Klara watched the men depart, her eyes simmering with quiet rage. When they were gone from hearing range and the two were left with the invalids in their beds, the medic returned to her station at the rear of the tent, waving Katya over. Dropping into a chair, the woman produced a pack of stale cigarettes.
“You were talking about the tunnels. What do you know about them?” What she had to say about Sofka didn’t seem as dire as it was moments earlier; Klara didn’t care whether the girl lived or died. She was just another casualty of the hell that their life became.
The doctor offered Katya one before she lit up, knowing full well the damage that smoke would do to her lungs. What was the point in longevity, if you had to live in a prison like the metro? “I don’t believe those men of yours. That girl is in rough shape. I doubt she’s going to pull through.”
Klara listened to Grischa incredulously, each word he uttered only driving home a singular truth to the makeshift doctor: he was lying his wrinkly old ass off. She made note of every inconsistency in his tale, committing to memory some of the more obscure details as she waited for him to finish regaling her with their heroic tale of how they saved a malnourished young woman from the bowels of a place too populated with monstrosities for two men, yet alone a single girl to survive.
“It’s not worth it,” she agreed when he concluded his story, though her tone was bitter. “You’re full of shit old man, and if you think you can fool me that easily, you’ve lost any marbles you’ve got left. You’ll be lucky if she even comes to. I won’t be wasting any antibiotics on her. If she’s septic, she’s as good as gone. Maybe you’ll think twice before dragging a bleeding kid through shit next time.”
She was not much older than Sofka, but she certainly felt it. Sofka reminded her of her younger sister, if only because the two were similar in stature. Part of Klara wanted to ensure the girl’s survival as penance for failing to save her sibling, but she knew better than make that call herself. What few antibiotics they had were too valuable to waste on a girl who likely wouldn’t make it through another night.
Shaking her head, Klara clucked her tongue against the roof of her mouth as she swept around to the side of the gurney opposite the trio.
“Since you’re so concerned with her wellbeing, I suppose you should know: the girl is extremely malnourished. Underweight, with visible signs of stunted growth. Consistent with growing up in the tunnels, as unlikely as that might be. She doesn’t appear to have anything infectious, but again, I am only ensuring she stays alive through the least costly means possible. Maybe next time you should leave the strays where you found them.”
As Klara berated the men, Sofka’s fingers twitched. It was likely an involuntary spasm of the girl’s muscles and seemed to be sporadic at best as they remained standing there on either side of her. Klara looked to Katya, focusing foregoing any further interaction with the two males as she addressed her directly.
“If she recovers, there’s a few things you and I should discuss. Things that, if I were in her position, I’d rather not have divulged to men I don’t know. The least we can do is treat her with some sort of dignity because her life has clearly been hell until now,” the Doc said. A frown weighed her lips downward.
When Misha's finers curled around Klara's wrist and he pulled her to it, the medic's reaction was swift. Her opposite hand curled into a fist and shot upward, aimed for the side of the man's face. Simultaneously, the woman ripped her wrist from the man's grip. Her lip curled into a snarl, baby blues simmering with rage.
"Don't you ever touch me again without permission," she snapped at him, before listening to his words. The anger melted away, replaced with confusion. "Spiderbugs?"
Klara wasn't always stationed in Hanza's post-apocalyptic idea of a hospital. She'd worked in the field, and she'd watched many good men and women die in them. She took a step back, glancing toward the unconscious girl on the bed. Her jaw tensed thoughtfully. Once Sofka was stabilized, Klara examined her further. There were signs of undernourishment, the most obvious of which was stunted growth. Though she couldn't weigh Sofka, she could tell the youth was smaller than she should be, considering she put the girl's age in her early twenties.
"No child could survive in the tunnels," she observed, and when she looked back at the trio, she appeared perplexed and concerned. "Where did you say you found her in the tunnels?"
While Misha, Grischa, and Katya slept, Klara worked. She gave as much of her own blood as she could, and she used reserves. They were supplies that weren't replaceable, and using them on the girl was a waste. The field medic played the part of an angel of mercy from time to time, and it was tempting to euthanize Sofka. Nonetheless, she did everything she could in her power to ensure the girl survived.
And she did. By the time the trio arrived to check on and interrogate the strange girl, she was stable. Klara saved her, but it was expensive. The girl slept, her chest heaving up and down as her body began to recoup from its injuries. The medic lifted her sapphire gaze to the tent's entrance, watching them.
"If you think she's going to be awake this soon, you're mistaken," Klara stated, her tone vexed. "It'll be days before the girl wakes."
She rose from her chair, eyes dark with fatigue as she approached the group. Klara needed a break; she needed to go home and sleep herself, but chances were she'd drop onto one of the cots here. She glanced toward the two patients she housed, her brow furrowing.
"You should go, I'll send word when your little tunnel rat wakes. I imagine they'll want to interrogate her as well," the medic explained. Sometimes, she got to sit in on the interrogations. It depended on whether the individual remained bedbound. Klara eyed Misha, stepping closer to him as her voice lowered into a growl.
