Play up, play up, and play the game!
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Kirov wasn't a particularly large city, even by Wallasean standards and certainly not by world standards - it was just over 150,000 people in total. Its airport was far busier than it probably warranted, and Misha never quite understood why. Was it because it was so far east? Perhaps because it was the first "major" city where long flights over the Leonine and Ingenic could land?
As he sat down at his seat and latched the gate behind him, he could hear the adjacent self-service kiosks beeping out of sync - citizens and permanent residents were already making their way through. All they had to do was scan their passport and proceed on to the baggage claim, then the customs agent who stood at the queue dedicated to Class A arrivals. He lazily marked their return ticket and waved them through - there was never an actual line for citizens.
Misha could see the horde coming up between the stanchions now, herded like sheep by a red-rope dog. This wasn't a large flight, at least not as large as usual, but it was inbound from Větrnograd on a Prekovite budget airline. All the "easy ones," as Misha thought of them, had already gone through the automated lines. There would be no Flamaguayans or Zegorans on this flight. He would need to vet everyone coming through. He sighed as he booted up his terminal.
The gaggle of travelers; most in pajamas of one sort or another, some with neon colored neck pillows draped around their shoulders, and nearly all of them with rolling hard-case luggage (triple shrink wrapped, of course, just to further frustrate the customs agents) arrived at the mouth of the queue and waited patiently to be called up to a kiosk. It was a full house today as far as Border Service agents went - whenever a flight from a country like Prekovy or Taihei came in, every kiosk was manned to keep the line moving as fast as they could, because a flight like this was always a slog.
Misha flicked the switch on his desk, lighting the beacon above his booth green. He waved at the first person in line. An airport attendant was likewise there to direct travelers. As the first arrival walked up to his booth, a pressure sensor flicked the switch back to red - ЗАНЯТО.
Without words, the young woman slid her passport across the counter. Misha picked it up, feeling it over with his hands clad in blue latex gloves. He bent it to and fro as a cursory check of its legitimacy - he did this halfheartedly; nobody in their right mind would ever travel to Saratovia on a forged Prekovite passport. Opening it to the first page, he held it up and examined the photo, comparing it to the girl standing in front of him.
"What is the purpose of your visit to Saratovia?" he asked, looking away as he scanned the passport's bar code and began filling in details on his terminal.
"Ah.... Uhm...." the girl stammered, as if not fully understanding how to answer the question, "ah..."
Misha still kept typing, half-ignoring the girl as she struggled to answer the most basic question. In an instant, her face lit up with an exaggerated expression, perhaps like a Sukarian philosopher shouting 'Eureka!' for the first time.
"Ah! Svatba!" she declared beaming with all her energy.
Misha froze. She probably imagined that she had answered in Saratovian, and he didn't speak Prekovar, but the word for marriage was more than close enough between the two languages for him to immediately understand. He cocked an eyebrow and glanced at this woman again, brought her picture up to do another comparison, this time more qualitative - she was generically pretty by Prekovar standards, blonde hair and blue eyes. She had those characteristically sharp feline features that were famous throughout the world. And she was... twenty years old. He started flipping through the passport, looking for the visa. Sure enough, the only one he found was a purple sticker with the Saratov government seal emblazoned on a holographic background, marked as "Class S" for a fiance visa.
"This chick's never even been outside Prekovy before... This is a mint passport. Mail order bride?" he muttered to himself. She obviously couldn't understand, as she was still smiling from ear to ear.
Misha grimaced. He looked up the visa number in his mainframe - she was legit. Filed six months ago by one "Gregor Voynovskii" of Rzhesk, and approved by the Saratov Immigration Agency. What in Oswin's name were they thinking? The couple must have had some convincing documents to back up the relationship, it's not like these visas were given out that easily. No matter - it wasn't Misha's job to qualify her entry into Saratovia. Her papers were in order, there were no grounds for him to reject her.
"Place your fingers on the scanner and look into the camera," he ordered matter-of-factly. She took a moment to understand, he gestured impatiently, and she complied. With her fingerprints scanned and her photo taken, a slip printed out on Misha's side.
