"Either way then."
"You're stuck with me," he smirked.
"You'd sort yourself out like you did before I ever came along," he muttered, brushing his thumb briefly against her cheek, "but you don't need to worry. I'm not going anywhere."
"No. I'm fine, baby. Really," he stood just enough to lean over and kiss her forhead, "that bitch is trying to play games with your mind. Don't let her."
Once he'd put everything away Dag sat down to unlace his boots. He felt fine for the most part but he was irritable so sleeping didn't seem like that bad an idea.
Dag picked the boy up, "You're lively today," he said as he set the boy on the empty cot beside them, "have to been behaving?"
He nodded once. He still didn't speak much but he was getting comfortable.
"Good boy," Dag nodded as he set his gear aside.
"I'll make sure no one bothers you," Ilia promised as she passed.
Dag just trudged back to their car where the children were waiting. As soon as the door opened the boy he'd pulled from the crowd tackled his legs in a hug.
If he were honest with himself he felt like garbage but he'd been through worse. He sucked it up like always and kept up the slog until they were back at the train.
"What the hell happened to you?" Ilia frowned as he helped pull his commander up onto the platform.
"Bad night I guess," Dag muttered.
"At least someone will," he muttered under his breath as he tossed the belt over his shoulder and grabbed his rifle as he started out.
"It was supposed to be a joke," he answered as he pulled his flak vest on, leaving it undone as he leaned down for his belt and rifle.
Topics I Participated In
The morning would come too soon but Charlotte would kiss her babies and ask that Alice and Seth would come and find her so that she could see them in a few hours. She would come and find Mordria and get shown the engine. She didn’t know yet.
The woman told Charlotte that it wasn’t necessary though. “Your husband is in the medical tent. He’s healed. The track is clear,” Mordria said as she touched Alexei’s shoulder to affectionately tell him that she would miss him.
Charlotte frowned. “I didn’t do anything yet.”
”He did and honestly he’s unwelcome. I came through with my end and you are released from yours.”
”Its fine,” she said to her.
Charlotte huffed. “Thank you,” she said as she moved off to go find Dag and find out what happened.
Mordria didn't actually think the man was returning. She figured that leaving with the woman was an excuse to get away from her. She had let her hair down, she removed the tight skirt and fishnets that she wore and was only in her blouse and underwear when the knock came to her door.
She figured it was one of her brothers to advise her about some trouble the people from the train were causing so as she opened the door, she was pleasantly surprised to see the attractive Metro man that she didn't actually remember if she got his name.
Smiling to him as she stood taller than him for at least this moment. "Welcome back," she said to him not a bit of remorse for her state of undress. "Come on in," she said taking a step back to let him up and into her small caravan.
Violet had kept her sidearm on her person as they approached the large tent that they were invited to. She felt uneasy to begin with, they were at a disadvantage and nothing about the place felt exactly right as they headed in.
It was setup almost like out of a bad clown horror movie. There were jugglers and clowns at the side as they walked in to where the table was set in the center ring, where the lion tamer normally sat. She glanced around and at those that were with her on this endeavor.
The woman was in a new outfit, though just as robust but this time in a red, the same color as her hair, like she were about to introduce the show. "Its good to see you again. I apologize. I didn't ask your names last time," she said as she gave a deep bow. As she stood up she continued to grin. "I'm Mordria! Ringmaster of this place," she explained. "Inherited it from my parents," she explained.
"My name is Violet and this is Red," she said. "Major Marcianus and his wife Chuck and a few of our own guards," she said.
"Don't know why you brought guards. You are very safe here," she said to them.
Charlotte had to hear the screams and the gunfire and the yelling outside and despite living in the metro for so long she still had that good part of her that didn't like to hear it. Despite that she kept the train moving and accelerating to get out of the station and onto their journey.
Once they were free of the Metro the sounds had gone but she still had that horrible feeling that she had personally been the cause of those people's screams even if she truly wasn't, it was the mob outside.
Violet had comforted her before she finally took her leave to check on passengers and see how many accepted were on board and how many stowaways so she could determine what they would need to do next.
Violet, Red and Dagonet were the three leaders of the train as they were the ones that orchestrated its departure which meant they had a heavy weight on their soldiers as they searched for something new for their future in what everyone believed was just a barren wasteland.
Charlotte looked up to see Dagonet at the door, though she had expected Tonka to tell her the girls were fussing and she couldn't quiet them. "Hey there," she said giving him a soft but sad smile.
There was a tension in the air at Polis that was thick enough that it felt like you could cut through it with a knife. Everyone knew the train was expected to leave the station that day. Those that were approved to be on it were packed and ready to go, while others that wished to go but were denied were preparing in other means. You could see in the eyes of the people the anticipation of what was to come.
