, the next day–we girls were on a strict diet, you see.”

“We girls had private tutors, and most of the lessons were in English–we were expected to gain mastery of the language with an American accent in hopes of romancing Yankee athletes and pumping them for information–or better yet, bringing them back as defectors. But it never came to that; I was left off the 1988 Olympic team after I sprained my ankle, and by 1992 the country had collapsed–no more apartment, no more stipend, no more team.”

“Greetings, Captain Lebedev,” the man said, without standing. “I am Colonel Grigoriy Sergeyevich Berenty, of the Second Chief Directorate. I trust that, as a military man, you know what that means.”

“I am in MORFLOT now,” Lebedev said, sitting behind his desk. “Naval affairs do not concern the merchant marine, nor do the activities of the KGB. They did once, but no longer. Please tell me why you’re here; I am a busy man. The Marshal Nedelin is to depart in one month’s time.”

“Yes, I know,” said Berenty. “Officially the vessel is to conduct oceanographic research on currents and the like. But you and I both know that is not the case; this is only a front for Project Narodnaya Volya.”

“I wouldn’t know anything about that,” said Lebedev. He uncorked a bottle from the left drawer of the desk and poured himself a glass. “Now, as I said, I am very busy. Thirty days is hardly sufficient time for my assignment.”

“New orders have been issued,” said Berenty. “You are to depart immediately.”