The Great Patriotic War: Beginnings

Ossetian Military Highway, Soviet Georgia - May 22, 1940, 0400 Hours

Centurion Eric von Shrakenburg watched as the ground slowly rose up to meet him
as he swayed in his parachute. Before he had dropped too low below the horizon, he
had been able to see the lights of what appeared to be a village in the distance, some
ten klicks away from their landing site.

There had been no signs of untoward movement at all; by Freya, it looked like they'd be
able to pull this one off, dropping two entire Airborne Legions onto the vital mountain pass
that the Ossetian Military Highway ran through, so that the Russian forces in Georgia would
be isolated and destroyed by the Drakan armored spearheads rumbling past the now
destroyed border outposts from what had been known as Turkey in the west and from
the valleys of Armenia in the east.

Suddenly, Eric saw something gleaming in the moonlight, and wondered what it was. For
a few moments, he wondered what the hell it was, and then his brain clicked. He frantically
began to try and shift his weight across the parachute so he wouldn't fall onto it; he was
still sinking at a very fast clip.

A single strangled cry of "Schiesse!" was all he managed to get out before he was on top
of it, and then his world exploded in pain and he blacked out.

10 minutes later

"I've found the Centurion!" shouted Senior Decurion McWhirter as he cleared away the
brush surrounding the battered body of the young Shrakenburg lad. McWhirter tried
not to grimace as he saw what was left of the young man's right foot.

"Damned Slavs," cursed the Decurion, as he remembered the way the damned Pashtuns
in Afghanistan loved to string piano wire across main highways at night, waiting for a hapless
Draka to drive by and then loot their vehicle.

The town of Nizhniy Unal, 17 miles northwest of the Drop Zone

A racuous celebration was currently underway in the drab town of Nizhniy Unal, a few dozen
buildings that existed merely because of the Ossetian Military Highway. The workers who
maintained the highway and kept it clear of snow in the winter months had to have places
to live in, so all amongst the breadth of the innumerable military highways across the
Soviet Union, there were such towns like this.

A rotund middle aged man wearing a shabby fitting suit, looking much like a haberdasher,
except for the Party emblem on his collar, climbed to the top of a platform that had been
built the night before for the celebration, and took a deep breath.

"Thirty thousand kilometers of piano wire, comrades! We have strung up thirty thousand
kilometers of thin, near invisible piano wire covering the glens and openings of our great

"This is a momentous achievement, comrades! By order of Comrade Krasnov we are
issuing to you a gift of liquour, tobacco and chocolate!"

Even as the party boss was finishing his speech, Red Army quartermasters were bringing
in baskets filled with all sorts of material from cheap tins containing vodka to expensive
chocolate treats in fine cardboard boxes.

man. Without missing a beat, the crowd returned the roar at gale strength.

and the shout was returned as well, as the people rejoiced in the bounty before

As the man stepped down from the platform, he walked through the crowd, towards
the local party headquarters, where he had important business to take care of. Of course,
he hadn't mentioned that the reason for handing out this bounty had less to do with
the desire to reward Soviet Citizens, and more with the fact that they either had to
distribute the contents of the warehouses to the people, or else the Draka would have
them as they marched forth. The only other alternative was to destroy them.

Some had spoken for burning them, but already scorched earth was being implemented
on a large scale, so there was nothing really to lose by making the civilians more
comfortable while they waited for evacuation; or some said, prepared themselves to
be drafted en masse, depending on how the fighting went.

Opening the door to the Party HQ, he saw that the regional party leader, Georgiy
Mikhailovich Dratvin, was there. Oh shit, he thought. Had he done something
bad? Forgotten to praise Krasnov enough?

And then he noticed that it was very warm inside the offices. Much warmer than the
season could account for. The reason became apparent almost immediately as
he watched a MGB man in his bluecap walking by with a armfull of papers, towards
the fireplace, where a blazing fire was going.

Gathered around the fireplace were a dozen or so party men, MVD men, and a
bluecap or two, all throwing papers onto the fire, which was roaring like a beast,
throwing half-burnt pieces of paper into the chimney as the flames devoured
the painstakingly assembled dossiers which they had spent so much time on.

Looking around, the party hack swallowed nervously, he was a balding middle aged
man with a paunch, quite not the New Socialist Man of the papers, and he was afraid,
oh god yes, afraid. The only thing keeping him from going to pieces right then and
there was that everyone in this town was looking towards him, the local party boss,
for support.

One of the MGB men was on the phone, talking intently, and covering the mouth piece
with his hand to keep snatches of conversation from reaching the others.

All the party hack could think of was how he'd have to have a word with the women at the
telephone exchange later about what they had 'accidentally' overheard. Then the
bluecap slammed the phone down, his hand trembling softly. He walked over to
Dratvin and whispered into the Regional boss' ear.

Dratvin's eyes widened ever so slightly, and with a quaver in his voice, he spoke
to the assembled party men and security directorate personnel. "It's begun,
it's really begun..." he managed to choke out before he stopped for a moment
to compose himself.

When he had composed himself enough, he resumed speaking. "The Grand Struggle
for which the Motherland has prepared for these last twenty years has arrived! May the
spirit of Lenin and the hand of Krasnov guide us through these tumultous days ahead
of us!"

Chapter Two: The Deathride of the 542nd

[Tbilisi, Soviet Republic of Georgia - 542. Vnnutreye Voyska Tankovaya Batal'on]

"Lets go, you damned slackers!" shouted Mladshiy serzhant Anatoliy Konstantinovich
Makarenko as he kicked the sleeping tankists awake in the darkness of the night.
"The filthy snakes have invaded!" he shouted, causing everyone in the barracks who
was still half asleep to snap upright, fully awake, as they frantically began to pull on their

As his men dressed, Makarenko went back into his small living space at the head
of the barracks - every mladshiy serzhant had his own room, for they ruled the barracks
in the absence of the officers, and he began to pull on his own uniform, which had
the dark green shoulderboards and green cuff piping that denoted him as a member
of the frontier troops. Raked horizontally across the shoulderboards were the three
stripes that showed he was a mladshiy serzhant, and below that was the little bronze
tank that showed that he was a tankist.

On a peg above his bunk was the characteristic 'bluecap' which had become feared
across the Soviet Union during the Purges of the 1920s, only instead of red piping
around the brim, it was green, signifying that he was part of the frontier troops,
for in the Soviet Union, the border guards were part of the security services.

Makarenko didn't put it on this time. They weren't going to the parade ground. They
were going to war. So on instead went the padded helmet of a tankist.

Walking outside his room, he saw that his men were for the most part, ready.

"Alright, lets go!" he shouted, leading them outside to the parade ground,
where the rest of the batal'on was forming up, some 124 men, with the
addition of the 41 men he was responsible for while in barracks; standing
at attention.

Out in front of them was their commander, Podpolkovnik Sergey Stepanovitch Volkov,
pacing back and forth. When everyone was assembled and standing at attention,
Volkov came to attention and began to address them.

"Comrades of the Glorious Red Army! Just hours ago, the filthy imperialist pigdogs
began attacking the Motherland from their bases in Armenia. Losses amongst our
fellow frontier troops are heavy, and we must come to their aid!"

Volkov paused for effect. "Already, reports are coming in from Marneuli, some
thirty kilometers away, that the imperialists have reached it in batal'on strength,
and that they are being supported by a new type of tank as yet unknown by us."

"Well, they may have a new tank, but so do we, comrades! We shall show them
what red steel means!" shouted Volkov, to the enormous cheers of his men.

"Mount your tanks, comrades!" he finished, and everyone broke off to run towards
the tank park where their tanks were waiting under the harsh glare of floodlights like
primeval dinosaurs. Within minutes, the air was filled with the low rumbling noises
as their 500 bhp V-12s came to life, filling the air with their sooty exhaust.

As Volkov scrambled up the dark green hull of his command tank, he saw that
no one was moving at all, just idling in the night. Dropping into the turret, he crouched
past the breech block of the 100mm D-10T gun, and kicked the radio operator softly
with his boot to get his attention.

"What's the damned holdup, Sasha?"

Ryadovoy Aleksandr Ivanovitch Korolev threw his hands up in disgust in response.
"Comrade, we can't get out, it seems that the night watchman can not be found
and the front gate to the tank park is locked to protect from saboteurs."

"That damned drunken fool! What does he think he's doing, I'll have him shot!
Who's the closest to the gate?"

"Anatoliy, sir."

"Well, put him on for me!" ordered Volkov, and Sasha turned to his radio momentarily.
"He's on, comrade." came the reply a second later.

"Tell him he's authorized to smash that damned gate, to hell with damaging State

[Outside the tank park]

The drunken night watchman staggered step by step towards the gate, key in hand,
muttering under his breath "Damned tankists, I'll be there, I'll be there, just wait you
damn swine."

Suddenly, the sturdy wrought iron gate flew open as a black mass of irrestible force
smashed into it, sending iron and masonry flying for dozens of meters as the 48-ton
tank rolled through it like it wasn't there, followed by it's comrades, who widened the
hole in the wall each time, since no one was being particular about lining up their tanks
with the hole, after all, this was wartime, wasn't it?

[State Highway 43, Running from Tbilisi to Vanadzor, 20 kilometers from Tbilisi]

Merarch Edward Whittle watched the dust cloud rising on the horizon from the
commander's cupola of his Hond III tank, as his armored merarchy consisting of
three armored cohortarchs consisting of 30 tanks each, rumbled towards Tbilisi.

Tbilisi was one of the major strategic points of this region, taking it would
deprive the Soviet Union of the oil fields around it, and would allow them to
cut the Soviet forces in the far eastern part of Georgia off, and allow them to
be destroyed in detail.

So far, the invasion was going splendidly well, the Russian border guards had
fought hard from their well-prepared bunkers, they had inflicted severe casualties
onto the Janissary Chiliarchies that had spearheaded the assault, causing thousands
of casualties; but well, that was what the Janissaries were for; to soak up the bullets
so the Citizen Forces could deliver the coup de grace.

The few Russian tanks they had encountered had been T-31s and a few T-34s, old
models that had given the Hond IIs so much trouble four years ago, during the border
clashes in Kazakhstan, and they had quickly been dispatched by the 102mm guns
on the Hond IIIs that had been developed to outmatch the Russian 76.2mm and
85mm guns by considerable margins at combat ranges.

As the sky lightened above them as the sun began it's slow climb into the dawn sky,
Whittle spotted the cause of the dust cloud on the horizon. Russian tanks, not the
penny packets of two or three tanks being thrown against a whole cohort of 30 tanks,
but an entire cohort coming to meet them.

"Ivan's go' smar', boys," he remarked over the century's radio net, "he ain' sendin'
his tankers ot' to die by themselves no mo'; now they die en masse."

All around him, the tanks of his Merarchy organized themselves from their road march
positions to fighting positions, waiting for the Russians to enter the range of their guns.

While he waited for the inevitable battle to begin, he reached down and grabbed his
binoculars, they were good ones, fine German Zeiss optics, not the crap that Archona
churned out, and trained them on the oncoming Russian tanks.

Strange. They weren't T-31s or T-34s at all. They were something new. Vaguely, he
remembered his pre-attack briefing that said the Russians had fielded a new tank
called the KS-1 or something like that in response to the improved Hond II models
that could enage the Russian tanks at long range with their 90mm guns.

Ah well, no matter, his merarchy was mostly equipped with Hond IIIs now, the last
few Hond IIs being collected in a century for infantry support, their 75mm guns
actually being better at infantry support than the high velocity 102mm guns the
Hond IIIs carried.

Fifteen minutes later, the battle was joined when the ranges closed to within
2,000 meters, close enough for the 102mm guns to kill. All at once, the entire
merarchy fired, over a hundred tank guns firing nearly simultaneously, sending
clouds of smoke over the plain the battle was taking place on.

Watching through his binoculars, he watched as the first volley began to slam forth
amongst the Russian tanks, misses throwing up sprays of dirt, and hits being rewarded
with showers of sparks. But still the Russians kept on coming, with no losses. If
they had been T-34s, or even LT-1s, half of the tanks would be burning. Fuck.

The Drakan gunners kept on pouring shots into the Russian tanks, but still the Russians
came on, the range closed to 1,500 meters, before the first Russian tanks began to
limp out of formation, smoke and flame belching from their hatches as ammuntion cooked
off. But still they kept on coming, even as more of their number continued to come to a stop
in flaming pyres.

[KS-1 "Protector of the Motherland"]

Volkov flinched as the snake armor-piercing shells slammed into the armor of "Protector",
without effect. It had taken an act of supreme will to advance to within 1,200 meters
while under fire without returning the fire, but now they were well within the effective
kill zone of their D-10Ts. Some of the KS-1s, particularly the older models had the
122mm D-25T, would have to get closer, but for now, they were close enough. "FIRE!"
he screamed, and his gunner complied as Sasha sent the command to the other tanks
of his batal'on.

Rippling columns of flame and smoke ran through the surviving line of Russian tanks as
they finally opened fire, and seconds later, the heavy armor piercing shells began to
impact on the Hond IIIs, ripping through the 130mm of frontal armor like it wasn't there,
and setting them alight.

[Lead Hond III - "Palmeretto"]

"Freya's cunt!" cursed Whittle as he listened to the death screams of the men under his
command as the Russian shells tore into their tanks. The damned Ivans shouldn't have
tank guns powerful enough to penetrate the Hond III at this range!

Still, the cold arithimetic of war was still in their favor. Even assuming 100% losses to
each Ivan tank shell, over a hundred Hond IIIs remained against less than twenty Ivan

"Driver! Fo'ard, maximum speed!" he shouted, even as he moved the turret around
to bear on his chosen target, just under a thousand meters away. "Gunner, fire at will!"
he screamed over the noise of battle, and turned away to scan the horizon with his
cupola periscopes for a new target.

He felt the sixty-ton tank rock as the main gun fired, and was expecting the gunner to
begin moving the turret towards the target he'd designated just moments ago. Seconds
passed, and then with great annoyance, he yelled at the gunner. "What the fuc' is goin'
on you damn' slag? Did yo' miss the bahstid at this range?"

"Fuck yo'!" came the shouted response. "I hit the bahstard dead on, wit' a wolfram' round,
an' the bahstid keeps on comin'!"

"The fuc'?" shouted Whittle in disbelief as he slammed down into his seat, and peered
through his gunsight. In the center of it, surrounded by smoke and haze was the oddest
looking tank he'd ever seen. Even as he was watching it, the gunner fired again, and almost
instanteously, the shell struck the tank and simply....bounced off.

Blinking to clear his eyes, and to possibly wake himself up from this nightmare of this damn
Ivan tank that simply wouldn't fucking die, Whittle studied the tank more closely. The front
glacis wasn't flat, but was sharply flared forward coming forward to meet in something that
resembled....a pike? The turret wasn't sharp or angular like on any other tank he'd
seen before, instead the sides all sloped smoothly inwards like a frying pan.

"Keep firin' at that bahstard, we'll hit somthin' impo'tant event'ly!" ordered Whittle.

[Two Hours later]

Whittle walked up to the Russian behemoth that had withstood near point-blank
102mm fire, and carefully fingered each hole, counting them, until he had come
up with a count of fifteen solid hits that hadn't penetrated more than a centimeter
or two.

"Freya's breath! This damn'ed thing is a nightmare!" remarked his gunner, who
had finally knocked the beast out with a shell to one of the bogies, immobilizing it,
and allowing the rest of the merarchy to fill it with enough shellfire that something
had finally, finally penetrated. A bunch of them had gotten a couple of crowbars
and pried what looked like the commander's hatch open, only to be greeted by
the sight and smell of shredded meat filling the interior. Fuckit, let the technical
eggheads handle that one.

Turning away from the infernal tank, Whittle looked around and breathed in deeply,
taking in the smell of victory, which was of burning petrochemicals and flesh. All
around him, the rest of the Ivan cohort was burning, but so were too many of his
tanks; the last count was that he'd lost seventeen tanks to the Ivans, an acceptable
loss rate if it had been from a merarchy equal to his, but not from a damned cohort
that he outnumbered 4 to 1.

Muttering dark curses, Whittle walked to his tank, and signalled for the rest of his
men to form up behind him in a column. With luck, they'd be able to reach Tbilisi
before dark, and shut up those fucking infantrymen who had stopped by earlier
and gazed at the mess before them from the open roof hatches of their Hoplite II
MICVs before moving on in a cloud of dust, jeering at the tankmen who had let
a bunch of Ivans slow them down as they passed.

[KS-1 "Protector of the Motherland"]

Volkov groaned as he tried to clean off what was left of poor Sasha off himself.
The damned snake shell had hit their frontal glacis plate and gone right through
Sasha like he wasn't there, splattering him all over the crew in the process, and
spraying their driver with shrapnel, before passing between him and the gunner
burying itself in the turret wall, just below the ready ammunition stowage.

When he had recovered his wits, he'd thanked the Holy Mother that the shell
hadn't been a few centimetres higher, or else they'd all have been blown to
kingdom come.

"Nikita, I think the snakes are moving off, are you ready to move?"

Volkov's gunner, a big stocky Ukranian by the name of Nikita (everyone in
the batal'on kept bothering him about that, was he related to that kommisar
by the name of Kruschkev?) grunted, fingering his black eye painfully. Several
hours earlier, just after the shell had hit, he'd tried to escape from the tank, but
Volkov had punched him out, screaming "You fucking moron! We're on a
fucking battlefield, want to get your damned head blown off?"

"What about Sasha?"

"He's dead, comrade, leave him. We have snakes to kill." replied Volkov
as he cocked his PPSh-39. "We only have one Pepeshka, so I'll go first."

Nikita merely grunted. Let that damned Muscovite go first.

Chapter 3: The Bear Awakens


The four lane highways that had been built running through Moscow after the
Revolution were mostly empty, save for the odd car or truck. It was then with
some nervousness that the people going about their business on the sidewalks
watched as not one, but a dozen ZIL limousines came roaring down the highway,
towards the Kremlin. Several of the bystanders made the sign of the cross;
something was up; and whenever something was "up" in the Union of Soviet
Socialist Republics, that "something" was usually bad.

From the back seat of his armored limousine, Marshal Sovetskogo Souza
Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky watched as the drab architecture sped by,
block after block of dull concrete apartment blocks, interspersed with the
occasional building in the "Wedding Cake" style that Stalin had preferred when
he was Commisar of Moscow back in 1920, before his untimely death of a
heart attack.

When Stalin had dropped dead all so suddenly, it was too late for them to cancel
the buildings he had commissioned, and there was a severe housing shortage
in Moscow at the time, so up they went; Stalin's final monuments to himself.

Thankfully, they were soon beyond the building prospects on the outskirts of
Moscow and well into the old city itself; the Kremlin was only minutes away.

Inwardly Tukhachevsky wondered why he and the other Marshals had been
summoned to the Kremlin by Krasnov himself. It probably had something
to do with the reports reaching STAVKA of heavy fighting in the Military
District of Georgia.

STAVKA itself was divided along the issue over whether it was a full-scale
invasion of the Soviet Union by the Domination, or just a repeat of the border
skirmishes of 1936. At least the majority of MVD border units in Georgia had
been re-equipped with the KS-1, although there were a few T-34s still floating
around; and the brand new KS-2s had been sent down there in extremely limited
numbers, they were still testing it out at Kubinkia; but the need in Georgia had been
so great that the normal procedures had been circumvented and several dozen
sent there.

He felt the limousine begin a turn, and looking out the window, he saw the MGB
guards saluting the limousines as they passed through the gates to the Kremlin.

Looking out onto Red Square, he saw hundreds of troops being readied,
along with the few KS-1s the MGB's Kremlin Brigada had being moved to
vital locations along Red Square that would allow them to control whatever
went on with their guns.

Minutes later, they were in the underground parking garage of the Presidum,
and everyone stepped out of their limousines, which would remain for them,
engines running, until the meeting was finished.

Soon, everyone was in the elevator that would take them to the hallway outside
the President's office, and slowly the elevator began it's climb upwards. "You
know, comrades, if this damned elevator breaks, they're going to have a hard
time finding our bodies under all the gold we're wearing!" commented Marshal
Blücher, to the laughs of everyone.

Finally, after much trepidation, the creaky elevator reached the top, and the door
opened, revealing the sumptous Hall of the President, which contained the President
of the Communist Party's working offices and living quarters.

A sharp faced young Podpolkovnik wearing the uniform of the MGB saluted them. "The
President will see you now, Marshals." With that, he clicked his heels, turned around
and marched towards one of the doors and opened it.

It was with some trepidation that the four Marshals of the Soviet Union entered Ivan
Krasnov, President of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's office. Krasnov
could be...eccentric at times.

Walking into his office, they saw their worst fears confirmed. The great map case
that dominated Krasnov's office was open, and spread out upon it was a map of
the Kavkaz region, covered with small wooden blocks upon which military symbols
were engraved.

Bozemoi, not again! thought everyone. Krasnov probaby had gotten it into his
head that this was the long-awaited showdown with the Domination that he'd been
fanatically preparing for ever since he launched a coup that installed him as master
of the Soviet Union following Trotsky's death in mid-1925.

About once a year, or maybe even thrice a year in bad years, Krasnov got it into his
head that the Domination was preparing to attack the Motherland; he would claim that
since such and such unit had been moved here, or there, that it was indisputable proof
that the imperialists were about to launch an attack.

Usually, they would be called right to his office, no matter what the hour, and they would
have to talk down a furious Krasnov, who would be stomping about and frantically barking
out orders to his military aide for transmission to units all over the Soviet Union.

At least Krasnov was dressed normally, thought Tukhachevsky. A few times, they had
been summoned here at 0300 in the morning, and found Krasnov walking around in a
men's dress gown, and then he realized it. Krasnov wasn't wearing his pinstriped suit,
but instead the uniform of a Generalissimus of the Soviet Union. Oh shit went
everyone, upon realizing this.

"The Draka have attacked our motherland on multiple fronts!" shouted Krasnov as
he motioned towards a section of the map on his map case.

"Comrade President, we know about the Drakan attacks in the Kavkaz region, and
we are not sure if it's the real thing or not; you remember, they attacked us in
Kazakhstan four years ago, and you wanted to declare all out war on them, and it
turned out to be nothing but a minor border skirmish."

Krasnov had been expecting this, for his Marshals were a conservative lot; they had
commanded in the Red Army during the 1920s, and had survived the vicious power
fight between Trotsky and Stalin before Trotsky had emerged triumphant and Stalin
had been reduced to just Commisar of Moscow.

"That may be so, Comrades, but look at what has just come in on the wires!" with that,
Krasnov stabbed a finger onto a blue block that had the engravings of an airborne unit
on it. "Reports, reliable reports, mind you, have been coming in that the snakes have
landed airborne units at three specific points, and each point shares in common one

Before giving his Marshals a chance to reply, Krasnov gave them their answer. "They lie
on military roads that pass through the mountains, roads which would be vital to future
operations beyond Kavkaz!"

The Marshals all spread around the map case upon hearing that, and for several
long seconds there was complete utter silence. Finally, it was Blücher who spoke.

"Comrade President, is this confirmed? That they are landing airborne troops in
the Kavkaz?"

Krasnov nodded vigoriously. "Yes, the MVD and MGB have both confirmed it,
along with the local party bosses."

Tukhachevsky was the next to speak. "Bozemoi! Are they that stupid?"

"Apparently, yes." replied Voroshilov.

"This is no mere border skirmish," noted Blücher, tapping the airborne blocks
that represented the enemy airborne units. "Drakan airborne units are all
citizen-only, there are no janissaries in them. They are placing them into
a situation where the only choices are death or victory. Victory in their case,
can only come if there's a large scale operation underway to relieve them;
and as we all know, the Draka don't waste Citizens. They have the Janissaries
for that."

"Good thing Yegorov's down there right now," commented Voroshilov. "Yes,
he's one of our best." added Tukhachevsky.

Krasnov wasted no time in getting to the meat of the situation. "Comrades, it is
agreed then, that this is the invasion we have prepared for all these long years?"

Everyone nodded gravely.

"Well, then I must be off to inform the people of this new development, and to inform
the ambassadors here. Please, continue working on your plan to defend the Kavkaz,
I expect a plan on my desk by tomorrow, Comrades."

As Krasnov left, everyone stared at the map for several long moments. "It's finally
happening, isn't it Mikhail Nikolayevich?" remarked Büdenny.

"Yes. It's happening." replied Tukhachevsky, feeling oddly relieved at the same time.
Finally, after so much waiting, it was finally on.

[Leningradsky Prospeckt; Northwest Moscow]

Soviet citizens going about their daily business stopped doing what they were
doing to listen to the voice of their leader booming out from the loudspeakers
that had been set up for such public announcements.

In countless small villages across the Soviet Union, people huddled around the
only radio in the village, which was handcranked, and listened.

All over the world in national capitals, translators gave a real-time translation of
Krasnov's speech.

[Radio Moscow Recording Studio]

"Brothers and Sisters, the Motherland calls upon you!" shouted Krasnov as
he began the speech that would inform the Russian people of the invasion.

"Our Great Foe has struck us during the deepest peace, attacking the peaceful
people of the Soviet Union in their never ending quest for conquest!"

"Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia have taken the initial brunt of the invasion, and
in every instance, parts of them have fallen to the invader, but his attempts to
capture Tiblisi have been blunted by our glorious armed forces!"

Krasnov paused, taking a drink of water before continuing, and all over the
world, people heard the clink of ice in glass before Krasnov's voice once
again filled the airwaves.

"In his folly our foe has sought to invade the Kavkaz using a combination
of heavy armoured thrusts and airborne drops! Now he shall bleed in the
same mountains where for countless generations, peoples from all over
the world have bled!"

"He shall bleed in the mountains of a dozen people united for one
common purpose, their desire for his complete, utter destruction, and
their knowledge that it is either the victory of the Red Army or endless
slavery under the yoke!"

Again, a clink of glass and ice.

"Our foe is already reeling under the blows from our glorious forces!"

A long pregnant pause filled the airwaves.

"Yet a dark cloud hangs over our beloved Motherland! Only when she calls upon all
her valiant sons and daughters to come to her defense, and only when the whole
of the Soviet Union stands united against the aggressor, the slaver, the imperialist,
the force so dark and foul that it belongs in the very depths of Hell, shall we see
the realization of our dialectic!"

"I hear the booming voice of the people of the Soviet Union!"

"I hear them singing martial songs and mustering their forces!"

"I hear the glorious sounds of armaments being raised to defend freedom!"

"These sounds I hear are a magnificent symphony!"

"They are the music of a people that shall never again be serfs!"

All over the vast breadth of the Soviet Union, the listeners began cheering loudly.

"Against us is arrayed the bloody banner of tyranny, and for us there is only victory
or death!"

Another pause.

"Our enemy is a terrible foe, but against him stands full square the force of history
and the Soviet People, and though we must make many sacrifices in the days ahead,
ours shall be the final victory! History, military might, and the great Soviet Homeland
is on our side, our nation is large, our resources many and widespread, we shall not
be overcome!"

[American Embassy]

As the words "...we shall not be overcome!" came through the radio set, George F.
Kennan, US Ambassador to the Soviet Union, slowly shook his head.

"Those poor poor bastards," he muttered.

"Who, sir?" asked his aide, who was working on a telegram to send to Washington,
informing them of these latest developments.

"Why, the Draka, of course. Who did you think I was referring to?" replied Kennan
with a sly grin.

Suddenly, the telephone on his desk rang, and he picked it up.


"He's here?"

"What for?"

"Why yes, I'll see him, send him in"

The door to the ambassador's office opened, and in walked the Soviet Foreign Minister,
Alexander Shlyapnikov, one of the old hands of the February Revolution, and now Foreign
Minister under Ivan Krasnov.

"Comrade Kennan, it is good to see you again."

"Likewise, Mr. Shyl...Shyl...oh hell, Alexi." replied Kennan, mangling Shlyapnikov's name
as only an American could do.

"Shly-AP-ni-KOV, Georgiy, how hard can it possibly be?" replied Shlyapnikov good
naturedly before his grim visage returned.

"I am here on behalf of President Krasnov, to give you the official declaration of war
of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Domination of Draka, so you may
relay it to Archona, because as you well know, we do not have diplomatic relations
with them; not since 1936."

With that, Shlyapnikov handed over a heavy manila envelope sealed with red wax,
which Kennan accepted.

Pulling out a seat, Shlyapnikov sat down. "Speaking off the record, Georgiy, I do hope
our two great nations unite in the future to exterminate the snakes. Mark my words,
the French and the British will do nothing. The Germans are simply too weak to
do anything. Mussolini won't do anything to rock the boat either, he's in too precarious
a position right now with Victor Emmanuel III."

Kennan nodded offhandedly. For a while, US-Soviet relations had been at a new low
following the Bolshevik Revolution, but had revived following Ivan Krasnov's seizure
of power in late 1925.

"As our great leader says, the historical dialectic speaks for itself. After all, did not
Alexander II come to the aid of the Union in 1863 with the Russian Fleet, after
emancipating the serfs in 1861?" added Shlyapnikov, referring to what Soviet
propaganda had been emphasizing on ever since Krasnov had cemented his
power finally in 1927.

"Yes, I understand that our two nations have always had a close relationship, Alexi,
for the rest of Europe has always looked upon us as the bastard children of the world,"
replied Kennan.

"Anyway, I'll make sure this letter gets to the Drakan Embassy in Poland."

"Very well, Georgiy, it was good to see you again."

"Likewise, Alexi."

Chapter Four - Heroes are Made

Pain, there was so much pain.

Slowly, Eric von Shrakenburg swam back towards the light, towards consciousness.

Slowly cracking one eye, then the other, he found himself lying on a bed in a dingy
stone house, surrounded by wounded Draka. Far too many of them.

"You're finally awake," grunted a voice in front of him. Turning, Eric saw Senior Decurion
McWhirter shaking his head. "It figures, the boss gets taken out in the first five minutes
of the drop, and I have to do his job. Thanks a lot," he said in a tone of voice halfway
between sarcasm and glee.

"How many did many did we lose?" stammered Shrakenburg as he struggled
to orient himself, noticing the bullet holes all over the walls, along with fairly recent
blood splatter.

"We lost Comtech Nixon right away, Eric. Stupid bitch lit a fucking cigarette right after
the drop; got her head blown off by an Ivan sniper. We still haven't been able to find
the fucker, he's been potting us on and off."

"How do you know it's the same person?" asked Eric, feeling a sense of loss about
Sofie, if only...if only he had been willing to be more open with her he
couldn't do anything.

"The pigfucker's got a Mosin-Nagant, that's how I can tell. Don't you pay attention, to
briefings? The Ivans replaced their snipers' Mosins with scoped SVT-38s years ago.
This guy's not part of the official Ivan military."

Suddenly, at that moment, a sharp crack rang through the air, followed by screams and
outgoing rifle fire.

Cursing, McWhirter reached down and grabbed his walkie-talkie from it's belt
clip and activicated it. "Freya's breath, you fucking sons of whores! Stop wasting
your fucking ammo on that bastard!"

