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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

robou

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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…
 
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unmerged(61606)

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bohemian83 said:
Muskets? Hmm...

Time travel cave?
Exactly what I was thinking.

Very good start, I'll look forward to the next part (even if we do have to wait).
 

stnylan

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Now that is what I call a very intriguing beginning, and nicely written too. Perhaps a little awkward here and there, but top-full of wonderful potential.
 

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Firstly, thanks to you all for breaking the ice

stnylan said:
Now that is what I call a very intriguing beginning, and nicely written too. Perhaps a little awkward here and there, but top-full of wonderful potential.
thank you... but please do tell where the awkward bits are, so i can look to improve on such momments in the future :)
 

unmerged(74032)

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robou said:
thank you... but please do tell where the awkward bits are, so i can look to improve on such momments in the future :)
Robou I guess you're bit ill, aren't you? I would give my right hand to write such great stories as you do! You're really modest!

You have great skill, intriguing readers deeper in your AARs were the atmosphere of single scenes and your characters are like filaments in a spiders web. This one has just one post and is really awesome just keep up the good work. I like your Rocky Roads Northwards for it's straight and well told gameplay approach. This one is different and one of only a few (full)narrative AARs I follow word for word.
 
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robou said:
thank you... but please do tell where the awkward bits are, so i can look to improve on such momments in the future :)
In general I think you need to learn to be more aggressive in your editing. There is quite a bit of text that isn't really needed. One of the hardest things to learn as a narrative writer is that less very often equals more.

An example would be the following paragraph. I have annotated it. Words underlined are passages that I would cut. Words italicised are words I would add to keep the meaning as needed as a result of my deletions. I have simply limited myself to those two things to keep the bulk of the language you use.
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 kept 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.
Why have I made such deletions? Because they add nothing to the piece. Any information in them is already told or suggested by other text in the paragraph. For example, when mentioning his boots you do not need mention they go up over his shins - they wouldn't be very good boots if they didn't and we know they are good boots because they are keeping him warm and dry. Likewise, when talking about losing the light we know he is advancing into a cave, and we all know that there are no sources of light in a cave, hence why I deleted the extra phrase.

Now, onto other things. Word repetition is something one generally ought to avoid. For most one should avoid putting the same words in close proximity to one another (words like 'the', 'a', and so on are obvious exceptions). In the above paragraph again you have the word 'puddle' twice in quick succession. I would suggest the second instance could be changed from "... placed him in an ankle deep puddle" to "...placed him ankle deep in water".

Those are two things to be thinking about. In general editing is just about the hardest thing a writer does - it is in my experience far harder than the actual writing itself. So don't be surprised if it takes a lot of time and practice - I know it certainly has done for me and I am still learning.
 

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Ah i see! Thank you for the advice stnylan, i will seek to improve later, but please do tell me if i am still creating similar problems in the future ;)
 

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robou said:
Ah i see! Thank you for the advice stnylan, i will seek to improve later, but please do tell me if i am still creating similar problems in the future ;)
If you wish, I would be glad to. Perhaps not after every post, but now and then.

I will say that if I keep catching the same things, please don't get disheartened. It does simply take alot of time and practice, and you won't get everything at once. But if you keep at it, a year from now you will be able to see the benefits. Trust me on that :)
 

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Thank you all for commenting! It means a lot and thanks for the effort you have put into helping me. I would just like to divulge some good news. If i do get a free hour or so in the half-term (next week) when i am not revising or updating my Italian AAR, it is very possible that i might be able to squeeze in the next update which is already semi-completed. I pray that this is possible, but don't keep your expectations too high, just in case.
Thank you!
 

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It is nice to have you all here and following, and i have finished the update i promised. stnylan, i have tried to edit this as well as i can, but attempted as i wrote it to improve on the things you mentioned. I hope you enjoy this.

update to follow....
 

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Chapter II: A New World​

Nikolai’s eyes flickered; he was awake, yet only half conscious. Out of his sleep-filled pupils, he could make out some blurry, yet surprisingly bright beige colour. Whether it was above, below or beside him, he had no idea. There was no unconscious decision in his head telling which way was which. The eye’s opened a little wider, and he began moving his head from side to side, trying to feel out the pain at the top of his back. In his ears could be heard a distant ringing noise, constant and high-pitched.

He was alive, he could tell that. There was no wound, no blood, only a searing pain from his head to his shoulders. Now his eye’s opened fully, yet his vision was still impaired by the sleep that clogged up the corners of the irises. Using all his strength, he managed to pull his head off the ground, though the pain in his back was so much that he had to relax his neck muscles and let his head fall back to the ground. Instead, he pulled up his right arm, poking and pushing out the sleep with his index finger.

With his sight regained, he then moved his hand onto his forehead, only to find all the sweat that he remembered being there gone. The climate was cool, and wherever he was, was not where he had been. He had been moved by whatever had hit him. His mind filled with panic at the thought of being captured, and he desperately tried to stand up. His neck still prohibited any major movements, and he ended up tired out, and in the same position as before.

Ever so slowly, his hearing began to come back, the ringing coming to a crescendo before dying out completely. Now could be heard the cries of battle. The sound of gun fire and the screams of the wounded were clear in Nikolai’s ear. Perhaps he was in the Chechen camp, and the Russian’s were attacking? He would have to get up and find out. With a final determined effort, he lifted his head, ignoring the gigantic pain that it caused, and used his hands to lever himself upwards. He did so with so much power, he almost fell over forwards as soon as he got up.