"What the hell happened to that girl? If I find out either one of you are responsible for her injuries, I'll deal with you myself. That girl is lucky she's alive, but she took one hell of a beating. Broken bones, bullet wounds. How the hell do two men allow that to happen to a girl?" the medic chastised him. She reached forward, fingers seeking to curl around the collar of his shirt. With a tug, she intended to pull him closer to her. "You better replace everything I had to waste on your trash."
Klara bit the inside of her cheek, digging her teeth into the flesh until she could taste the coppery tang of blood pooling in her mouth. Those blue eyes of hers glared furiously at the two men, Mischa more so than the demanding old man. She was no more oblivious to the tilt of his gaze than the others, but it was something she was becoming accustomed to. If plastic surgeons were still a thing, she'd have seen one long ago.
"With any luck, she'll be dead by time I get back to the tent," the medic spat at the trio before storming off. She could be heard swearing at anyone in her way almost all the way back to the field hospital, where Sofka lay on one of the cots. Approaching the girl's side, Klara reached for her throat. She felt a faint pulse and inwardly groaned. There went her excuse to save the supplies by letting the girl die. She stepped away, tying a piece of cloth over her mouth and nose as she reached for a pair of scissors and cut away the youth's wet, bloody clothing.
Hours passed, stretching onward and onward as the medic's stomach growled hungrily, but she kept working. Between Sofka's broken nose and the hole in her side, Klara found it no surprise that the girl looked dead. She called for her only assistant as she took a sample of the girl's blood. The one thing in her life that Klara couldn't complain about was the availability of some forms of medical technology in the Hanza Stations. It made assisting patients easier, because she could still, at the very least, type the blood of someone that was injured.
Starting the test, she moved back to her patient. She washed her hands, sanitizing them with alcohol before she felt inside Sofka's wound for the bullet. All the while, her gaze was on the girl's face. The youth puzzled her. She looked surprisingly healthy, for having been found in the tunnels. In fact, what was she doing alone in the tunnels, that she had to be found by those two buffoons?
"Did the bandits have you?" Klara asked, knowing there'd be no answer. She felt something hard and smooth. Satisfied that it wasn't near as bad as it looked, she reached for a pair of forceps and pulled it out. With a curved needle and thin fishing line, she stitched the wound closed. By time she was done, the typing test was ready and she looked at it's results.
"What a lucky bitch you are, cave girl," she laughed bitterly, completely unaware of how accurate Sofka's nickname actually was. She washed her hands again, and this time, set to work on a small blood transfusion--enough that she could still function without being too lightheaded afterward, while still hopefully benefiting the girl.. When she was done, she bandaged her and laid a sheet over her bare body before discarding her clothing. If Grischa wanted her saved, he could find her some clothes himself.
Once all was said and done, Klara made sure the girl was restrained. She didn't know the youth, and she wasn't going to take the risk of her reacting violently to not knowing where she was. After that, she ate a sandwich and laid down on one of the cots, dozing while both of her patients were unconscious.
Klara Yankov stood over one of many cots that were strewn about the field hospital, which were at that moment largely empty. The elderly man that lay dying on it was a lost cause; there was nothing she could do to slow or stop the progression of his disease and if it was, in fact, what she suspected it was, then by now the best she could do was lessen his pain. Except that she couldn't do much in that regard, either. Supplies were scarce, and so she had dosed him with something to help him sleep while she debated the morality of euthanasia. There was, after all, no one to enforce Russian law anymore. They lived in different times.
It was while she looked down at the man, pondering his fate, that the tent's flap was pushed aside. Andreyvich lifted his hand, but rather than wave, he was beckoning her. He didn't know if the man she stood near was awake or not, so he wasn't going to shout at her from across the tent. Pursing her lips, she stepped away from the old man and pulled the curtain closed.
"We got one injured at the gate," he said the moment she was close enough.
"How?" she asked, but she was already pushing past him. Klara was quick, always quick. When it came to playing God with a person's life, time meant everything. Andreyvich was on her heels, and nearly ran into her when the stretch passed them by en route. "Christ," she breathed, and the men carrying the stretcher stopped. "Take her back out to the tunnels. We don't have the supplies to spare for saving her life."
"Klara," Andreyvich began, but she shot him a look. Words weren't needed to convey her point, and Klara didn't recognize the girl from any of the Hanza stations. That only justified her decision. The men exchanged glances, then looked to Andreyvich for guidance as Klara stalked away, no doubt to berate someone at the entrance for wasting her time. She had better things to do than play doctor with a lost cause. Unaware of Sofka's origins, Andreyvich looked back at the men. "Take her to the tent. We're not savages."
A moment later, he followed after the woman.