Those that were chosen filled the train as much as Violet and Red believed they could handle on the long and arduous journey and those they felt could help them, those they believed they could actually help their futures if there was something out there.
Though, they could have been equally dooming it.
The chosen boarded the train and got settled with their meager amounts of belongings before the rush would happen and the rangers and soldiers that had decided to come with, were having to protect the entrances to the train.
It was like a ripple in the crowd as the last few were starting to board, there was a surge of disgruntled Polis citizens that wanted to strike out and try as well.
This event is a GMed event. I will wait one day before adding on the next parts that happen which gives you 24 hours to respond how your character reacts in this situation (whether they are leaving, staying or one of the people trying to get onto the train that was denied).
I will react and provide story or difficulties for anyone that is involved.
Violet sat at the table for what felt like hours. She was on her second cigarette and tapping her jagged fingernails on the metal table. She knew this was an inconvenience but couldn’t they make their decision any faster?
Blowing out a huff of another breath of smoke she heard more boots pass the door as her nails tapped against the metal in a rhythm with the feet. She glanced toward the door, finally getting up to pace.
When the door did finally open it was a familiar face. “Finally someone I do know,” she said looking to Dagonet as she snubbed out her depleted cigarette.
Zaya had done as she was told soon after Joe had left, making her way for the part of the farthest platform near the tunnels to Smolenskaya. Many Rangers had homes there, not their usual tent barracks but genuine homes, nicely built shacks. Why some lived here and not all of them was something she wasn't certain on.
She wandered around for a bit until a ranger, an old but strong looking man in his fifties asked her what she was doing there while he smoked a cigarette.
"...Do you know where Joe lives?" She eventually asked, working up the courage after a few moments of silence.
"Joe?" He asked, a surprised look on his face as he considered what Sousa could need with a kid. Soon enough he pointed out her house.
"Should be that one there...you know her?" He asked and Zaya nodded after a moment and walked after thanking him quietly. The ranger shrugged and went back to his cigarette, not wanting to stop the girl as she went into Joe's house, feeling if it wasn't planned she wouldn't have left it unlocked.
Zaya looked around Joe's home for a few moments, almost amazed by it as she had only ever lived and been in the all to normal tents in the metro up to that point, even Polis was mostly one giant tent city. It didn't take long to find the vodka, Joe mentioned. There wasn't much in it and Zaya wasn't one to drink but she shrugged after eyeing it for a moment and took a sip before immediatly gagging on it and spitting it out before putting the bottle away.
Back with Dag, Natashia had begun to eye him from the interrogation room, an oddly devilish smirk on her face as she had pieced together he'd be the next one to 'visit' her. By now she knew she was probably compromised, her bosses wouldn't come for her, or send anyone. She knew that, it came with their job. Disposable at the drop of a hat.
----Two Weeks Ago-----
The caravan continued on into the darkness, the nearly burnt out lanterns gave them just enough light to see the rails that the railcarts glided across but beyond that it was pitch black, a sight they had all become accustomed to over the past few days. They had been traveling for about a little less than a week by this point. Day after day of moving around the redline, using maintenance tunnels long forgotten to time, bribing patrols and once they left the redline, fighting their way through bandits and mutants in the tunnel.
No one said it would be easy but this was worse than any of them had expected. Their caravan left the redline days ago with sixty people, now only twenty remained. Many of them were either injured, dehydrated, hungry, exhausted or all of the above. Many had wondered if they truly were marching off to a better life somewhere else in the metro and had not been tricked into a death march.
“Halt!” a male voice called out. Stefania raised her head and looked ahead, in front of them was a man in a hoodie with an AK in his hands, behind him were several more guards behind sandbags their machine guns and spotlights focused in on the caravan.
Are we finally here? She wondered. She was starting to get comfortable, as was her travelling companion. The trip had not been easy for someone as sick as him.
“…Are you Popov?” The caravan leader asked.
“I am.” The man replied a moment later and soon a sense of relief spread throughout what remained of the group as Popov walked over.
“Welcome everyone!” He said. “Welcome. Please, get your things, my men will help you inside.” He explained and as more soldiers walked ahead Popov, as Stefania had been told, went directly for her part of the caravan and stopped alongside their railcart.
“Mr. Antipin? Are you alright?” He asked. The old man had been resting on the floor of the railcart as best he could, he could barley walk and was perhaps the weakest out of the caravans people.
“I’ve been better…” He whispered and Popov nodded.