Eric tried to stand up at that, and instead fell to the floor. The medic for the
headquarters tetriarchy sprang into the room at the sound of the sudden noise,
and saw Eric flailing around on the floor in shock.

"Oh, you're awake now, good. I was afraid you wouldn't survive, because
there was the possibility of infection setting in from your cuts; we had to
amputate your right foot. It was the only way we could save you."

Noting Eric's despair, the medic was quick to add, "Oh yes, we also fashioned
a pair of crutches for you; they're over in the corner."

Minutes later, Eric was fully dressed, and swinging out the door of the
makeshift aid station, followed by McWhirter, who was filling him in on
the events of the past day and half.

"Right after Nixon got sniped, we decided to abandon our prepared
approach to Village One, and just stormed it. The Ivans fought hard,
caused a lot of casualties, but those new rocket guns saved our asses
with their explosive rounds."

Shrakenburg smelled the stench of burnt human flesh and wrinkled his
nose. "Oh that," replied McWhirter. "Sofie was a close friend of Tetriarch Kaine,
so when she found a house full of Ivan civilians, she called up the flamers."

McWhirter shrugged. "Can't say I can blame her. Damned Ivans. Not as
bad as the Pashtuns and Afghanis though; we had to burn every damned
village of theirs down before they got the message. Hopefully, these Ivans
won't be as stupid."

As they walked down the highway that ran through the village named as Village
One by Drakan military cartographers, Shrakenburg noticed the massive
amount of bullet holes along the sides of the buildings.

"What's with all the holes, Decurion?"

"Again, damned Ivans. It seems like every one of them has one of those stinking
burp guns, the ones with the drum magazines. We lost almost an entire tetrarch
storming the Party HQ here before we decided to simply level it with the rocket
guns," replied McWhirter as he pointed to a smoldering pile of rubble off the road
to the right.

As they came round a bend, they saw the burnt-out wrecks of two BA-10 armored
cars, their turrets half blown off by the impact of the 75mm HESH rounds. Around
them were dozens of bloated corpses in Russian uniforms.

"The Ivans tried attacking us right after we seized the place, sent two armored
cars and about a century of infantry, but we beat them off with our rocket guns
and auto mortars."

As they walked towards the building that had been set up as a HQ, Shrakenburg
noticed an old man in rather well-to-do garments lying on the ground, a neat 10mm
hole in his forehead.

Pointing to the man, Shrakenburg grunted quizzically.

"Oh, him. He was the village elder, came up to us yelling and screaming after
Kaine toasted the Ivans. He wouldn't take orders from his superiors, so I shot
him. No big loss."

Next to the headquarters was a building where screams were coming from, and
a fairly sizeable line of Draka had gathered at the doorway. Without even waiting
for Shrakenburg to ask, McWhirter simply jabbed a thumb towards it. "Recreation,
we found a few Ivan bitches still in the village, along with one or two prettybucks."

As they entered the stone building which was now their headquarters, Eric heard
the comtechs bitching over the vacuum tubes breaking in their sets. Apparently,
the packing containers weren't perfect just yet, although the breakage rate was
far far less than it had been in the past.

"Centurion, good to see you up and about!" said one of the comtechs as he reached
out to McWhirter with the latest status report in hand, before realizing his mistake
and giving it to Shrakenburg instead.

Eric scanned the flimsheet, taking in the information. Apparently the Fifth Army was
bogged down already outside Tbilisi, while the Eleventh was already beginning it's
sweep up through Ajaria along the Black Sea. That was good, as the Eleventh
was the one slotted to relieve them. In the East, the First and Sixth Armies were
pushing through Azerbaijan, right on schedule.

"What's with Fifth?" asked Eric.

"Lazy ass slackers are getting bogged down in Tbilisi, the Ivans have fortified it
heavily and making us have to contest every house and street. We've pulled back
our Citizens and are reducing it with Janissaries." replied McWhirter.

"I'm worried. If they can't clean up Tbilisi soon, they'll have to divert far more of
the Eleventh and First than they planned to do originally to help the Fifth mop
up Tbilisi, and as you know, the Eleventh is supposed to relieve us."

With that, Shrakenburg began to bite his lip as he ran the variables through his head,
how much ammunition a typical century dropped with, versus how much would have been
expended in a day's fighting.

"Where's the Legionary Cohort of Cheetahs? We're going to need them as soon
as possible."

McWhirter replied with a pained look on his face. "Half of the damned things busted upon
hitting the ground; the damned idiots back at the airfields didn't take into account the rocky
soil here when they calculated how much braking force would be needed for the sleds."

Shrakenburg groaned at that. The damned Cheetahs had always been finnicky and
unreliable, and now they were going to pay the price for that. "Does Chilliarchy HQ
have any allocated for us?" he asked.

"Only two, the others are being sent to guard the other pass, and to form a Legionary
reserve to counter any possible Ivan thrusts."

Suddenly, in the distance, a low throbbing noise could be heard. "That's probably them,"
McWhirter remarked. Shrakenburg listened for several moments more before replying.

"No, they're not. They're coming from the wrong way, everyone get ready!" he shouted,
and all over the headquarters, comtechs reached for their frag grenades and submachine
guns, while next door, the first floor windows flew open and half-clothed Draka spilled out
into the streets, clutching their T-7A rifles and running for their prepared fighting positions.

[Ossetian Military Highway, Outside the Village]

The Red Army troops marched along the highway, towards the captured village,
and as they reached the outskirts, they slowed down and crouched down as
they observed the black smoke trailing off into the sky from the initial failed
attack by the Vnnutreye Voyska yesterday.

As the commisars ran through the ranks shouting anti-draka and pro-soviet
slogans, the rough Georgian conscripts nervously smoked the cheap cigarettes
that they recieved at each mealtime, and chatted amongst themselves. Many of
them were afraid, but the desire to drive out the invader and avenge their friends
in the traditional Georgian fashion was strong.

The old customs died hard in the Caucasus, and blood vengeance was a
particularly revered one. Many snakes would die before the sun set behind
the mountains this day.

As the understrength battalion surrounded the village in a crescent pattern,
frenzied preparations were undertaken with the characteristic slavic devotion
towards work, with the promise that once the village was taken, they would

Mortars were dug in and sited, while the Degtyarevs were carried forward
to form an initial base of fire while the heavy Maxims were brought forward
on their sledges.

While the infantry was preparing for the battle to come, the platoon of LT-1 heavy
tanks attached to this assault rumbled forward into hull down positions and rested
while the stocky Georgian Major in charge of this assault studied the village from
the cupola of the lead LT-1 with his heavy Soviet-made binoculars.

Major Arveladze, as he was known, was responsible for this hastily formed
taskforce, and he studied the village carefully as he tried to figure out the
best way of assaulting the village and driving out the Drakan vermin. Winning
this battle was vital to the national welfare, and more importantly, his own
personal career.

Cursing the workers of Optics Factory No. 42, Arveladze tried to make out
the snakes' locations with the binoculars; they were damned sturdy, but
worthless beyond a certain range. With a sigh, he put down the binoculars.
The snakes were in there amongst the dead Soviet bodies and the ruined
buildings of the village.

As evidence of this, a single shot from the village rang out. Moments
later a bullet smashed into his head, causing him to fall straight down
into his tank.

As blood streamed down his face, he cursed in typical Georgian fashion,
even as he realized by some miracle, he was still alive.

As he realized this, he let loose a burst of laughter followed by the shout of
"Those pea-shooters they have can't even pierce a strong Georgian skull!"

A thousand meters away, Eric lowered a rifle that he'd grabbed from the
floor inside the headquarters building in disgust. Goddamned lousy
5mm cartridge, he thought, invoking the curse of a God he didn't believe in.

The Airborne Legions still had the early T-7As, which were chambered for
the original 5mm, because they needed to be able to carry as many bullets
as possible, due to supply reasons. The T-7A had long been superceded
by the T-7B, which fired the same 7.5mm round that the old T-6 did due
to the neccessity of fighting in Afghanistan and other regions of the
Domination where there were still guerillas.

Suddenly, the highway began to fill with explosions as 82mm mortar fire began
to rain down from the woods surrounding the village. Shrakenburg dove below
the window right away, so he avoided most of the shrapnel, but a comtech next
to him holding a SMG wasn't so lucky, and he went down to the floor, blood
spurting from his throat.

Still the explosions continued. "Freya's breath, don't the Ivans ever run out
of ammo?" muttered McWhirter. As Shrakenburg and McWhirter both crawled
along the floor towards the back door of the headquarters, the Maxims opened
up in interlocking fields of fire, raking the buildings with gunfire.

Knocking the back door open with the butts of their rifles, both Eric and McWhirter
crawled outside. "You'll have to carry me, Decurion, I can't do shit with this damned
foot." gasped Eric.

Nodding, McWhirter reached out and in one fluid motion, slung Eric over his back,
and began to run away from the Headquarters, which was dangerously exposed
to the Ivan gunfire. Several minutes later, he reached the medical station, where
everyone was regrouping, and everyone, even the wounded, was holding a weapon
of some sort.

Major Arveladze watched as the snakes retreated under the heavy fire his mortars
and Maxims were pouring into the outskirts of the village. He watched with glee as
several of the snakes didn't make it, their bullet-riddled corpses falling to the ground.

"Tankoviy desantiy forward!" he shouted and watched as the Pepeshka-toting
infantrymen ran foward and grasped the handrails which were welded onto the sides
of his LT-1s.

Behind them, the other infantrymen of the battalion came forward, forming up in columns
behind the LT-1s, to use them as protection during the advance, and double-checked
their SVT-38 rifles.

"Urrrrrah!" he shouted, the cry being picked up by the rest of his men, in that primeval
chant of the Russian, and later, Soviet soldier, and with a cloud of diesel smoke, they were
off, advancing under the covering fire of the Maxims.

As they advanced, the Degtyarev squads advanced with them, carrying forth their "Guitars"
to keep up a base of fire on the snake strongpoints. Suddenly, from the side of the road,
a snake rose up, clutching a piece of tubing on his shoulder. Before he could even react,
he was dead, riddled by the Pepeshkas of the desantiy riders.

As his tank advanced forward, Arveladze dropped into the turret to converse by radio
with his divisional commander several kilometers away, on the progress of the operation;
this saved his life when the 75mm HEAT round slammed into the side of the turret, mangling
the desantiy riders, but failing to penetrate due to the sheer thickness of the
LT-1s plating.

Ducking his head out of the cupola just far enough so he could see, Arveladze spotted
the offenders; a bunch of snakes manning what appeared to be one of those newfangled
recoilless rifles.

Before he could order his gunner to swing the turret around, the LT-1 behind him had
already spoken with it's 76.2mm gun, sending a spray of cannister down into that area
that left behind only mangled flesh.

Then all hell broke loose. It seemed that the Draka had been waiting for them in ambush,
and that the impatient gunners of that recoilless rifle had jumped the gun, soon the area
around the tanks filled with flying lead as riddled bodies slumped forth on both sides.

Tetriarch Marie Kaine watched with sick disbelief as the oncoming Ivan tanks simply
rolled over the still moving bodies of their own men, firing that infernal cannister shot
that was slaughtering her men, as the burp-gun toting infantry followed behind them
in close succession, some falling, but too many, far too many, surviving.


With that traditinal Georgian battlecry, Mladshiy serzhant Chikovani led
the troops of his rifle squad as they charged into the fury of the village,
rifles and pepeshkas chattering away at the vile snakes.

A snake popped out of a doorway, firing his pepeshka wildly, and Chikovani
cut him down with his rifle, firing as fast as he could pull the trigger, and thanking
God that they had gotten rid of those infernal Mosin-Nagants years ago.

As the snake crumpled to the ground, Chikovani charged into the house where the
snake had popped out of, and saw things beyond his worst imagination; girls
and women lay on the ground weeping, and even a young boy was there too,
being comforted by one of the older women. All of them were naked and had bruises
all over their bodies.

Behind him, he heard the rest of his squad entering the house behind him. "Giorgi,
what the hell are you standing there for....." their voices trailing off as they saw the
interior of the rape house.

he screamed, the cry passing through the ranks of the Georgian conscripts,
and as one, they surged forward, ignoring their own safety for the sake of

[The Medical Station]

"They're not stopping, Centurion!" screamed one of the young soldiers
right before a Ivan bullet took his head off, splattering his brains all over
the wall.

Despite the Hollbars pouring a wall of lead into the oncoming Georgian
ranks, not one of them faltered, irregardless of the mounting casualties.

"FALL BACK!" shouted Eric as he mowed down a rank of Ivans with his
T-7A on full auto, emptying the magazine into the onrushing wall of khaki.

The bodies piled up, but the Georgians kept on coming, like an elemental
force, unstoppable, driven forward by sheer hatred.

And then they were at the Medical station, throwing grenades into the windows,
and firing their pepeshkas into everyone, even the critically wounded. It was
during this one-sided slaughter, that the two Cheetahs finally arrived, saving
Eric's ever smaller group of Draka from total annihilation with their 75mm
guns firing HE straight down the throats of the Georgians.

"Ivan tanks down the highway in platoon strength! Leon Trotsky Ones!
Cover us while we withdraw!" Eric yelled to the lead Cheetah commander
as he was carried past the tanks by McWhirter, towards several trucks
that they had captured from the Russians whose engines were already

Without a thought, McWhirter threw Eric into the back of the lead truck,
ignoring the young man's cry of pain, while he went back to make sure
everyone who could make it had made it.

Grabbing a retreating soldier, he yelled "Where's Tetriarch Kaine?"

"Dead, Decurion! She took cannister right down the throat, if you
want her, you'd best get a mop!"

At that moment, one of the Cheetahs simply exploded, the turret
flying off into the sky on a plume of fire.

Without waiting to see if the other Cheetah had survived, McWhirter ran
back to the lead truck and jumped into the cab of the truck, shouting "Shit,
the Trotskys are here already! No time to save the rest! GO!"

The driver complied and with the wail of gears being mangled, the truck
lurched down the highway. The last truck was not so lucky however, taking
a 76.2mm HE shell just as it was pulling away, killing everyone on board,
and spilling body parts all over the highway.

From the cupola of his tank, Major Arveladze watched as the last of the
trucks disappeared around a curve in the highway. Damnit, some of the
filthy snakes had gotten away, and with his battalion in this shape, he
couldn't pursue them.

Sighing, he climbed out of the turret and jumped to the ground. The surviving
battalion officers and NCOs would be meeting with him soon, right now, cleanup
operations were underway, and from time to time, the rattle of a pepeshka was
heard as a Drakan survivor was liquidated.

[761. Strelkovyi Korpus Headquarters; 1 day later]

Major Arveladze sighed as he sat in the hallway outside the Korpus commander's
office, shit, had he fucked up somehow in letting his Georgians run loose with their
blood vendettas?

"Comrade Major, the General-Polkovnik will see you now," said a fresh faced young
Kapitan, who was part of the Korpus headquarters staff. Nodding, Arveladze got out
of his seat and walked into the office of the commanding general of 761. Strelkovyi

To his great surprise, General-Polkovnik Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov rose from his
seat to greet him. "Greetings, Major. I must congratulate you on your successful
recapture of the village of Novogorod."

Arveladze stood there, speechless; he had lost his entire battalion in taking the
village, and he was being congratulated on it?

"According to your reports, there were civilians in dire need of rescue in the village,
and those tanks arrived precisely as you were about to complete your liquidation of
the enemy forces, if you had delayed, they would have arrived to reinforce the
enemy positions."

Chuikov paused. "Now, Comrade Podpolkovnik, I do believe I have something for

With that, he pushed forward a small red leather case. Opening it, Arveladze found the
simple gold star of a Hero of the Soviet Union inside.

"Outside my office are orders assigning you to the 414th strelkovyi polk. The previous
commander has been, shall we say....rather incompetent, and we need someone who
knows how to get things done. Are you up to it, comrade?"

"Yes, Comrade General-Polkovnik!" replied Arveladze, bursting with pride.

[9th Airborne Legion Medical Station]

"Hmm, this one's in bad shape." remarked the doctor.

"Yes, yes, he certainly is." replied another.

"Lucky bastard gets to be flown back home on a Hippo. What I wouldn't
give to have an Arch-Strategos for a father."

Chapter 5 - Oh, you New York Girls...

[New York City, June 2nd, 1940]

Jack Myers watched along with the rest of the darkened theatre crowd as the newsreel
announcer, some actor by the name of Reagan or something, told them the latest news
from around the world, standing next to a globe of the earth.

"The news from the Soviet Union is grave, Drakan forces have invaded along a thousand mile
front, attacking without mercy or remorse. What you are about to see has been brought from the
Soviet Union at great expense; and it may shock you. But it is the truth."

The screen then cut away to the flickering logo of TASS, the Soviet official press agency,
and then in huge letters; "THE MASSACRE OF NOVOGOROD" appeared.

A heavily damaged village appeared on the screen, the walls covered in bullet holes
and what appeared to be the remains of two tanks smoking in the streets, while the
announcer droned on. "Soviet forces have liberated the village of Novogorod from the
vile Drakan forces, but they have found horrors beyond comprehension from when the
Draka occupied the village."

The screen cut away to women and children sobbing, as the announcer continued. "Soviet
women and children were used as sex objects by the Drakan soldiers during their brief
occupation, even young boys were used by the vile snakes."

At that, Myers heard a general gasp of disgust in the theater.

"Unfortunately for the villagers, the vile snakes could not resist their bestial urges,

The screen immediately cut to footage of a burnt out house, and then to the interior
of the house, showing the carbonized remains of men, women, and even children,
the most horrifying image of them all was the carbonized lump that had been a baby
being held up by it's mother's arms towards a window.

Another round of disgust swept through the theater, and Meyers could hear people
muttering in the background about how the "damned snakes" would have to be taken
care of sooner or later.

The rest of the newsreel dealt with general issues, like President Roosevelt overseeing
the dedication of a new dam in the Tennessee Valley, and then it cut to an image of
a massive battleship floating at anchor with the Statue of Liberty in the background.

At this, everyone in the theater began cheering, drowning out the announcer's voice
as he told the audience that this was the Dmitriy Donskoy, the Soviet Navy's most
modern ship, on a goodwill tour of the world, and was presently docked in New York

With that, the newsreel ended and the film began, a Warner Brothers film by the name
of "Rome", set in the intrigues of the fascist capital between all the intelligence services
of the great powers, and starring Humprey Bogart and Ingrid Berman.

The film was rather good, in Myers' opinion, a fine piece of film that not only was great
to watch, but conveyed a rather subtle anti-draka message, that all the free peoples
of the world, whether they be fascist, democratic, or communist, must inevitably unite
for the common cause of liberty, ironic as it might be, for even in the worst fascist
and communist countries, the lowly peasants were better off than the serfs of the

As he left the theater, he couldn't help but overhearing someone talking in a southern
drawl, about how the "filthy snakes had gotten us into the War, and then baled out on
us when the going got tough."

Myers couldn't help but chuckle at that. He remembered a Sons of Confederate Veterans
meeting he had once covered for Time magazine a few years back, where the SCV had
voted unamiously to strike John Bell Hood and his descendants from their rolls of honor,
due to him fleeing in one of the last Drakan steam pickets to leave Charleston for Cape
Town, where he became a Strategos in the Drakan military.

Hailing a taxi, he got in and told the cabbie to take him to the waterfront, he had a job
to do for TIME today, interview the Admiral in charge of the Soviet squadron which
was docked in the harbor about the recent outbreak of war, and what it meant for him
and his men, and maybe get a few human interest stories with the sailors themselves.

[20 minutes later]

The taxi squealed to a stop by the waterfront, and Myers palmed a dollar bill to the cabbie,
damned New York traffic, everyone seemed to be wanting to go everywhere at the same
time, and disobeyed every traffic law in the books. At least it wasn't Rome, where the
Italians thought a driver's license was a license to practice being racecar drivers.

Looking up and down the waterfront, he saw what he was looking for, a small motorboat
flying the naval ensign of the Soviet Union tied off to a pier, the sailors on board looking
out excitedly towards the waterfront of New York and their MGB keepers keeping a close
eye on the small crowd which had gathered to stare at the Russians.

Weaving his way through the crowd, he stood at the edge of the pier and was preparing
for the exhausting battle of convincing the MGB handler of his press credentials and that
yes, he did have an invitation from the Admiral of the squadron, when a familar voice, one
he hadn't heard in years, rang out.

"Ivan Mikhailovitch! It's been far far too long!" shouted the MGB man, who was wearing
a Major's stripes and looked oddly familiar.

"Lapshov, you bastard, is that you?"

"Yes, don't tell me you've already forgotten about our night on the town in Moscow already?"

"How could I forget it? But anyway, Nikita Nikitich, what brings you to New York?"

The tall MGB man smiled, which produced nervous reactions from the sailors manning
the launch, they had never seen the chekist smile at all, during the entire time he had
been assigned to the Donskoy.

Lapshov motioned towards the ship. "Why, the Dmitriy Donskoy, Comrade Reporter,
has brought me to New York."

"Well, I do have an interview with your Admiral Drozd," replied Myers somewhat

"Oh, so you're the reporter that we've been expecting? Why didn't you say so? Come,
come, we'll take you out to the pride of the rodinu!" shouted Lapshov, motioning
for Myers to get on board the launch.

Slowly, Myers climed down the rotting ladder next to the pier, which seemed to have
been new back when the Great White Fleet had done it's world tour back in the 1890s,
and as he reached the last few rungs, he felt strong hands reach up and grab his back,
keeping him from falling into the water, and nodded his thanks to the sailors.

As the launch began to motor away from the pier and towards the hulking grey warship
in the center of the harbor, Lapshov began talking for no reason.

"After Moscow, I was reassigned to the Kavkaz Military District; at first, I thought I was
being punished for what happened back in Moscow, but in reality, they were rewarding
my success, by putting me right where the action was; I got these stripes," Lapshov
pointed towards his shoulderboards; "from the successful completion of one of the
largest rescue missions ever done in the Kavkaz region, some forty serfs rescued
from bondage."

"I think I remember something about that; the Draka were protesting over 'that
tyrant Krasnov's interference in another nation's sovereign affairs', TIME had
me do an article or two on that subject a year or so ago, that was you?"

"Da, comrade. Of course, the snakes tried to get us back, but we put a stop to
that rather quickly." added Lapshov as a feral grin spread slowly across his face.

"But enough of the past, Comrade Myers, I present to you, the pride of the rodinu,
fifty-nine thousand tons, two hundred sixty metres, and armed with nine forty-centimetre
guns, the Dmitriy Donskoy!"

Myers looked past Lapshov's outstretched arm at the massive battleship which was
growing closer with every moment, and took note of the significant features, twin
funnels, three turrets, two forward, one aft, and a very unusual conning tower that
reminded him far too much of the German Deutschland-class panzerschiffes. That
was something he'd have to follow up after this; the not-so-secret relationship between
those two countries militaries.

The launch was tied up very shortly to the side of the ship, next to the docking ladder,
and slowly Myers walked up the ladder, trying to not look nervous as the ladder swayed
from side to side; and almost having a heart attack when Lapshov shook the ladder
vigoriously, exclaiming "See, Ivan Mikhailovitch, good socialist steel! You have nothing
to worry about!"

"Nikita Nikitich, some day, you'll be all alone here in New York, and you'll be at my mercy,
for I have friends in city hall, and they owe me favors." grumbled Myers as he took the
final steps up the ladder and then onto the ship's deck, where a young michman
was waiting for them.

The michman spoke in rapid fire Russian to Lapshov, who nodded and as the michman
was walking away, Lapshov turned to Myers. "The Admiral is waiting for you in his quarters,
he's very anxious to talk to you before we depart."

Lapshov then led Myers through a dizzying array of hatches, ladders and seemingly endless
tunnels before finally arriving at a locked door. Before he knocked on the door, Lapshov
offhandedly commented, "Before the Revolution, all this would have wood floors and fine
panelling, but now that the officer class is full of fine socialists, there's no more need for
such capitalist niceties in Flag quarters."

With that, Lapshov knocked on the door several times, and a gruff voice answered in
Russian, to which Lapshov also replied in Russian, before opening the door. Myers
stepped in, taking in the quarters of a Soviet Rear Admiral, rather thin and spartan,
no real ornaments, except of course for the twin pictures of V.I. Lenin and I.B. Krasnov.

"The Rear Admiral doesn't know English, so I shall translate for you, during your
interview with him," remarked Lapshov as he pulled out several chairs for them to
sit on.

Nodding, Myers sat down into the proffered chair and pulled out his notepad along
with a pen. "Do you mind if I take notes of our interview?"

Again, a long exchange of Russian. "The Admiral is nervous about the notes, but
as the senior MGB agent, I assured him that you would be honest and factual, and
that he has nothing to fear from the MGB."

"Admiral, how do you feel about the recent outbreak of hostilities between the
Soviet Union and the Domination of Draka?"

"It was inevitable, the Draka never stay still; they only rest to digest what they have
swallowed before moving onto their next meal like the snakes they are. They shall
however, find the Soviet Union a very hard beast to digest."

More Russian and then a pause as Lapshov translated it.

"The Admiral asks why you Americans refuse to believe us, when we show the
world a never ending train of Drakan atrocities, and yet you and the world turn
a blind eye."

Mentally, Myers tried to form a diplomatic enough reply that would be as close
to the truth while not offending the Rear Admiral; that'd be a hell of a way to
get fired from TIME magazine, being ejected from an interview after only a
single question!

"Admiral, the Draka are very experienced in playing politics, and they have
great experience in playing journalists like violins, there are only a few who
see through the Drakan song and dance to see the cold hard truth. Our
President believes you, as does much of the American public, but the
problem is the Great War, where we went to war to 'Save Democracy' and
saw the Draka gain millions of new serfs, so while we believe you, we're not
quite sure if we want to join Mr. Krasnov's crusade, because the last time
we went on a crusade it didn't work out the way we were told it would."

A long pause, more Russian, and then another pause.

"The Admiral agrees with you somewhat, and he would like you to know
that he likes you, unlike the last journalist we had, a Mr. Dreiser."

Suddenly, there was a clattering of feet and the door to the Admiral's cabin
burst open, and a breathless officer began yelling in Russian, causing Drozd
to leap to his feet and leave the room.

"What? What's going on?" shouted Myers.

"Bad news Ivan Mikhailovitch, an unknown battleship has been sighted just outside the
mouth of New York Harbor. Follow me to the bridge, and maybe we can help the
Admiral and his staff identify it."

With that, Lapshov motioned for Myers to follow him, and led him up several more ladders
and corridors until they emerged on the ship's bridge, where the Admiral and several
other officers were chattering in Russian. Out of curiosity, Myers grabbed a pair of
unattended binoculars and began to scan the harbor's edge with them, stopping when he
saw the slate gray warship, followed in close column by several smaller warships.

Myers hadn't been much of a defense correspondent, but he knew enough to recognize
the distinctive bridge layout that only the Draka used, which was a low squat heavily armored
citadel close to the waterline for the citizen officers, and a much lighter elevated bridge with
only splinter shields for their janissary cadets to man during combat.

"Draka, the bastards are coming pretty close to violating our two-mile limit, if they try starting
a war on our doorstep," remarked Myers as he lowered the binoculars.

More chatter in Russian.

"Director Control says that they're slowing and coming to a stop just outside the harbor,
Ivan Mikhailovitch. Our squadron is trapped in the harbor."


[Six hours later - Officer's Mess - Dmitriy Donskoy]

Myers had been invited to the officer's mess for dinner with the Admiral that night,
and he couldn't help but notice the seeming atmosphere of fatalism that hung
over the table like a nearly palpable force.

Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the Icon which had appeared in the mess
from seemingly out of nowhere. Someone somewhere on this officially atheist
ship had been hiding a Icon of Saint Nicholas, who was the patron saint of Sailors
for Russians, for such a moment as this.

Before he had entered the mess, Myers had seen a bunch of sailors playing with an
half empty vodka bottle and an obviously very drunk dog. It seemed that everyone
on the ships of the Soviet 1st Atlantic Squadron, from common sailor to the officers
were taking this recent turn of events badly.

Next to him, Lapshov was translating random chatter from around the table.

"The Engineering officer is wondering how many shells it will take to sink us,
and is debating with the rest of the officers what to do with the vodka we have
on board, no sense in letting it go to waste."

"The first officer is arguing over whether we should put the painting of old Dmitriy
ashore, seeing as it's rather rare, being one of the czar's paintings that was
appropriated by the proletariat during the revolution."

"Lapshov, shouldn't these people be talking about ways to defeat the Draka instead
of how to save the vodka or paintings?" asked Myers.

"But then, my dear Comrade, that wouldn't be very russian of us would it?" With that,
Lapshov raised his own glass in a mock salute and shouted "Za Rodinu!", which
the others echoed back.

The arguments in Russian raged back and forth for several minutes, each officer
making his point, usually with the banging of his vodka bottle on the table, until
finally Lapshov leaned over next to Myers.

"The officers have come to an agreement over what to do. The painting goes
ashore, along with the best vodka that is leftover, along with any antique Icons,
anything that's less than fifty years old stays aboard, and we need to find a Russian
Orthodox priest and bring him aboard to do do the blessings of the crew and the

"Blessings? I thought the Soviet Union was atheist." replied Myers.

"Officially, Ivan Mikhailovitch, Officially," was the terse reply from Lapshov.

At that point, the hatch to the mess suddenly flew open, and a young officer
scrambled in, saluted the Admiral, and began to speak rapid fire Russian.

Surprisingly enough, despite the seeming urgency of what the officer was reporting,
none of the senior officers made any motion of getting out of their seats, instead
taking more shots of vodka from their bottles.

Lapshov leaned over, "More bad news, Ivan Mikhailovitch. More warships are entering
the harbor mouth."

Several more minutes passed and Myers couldn't help but notice that the mood of
fatalism had steepened, the officers simply taking drinks from their bottles, and
not even bothering to talk, just staring emptily off into space or into their half-empty

Hell, even he was beginning to feel a damn bit fatalistic himself, the gloom pervading
the room was apparently infectious, when the same officer appeared in the doorway
again, he didn't even look away from his intense study of the Icon of St. Nicolas.

Suddenly, everyone was scrambling out of their seats, and rather coherently too,
considering how much vodka they had consumed while Myers had been watching

"Whats going on?" shouted Myers. "They're American ships!" shouted Lapshov
in reply as he too ran out the door along with the rest of the officers. At this, Myers
leapt from his seat and ran out the door too, quickly climbing up the stairs behind
Lapshov and the others.

As he burst onto the bridge, he saw the junior officers on the bridge chattering
amongst themselves and pointing to silhoulettes in their well-worn copy of Jane's
Fighting Ships
. Offhandedly, Myers couldn't help but grin at that, the Soviets
were using decadent capitalist publications on their warships, hell, probably even
the Draka probably used Jane's too.

Lapshov came up next to Myers suddenly and began doing a running translation
of the bridge staff's identification efforts.

"Lead ship, battlecruiser, Lexington-class. Accompanying ships, South Dakota and
Arkansas-class battleships. Escorts are Northampton class heavy cruisers, and
Benson-class destroyers. Quite a little fleet you capitalists have put together."

