Anatoly got to his feet, stepping to yank the drapes shut all over again. His breath was still heavy from the adrenaline, shoulders rising just enough to show it. He removed his revolvr and paused to check it - a familiar, calming moment.
Everything remained quiet. Finally, he stepped to the back wall and rapped once - thrice - once. He waited to hear the pattern repeated before going to their front door, quietly letting himself out. For a few minutes he left Rusalka alone to converse with the fellow officer in the neighboring unit. Civilians were not typically permitted to carry within the Red Line stations.
That one had a gun here and now was unsettling. It meant either a rogue soldier had taken the shot at his wife, or a soldier had been murdered; and his weapons stolen away.
Either way, their time here seemed increasingly sparse.
Anatoly barely had time to process the swell of irritation that followed the question.
The glass broke. The slug lodged into the wall. The shot rang out. All in that order, All in less than a second's time.
On reflex, he came out of the chair, tackling Rusalka to the ground. He clamped a hand over her mouth even as they landed, "SHH," he hissed into her ear, keeping her muffled as he strained to listen for any sigh of men rushing up to their door. His heart was pounding in his chest. All he had to defend this place was a puny, six shot revolver. Nothing against a mob.
There was a rush of movement around them. Voices raised in the street below. Commotion from the apartment behind them, after the bullet lodged through their wall. Then there was a dead silence as their neighbors hunkered down for fear the mob might be coming.
Near twenty minutes passed, Anatoly kept his palm clamped against her mouth - regardless of whatever protests. Finally he nudged his mouth close to her ear, "Or else you'll be fucking lucky if they shoot you cleanly. Now shut up and gather what you need most."
In many ways, Anatoly had even less to go on when it came to married relations. His father was away more often than not, as far as he remembered. And those memories were long buried.
"You should stay away from the window," he repeated himself from earlier, "all it takes is the wrong, angry man to see you there from down below."
"I want whatever saves us swinging by our necks from the fucking rafters when the tides overwhelm the Line," he snapped harshly.
"Not that kind of information," Anatoly muttered rather irritably in return, "trust my word - if Hanza had any designations on the Red Line, we'd be over run already. We barely have the manpower left to quell unrest among our own. If an aggressor hit us now the stand off wouldn't last twenty four hours. It's a god damn wonder the Reich haven't marched on us yet."
He could only assume that was because the rumors of a recent mass death event in the Reich were at least somewhat true.
"Hanza, most probably," he answered, readily enough to make it clear this wasn't the first thought he was putting into the matter. It had been weighing on his mind for a while now. Anatoly knew that his own position, and that of her family, left them at high risk if conditions continued to deteriorate.
He sipped at the mug. He'd never grown to like this stuff. It wasn't even an acquired taste. More a habit that had grown over time, "They have little concern for the political strife the Red Line has been involved with. They prefer to profiteer from it. I believe between my own skill sets and the information I could provide, that we could find a home there."
"Could be days. Could be weeks. I think we've approached the point to be ready for anything," he answered, pausing to reach for the steaming glass she had left beside him. Anatoly took a sip, exhaling slowly as he set the cup down again, "I think perhaps he hasn't answered is that they may have been forced to move on already. There's no reason to assume the worst. We still hear about the dead, and your family aren't among them."
Only the important dead, of course.
Anatoly sighed, standing briefly to go to the lone window and drag the curtains fully over it, "In the morning I'll help you pack away what's most important. If it comes down to it, we can only take what we can carry on our backs. Think carefully about what you need to bring. The packs will need to be left at the ready."
"Just coffee is fine," Anatoly answered quietly. He could wait to eat. With the unrest on the streets, he preferred not to have the stove stoked above more than a smolder. The smoke was an indicator of residents being present; and given this apartment block was mostly inhabited by officers and other important figures, it was a target for angry citizens. For the time being, he felt it safer not to draw that kind of attention.
He rubbed the bridge of his nose a while longer, both as a form of stress relief and to rouse himself. He was exhausted.
The question was answered by a stretch of contemplative silence before Anatoly reluctantly answered, "I'm not entirely certain," he admitted, "but if there's no word from your father soon we may well have to flee the Red Line," he murmured the treasonous possibility so lowly that even Rusalka likely struggled to hear it. The current state of affairs was so hazardous that he didn't dare let any of his fellows catch wind that he was considering it - even if the majority of officers were likely contemplating similar moves. He was no spring chicken, having been military before the Final War (false moniker though it had proven to be). Party leadership were looking for scapegoats. Anatoly had no intention of becoming one. Certainly not now that he was responsible for a wife, however alien and strange their union remained.
"I couldn't get away," Anatoly answered, giving a single shake of his head, and offering no further explanation. It would have been long winded, dreary news. News that would do nothing to ease the visibly agitated young woman.
He stepped further into the small flat, moving to seat himself and taking a moment to breathe out and relax before he answered her hesitant question.
"Holding, for now," he finally said quietly. The walls were thin. It wasn't a conversation to allow eaves droppers to hear, "That won't last much longer, if something doesn't change... And I am becoming afraid that the party has waited until too late," he admitted tiredly, leaning into his hand and massaging the bridge of his nose.
For a little while after the wedding, everything seemed to be looking up. Despite her origins, Anatoly had been pleasantly surprised to find his bride was a frugal one. At least, she had been in regard to the ceremony. Some part of him reckoned that could have been due to the circumstance of being married off to a complete stranger; but all in all, the marriage was an end to a means, and Antotoly wasn't particularly keen on dissecting the inner workings of the female mind.
The break in the storm had been unfortunately short lived. Murmurs of trouble had long been boiling beneath the surface within the Red Line stations. Shortly after the wedding, tensions had begun reaching the break point. Perhaps the party leadership should have sensed the danger lurking sooner than they had. Everyone always thought there was more time.
As was often the case in the course of human events, slow burning tensions abruptly erupted into a fireball of chaos. Riots broke out in one station, and for all their efforts to stamp it out the rumors spread through the rest. More upheaval followed.
Antatoly was soon consumed by his work as an officer, struggling to keep a lid on the troubles. But things were growing too far out of hand. Communication between stations was being lost. Even his in-laws had gone silent in the midst of it all. Whether they were in hiding or had come to the worst remained uncertain. That loss of contact was only one of many troubles.
As he carefully made his way through the cramped station his weapon was in hand, albeit hidden beneath his coat. Unrest had grown to the extent that he'd turned his coat inside out to hide the insignias designating his rank. With even loyal soldiers beginning to desert, there was no manpower to expend on personal guards. Even Anatoly himself was beginning to debate the wisdom of staying, that perhaps it was due time to take his bride away from this place before it was too late.
It was a strange turn of events to find himself skulking through the terminal like some kind of cat avoiding vicious dogs. Fortunately, he made it back to the apartment without any significant incident. He entered carefully, trying to make sure no one noticed as he entered the cramped building and made the climb to let himself into the small flat he now shared with a near stranger. There had been little time to acclimate to one another.
"You should come away from the window," Anatoly murmured as he shrugged off his coat by the door.