• Published 1st Jan 2018
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Between Arstotzka and Equestria: Papers, Please - A_Storyteller



The border between Arstotzka and Equestria opens. Will these two words be able to coexist? And...How much can the events be influenced by the decisions of a simple checkpoint's Inspector? - A crossover between "Papers, Please" and MLP

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Prologue: the new Inspector

12 October, 1983

The Truth of Arstotzka

Communication with a Parallel World! Frontier opening in One Week!

Just two months have passed since the discovery of another universe inhabited by non-human beings, but the curiosity and the desire of knowing better this new reality already reached the hearts of everybody. The relations between the chiefs of our Great Arstotzkan State and the representatives for the parallel universe began in a tense atmosphere that, fortunately, became more friendly and relaxed. Today, during a press conference, the Minister of Admission announced, with considerable enthusiasm, that the Great State of Arstotzka had reached an agreement with the Holy Princess Celestia, to create a line of communication between our two worlds, in order to establish trade routes, information exchanges and transit of citizens; this will bring more prosperity and power to both our worlds.
Workers from both sides are making huge efforts to prepare the checkpoints, from which all will be able to walk between our worlds; within two weeks, it will be possible to travel from Orvech Vonor to Canterlot, the Capital of Equestria.
The October Labour Lottery will determine which citizens will have the honour to serve our Great State by working at the checkpoint.

Glory to Arstotzka.

********

23 October, 1983

“The wind is blowing strong tonight.”

These words broke the heavy silence in the room, as the hand of a middle aged man swiftly moved to strike a match upon the nearest wall, giving life to the little blue flame that would allow him to light his little white cigarette. Calmly, the man took a deep drag from it, closing his eyes for a moment as he savoured the smoke in his lungs. He was still for a long moment, focusing his attention on the full, bright moon beyond the confines of the room, before exhaling, casting a cloud of smoke that surrounded his face.

“I can only hope that tomorrow will be better.” He added, flicking the lit match to extinguish the flame.

He was not alone in the room. The walls and floor were bare but for a worm-eaten wooden table, surrounded by four chairs; some shelves with various ornaments on them, a metallic heater, various paintings and a ragged and moth-eaten couch. The moonlight that streamed through the windows was barely enough the outline the man...and his companion, huddled on the couch.

“The weather here matches the hole we're living in…” The voice was old, as old as its owner. Despite the noticeable shaking and the cracking voice, it was still recognisably female. With a huge effort, she stood up, letting fall the warm blanket that was covering her and revealing the vaguely white garment that she was wearing to cover her thin body, “...Simply disgusting!” Slowly she began to make her way over to the cheap, metallic heater placed (inconveniently) in the middle of the room.

Reaching her destination, the old lady stretched out her arms and spread her palms as if she wanted to absorb all the warmth from the room’s only heat source. “Clouds and cold...Orvech Vonor is famous for these two features...and for that horrible herb-flavoured vodka that they sell in Arstotzka.” She said, making it perfectly clear how much she was annoyed by that place, by that night and by the flavour of the cigarette that was invading the room “And put that thing out. I think you’ve already cut a few months off what’s left of my life,” She chuckled humorlessly. “Never mind what it’s doing to yours.”

“I found the Orvech vodka strong and tasty.” The man replied, his mouth quirked into a slight smirk, before he took another long drag from his cigarette, blowing away a little cloud of smoke from his slim mouth. “Even though it is not nearly as potent as this.” He toyed with it, rolling the smouldering paper between his fingers. “You should try it too,” He said, smiling again as the expression of his interlocutor quickly became sour, before focusing again on the view offered by the window; his attention was attracted by some tall trees, high upon a distant hillock that, buffeted by the strong wind, were moving their peaks from left to right with a regular rhythm, as if they were all big metronomes beating the time for a musician. “Anyway, we have to get used to all of this,” The man added, facing the old woman with his right hand clasped upon his forehead in a salute. “The Great State of Arstotzka requires our presence here...Glory to Arstotzka, that we may continue to be allowed to eat...and to live.”

“Bah!” The old woman grumbled, bowing her head. “This isn’t living…” She turned, her eyes falling upon an old photo placed on a wooden shelf, depicting four people happily eating under an apple tree in a park in Grestin. “This city is just so sad...like this apartment...and like your bald head! You should cover it up. A man deserving this title should have hairs and a beard.”

He raised his eyebrows. “Don't complain, Katia.” He said, looking carefully at his mother-in-law. The cigarette dropped from his fingers, the embers on its tip glowing as brightly as a falling star, before coming to earth beneath his boot heel. “Just yesterday I had to smuggle liquors in Nirsk to earn enough money to buy food. Every day risking being caught by the police and thrown in a cell...and we know how prisons work in our country.” He smiled, bitterly. “At least now I have a legal job...and now we live in a Class 8 apartment, a better place than our previous house.”