Grabbing a pair of unused binoculars yet again, Myers scanned the horizon, and
he saw the US Navy, stars and stripes flying proudly from their masts, silhouletted
by the setting sun, move directly between the Draka and the harbor mouth.

As he watched, a light began blinking on and off on the lead US ship. Some sort
of naval code, or something thought Myers.

Lapshov helpfully translated the the code for him.

"US Navy, Stop. To Soviet Squadron, Stop. Neutrality patrol now in effect, Stop.
Will escort you to the 200 mile limit, Stop."

"Neutrality patrol, what the hell is that?" muttered Myers to no one in particular
as Lapshov translated the Russian reply for him.

"Soviet Squadron, Stop. To US Navy, Stop. Transmission understood, Stop.
Will comply, Stop. Admiral Drozd sends his compliments, Stop."

A pause as the reply was sent out and read on the other ship, then as the
reply was sent and decoded.

"US Navy, Stop. To Soviet Squadron, Stop. Understood, will stand by for you to raise
steam, Stop."

[Flag Bridge, USS Lexington, Ten hours later]

Myers stood next to the Admiral's chair on the Lexington's flag bridge, bathed
in red light as she steamed on the darkened North Atlantic some time past midnight.

He had made his goodbyes amongst the officers of the Soviet squadron, including
Lapshov, an hour before the squadron had raised anchors, and gone ashore carrying
an Icon of Our Lady of Kursk, as a favor for Lapshov.

Idly, he wondered if that was normal, an MGB man secretly hiding a Icon in his luggage,
and then his train of thought was derailed as the American Admiral, a man by the name
of Daniel J. Callaghan, asked him what he thought of the Russian officers from his
short stay on their flagship.

"Oh. They're brave men, and they'll do their duty, but they were feeling a little depressed
before you and the cavalry showed up to save the day. By the way, what the hell is with
this two hundred mile limit and this neutrality patrol?"

Callaghan chortled at that. "Damned if I know much, it didn't even exist this morning!
What I do know is that when that Drakan squadron appeared off New York, the
President immediately declared a two hundred mile exclusion zone to the warships of
warring powers unless escorted by the US Navy."

"What about the Draka?" asked Myers.

Callaghan suppressed a chuckle at that. "They didn't look mighty pleased when we
told them that they had to be escorted out on an opposite bearing from the Russian
squadron, but when you've got over a hundre major-calibre coastal defense guns
pointed at them, as well as four capital ships to their two, well, there isn't much
they could do about it except scream and kick, I expect the President is going to be
getting a strongly worded protest from the Drakan ambassador any time now."

Looking out the windows of the flag bridge, Myers saw the dim red lights across the
gulf of black water that separated the two flagships of the two different squadrons
as they steamed together in the moonless night.

"Send my compliments to Admiral Drozd and our wishes," ordered Callaghan,
and moments later, the blinker light began to flash away, and in return, the
blinker on the Dmitriy Donskoy began flashing a reply.

"Admiral appreciates your compliments, Stop. Thank you for the escort, Stop. For
the Motherland, Stop."

"Well, I guess that's it. Helm, turn to port, take her to a course bearing three-one-zero,"
ordered Callaghan. Myers felt the deck tilt under his feet as the battlecruiser began
a turn to port, breaking away from the Soviet squadron the dim red glow of the Donskoy's
bridge growing ever fainter, until it was lost on the horizon.

Chapter Six - The Battle of Bermuda Rise

Special Thanks:
The Duchess of Zeon for wargaming out the battle for me.

Sea Skimmer for offering helpful advice on the effects of damage, et al

Frank Hipper for giggling at my depictions of carnage and
demanding more roast people.

[The North Atlantic - June 4th, 1940, 1530 Hours]

The flat featureless wastes of the North Atlantic Ocean were interrupted by the
squat grey shapes that sliced through the water at twelve knots, engines pulsing,
as they steamed towards where the Drakan submarine D-124 had radioed a sighting
of the Russian squadron six hours ago.

On board the lead ship, a long and deadly looking predator that mounted nine
16.25"-inch guns, the green-garbed figures of the citizen officers watched
the drab grey-clothed naval janissaries swab the decks of the ship from their
posts on the flying bridges, in between scanning the horizon regularly with the
massive Japanese-made naval binoculars that the Domination preferred.

Centurion Johan Ingolffson took a deep breath as he turned away from watching
the Janissaries swab the deck, and walked into the heavily armored citadel that was
the main bridge of the DMS Proteus, one of the Drakan Navy's front line
capital ships.

Protected by well over fifteen inches of armor plate, the citadel was one of the
safest places on the massive dreadnought, and one of the most exciting to watch
the battle from, as the periscopes set into the bulkheads were of good enough
quality and with a wide enough field of view, that you could literally steer the ship from

During a battle, the Citizen officers who made up the officer class of the ship would
command the ship from their superbly armored citadels found all over the ship, while
the naval janissaries would man the anti-aircraft guns, damage control teams, as well
as perform the unenviable task of serving as lookouts from the top bridge, which
had superb visibility, but only splinter shields for armor.

Suddenly, before Ingolffson could ruminate any further on how good life was, an alarm
began clanging, shit it was the contact alarm. Everyone quickly ran to their stations,
plugging in their headsets which connected them with the rest of the ship, while the
designated lookouts manned the periscopes, and the heavy armored doors sealing
the citadel off from the flying bridges were closed with resounding clangs.

“The Antaeus reports smoke on the horizon, bearing ten degrees!” shouted one of the
new Tetrarchs whose name Ingolffson couldn't quite remember. Stealing a look at the
Tetrarch's name tag, he saw the man's name, R. ANDERSON.

Several more minutes passed, and then the crucial bit of information they had
been holding their breath for; the identity of the ship, was relayed forth.

They'd had a little bit of excitement a day ago, when someone had spotted smoke,
but it had turned out to be the Royal Navy's battlecruiser Invincible making
way for a port visit in Bermuda.

Dmitriy Donskoy class, confirmed!” shouted Anderson.

"Sound General Quarters!"

Deep inside the massive steel hull of the Proteus, the blackgang of the ship
worked tirelessly. This lot was particularly aptly named, as they were all invariably
coal black, although that wasn't their natural complexion, as the conditions which
they wored under had long since covered them in oil, soot, and grime.

They were the true serfs of the Domination's Navy, locked beneath the steel decks
and only allowed outside when the ship was docked safely in a Domination held
harbor, otherwise they were doomed to stay with the ship one way or another.

They lived in a Morlock-like world of huge steel pipes, vast oil tanks and roaring fires
that powered the massive steam turbines, all of it greased and oiled till it would
satisfy inspection without a flaw.

Right now, the massive engines were ticking over softly, sending a pleasant hum
through the deck plates. Suddenly, the Engine room telegraph began to clang,
causing the Fleet Chief Sergeant in charge of the Engine room, a tall bald
headed serf, to scowl. Looking over to the General quarters annunciator, he
saw the red light flashing on and off, and his scowl disappeared instantly.

Turning to his assistant, he yelled, "G'wine an' hurry you up now, you heah?
Massah say gimme steam, so you gimme steam!" and shook the massive
wrench that served as his badge of office. It also helped keep his subordinates
working fast, for he could swing it hard enough to give them a love tap or to
smash their skulls in, depending on what mood he was in at the time.

All around him, his subordinates began running to and fro, tightening and
releasing valves in a manner designed to send the fuel oil flooding into the
boilers, superheating the steam even hotter, and the turbines spinning
ever faster.

Beneath them, the smooth hum of the deckplates disappeared, to be replaced
by a low shudder that increased as the massive dreadnought picked up speed
slowly, towards it's twenty-four knot top speed.

As he felt the vibrations increase in intensity, he looked around the dimly lit engine
room, which was lit by glass fixtures bolted to the walls and ceilings, covered with
a thin film of grease, no matter how often the crew kept wiping them down, and

Here, he was master of his domain, no Citizen could come in here and boss him
around, nosir, for it was too dirty and filthy here for those prissy bastards. Walking
over to the spittoon in the corner, he spat a brown glob of spittle into it; the oil and
grease got into everywhere, your mouth, your nose, your ears, your food, and
wherever you had cracks.

Eyeing a gauge on the bulkhead next to the spittoon, he tapped it, and smiled as
it rose into the red. "Yah Suh, you'se mah friend today sah, I'll give'ya booze and
cigarettes if ya be mah friend today, don' send me to Davy Jones' locker now ya
heah?" he muttered to the engine spirit which his crew appeased every day in the
hope that nothing in the huge room would fail.

[Flag Bridge - Dmitriy Donskoy – 1539 hours]

Vice-Admiral Drozd watched as the crew carried out the order he'd given
just moments ago to to bring the squadron around to a bearing of 38 NNE,
and felt the deck begin to shudder beneath his feet as the vibrations picked
up as they approached their maximum squadron speed of 28 knots.

Just minutes ago, they had identified the source of the smoke on the horizon
as being from a Drakan Antaeus-class destroyer. Fuck, thought
Drozd. He had been hoping to make it farther, much farther than a mere
thousand miles from New York before running into the snakes. They'd
have to fight a clearing action several days from the nearest ships which
had sortied from Polarnyy to meet them mid-way. Again, fuck.

Ten minutes later, a shout came from the lookouts above through the
sound-powered telephones which ran all over the ship. More smoke had
been sighted on the horizon. Idly. Drozd wondered if it was possible to
get a quick snatch of Vodka before the main action began...

Minutes later, the phones' buzzer rang again. Picking it up, Drozd listened
to the lookouts make their latest report. “Sir, we've sighted the tops of two
more enemy destroyers, converging on us from the northeast, range 24,700

“Understood. Bridge out.”

Walking over to the plotting table, he picked up the calipers and grease pencils
on it, and laid in the latest reports. Damn, they're on a course that'll take them
right across our bows...

As he finished laying out the plot, an ensign walked up to him. “Sir, the tophamper
of two capital ships have been sighted, estimated speed thirty two knots at a range
of 24,200 meters. The lookouts are leaning towards a tentative identification of
Aristaeus-class heavy cruisers.”

“Filthy bastards, every one of them,” remarked Lapshov, who had entered the bridge
some time ago, and was watching the officers go about their tasks. Everyone knew
about the Drakan affinity for naming their ships after some of the biggest bastards
in classical mythology, and if they didn't, the zampolits like Lapshov would
make sure they did.

“Our old friends from New York have found us,” replied Drozd as he looked out of
the bridge windows, and noticed that their escorting destroyers, the Minsk and
Kiev, were having trouble making way in this weather.

Hopefully, that wouldn't be a problem in the coming engagement.

[Bridge, DMS Proteus, 1606 Hours]

Ingolffson at this point was manning the phones that relayed information from the top
bridge, and when the officer overseeing the top bridge reported seeing the tophamper
of the Soviet battleship come over the horizon, he announced it to the whole bridge.

“Soviet Battleship sighted by the top bridge, making an estimated twenty-seven knots.”

Junior Chiliarch Charles Durdall, who was the flag officer of the Drakan squadron,
walked over to the map table, which was being constantly updated by the Tetrarchs,
studied it for a moment, and then began barking out orders.

“Bring the squadron to Oh-Four-Five degrees , maximum speed. Fire Control, begin
transmitting plotting data to the turrets, track, but do not engage. You will engage only
on my order.”

As the deadly 16.25” triple turrets began rotating on their ball bearings, Durdall walked
over to his chair and sat down while he waited for the range to close. They were still
some 26,000 meters from the Ivans, too far for the guns, but the range was closing

[Flag Bridge - Dmitriy Donskoy – 1612 hours]

Drozd pulled the calipers out once again, and did some more calculations using
the latest heading information fire control had given them for the snake battleship,
and found that if it continued on it's current heading, it would be able to close to
a mere 13,700 meters.

“Turn to fifteen degrees north-north east! The squadron is to lay smoke immediately!”

[Stern of the CA Kirov – 1615 Hours]

Michman Pyotr Mironovitch Kostrikov cursed a blue streak, causing the
young matros' under his command to back away instinctively. “Goddamn
this weather!” he roared as he watched the strong wind blow away the protective
smoke screen they'd been trying to lay for the last three minutes to keep the snakes
from getting sight of the Donskoy.

[Flag Bridge - Dmitriy Donskoy – 1621 hours]

Through the big naval binoculars, Drozd watched as the Drakan light ships, led by
their two cruisers, closed in for what could only be a torpedo attack. As he watched,
he could see that the two cruisers were actually gaining on the three destroyers in the
lead, due to their much superior ability to maintain speed in this weather, and that one
destroyer was trailing.

“Range to the enemy's light ships?”

“21,000 meters, sir.”

Drozd took a deep breath, then gave the orders. “Open fire.”

Moments later, a shudder ran through the ship, and the thick armor glass of the bridge
windows vibrated as the two forward turrets fired in quick succession, sending over
seven tons of steel hurtling through the air towards the enemy's light ships.

As the sailors in the turrets watched as the next shells were brought up by the shell
hoists, and prepared to manhandle the powder bags into position for the rammers, the
officers in fire control watched the snake ships intensely, watching for shell splashes
or God willing, hits that would help them adjust their firing solutions.

As they watched, great plumes of dirty grey water erupted into the air ahead of the
cruisers. Damn, went the thoughts of every gunnery officer in the Soviet fleet,
they'd mis-estimated the range.

Inside the turrets, the sailors watched as the massive 16” shells were lowered
onto the cradles, then rammed forward by the hydraulic rammer. Then it was
their turn to get dirty, and singing old Russian folk songs, they manhandled
the powder bags, and pushed nearly seven hundred pounds of cordite onto the
cradle for each gun. As they watched, the rammers came forth and slammed the
powder bags into the breeches like feathers.

Then the breechblocks were closed and everyone assumed the positions for
firing, and once again, the Donskoy shuddered as another salvo erupted
forth from her guns.

On the flag bridge, Drozd watched impassively as the second salvo like the first
before it, fell into water, and not steel and flesh. As he watched, he saw smoke
and flame erupting from the bows of the two snake cruisers. Moments later, the
low rumble of medium-calibre naval guns rolled across the bridge, even through
the thick armor glass.

Drozd watched as three more salvoes were fired by both sides before the first hit
of the battle occurred at 1632 hours. As he watched, a 16” shell smashed into the
lead snake cruiser, but no smoke and flame erupted forth. Fuck.

[CA Lycaon - 1635 Hours]

“Com' on, yo' slack'rs!” shouted the burly Leading Seaman as he led his fire-fighting
team onto the smouldering deck of the cruiser. Word had got to them that the Ivan shell
hit had started a slow-starting fire which was starting only to burn now.

As they dragged the heavy canvas hose across the deck, the cruiser let loose with
another salvo, deafening them. High above them, in the Number One fire control
director station, the Centurion manning the station shouted in excitement. “Hit! We
got that Ivan motha'fucka right dead on!”

[Flag Bridge - Dmitriy Donskoy – 1635 hours]

Drozd flinched as he felt the Donskoy shudder imperceptibly under the impact
of the snake shell. It didn't sound like a heavy one, probably one of the cruisers'

Turning to his damage control officer, he waited for the reports of damage to come
in, even a small eight incher could start a serious fire on a ship's deck, if it was left

“No damage sir.”

Nodding, Drozd turned away to look at the gun director repeater panel which was showing
the range to the snake battleship, some 21,950 meters and closing.

“The snake battleship's opened fire, sir.” came the voice of one of the lookouts
on the bridge.

[CA Lycaon - 1638 Hours]

The Leading Seaman and his damage control team heard a low whistling noise right before
the two 7.1” shells slammed into the cruiser some fifty feet from them, the red-hot shrapnel
and wood splinters from the two 7.1” shells tearing across the deck and wreaking it's unholy
carnage upon anyone unlucky enough to be in their way.

When the storm of steel had abated, the Leading Seaman found himself lying on the deck,
staring in shock at the bloody stumps where his legs had been. He began to scream and found
that he couldn't hear himself screaming.

On the cruiser's bridge, the damage control officer relayed the information coming in to
the ship's captain. “Medium-calibre hits amidships, no damage to ship, deck crews severely
depleted, though.”

[CA Kirov – 1638 Hours]

While the Kirov's shells were wreaking havoc on the Lycaon, a single 8” shell
struck it, tearing through the forward chain locker in the ship's bow, before exiting through
the other side, the spray of steel splinters starting a small fire in the paint stored there.

[CA Lycaon – 1641 Hours]

The massive 16” AP shell fired some time before by the Donskoy smashed
into the Number One turret of the cruiser, the explosive spray of steel fragments
shredding the gun crew inside their steel tomb. Then the bursting charge in the
shell detonated, sending a rush of explosive gasses through the lower levels of the
turret, searing the hapless janissary crewers to death before before it was finally
stopped by a closed hatch. Beyond the hatch, the powder monkeys dragged
themselves off the decks, some of them with broken arms from the force of impact,
none of them with any inkling of how close they had come to death.

On the bridge, the officers staggered away from the periscopes, stunned momentarily
from the sheer force of the impact just a few tens of yards away from their positions,
while the second 16” shell fired by the Donskoy ripped through the engine intakes.

Deep in the bowels of the cruiser, the black gang watched in growing despair as the
burners in the boilers started flickering and going out from lack of oxygen.

“The Engin' God is might'y dis'pleas'd wit' us!” shouted one of the firemen, as he
watched his boiler beginning to choke from lack of oxygen.

[Bridge, BB Proteus, 1641 Hours]

Ingolffson watched with a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach as he watched the huge
sheet of flame rocket skyward from 'A' turret on the Lycaon. Please, don't let it
be a magazine explosion.
he wished silently, as the seconds counted down. When several
seconds had passed, he let out the breath he had been holding involuntarily. The magazine
doors must have held on the Lycaon. From the corner of his eye, he saw a blur of metal
merge with the trailing cruiser, the Aristaeus, but there was no smoke or flame. Probably
a non-penetrating hit, he thought.

[Deck - Dmitriy Donskoy – 1642 hours]

The damage control team raced across the deck of the battleship, towards the smouldering
wreckage of the 3” AA gun mount which had been hit moments ago by what had to be a
medium-calibre shell; if it had been a battleship shell, there wouldn't be anything left
of the mount except a twisted mass.

Reaching the lip of the mount, the team leader peered in and then quickly turned away,
trying to avoid vomiting, but failing, hurling his meal all over the deck. Everyone inside
was dead, the gore of their passing splashed all across the gun tub.

[CA Kirov – 1643 Hours]

The ship shuddered under the impact of the two medium calibre shells. On the bridge,
Captain xnd Rank Lebedev grimaced as the damage reports began to come in. “Secondary
battery fire control disabled, and we have a fire in the boat spaces; damage control teams
are reaching it as we speak.”

“Primary fire control reports the lead snake cruiser is slowing and falling out of
their battleline.”

“Good, switch fire to the trailing snake cruiser. We've done the job on the other one.”
ordered Lebedev, as he trained his binoculars on the new target. As he watched,
several shells hit the snake cruiser, sending flames belching into the sky, and
then it happened.

The entire bridge shook as a shell struck just ahead of the bridge, and when Lebedev
had staggered back to his feet, the damage reports had begun to roll in. “Sir, 'A'
Turret reports that the last hit jammed their traverse gear. Also, engineer reports
heavy flooding from shell hit at frame 24.”

[Bridge DD Pelias – 1647 Hours]

The Captain of the Pelias watched with disgust as the seas broke over the bow
of his ship. Even with the boilers tied down and the telegraph at emergency flank,
they were barely making 28 knots. As the ship rocked back and forth in this miserable
weather, he listened to the running commentary on the battle over the 1MC.

“Ivan battleship hit! No smoke or flame, Ivan battleship apparently switching fire over to the
Proteus, to no effect.”

[Secondary Battery Control Room - Dmitriy Donskoy – 1650 hours]

“You're free to engage the snake destroyers.” growled the voice over the phone.
Nodding involuntarily, the Leitenant in charge of the secondary battery director
hung up the phone, and shouted to his underlings the new orders from the bridge.

Walking over to the director perisope, he began to train it onto the snake destroyers,
and noticed that they were now engaging the Soviet destroyers with their 5” guns. At
that moment, the ship shuddered for a second. Fuck, there's another hit, hope it
wasn't bad.

[Engine Room CA Kirov – 1650 Hours]

“Get the goddamn braces down here!” yelled the Glavniy Starshiy as he
watched the seawater stream in from the loose seams in the hull that had opened
up after several near-misses. If they couldn't keep the seawater out, even a tiny leak
would become a big one and then the boilers would go out, and the Kirov
would be dead in the water.

As he watched, the young matros' under his command rushed forth with their
mallets and quickly manhandled the wooden braces that were carried in the damage
control lockers for this purpose into position, and began pounding them into place.

[Topside Torpedo Launchers - CA Aristaeus - 1651 Hours]

The torpedomen watched from their armored stations as the battle raged
around them, waiting for the moment that they were close enough to use
their deadly steel fish in combat. Then their world disappeared in a flash
of blinding white and concussive force as a lone Soviet 7.1” shell struck
the ready torpedoes on the launcher.

[Bridge - BB Proteus – 1651 Hours]

“Zeus' breath!” shouted Anderson as he watched the ball of fire erupt from
midships on the Aristaeus through one of the periscopes. “Very large
explosion on the Aristaeus, appears to be torpedo warheads going up
from the location on the ship.”

[B Turret – Dmitriy Donskoy – 1653 Hours]

Everyone in the turret clapped their hands to their ears as the enormous
turret rang like a gong after something big, real big, had hit it. “We're all
alive, you slackers! Now get back to work!” yelled the Starshiy II Stepen
who was in charge of the turret, ignoring the blood streaming from his ears
as the result of the hit.

[Topside Torpedo Launchers - CA Aristaeus - 1654 Hours]

So much blood, thought the Able Seaman as he dragged the hose forward,
trying not to slip on the blood-soaked deck. “All'rit! We there! Turn o' the
wat'r!” he yelled.

They held the hose tight as it snaked forth as the water coursed through it,
and from the fog nozzle on the end of the hose, a fine mist began to spew
forth. While the battle raged all around them and shells flew through the
air, the janissaries continued to spray salt water into the burning crater that
had minutes ago, been the torpedo launchers. Beneath their feet, the
vibrations of the engines lessened, as speed was taken off to allow flooding
control by the damage control teams working in the sightless bowels of the
ship with portable pumps and battery powered lanterns.

[1656 Hours]

As the destroyers of both sides began to fire on each other, the triple 6" turrets
of the Donskoy began to score hits on the destroyers, the shells smashing
through the thin bulkheads before their fuzes detonated the shells inside the ships,
wreaking unholy carnage inside.

[Flag Bridge - Dmitriy Donskoy – 1656 hours]

“Range to snake destroyers 13,700 meters, 17,300 to their battleship.” came
the voice of the Starshiy Matros reading out the distances on the primary
and secondary director repeaters.

Several shudders ran through the deck at that moment, and the damage control
officer quickly replied, “Large-calibre hits amidships, no damage.”

“Hit!” yelled the gunnery officer. “Amidships on the Snake battleship, where
the floatplanes would be.”

[Mess Hall – CA Kirov – 1657 Hours]

“Stable, to the side.” ordered the ship's doctor as he sorted through the
ever-growing list of casualties from the enagement in the ship's enlisted
mess hall. The next casualty was an unfortunate seaman whose face had
been half-torn off by shell splinters from a deck hit. “Non-Stable, and
with that, he effectively condemned the man to death.

Turning to the next man in line, the doctor was bending over when
the entire room seemed to come apart, and the lights went out. When
the doctor recovered his wits several moments later, the battle lanterns
were just coming on, and he gasped as he saw what was left of the mess
hall. It was a torn and twisted mass of metal, with pieces of bodies
everywhere, arms and legs impaled on broken pipes.

[Bridge – CA Kirov - 1658 Hours]

“Secondary Fire Control, respond!” shouted the Gunnery Officer into his
sound-powered telephone. Finally giving up after several more fruitless
efforts, he dashed outside the bridge, into the hail of shot and shell, until
he saw the secondary fire control director. Or at least where it was supposed
to be. Where it was supposed to be was just a twisted mass of burnt steel,
and the aroma of burnt human flesh reached him. Fighting the urge to
retch, he ran back to the bridge and reported that the secondary director
was gone.

[Bridge, DMS Proteus, 1659 Hours]

“Ivan cruiser burning heavily,” reported Tetrarch Robert Scott Anderson, as
he continued his running commentary on the battle for those on the bridge
who weren't at a periscope.

Suddenly, the entire bridge shook heavily, the noise of the direct hit on it
deafening everyone inside, and so they didn't take notice of what had happened
until Anderson fell over the map table, his girlish screaming so loud that even the
temporarily deafened bridge crew could hear it.

“Attend to the Tetrarch!” shouted Ingolffson as he pushed Anderson's writhing
body off the map table, noticing with displeasure that he had sprayed blood
all over the carefully prepared plot. Looking back at the man's face, Ingolffson

His entire face was simply....gone. The flesh had been peeled back to the skull,
and where his eyes should have been, were just craters filled with glass. Ingolffson
stole a glance at the periscope Anderson had been using, and saw that the glass in
it was completely shattered. Must have been a direct hit, he thought idly
as the corpsmen arrived on the bridge and began to drag away the hapless Mr.

[Powder Handling Room, Turret G – Donskoy – 1700 Hours]

The badly burned matros groaned as he threw bag after bag of powder
down the hatch into the magazine, and then dogged the hatch before collapsing
to the floor in agony, and died minutes later as the toxic fumes from the burning
propellants in the ruined 6” turret above asphyxated him.

[Flag Bridge – Donskoy – 1700 Hours]

Drozd watched as the snake destroyers continued to close in on the Soviet battleline
despite being pummeled repeatedly from the Soviet destroyer guns and the
Donskoy's six inchers.

Training his binoculars onto the Kirov, Drozd watched with dismay as
a rapid succession of hits swept the crowded decks of the heavy cruiser clean.

Those brave boys of mine are paying the price today, and what a heavy bill it is.

“Sir, the snake cruiser is turning away!” shouted a lookout.

[Bridge - CA Aristaeus – 1701 Hours]

Junior Merarch Englund was not a very happy person. He hated to be forced to
turn away from a battle, but his cruiser was shipping hundreds of tons of seawater,
and the dangerously unsafe speeds they were maintaining to keep up with the
battle were causing the flooding to overwhelm the pumps easily. So it was
with a heavy heart that he had given the order to retire from the battle. Best
to save his ship to fight another day.

['A' Magazine – Donskoy – 1702 Hours]

The severely wounded Starshiy II Stepen clung to the ladder on the side
of the magazine bulkhead as the water level slowly rose in the magazine. Moments
ago, a shell had come flying into the area, cutting down the powder monkeys
and starting several small fires, but ironically enough, the hole it made was in
turn saving the ship by flooding the magazine directly with seawater. Now if
he could only survive long enough to float to the bulkhead hatch to get out of
this charnel house...

[Engine Room – Proteus – 1702 Hours]

Deep in the bowels of the ship, the blackgang had been following the battle
through the vibrations that accompanied the firing of the big 16.25” guns,
which rattled the entire room, causing specks of dust to drift from the ceiling.

Suddenly, there was an enormous shock, which sent everyone sprawling and
breaking the limbs of several unlucky serfs. “Ah, CHANGO, protect us!” cried
the serfs as they slowly picked themselves up. Then the sound of boots clattering
on the deck reached them, along with the cry of “Dam'ig' control, DAM'IG!”.

Then the lights in the room went out, followed by loud metal screeching as
another hit made the ship rock.

[Turret G – Donskoy – 1703 Hours]

“Got 'im!” shouted the turret captain as he watched the snake destroyer that
was their target shudder under the multiple 6” hits, and come to a dead stop
in the water, pouring smoke and flame into the air, while it's compatriots
began to turn away for their torpedo runs.

[1705 Hours]

The three remaining Drakan destroyers charged forth through the inferno of steel, their
torpedo tubes trained to the sides and ready for action, the crews standing at the ready
for the word from the bridge. One of the three was hit repeatedly and came to a stop before
it had reached torpedo range, but the other two loosed their deadly tin fish, some twenty
of them, towards the Soviet battleline.

[Flag Bridge – Donskoy – 1705 Hours]

the young helmsman began to turn the big bronze wheel as fast as he could.
Running out to the bridge wing, Drozd stood there, even as shells rained through
the air, his hands clutching the railing until they were white as the ships of his
squadron began their turns under his gaze.

[Bridge – CA Kirov – 1705 Hours]

“Turn faster, damn you!” yelled Lebedev as the torpedoes drew ever closer,
their deadly white wakes reaching out like arrows.

“I've got the helm as far as he'll go, comrade! We're shipping too much
water to turn any faster than this!” replied the helmsman.

[1706 Hours]

The two Soviet destroyers charged into the wall of steel being thrown up by the
secondaries of the Draka battleline as they prepared for their torpedo runs, the
michmen manning the torpedo launchers doing last minute checks of
the launchers; they would only get one shot at this, and it had to count.

[Engine Room – Proteus – 1708 Hours]

“Co'on! Go! Go!” shouted the FCS as he guided his blackgang out of the flooding
engine room and towards safety, their battery powered lanterns their only salvation
in the twisted maze belowdecks. Beneath their feet, the vibrations of the engines
slowed as the ship's speed began to drop.

[Deck – Donskoy – 1708 hours]

Glavniy Starshiy Kalatozov watched in disbelief as the mainmast
was carried away like it wasn't there by a heavy shell, the screams of the
lookouts on the mast drowned out by the rending noise of steel giving

Then he was knocked to his feet by the concussion wave of a very large
explosion. When he finally got up again, every bone in his body was
sore, and looking towards the bow, his jaw dropped and he involuntarily
made the sign of the cross. 'A' turret, having been disabled previously in
the battle, was now burning brightly from a gaping rent in it's armor.

Mischa... he thought. Mischa would have been in there. At least
he was lucky, he never knew what hit him.

[The Soviet Destroyers Minsk and Kiev - 1709 Hours]

“Give it to those snake bastards!” shouted the Michmen as the
order to fire came from the bridges of the destroyers, and sixteen
of the finest torpedoes from the rodinu burst from their tubes,
their screws biting into the dirty water of the Atlantic as huge sprays
of water rose into the air around the snake battleship as she twisted
and turned to evade the Donskoy's shells.

[Bridge – CA Kirov – 1711 Hours]

Lebedev watched with growing horror as the snake torpedoes drew
ever closer, their white wakes foaming on the surface of the water.

Just before they struck, he made the sign of the cross.

The first torpedo struck amidships, ripping into the boiler rooms,
filling them with seawater in the rooms directly in the face of the
blast or with live steam from broken pipes in the others nearby.

Even as the Kirov was starting to slow imperceptibly from
the loss of steam to the turbines, the second torpedo struck, and
in a massive underwater explosion, broke the cruiser's back.

On the bridge, Lebedev watched the horizon tilt crazily as the
ten thousand ton warship literally jacknifed across the water,
at over twenty knots, her sides bursting open at the seams.