"What the hell are you thinking, trying to waste our supplies like that?!" Klara shouted, though it was hard to tell who the actual recipient of her anger was. Grischa and Misha were just as likely candidates as the guard that had ordered Andreyvich to fetch her. She was seething, no doubt insulted by the lack of forethought that went into any of their actions. It was a common occurrence, Klara shouting. The medic had a temper as fiery as her hair and a fuse as short as the Lena River was long. Andreyvich appeared shortly after, coming to a stop next to her. Klara's head turned, then she looked beyond him, expecting to see the stretcher. When she didn't, those blue eyes fell on him, and he could swear he could see the flames of Hell stirring within them.
"Where the fuck is the girl?" she half-snarled at him, nostrils flaring.
"En route to the tent," Andreyvich answered, but his eyes were on the guard. "As I told the men carrying her, we are not savages."
"Savages or not, if she even has a pulse, there's no use wasting precious supplies on her to try and save her," Klara reiterated angrily before returning her own gaze to the guard. "She's lost too much blood, and even if I can draw enough to get her type, the likelihood of finding a donor in time for a transfusion is slim to none. It's a waste of time and effort."
Her nose wrinkled as she glanced at Misha, Grischa, and Katya. "Judging by the looks and smell of you two, I assume you're the ones responsible for the corpse headed to my tent?"
Park Kultury was considered something of a second capital for Hansa. The art work that made the station famous before the war had survived, still as clean as the day the bombs dropped, despite the communistic depictions in such a capitalistic station the residents had come to love the artwork and treated it almost with reverence to a past long gone, and almost forgotten to many within the station. The station of Park Kultury, unlike the true capital of Hansa; Komsomolskaya which lay far to the northeast, on the other side of the ring, was a heavily militarized place. Guards armed not with the usual assault rifles instead carried their larger brother, the RPK, and were covered from head to toe in riot gear. It almost reminded Katya of the Redline, just minus the communism. Well, except the murals, which offered a strange sense of familiarity, but also anxiety.
There were not many civilians in Park Kultury, it's transfer to the Redline station of the same name had made Hansa nervous, even before their war over D6, and ever since then it's been one giant military base that allowed in Stalkers and the occasional caravan. Katya almost didn't make it in, if it wasn't for her refugee status....and Misha.
They had been gone for almost a day, and by now she could hardly focus on the book that she had bought from the stations sparse library, her hands kept shaking, and her mind was filled with all manner of horrors. She had told them about that tunnel in the direction of the abandoned Park Pobedy, while Grischa mocked her for saying it might lead to Emerald City, Misha had convinced the old man it might still have something worthy of looting. Even if it was hidden, unmarked on any map, only existing in rumors, and....hundreds of meters from the nearest station, from safety. Filled with Lenin only knows what.
She forced down as much of her anxiety as she could but not matter how much she tried to ignore the feelings they kept returning, as did all of the images her mind forced into her head of what could have possibly happened to those two on a trip that should have been maybe ten hours at most! Not only where they here employers they were also the closest thing she had to friends since she ran from the Redline years ago. Grischa may have been an asshole, even a bully most days, but he was almost fatherly when something came along to make him act as such. And then there was Misha...
"Opening up!" One of the guards shouted, and the airlock gate leading to some of the southern side tunnels let out the same mechanical screeching that she had grown accustomed to in the two weeks she had lived her with Misha.
Why don't they oil it, maintain it or whatever they need to do? She wondered.
"Hey, Andreyvich--Get the doctor!" One of the guards shouted, and she knew. She didn't know how she knew but she knew. It felt like someone had hit her stomach, she couldn't breath but she still threw the book down on her bed, ran out of the tent that had become her home and ran off in the direction of the barricades near the tunnels.
The guards came in, with what looked like a stretcher.
Oh no-no-no-no! Her thoughts screamed and she rushed forward, bumping into a guard who had been watching them pull in what looked like...a woman? She looked around, eyes darting for any signs of her family. Her ears picked them up first, all of the anxiety left in an instant as she looked towards the source of that old bastards voice.
"Well, Mikhail Ivanovich we did it." Grischa said as he entered and turned to look at Misha.
"Mikhail Ivanovich?" Misha asked, not hearing his friend using his given name and patronymic name in years. "Something tells me I'm in for a lecture." He said.
"Oh you are....later though." Grischa said.
"MISHA!" Katya shouted rushing over.
"Wait, Katya-don't!" Misha yelled back but couldn't stop the overly affection girl from grabbing both of the men in a bear hug.
"Oh...God!" Katya gagged. "What....in Lenin's name is all over you two?!" She coughed out.
"Sewage" Grischa said bluntly as Katya looked in dismay at her shirt and pants, now covered in it.
"Wha...sewage?" She asked. "What happened?" She continued. "Where's you're shirt, Grischa?" She asked now looking the shit covered shirtless old man over.
"....Let's get changed." Misha said. "Then we'll tell you.
Meanwhile, Katya had been put onto a stretcher back in the tunnel. An shoddy home made one. They had cut the crap covered shirt of the old man off of her and then taken her into the station, it's blindingly bring lights and towards the field hospital.
(OCC: Russian names are weird, but I tried to make it realistic with the inclusion if Misha's father name/middle name.)