“Young man,” The woman’s slim index finger rose, almost accusingly. “We lived happily there for a long time.” She admonished somberly.

He gave his shoulder to her for a moment, his expression dark. His eyes fixed upon the photo, before he sighed and laid a hand on the woman’s shoulder. “Maybe those happy memories are one of the few things we can agree on.”

“Perhaps.” Her expression twisted into something resembling a smile for a moment. “I do not like your new job. Working on a frontier to a new universe...bah!” She grimaced. “This will all end in tragedy, I know it. History has already proven that.”

“Is a job like any other.” Hektor replied, shrugging. “And it can't be more dangerous that being a smuggler in Arstotzka, yes?” He added, before lapsing into silence, thinking about their situation without even noticing that Katia was holding his hand, “Besides, I can take care of myself...speaking about the job.” He suddenly said giving a quick look at the old clock on the wall, “I think it's time to go to bed...I must be ready and vigilant for the first day of work.”

He reached slowly the door of his room and, before opening it, he turned back to his mother-in-law, “Do you want a hand to lift you up?”

“I want to sleep here, close to the heater and close to...them.” She said with sadness while looking at the photo, covering herself with the heavy woolen blanket she had left on the floor before.

“All right...goodnight, old woman.”

“Goodnight, young man.”

Before going to bed, the man took from the pocket of his jacket the letter sent to him just few days ago; the red stylized eagle with its spread wings, the symbol of Arstotzka, had only heightened his trepidation for its contents. He looked for the umpteenth time at what was written on it, almost as if he was feeling not really conscious of the real meaning of its contents:

Mr Hektor Popov,

You have been selected in the October Labor Lottery to serve the Great State of Arstotzka.
For placement, visit the Ministry of Admissions at Orvech Vonor at exactly 06:00 hours of the 24th of October.
An apartment will be provided for you and your family in Orvech Vonor. Expect a Class 8 dwelling.

Glory to Arstotzka.

“What shall the future hold for me, my dear Sarah?” He said, staring at the roof for a moment before preparing himself to sleep.

********

24 October, 1983

The Truth of Arstotzka

Checkpoint for the Parallel Universe opens Today

Today is a glorious day for all Arstotzka; today, the passage to Equestria will open on both sides. Everybody is waiting to see what the inhabitants of this new world will look like. The press office of the Ministry of Admission released the following declaration:
Due to some "side effects" of the travel, people visiting the other world will experience a change of their body, becoming a member of the species living in the parallel universe they most closely represent and, as specified from one of the main representatives of Equestria, the Princess Twilight of Sparkle, their mind and behaviour will change accordingly.
The Arstotzkan ambassadors said that it's a very strange sensation but, at the same time, they ensure that there are no known side effects.
A huge line is expected outside the Orvech Vonor checkpoint, where at 07:00 hours the doors to the parallel universe will open. Somebody ...

********

Suddenly, while Hektor was reading the main article of the newspaper, the office door of the high official of the Ministry of Admissions opened with a startling bang. Hektor glanced up from his newspaper to see an Arstotzkan officer looming over his paper.

“Mr. Popov, I presume?” The tall, blonde officer said with a cold, yet cordial voice. “Please, come in. I have been waiting for you.”

The man spun on his heel and strode away, leaving Hektor to drop his paper and scurry along in the tall man’s wake. He knew from experience that it was best not to keep the Arstotzkan officers waiting. He was led inside the office, a flat room with gray walls with a desk and some wooden furnitures places near the walls to store documents. As Hektor closed the door behind himself, the attention fell on the only objects that gave some color to the place: some gold plaques placed on the wall behind the other man that, from a quick first view, represented some kind of official recognition of service.

Following the indication of the officer, he sat down on an uncomfortable wooden chair facing the officer’s desk. The officer, with slow and careful movements, sat in front of him.

“Well, well.” He said, a friendly smile on his pale, shaved face. “First of all, allow me to present you my compliments for the punctuality and, of course, the best of luck for your new occupation.” The blonde man paused for a moment to take a little, white package from which he took two cigarettes: one for himself, the other for Hektor, who accepted with great pleasure.

“I can see from your expression that you’re not relaxed at all, that's no good...” The officer said, shaking a little his head while putting the package back into the breast pocket of his standard-issue grey jacket. “The ones who'll come to your checkpoint must see calm, patience and cordiality...when I, Konstant Varusov, look at checkpoint inspectors, I want to see these kind of attributes.”

“Sorry for that, High Officer,” Hektor mumbled, lighting the cigarette with a match, “I'll try to better control my emotions and, of course, I'll do my job as precisely and carefully as possible. I know that Arstotzka is counting on me”.