For several more seconds, the broken bow section hung on the
water, dozens of feet from the mangled stern, before it sunk
underwater. On the bridge, icy seawater poured in from the
shattered bridge windows, filling the bridge within seconds.

The stern stayed on the surface for much longer, before finally
sinking in a froth of debris. Just under eighty seconds had passed
between the time the Kirov was a warship to when she was
a twisted mass of metal sinking slowly to the bottom of the

[Flag Bridge – Donskoy – 1711 hours]

Drozd watched as the Kirov went under with a sinking feeling in the
pit of his stomach. Nine hundred men gone... Then it was back to simple
survival as he fought for balance as the deck tilted under his feet as the battleship
fought the helm and turned at a sharp angle.

Drozd watched with glee as first one, then another snake torpedo missed his ship. And
then he saw it. It came out of seemingly nowhere and smashed into the side of the

And nothing happened.

Bozemoi! Thank God for shoddy manufacturing! he thought as he let his breath
out, but his relief was short lived as the Donskoy shuddred again under the
impact of several large shells.

[Boiler Room No. 4 – Donskoy – 1711 hours]

“OH MY GOD! OUT OUT OUT!” screamed the Starshiy II Stepen in charge of
the boiler room as he saw the live steam burst forth from the ruined piping in the
wake of the shell hit, flaying his men's flesh from their bones at over two hundred
degrees celsius.

Then the seawater hit, pouring through the hole the heavy shell had made, when it came
into contact with the hot metal of the boilers, a small scale explosion rumbled through
the ship, snuffing out the lives of the Starshiy II Stepen and the few other survivors
in the boiler room before the rising water levels and steam did it.

[Flag Bridge – Donskoy – 1712 hours]

Kontraadmiral, we're losing speed due to excessive flooding in
the machinery spaces, and Boiler Room Number Four is out of comission.”

Drozd wasted no time in replying. “Take the remaining boilers to flank. Speed
is our only advantage over the snakes, we must retain it.”

[1713 Hours]

As the smoke trailed from the various hits all over her battle-scarred hull,
the Donskoy's remaining turrets thundered, sending their deadly loads
through the air, while the Proteus replied in turn. Moments later, a
plume of smoke and flame shot into the air as one of the shells found the

At this time, one of the torpedoes fired earlier by the Minsk and
Kiev found it's mark, one of the Drakan destroyers, the Sinis.

[Bridge – BB Proteus – 1713 Hours]

“Sir, we're losing the Sinis! shouted Ingolffson. Even as he watched,
he saw the destroyer submarine underwater, the seawater pouring in where
her bow used to be. At 28 knots, the seawater was like a wall of steel, and
not even dogged hatches could resist the elemental force. It was all over
in less than twenty seconds.

Then minutes later, it was their turn, as another one of the Ivan torpedoes
found them. Behind the torpedo hit, thousands of gallons of fuel oil began
to stream out into the sea; the torpedo bulges had stopped it from damaging
the Proteus, but now she was losing fuel by the second.

As the sky turned dark, and the rain began to pour down, the aft turrets of
the two mighty behemoths continued to thunder at each other across the
lead grey-sky.

[1716 Hours]

The destroyers on both sides swung away, their guns falling silent, except
for the sizzling of the rainwater on their barrels. In the distance, their crews
could hear the dull booming of the big guns on the battleships as they
continued to trade shots.

Even as the seas continued to worsen, the Soviet destroyers were still
able to make enough headway to form up with the Donskoy, while
the Drakan destroyers, their smaller size a disability in this kind of
weather, fought simply to stay in place.

[DMS Proteus – 1719 Hours]

“O'en the dam' hat'c, yo' scum!” shouted the Fleet Chief Sergeant as he
hammered at the hydraulically actuated hatch, while the compartment they
were in filled with water at the rate of several thousand gallons a minute from
the firefighting pumps.

On the other side, the Senior Tetrarch in charge of Damage Control Party
54 chuckled as he increased the flow rate to the pumps through the control
panel on the side of the bulkhead. What did it matter anyway, losing a few
janissaries to get the ship back onto an even keel so they could engage the
Ivans? After all, there was plenty more where those came from.

As the screams faded out as the water filled the other compartment, the
Senior Tetrarch reached for the sound powered phone which connected
him with damage control. “Compartment 65A counterflooded, proceeding
to 65B.”

[Bridge – Proteus - 1720 Hours]

Putting down the phone, Ingolffson turned and made his report to Durdall.
“Counterflooding complete, we're back on a level keel, speed in this weather
however, is limited to just fifteen knots until we can pump the water back out.”

[1725 Hours]

As what little sunlight faded from the grey skies, and the grey seas merged with
the grey skies in the rapidly darkening twilight, the guns fell silent on both sides,
as the weather conditions began to preclude any effective fire control.

[Flag Bridge – Donskoy – 1740 hours]

A low buzzing came from the bank of the sound powered phones at the aft of the
bridge, and Drozd was the first there, beating the young Leitenant who was
manning them to the punch.

“Sir, this is radar control, we've lost contact, repeat, negative radar contact.”

Drodz nodded. “Bridge confirms lost contact with enemy flotilla at 1741 hours.

Lapshov absentmindedly listened to the exchange on the bridge as he watched the
plumes of smoke rise from the wrecked A turret of the Dmitrii Donskoy
despite the best efforts of the damage control crew. For a moment he wondered
what would happen if the magazine exploded. Then suddenly an officer materialized
out of nowhere.

"That's good smoke," at Lapshov's confused look, the officer continued. "Fires
make smoke, but so does putting out fires, and different things smoke differently,
and that's good smoke. If it was bad smoke, we'd have gone boom a long time ago,
so no worries."

Once more Lapshov turned to gaze out the armoured glass window, it was fractured
in many places, with cracks spreading out like roses or spiderwebs where fragments
and shrapnel had struck it, then he decided to go outside opening the side door to
the bridge and scooting outsideside. The outside was cold and bitter, the rain coming
down in sheets, but the fresh ocean air, even mixed with the smell of burning oil, rubber,
and the sounds of screams was still invigorating.

Sometime later, Lapshov looked up from watching the crew clean up the damage on
the deck from the shell hits by the light of emergency battle lanterns; there were huge
craters in the deck where heavy shells had hit, but failed to pierce the armor, and in
other places, jagged holes where theshells had, along with the stench of burnt flesh.

An electronic gonging noise sounded over the loudspeakers, and Lapshov dimly
noted that it was the General Quarters alarm.

“Attention all, hands, secure from General Quarters, repeat, secure from General
Quarters; remain in condition one, repeat, remain in condition one for damage
control measures.”

[New York City – Two Days Later – June 6th 1940 – 1000 Hours]

Myers watched in bemusement as the battered Drakan squadron
limped into the harbor, followed by dozens of small boats darting
back and forth, despite the best efforts of the Drakan officers to
keep them from getting close, after all, New York City was a
neutral harbor, after all.

He pulled out his pen and notepad and began scribbling down his general
impressions, noting which ships seemed to be damaged, and how. It would
make for good copy, especially to go with those photos that TASS had gotten
from yesterday's Aeroflot airship that overflew the Drakan squadron while it
was still a few hundred miles out to sea, before the US Navy had come forth
to escort them in.

This was going to sell a lot of copy, he thought, especially with the headline
he had in mind for it; “The Battle of Bermuda Rise”, that sounded like a good
headline; after all, what were they going to call it? The Battle of the Atlantic?

At that, Myers snorted. Battle of the Atlantic indeed.

Chapter Seven - Bills und Blood

[The US Senate - June 11th, 1940]

John C. Stennis stood up from his chair, cleared his throat,
and began to speak.

"Friends, fellow senators and representatives, I would like to talk
to you about the recent naval battle which occured off our coast
between the Soviet Union and the Domination of the Draka."

"As you all know, the Soviet Union lost one of her finest cruisers,
the Kirov in just above a minute, while the Domination had her
flagship rendered into an impotent bulldog, it's teeth pulled for
the moment."

Stennis paused, and took a sip of water from the glass on his desk
before continuing.

"This underscores the need, nay, the imperative to build up the
US Navy for a future conflict which may not come. But as the events
of the past few days have shown, preparation pays off ten-fold."

"We should sacrifice now, when sacrifice is measured in pennies
squeezed from the budget, rather than the blood of our constituents."

"I ask, therefore, that you vote yea on the so-called 'Two-Ocean Navy"
Bill that I and Representative Vinson of Georgia have authored
together, which will authorize the building of one point eight million tons
of warships for our Navy, bringing our first, and most important, line of
defense against foreign aggressors up to a total of three point six million
tons of warships, enough to meet the growing twin threats of both the
Domination of the Draka in the Atlantic and the Empire of Nippon in the

"Thank you. That is all, I will now concede the floor of the Senate to the
Honorable Majority Leader, Mr. Barkley of Kentucky."

[10 Hours later - The Executive Office Building, Washington DC]

Admiral Harold R. Stark, Chief Of Naval Operations, stood before the
massive scale models of the new carriers and battleships the US Navy
had been considering building, and laughed heartily. The Two Ocean
Bill had sailed through both the House and Senate in record time, and
had been signed by FDR hours later.

"Well, all the easy stuff is done with, now we have the hard part; picking
the names," he commented, as he looked at a list of names suggested
for the Navy's new 59,900 ton carriers. Only four would have been built
under the old Eleven-Percent bill, but now with the new bill, the Navy was
looking at fifteen carriers of the same type.

Stark paused for a moment to consider this. Fifteen new carriers, merciful God!

He, along with everyone in the US Navy, remembered the lean years of the
1930s, following the building boom of the 1920s, when the Lexingtons and
South Dakotas had entered service in a never ending stream, and then
the Depression had hit. Not a single new ship had been built until FDR's
second term, beginning in 1937. Not even FDR had the pull to get the
beancounters to allocate more funds, and even then, it was just for more
destroyers and light cruisers; no capital ships at all.

"So what are we going to name them?" asked one of Stark's aides, a
young Captain named Spruance. "Famous ships of the past, like our
current carriers?"

"No, no. These new ships are going to be a total break with the past,
armored flight decks, a airwing of a hundred-forty, and almost
as large as a battleship. No, we need something new, and besides,
we're going to war with the Draka eventually. Let's pick a symbolic

A silence gathered throughout the room, until Spruance again spoke up.
"What about Gettysburg? Largest land battle in the western hemisphere,
and it was the high-water mark of the Confederacy."

"Gettysburg..." Stark rolled the name around his lips. "USS Gettysburg. I like
the sound of it."

"You do realize that the name is still going to be controversial in the southern
states?" added a young ensign whose name Stark couldn't remember, who
was attached to the names committee.

"That's why we name the follow on ship Manassas." added Spruance with
a grin.

[The Next Day - June 12th, 1940 - The White House]

"So Admiral Stark, these are the names that your committee has picked for
our new carriers?" asked Franklin Roosevelt as he played idly with a letter
opener while he read the list with special attention. Once a Secretary of the
Navy; always a Secretary of the Navy.

"Yes, Mister President, we've decided on these names, due to their historical
significance from past wars; I hope they meet with your approval."

"Ticonderoga, Bunker Hill, Shiloh, Valley Forge, Ottawa...Yes, I have to say
this list meets with my approval. You can pass my compliments onto your
committee; they've chosen well."

"On to other matters, Mr. President; in order to meet your 'Neutrality Patrol'
proclaimation, we're going to have to pull a lot of old four-stackers from
mothballs and crew them; I assume I'm allowed to call up the Reserves to
do this?"

"Yes, by all means; do try and integrate the Neutrality Patrol with the requirements
of our Reserves; I can't think of any better training than sending them out to sea,
rather than having them sit in the middle of a river on a rotting hulk for several weeks
every few months."

Stark nodded. "I'll let the Naval Reserve know as soon as possible." As he was gathering
up his papers, and preparing to leave; Stark heard the intercom on the president's desk,
one of those newfangled inventions buzz, and he heard the President's secretary, Lucy
Mercer, say something about "the gentlemen from Consolidated Vultee are here to
see you."

Consolidated, now wasn't that an aircraft company? Perhaps it had to do with the
replacement for the "Sacred Cow" that everyone seemed to be talking about
these days.

[Domination of Draka Embassy; Washington DC - That Same Time]

Diplo-Strategos Robert Faldo sighed as he put the telephone on his desk down.
The latest news from New York was not very good. Apparently the damned Yanks
were delaying as much as possible the repairs to the Proteus and her consorts,
preventing them from going to sea as soon as possible; and because of that,
that damned cripple in the White House was talking about impounding them for
"the duration of hostilities", because of "non-neutral intent" or some schiesse.

Getting up from his desk, Faldo walked past his secretary's desk and into the
smoking room on the third floor of the embassy, where everyone could gather
for a nice puff on a fag every once in a while to let stress out.

Taking a fag from inside his jacket, he lit it and sat back into one of the plush chairs
in the room and let out a long sigh. Far too much bullshit here; dealing with serfs
who believed they were citizens; damned Americans. Had the stupidity to free their
own serfs, and now they kept demanding that the Domination enamicipitate it's

Absolute rubbish.

"How's it going, Bob?" asked Paul Mercer, one of the senior officers of the
Security Directorate at the Domination's American embassy.

"Absolute shit, Paul. The damned Americans are causing me no end what with
our ships in New York," replied Faldo sharply.

"It could be worse; you could be one of the poor bastards down in Archona, trying
to decode that Ivan declaration of war for the Archon." Pausing to take a drag on his
own cigarette, Paul let out a deep cloud of smoke before continuing. "Just what the
hell does 'We will Bury You' mean, stuff like that."

Faldo sniggered. "That entire document is nothing but a pile of sniveling serf bravado
masquerading as a diplomatic document."

"Don't be so sure, Bob."

A long pause filled the room as Faldo put down his fag and took a careful look around
the room to make sure no one else but them was in it, before continuing.

"What the fuck does that mean?"

"Exactly what it means. I've seen the estimates of Soviet manpower. We only can raise
at best about seven million citizens, and ten million more Janissaries; we could always
recruit more Janissaries, but past that ten million mark, the security problems involved
grow asymptomatically."

"By contrast, the Soviet Union can raise twenty-five million troops easily, and if they
were seriously threatened, they could raise as much as thirty-six million."

As Mercer watched Faldo's face grow even more pale, he continued. "The Soviets,
worst of all, can raise 1.5 million fresh troops a year simply by their huge population size,
while we can only raise 100,000 a year."

"In short, Faldo, if every single Citizen of ours kills three Ivans, while our Janissaries kill
a single Ivan soldier; the Ivans still end up with a net gain. Are you now comprehending
just how fucked we are?"

"By Freya's can we even win at all?"

"Three ways, my dear Ambassador; we must one, deny them their oil supplies; which is what
we're doing in the Caucasus now, pushing to take their vital oil ports. Two, grab as much of
their heavily populated areas to deny them that manpower pool; we're not doing that, the
Caucasus is too thinly populated for that. Three, knock them out fast before someone else
joins Krasnov's 'Great Patriotic War'."

"The Ukraine is the key. It contains large amounts of their heavy industry and
population, along with being a vital breadbasket. But we're not doing that now, just
going hey-diddle-diddle-up-the-middle into the most heavily partisanized area of the
Soviet Union."

Mercer put his cigarette into an ashtray and stared at the ceiling for several moments.

"From the reports I'm getting through the SecDi daily circular, what's going on is making
Afghanistan look tame. Nasty business all around." Mercer then paused, and stared
directly at Faldo. "Your job, along with every other ambassador, is far more critical than
those old fogies in the General Staff who sent us blundering into the Caucasus. You
must keep the rest of the damned world off our backs, in spite of ourselves, long
enough for us to capture three of the following four cities in Russia; Astrakhan, Moscow,
Leningrad and Magnitogorsk."

[New York Harbor - DMS Proteus - That Same Time]

"No, no, you goddamned serf! Not like that!" shouted Ingolffson as he watched the
big wop dockworker deliberately drop his welding torch into the the mucky water
of the harbor. Shit, another one of these damnable delays.

"You got a problem with my workers?" came a low rumbling voice from behind

Turning around, Ingolffson came face to face with a bearded man of medium
height. "Yes, Foreman, I have a goddamned problem with your fucking workers."

Dalton listened with feigned shock as Ingolffson poured out his frustrations about
how Dalton's workers kept delaying, or deliberately screwing up their work; keeping
the Drakan ships in port as long as possible.

"Not my fault your people are assholes and keep calling my workers 'serfs', you
fucking snake bastard," growled Dalton. "We might be neutral, but it doesn't mean
we have to enjoy working on contract for you..."

"Remember the contract we signed with you has significant penalties in our
favor if you fail to finish the job in the amount of time specified."

"I'll keep that in mind, boss," replied Dalton in a sarcastic tone of voice. Damned
snakes think they run the fucking world.

As Ingolffson walked away in a huff towards the next point of contention between the
dockworkers and the ship's crew; Dalton bent over the railing and shouted, "Nice work,
Joe! Keep this shit up, and we'll get that fat contract with the Navy for those new ships
they're talkin' about building!"

[0500 hours, June 13th, 1940 - Over Drakan Controlled North Africa]

Lieutenant Bob Whipple listened to the satisfiying drone of his mount's two-stage
Merlins as he watched dawn slowly break over the vastness of the North African
landscape below him. Below, he could see the various fires from the oil refineries
as they burned off excess natural gas, this was one of the most heavily industrialized
'new conquest' areas of the Domination; but he wasn't here to take pictures of the

No, British Intelligence had plenty of pictures of that; what they were after was something
far more secret. Apparently no one could get close to the Quattara depression hydroplant
at all, not without security clearance; from what his briefers had told him, the Security
Directorate ran the place now; and had shot a couple of guys who had tried to penetrate
the place to get pictures.

So MI6 had gone to the RAF and bangled out an overflight by one of No. 1 PRU's Recon
Mossies of the facility in question. The plane had been painted in a pink tone, unlike the
sky blue that the RAF's recon planes normally carried; and all the insignas and other
identifying marks had been scrubbed off; which was a joke, Whipple thought. Only one
nation operated the Mosquito, Britain.

Well, enough idle thoughts, the target was coming up fast, time to get to work. As the
Mosquito passed over the Quattara depression plant, the four cameras in it's nose
loaded with special ultra-high speed film began clicking away, two taking visual spectrum
photos, the other two, infrared photos. If one of the cameras bunged up, the other would
ensure that the photos would be taken anyway.

As Whipple turned the Mosquito around for another pass, he spotted the lone fighter
rising in the distance, and recognized it for what it was.

Eagle II 'Special' high-altitude fighter, with the new Atlantis Peregrine 24-cylinder
inline turbocompounds replacing the normal model's Kurenwor 12-cylinder engines.
Fast, speedy, and lots of raw power thanks to the new Atlantis Peregrines; but word
was, the Draka kept having problems with those Peregrines; engine fires out the

Damn, maybe he could use that to his advantage; his Merlin 21s were only 1,400
hp each, compared to those Drakan monster 24s cranking out 2,100 horses. But
he was at the edge of his machine's performance, some 35,000 feet, while the
Snake pilot was down at 12,000 and climbing as fast as his engines could hold out.

Whipple put his ship into a shallow climb towards the coast, and from time to time, he
put her into a short dive around to regain sight of his pursuer, then turned around and
regained his lost altitude. This cat and mouse game continued on for fifteen minutes,
until on the fourth turn-around, he saw the Drakan interceptor losing altitude rapidly,
it's port engine burning heavily.

"That's what you get for trying to match fine British engineering!" shouted Whipple
as he watched the Drakan ship drop like a brick, an engine aflame. Stealing a look
at his map, he saw that it was almost eight hundred miles and over two more hours
in the air before he was home free in Greece.

[165th Interceptor Merarchy Base, Marsa, Province of Egypt]

Pilot Officer Johanna von Shrakenberg jumped out of her burning Eagle II and cursed
up a blue storm, goddamn those fucking incompetents who had designed those
damnable engines!

What fucking moron had come up with the brilliant idea of putting two engines
together and giving it the cooling system of one? Snarling, she stalked away
towards the officers mess to drown her rage in the duty-free port they served there,
leaving her burning fighter on the tarmac for the flight-line serfs to extinguish.

As she stepped into the muggy bar, she found her commanding officer,
Merarch von Lesser, waiting for her at the bar.

"Problems, my dear Johanna?" he asked as he offered her a seat.

"Plenty, von Lesser. First of all, those pigfuckas down at Atlantis Peregrine give
us the shittiest engines of all time and call it an 'improvement' over the old Kurenwors,
and then they expect us to do great things with it, and when we dont, the Air Directorate
down in Archona start screaming at us for 'wasting a fine fighter'."

"Did you get a good look at the intruder? The boys down at Quattara are screaming
into my ear non-stop, demanding to know why my Merarchy, with over thirty-five frontline
fighters, couldn't stop a single intruder. They're mighty pissed; I can't see why...after
all, how the fuck can a power plant for god's sake be a state secret? Damned Security
Directorate weasels."

"All I know is it was twin-engined, and pink. I couldn't get close enough for a positive ID."
replied Johanna as she slammed down a shot of rum.

"Pink?" asked von Lesser incredulously.

"Yes, you heard me, Pink."

Lesser stared at Johanna for several seconds, trying to decide if the heat had finally
fried her brains, before replying. "Well, in the end, it doesn't matter. They want heads
for this cock-up, and you're the citizen on the spot. Sorry. You've been reassigned to
Russia, effective immediately, to a ground attack merarchy."

"Fuck it, isn't that the greatest thing of them all, I'll be going up against the bastards
who dam' nea' butchered my brother!" shouted Johanna as she slammed down her
shot glass and stormed out of the tavern angrily.

Behind her, von Lesser thought about that so-called pink aircraft. This was what, the
second time a pink aircraft had penetrated Drakan airspace in two months; and both
times, it had been damn near uninterceptable. Already, the jokes were circulating through
the Interceptor Merarchies about the 'Pink Panther' of the coast. Damn it, this was not
the best way to endear yourself to the higher ups in Archona, being unable to bring
down a goddamned PINK aircraft. Sighing, Lesser ordered another shot of rum to
try and drown his slowly growing headache in liquor.

[Grevena, Greece]

Slowly, the pink painted reconnaisance Mosquito came to a halt on the runway,
her engines sputtering to a dead stop from simple fuel exhaustion; these flights
over the North African holdings of the Domination were pushing the Mosquito
to it's limits.

As the props stopped spinning, the combined RAF/Greek ground crew ran
forwards and began to perform the post-flight checks while the MI6 contigent
removed the film from the cameras, protected by armed guards. Once the film
was removed, it was placed into several padded cases and walked over to the
RAF transport aircraft which sat on the apron nearby, it's engines spinning for
a fast take-off. Once the couriers were aboard with their valuable cargo, the
engines spun up, their throaty roars filling the small airfield, and everyone watched
as the transport took off for London, where the film would be processed as
soon as it landed in MI6's offices.

[1300 hours, June 13th, 1940 - Yerevan, Province of Armenia]

It was a secure behind the lines mobile hospital, hastily thrown up from pre-fabricated
parts by the auxilliary engineers, but for now it had relatively sturdy wooden walls, and
soft beds with clean white sheets, and fabric metal framed screens that could be put up
for improved privacy.

The main sick room was long, with dozens of beds lining the walls, heads facing the wall
and feet towards the middle of the room, little progress charts attached on clipboards
hanging from the end of each bed, here and there stainless steel drip holders had been
installed to deliver blood or an IV feed to a wounded patient.

The room was clean, very clean, with not a hint of the scent of rot and death that so often
accompanied wound stations in the field, instead there was the smell of medicines and

Citizen doctors, backed by auxilliary nursing staff and janitors carefully tended to the sick,
though there was little time to sit by their side and hold their hands. "Anotha' buncha'dem
comin' dawn" the cry would go up, and the doctors would rush out to perform triage, and
rush the new patients into the operating room where they'd do their damndest to save their

Meanwhile in a quiet corner of the main room, two beds sat reasonably close together. On both
of them lay wounded veterans, one of them a hawk faced blonde young man who had lost a leg.
He simply stared at the ceiling while he fingered the unfamiliar hospital garb that they were all
wearing, convenient no doubt, but odd for one who had spent almost all of his life in uniform.

The other was a man much similar, not quite as aristocratic looking, but all of his limbs were
intact. As he turned over, his eyes met with his bedmate, and they shook hands.

"Decurion Walter Heinz, 2nd Airborne Chilliarchy."

Eric grunted as he fought off the sedatives long enough to return the greeting. "Centurion Eric von
Shrakenberg, 1st Airborne Chilliarchy" he replied.

"So how'd they get you?" asked Heinz, eager to strike up a conversation with his bedmate.

"Ivans attacked in force the village we were holding at the pass, about a platoon of Trotskys,
and one ungodly shitload of Ivan infantry."

"Infantry? You were lucky, Eric. At my drop zone, they attacked us with three whole
companies of fucking Cossacks. Tell me, you ever see a man cut literally in half with
a goddamned sword by a mounted horseman? In nineteen-fucking forty?"

Eric grunted noncomittally. "No, can't say I have."

"Well, it ain't a goddamned pretty sight, We lost almost an entire company to those fuckers,
only fifty men out of a hundred sixty walked away from that."

"What kind of moron on the Grand Council decided that an airborne drop far behind enemy
lines in mountainous territory would be a fucking cheery idea? I'd like to damned well know
that!" snarled Walter.

"My father was one of those who thought so," remarked Eric idly.

Walter looked at Eric oddly for a moment before recognition came to his eyes.
"So you're one of those Shrakenburgs."

Eric shrugged. "We don't try to advertise it, unlike some other families. Say, have you
seen this article in Steel Fist? Damned Ivans are giving us a tough fight in Tbilisi."
added Eric as he threw his copy of the army's magazine over to his bedmate, who
coughed as he read the article.

"Freya's tits, can it be that bad?"

"Apparently so, Fifth Army's getting chewed up mighty bad, down to only 70,000 effectives."
replied Eric. "The Ivans are forcing us to go from house to house in Tbilisi and clear it out with
flamethrowers and satchel charges; the Janissaries aren't good enough for that kind of hard work,
they break too easily, so we got to use Citizens."

"Whats this? RPG-1?" asked Walter.

Eric shrugged again. "I don't know any more than what they're saying in Steel Fist,
apparently the Ivans developed it following our clashes in 36 and 37, fires this rocket
propelled shell out to a distance of a hundred fifty meters and has a penetration of nearly
ten centimeters of armor."

"Whyinhell didn't we think of that?" growled Walter.

"Didn't you hear? Those new rifle grenades they gave us right before we jumped off
were supposed to be the answer to those new Ivan tanks, strike the top armor and
shred anyone inside...or so they claimed." At that, Eric rolled his eyes.

"Save us from the damned beancounters back in Archona." moaned Walter as he
read about results of RPG-1 hits on the Hond III in Steel Fist, complete with
graphically accurate photographs of the results. Apparently it wasn't big enough
to penetrate the frontal armor of the Hond III, but more than enough when aimed
at the sides or rear. Hoplite II IFVs were nothing more than dead meat when
faced with the RPG-1s. There were several more pages of suggestions on how
crews could best deal with this new Ivan weapon, such as piling sandbags and
other material on top of the hull to disrupt the HEAT jet.

Groaning, Walter put the magazine down, and stared at Eric.

"Piling sandbags?"

"Another brilliant idea from the people that gave you the method for clearing ten thousand
square acres of lands that had been infected by mustard gas...simply remove the top two
inches of soil!" replied Eric sarcastically.

"Lets hope we don't get sent to Tbilisi...oh wait, you're missing a foot, lucky bastard."

Chapter Eight - Working on the Railroad

[Former Soviet Armenia - June 17th, 1200 hours]

The steel rails glistened under the blazing sun, like they had for years before. But today was to be
different. Far away, a low throaty roar sounded. Minutes later, the first of the flatcars came around
the curve.

Piled high with sandbags, and with the long thin barrels of 40mm anti-aircraft guns poking out from
every concievable distance, the flatcars were swarming with soldiers wearing mottled camouflage;
some lounging in the sun while others watched the sky intently, while yet more scanned the treeline
even more intently with binoculars.

Behind the four flatcars ahead of it, the heavily weathered and worn Soviet R-15 Diesel locomotive
grumbled mightily as it strained to pull the troop train across the mountains that made up so much
of the Caucasus.

Inside one of the heavily laden sleeping cars, Monitor Sean Harrison watched the trees go by one by
one from the grated windows of the sleeping car. Looking around, he remarked how much different
this car was now, compared to just a month ago. Then, it had been part of the luxurious Disrakapur
to Alexandria run; now it was just part of a long drag of drab military cars; the brilliant blue and gold
of it's former existence covered over with the olive drab of the military.

The anti-grenade screens weren't certainly part of the pre-war equipment, thought Harrison. Damned
he thought. The Russians had made tossing grenades into sleeping cars carrying both fresh
troops and the wounded a spectator sport, until guards had been posted around the clock and these
new anti-grenade screens had been installed.

Harrison was about to remark to his bunkmate, one of his neighbors from back home in Caesar,
when his entire world went to pieces.

Several hundred feet ahead of Harrison and his fellow squaddies, the lead wheels of the first flatcar
ran over the wires which had been spread across the rails, breaking the circuit, and triggering the fifty
kilograms of explosives which had been buried the night before by a partisan group.

The massive explosion threw the flatcar, men, guns, sandbags and all, into the air, where it flipped end
over end for dozens of meters, before crashing down about forty meters down the line in a pile of splintering
wood and screams.

All over the length of the train, doors were thrown open, and soldiers in various states of dress and undress,
including some who had been rudely interrupted in the act of coitus, poured out, their rifles at the ready.

As Harrison brought his T-7B to the at ready position, he heard the shout go through the line, "A Tetrarch! Move
out and secure the area!"

Fuck, went Harrison. A Tetrarch was his unit. Grumbling to himself, he jogged out of the milling mass, and
joined the rest of his Tetrarch, which was made up entirely of people from his hometown as they advanced at
a jog down the length of the train, towards the burning flatcar.

Reaching the area where the flatcar had been, everyone couldn't help but steal a glance at where the charge
had been; now there was a crater five feet deep and fifteen feet wide, with the rails twisted upwards towards
the sky.

"First Lochos! Cover Second!" shouted their Decurion, a hard-bitten man by the name of DiFierno. Without
a word, Harrison and the rest of his Lochos jogged at a brisk pace into the forest under the cover of their
fellow citizens rifles. If that had been a command-detonated bomb, the partisan pigs couldn't be far.

Fifteen minutes later, they trudged back to the stopped train, having gained nothing from it but sweat, lots
of sweat along with several nasty insect bites. "Dam' Russian pig'fuckahs," grumbled one of the troopers
next to him. "Don' even have the guts to fac' us, instea' they hid' in the night an' blow us up by remot'."

As they emerged from the treeline, they saw that the engineers were already well along in the process
of replacing the blown up section of rail with extra sections of track and ties that were stored in the rear
of every train for this very purpose. While the citizen engineers cut away at the twisted mass of the previous
rails, the serf auxilaries attached to Chilliarchy HQ for this kind of menial labor, were shoveling dirt
into the hole, covering it up so that the rails could be re-laid.