“Do you think you’re still up for what you discussed with Andrew?” He asked and Antipin managed to weakly shake his head. Andrew the Black Smith was the man who had helped them set up this caravan, a former weapons maker from the Armory turned smuggler, with people being what he and his friends, men such as Popov, would smuggle out of the Redline. They had been doing it for years from what Stefania had been told.
“No?” Popov asked.
“No…she will…” He muttered weakly. Stefania didn’t argue, they had agreed days ago.
“…Does she know your daughter?” He asked and Antipin nodded.
“We’re best friends…” Stefania explained.
“Do you know where Yekaterina is?” Antipin asked weakly.
“Not yet, but I’ve sent word to friends of mine.” Popov added. “They can find anyone, and quickly too. When we find her we’ll decide what to do next.”
---- One week Ago----
“Ah, Stefania; come in.” Popov said, holding the tent flaps aside and walking back behind his desk.
“So…did you do it, did you finally find her?” Stefania asked after taking a seat, hoping he would not be wasting her time again.
“I did.” Popov said and Stefania breathed a sigh of relief, but it was short lived.
“I have…good news and bad news though.” He explained. “Well bad news for a communist such as yourself.” He clarified then shrugged and continued “The good news is she is alive as you suspected, she made it out of the Redline and is alive; last my sources checked anyway and it was pretty recent too. A few days back in fact.” Popov explained, leaning back in his chair, and going through a cabinet nearby.
“Well…then what’s the bad news?”
“She’s not in an independent station or at Oberon as we had hoped. She’s at Serpukhovskaya—in Hansa.” Popov explained, finally finding the home-made map he had been looking for, unrolling it and pointing to a station, his index finger landing on a station just north of Hansa’s southernmost station of Tulskaya. While Popov had expected a more animated reaction, Stefania merely looked at the map in confusion.
“W…what is she doing there?” She asked
“Living her life, I presume. From what I have been told she’s been working as something of an assistant to a stalker, well two stalkers actually.” Popov began. “One of them…a Mikhail Turgenev seems to be her boyfriend in fact from what we’ve gathered.” Popov explained and Katya felt almost as if she had been punched in her stomach at the boyfriend part but she kept that to herself.
“She’s working for those…capitalists then? Living as one of them?” She almost spat out and Popov nodded.
“Tell me about these…men of hers.” Stefania asked.
“Well Mr. Turgenev is in something of a partner ship with a Gregory Blok, another stalker slash explorer from the Arbat Confederation who sort of moves between the Arbat and Serpukhovskaya every couple of days; they both scavenge from a neighborhood on the surface called The Dead City. Place is a nightmare but a gold mine for stalkers. When their not picking that place apart they go to other parts of the city as well; Mikhail from what I can tell is nothing special.” Popov said. “But Mr. Blok is, he’s actually rather infamous in both the Hansa and the Arbat and other locations as well.” Popov explained and once more Stefania was confused, but also concerned.
“A criminal?” She asked. “Is…is she with them willingly?” Stefania asked soon after, hoping she misunderstood.
“Blok is not a criminal" Popov said seriously, noticing her nervousness. "At least not officially. He keeps finding loopholes and hiring others to move things for him; we’ve even used him to get our weapons a while back actually but only through an intermediary at the armory. As far as I can tell he’s more of a weird combination of stalker, arms dealer and smuggler, but despite all of that from what I can tell he’s not violent unless need be--he’s not a murder essentially is what I'm saying--he’s not a kidnapper either; so I’m sure she’s there of her own volition.” Popov explained, trying to come off as reassuring.
Stefania stifled another breath of relief, still suspicious about these men of hers…at the same time at least they knew where she was, hopefully. After a few more moments of staring at the map in silence, remembering how far they’d have to travel she looked back up Popov.
“When can we head out?” She asked.
It had been the better part of a week since Misha had been banned from entering Polis. In that time a wedge had been driving between the members of the family.
“Are you coming, Mr. Turgenev?” Grischa called from the platform, Misha forced down the urge the tell the old man to knock it off. He was in his tent, still getting his radiation suit on and his pack loaded, normally Katya would help or at the least make conversation as he got everything together but she was still giving him the cold shoulder…mostly. In the past few days she had began to talk again, look at him more, she was seemingly coming around but still pissed off all the same.
The same could not be said for Grischa, the old bastard had become all business, more so than usual, the usual chit-chat in between business ventures was gone, most of what could be considered corner stones of their friendship were gone. Grischa treated Misha more and more like a soldier everyday, and himself more like a commander.
Fine, if that’s how he wants it then fine…Misha thought, finishing with his radiation suit and quickly throwing everything into his pack, staring at Katya who just sat on their bed in silence. Misha sighed and grabbed his RPK and slung it over his shoulder and began to walk out.
