| The Gladiator |
POD: Mid-20th Century
Earliest Known POD: October-November, 1962
|Type of Appearance:||Direct POV|
|Nationality:||Italian People's Republic|
|Date of Birth:||ca. 2081|
|Relatives:|| Cristoforo Mazzilli (father) |
Bella Mazzilli (mother)
|Affiliations:|| Hoxha Polytechnic,|
The Gladiator store
Gianfranco Mazzilli (b ca. 2081) was a 16-year-old Milanese boy who attended Hoxha Polytechnic. Although he struggled to be an average student, his real passion was playing games at The Gladiator, a store in Milan's Galleria degli Popoli. His favorite game was Rails across Europe, which allowed him to pretend he is a railroad magnate in the nineteenth century.
Gianfranco's father was Cristoforo Mazzilli, an apparatchik in the Milanese bureaucracy and a reasonably influential member of the Italian Communist Party. They lived on the same floor and shared a kitchen and bathroom with the Crosetti family, whose daughter, Annarita was a year ahead of Gianfranco at school.
As Gianfranco became a better gamer, he noticed he was able to relate his schoolwork to the game, and so understand it. His grades began to improve. He even learned that his algebra teacher, Comrade Donofrio, was an avid player.
Like most patrons of The Gladiator, Gianfranco was puzzled about the source of the games the store sold. His attempts to gain information from store clerk Eduardo Caruso were thwarted by the clerk's caginess. Still, Gianfranco needled Caruso, often thoughtlessly suggesting that perhaps The Gladiator was designed to quietly teach capitalist notions.
However, Gianfranco's vague suspicions were proven correct when he arrived at the store one day and found it closed. This event came right after the Italian Security Police shut down The Conductor's Cap in Rome. Gianfranco realized that The Gladiator had been a related store, and had been engaged in disseminating capitalism.
The day after the store closed, Gianfranco returned, hoping to find it open. Instead, he encountered officers of the Security Police (one of whom knew Gianfranco's father), who immediately grilled him about his connections to the store and its employees. Gianfranco was careful to play dumb, acting surprised and confused by the idea that the games had an ideological component. Upon returning to his apartment building, he found Eduardo Caruso waiting for him. Gianfranco decided to help Caruso, and enlisted Annarita. She in turn enlisted her father, who agreed to provide Caruso safe haven. After Caruso created a disguise, he shared his secret with Gianfranco and Annarita: he was actually a traveler from another timeline. He worked for a company called Crosstime Traffic, which had opened The Gladiator with the specific intention of infiltrating capitalist ideas into their world. The Crosettis agreed to shelter Caruso until he could get to San Marino, where Crosstime Traffic maintained another shop called The Three Sixes.
With this secret shared between them, Gianfranco and Annarita began spending more time together socially. Romance bloomed. Gianfranco continued to improve in his studies, rising above the mediocrity he'd been content to wallow in before Rails across Europe. His imagination was also fired by Eduardo Caruso's descriptions of his own timeline, and Gianfranco began longing for some of the freedoms Caruso enjoyed.
Both youths were pleased to come home one day and discover that the elevator in their building, broken for as long as anyone could remember, was finally being repaired. They had a few words with the repairmen, Rocco and Giulio, who did their job and left. However, as Annarita thought about it, it occurred to her that the repairmen, from a company called By the Arch Repairs, headquartered in Rimini, might have been Crosstime employees.
In the summer, after school was out, both the Mazzillis and the Crosettis (Eduardo Caruso in tow) headed to Rimini for a vacation. This allowed Annarita, Gianfranco and Eduardo to slip over to San Marino. Unfortunately, after a brief exchange with the employees of The Three Sixes, Caruso realized that the store had already fallen into the Security Police's hands.
Annarita directed Caruso to By the Arch Repairs. Here, Caruso was able to connect with Rocco and Giulio. While they were glad to find someone else from their timeline, they still had the problem of how to get home: the transporter was still hidden in The Three Sixes.
The Crosstimers, Annarita and Gianfranco decided that the best way to get into the store was to get the Security Police out. Knowing how fiercely San Marino defended its autonomy, Gianfranco informed his father that Three Sixes was spreading capitalism. Cristoforo Mazzilli brought this to the attention of the Sammarinese police. The Mazzillis and Annarita returned to the store with two Sammarinese officers. This blew the cover of the Italian Security Police, who were angered at the upstart Sammarinese officials. In turn, the Sammarinese were angered that their country's sovereignty had been so boldly violated by Italy.
In the confusion, the Crosstimers, who'd been "browsing" in the store, were supposed to sneak into the basement and escape. However, their presence was noted. When the Sammarinese moved to arrest them, Eduardo took Gianfranco "hostage". The Crosstimers and Gianfranco fled into the basement and transported back to the home timeline.
By bringing Gianfranco with them, Eduardo had violated company rules. Gianfranco was kept in the home timeline for a brief period while the company's bureaucracy ran its course. Gianfranco's exposure to the home timeline was minimal. Nonetheless, what he saw met most of his expectations.
After a few days, Gianfranco was given a treatment that would help him resist Security Police interrogation, and sent back to his world via the chamber beneath The Gladiator. He returned home, to the joy of his parents (and to the relief of the Crosettis). After briefly being questioned by the Security Police, and a second trip to San Marino, life returned to normal.
When the school year started, he and Annarita learned that a new bookstore was opening where The Gladiator had been.