As Harrison watched, Chilliarch von Falkenburg walked up along the track, clearly displeased. "What the
fuc' is taking you so long? This hole should have been filled by now!" Without any further word, he drew
his service pistol and shot one of the serf auxillaries in the head.

Spitting on the body, von Falkenburg holstered his pistol. "Bury that worthless pile of shit in there; the rest
of you scum, get working HARDER. We're already an hour and a half behind schedule, and I won't tolerate
no more delays."

Fear of death had a very salutory effect, and aching bodies were forgotten as the workers went into high gear,
swinging tools harder and faster than before. Then one of them stopped briefly to wipe his brow. There was
another gunshot, after that, no one stopped working for any reason at all till the job was done.

The Decurion on duty cursed silently. Damned shame to have to use these rejects, and a damned shame to
have to shoot them to make a point, but these were lazy ass ragheads and even when they were broken, they
needed a lesson to keep working.

[Outskirts of Tbilisi - June 17th, 1940 - 1900 hours]

The sun was a red ball slowly sinking below the horizon when the 763th Infantry Chilliarchy's troop train
finally pulled into the station, some four hours behind schedule. As the troops detrained, wave after wave
of Rhino ground attack aircraft roared overhead, their bellies heavy with bombs, trying to get one last
strike in before it became too dark for combat operations.

Harrison stood on the hard packed ground in the marshalling yard, and stared at awe at the great red glow
on the horizon to the north. "What's that?" he asked one of the Security Directorate men who was marching
up and down, trying to create order from chaos as each train unloaded.

"You dropped on yo' head as a child? That glow is Tbilisi. Have fun." replied the Directorate man with an
evil smirk.

"Damn it."

"Hey, Sean! We found som' toys to play with!" came the shout from across the marshalling yard. Looking down
the yard, Harrison saw that the members of his Chilliarchy were gathering around a line of
refugees, penting their built-up anger over the endless partisan attacks on the way here on the Georgians.

Walking up, he saw one of the Georgian women screaming in their gutter language as the men played football with
her baby, the meaty smacks of booted foot striking flesh clearly distingushable even from a distance. Fucking
disgraceful sow, learn some fucking discipline,
thought Harrison. By Freya, these people were soft, they
wouldn't have lasted a minute in the boarding schools back home.

Groaning, Sean clutched his head. Fucking bitch's screaming was giving him a headache. Unslinging his rifle, he
shot the woman in the head, silencing her shrieks forever. "Shut up yo' fools! You serfs now, better start
learnin' to behav' like 'em!" he shouted.

[76th Rail Legion Headquarters - 2000 hours]

The headquarters of the 76th Rail Legion wasn't much; it was a railroad station that had seen better days;
the paint was peeling on the walls, nine out of ten windows were broken, and the only light within came from
kerosene lanters which had been hastily hung from nails driven into the walls.

In one of the rooms, Chilliarch Manfred von Falkenburg was doing a fairly good impression of pure
blind rage, directed at the hapless officer who was manning the Rail Transport Allocation desk.

"They did WHAT?"

"I'm sorry, Chilliarch, but your Chilliarchy was delayed beyond any reasonable amount of time, so your unit's
Hoplite IIs were....reallocated to other units who needed them badly."

von Falkenburg literally wanted to reach out and strangle this fucking behind the lines rear echelon
skinny motherfucker with his bare hands. Gritting his teeth, he counted to ten several times before

"On whose authority were they reallocated, Tetrarch?" he sneered, emphasizing the man's

The clerk flipped through several piles of paper on his desk before finding the paper he was looking for.
Holding up the paper to the light, he squinted, trying to read the illegible scrawl of the serf who had written
down the transfer order in the detraining yard.

"Ah, according to this, it was a Cohortarch Brown who authorized the transfer."

"A FUCKING COHORTARCH?" screamed Falkenburg.

"I'm sorry, Chilliarch, I can't get your Infantry Fighting Vehicles back, but as luck would have it, the
402nd Chilliarchy's been delayed back in Shulaven. Their train got held up by a priority shipment of
Aardvarks to the front; they won't be here for seven more hours at least; their full complement of Hoplites
is sitting on siding 12 however."

"I'll take them," replied Falkenburg without missing a beat. Sucks to be them, but they'll find a way
around it, we always do.
he thought.

There was a intermediate period while they got ready to unload the Hoplites. First, they had to round up
enough of the Rail Legion's auxillaries to do it. The natives were far too unreliable to be trusted to unload
military equipment, so that was delegated to attached railway auxilliaries using whatever equipment the
Soviets had left behind all over the breadth of the Domination's conquests.

There were basically two ways of getting the Hoplite IFV down from it's flatcar. One was to separate the
cars a bit, attach a ramp and roll it down. The other was to take a crane and lift it off the car.

The siding was a miserable affair, little thatches of grass were growing between the railway tracks, and it
looked like it had been partially abandoned untill the Draka had come and pressed it back into service.

What dominated the siding however, was the long drag of railroad cars, all of them carrying the boxy Hoplite
IFVs with their auto-cannon equipped semi-remote turrets. On the turrets of each of the IFVs was the legend
'402' in bold white paint.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on what your viewpoint was, they had all been properly secured for
the long train trip. As von Falkenburg watched from the old station, the Serf Auxillaries swarmed over the
flatcars, singing a work chanty as they smashed away at the chains with sledgehammers; there was no time
to properly unsecure them.

"Dow'! Dow'! shouted the lead serf as he motioned to the operator of the steam crane they had found
by the siding and coaxed into working order. Another serf ran up and attached the crane hook to the cables
which ran through the eyelets on the Hoplite's frontal glacis and rear end. Once the hook was locked into
place, everyone stepped back; they had seen enough loading accidents back home; thirty tons of armor
meeting a hundred kilo man was not pretty.

"Up! fuk'it!" shouted the serf as he watched the crane groan and begin to tilt towards the flatcar.
The damned thing was too heavy for the crane. Waitaminute....the serf motioned for the other serfs to tie
ropes to the top of the crane and pull on it to act as a counter weight; they'd done this plenty enough four
years ago in Kazakhstan, 'cept of course, the Hoplite I had only weighed fifteen tons, not the thirty of the
Mark II.

von Falkenburg couldn't help but chuckle at the sight of the auxillaries straining on the ropes to keep the
crane from tilting over; it looked like something out of a bad charade. Even so, the Hoplites were unloaded
surprisingly fast, most of them ending up on the ground with a nasty crash as they were dropped nearly
three feet.

"Fuckin' A! If they can't handl' that, you don' take'em into bat'l!" shouted the serf overseer as he slapped
one of the Hoplites on it's armored flank.

As von Falkenburg walked down the line of unloaded Hoplites with his aide, he pointed at the turret of
one of them; "The first damn thing we do is change that fuckin' paint. No need to be walking around with
ol' 402's equipment. They're ours now."

As he continued his inspection of the Hoplites, he saw that many of them were actually dented in places.

By Freya, and we're not even in battle yet....

While Falkenburg was continuing his inspection of the "new" Hoplites he'd "acquired", Harrison's squad was
settling into the Hoplite that they'd picked as their home. As he pushed his pack into a crevice inside the
troop compartment, Harrison wrinkled his nose at the unpleasant smell of oil and petrol mixed together; how in
hell those Yankees stood the smell of it, he didn't know.

"Fuckin' hell!" came the shout from forward as the 'gunner', for lack of a better word, found out that the
periscope by which the 20mm cannon could be fired was shattered. "We got a broken eye here!"

"Damnit," muttered DiFierno. The main selling point of the Mark II Hoplite was it's 20mm cannon and it's
ability to be fired from under cover by the troops; now someone would have to open the tiny little hatch
in the tiny little turret and stick his head out in an ungodly position to be able to aim the damn thing now.

Suddenly, the vehicle's engine came to life with a low roar that deafened everyone inside the vehicle.

"Fuckin' petrol trash," muttered Sean, remembering the time that a neighbor of his had brought around
a 1930 Model X Ford roadster, he and his friends had been amazed why anyone would even want to
buy such a piece of shit; it was noisy, spewed horrid smelling gases, and vibrated like hell compared
to a refined Trevithick autosteamer.

The entire vehicle then lurched forward, as the driver put the engine into gear and applied power to
the tracks; all throughout the siding, dozens of engines roared to life.

Grumbling, Harrison tied a bandana around his eyes in an attempt to block out the dim red light from
the lone light bulb in it's protective glass casing in the center of the troop compartment and tried to
sleep, despite the enormous roar of the engine.

[An indeterminate amount of time later]

The track came to a halt, and the sound of the engine died off; causing everyone inside to look around
suspiciously. They couldn't be in the city already, it was too damned early. "Stay here yo' slackers, I'll
go chec' up on this." ordered DiFierno as he climbed out of the cramped troop compartment which
held eleven soldiers and their battle gear.

As he breathed in the cool night air, DiFierno found himself face-to-face with a Security Directorate
officer. "No go, Decurion; it's not safe at night to go any further beyond this point; the damned Ivans
have got tommy gun squads roaming the night with molotovs. Pull off the road into this depression
over there-" DiFierno watched as the Directorate man pointed towards a long depression which had
been carved next to the side of the road, apparently for this task. "When it's first light, you can get going

DiFierno simply nodded as he watched the gruesome spectacle of Tbilisi on fire a few klicks down the
road, shells and rockets ripping through the air, their sounds reaching him moments later. Damned good
thing we're getting a reprieve from that tonight. We're gonna need it.

Inwardly, DiFierno shuddered. He'd heard the stories about the Ivans, how you had to shoot an Ivan
fifty times to stop him cold, or how they'd come back from the dead to tear your throat out...this was
like no other war the Domination had fought, and DiFierno found that very unsettling.

Chapter Nine, Part A - Only Man Endures

We have fought during fifteen days for a single house, with mortars, grenades, machine guns and bayonets. Already by the third day, twenty-three Citizen corpses were strewn in the cellars, on the landings, and the staircases. The front is a corridor between burnt out rooms; it is the thin ceiling between two floors. Help comes from neighboring houses by fire escapes and chimneys. There is a ceaseless struggle from noon to night. From story to story, faces black with sweat, we bombard each other with grenades in the middle of explosions, clouds of dust and smoke, heaps of mortar, floods of blood, fragments of furniture and human beings. Ask any soldier what half an hour of hand-to-hand struggle means in such a fight. And at Tbilisi, it has been thirty days and thirty nights of hand-to-hand struggle. The street is no longer measured by meters but by corpses.

Tbilisi is no longer a town. By day it is an enormous cloud of burning, blinding smoke; it is a vast furnace lit by the reflection of the flames. And when night arrives, one of those scorching, howling, bleeding nights, the dogs plunge into the Mtkvari and swim desperately to gain the other bank. The nights of Tbilisi are a terror for them. Animals flee this hell; the hardest stones cannot bear it for long; only man endures. . . .

Tetrarch Robert Jackson , 56th Infantry Division; 5th Army


"SUKIN SYN" the Sergeants shout of "Mother F****r" was loud as the withering fire from his PPSh-39 (papasha) nearly subdivided a Janissary trooper, the fighting was fierce in places it had gotten down to bayonets and shovels, but the shovels were best there.

Never mind, the papasha sent out a stream of bullets that would make even the most fanatical Draka or Janissary keep his head down, and in a real pinch there was no substitute for good honest hardware and lots of ammo.

"O LORD! Crush their bones into powder and scatter it before the wind!" one of the troops said, followed by "O LORD! Crush the Heathen! The demon spawn of Satan! Those who will be roasted in the fiery pits of Hell!"

"OH shut up you bastard" came the reply from somewhere in the ranks, but the bastard was too involved in his own rant, his eyes glazed over, and suddenly he surged forward yelling something in Georgian. He was cut down almost immediately, but kept moving forward, then whatever it was he was holding exploded.

"The hell with this" the Sergeant muttered, then he signed his RPG team "Gimme a couple of rounds through that wall, and room sweepers get ready to follow me"

The preferred technique for urban combat in this outfit was to put an RPG, cannon, or tank round right through one of the walls of the building or the room, and if you were lucky that would also create a neat hole for you to enter through. Either way the tactic was very simple, first a round of high explosives went in, then you did, and then it was time to hose down anything that still moved.

An RPG round, or preferably something even bigger, was better than just throwing in a hand-grenade, if you chucked in a hand grenade the bastards would have a few seconds warning, and then there was always some son of a bitch that had been hiding behind a sofa or something.

A couple of explosions later and the team rushed the building, just to be safe anything that looked even remotely Drakan was gunned down, there is something truly intimidating about a weapon with a rate of fire like the Papasha, what with the 71 round drum it was like having your own personal machinegun.

After getting inside it was time to do room clearing, not a very pleasant task, especially since you'd stumble across dead Georgian civilians every now and again, at this stage survivors were rare and far between. Best way of room clearing was of course to blow a nice hole in the wall of the room and go in through there, but if there were civilians around, live ones, you had to be more careful.

Of course if there was a lightly constructed building, and you didn't think there were civvies in it, then pulling out a RPG and blasting the lower floors with a nice explosive charge wasn't out of the question, either that or bundling up a few satchel charges and chucking them in. Then again the whole damned building might come crumbling down though, even a solid building would be hurt quite badly but this was war.

Often when they were room clearing they'd use improvised low powered pieces of dynamite wrapped in cardboard just to make sure that the building didn't come crumbling down around them, even if it wasn't quite as effective at stopping the Janni soldiers.

Door went down, and the sergeant moved in, moving quickly the sub machinegun blasting away at the immediate threat as he rushed right towards the corner. A quick burst of twelve or so rounds cut down the one Draka trooper he could see. His number two man the corporal was moving in, moving right along the wall, sending a quick burst into the fallen Draka soldier just to make sure, and making sure to cover anything he could from his corner. Both of them making sure the breach point was clear, then quickly numbers three and four rushed in in short succession.

Every time they passed a Draka corpse they put an extra round in it, just to make sure, often wasting ammo like there was no tomorrow, but unlike the Draka's they had plenty. The roads to Tiblisi were being cut of or bombarded now, the Draka forces were going to be butchered one way or the other, and that was all there was to it.

The sergeant felt the smell of blood and dust and ammunition, it was a tearing arid smell he thought, but they would move on. This time they had the edge, unlike Erevan where they were surrounded and attack by enough Draka troops to scare the devil himself. He heard the sound of... something, his body reacted before he knew what, he threw himself towards cover and twisted so as to aim in the direction of the Janissary trooper that just got shot down.

Moving on through the building, suddenly a sound, cover, aim, five or six year old girl "HOLD! HOLD!" Something behind her, a Drakan soldier, a family member? He hesitated, damn hesitation, almost too long, a Draka soldier, but a couple of quick bursts brought the bastard down.

He rushed forward and grabbed the girl, checking her quickly to make sure that she wasn't booby trapped, couldn't put anything past the bastards. Then first squad pulled back towards the medics with the girl, quick nod to second squad as they moved past no time for anything else, no interruption in the flow of operations. Sound of brittle materials crunching under their boots, and the girl screaming "MOMMY! MOMMY!" at the top of her voice.

Girl handed over and being moved to the rear, first squad moving back into actions, time lost minimal, or so he hoped.

Second squad stood ready by another room, door smashed open, troop immediately moved to the side of the door and... two things, massive discharges of fire towards the door, but no Soviet troops were there. Then a quarter of a second later two charges exploded on either side of the door, from inside the room, tearing apart second squad and sending blood, bone and flesh across the hallway. Clever really, inside the room place explosive devices on either side of the door, shaped charge explosives, so that anyone in the hallway standing by the side of the door would be cut down. Somebody killed and got killed for watching cop shows.

"GO! GO!" The Sergeant ordered, they rushed into a room on the side of the one the Drakas were hiding in, a room the Soviets had cleared already, then the explosives man slapped a couple of charges on the wall there. The explosion sent plaster raining down on them, and whipped up enough smoke that they had trouble seeing. They rushed into the room, rapidly and ruthlessly cutting down every single Draka or Janissary they could see, one of them survived a few seconds longer than the rest, only to be cut down when he popped up from behind the couch.

They surveyed the room, five dead Draka there, make that four dead one of them seemed to be alive, somehow... four dead Soviets outside the room, and two dead inside it. Not soldiers mind, a fourteen year old boy with his throat cut, and a woman tied over a table, the corporal knowingly commented "Fucked to death Sarge, the bastards..."

The Sergeant walked over to the Janissary soldier still alive, a young boy really, maybe nineteen years old, desperately trying to stay alive. He got a kick in the stomach before the Sergeant picked him up and casually threw him through the window, the Janissary soldier got out a desperate scream "AAAAAH" before there was a sickening THUD and then silence. They then of course made sure that the rest were really dead, this time by putting a couple of bullets through their heads.

One of the soldiers cut the woman lose and gently placed her next to the boy, they then sent a report that there were two more civilian bodies to be picked up at some opportune moment, hopefully when the building had been secured. Normally the faces would be covered, but in this case just the bodies were, otherwise they could be mistaken for Draka soldiers playing possum and mutilated even further by drawing fire.

"Let's go" the sergeant said and the entire squad moved out again, no mention of the incident with the flying Janissary would ever get into any after action reports. The fighting was unbelievably savage and ruthless, fought with a ferocity that would shock and horrify any civilized observers, of which there were none. Not that anyone would ever care what the Draka and the Soviets did to each other. As they left the sergeant casually noticed that the hallway was actually covered in a thin layer of blood, all of it Georgian.

Ironically later on the Red Army press corp would rush in, photograph the dead woman and her son, and show the poor girl child, and every Drakan atrocity would be highlighted and broadcast to hell and beyond. The Draka of course were not in quite the same position when it came to getting their message out, and dead Drakan soldiers all look the same whether they were thrown out of windows in the heat of combat, or shot.

Chapter 9b Mother of Georgia


High over Tbilisi stands a great statue jutting eighty feet up into the air, this is the Mother of Georgia, gazing out into the distance to see who comes to Tbilisi, holding a sword in one hand to fight any invader, and a cup of wine in the other for the friends and guests of the Georgian people. A potent symbol of the nature of the Georgian race, and upon the pedestal where she stands is written the text "Welcome to Georgia. Welcome to Tbilisi".

Upon the hill where the statue stands there was once many pine trees, but they have recently been cut down, and used in building defences, indeed when you draw nearer you can see that all the trees obstructing the view of the route up to the statue have been cut down. Near the statue logs, piles of dirt and bricks supplement trenches dug into the hill, trenches in which small shapes can be seen moving about.


Beneath the statue the engineers worked fervently, sweat rolling of their brows as they did, the air was cold with the peculiar cold damp air that only enclosed concrete rooms can produce. There were four of them, men in their thirties, looking much alike in their brown Red Army uniforms, all of them unshaven and tired looking as they opened yet another box of explosives. The room they were in was riddled with holes drilled into the concrete walls, and linking all the holes were red and green wires, the moment they got out more explosives they set about taking their massive drills and making yet further holes.

Meanwhile outside a similar team of six engineers were swarming over the statue, they had raised a rough scaffolding that reached halfway up the massive statue, and now they were working on drilling deep holes in the big concrete statue. Here too long sausage like lumps of dynamite were pushed deep into the holes, detonators prepared, and long rows of wires strung down wards, with some attempts at concealing then.

"Feels like sacrilege," one of the engineers whispered as he drilled yet another hole into the statue, and scooped out the grey concrete dust that remained in the hole.


Junior Lieutenant Zemphyra Bebutova was encouraging her command "Dig faster, put those defences in place, remember it is up to us to defend this monument to national glory! Comrades stand proud!" She called out while holding her hand up in a clenched fist Red Front salute "On Comrades!" She was twenty two years old, two weeks ago she had been a student at the cinematography school in Tbilisi, then the war had come. She was a tall handsome woman, dark hair worn in a braid, the Red Army uniform fitting her quite well, though being a bit loose as she was a bit skinny. Hanging from her hip was a PPSh-39, and a kitbag, both moved as she bounced around calling out encouragements to her reinforced platoon.

They were young, far too young, of her command she had 25 Young Pioneers, boys aged 12 to 14, and another 15 Komsomolets aged 15 to 19. They were really far too young, the youngest were in uniforms at least two sizes too large, but they did stand proud, many of them still had the red scarf of the pioneers tied around their necks. The youngest didn't quite understand what was happening, seeing the fighting as a grand adventure of sorts, the older ones were standing firm trying to look adult with their cigarettes half hanging from their mouths and their rifles pointing nonchalantly at the ground in a fashion that would give any competent drill sergeant the fits.

The older boys were trying to look good in front of their officer, tightening their loose uniforms, making new holes in the large belts so as to make them fit their smaller frames more easily. A couple of them were rechecking the SVTs, feeling the smooth action, and topping up on the ammunition yanking their fingers away quickly as the breech snapped shut. The teams were divided between those wielding SVTs and those carrying PPSh-39s the Papasha.

Beneath camouflaged shelters nimble fingered mechanic apprentices were making Molotov cocktails, filling up glass bottles with a foul mixture of gasoline, tar and a few other local specialities. Young boys had fetched the bottles, running around picking them up and bringing them over to the soldiers instead of getting the bottle return, the soldiers had taken to giving them a few kopeks or a sweet when they came. Then when the bottle was filled they popped in a gasoline soaked rag and the weapon was finished, crude but effective. In this outfit they had found a new and improved way of deploying it, some of the boys had brought with them their slingshots, big slingshots with tough rubber that could chuck bricks or bottles a considerable distance.

Far more interesting, were the gasoline bombs, a bit more complicated but lovely for use against vehicles of any sort. Here there were a little factory line making it, even the young Pioneers could make it, you take an empty bottle and fill it with gas, pour two table spoons of sulphuric acid in, and then cork it. The bottle is then rubbed with kaliumchloride, wrapped in a newspaper and thrown at the target. In the little armed camp big piles of newspapers, previously determined for recycling were now being used to make these gas bombs, the acids had been requisitioned from a nearby drugstore, and long strings were used to tie the newspaper to the bottles.

Hands were also at work secretly in the area surrounding the statue, digging small explosives charges, sometimes wrapped in nails, and dragging the connecting wires back to the trenches, carefully covering the wires with dirt as they moved.

"You're crazy," the engineer Senior Lieutenant offered up to Zemphyra Bebutova as he looked at the expanding defensive lines "You got forty teenagers, and there's a Cohort at the least of Janissaries heading this way, if I could order you to return..."

"Your authority over me is limited Comrade Senior Lieutenant, I am sure if you could order me to withdraw you would," Lt Bebutova replied coolly, then taking a deep breath she straightened her uniform, and looked up at the enormous statue under which they were labouring "Wars are won and peoples are heartened by legend and images, the defence of the statue of the Mother of Georgia shall go down in history! Unfree hands shall not be able to lay one finger on this!"

"Right," the engineer muttered, feeling a bit uncomfortable, she was cute, a bit skinny, but WHEW what a loonie! "Ah well, push this detonator and the whole statue should disintegrate, and of course," he pointed at the other numbered bundles of wires "Numbers one, two and three, they detonate explosive charges near the bottom of the hill, four, five and six detonate charges in the same area in case you need to beat back a renewed attack, and seven, eight and nine is further up, we prepared a ring of explosives right near the top of your position detonator ten. Ah you know how to attach the wires to the detonators?"

"Yes, yes Comrade Lieutenant, I know, I only have two detonators, but," she straightened herself "I will perpetually keep one of them rigged to blow up the statue!"

"Right, I showed some of your mechanics apprentices how to attach detonators and rig more explosives, but for gods sake tell them to be careful, I wish we had time to rig up more but in an hour or so... we are ordered back now."

"You do what you must Comrade Senior Lieutenant, tell them that our last thoughts were of the Socialist Motherland!"


In the city below the fighting was turning hellish, every street, every building, every hallway and every room was turned into a battlefield. Men would die by the dozens over control of a single staircase, screaming, shouting, fighting with knives, shovels, grenades, and even boot, fist and bite as the Janissary forces pushed themselves further and further into Tbilisi. There was a fog over the city, a dark grey fog made from the dust of buildings smashed with artillery, and the smoke from burning houses.

Up by the statue the assembled group of young soldiers were shivering, teeth clattering with every earth shattering boom, during the worse of the bombardment they had to shout loudly to be hear and when it stopped it seemed to take them forever to notice that they were still shouting. They were clutching the ground waiting for the attack, meanwhile Lt Bebutova was wandering among them encouraging them and reminding them of the depravity of the enemy and the symbolic position they were in.

One of the things she was determined to do was to record this moment for posterity, she had brought with her a lovely 8mm camera, it was powered by a clockwork mechanism and couldn't really record for all that long at any one time, nor could it record sound, but it was small and easy to carry. One of her more promising troops had been selected to carry it when she was too busy, and they ran up and down the trenches shooting pictures, calls of "Come on, look good, you're on Camera" resounded and bits of nervous laughter broke the bad tension.

"Someone's coming!" the shout suddenly went up from one of the look outs, he aimed a trembling hand at some shapes that were moving up the footpath to the statue.

"Get ready!" Lt Bebutova shouted as she rushed towards the spot "Prepare yourself!" Then as she reached the spot she peered down, two maybe three of them, a motorcycle too, not exactly what she had expected unless it was a reconnaissance party, but it was so hard to see through the damn dust and smoke.

"They look like ours", one of the sergeants, a lanky kid from the mechanics department of the local high school, suggested.

"HELLO! IDENTIFY YOURSELF!" Lt Bebutova shouted out in a loud voice, adding, as an after thought "THIS IS A RED ARMY DEFENSIVE POSITION!"

Amazingly enough this was not greeted by a hail of bullets, instead the shapes shouted back "We're here to join you," they stood still for a moment, one of them seemed to move forward a bit only to be held back.

"Come forward and identify yourself properly" Lt Bebutova shouted back, then she tapped the shoulder of the Maxim gunner whispering "Be ready in case it's a trap," and remembering something from a briefly read tactical briefing she added "Sargeant, have the rest of the perimeter ready in case this is a diversionary tactic."

God what a joke the sergeant thought as he moved out to ensure that the perimeter was ready perimeter? Christ if we're slapped with a couple of companies of competent infantry... They had to teach the youngest boys to lie down, receiving the recoil of their weapon with their entire body, and using the ground to help support the barrel of their weapon. As for the rest, it sure looked good, they had laid out the three Maxim guns exactly like the book suggested, and they'd even included extra water to cool it down.

As the warning came the rest of the company, another bad joke, began to prepare itself, "Come on fighters, Georgians, get ready to show these bastards the spirit that made the Mongols yield!" He shouted as way of encouragement "Kill the bastards! KILL!"

"KILL KILL KILL" the cry came back from dozens of young throats, their faces contorted into masks of hate and anger, they were ready to kill if not to die, peering eagerly for sight of the hated enemy.


Meanwhile the trio had reached Lt Bebutova, they were three young men in Red Army uniforms, one of them was hefting a RPG-1 with a backpack filled with rounds, another one had brought a motorcycle that looked like a civilian model pressed into service. They were nervous but eager looking men, apparently conscripts pressed into duty for the battle.

"Who are you and why do you come here?" Lt Bebutova asked them sharply, giving them an inquisitive look definitely not Janissaries or Draka she thought to herself as she studied them intently.

"Comrade Lieutenant, I am Yefreytor Shota Jandiery, upon the request of Comrade Major Sergey Maximov we volunteered to reinforce your position."

She looked at him, an open face, eager good comrade no doubt, pointing at the RPG-1 she asked "Can you use it?"

"Yes Comrade Lieutenant"

"Good, good, you are now part of our mobile artillery reserve, aside from that the only order is this: Hit whatever you aim at!"

"Yes Comrade Lieutenant!"

That had sounded suitably military she thought to herself as she returned to her duties, one good thing about Soviet soldiers, they saw the rank first and the person second, that was good, very good.


Couple of the youngsters were singing inspiring songs trying to keep their courage up, uncertainly at first and then one by one they fell into the song. "The International Comrade Soldiers!" Lt Bebutova called out to her small command, and soon the anthem of the Soviet Union rang out clearly across the hill top.

Arise ye pris'ners of starvation
Arise ye wretched of the earth

The Janissary squadron could hear the singing, barely, like a distant whisper, as they crawled closer to their position, at first they thought it a figment of their imagination, a residue from the ringing of their ears from the constant explosions. They were rough brutish men, colours ranging from coal black to a Mediterranean bronze, all of them with their mottled grey-brown camouflage uniform for city fighting. They moved forward carefully, and very slowly, taking advantage of the cover that they were offered.

For justice thunders condemnation
A better world's in birth!

The lead sergeant motioned with his hand "Silunt!" he wheezed, he tilted his head a bit, his ears seemed to almost move as he did so, probing to find the source of the sound "Up theah!" he said pointing a dark brown finger at the source of the sound.

No more tradition's chains shall bind us
Arise, ye slaves, no more in thrall;

He heard the words but they had no meaning for him, just the garbled Russian or Georgian or whatever, "Theys theah, Jimbo go back'n tell de Decurjon."

The earth shall rise on new foundations
We have been naught we shall be all.

"Yah Sarge" one of the squad members said and began to lurch back to report to their citizen officer, second in command of the Janissary century. He ran fast, clutching his rifle tight to his chest, and his satchel bouncing against his side.

'Tis the final conflict
Let each stand in his place
The International Union
shall be the human race.
'Tis the final conflict
Let each stand in his place
The International Union
shall be the human race.

"Yuh him singin' dat Ivan polka" the Sargeant muttered while he waited for further orders, it was no good going on without orders do ah do reckon 'tacking right now'd be best, silly buggahs singin'n'all He wet his lips as he peered through the dust up towards the statue that they had already nicknamed 'Big Tits'.

"What's happenin' Sarg'nt" Decurion Bullthwaite asked impatiently as he arrived at the head of another squad.

"'fences up bah Big Tits, Decurion," the Sargeant said matter of fact as he jerked a thumb in the direction "They'sa settin' up 'fences an' gettin' ready."

Bullthwaite looked up damn, trenches, red flags, the whole fucking nine yards he didn't say it, but he had no idea what the hell was going on, systems intelligence had sworn that this place was clear.

We want no condescending saviours
to rule us from their judgement hall

"Sho' prutty Sah" the Sargeant commented absentmindedly.

Bullthwaite stopped, he was about to say something when he heard the voices "Too damn prutty, never heah any grown soldiers with voices that fancy, Sarge take yoah team up deah and get a looksie on them".

We workers ask not for their favours
Let us consult for all.

Slowly the squad began to move up the side of the hill, crawling slowly and taking advantage of whatever hiding spots there might be on the ground. Slowly the massive men pulled themselves forward on thick muscular arms, their uniforms and dark faces covered in mud and grass.

To make the thief disgorge his booty
To free the spirit from its cell

They got closer and closer to the defensive lines, sweat pouring down their faces from exhaustion, running down as they crawled even closer. Gaawd damnit, why me? the sergeant thought, remembering hazily better days.