“Indeed, Mr. Popov,” said the other man, smiling at those words while caressing his little chin, “I hope you'll serve our country as deserved. Now, follow me” he added, standing up, “I'll fill you in with all the details.”

They walked down a long corridor to reach another room; a bright, red -Authorized Employees Only- sign was present on the door. “While we take what we need, allow me to explain to you your tasks.” With a calm tone, he began to speak with a certain self-assurance of his authority, “As you surely read on all the newspapers, today Arstotzka and Equestria will open their checkpoints and people will be allowed to travel between both worlds.” He stayed silent for some moments, looking at some papers he found in the office; during these short moments, Hektor caressed his freshly defined brown beard, refined for the occasion, while trying to follow the movements of the Inspector.
“As written on the treaty signed from the representatives of both nations, we have to control people who will try to reach Equestria from our side; they, on the other hand, will do the same in their territory...personally, I think that it was better to control who will try to enter our nation instead, but their Queen, this Celestia, said that she prefer to control hers own citizen and vice-versa and our leaders agreed to this request...I don't know why, but who am I to judge? And, to be honest, I wonder which kind of nation can have a female leader.” He suddenly stopped to reach Hektor, giving him two envelopes: one with the symbol of Arstotzka, the other with some kind of strange stamp on it, depicting a stylized white unicorn head wrapped by two large wings “curious about their contents, eh? You'll read them later. Now follow me to the dressing room, I’m not finished explaining.”

Hektor walked slowly behind Varusov, putting the two envelopes in the inside pocket of the jacket. He didn't care about the nation and about the service he was going to offer to the ‘Great State of Arstotzka’; he wanted just to be able to bring back enough money to pay the rent, to buy food and coal for the heater and, if everything would go well, to buy a bottle of that vodka his mother-in-law despises so much. All the things about ‘serving the country’ and ‘be thankful to Arstotzka’ he couldn’t care less about, but he decided to keep this opinion to himself, he didn’t want to get himself into trouble with the snooty Inspector so soon into his new job.

With the mind so focused on these thoughts, Hektor didn't realize that he was already in the dressing room “There,” the Inspector said aloud, attracting his attention, “Do not distract yourself! We need focused people out there.”

Varusov gave Hektor a large sack containing the official Arstotzkan border guard uniform.. “From now on, this jacket and these trousers will become your new skin. The symbol of our Great Arstotzka must be clean and visible because you…” He jabbed his finger in Hektor's direction, “... you will represent our Great Nation.” The blonde man suddenly brought his right hand to his heart, his expression solemn. “Do not disappoint us!”

“I will not!” Hektor said firmly, imitating all the movements, smirking as the pompous officer turned away from him.

“Now dress as fast as possible. We have a transport ready for you once you are ready,,” Varusov ordered, “and as you can see from the clock, there is not much time left and a delay in the first day would be an huge blow for Arstotzka...and for you.” he added, smiling a little.

Realizing the situation, Hektor dressed as fast as he could, thanking his luck when he saw that everything fitted perfectly, even the shapka with the red eagle in the middle, thoughying that, at least, his head will stay warm. He then took the two envelopes from his jacket to put then in a pocket of his new trousers, before giving a nod with his head to Varusov, letting him know that he was ready.

“Good.” The blonde man replied, lighting another cigarette, “Now, put your uniform in the sack and bring it with you. Starting from tomorrow, you'll reach the checkpoint already prepared for working. Now go, read the letters and serve the nation well.” With a resolute expression, Varusov saluted Hector, beating his fist on his chest“Glory to Arstotzka.”

“Glory to Arstotzka!” replied Hektor, saluting in the same way before leaving.

*****

When Hektor reached the checkpoint his eyes immediately focused on the huge line of people. Everybody were waiting for minutes, maybe for hours, for the chance of crossing this new passage to an unknown world. There were men, women, children and old people from every country he knew...and from far away countries too, judging from their dresses and from their appearance.

He walked slowly looking at the ground beneath his feet, trying to avoid all the eyes that, in that moment, were pointing at him. After a while he reached his destination: a booth made of iron and concrete, the only passage that could allow somebody to pass the giant concrete wall built to protect the passage to the parallel universe. While walking, he tried to light a match, but the freezing wind extinguished match even as he brought it to his lips. Focusing on what he was doing, he didn't realize that he was next to the door of the booth...and that a guard was pointing his rifle toward him.

“Freeze!” He said aloud with a menacing tone of voice, focusing the attention of Hektor and of all the people standing in line, “Go back in the line or I'll have to shoot you where you stand!”

“With this temperature, I will freeze for sure, I don't need an order to do that,” Hektor replied sincerely, throwing away the match he was trying to light. “Anyway...accept my excuses for coming near you without saying anything,” he added, adjusting the shapka with the Arstotzkan symbol on it, “My name is Hektor Popov. I work here.”