KER-CHUNK, KER-CHUNK - the black entry stamps were the first ever in her passport. He slid the booklet and the slip across.
"That slip has a phone number on it - your fiance needs to call it when you arrive to register you at his household."
She nodded blankly. The gate on the opposite side of the kiosk opened, and she was allowed to step through. Misha hit the switch on the lamp above his kiosk.
"NEXT," he shouted, raising a gloved hand to the line and waving the next man over. He was a middle-aged gentleman who looked overly nervous. He clutched his passport with both hands out in front of his person, as if it were a child that had just soiled its diaper. Misha tapped the desk to have him slide it across.
"What's the purpose of your visit to Saratovia?"
Misha followed his usual routine - he folded it, twisted it; raised the passport to compare the photograph.
"I... My name is Elvo Kārkliņš and I wish to request asylum for myself and my family under the Minu Nationality Act of 1984," the man said with one breath, as if he had been rehearsing the line for every moment of the flight.
Misha closed his eyes, exhaled deeply through his nostrils, and swore under his breath. He knew that there had been discussion about finally sun-setting the asylum law, but it was still on the books for the foreseeable future. Almost every flight from Prekovy had one.
"It's going to be one of those Goddamned days.
"Where's your family," he demanded.
"In - in line," he stammered, pointing to a woman grasping a child by the shoulders.
Misha raised his hand and waved the man's wife and son over. The boy was perhaps only six or seven years old. He tapped the desk to have their passports handed over as well. Without words, he sat reviewing the three of them. He opened the man's passport first, and reviewed his visa. Lime green - a simple 30-day, single-entry tourist visa.
"Your wife isn't a Minu," he remarked without looking at them, reviewing the woman's passport. Elvo gulped audibly.
"My understanding of the law was that did not - "
"I didn't say it was a problem," Misha cut him off with a glare. The Minu man flinched. "I need some sort of supporting documentation. Do you have a birth certificate or something that was issued by the Minu government?"
Sure enough, the man produced an original birth certificate - GRAND DUCHY OF MINUA - not that Misha could read Minu. Elvo Kārkliņš, born April 18th, 1978. The birth date matched his Prekovite passport. Misha took it and began scanning in all their documents into the mainframe. After he was done, he crossed out their lime-green tourist visas with a black permanent marker, and affixed blue and gold stickers to them denoting a pending asylum claim. KER-CHUNK, KER-CHUNK, KER-CHUNK, KER-CHUNK, KER-CHUNK, KER-CHUNK. He slid the booklets and birth certificate back across the table, and gave them a printed slip.
"You need to call this number within seven days to confirm your case number with the Saratov Resettlement Agency. Your case worker will register you with your local police precinct. You'll need to produce your birth certificate and a signed affidavit attesting that you are, in fact, eligible under the law. I'm obligated to inform you that, if approved, you will be eligible for an expedited path to citizenship. Your son is also eligible, but your wife is not."
Elvo nodded with a growing smile - he knew he had made it through the hardest part. He began gathering up the documents to pack them and leave.
"One moment," Misha stopped him, placing a gloved hand on the passports, "Do you have relatives in Saratovia that you're staying with?"
"Yes - they're picking us up from the airport."
Misha slid a notepad and pen across the desk.
"Please - write their names, address, and phone number."
Elvo looked down at the blank pad uncertainly, then back at Misha. He nodded uneasily and began scribbling down his cousin's name and address.
"Do you need all my family?"
"No, just whomever you're staying with."
Elvo set the pen down, and slid them both back across.
"Thank you. Welcome to Saratovia."
The gate unlatched and opened, allowing the Kārkliņš to walk through. As they turned the corner, Misha tore the handwritten note from the pad and crumpled it in his hand, then tossed it into the rubbish bin below his desk. He didn't really care what anyone did after they came through his line - he just enjoyed putting an unwarranted fear of the state into people whenever he had the chance.
"NEXT," he shouted, flicking the switch again. Rinse. Repeat. Welcome to Saratovia.
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