They had conquered a nice village, and rounded up the pretty girls there of them had been so pretty, nice tanned skin, firm body, and those colourful outfits the locals wear. They'd found her hiding in her parents wardrobe, big janissaries pulled her out and started tearing on her clothes while she screamed and struggled till they punched her a few times. Not to mention liquor to quench their thirst, why there'd be enough Vodka in this country that you could sit under a tree and drink it all night.

Perhaps it was these thoughts that distracted him, but at least he moved his boot at the wrong instant, some rocks began to slide then he began to slide and had to grab hold of a tree stump to stay current.

We must ourselves decide our duty
We must decide and do it well.

"Hold comrades! Something is moving!" Came the cry from above.

The law oppresses us and tricks us,
the slave system drains our...;

The song died away, replaced by eager voices, and the sergeant whispered "Sweet fock", his hopes that they would have missed him vanished as the world seemed to explode around him bullets striking down around him and then somewhere up there a machine-gun began to bark. Bullets struck the stony ground making cracking sounds, like hammers hitting rock, chipping loose little pieces of rock, or else sending small sprays of mud into the air.

Not one of them hit anything "GEDDAUN!" he called and they all began to crawl back as fast as they could, more rifles joined the frenetic chorus firing on them bullets smashing down everywhere. How'd'fock can they miss? We's so close? the sergeant wondered as they continued their descent under a torrent of bullets.

Finally it happened, as it must, two of the men were cut down by the machine-gun, one of them let out a blood curdling cry and continued to move for a few more seconds, the other just slumped forward and began sliding down. Another one dead or seriously wounded, rifle shot pinning him to the ground, it was getting a bit hot out there, but still their cover wasn't that good, the enemy was not the finest marksmen.

Unfortunately another couple of his soldiers were taken out, one from machine-gun fire, that old Maxim was surprisingly accurate, and no doubt they had their best gunner on that old bastard. Second guy dead from a single rifle shot smack in his chest, but the Janissaries went on down bugger, bugger, bugger the sergeant thought to himself.

Then finally they reached the bottom, one last rush before they were there, suddenly though they were all cut down, it took maybe three-four seconds, as if by some fluke all their enemies found their aim at once. Two of them were smacked by the machine gun, one gut shot by a rifle.

The Sergeant rushed on, moving as fast as he could, he was nearly in safety thankee GAAAAWD when suddenly a rifle shot neatly split his head open, his last conscious thought was that of women and liquor, and then a great dark gulf seemed to open before him. There was a voice, shouting, and it was so dark.


"YES! WE DID IT!" the boys cried out as they watched the last of the attacking Janissaries pull back, all of them cheering now.

Lt Bebutova sighed "That was just a probe" she said, "Get ready for the big one"

As if to prove her words true there was an explosion that sent rocks and dirt spraying high, and the cry went out "INCOMING!" Hitting the dirt, and covering their heads as best they could as the explosions rose around them. Young boys shaking with fear after their elation only moments later.

"GET THEM THE HELL UP!" the lieutenant cried, she felt desperate, this was guaranteed to soften them up, but if they were lying with their heads kissing their arse they couldn't shoot at the enemy. Another explosion and a sharp rock fragment cut her cheek "GET UP! MAN THE GUNS!" that seemed like a suitably military thing to say.

Even as the explosions continued there was another shout from below, from far below "BuLala BuLala!" The ancient Drakan battle cry stolen from their Bantu opponents, "Kill! Kill!", and along with the cry came row after row of Janissaries rushing up towards their position.

"TKSHENOSNURI!" Lt Bebutova called out desperately, soon though her cry was raised by the others "TKSHENOSNURI!" the ancient Georgian battlecry resounding through the shattering explosions of Drakan mortars soon joined by the chattering roar of the Soviet Maxim guns and the bark of the SVT rifles tearing holes in the Janissary lines.


Bullthwaite cursed silently as he watched basically the entire recce team gunned down, only to have a perfectly suitable sergeant have his head blown off at the end JESUS! Good help is so fuckin' hard to find these days, and losing a damn Sergeant, why wouldn't some of these other jungle bunnies have bought it instead?.

"Well gentlemen, would appear that ah could use some help," he peered back seeing Centurions Rita Heimlich and Gustaf Smithers both peering up at the massive statue.

"They call her what?" Rita Heimlich asked "Big tits?" she laughed out "Well not so far from the truth, if that's what Georgian women are like I must get me a couple" That brought laughter from the other citizens, and wistful smiles on the lips of the Janissaries.

"Lousy fire discipline and accuracy" Centurion Smithers commented, looking up he indicated a path "Full out assault right now, while their still getting ready, should succeed in overrunning them, better move now though."

"Aight, I concur," Centurion Heimlich answered "MEN! Get ready ta move up and capture yon Big Tits!"

"YA MA'AM" the Janissaries called out as they readied themselves, loading rifles and checking submachine guns, a few checked their grenades making sure they'd be ready for trench clearing.

"Right men, show me that you got more balls than Callous Century!" Centurion Smithers told his men, while he was making sure they were ready to move out.

"YA SAH!" they yelled, as they quickly lined up ready for the big push.

"Begin mortar fire"

The dull thump of the mortars being fired began, followed by the thundering sound in the distance as they hit their mark sending sprays of dirt upwards, forcing the enemy to keep their heads far down.


"BuLala! BuLala!" the cry came out terrifying sounding from near two hundred throats as the Janissaries began their assault, a mass wave rushing forward covered by artillery and the odd secure machine-gun position as they rushed onwards.


BOOM! The first of the carefully hidden explosives charges went off.

BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Like roman candles, tearing holes in Janissary lines, sending bodies up into the air flying around like rag dolls thrown by an angry giant, heads torn off, arms torn off, a soft red rain began to descend.

TAKKATAKKATAKKA the Maxim gun joined in, light percussion to the grand drums of the explosive charges, the sustained fire doing terrible damage to the Janissary lines, especially when the second Maxim finally got a line of fire opening up at far range.

Somewhere one of the Pioneers started screaming, and screaming, and screaming, he lay clutching his stomach, tears rolling down his cheek as the blood began to dribble down onto the ground beneath him.

Now the molotovs started flying, sending flaming bursts into the Janissary ranks, fire is terrifying beyond any rational understanding of the danger it constitutes, and man fears burning more than any other death. Unfortunately sloppy handling of one bottle made it break, badly burning one of the young pioneers manning the big sling shot, but he was simply pushed aside in a callous motion and they kept flinging bottles down. Children can be so cruel.

Crawling around in the trenches your hands got dirty, your trousers soaked in mud, and blood and other disgusting things, the dirt in your hair, but they kept firing, even as some of them stuffed their mouths with dirt to keep from screaming. They looked like demon children from some region of hell, their eyes lit up with sadistic blood lust as they poured fire into the enemy. The Komsomolets learned to fear them that day, but much more so did the Janissaries.

"Hold fire with the RPG!" Lt Bebutova ordered "Save it for when we need it, not now."

Beneath they could see the Janissaries stop advancing as fast as they ought, taking half steps instead of rushing forward, a few tried turning back only to be gunned down by the security directorate.

Then in English one of the Komsomolets cried out "TURN BACK! WE SHAN'T FIRE IF YOU DO!" They never knew if the Janissaries had heard, but these men brought up to Kadaver Obedienz didn't break so easily, but by now they were trailing dead, one in ten, one in five, and then they broke, screaming and hollering as the whole group fled back irregardless of danger.


"THORS ARSE!" Centurion Heimlich burst out damn, damn, we should have known, we should have thought of the possibility of buried charges, but...

"What do you think?" Centurion Smithers asked in his usual dry fashion.

"I think, that we got fucked with cactus."

"Yes, but that doesn't help, well... to my mind if speed and surprise fails, then brute force is in order, call for reinforcements."

"I concur, a prepared attack then."

"Yes, absolutely, call the Cohortarch and inform him... that we are in dire need of his aid."


"Casualty report Comrade Sergeant," Lt Bebutova asked, feeling heartbroken they're children, for gods sake they're children... they are children that will be slaves, and possibly raped if the enemy wins her internal conflict was short, there really wasn't much to think about here.

"Comrade Lieutenant, of the pioneers we have six casualties, one fatality, three incapacitated, and one missing in action," the Sergeant began in the curiously bloodless description, he could have said that a fourteen year old had his guts hanging out, or that another had his legs blown off, that they were screaming for God and mother, but he didn't. "Of the Komsomolets we have two casualties, one fatality and one incapacitated," he finished his report.

"One missing in action?"

"Yes comrade Lieutenant, we cannot seem to find one of the young pioneers, and no one can account for him."



"Damn, well... write him up as missing, presumed dead."

"Yes comrade lieutenant"

She walked over to the edge of the trench and began to film the dead Janissaries, dead and wounded, out in the field there were a couple of them badly wounded screaming out loud "Oh this is good, the manual says that the sounds of their wounded will discourage them from further advance," Lt Bebutova commented absentmindedly as she made sure that she got the best possible footage of the carnage her small unit had wreaked.

fifty or more dead she thought to herself, then she called out "Over fifty dead! The enemy is paying for every step! Thirty dead to our two! HOLD FAST!" She cried in her usual frenetically cheerful voice, which oddly enough managed to get the boys seeming a little better off.


"You lost how many?" the Cohortarch asked coolly, looking up at the carnage on the hill. He was a tall man with snow white hair and cold blue eyes, a lean hard face, too old really to be a Cohortarch in the field, but he had some experience with trench warfare, and so here he was. A chest full of campaign ribbons, like a what's where of Great War campaigns, everything from Ankara to Constantinople. These days he was nicknamed Old Timer.

"About fifty dead, but there's at least a dozen or so out there, we're down seventy two combat effectives as it is," Centurion Smithers reported.

"You have lost over a third of your combat strength?" Old Timer asked with disbelief "Why the hell didn't you withdraw them when it was clear the attack was a dud?"

"The duty of the Janissaries..."

"Doesn't matter, sorry son but it doesn't; they broke, god damn it, they BROKE, calling them back is nothing when you see that they are about to break, but now... now we need to do collective punishment, we're talking a god damned decimation," he shook his head sadly "Ah well, put the units that broke in the spear point of the next attack, tell them to redeem themselves with their blood, and instruct the follow up troops to shoot anyone that wavers, and have the Security Directorate set up proper machine-gun nests"

He began giving orders just like in the old days, he looked at the statue big tits, Mother of Georgia, well, we're going to do to Georgia what our Janissaries do to any set of big tits, so it's a fitting nickname he smiled briefly at that thought.

"Our tactic is simple, first we soften them up with another attack, more carefully planned this time," the Old Timer began "and we push them hard, but keep avenues of retreat open in case the pressure grows too hard, but remember we need to enforce discipline, ANY deviation from orders must be punished with immediate execution. Right?"

"Yes Cohortarch," Smithers replied, wondering briefly if he knew the man well enough to use his nickname probably not he decided.

"What then? After we soften them up?" Heimlich asked.

The Old Timer looked at her, perked up an eyebrow and said "What we always do when the Janissaries fail, we send in a combined force, hopefully we will have softened them up enough by then as to avoid unnecessary losses in the Citizen Force."


BOOMBOOMBOMBOMBOMBADOOMBOMBOM the sounds couldn't be differentiated anymore, it wasn't just simple mortar fire anymore, it was heavy artillery now. A wayward artillery shell had blown up the cup in the Mother of Georgia's hand, and the hand as well, leaving her only with her sword.

"AAAAAAAH" one of the young pioneers began to scream, louder and louder, frantically his comrades grabbed him one of them trying very hard to cover his mouth only to yank his hand away as it was bitten. The two burly youths now grabbed him, desperately trying to shut him up, tears running down their cheeks as their teeth clattered from the explosions. They shoved his face down into the ground and began to shove dirt into it, finally silencing him.

"Ohgodohgodohgod" the Corporal muttered as he filmed the chaos around them, his heart beating faster and faster, and the only thing louder than the explosions were the shrieking communist propaganda that Lt Bebutova spewed forth.

"HOLD FAST! We who struggle in the name of workers rights shall be triumphant! We sit snug in our trenches, they can hammer us all they like but the Georgian..."

The explosions ceased and everyone looked about, "Why'd they stop," someone asked.

"Because not even the Domination continues to shell with artillery when they are sending in the boys" Lt Bebutova said, pointing a finger at the Janissary hordes pouring forth.

Moments later the cry of "BuLala! BuLala!" reached the ears of the defenders, then the Maxim guns opened up and the Janissary battlecries were mixed with screams and orders.

"Let them have it with both barrels!" Lt Bebutova cried out "WE've beat them back before! Let's do it again!" She waved her gun around, a nice 7.62mm Tokarev, and fired it a couple of times at the advancing Janissary units.

They kept coming though, the wave of Janissaries, big muscular brutes rushing forth convinced that he, yes HE, would succeed where all others had been cut down. He was of course wrong. They were torn to shreds by a hailstorm of bullets, including two well covered Maxim nests. However unlike the first attack they were more spread out, and advanced more carefully, that gave them an edge. When the explosive charges were used it couldn't disrupt their ranks as much as it could the first time either.


"The attack is going splendidly," Heimlich commented as she peered up at the carnage ahead of her, the field glasses gave her a spectacular view. A smile spread across her lips ah yes any pretty bucks up there are about to be ridden raw she thought to herself.

The Old Timer just frowned "It is going well, they have failed to disrupt the positions, and now..." As he spoke another set of explosives rippled across the hill "Good thinking, good defensive lines, but a bit too... orthodox, someone copied that one right out of the book," he made a tsking sound "Even that explosion, right out of the playbook"

Just as the advanced parties were coming even closer there was an incredibly fierce burst of gunfire, the entire front seemed to come alive, and a quarter second later the sound reached the officers on the ground "BRRRRAAAAAAPPPBRRRRAAAAAPPP" long intermixed burps. For the Janissaries it was as if they had run into a hurricane and were flattened against the ground, the forward party was wiped out within seconds.

"Oh dear, clever, orthodox but clever," the Old Timer commented "Though I dare say we've bled them enough now, call the retreat, and bring the Citizen Century up to speed it's time we finished the job."


The scene was one of death and horror, the small sickbay that the Soviet forces had assembled was filling up, the smell of blood and disinfectant was everywhere, and a handful of Pioneers with their first aid badged helped a semi-trained paramedic in giving medical attention to the wounded. The wounded were laid out on improvised beds made from jackets and sacks, the operating table was a large canvas spread out on the ground, already it was blotched with blood.

Despite their youth the wounded Pioneers were very brave, they hardly made a sound as their wounds were probed, or even when their limbs were amputated. Sometimes they screamed though, and to prevent their screams from discouraging the rest of the outfit everyone had been ordered to sing The International, as loud as they could, overpowering the sounds of screaming and suffering.

The doctor, or so he was called, stretched, his white apron was covered in blood, and his hands too. He shook a bit, he was a regular 19 year old youth, with a few months of paramedic training, nothing that had prepared him for something like this. His skin was almost pale by now, short brown hair, thick set Georgian features. He shook a bit as one of the Young Pioneers poured disinfectant fluid on his hands, and he quickly washed them, seeing how the now pink liquid spilled upon the ground.

"Comrade Doctor" the Lieutenant greeted him "How are your patients?"

"My patients? Comrade Lieutenant, I have a pioneer with no legs, one with heavy burns all over his body, couple with serious bullet wounds, and I got two Komsomolets who are also in bad shape," he took a deep breath "I can't do this, they need a real doctor!"

"Comrade Doctor," she shook her head sadly, then she placed a hand upon his shoulder and looked into his eyes "We will not live to see the end of the day," she said in a low voice, then she added "What will you do?"

He snapped to attention "My duty, tend to the sick till we are being overrun, and then... ensure they are not captured by the enemy!"

"Comrade Doctor you are needed at the trenchline."

"I see, then I shall do my duty now, with your permission Comrade Lieutenant."

"Granted of course..." she patted his arm "It is the bitter days of summer."

The doctor turned around, from his medical bag he dug out a bottle marked "Morpheine". He walked into the surgery and whispered into each patients ear "Time for your prayers," he caressed them gently and added "So sorry, but you are dying, I shall give you something for the pain, say your prayers and prepare to meet God, remember you shall not be called upon to answer for those who die in battle, say your prayers and repent and you shall be in heaven."

He pulled out a syringe and measured out a large dose of morpheine, injecting it into a young mans arms, a boy rather, his face seemed almost angelic as his lips began to move. The doctor moved on administrating gently to all his patients, he looked back at the first one, a look of peace and tranquillity crossed the boys face, and his lips moved slower and slower. Gently the doctor closed the boys eyes and kissed his forehead "Go with God."


"Casualty report Comrade Sergeant," Lt Bebutova demanded from the weary sergeant supervising his troops.

He turned his eyes on her, he looked oh so tired, like an old man, "God," he muttered softly, then he straightened himself, stood to attention and called "Comrade Lieutenant! I report of the Pioneers two dead, two incapacitated, four lightly wounded, two missing, of..."

"Stop please, lightly wounded, they can still fight?"

"Yes Comrade Lieutenant, so long as they don't have to move much."

"Good, and missing?"

"No idea I fear, maybe they tried to run, we can't tell, so sorry."

"Damn... Missing in Action, go on Comrade Sergeant"

"Of Komsomolets, one dead, one incapacitated, two lightly wounded, but can fight, and two missing, and one of them ran over the trench line, not sure what happened after that."

"Damn, Sergeant, if I am not much mistaken that leaves us with," she began counting quickly in her mind, making a face when she got the number "Fifteen pioneers and twelve Komsomolets?"

"Yes Comrade Lieutenant, that is correct"

"Well then," she swallowed "We need to ensure that our ... movie project, manages to reach friendly lines."


Lt Bebutova watched the assembled group, the Sergeant, what was his name? Tsereteli that's it "Sergeant Tsereteli, Corporal Ratiev, Private Manvelishvili," she gave them each a nod "I am sure that you wonder why you are here?" Before any of them could interrupt she continued "You are here because we need to make sure that the film we have taken of our operation gets out, and that requires... ah, the motorcycle, that is where you come in Corporal Ratiev, and of course Private Manvelishvili here is our best Papasha gunner so he will be your tail gunner. The plan is simple, when the enemy has committed himself to his attack we find a route out, and for a few moments we concentrate our best riflemen, and of course the RPG, there to blast a hole in their ranks, and then you take the films and ride out on your cycle. Simple really."

"Comrade Lieutenant, I am not a coward to flee our position!" Corporal Ratiev protested, feeling a strange sense of unspeakable elation, but also a strong sense of duty to this position they'd held for, oh Lord it was only hours but it felt like days.

"Comrade Corporal, you are being ordered to do this, and it is not without its dangers, however I will write in your pass that you did leave under orders," Lt Bebutova replied sternly "And I will brook no insubordination on this issue!" MEN, always feeling that they have something to prove!

Manvelishvili was very quiet, he swallowed many times and his lips moved quietly Thank you Holy Mother! Thank you St Nino! I shall light a hundred candles to you He had been ready to stand firm and die, but now that deliverance was before him he lacked even the courage of Ratiev to make a protest.

"Very well Comrade Lieutenant, I shall check upon the motorcycle and make certain I am ready to ... go," Corporal Ratiev replied, snapping off a salute.

"Good, you and Private Manvelishvili are dismissed for now," she replied.

After the two men had departed she looked at the Sergeant "If I should be incapacitated, it is my fervent wish not to fall into the hands of the Draka," she sat down at a small desk and began writing "I am writing a pass for the two men, and ... a personal note, with last will and testament, go tell the others that if they want to send some personal note to friends or loved ones they should finish them up fast."

The Sergeant nodded "Yes Comrade Lieutenant, and if I may, it has been an honour."


"Well now, we have four slightly understrength centuries of Janissaries, and one of Citizens," Old Timer began "We send the Janissaries up first, standard two pronged assault as usual, and they will draw any remaining explosive charges, unless I miss my guess there is at least one more set of those placed just outside their perimeter defences. The Citizens will stiffen the Janissaries, the doctrine is called Corsetting, after reaching the top of the ridge the Citizen Force will rush the remaining defenders and capture the statue, there will be some casualties but that cannot be helped. Watchwords here is speed, firepower and flexibility, in short the Stosstruppen tactics familiar to anyone who studied Falkeheyn or Brusilov, and that ladies and gentlemen ought to be you."

"What losses to you expect Cohortarch" Smithers asked.

Old Timer raised an eyebrow as he turned towards Smithers "Ah, very minor, both for Janissary and Citizens, when you apply that sort of total numerical superiority it usually means vastly reduced losses on your own side. In addition they've been greatly weakened already, it's a simple matter of the arithmetic of war."

Outside the the Janissary troops were getting ready, eying the slope with a mixture of fear and disbelief, some of them crossing themselves and muttering prayers. Old Timer eyed them, smiled and walked among them, respectful yet distant, like a strict father "Men, it's time to wipe out those bastards up there, but we remember our promises to you, loot, women, and the finest liquor!" At his motion of the hand several auxiliaries came with big metal containers filled with raw cane liquor, sweet and strong, 'liquid courage' or 'tin can tiger' as some called it. The Janissaries eagerly held out their tin mess cups, smiling widely as the auxiliaries poured out four ounces of liquor to each of them, as they drank it the Janissaries began to shout louder "Ad'em! KILLYA!" and other howls.

How fast they forget, this used to be common during the Great War Old Timer thought, shaking his head sadly people are too concerned with precision and discipline, instead of aggression, nothing like liquid courage to make a man charge a machine-gun nest, and if you think that it's fun being charged by a drunken howling maniac... you had another thing coming.

The Citizen Force Century looked disdainfully at the Janissaries getting their courage, but they saluted Old Timer with genuine respect as he arrived among them. He walked down their lines, somewhat disorderly lines, but this was an outfit that was ready for combat, not for inspection.

"Men," then smiling "Women too," he added "I've done this a hundred times, nothing much to it, but I remind you there will be explosives just outside their final perimeter, careful there. Other than that you know what has to be done, I won't go into great details there, only going to remind you speed, firepower and flexibility. Service to the state!"

"Glory to the race!" the entire Century returned as one, smiling and saluting as they marched by, Drakan military culture was short on ritual, but they did believe in recognising achievement.

An officer is a craftsman not an artist, they can say what they want but war is an accountants game, it all boils down to assets and attrition Old Timer thought as he watched the Cohort move into position, the Janissaries being somewhat more disorderly than usual, but very spirited and determined.

"A final point" Old Timer said, addressing one of his aides "I want you to round some up some wenches and young prettybucks, preferably locals," he nodded towards the Janissaries "When you got a pack of good hounds you need to give them some meat from time to time."


Lt Bebutova finished her writing, placed it in a thick envelope and handed it to the courier "Comrade Corporal" she smiled weakly "I hope that you will be able to deliver this note to head quarters, and the film, so that our sacrifice will not be forgotten."

Corporal Ratiev held up his dispatch bag "I think Comrade Lieutenant, that there are many that share your concern, the... film"

"Think you or your tail gunner could shoot some more film as you leave?"

"No, just... ah no I don't think we can do that, sorry."

"Well take the camera with you anyway, don't want the enemy to get their hands on it," she held it out along with a small pouch "Camera and the film we done already, make sure it's not exposed to light, the film that is, it has to be developed first."

"ENEMY ATTACK!" the shout came from outside, it actually brought a smile to Lt Bebutova's face over at last, my great contribution, it will be over at last

"Please, stop, briefly, try to catch the sight of the statue being immolated," she begged, a strange mad fire glowing in her eyes as she grabbed his arm "Promise, you'll try."

Ratiev was shocked and surprised, but all he could do was say "Yes Comrade I'll try", eager to get away from a rather awkward situation.

"Good, good."


"BuLala! BuLala!" the Janissaries roared as they surged forward, running at breakneck speeds, some of them falling over but immediately leaping back up and surging ahead. Their cries of "BuLala! BuLala!" were followed by guttural roars, their teeth showing and bayonets gleaming. Right behind them with the same cry were the citizen force, screaming the battle cries and rushing forward ready to back this mass. There had been no preparatory bombardment, and Soviet resistance had taken a bit to materialise without the warning.


"GET UP AND FIGHT!" the Sergeant cried as he began firing at the advancing enemy, they were moving too fast now and his own forces too spread out, but he was determined to put up a fight. Ushering troops into position he readied himself, but they had no choice but to keep their best marksmen, and their RPG in reserve so that the courier could escape.

TAKKATAKKATAKKATAKKA the Maxim gun began, sweeping up and down the Janissary host, but without much luck at stopping them. Closer and closer the Drakan host surged, a few burp guns opened up too, cutting down several Janissaries but on they swarmed.

"Now!" Lt Bebutova called.

Immediately the RPG team rushed into position "Clearing route!" quickly they loaded the HE round and aimed it down at the cluster of Janissaries "STAND CLEAR!" came the shout, followed by "CLEAR! FIRE!" and then a loud wooosh as the fiery tail of the projectile streaked over to the Janissary position.


Janissaries were flung aside, one actually tossed through the air, but most simply thrown down, arms and legs at unnatural angles.

"RELOAD! RIFLES FIRE AT WILL!" The Sergeant ordered, immediately the air was filled with SVT firing cutting a deadly swathe through the Janissaries below.

"NOW!" Lt Bebutova called and slapped the couriers back "DRIVE!"

The motorcycle revved up and lurched forward just as the RPG team fired another HE round, this one spooking even drunk Janissaries even to scoot out of the way, just as the motorcycle flew down the steep hill. The tail gunner fired a few bursts in the general direction of anyone who tried to stop them, and a few shot back with clouds of dust rising around the bike, but no one managed to lay a hit on it.




Yet another HE round flew, this one cutting into a small cluster of Janissaries ready to fire at the speeding bike.

Lt Bebutova was about to give another order when she cried "OOOF" and fell down to the ground clutching her side, her fingers were wet with something sticky, as she looked down she saw it was red, and felt it was moist and warm and coming from her body "Damn" she whispered softly as she began to stagger towards the secure area beneath the statue "TO THE END" she called even as she felt their eyes upon her.

Beneath the statue she collapsed in the cold concrete atmosphere inside of it, finding the last detonator she placed her hands on it, readying it just so that if she passed out she'd detonate. Outside there was shooting and screaming, the sounds of a massacre ah yes, they finished us off the door shot up and she saw a uniform not Soviet she smiled as she pushed the plunger down hard and then the pain suddenly went away.


NO! Damn it! NO! for the first time since this miserable mess began Old Timer felt his stomach churn, the motorcycle escaping had been somewhat surprising but not overly so, it seemed just the sort of gesture desperate people might make. In addition by helping it escape they had greatly compromised their position, making his attack all the more effective.

What followed then, just as they pushed into the trenches, that was the shock, the explosions just outside the trench lines had come on cue taking down a couple of citizens and a dozen or so Janissaries. Then had followed the usual scenes of slaughter and rampage, a few surviving young boys about to be mounted, or so it seemed through his binoculars, and generally an outright slaughter of everyone else. The defenders had been so easily slaughtered once their defences were pierced, second rate troops in other words.

Then it had happened, the entire area was covered in smoke, and then a horrible thunderous drone had hit them, and a giant pillar of dust and smoke had risen as the statue half disintegrated and half keeled over, sending tons of dust and stone in every direction. As he watched this he realised with shock that basically everyone inside the trenches would be affected, if not killed then wounded of you glorious bastard, whomever you were, that was a gesture worthy of a Greek tragedy he thought to himself shaking his head even I can respect that.


An hour later an exhausted motorcycle courier and his tailgunner arrived at Tbilisi headquarters, their films were sent to be developed, and their messages carefully studied. This day would be legend.

"We did it"

"Yes we did, we got out alive..."

"No, we granted her last wish, I got, I got it all..."

Chapter Nine - Part C

Checkpoint One - Tbilisi - June 18th, 1940 - 0530 hours

Slowly, dawn came to Soviet Georgia; the rays of the sun creeping up the mountains and
the valleys, and as if awakening from a deep slumber, the sounds of battle from Tbilisi
began to pick up again; rather than the scattered pop-pop-pop of individual shots or an
occasional braaaaaap of a submachine gun that had continued all through the night,
they rose in number and pitch until they merged into a devil's symphony of carnage.

On the horizon, the plumes of smoke continued to rise from the city; some fires had gone
out during the night, starved to death after they had burned everything there was to burn,
but there were always more fires to take their place.

All around the southern sector of the city, at the Checkpoints which had been established
by the Draka, thousands of fresh troops of all types woke up, and began mentally preparing
for the Hell they were about to be sent into.

Yawning, Monitor Harrison woke up in the cramped compartment of his Hoplite and scowled.
Fucking Hell, some fat fuck has been eating the bean stew again. Gagging, he reached out
to undog the rear egress hatch, opened it and stepped out into the fresh air; leaving behind
the filthy stench of whoever had farted during the night.

Walking around, he saw the Security Directorate officer who had stopped them sleeping in his
guard post. Fucking lazy fuck, he'll get us all killed sleeping on duty like that, thought Harrison.

"Wake tha' fuc' up, yo' son of a bitch!" he shouted as he unbuttoned his fly and took a long piss
onto the side of the Hoplite. Damn, that felt good.

Buttoning his fly back up, he stole a glance at the guard shack, and saw that the guard was still
sleeping. Fucking hell, it's a wonder we're still alive with his sense of duty.

"Wake up, you goddam' moron!" he shouted again, causing the others who were awakening
also to turn their heads towards him.

No response. Harrison could feel the rage in him beginning to burn. Fucking lazy ass
SecDirectorates, think they can sleep while we do all the hard work.
Reaching the guard
shack, he kicked the door in, and was about to bean the idiot in the head when the stench
hit him.

The sweet stench of blood. Lots of it. Looking closely at the Directorate officer, he saw that
the man's entire uniform was drenched in dried blood. With an uneasy feeling gathering in
the pit of his stomach, he grabbed the man's head and pulled it back, revealing the gruesome
second grin of a man who'd had his throat cut from ear to ear.

With disgust, he noted that the man's tongue had been pulled out through his sliced-open
throat. Fucking Georgians, he thought. That was real popular with the bandits here,
giving someone a 'Georgian Necktie'.

Behind him, he heard the sounds of others coming up behind him. "What the fuc' is goin' on
here?" came Decurion DiFierno's voice from behind him.

Turning around, Harrison came face to face with a clearly displeased DiFierno. "Our
Directorate guard's dead sir, throat's cut, looks like it happened las' nigh' too."

Suddenly, the phone in the guard shack began to ring, it's shrill tones causing everyone to
turn their heads. Without prompting, Harrison picked the phone up.


"Goldberg! What the fuc' is the meaning of this! We've been trying to reach you since 0100
hours! Don't tell me you've been fuckin' the goddamned local whores again!"

"Yo' man is dead, this is the 763th Chillarchy, wondering why the fuc' you didn't send someon'
to check on yo' man durin' the nigt'."

Sharp cursing on the other end of the phone. "We thought that Goldberg had gon' out wit'
the loc'l whores, it's alway' been a problem wit' the man."

"Well shit, get someon' down heah before everythin' goes to hell." replied Harrison right
before he hung the phone up, cutting off the stream of curses he could hear the dead
man's supervisor yelling to others over the phone.