“I’ll be back in a few hours he said.”
“Misha…” She muttered and he stopped, hoping she’d say something, accept his apology, ask to come with, anything.
“…Just…be careful, please?” She asked, while Misha was disappointed that it wasn’t more, he also felt he couldn’t complain. It was something at least. At least she still cared to some extent.
“I will.” Misha told her with a nod and then left, heading for the stations airlock.
“Finally.” Grischa said, to which Misha glared at him but the old man, unshakable as always, just moved on ahead as if the dirty look meant nothing at all and looked at the two other stalkers present, Adam and Vasha. Both had worked with Misha and Grischa before, but they normally operated independently. They would need the extra help this time though, and not just for what they had found up top a few days ago; but also due to the lack of trust between Misha and the old man.
“Everyone ready?” Grischa asked once more, getting affirmative replies from Adam and Vasha, and before Misha could even respond the old man turned back around to tell the station’s main airlock guard to open up the gate.
“Heard you basically got grounded last week?” Vasha whispered and gave a soft but devious chuckle.
“Shut up!” Misha almost shouted back, the noise of the airlock gate opening up muffling most of it.
“Alright, it’s open; get moving!” The guard ordered and the stalkers threw their gas masks on, activated their watches and made their way through the airlock which quickly closed behind them and they began their ascent up the decrepit escalators, up towards the surface.
----Meanwhile at Polis-----
“How much for the tent at the far end of the platform?” Gleb asked.
“That one…ten bullets?” The ‘hotel’ owner asked. In all four of Polis’s station there were little groupings of tents that made up ‘hotels’ for travelers. Despite the stations opulence they were not exactly five stars, the tents were old, very close together, some even had holes, but they’d be good enough for the travelers who’d be at the station for only a day or two anyway and they'd have just enough privacy for him.
“Ten? Just for the night” Gleb asked then put the bullets on the table. “Gonna make me go bankrupt with how much I’ve already spent getting here. Every little bit counts these days…”
“You can try another station; they’ll ask for more.” The owner replied and Gleb nodded before muttering a thanks and heading to the tent. Waiting.
“May I come in, sir?” A female voice asked from outside the tent and he opened up the flap.
“What for?” Gleb asked expectantly.
“I got some new sheets for your bed.” She explained and Gleb nodded.
“Alright, come in.” Gleb ordered and the woman entered, laying some blankets down, and quickly sliding a folder across the bed to him, which Gleb quickly grabbed and looked through before looking outside the tent. Most people were already heading to the bar or going to bed, and the tent’s location gave it a bit more privacy than others but not much.
“I didn’t think it’d be you, Gleb.” The woman explained. “I thought they’d get me for this…but they told me they wanted you.” She continued.
“Yeah.” Gleb continued skimming the folders contents once more. “Jurisdiction, as always Natasha.” He added. “In an odd way.” He continued.
“…It was someone from the Redline then? Rather than someone from Polis?” She asked, their employers only told them so much, just enough for their job. Asking another person in the know was one of the few ways for people like them to get more information if they wanted.
“So it seems.” He said. “But that’s only part of it. They want me to… ‘have a word’ with Belikov. One of the Kshatriya here I believe.
“The Kshatriya chief, yes.” Natasha confirmed and Gleb nodded.
“Who will come after him?” Gleb asked and Natasha gave a small smirk.
“For right now it’ll be some higher-ranking members of the Polis council, a Dmitry Yahontov being the most likely. Took some time for him to see reason.” She muttered softly and Gleb nodded again.
“As for Belikov, how can I get him to see reason?” Gleb asked.
“Check the back.” Natasha explained and Gleb flipped through the papers in the folder, finding a picture of a young woman and a small document.
“Nadia Belikova....pretty girl…” Gleb muttered, knowing where this was going.
“His niece. Only family he’s got from what I’ve heard.” She explained and Gleb nodded.
“Good…” Gleb muttered.
“He there now?” He asked a moment later and Natasha nodded.
“Last I checked anyway, just before I came here.” She explained then pointed out the set of large wooden double doors that was the entrance to Belikov’s office.
“He’s too comfortable it seems, unlike the last chief there’s no one outside his office most days.” She whispered and Gleb nodded.
“When you’re done how will you leave?” She asked quietly.
“Same way I came in. Thank you, Natasha.” Gleb said and left the tent with his small satchel and made his way across the platform then to the other side of the station.
“…Hey, what the hell—who?” Belikov started when the doors opened up quickly then stopped when he saw who it was.
