AuthAAR's note: To all mods - that are checking this out, this does belong in the vicky forums, don't move it too HOI2 or anything else. To all Readers - this first chapter is a taster, but i will not be able to update this for 3 weeks (due to exams), so you have a good ammount of time to read this. Don't fear, it will be back soon...
Chapter I: Normal People
Nikolai rested his gun in his left hand while he gently, and ever so quietly, wiped the beads of sweat from his forehead. These continued to appear, though, as the tense moment took hold of his sweat glands. He lowered his hand back onto the curved trigger, feeling the smooth surface of the mechanism. The Kalashnikov was a beautiful weapon, no doubt, but could it kill? Nikolai was soon to find out.
Moving forward, keeping his steps light to prevent the prey from hearing the cracking of the heavily laden ground, covered in twigs from the trees above. These trees blotted out any intense light, keeping the floor of the forest, dank, dark and wet. This humid temperature only increased the amount of sweat on Nikolai’s forehead.
Only a few more steps now, then he would have a clean shot at the prey. The hunter kept his footsteps quick and light, moving quickly to the tree that would provide his cover. He leant against the firm barked surface of the colossal piece of wood. He and the tree were now one, a perfect partnership of death and destruction on the unsuspecting prey that was sitting on the other side.
The young Ukrainian slipped off his steel helmet, carefully making sure that no sound was made. He placed it in his lap and peaked around the tree. He counted one, two, three of them on the other side of the tree, and, leaving no trace, pulled his head back round. Slipping his helmet back onto his head, he braced his emotions for the final stage in the hunt. Again, he firmly placed his finger on the trigger of the AK and prepared to go ‘over the top’.
Propelling himself upwards with a jump and a scream, he swung round, his gun pointing towards the unlucky Chechens standing in front of him. Without thinking, the finger pulled on the trigger and the gun went off. Ten deadly bullets flew towards the Chechens, hitting two in the chest and one in the head. Without body armour, the rebels stood no chance, and fell to the ground in agony. One was already dead as he hit the ground, and the other two were mortally wounded.
From behind other trees in the area, other Russians emerged, their stance calm and fulfilled. Sgt. Antanov came up to Nikolai, and patted him on the shoulder. It was a job well done, for sure. Nikolai’s natural Cossack instincts had come into play from the very beginning on the hunt, when Antanov had ordered him to take down the Chechens.
Antanov turned round to the assembled squad, fourteen men in all. “Pvt. Vadrasnyi has done all the work for us” said the sergeant, throwing his head up in a sarcastic laugh, “for that you can either love him or hate him.” Antanov left room for a general murmur, though none came from the sombre looking soldiers, clad in their drab green uniforms. “Whatever happens, though, our work for now is done. Set up a fire and I will go for the officers” Antanov began moving away, back towards the Russian lines. “I won’t be long, have no fear comrades!”
The group dispersed around the small opening. Several of the men began lighting a fire, while most sat down and checked their weapons. Nikolai sat down by the same fateful tree, and slipped the helmet off. He had stopped sweating, the adrenaline rush having left his blood stream. He took out the used magazine from the AK, holding it in his hand for a second or two. He tossed it once in the air, so now it was pointing the other way, and stuck it back into the opening in the gun, knowing he would need the ammunition sooner or later.
He looked at the dead Chechens lying in the middle of the clearing, studying their faces and their expressions of defeat and death. They looked like normal people, nothing different to what many of the soldiers around Nikolai looked like. Perhaps they were just normal people, like him or like Antanov that he had killed. He could not put this past behind him, yet he still saw himself reloading his weapon, ready for the future. Nikolai shuddered, a cold feeling lancing down his spine. In the smoke filled adrenaline rush of shooting those three men, he had not thought of their faces… their lives. They were simply prey for the hunt.
He turned away, averting his eyes from the catastrophe he has caused. He pulled back the spring on his Kalashnikov, and laid it up on the tree. His eyes veered up again. The Chechens were still as they were, as cold as ice and as rigid as the tree he was leaning on. He needed something to do, something to get his mind off the situation. Fortunately, Antanov came back, two bearded officers behind him. The officer’s huge caps made them look two feet taller than they actually were. One of them, the older and more senior looking one, whispered something into Antanov’s ear. His, usually sarcastic, smile was soon ripped off by what he heard, though Nikolai couldn’t register what that something might have been.