"They'll be sendin' someon' down heah to replace this moron, if'n they know what's good
fer them."

DiFierno simply grunted. It wasn't his problem, it was the Security Directorate's problem.

As he walked back towards the platoon he commanded, he could see the turrets of the
Hoplites rotating to a dead zone and letting loose with a short burst of 20mm, the sound
of so many cannons firing hammering away at his ears; causing him to yawn to equalize
the pressure.

Good, good, they were firing their test rounds for the day; It had always been a problem
getting Citizen troops to clean out the barrels of the cannon on their IFVs, to the point
that entire units would refuse to fire their cannons just to avoid the hard work at the end
of each day involved in cleaning out the bores; well, now everyone would have to clean
theirs out; so there was no reason not to fire now.

763rd Infantry Chilliarchy HQ

Chilliarch Manfred von Falkenburg coughed as he sipped his coffee in the armored
compartment of his Hoplite command vehicle. It was a normal Hoplite; but with the
gun turret removed and the ring plated over; the extra space used for radios and
seats for the chilliarchy command staff, allowing them to set up a HQ within minutes
of the chilliarch pulling to a stop at any point in a march.

A radioman whose name Falkenburg couldn't remember at the moment turned around
in his chair and handed a piece of paper over to Falkenburg. "Latest fro' Legion headquarters."

Nodding, Falkenburg began to read today's orders from Legion HQ. Hmm...Apparently
they wanted him and his men to push towards the Mtkvari river, there was a factory of
some sorts that was holding out against an entire Janissary Legion, and the higher-ups
thought that the Janissaries needed some 'stiffening'.

Falkenburg curled his lip when he read that; most often the 'stiffening' referred to was
when a Citizen unit went in behind a Janissary unit and fired machineguns at their backs
to keep them moving forward.

Taking a look at the map of Tbilisi, he noted that they could be there in an hour's time. "Send
a dispatch to Legion Headquarters." As the signals officer took out a scratchpad and a pencil,
Falkenburg began dictating.

"763rd Chilliarchy will move out now, to reinforce the 875th Janissary Legion at the
Dzugashvilli Prospects Machine Tools Factory. Estimated arrival, 0640 hours. Request to
be reassigned to real fighting once Janissarries overrun the Factory."

On the Main Highway into Tbilisi - 0700 Hours

Harrison grumbled as his head hit the thinly padded hatch edges once again. Pain is good,
pain reminds you that you're alive.
he recited mentally, the old song from his boarding
school days always revelant.

He'd been assigned as the gunner for his Hoplite, probably because DiFierno was still pissed
about having to explain the dead Security Directorate guard to his replacement, so here he was,
sticking his head out of the little hatch on the roof of the tiny turret, because the optical sights
were broken because the serf auxillaries couldn't de-train the vehicles properly. So someone
had to stick their head out so they could fire the gun with any accuracy at all. And it had been
him who drew the short straw.

As they drew closer to Tbilisi, Harrison began to see the debris of war; a dead body along the road
here and there; burned out Ivan T-34s, LT-1s, and an odd KS-1 here and there. Bullet holes covered
the buildings, and many of them were missing their entire facades, others were just piles of rubble
from which the stench of rotting flesh enamated from.

From buildings which had the Domination's medical corps flag, a reversed color form of the normal
flag, hanging, he could hear screams and moaning as limbs were undoubtly amputated, bullets dug
out without anathesia, and other horrid things. At least once you got to the rear-line stations, you'd
get a comfortable bed to sit on; the front line stations were sheer carnage.

Harrison didn't dwell on the fact that the aid stations were for Citizens only; Janissaries, well there
were always more of them where they came from, and the best they could hope for was a merciful
bullet if they got severely wounded. That was just the way things had always been, and should be.
No need to waste scarce medical resources on the gutter trash of the world.

As the convoy of twenty Hoplites made it's way through the rubble-filled outskirts of Tbilisi, Harrison
could hear the firing growing in intensity as they got closer; along with the buildings lining the street
becoming progressively more battle damaged in some kind of malicious demonstration of entropy.

"Okay boys!" came the shout from inside the fighting compartment as DiFierno began to speak. "Get
frosty an' ready! This is wheah the shi' starts happ'ning! We took the outskirts of this heah city easy-like
a few weeks ago, the Ivans weren't expecting us, no they weren't, so we managed to grab it fast, befo'
they wised up."

Harrison listened with detached interest as he heard DiFierno run down the drill for unassing the Hoplite
if they came under fire, they'd all heard this a hundred times before; his mind was wandering back
to the plantation when he saw it, an unnatural movement where there shouldn't be movement. He
swung the turret around, and was about to squeeze the firing trigger when he saw the mottled
camouflage of the Domination on the vehicle.

Letting his finger off the trigger, he saw that it was their Hoplites! The fuckin' bastards hadn't even
bothered to repaint the unit numbers at all! "Those bastards ove' there hav' got our Hoplites!" he
shouted, causing an immediate ruckus as DiFierno stuck his head out of the small hatch in the rear
ramp to take a look.

"Freya's cunt! Those ARE our Hoplites!" came the voice a moment later, as DiFierno saw the unit
numbers painted boldly on the sides. "What the fuc' are those morons doing?" came the second

Harrison saw that the Citizens who had stole their rides weren't riding in the Hoplites, like they were
supposed to, but instead were lounging on sandbags spread all over the roof of the Hoplite. "Dam'
morons, they'll all get shot up like that," muttered DiFierno. Stupidity was tolerated in the Citizen Forces
with the tactit understanding that if someone wanted to be an idiot, let him be an idiot, he'll get his
ass shot off soon enough.

Leaving behind their Hoplites, the convoy made it's way up Karl Marx Avenue, towards the center
of the fighting in the city. Harrison was the first one to have a close call, a sniper's bullet spanging
off the turret uncomfortably close to his head. Swinging the turret around as fast as it's electric drives
could allow, he brought the cannon to bear on where he thought the sniper was hiding, and let loose
a short burst of forty rounds into the facade of the building, which crumbled under the impact of 20mm

Behind him, the three other Hoplites in line saw their leader's turret swing around wildly, and they followed
suit, adding their own destructive energies to bear. By the time sanity had been restored, some three
hundred rounds of 20mm had been fired at a building which may or may not have had a sniper in it.

"Dam'it, Harrison!" shouted DiFierno as he kicked Harrison in the legs. "What the fuc' was the meaning
of that?"

"Some Ivan asshole tried to take my head off, so I took his head off!"

"Way to fuckin' waste ammo, yo' fool!"

Harrison groaned, one of the big drawbacks of having to fit a full twelve man squad into a Hoplite,
was having to put up with a small ammo load for the main cannon; only three hundred rounds or so.

"Well, fuc' yo, it aint yo ass being shot at!"

With a squeal of tracks, the Hoplites turned off Karl Marx Avenue, and onto Dzugashvilli Avenue, where
the factory itself was on; only a few more minutes, and then they'd be done with this candy-ass shit, thought
DiFierno, and then they'd have a real enemy to fight, instead of backing up worthless Janissaries.

Looking down the avenue, Harrison noted that this was the worker's settlement area, the Ivans were big on
this, building four-story concrete buildings, like from a cookie cutter, and then painting them in garish pastel
colors, so the factory workers could have places of their own to live.

Then he saw the murals, and felt his bile rise. It was a good thing someone else had already chewed
them up with an autocannon, else he'd have to do it himself; damned Ivan propaganda of the Socialist
Revolution liberating the worker's chains or some crap.

Fuckin' worthless waste of resources, this crap would never stand at Kurenwohr, thought Harrison.

Worker's Settlement Building 'Pushkin' - Second Floor

"No, don't fire yet," muttered Leitenant Bolgorov. "Let them get into the Raketniy sack,
and then fire."

Bolgorov watched as the youth, little more than nineteen years old, lifted the Raketniy Protivotankoviy
to his shoulder and took aim.

Already, the snakes had learned to fear the deadly things, and a new term had sprung up
amongst the Caucasus Army Group, 'RPGitis', where one thought there was a Russian
with a RPG in every house. Which wasn't too far from the truth, really.

Bolgorov glanced back to make sure nothing was in the way of the backblast from the RPG, and
slapped the young Ryadovoy on the shoulder. That meant it was safe to fire.

A low whistle sounded in the hallway; that was Serzhant Kalatidze there, signalling that the
last snake tank had passed them. Nodding to himself, Bolgorov couldn't resist grinning ferally
as he gave the yell

Za rodinu! Za Krasnova!

as the signal to start firing from the top of his lungs.

Lead Vehicle - 763rd Chilliarchy

Harrison heard the Russian cry shouted over the din of battle and saw dozens of tubes extending from
holes in seemingly-abandoned buildings.

Oh shit!, was all his brain managed to get out before all Hell broke loose.

The first RPG-1 round impacted on the ground in front of Harrison's Hoplite, spending it's warhead
on the roadway; the second slammed into the top of the Hoplite, just aft of the turret, right where the
fighting compartment was. The HEAT jet cut through the thin top armor like it wasn't there, and the
molten droplets of armor and superheated gasses burst into the compartment, burning men alive
and setting their uniforms on fire.

Oh shit, oh shit, was Harrison's only conscious thought as he struggled to lift himself through
the tiny hatch in the turret, flames licking at his feet and the horrid screams of DiFierno and the
others burning their way into his brain for all eternity.

Somehow, he didn't know exactly how, Harrison managed to extract himself from the turret, and rolled
down the hull of the burning Hoplite, landing on the street with a painful grunt. He could hear the sounds
of the infernal Ivan launchers firing their deadly cargoes from all down the street; could hear the screams
as Citizens were burned alive inside their Hoplites, which hadn't proven to be so safe.

Now, he understood why the others had been riding on top of sandbags; being shot was a sight better
than burning to death inside a locked metal box.

Grunting, he picked himself up, and ran towards the nearest building, bullets pinging all around him
as the Ivans began cutting down the few survivors of the 763rd Chilliarchy who had survived the infernos
their vehicles had become, the meaty thuds of bullets striking flesh audible over the sounds of battle. There
were pitifully few screams, as the Draka barely had time to scream before their bodies were torn nearly in
half from the massed fire of Pepeshikas firing from the rooftops.

Kicking in the door to the building he'd chosen, Harrison saw a surprised Ivan wrestling with the magazine on
his PPSh-39, and before the Ivan could respond, Harrison drew his bushknife and leapt, catching the Ivan
with even more surprise as he drove it deep into the Ivan's gut, the man's breath coming in ragged gasps,
as Harrison jerked the bushknife up, towards the Ivan's heart, letting it tear itself to pieces on the blade.

As the Ivan took his last breaths, Harrison grabbed the submachine gun from his grubby hands and pushed
the body onto the ground, with his bushknife still embedded in the man's chest. Shame about the knife, leaving
it for the Ivans to find, but a PPSh-39 was more important than the knife.

As he struggled with the PPSh-39, a voice came from the stairwell; "eto ti, Georgiy?", followed by another
Ivan, armed with a PPSh as well. The man did a double take and then smartly raised his gun and squeezed
the trigger, causing the room to fill with cordite and an earth shattering roar.

As Harrison was leaping for cover, he felt a hammer strike his head, and then...nothing.

10 minutes later

Slowly, with the practiced ease of fighting men whose instincts have been honed by battle, the Russian
tommygunners slowly worked their way down the line of burnt out snake tanks, stopping at each one to
toss a grenade inside to make sure everyone inside was dead, before moving on to the next one. In this
manner, they worked their way down the column, clearing each vehicle, until they came to one that had
no turret, but instead sprouted a veritable forest of radio aerials.

Motioning to his companions, Bolgorov reached around the side of the command vehicle and wrenched
open the rear hatch and peered into the interior. It was a charnel house; carbonized lumps that were only
vaguely human looking were bent over their radio sets, while closer to the hatch, a lone snake officer,
seemingly unaffected by the fire, stood staring at the wall sightlessly, his brains dripping off the roof of the
vehicle, and a still-warm pistol in his hand.

By the ranks on the deceased officer's shoulders, it was the snake equivalent to a General-Major they'd
found. Rifling through the man's pockets, Bolgorov found several official looking documents, along with
a pack of 'Alexandria' cigarettes. Looking around to make sure none of his men were watching, Bolgorov
pocketed the cigarettes. A sudden squeal from one of the radios brought his attention, and as he listened,
a voice began speaking in a tone of voice that from Bolgorov's extensive leadership experience, was
demanding to know where the fuck the listener was.

Climbing into the vehicle, Bolgorov found the radio set that the voice was coming from, and picking up a
spare headset that was lying around, he replied to the voice in Russian.

"Where they are depends on your definition of being; according to materialists, they are in a compost heap,
but according to certain metaphysical beliefs, they are in Hell."

A stream of what he knew from experience to be Draka curses sounded over the radio before it shut off

53rd Infantry Legion HQ

The young Centurion walked up to the Strategos in charge of the 53rd. "I regret to report that signals finally
managed to regain contact with the 634th Chilliarchy."

"Regret to report? What the hell is that idiot Von Falkenberg up to now?" grumbled Strategos Benedict Johnson
as he looked at the latest casualty reports coming in; the 875th Janissary Legion was now all but annihilated,
some 14,000 troops gone, in the inferno of the Factory, as everyone else had taken to calling it.

"It wasn't Chilliarch von Falkenburg, who replied, Strategos, it was some Russian."

"Fuck. Fuck. FUCK! shouted Johnson, causing the young Centurion
to back away uncertainly.

"Two hundred twenty men and twenty-eight armored vehicles, gone...all GONE in less
time than it takes me to take a shit! Let's hear it, Centurion, for Castle Tarleton, who in their infinite
wisdom, have gotten us into this fucking mess!"

Dzugashvilli Avenue - 0720 hours

"No no, you stand on top of the snake!" shouted the Pravda combat photographer as he tried to
get that perfect pose from Serzhant Kalatidze. Finally, after five minutes of struggling with the
Georgian, he had the right pose, one that emphazised how the Workers of the Socialist Motherland
would Triumph Over the Vile Snakes, with Kalatidze standing next to a burned out snake tank, toting
his RPG-1, a big peasant grin on his face, and his booted foot on the corpse of some snake soldier.

"Good, good," shouted Kazimir Semyonich Drevnerussky, who had once been one of Pravda's rising stars
covering the Moscow beat. But that was before he'd been caught with another man's wife. A high ranking
Party member's wife. He counted his lucky stars that he hadn't been shot outright, but instead sent to cover
the Caucasus.

Well now, all of those assholes back home were covering Ivan Krasnov making speeches, and here he was
getting great combat photos. Wasn't it great the way life worked out in the end? He couldn't help but cackle
outloud at that thought, drawing strange stares from the soldiers surrounding him, watching him do his
business and hoping that they would end up in a photo that would be printed all over the Soviet Union.

Pushing those thoughts away, Kazimir started to take photographs of Kalatidze from every possible angle,
always taking two shots from the same angle, after all, a processing error could happen, and ruin a photo or
two; and that would be a damn shame after all the danger he'd put himself into to get these shots.

Finishing up the job, he lowered his Leica, one of the fine German-made ones that only official Pravda or
TASS photographers got, not the cheap garbage produced in the People's Factories. "Okay, that's it.
You're going to be famous, Serzhant."

This drew a even wider grin from Kalatidze, along with even more ribbing from his comrades in arms,
who teased the stocky Serzhant about being a movie star, and not to forget his old friends.

Suddenly out of nowhere, Leitenant Bolgorov appeared, and the men were all business again.
"Comrades, due to our excellent success in destroying this snake armored column, STAVKA (well, it
wasn't really STAVKA, but divisional HQ, but the name had stuck when talking about higher ups) wants
us to get over to the Dzugashvilli Prospects Factory; the Workers' Milita there is taking heavy casualties,
and they want our Raketniy platoon to head over there, and give them some support."

Turning to Drevnerussky, Bolgorov barely missed a beat in continuing. "Comrade Photographer,
we would be honored if you'd accompany us to the Factory, you'd get some excellent photographs

Never mind increasing our chances of appearing on the front page of Pravada too.

Under Dzugashvilli Avenue - 0735 hours

Drevnerussky cursed softly as the floating corpse brushed into him, it's eyes long since eaten
out by the rats which inhabited the sewers; he couldn't tell whether it was snake or soviet, the
uniform had been torn to shreds by the decomposition of the flesh long ago.

Over their heads, the relentless noises of a city under siege could be heard, the chatter of
machine guns, the dull booms of cannons, the sharp shrieks of wounded men, but here,
in the sewers, there was none of that; just the sound of water rushing past and the chittering
of rats as they gorged themselves on the corpses that were flooding down the sewers.

Suddenly, a large explosion shook the sewers, causing pieces of dust and bricks to fall
from the ceiling, causing Drevnerussky to almost drop his Leica; he'd been carrying it over
his head, some parts of the sewers were flooded up to neck level, and it wasn't a pleasant
task; wading through a river of shit flavored with random body parts.

"Hundred kilogram bomb," came a voice from ahead, followed by "Enough chatter! Past this point,
I want dead silence!"

Everyone complied as they struggled through the half-flooded sewer system towards the factory.
After several minutes of walking through the pitch-blackness, lit only by odd shafts of light from
manholes and the flickering illumination from their hand-held torches, they could see the faint
glow of the exit to the factory sluice chamber, their destination.

Suddenly, a short snarling burst of tommygun fire ripped through the silence of the tunnel,
followed by a bloodcurdling scream that cut off abruptly. "CEASE FIRE CEASE FIRE!"
shouted a voice from ahead.

As Drevnerussky moved forward, he saw one of the men in the squad floating face down in
the grimy water, a ragged line of holes stretching across his back, oozing blood. Moving past
the slowly-cooling corpse, he saw a young Ryadovoy standing on a landing in the sluice
chamber, sobbing dejectedly.

"He was my best friend! I killed him! I don't deserve to live!", sobbed the young man, before
a sharp slap by an older officer, a grizzled Serzhant, put an end to it. "Shaddup! It happens in
close combat! I've killed friends myself!" snarled the older man.

As he climbed up the ladder that would get them inside the factory proper, Drevnerussky thought
about how scenes like that one would never be printed in Pravda or Red Star; no it would
always be about brave young Komsolets charging snake tanks with molotov cocktails for the glory
of the Motherland, and of course, they would always make it, and the tanks would always catch fire.

Dzugashvilli Prospects Machine Tools Factory - Basement - 0750 hours

"Comrade Leitenant, we're glad that you and your men have arrived; our reconnaisance units show
that the snakes are massing large numbers of men for an all-out push on the factory. We need your
platoon and it's flame-rockets; I hope they made the journey through the sewers unharmed?"

"Yes, Comrade General, the rockets are unharmed; my platoon has thirty-five anti-tank rockets, twenty-five
shrapnel rockets, and thirty flame rockets in our inventory." replied Bolgorov.

General-Leitenant Aleksandr Illich Rodimtsev looked carefully at the fresh-faced young Leiutenant;
did he have what it took to command men in battle? Much less the Hell just a few feet above their heads?

"Good, you're assigned to the machine tool hall; that's where we think the fiercest fighting will take
place. I hope you don't let down the men of the 87th Rifle, we have yet to take a step back while we
still breathe."

Bolgorov saluted immediately, "Comrade, we won't let you down."

5th Army Headquarters - 10 kilometers away - 0820 Hours

The hotel had seen better days, back when it had been a popular vacation spot for young Soviet
couples who had taken the opportunity to see the Soviet Union through the State-run tourist agency,
Intourist. Now, it was the 5th Army headquarters, and the halls no longer heard the sounds of
joyous couples on their honeymoons, but instead the sharp booted footsteps of grim faced
Centurions and Tetrarchs with the red staff officer stripes on their uniforms as they went about
the business of running an army of some quarter-million men.

Behind one of the innumerable staff officers, the tall man known by the name of Old Timer by
everyone followed. Reaching the former honeymoon suite, the Staff officer knocked on the
door and without missing a beat, announced the visitor's name.

"Cohortarch LeBrun is here to see you, like you requested, Senior Strategos."

"Good, Good, Send him in."

Nodding, the staff officer opened the door and let in Old Timer.

Old Timer looked around the former honeymoon suite, taking in what remained of the trappings;
most had been torn away and looted by Citizens and Janissaries, but enough remained to give
him an idea of what it had been before the war.

"If I were thirty years younger, this venue might give me uncomfortable ideas, Strategos."

"Good thing you're not thirty years younger, eh?" replied Senior Strategos James Barron,
as he picked up a drink of cold water. "Good work on the statue business. I'll be sure to
recommend you highly over that one. Your reputation is well deserved."

LeBrun's face reddened slightly. "Jim, there's no reason to reward me, all I did was fix
the fuckin' mess that those idiots made a simple assault on a prepared position into."

"Well, you did a dam' fine job there. Which is why I want you to oversee the reduction
of the Dzugashvilli Factory. It's in a nasty area, we lost an entire Chilliarchy of Citizens
there just an hour ago."

"I heard about that one as I was coming up here," remarked LeBrun, a tone of disbelief
in his voice. "Who thought of sending troops through an unsecured area without heavy
sniper support?"

Draining his glass, Barron turned to look out the window. "Can't say exactly, as the
senior officer of the Chilliarchy died with his men. I can tell you this, the Domination
hasn't had a good stand-up, smash-em fight since your time, Old Timer. Twenty years
smashing Arabs, Turkomen, and Bulgarians down is nothing against a first rate country
like the Soviets."

"Institutional memory has faded, the hard lessons of Ankara and Constantinople have been
forgotten by the younger generation, who are so fixtated on these shiny aeroplanes and
armoured vehicles, that's what. We're re-learning all the lessons we forgot over the last
twenty years."

Nodding, Old Timer looked out the window, at the smoking hell of Tbilisi. "What kind
of support will I have for the assault?"

"A full corps of Janissaries, a chilliarchy of citizens, every single gun in the army firing support,
and the entire 1st Air Corps providing support."

Old Timer's eyebrows rose slightly. "All that for a single factory?" he asked disbelievingly.

"Yes. That factory is the linchpin of the Russian defensive line in that whole sector; every day
it remains untaken is another day our advance is stalled. Take it, and we can cut the Russians
off in an encirclement and simply wait them out instead of sending our troops headlong into
their machine guns. Janissaries don't come in unlimited amounts, especially when we're fighting
in Russia."

[95th Ground Attack Merarchy - an airfield 100 km south of Tbilisi - 0835 Hours]

Pilot Officer Johanna von Shrakenberg looked at her new mount and sighed sadly; from a sleek
interceptor unit with the latest aircraft, if a bit tempermental, to the massive brute force of the
Rhino. Two inline KW-121 engines, each producing 900 horsepower, married to an ugly frame
bristling with cannon and weapon hardpoints. Top speed, just four hundred km/h.

As she strapped into the tiny cockpit, she remembered what the Merarch had said, their mission
was to attack some factory in Tbilisi, and that every bomb had to be on target. And also to
stay out of the airspace over Tbilisi until 0930 Hours, to avoid getting shot down by their own

The engines started with a roar, and slowly the Rhino began to bump down the grass strip that doubled
as an airfield; the Russians had long since dynamited what few airfields there were in Georgia before
they'd retreated. As the wings began to generate lift and claw at the air, Johanna thanked Freya that
her armorers had removed that 50mm anti-tank cannon from the nose; it was just so much weight
in the nose when all they were doing was shooting up soft targets.

As the wheels lifted from the soft earth, Johanna noticed that she was pulling almost all the way back
on the stick; she'd never had to do that with her old Eagle, it was so light and nimble that it flew into
the air at the lightest touch; this beast, you had to manhandle it into the air; it didn't want to fly.

Falling in line behind her squadron leader, Johanna began the long climb to 3,000 meters for the
trip to Tbilisi.

[Dzugashvilli Prospects Machine Tools Factory - Machine Tool Hall - 0900 hours]

Drevnerussky watched with a sick feeling in his stomach as he watched the grimy frontoviki,
their eyes shot through with red, and grimy stubble on their faces, used their bayonets to cut
the thumbs off the Draka Citizen corpses that lay amongst the carnage on the floor of the hall.

A shout came from one of the frontoviki as he held up a massive gold ring inlaid with diamonds
and emeralds, followed by a redoubled scavenger hunt for the precious Citizen corpses by the

"Take a picture, Comrade photographer, of the brave workers reclaiming the hard labor
that the zmeii have torn from the hands of their serfs. I gurantee you it will be in
Pravda." came Bolgorov's voice as he stacked round after round of RPG-1 ammunition
in a sandbagged position where one of his RPG teams would be during the battle.

As Drevnerussky raised his Leica, he heard a low whining noise. "HIT THE DECK!" shouted
someone, and he followed without thinking, moments before the heavy 203mm rounds slammed
into the factory hall, fuzed to detonate after passing through the roof, spraying the hall with lethal

BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM went the infernal racket as round after round slammed into the
factory and it's surroundings, the explosions drowning out even the shrieks of wounded men, a
continuous roar that went on and on for minute after agonizing minute.

[XI Corps HQ - 0915 Hours]

Cohortarch Fredericus LeBrun watched through the field periscope as the heavy rounds impacted
in a ceaseless rain onto the factory complex, and his trained ear noted the slight difference that
155s had compared to the 203s. The Army level guys must be done now, we're onto corps level
The plan called for a full fifteen minutes of shelling by each of the various levels of artillery,
Army, with their 203s, Corps with the 155s, and finally Divisional with the 105s. And then the flyboys
would get their fun. And after that, at 1030 hours, the ground assault would be on after well over
an entire hour's worth of preparation.

"Has the liquor been distributed to the Janissaries in preparation for the assault?"

"The trucks arrived fifteen minutes ago, Cohortarch, they've been handing out the liquor
to them since." replied a young tetrarch who had been assigned as Old Timer's aide.

"Double their rations; they'll need all the liquid courage they've got to charge that factory."

Nodding, the aide went off to inform the supply troops to do so while Old Timer watched
the barriage fall.

[Rhino I Reaper - 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) over Tbilisi - 0930 Hours]

As her flight of Rhinos orbited over the city, waiting for the artillery barriage to end, the pilots
watched as the barriage exploded on the factory, which was wreathed in the smoke and flame
of near-continuous explosions.

Sure glad I ain't down there, thought Johanna.

"IVANS, ONE O'CLOCK!" came the shout over the earphones. Straining her head, she
saw the black dots on the horizon, closing at an incredible rate; impossible, they couldn't be
going that fast; hell not even her old Eagle II had been that fast!

[MiG-3 No. 75 "For Murman Choloqashvili" - 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) over Tbilisi]

Leitenant Ivan Kozhedub of the 240th Istrebitelsky Aviatsy Polk (Fighter Air Regiment)
looked out over the smoking hell of Tbilisi, and shook his head. It was criminal what the zmeii
were doing to that fine city below; his crew chief and a lot of the other men in the 240th IAP were
Georgians, and before the brand new MiG-3s had been sent on their first combat mission, they'd
pleaded with the pilots to have their aircraft named after their relatives who were missing following
the invasion of Georgia.

The pilots had been more than happy to oblige, and now they were flying for those who hadn't
made it out. Now it was time to return the debt the zmeii owed Russia, one round at a time.

"Zmeya Shturmoviks below us!" shouted one of the newer pilots, a fresh faced boy just out of
flight school whose name Ivan couldn't remember at the moment.


"Da." with that, Kozhedub firewalled his throttle, and sent his MiG into a steep dive towards
the lead flight of zmeii Shturmoviks.

[Rhino I Reaper - 2,500 meters (8,200 feet) over Tbilisi - 0934 Hours]

Johanna grunted as she manhandled the thick, heavy controls of the Rhino around, trying her best
to evade the damned Ivans, they'd cut through the formation like a scythe, guns blazing; her wingmate
had gone down from a cockpit shot, and her port engine was making very, very, bad noises.

Suddenly, heavy thumping noises rocked the airframe of her craft, and moments later, one of those
damnably fast Ivan fighters rocketed past her nose, turning away to avoid her nosefull of four twenties.

Looking over her instruments, she saw that she was losing fuel at an appreciable rate; damnit.

"This is Red Five, a hit must have holed my fuel tank, I'm losing fuel at a fast rate, aborting for
base now."

With that announcement made, she pulled the bomb release lever, and felt her Rhino shudder as
the four 250 kilogram bombs tumbled away, to explode somewhere in the burning city below.

[MiG-3 No. 75 "For Murman Choloqashvili" - 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) over Tbilisi]

"Chiort," muttered Kozhedub as he watched the Zmeya attacker turn away, smoking
heavily. His mount's armament of a single 12.7mm and two 7.62mms just wasn't enough
when dealing with these shturmoviks.

[XI Corps HQ - 0940 Hours]

"Damn," muttered Old Timer as he watched the Ivans tangling with their air support over their heads;
already several Rhinos had been shot down, with many more driven home, leaking fluids or smoke
of some sort. "Where are our damned fighters?" he muttered to no one in particular.

"They're on their way, should be here in twenty minutes; they were dealing with a Ivan bomber raid on
our railheads." remarked his aide.

"Doesn't matter; twenty minutes is too long; send a message to Army HQ; cancel the planned bombardment
now; and switch to the alternate plan. We're assaulting anyway; can't wait for our air support to unfuck it's
mess; damned flyboys."

[Dzugashvilli Prospects Machine Tools Factory - Machine Tool Hall - 1015 hours]

Drevnerussky rose from the floor and stared at the shattered wreckage of the Tool Hall, and noticed a warm
wetness running down both sides of his face. Raising his hands to his ears and then looking at them, he saw
blood. Now why everything seemed so silent was clear now. He was deaf, his eardrums blown out by the
enormous barriage.

Turning his head, he saw men's mouth open in screams, clutching at their chests, while others were missing
heads after steel beams from the roof had fallen and splattered their heads. Then he heard a low noise,
despite his deafness, that rose until it was the level of a man talking.

"BuLala BuLala BuLala BuLala BuLala BuLala BuLala BuLala BuLala BuLala BuLala!"

"They're coming!" yelled Bolgorov in an exaggerated expression as he grabbed Drevnerussky by the
shoulder and threw him towards a pile of plamya warheads. "Feed me!" shouted Bolgorov
as he shouldered a RPG-1 he'd taken moments before from the body of one of his Raketniynas.

[XI Corps HQ - 1018 Hours]

Old Timer watched as the Janissaries swarmed towards the factory complex, an endless wave of black,
despite the bursts of Ivan mortar fire that cut down dozens of men at once, while hidden Maxim nests
opened up, scything down entire lines of men. There were simply too many Janissaries to stop, a veritable
human tidal wave that continued on, despite enormous casualties.

Behind the Janissaries were the Citizens, their Hoplite IFVs moving well behind the tidal wave of the Janissaries
and with reduced troop loads of just six men each, the empty space being filled with more HE ammuntion to
feed the deadly autocannons which were pouring 20mm fire into the Maxim nests, and also into groups of
Janissaries that were wavering on the edge of breaking.