“…G-Gleb?” Belikov asked as Gleb closed the door.
“What…what are you doing here?” He asked nervously, his eyes already darting around the room as Gleb walked over and sat down at the chair in front of Belikov’s desk. A thousand different possibilities began to play in Belikov’s mind.
“…No.” He began and Gleb kept silent. He knew Gleb well, and his 'employers' as he called them. Many knew them in the metro, especially those like Belikov...do a favor or two for them and they'd pull some strings, they got him this job after all.
“No. No. There’s no way they would. Not me…not now.” Belikov muttered, an overconfident smile forming on his face which soon disappeared when Gleb tossed the picture from the folder down onto the desk. Belikov felt his heart stop momentarily, and his face went white as he looked back at Gleb desperately, already beginning to beg the younger man when Gleb finally spoke up.
“Those tunnels.” He said, and for a moment confused Belikov. “You know the ones. Those ‘maintenance’ tunnels.”
God damn you, Grischa!
“Just…please, leave her alone—I…I’ll tell you whatever—” Belikov stuttered, once more returning to his begging.
“I’ve been told it was a woman who found them. I’ve been told her name was Yekaterina Antipina? She is supposedly a refugee from the Redline. Came with some stalkers, one your familiar with? A…Gregory Blok?” Gleb asked and Belikov nodded quickly.
“Good. We know their names but tracking them has been harder. You seem to be a friend of this Mr. Blok. I’m guessing where he goes, they do?” Gleb asked and Belikov nodded once more.
"Y-yes..." Belikov stuttered. "Their...business partners--more like a family actually." Belikov explained weakly
“Good. Where is he?”
“I…” Belikov began, his mind was boggled by now; what should’ve been easy to answer escaped his mind and he began to remember conversations, pointless ones from years ago; anything Grischa had briefly mentioned about anything that could count as a home for a man like him.
“I…He’s—He’s at—” Belikov continued.
“Enough.” Gleb said calmly, silencing Belikov again. Gleb gave him a stern look then nodded to the picture of Nadia.
“Look at the picture, look at your niece. I know what she looks like, she is a pretty girl. Beautiful even, I bet she's already caught the eye of a man or two around Polis." Gleb began and Belikov, almost out of instinct, nodded.
"I know where her tent is. I know her schedule." He continued, staring Belikov dead in the eyes, calm as ever while the old man could hardly keep still in his seat.
"I know where she works, I know where she spends her off hours, which restaurant she likes to frequent when she can afford it, I know that you know damn well where this Mr. Blok is, and I know that Ms. Antipina is with him, most likely anyway, as you have implied.” Gleb explained. “So, you have ten seconds when I’m done talking, ten seconds to say whatever little shithole station their in. Or I will leave this office and I will find your niece, Nadia Belikova, whether it’s at her job, at her favorite restaurant, or most likely her tent while she is asleep and I will make sure she is no longer the pretty girl that I keep saying she is." Gleb said, this time becoming more forceful, his tone becoming more sincere and stern as Belikov continued to try and plead and was once more cut off by Gleb.
"And that’s if I choose to let her live, and you know the power men such as myself have, Belikov. You know that if I so choose so I can do that, and there is nothing that you, or Valkov, or Marcianus, or even the Polis council can do to stop it. We know everyone’s little secrets, we know what can win people over and what terrifies them, and if all else fails we learn their lives and when we can end them--So, just to remind you, when I’m done you will have ten seconds to tell me where the people I want live, or I will get up out of this chair and find your niece, and even if you grow a spine and grab that pistol from your desk, they’ll simply send another after you and your niece. So, as of right now, the clock is ticking.” Gleb said, leaning back in his chair slightly and going silent once more, all the while Belikov’s heart continued to beat, louder and louder, pulsing in his ears until it was deafening.
“…Serpukhovskaya…” Belikov managed to weakly mutter out.
“Serpukhovskaya? The Hansa station north of Tulskaya?” Gleb asked, wanting to be sure before he left, already standing up once he saw Belikov give a weak and defeated nod. Belikov could hardly think. He couldn’t lose Nadia…she was all he had left besides his job in life.
“See, was that so hard?” Gleb asked with a smirk and Belikov glared at him angrily but still to terrified to do much else.
“Will…there be anything else?” Belikov managed to say through gritted teeth and Gleb just nodded.
“Just one thing…” He muttered.
Quickly now, quickly, quickly! Gleb’s thoughts commanded, his tried his best to hurry along but not to look as if he was trying to get out of Polis in a hurry. He had done this countless times before but every time he tried to make his escape, paranoia and doubt would set in and he felt as if he were on display for the whole metro to see.