“The border inspector...I see,” the guard growled, without laying down the weapon, Show me the documents. Prove what you say...and do it slowly.”

Understanding the situation, Hektor calmly took the two envelopes from the pocket of his jacket, giving them to the guard. “These are for you, not for me,” the guard lowered his weapon, “Only the inspector can have these papers, I don't need to check them. I'll open the door for you...from now on, I'll guarantee the safety of the checkpoint...and your safety too, of course.”

He opened the door with a key swiftly taken from his pocket “You should look at the line...everybody has been waiting a long time for you,” he said, pointing to the mob, “I think that this first day will not be easy at all.”

Hektor’s brown eyes surveyed the crowd for a moment. “I hope you're wrong,” he replied, pushing open the steel door of the bunker, “In any case, you're here to solve problems, yes?”

“I'm paid to solve them,” the guard smirked, “but do try to not cause them.”

“I'll try” Hektor nodded to the guard before closing the door behind him with a clang.

The booth was, strangely, warm...at least, warmer than expected.

The space was small: the working place was big enough for one or two persons and there were just a wooden chair and a desk with a lot of stuff on, of which he wasn't able to ascertain the usefulness. A door with the sign Bathroom was present in the room “The first useful thing I see here.” Hektor murmured. A small clock under the desk showed him that there were 20 minutes before the opening time, so he seated on the chair and, with a swift movement, he opened the two envelopes received from the High Inspector.

The first he read was the one with the Arstotzkan mark; it was written with an excellent typing machine, as he could see from the vividly black letters printed on the paper.

Inspector,

Today it's important to see how people will behave and ensure there will be no public order problems.

As written in the treaty with Equestria, today only Arstotzkan and Equestrian citizens will be allowed to pass; this law will be strictly applied from both sides of the border, so don't make mistakes.

As you can see, we mention “Equestrians”, too; we can't in fact deny the possibility of Equestrians coming here to see the our Great Nation just for a day, so we decided to give them this chance. If one of their citizen will show up, the photo on their passport will not be a decisive factor for the approval of their visa, as their features change when they come to our world.

Deny people from other nations and approve only people with a valid passport; our date is the same of the date in Equestria, so there are no differences to consider in checking the validity of the documents.

Your pay will be determined from the number of people processed.

Under your desk you'll find a drawer with a Rule Book and the instructions to use all the equipment you'll find in your working place.

Do not disappoint us.

Glory to Arstotzka.

Ministry of Admissions

Hektor read the letter, focusing on every word that filled the white paper, sounding the words out noiselessly with furious concentration. When he reached the bottom, he looked up, noticing the drawer mentioned, and pulling the book from inside, not before throwing away the letter “his will be more useful.” he said.

The watch hands showed that there were just 10 minutes left before the start...enough time to read the contents of the second letter.

It was very different from the previous one: the paper was made of a particular material, as the bright white color of it showed, and it was handwritten from someone with a clear, beautiful calligraphy. Hektor was surprised by the style of the writing and, above all, from the content of the letter.

Good Morning Inspector,

I want to present to you my deepest thanks for the service you'll provide to the nation I represent; even if you are working for your country, you are here to stop unauthorized and villainous characters from sneaking into Equestria.

I hope that our two worlds will live in peace and that no problems will emerge from the contact between us; if something goes wrong, please inform me, especially if it was one of my little ponies.

We have a lot to learn from your culture and we're ready to offer all our knowledge to you, in an exchange that will allow both our civilizations to better understand our situation and to prosper.

It's my deep desire to wish you the best of luck for your new job.

Please, have a nice day. I hope to be able to write to you again.

Best regards
Princess Celestia

P.S. Just “Princess Celestia”. I know that the representatives of Arstotzka gave me another title, but I think it's too long and it doesn't quite suit me.

“She seems a good leader,” Hektor had been honestly surprised by the letter. “Such nice words even if she doesn't know me...maybe these Equestrians are not bad.” he added, before realizing that he had one minute left before the opening “Damn! I didn't read the Rule Book at all...I'll have to do that during the working hours.”

He waited to see the watch hands of the clock under the desks moving...7 o'clock. “Let's do this!” He said, opening the grate with a lever. He checked his jacket and his fur hat, then he took a deep breath before speaking at the microphone

“THE CHECKPOINT TO EQUESTRIA HAS OPENED. HAVE YOUR DOCUMENTS READY AND RESPECT THE LINE.”

<<That wasn't too hard.>> Hektor thought while an old lady covered by a light brown fur coat came in, holding in her hand a bright green passport. When she stood in front of Hektor, she remained silent, waiting for a signal.

He remained silent for some seconds, gathering his thoughts before saying, with a clear and decisive voice, the two words that would become for him a real mantra:

“Papers, please.”

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