Hmm. He'd have to suggest that to the Security Directorate people; Hoplite IFVs for Janissary corseting,
the 20mm had a much more salutatory effect than the .30 cal machine guns the Security Directorate
normally used for such operations.

Ahead of the tidal wave, the shell bursts of the Divisional artillery, the 105s, continued to support the advance,
walking ahead of the advance by several hundred feet; despite the occasional shell that landed short amongst
the men, causing horrific casualties.

"Is it wise, Cohortarch, to be using artillery that close to an advance?" asked his aide.

"Son, we used walking fire to break the Ankara line, it's actually safer, you're keeping the enemy down, and
you lose less people from your own side than you would if the enemy was unsuppressed. Didn't they teach
you this in school?" replied Old Timer in a derisive tone.

"No, it was all mobile warfare, using Fuller's and Tukhachevsky's doctrines."

"There's your problem there, no training at all in the school of smashing fortified defensive positions;
after all, wasn't the airborne developed to help us encircle them?"

[Dzugashvilli Prospects Machine Tools Factory - Machine Tool Hall - 1020 hours]

"BuLala BuLala BuLala BuLala BuLala BuLala BuLala BuLala BuLala BuLala BuLala!"

The Janissaries poured onwards, their ranks greatly reduced since the beginning of their charge
twenty minutes ago, thousands of them lying dead or crippled in the dust behind them, their screams
drowned out by the Draka battle-cry and the carnage of war.

"They're in range now!" yelled Bolgorov as he took aim with his RPG-1. Pulling the firing trigger, he
closed the circuit from the battery in the pistol grip to the rocket motor of the grenade. A sheet of
flame shot out from the back of his launcher, and a line of smoke reached out towards the lead
ranks of the Janissaries before a small explosion thudded through the air as the small fragmentation
charge in the plamya rocket spread over a liter of burning napalm onto the onrushing Janissaries.

Dozens of Janissaries fell to the ground, wreathed in flame, screaming as their eyes burst under the
heat, and their lungs were seared to a crisp by the napalm.


Nodding, Drevnerussky slammed another one of the red tipped rockets into the back of the RPG-1
and connected the firing wire to the motor before moving out of the way and slapping Bolgorov on
the back of the head.

WHOOOSH went the RPG-1 and another cargo of napalm went on it's way towards the Janissaries,
who were starting to waver.

[XI Corps HQ - 1025 Hours]

"Damn," went Old Timer as he watched the Janissary tidal wave begin to falter and then break
at the very steps of the factory. "Send in the Aardvarks. No mercy for those who broke. Begin
sending in the Citizens, in tetrarchy strength only, also."

[Dzugashvilli Prospects Machine Tools Factory - Machine Tool Hall - 1030 hours]

WHABOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM. The entire world shook under the impact of the 155mm Spigot
mortar fired moments ago by the Aardvark II Combat Engineer Vehicle, which detonated just behind
the Janissaries who were cowering behind whatever cover they could find, sending dozens of them
flying through the air screaming.

Some Janissaries started moving forward towards the factory, while others didn't. Those who
didn't soon learned what else the Aardvark II carried; a coaxial flamethrower.

Finally, a full half an hour after the assault began, the first enemy troops began to reach the factory
itself; only to fall under the massed fire of Pepeshikas and SVTs. But there were more, far more,
where they came from.

The Factory hall soon dissolved into a hell of wild submachinegun fire, screams, grenade explosions,
and body parts flying through the air as the Janissaries slammed into the battlehardened frontoviki
of Rodimtsev's 87th Rifle.

Bolgorov heard someone shouting at the top of his lungs "Shtob vi vse zdohli, zmeii trizhdi yebnutiye,
snaryad vam z zhopu! Shtob u vas vseh hui otsoh, pidori gnoyniye!" over the din of battle while the
Pravda cameraman reloaded his RPG-1 for him.

Feeling the slap on his head again; he took careful aim and fired the RPG-1 towards a wall just next
to where the snakes were pouring in and grinned with glee as the pre-fragmented wire wrapped around
the shrapnel warhead tore the snakes into bloody bits.

"Take that, you sons of whores!" he shouted.

[XI Corps HQ - 1045 Hours]

"Not good, not good," muttered Old Timer as he watched the explosions and gunfire rock the factory
through his trench periscope. "Send in the citizens. The Janissaries are breaking again, they've got us
this far, and cleared out the initial nest of defenders. It's time for the real workers to take over."

Turning to the Security Directorate man who was lying in the trench next to him, Old Timer barely missed
a breath, "and have the entire XIX Janissary Corps decimated for their pitiful show of fighting spirit." he

[Dzugashvilli Prospects Machine Tools Factory - Machine Tool Hall - 1050 hours]

They'd run out of ammo for the RPG-1, rather fast, firing as fast as you could into the swarming mass of
snakes tended to do that to you. Now, Bolgorov and Drevnerussky were pulling back into the corridors
connecting the Machine Tool Hall with the rest of the factory, crawling over the wreckage while bullets
whined bare centimeters over their heads.

Reaching the corridor, they paused to catch their breath, the sweat soaking their clothes through, when
a grizzled Starshina saw them and threw a Pepeshika at each of them. "C'mon you bastards! Get
up! The damn zmeii are trying to push through these corridors to flank us!"

Bolgorov paused only to see the look of pure terror on the cameraman's face before he leapt to his
feet, to follow the Starshina. You're getting some real great photo opportunities here, lets hope
you're remembering to take pictures.

[Dzugashvilli Prospects Machine Tools Factory - Entrance Hall - 1100 hours]

The first Janissary through the door died in a hail of Pepeshika fire, his body literally shredded by
hundreds of 7.62mm rounds from the platoon that had been assigned to hold the entrance hall;
the next one through met the same fate, and the one after that did so too.

Then the Janissaries got smart, and started throwing grenades in; which exploded amongst the
defenders, wreaking bloody carnage, and in this chaos, they assaulted the hall once more.

"BuLala BuLala BuLala BuLala BuLala BuLala BuLala BuLala BuLala BuLala BuLala!"

Holding the trigger on his Pepeshika as far down as he could, Drevnerussky poured a storm
of lead into the onrushing human wall; his heart feeling like it was about to tear out of his chest,
it was beating so fast.

The corridor vanished in smoke and flame as a second round of grenades were thrown, this time
by the Russians, the fragments chewing into friend and foe alike.

Suddenly, his Pepeshika stopped it's unearthly chattering, and Devenrussky wasted no time in
dropping it and grabbing a SVT from one of the fallen frontoviki in the corridor. The Tokarev
was much different than the Pepeshika, no hammering vibration, but instead a slow steady
thumpa thumpa thumpa, as he fired it as fast as he could pull the trigger.

[Dzugashvilli Prospects Machine Tools Factory - Entrance Hall - 1230 hours]

"Fow'ard for'ward!" shouted the lead trooper in the Citizen platoon as they moved through the hall
that had taken over an entire hour to clear, the floor was choked with bodies of both sides as
well as thousands, perhaps millions of shell casings.

Suddenly, from the corner of his eye, he saw a heavy shape falling from the stairwell, and barely
had time to recognize it for what it was - one of those infernal Flame Rockets, before it struck
a solid object and detonated, filling the hallway with napalm and screams.

Up on the landing above, Bolgorov and Drevnerussky grinned as they pulled the fuze pins from
a cache of RPG-1 rounds they'd found and tossed them over the side, into the Draka scum below.

[XI Corps HQ - 1400 Hours]

"Cohortarch, we've definitely cleared the entrance hall," announced one of the Tetrarchs who ran up
to him clutching a copy of the latest radio transmission from the platoons inside the factory.

Grabbing it, LeBrun stared at the report; a sick feeling growing in his stomach. Three whole hours
of non-stop fighting, a hundred plus citizen casualties, and well over two thousand Janissaries to
clear one cursed entrance hall!

Crumpling the paper in his fist, he turned to the Tetrarch. "Keep pouring the men in, we must
take that factory!"

[Dzugashvilli Prospects Machine Tools Factory - Machine Tool Hall - 1500 hours]

Despite being cut off from the rest of the Factory by the seizure of the Entrance hall, the Soviets
inside the Tool Hall continued to resist bitterly to the very last man and bullet; making the Draka
pay in buckets of blood for each and every step forward. When bullets ran out, teeth, boots, nails,
and shovels came into play, and many a Janissary or Citizen died due to sharpened Russian
steel separating their head from their body.

[XI Corps HQ - 1800 hours]

As twilight fell over the tortured city, LeBrun began to read the reports from the Tool Hall, that's
what they were calling it now; like it was an individual battlefield greater than all of Tbilisi. The
Janissaries had hit it at ten thirty in the morning, and even now, at six o clock at night, the
battle for the Tool Hall continued apace; well over four hundred citizens and 8,000 Janissaries
by last count had fallen to take that damned hall; and still the Ivans kept resisting.

Those weren't men in there, they were monsters. No that was too nice. Demons was
more appropriate. Inwardly, Old Timer wept; not even Ankara had been as bloody as this; this
was like all of Ankara compressed into a single building.

[Dzugashvilli Prospects Machine Tools Factory - Basement - 2030 hours]

Even now, at eight thirty at night, the gunfire continued in the corridors and hallways above
where the 87th Rifle had it's headquarters and medical stations. In the small room in
the basement that served as his private office, A.I. Rodimtsev wept as he read the latest
casualty reports from the day's fighting. He'd started with just nine thousand men, out of an
original strength of 16,500 when they'd marched into Tbilisi, and now at the end of the day,
only six thousand were left.

His contemplation was broken by the sound of his aide rushing in. "Comrade General, you
have to hear this!"


"It's the latest news from Moscow!"

Rodimtsev walked out of his office, and heard Ivan Krasnov's voice booming out from
loudspeakers all over the factory complex that still worked.

"Brothers and Sisters of the Great Socialist Motherland!

In the weeks since the Drakan slavers began their latest offensives against us, an offensive
motivated purely by their self acclaimed urge to conquer and enslave, the people of the Soviet Union
have shown them what valour and honour truly means. They continue their advance now, into
Georgia, into Tbilisi, but for every step forward they pay a butchers bill in blood, I tell you the truth
when I say that the snakes that oppose us shall drown in their own blood. They are already paying,
paying a dear debt for the blood spilled and innocence despoiled, they sought to capture Baku
but gained nothing but a burned out corpse and a thousand oil fires spilling black smoke into the
air, they shall receive no more than this from us: Burned lands, rivers of blood, and the eternal
promise of ruthless vengeance!

I tell you this that whatever devil or witch should peer out from the pits of hell and gaze upon the
vengeance of the Soviet State, they shall tremble and cry 'WOE for the world of men has outdone
us', so terrible shall the price be that the blood of the Draka and their Janissary vermin shall freeze
to ice for a thousand years!

Who are our enemies then, that they think they can conquer us? I shall tell you who they are, they come
from three classes, the decadent and wicked aristocrat convinced that his birth grants him superiority
over all other men, and that his rank and family history somehow entitles him to more than what is the
due of other men! These so called gentlemen in their gaudy uniforms, how long did we not suffer under
their ilk? It is not long since we were sold into serfdom, staut workers and comely women made to stand
upon the Blue Bridge with placquards around their neck announcing their price and their virtues for
passersby, this too they would bring back! They ruled too with the whip and the rifle and the countless
petty traitors of oppression, and yet when the time came we rose and scraped them off, like the great
bear scraping off fleas against the stem of a tree. So too we shall throw off these vermin that invade
us now, and far easier now than then, for then we were divided into a dozen quarreling factions, yet now
we are welded together by one common will! More, for we shall end their rule wherever situated.

Second class is that of the bourgeouise, for nowhere else has the petty bourgeoisie established itself
in all of it's natural tyranny, they call themselves aristocrats! What a joke, the Drakan master class are
ostentatious middle-class fools, tear away the middle-classes attempts at morality and then give them
wealth, what you have is not aristocracy but the Draka, men with the taste of brothelkeepers, trying to
compete like peacocks for the attentions of others as deprived as they. They are nothing more than
white skinned savages given the baubles of civilization to adorn them!

Third class of the Drakan society are the masses groaning under oppression, so broken to the yoke
that they will not rise but must be freed, but here among this class we have an abundance of traitors!
Petty informants, straw bosses, and house serfs that adore their chains and sell out their brothers and
sisters for the smallest trinket of approval. From these classes come the dull, drilled, brutish masses
of Janissary infantry, motivated by drink and by rape and by loot.

What of us? What are we? We are nothing more than free men and free women, and that is enough,
for before freedom the Draka tremble! While there is a single man and a single woman that are still truly
free, while that is so the Draka cannot rest, while that is so they quiver with fear. We are FREE!

What do I mean when I speak of freedom?

Freedom is when you can tell your manager "I don't like this work, I shall find some other job," and leave
your work and find another job that suits you better!

Freedom is when you have been paid your wage, and with your own money which you EARNED with the
sweat of your brow you buy food, clothes, and pretty baubles for your family.

Freedom is the right to choose to see a movie if you want, or spend the night drinking kvas with your
buddies while playing chess.

Freedom is the right to save up your money and get a bicycle or a car, and then ride around in your oblast!

Freedom is the right to travel freely within your country, that you can say 'this province suits me not, I
shall go to another' by your own will.

It's so little, yet it's so much, and all of this will be lost if we lose, and yet this little freedom is so terrible
than the entire Drakan system of oppression would crumble into dust if they should grant it to all of their
people! These freedoms are so terrible that the Drakan system of oppression would crumble if even
they exist among the neighbours of the domination! So they invade to ensure that the dread ghost of
freedom should vanish 'Oh WOE hide us from this terrible light' the snake cries as he scurries into the
tall grass.

What do free men do with snakes? They crush their heads under their boots."

Today I dedicate my address to the brave men of the 87th Rifle Division, they are free men too, fighting in the
Dzugashvilli factory in Tbilisi they stood firm, an entire Corps of Janissaries backed by Citizens tried to storm
this factory, just this one factory, the factory which has become a rallying cry in our struggle. I direct you to
look upon the men of the 87th Rifle Division, pride in their country, hate of the enemy, and in their hearts love
of their comrades and of our precious freedom!

An entire Corps of Janissaries, thirty thousand slave soldiers driven on by the machine-guns of the Krypteria,
thirty thousand Janissaries up against a mere six thousand, and of the Draka? They who brag that one Draka
can slay ten Soviet soldiers, they themselves were forced to send six thousand Citizen Soldiers of their own
to match our brave fighting men! So many men to capture so small an area, but as the flood waves of Janissaries
rushed forward they broke against the firm rock of our brave Red Army, the Entrance Hall, the Machine Hall,
these names are like battlefields of their own, these names are written in blood, the Draka speak of them with horror.

You are our pride men of the 87th Rifles, your names shall live on eternal in the annals of the Soviet Union, you
have willingly given to us the greatest sacrifices and extertions, above and beyond the call of duty, till you have
reached the level of the heroic. Therefore with a proud heart I make these three announcements, first that the
87th Rifle division shall henceforth be known as the 3rd Guards division, second that special benefits shall be
given to the families of the brave men of the 3rd Guards, and third, that their commander, A.I. Rodimtsev, is hereby
bestowed the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.

Our nation is vast, our resources many and widespread, we shall not be overcome!"

[XI Corps HQ - 2100 Hours]

"Damn those Ivans, Damn them, growled Old Timer as Ivan Krasnov's voice faded from the nighttime
sky, the Ivans had special propaganda units set up just for this purpose; sowing dissent and doubt amongst
the Janissaries.

Turning to his aide, Old Timer sighed. "Contact Fifth Army Headquarters. I need reinforcements, preferably
another Corps of Janissaries for tomorrow. Maintain only the minimum security directorate presence near the front,
and have some urban combat citizen units remain. Give the Janissaries amphetamines and coca-leaves to keep
them going, have the boys egg them on of the next big push tomorrow. I don't want those Russkies to have a
wink of sleep, constant low grade pressure, have the citizens do occasional low level infiltrations, see if they can
capture some prisoners, and have the Janissaries continue firing through the night. Tomorrow we will have fresh
units, but the Russians will be exhausted."

Chapter Ten: Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Reichskanzler!

[30 July 1940, Wilhelmstraße 77, Berlin, Germany, 0900 Hours]

Reichskanzler Hermann Wilhelm Göring looked out onto Berlin from his office
in the Reichkanzlei, and smiled. From a lowly flying ace flying one of Mr. Fokker's
triplanes to leader of the German Republic, it had been a long and heady journey,
punctuated with danger and intrigue.

Idly, Göring worked his shoulder up and down experimentally, wincing at the pain. His
shoulder had never quite healed right after he'd dislocated it seventeen years ago, during
the Putsch. He was marching with the Führer on his left, the Nazi banners held
high, when the first shots from the police rang out.

He'd seen men go down, screaming as their blood poured onto the cobblestones, the
heat of their lives dissipating into the chill air of that November day. One of those who had
gone down was none other than the Führer himself, clutching his groin. He remembered
the race to a waiting car, then exile in Austria, then Italy, and finally Sweeden, before
returning to Germany in 1928, just before the Crisis.

Well, that was all in the past; he had important business to attend to. Pushing the button on
his intercom, one of those newfangled inventions, he spoke to his secretary. "Send Herr
Thälmann in."


Moments later, the door to his office swung open as the leader of the Kommunistische
Partei Deutschlands
entered, flanked by a Reichsheer soldier.

Göring watched as the bald-headed man who had been a persistent thorn in his
Partei Preußen entered the office and stood in front of his desk, making a show
of not sitting down.

"Ernst, I did not call you here to tell you of more arrests of your naive young bomb
throwers." Göring said, starting off the conversation. "I instead called you here to tell
you that I have decided to commute the sentences of many of your comrades, and
release them."

Thälmann was at a loss for words. "Release them? Why?"

"Because the Soviet Union is at war with the Domination, that's why."

"As you well know, I was elected Reichskanzler back in 1939 on the revelations of
that pretty blue-eyed, blond-haired lass that the Russians rescued, swearing to protect
germanic blood from such depredations, along with such other utter bullshit."

"Now that the slavers of the Domination are at war with the Soviet Union, your party has
become useful again, rather than a bomb-throwing annoyance."

Thälmann sighed. The Nationalists, led by Göring's Partei Preußen, always loved
to paint the Communist Party of Germany as a bunch of bomb throwers, despite the
fact that the bomb-throwers were a small minority, compared to the masses of the
proletariat that supported them.

"I could say the same about your friends, including Herr Hitler."

Göring snorted. "Ha! Hitler is nothing but a washed up morphine addict who loves to
rant on the street corners, inciting what few local toughs who believe in him to smash
Juden owned stores. Naturally, my Polzei Preußen take care of such rabble
in Prussia. Unfortunately, he's going to be one of those I release, to make it look like
this isn't an amnesty just for Communists."

"As for you, I have an important job for you, Herr Thälmann." added Göring, almost
as an afterthought.

"Me? What possible use could you have for me?"

"You are going to be at Tempelhof airfield tonight, and you are going to board the
Luftwaffe transport that's waiting there, along with several high-ranking officers,
and you are going to go to Kazan."

"Kazan?" asked Thälmann, obviously confused.

"A little town west of the Urals in the Soviet Union." replied Göring, causing an even
more curious stare from the KPD leader.

"I expect you to be on that plane when it takes off, no excuses, Thälmann. You're
excused," finished Göring with an utterly chilling stare that cut straight to Thälmann's

[Reichsheer Ministry, Berlin, Germany, 0930 Hours]

Generalleutenant Erich von Manstein sat in the richly padded chair in the office of the
Commander in Chief of the Reichsheer, and watched as Generaloberst Baron Werner
von Fritsch shuffled several papers across his desk, while Manstein waited patiently.

On the wall hung the portrait of the monocled Hans von Seeckt, the man who had done
more than any other man to save Germany from itself during the Crisis of 1930, when
he had marched into the Reichstag and made his now-famous speech to the various
ringleaders of the different elements plotting and scheming while Germany burned
again for the second time in less than twenty years.

If the politicians couldn't fix this mess, the Heer would, that had been the essence of
Seeckt's speech. Far too many people had remembered the military dictatorship under
Ludendorff and Hindenburg in the later years of the Great War to let it happen again;
so a new Constitution had been written and ratified in record time, that replaced the
fractured document from 1919.

Finally signing the last paper on his desk, von Fritsch looked at Manstein for several
moments. "Manstein, you're going out to Kazan, to get the latest information from the
Soviets on this new war between them and the Domination. I expect a fully detailed
report on the developments in this new war, and what they mean for Germany and
the Heer as a whole."

"Also, try to get a straight answer from Kazan on the VK3002 programme. We haven't
been able to get anything from Guderian on this. Please do so."

"Yes sir." With that, Manstein stood up and saluted.

[Tempelhof Airport, Berlin, Germany, 1100 Hours]

As the big BMW convertible sped down the tarmac, Thälmann looked at the dizzying
array of aircraft spread all over the airport. In the black and silver Lufthansa colors were
a few tired old Ju-52/3m's, a couple of new He-111s, which were replacing the Ju-52s
on the short haul routes within Europe, and a few Ju-252s in their special gold and silver
livery that proclaimed them as the elite of Lufthansa, capable of flying non-stop to
exotic locations.

Most of the aircraft on the tarmac though, were the ubiqtious Douglass DC-3s, which had
burst on the scene six years ago, and had quickly come to dominate the air trade routes to
such an extent that even the Domination, much to it's chagrin, found itself buying DC-3s
on the black market to act as transports for it's General Staff. It was that good and reliable.

But the stars of every airport worldwide were the gleaming Boeing Stratoliners. Massive
four-engined beasts that could fly some at an unheard of altitude of four kilometers, due
to it's pressurized cabin which seated 33 people in comfort. Only Pan American and
American Airlines had them, though more were coming off the production line every
day for more airlines.

The rumor was that it was based off a failed bomber design for the US Army. Thälmann
could certainly believe that; after all, it was the KPD which had exposed the hidden
machinations behind the He-111 airliner, and how it had been designed from the start
to double as a bomber, which it had after the Four-Way pact of 1937.

He noticed that one aircraft, a Ju-252 in Lufthansa colors, was sitting by itself at
the end of the runway, and that they were heading towards it. Moments later, the
convertible screeched to a halt and the driver got out and opened the door for him.

"Thank you," he replied, slipping the driver a ten mark note.

As he climbed up the ladder to the cabin, he noticed that several other people were
going up the ladder with him, people that he recognized as being in the Heer, others
from the Foreign ministry, all of them dressed in dull clothes like he was. Curiouser
and curiouser.

[Ju-252, Somewhere over the Soviet Union, 1500 Hours]

Looking out the window, he could make out the distinctive shape of
Moscow far below on the horizon, the ring shaped road running around
it like a belt a dead giveaway.

The low drone of the three Junkers engines filled the cabin, and with a sigh,
he turned to the man who was sitting in the seat next to him, a man with silvery
hair and cheeky jowls.

"How much further do we have to fly?"

Manstein looked at the stranger he'd ended up next to and sighed inwardly.

"Is this your first time?"


Glancing out the window, Manstein noted where they were. "We're near Moscow,
that means we only have another hundred kilometers or so to go. I give us a little
over an hour. Maybe two if we hit a storm front. Russia's like that."

Nodding, Thälmann turned away from the man, and watched as the seemingly
endless panorama of farmland and small villages stretched on for hundreds
of miles.

And the Draka think they can conquer all this? he thought. They must be even bigger fools than the NSDAP had been. Expelling all the Juden? Madness!

Kazan Proving Grounds, Soviet Union. 1600 Hours

As the engines on the Junkers snarled to a stop, Thälmann took a deep breath of the rich pine-scented air. He'd never been this far into Russia; he'd only visited Moscow a few times as the head of the KPD for various international party congresses.

The last time he'd gone to Moscow in 1936, a lot of the old faces from the 1920s were simply missing. When he'd asked about them, there had been an uneasy silence in the air, like something unpleasant had died in the room, yet no one wanted to talk about it.

Waiting for them was a honor guard of troops standing at the ready as the sun slowly dipped below the horizon. Taking a deep breath, he walked down the boarding ladder and through the honor guard, before coming to a stop in front of a burly man wearing the blue cap of State Security. What was it they were called now? Back in the 1930s, they'd been called the NKVD. But they'd changed their name, and he couldn't remember what the new name was.

"Major Ovsianikov of the Ministerstvo Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti, please state your name and purpose for coming here." said the State Security man in near-perfect German.

"Ernst Thälmann, Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands head, here on Reichskanzler Göring's order."

Nodding, Ovsianikov moved to the man who'd sat next to him during the whole flight.

"Erich von Manstein, Generalleutenant, Reichsheer, here on Generaloberst von Fritsch's orders."

Thälmann slowly digested this bit of information. So a Reichsheer officer had been here often enough to know how long it took...interesting...most interesting.

He listened as the Major went down, taking everyone's name down, before returning to the head of the line. "Attention everyone. It's too late now to do anything, so we're going to take you to the Foreign Worker's block on the Proving Grounds, we've set aside rooms for you, we hope that they'll meet your standards."

31 July, 1940 - Foreign Worker's Block - Kazan Proving Grounds - 0700 Hours

Slowly, Thälmann woke up to the sound of a rooster crowing. Last night, they'd taken them all to a long stretch of nondescript buildings in the backs of ZIL trucks, which bounced over every imperfection in the road. The guards in the back had been apologetic, explaining that it was for security, after all, we couldn't have an entire line of limousines telling everyone that a bunch of VIPs was in the area, now could we?

After performing the routine toiletry acts of showering and shaving, he stepped outside, and saw his companions from yesterday walking around in their true colors.

My God, so many German officers, what is going on here?

He fell in line behind a bunch of officers, and followed them to what appeared to be a canteen. Inside, he saw Red Army officers, their broad shoulderboards and olive drab uniforms distinguishing them from their German counterparts, mingling freely and talking excitedly about things he couldn't understand, like armor slope, and penetration in millimeters, whatever that meant.

Finding Manstein, he sat down next to him with a meal, and began to ask questions.

"What is this place?"

"Ah, it's a joint Soviet/German site, run by our two governments since oh, 1927, when Krasnov consolidated his power in Moscow. Ever wonder where our Panzerwaffe and Luftwaffe sprung from so suddenly and completely in 1937? This is where they came from."

Nodding, Thälmann continued to eat his breakfast. Yes, that had been a big surprise to everyone in 1937, the way Germany suddenly acquired hundreds of panzers as good as everyone else in Europe was making all out of the blue, or how she had gained purpose built fighters and ground attack aircraft, instead of hodgepodges like the He-111.

"Back in '27, the Ivans were in a nasty bind. They were trying to build a modern armaments industry out of the shambles of the Great War and the Russian Civil War, while we were prohibited by Versailles from possessing anything that could have any military function. So naturally, we co-operated."

"Why am I here, then?" asked Thälmann. "I don't have any knowledge of what your comrades are speaking about."

"Oh that. I think Göring wants to prove to you that his government can be a reliable ally to the Soviet Union, so your boys stop agitating in the streets. Revealing to you that the Soviet Union and Germany have been allied in all but name for the last thirteen years probably helps a lot. But that's just my opinion, Herr Thälmann."

Testing Circuit - Kazan Proving Grounds - 0900 Hours

[OOC: The German/Russian officers assigned to Kazan have at least a working knowlege of the other's language, so they can converse without interpreters.]

Manstein watched as the grey-painted tank whipped around the muddy track at speed, the interleaved roadwheels jiggling up and down like a hypnotic work of art while the angled sides of the tank gleamed in the early-morning sun.

"Impressive is it not?" came a voice from behind him. Turning around, he saw a stocky Soviet officer wearing General of the Army shoulderboards coming up to him, a peasant's grin on his face.

"Yes, certainly is, Georgi Konstantinovich. I'm worried about the roadwheels, though. They look too complicated for battle."

Zhukov laughed. "Did you know that Daimler-Benz wanted to produce a near carbon copy of our very own T-34? But apparently Germanic pride won out in the end, so we got this beast a few months ago by airship."

"When it works, it's massively superior over our T-34, and maybe even just a little better than our Objeckt 136, which we're also testing here."

A hideous screeching noise suddenly rent the morning air, and the tank slowly came to a stop in a spray of mud, smoke beginning to rise from it's engine deck.

"Today is not one of those times, I fear."

A hatch opened in the turret, and a mud-spattered officer climbed out from within, and jumped into the mud, cursing as he did so.

"As you can see, there's a reason your people have taken to calling Comrade Guderian Der Schnell Heinz." He never drives anything slow. It's always faster, faster!"

Walking up to the pair of officers, Guderian wiped the mud off his face and saluted Manstein. Generalmajor Guderian reporting for duty, sir."

"Ah, my dear Heinz, Berlin sent me to see what's going on with the VK-3002 prototypes. You haven't been answering them enough apparently." replied Manstein with a grin.

"The prototype is doing pretty good...when it works. The frontal armor scheme is proof against the 100mm Draka tank guns most of the time. I've recommended that we improve the overall protection on the front mantle from 120mm to around 140mm to have a chance of defeating it reliably enough for me to be willing to send them into combat against the Draka."

Zhukov clucked at that. "Ah, comrade, what about the sides? You only have an effective protection of 50mm there, about roughly equivalent to our old T-31s."

Guderian sighed. Manstein could see that this was an argument that the two of them had had many times before. "General, Germany is not the Soviet Union, we do not have a massive expanse of absolutely flat steppe, but instead forested valleys, where mobility is more important than sheer firepower and armor. The VK 3002 is more suited to European armored combat than your KS tanks."

"And our tests have shown that the long 75mm is just good enough to penetrate the frontal armor of the Hond III at twelve hundred meters, while taking up less space and weight than your 100mm D-10s. In fact, I hear that there's talk of buying the gun from us to regun your T-34s so they can defeat the Hond III at combat ranges."

Zhukov nodded. "Yes, yes, I know this, you've told me this before; but I ask you again, why in God's name do your engineers put roller-bearings into each tank tread?"

Guderian could only shrug. "Greater efficiency, less vibration, more speed."

[Officer's Hall - Kazan Proving Grounds - 1200 Hours]

The three officers now cleaned up from their sojurn on the testing track, and in fresh uniforms, sat at one of the tables eating their food, which had been brought over by a busty waitress in traditional Russian dress.

"Ah, sometimes I wonder if German women are the end all," remarked Guderian as he began to tear into his lunch.

Suddenly, the Russians who had been listening to the news announcements around a radio at one end of the hall cried out.

"What's going on?" asked Manstein, to which Zhukov replied. "Tbilisi has fallen. The Snakes just wiped out the last pocket of resistance after encircling it several days ago with their Eleventh and First Armies."

"All of Georgia is now effectively under Draka control. Tbilisi was the last major pocket of resistance in Georgia," remarked Manstein as he took a bite out of his sausage.

"Not to worry, Tbilisi was going to fall anyway. It was inevitable; too few troops in the region to stop the snake assault. However, we control the only passes over the mountains in northern Georgia, and their Sixth Army is battering itself to pieces against the 228nd Rifle Corps' defensive lines along the Caspian."

Zhukov paused to take another spoonful of borscht before continuing.

"This is only the beginning, Comrades."