He would take the normal tunnel, the one he took to get here. He had feared that that girls discovery of it would put everything into lock down but it seems the Kshatriya just wanted everything to go back to normal and other than a simple lock there was no guards hanging around the entrance to the ‘maintenance’ room. The key to the lock had come from Belikov’s desk, quickly he undid the lock, pocketed the key and hurried into the maintenance room, closing the door behind him before any passerby saw him and began to make his way down the tunnel. It didn’t take long to find the false wall and begin his journey back home. He'd have plenty of time, and more importantly resources back there to find make it to Serpukhovskaya.
Natasha had been ‘working’ as a maid for Polis for a while now, almost two years. No one really paid to much attention to her, no one would raise an eyebrow at a maid heading to Chief Belikov’s office. Still though she made her way to the office quickly, opened the door and let it close behind her.
Good job, Gleb. Natasha thought as she walked over to check Belikov’s body, feeling his neck for a pulse and finding none. Part of her had feared Belikov would fight back, pull a gun or make some noise, call for help or something, even with his niece on the line but thankfully it seemed Gleb got through to him. Soon her job would truly begin.
She gave the office a once over, the same with Belikov’s body. Nothing seemed too suspicious. No blood, nothing knocked over, no signs of a struggle. Gleb got in and out cleanly thankfully. If it all worked out it’ll look like Belikov had a heart attack.
With that…it’s time to get to work. She thought and began to breath, heavily at first then more forcefully then went for the door as quickly as she could, forcing it open.
“Help!” She screamed out into the station, the few passersby soon rushing over.
----A few hours later, Serpukhovskaya---
The gasmask was perhaps the worst part of getting undressed due to his injuries. He had returned from the Dead City was cuts and stab wounds all along his torso and shoulders, those hurt like hell but were well on their way to completely healing over the last few weeks, most of them weren’t as bad as they appeared when he had to escape the dead city last time. Even now they still stung but they were nothing compared to the pulsating pain that would shoot throughout his face and then cause it to throb for a while afterwards, sending out more little pin-pricks and a sharp pain afterwards.
He practically had to force himself to continue, taking a deep breath and gritting through the pain, Misha had pulled off his gasmask upon returning. The decontamination process wasn’t as bad but water and cleaning products didn’t exactly feel good to the cuts on his face either.
Usually, before all that nonsense with Joe and Polis, they’d all go to the bar after getting changed into their day clothes. Or rather, Grischa would take them but now there were no talks of going to the bar, no jokes or happy conversations or thankfulness for return from the surface safe and sound once more, there was no comradery, no Grischa had simply told them to get going while he looked over what they had collected, saying he would find a buyer for all the fuel, scrap, spear parts and ammunition they had found and then send every man their cut. No one tried to challenge it, there was no arguing with Grischa when he was still this pissed. So, everyone returned home. Misha had been dreading his return home for…the first time in his life probably, now that he thought about it anyway.
We gotta fix this…He thought as he rounded the pillar on the platform, soon finding his tent…and Katya still inside. She had a small book in her hands and looked up at him and after a brief moment gave a small smile and Misha felt himself relax. After their argument last week he had found himself more nervous around here. He could handle the anger and annoyance that came with walking on eggshells around Grischa, when it came to Katya though…all it brought was pain. He was more angry at himself then how she had reacted.
Who could blame her after all?
Misha entered the tent and forced a smile at Katya, it hurt to smile. Anything with his nose or face was a chore now; and no doubt would be for however long it took everything to heal. Once he got in he put his RPK in the corner and then zipped up the tent and began to strip down his radiation suit and begin to get dressed.
“What are you reading?” He asked as he looked around for his shirt, she shrugged and flipped the book over. Despite Hansa having many impressive libraries in most of their stations, Serpukhovskaya was one that had very little in the way of well maintained books, many were like Katya’s at the station’s library; missing pages and covers, you’d have to ask around and wait for either a stalker or a caravan to bring in books that had not fallen apart or had begun to rot unlike in the rest of Hansa, where some stations had printing presses and were actively making and selling them left and right.
“It…seems to be a biology textbook.” She said and Misha smirked.
“You thinking of becoming a biologist then?” He asked and she gave a small chuckle.
“Maybe—I think I could be.” She said then shrugged. “Mostly I was just going through the library and just flipped through it…then I found this.” She said and turned the page to him, inside was an incredibly faded picture of a large animal; one he hadn’t seen in years.
“It’s an…elephant?” He asked and then nodded to himself after he made out what was left of the picture on the page and Katya nodded back.