Antanov turned towards the men. “Comrades, listen up” he began, clearing his throat. All solemn eyes turned towards the sergeant. “We need one man to go check out a cave near by. These officers believe that these Chechens” he paused to point at the three dead men, “may have stored armaments down there.” He paused again. The crowd of soldiers grumbled to themselves, quite content with their current situation. “Any…err… volunteers?” he asked politely. At first, no one replied. “If someone doesn’t volunteer, I shall just pick someone” Antanov’s voice was becoming more aggressive. Nikolai saw his chance to get away from the bodies of the dead Chechens, and stepped forwards.
“I will go, sir” bleated Nikolai. As he said this, he swung round, picking up the AK, still resting on the tree.
“Good, Pvt. Vadrasnyi will go. Thank you for breaking the ice comrade.” Antanov’s words reminded Nikolai of the cold Chechens lying beside him. “It is somewhere in that direction” said Antanov, pointing his finger towards a gap in the trees. Nikolai set off, but as he passed Antanov, he noticed the sergeant rub his eyes and his beard, perhaps in some form of worry. It would have to wait for later; Nikolai had a job to do.
* * *
A bird squawked and flew away in the wake of Nikolai’s trudging feet. The ground here was soft; mud was more powdery dirt than the damp mud of before. The bird startled Nikolai, the sharp noise from behind him taking him unawares. It was too close for comfort. Nikolai swung round his AK, holding it offensively in front of him. He could see some kind of opening ahead, and guessed it must be the cave. He rushed towards its entrance, embracing the cool air of the cavern as he entered its gloomy light.
There was a steep mound, which he was standing on top of, that lead downwards into the interior of the cave. He took a gulp of refreshing air, hoping to calm his mind, and began to descend the mound. The dirt beneath him sunk beneath the weight of his booted foot, compressing into the structure of the mound. The further he went down, the more he could hear the ominous ‘drip-drop’ patter of the water somewhere at the bottom. The dirt on the mound became damper, turning into a slippery mud as he reached the end of his descent. There was a small gap of a few feet that separated the bottom of the mound from the cave floor. Nikolai rested his hand on the wet surface, edging his feet towards the end of the mound. With a final look up at the light above, he launched himself off the ledge and hit the cave floor with a splash and a squelch.
The floor was wet, and full of puddles. Nikolai could tell this, even though he couldn’t see it, he could feel and hear it. Every step he made placed him in an ankle deep puddle. Luckily his felt boots easily covered up past his shins, keeping him warm and dry. With this in mind, he continued up the cave. As he advanced, AK still pointing aggressively forward, any light still coming from above was soon lost in the depths of the cave. Nikolai fumbled in the dark for his torch, checking his pockets desperately to find a source of light.
From the end of the cave, a cold wind began to ruffle Nikolai’s hair, and the alarming sound of whispering voices was carried with it. Nikolai immediately reacted to the sounds without thinking. The only people down here could be Chechens, so he pulled his finger down, and the AK replied by letting off a hail of bullets, down into the cave. There was no sound of bullets ripping flesh, or the desperate cry of a wounded man, only the thud of the bullets entering the caves walls. The voices, carrying a strange form of what seemed to be Russian, continued into Nikolai’s ears.
Nikolai was now desperate for light. He grabbed and pulled his way through his pockets, reaching out for the torch. The voices got louder and louder, closer and closer. When it seemed that they were almost on him, Nikolai opened his holster, bringing out his TT33, fired the ancient pistol in all directions. Still no sounds of death, only the voices continuing wail. Finally his hand reached his torch, and almost throwing it out of his pocket, the switch activated and the cave filled with a yellow light.
To Nikolai’s awe, there was nothing there, yet still the sound of the voices could be heard. He turned around, flicking the torch into every corner of the cave, searching for the source of the unreachable voices. Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, Nikolai caught sight of a shadow on the wall. It was what appeared to be a soldier in a tall hat with a musket, aiming it upwards, though there was no soldier in the cave. The musket then seemed to fire, letting off shadow smoke from its muzzle and flint. After this, the shadow turned and began to run. As it did so, a large shadow came across swiped at the soldier. Nikolai watched with a gaping mouth. It was then the torch went out.
The light that had bathed the cave was gone and utter darkness ensued. The voices got louder and louder, seemingly ganging up around Nikolai. Something struck the Ukrainian’s back, and the darkness came over his senses…