“Yeah.” She replied. “…you said you were…nine? Right? When the war happened?” She asked and after throwing his shirt on, Misha nodded, his mind going back to July of 2013, the last time he lived on the surface rather than made quick expeditions to it. The age gap between the couple had been weird at first, for Misha at least. Misha had been born on the otherside of Moscow, north west of what is now Hansa territory, back in 2005. He had plenty of memories of life on the surface, of the sun, the fresh air, snow, rain, ice cream, cars everywhere. All the things Katya had never, and now that he thought about, would probably never see, except with a few exceptions such as the surface during her brief training runs years back. She had been born underground, according to her the day after the wars first anniversary. The tunnels were all she knew, and much like the age gap these two different life experiences was weird, at first, they learned to make do despite it; and in a weird way it was a plus to have conversations like this with her. While many in the metro would go into bouts of melancholy when reminiscing or crying over the world, they had all lost, Misha actually enjoyed talking about the old world, why he could not say. He missed it sure, but he supposed he was not the type to cry over it.
“Well a few months shy, but yeah; pretty close to nine.” He explained.
“…Did you ever go to the zoo?” She asked and he smirked and nodded, finishing with his clothes, and sitting next to her on the bed.
“I did, a few times. My family…wasn’t really well off, basically dirt poor but we would go to the zoo when we could.” He explained then continued on, knowing where her conversation would go.
“…I can kind of remember the elephants. They were huge, obviously, taller than those city buses you might find on the surface. Slow as hell.” He explained. “Smelled.” He continued with a smirk and a shake of his head. “I liked other animals though…” He explained, thinking back to his few trips to the zoo with his parents, there was a few specific ones he liked more than others.
“Like?” She asked and he shrugged.
“The monkeys, penguins, a lot of the birds actually…wolves, foxes.” He said, wondering which of those she’d be familiar with. She merely nodded and was silent for a moment.
“….I’m sorry, Misha.” She muttered and the barley visible smirk that had formed on his face disappeared and they both became tense again.
“It’s fine—” He began to tell her.
“It’s not.” She said back, calmly, seemingly having thought out what she had to say and accounted for Misha trying to brush it aside.
“I…I shouldn’t have lost it on you.” She began. “And I definitely shouldn’t have smacked you.” She said. “No one should, I…I just…” She sighed and shrugged. “I was angry…afraid.” She explained.
“I fucked up.” Misha muttered.
“Yeah…you did, but I still shouldn’t have hit you. I’m sorry…I really am.” She said, a tired but hopeful look in her eyes as she became silent, waiting for him to either accept her apology or to keep justifying her actions. She doubted he’d tell her to fuck off but she was afraid of what this would do to them. Misha remained quiet for a bit, thinking everything over. Neither of them were good at apologies, never had been for the few years they’ve been together.
At least we’re trying…He thought.
“….Do you still think I’m an idiot?” He asked after a few more moments of silence, giving her a small, almost childish smirk and she laughed a little in response and nodded.
“Sometimes…but not all the time.” She explained.
“Reckless. Reckless would be the best way to describe you sometimes.” She said a moment later and he nodded.
“Yeah—that sounds like me.” He said and she made him turn his head to look at her, looking over the bandages on his face.
“Does it still hurt?” She asked and he nodded slightly.
“Just a little bit?” She asked.
“…Ok, more than a little.” He muttered back after a moment as she took her hands away from his face after deciding against touching his wounds.
“…Think a drink might help with that?” She asked.
“It’s on me.” She added.
“…Alright, I’m in.” He told her.
“Well…come on then.” She said, taking his hand and stepping back as he pushed himself up off their bed and she pulled down the zipper on the tent flap and walking out with him and beginning to make their way down the platform.
“Hold up!—Mr. Turgenev!” Someone shouted from behind Misha, who, along with Katya, stopped and turned to see a man in a hoodie and an AK slung over his shoulder approaching them with a young blond woman in tow behind him.
“…Do I know you?” Misha asked as the man came over with his companion. By now, Katya had already begun to ignore the conversation between both of the men, and the words the woman began to say that interrupted their conversation also fell on deaf airs. For Katya the world stood still, and the face of the woman was one she had never expected to see ever again.
“S…Stefania?” Katya muttered. Her eyes had to be playing tricks on her.
“Yes…Katya, I—” The blonde woman began to say before the man with her spoke up.
“…Would it be possible to continue this somewhere else?” He asked. “The bar maybe?” He added, looking off in its general direction.
“I think you should explain it now.” Misha told the man sternly.
“I will. At the bar. Trust me, we’ll be needing some drinks.” The man explained, taking Stefania by the hand and beginning to head down the platform, before Misha could react Katya followed.
“You know them?” Misha asked, hurrying after her.
“All will be explained soon.” The man replied. They continued down the platform then stopped again.
“Mr. Blok!” The man called out, Grischa had been walking back towards his tent but stopped just as Misha had at the call of his name. He ignored Misha, for once not out of malice but seemingly genuine confusion on who this man could be.
“What’s all this?” Grischa asked, gesturing to the tiny crowd in front of him.
“Come with us to the bar—I need to speak with all of you.” The man explained and Grischa, after a brief moment of thought nodded and gestured for the man to lead on.
What the hell Grischa!? Misha wanted to shout, when they had stopped for the old man he had hoped he would help stop whatever the hell was going on not agree to this weirdo’s need for a conversation. The man lead them towards the bar without another word, the little crowd following behind him the entire way.
----Meanwhile at Polis---
“Welcome back, corporal. How’s Riga doing?” Valkov asked Voloyda walked into his tent. Valkov had sent him to deal with some bandits in Riga’s tunnels, a small group but they proved to be craftier than he had expected. He had hoped for a quick mission, get to Riga, get to the tunnels, off some bandits, go to the bar, be the local hero then spend the next day or so returning to Polis.
“Could’ve been better, sir.” Voloyda said bluntly. “The intel was off, it wasn’t a group of ‘five or so’ as we heard. It was more like ten, maybe twelve. A lot smarter than your usual bandits, came across more trip wires and traps then I think I’ve seen in my life. Some crazy mother-fucker with a Shambler, high as hell, nearly took my head off with it.” Voloyda continued.
“Jesus” Valkov muttered, judging by Voloyda’s tone none of it was exaggerated, then again the Ranger wasn’t one to do that anyway…well too much at least.
“Oh it gets worse. Trying to sneak through the place was impossible. I only took down two of the sentries before the whole tunnel and the maintenance room they lived in turned into a warzone. Riga’s militia had to get involved. They lost two guys trying to save my sorry ass.”
“God damn it.” Valkov sighed and Voloyda nodded.
“Well…we got it done in the end. Those tunnels are safe again, at least from bandits. That anomaly between Alekseyevskaya and Riga seems intent on staying there.” Voloyda commented then shrugged. “If you can, send me with someone else next time, unless we know for sure.” Voloyda said and Valkov nodded.
“I’ll try…well, you got it done like you said. Hopefully nothing else comes up today, I say you’ve earned a break for now.” Valkov explained and dismissed Voloyda soon after who left the tent and returned to the barracks and stowed his gear in his locker before walking into the rest of Polis, it was late and he could use a drink right about now
He stopped on the tracks and looked over at the platforms that contained the home for the more well to do Rangers. It had been a few days since they interrogated Joseph, and Joe, as usual was angry; he considered heading over and seeing if she was home. She wasn’t on a mission last he heard, a drink could do her good if she was willing, he thought and began to head over.
“Help!” Someone shouted, an old woman; her voice echoing throughout most of the station, easily heard by most due to how late it was. Voloyda turned, soon finding the source of the screaming at Chief Belikov’s office. Voloyda began to sprint over.
“Help, I think he’s dead!” With that many who had been staring began to crowd around Belikov’s office just as Voloyda entered, making his way past the maid and walking over to the old man, checking his pulse and finding none.
God damn it. Voloyda thought, looking around for what could have killed the man but saw nothing.
Did the fat ass finally have a heart attack? He asked himself and kept looking around. It’s what it seemed like, there was no cuts, no bruising, no blood or anything else. It’s like he just died. The maid continued with her screaming, asking passersby and the crowd to get some help. As Voloyda walked back over to the maid to calm her down some in the crowd ran off, some saying they were gonna get Valkov, others to find Dagonet while some began to hurry off to find the first Kshatriya they could get their hands on.
Guess it’s back to work then…Voloyda thought before turning his attention back to the maid.
Charlotte was being escorted back to where she was normally, out of the way and behind Ranger walls when they ran into Dagonet. Joe had a budding bruise on her forehead and eye from where the vulture had headbutted and punched her but she didn't seem to notice so much as her knuckles hurt worse.
She was looking at them for the tenth time when the major walked up.
"Sir," she said as she looked up to him and put her hands back down to her weapon.
Charlotte smiled up to him. "I've had a bit of an adventure today," she said up to him.
Most of the city had quieted down as night approached. The market was near silently, only a handful of traders left anywhere in sight. Dagonet paid them little mind as he strode through.
When he arrived at the bar the first dancers were already on stage. Dag eyed the woman appreciatively as he made his way toward the bar, found a seat and ordered his first drink for the night. It'd been a long week.
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