Nikolai looked around him, turning his body rather than his head. He appeared to be in some form of yurt-like tent. There wasn’t much in it, a few crates and a cauldron sitting to one side. To Nikolai’s amazement, resting next to where he had been laying was his Kalashnikov. He couldn’t understand why it would possibly be there. The Chechens wouldn’t have left him with it, and the Russians would have reused it, so why was it still there? He picked it up and examined it. Rubbing his hands over the hard wooden stock, he felt the inscription he had left there. There, inscribed on the wood was the single word ‘Cossack’. The Kalashnikov was his for sure.

Slinging it around his shoulders, he stepped towards the exit of the tent. The sounds of battle continued, coming from somewhere outside. He stopped in front of the opening flap, taking a deep breath, slowing down his heart rate ready for a possible battle ahead; his first major engagement.

His hand reached for the flap, and touching the soft felt of the tents structure he began to feel a million miles away from wherever he was. He lifted it up and took a step outside. As soon as he had left the confines of the tent, he immediately stopped. His eyes became aware of the situation, and his brain had simply stopped in amazement. What was happening here, they weren’t Russians in front of him, were they? Why the axes and the bayonets? He asked himself a million questions in his mind about what was going on.

Before he had time to answer the questions he was asking himself he was confronted with the enemy. It wasn’t a Chechen with an AK running at him, it was a…. Nikolai didn’t even know what was running at him. The Axe-wielding brute was charging out of the dark night, his mighty two-handed weapon swung behind his shoulders, straight at the Ukrainian. Nikolai couldn’t believe what he was seeing, was it real?

The delay in his reaction almost cost him his life as the enemy got closer and closer, but eventually, just in time, his Cossack instincts kicked into action. Without even knowing he had done so, he had pulled out his Bebout* and raised it above his head to block the oncoming weapon. The man with the axe was screaming at the top of his voice as his huge axe hit against the sword. The ancient weapon, which Nikolai had been given by his grandfather and usually wore as a ceremonial piece, scraped the axe to a halt just before it hit Nikolai’s face. However, the immense force of the blow, almost breaking his sword arm, sent him flying to the ground.

As Nikolai hit the hard dirt, his helmet came loose, bouncing off in another direction. He was open to the finishing blow from the axe man, with nothing to save him from his fate. This was real after all. The bearded axe wielding barbarian stepped over the disarmed Ukrainian and looked down at the young face of Nikolai. He gave a low and slow laugh; showing off his yellow teeth and giving off a horrible odour that made Nikolai lose his breath.

The axe lifted up high over the mans head, was almost ready to come down. He laughed again, saying something in his native language, whatever that was. He swung the axe round his head a few times, building the power up for the final hit.

Blood sprayed across Nikolai’s face leaving him blind to the situation. He must have been hit, the pain being too much for him even to feel. In desperation to see how bad the wound was, he wiped his eyes clean of the blood that had obscured them.

Looking down his body, he could see no wound, no rip in his clothes. He had not been struck after all. He moved his eyes upwards to look at the barbarian above him. The bearded man was still standing with his axe high above his head, but Nikolai could see a clear bullet hole clean through the centre of his chest. The man began to tilt backwards, before falling to the ground under the weight of his raised axe.

A hand thrust in front of Nikolai’s face, and an assertive voice began to talk to him. “I would suggest you shoot him before he gets you on the ground next time” the voice said sarcastically, addressing Nikolai in perfect Russian. “So are you going to get up?” the voice asked, pushing his hand into Nikolai’s. The Ukrainian was speechless, he no idea what was going on.

Nikolai looked at the man who was talking to him. He was a tall man, definitely of pure Russian decent, yet he was dressed very oddly. Nikolai took note of the hat the man was wearing; just like that he had seen in the cave. ‘Perhaps… no that is not possible’ Nikolai thought to himself, dismissing an idea he thought impossible.

“Well?” the voice asked. Nikolai gripped the hand of the Russian firmly, and using his legs, though not his sword arm which was near destroyed, lifted himself to his feet.

“Ah… err… thank you, but wh-” Nikolai began to speak back but was cut off in mid sentence.

“Good to see you speak” the voice retained its sarcastic tone. “You must follow me, I don’t know who you are and your dress code is very odd. I must show you to the General” he made reference by pointing at the helmet lying on the ground a few metres away.

“The general… what?” asked Nikolai, as confused by the situation as ever. “What is happening here!?” he demanded, shaking the mans hand off his arm. He moved over the side to pick up his helmet, which he placed back on his exposed head.

“I think you should be telling us that” the voice became more serious now. Something strange was going on. Perhaps it was some kind of hoax, but that axe man was real, no doubt.

They continued advancing through the camp. All around them, more of those barbarians were attacking, with men, who would appear to be Russians, fighting them off. Yet the man holding Nikolai kept his calm, taking him to see the ‘General’.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------​

* A Bebout is the standard Cossack sword and was used right up through WW2. Nikolai would be wearing his as a ceremonial piece to denote that he is of Cossack decent.
 
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J. Passepartout

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Glad to see he still has his survival instincts. It would have been quite unfortunate to wander into this place and die before realising what was going on.
 

unmerged(85800)

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i never read victoria aars but im going to make an exception - i saw this advertised on the inkwell page, read the first update, and was hooked - i love the idea of time travel so am very interested in this. good work.

on a side note, i dont want to cause confrontation or presume to know more than stnylan, who is a far better writer and contributor to the forum than me, but i felt his editing of the first post was rather... brutal. most decent writing embellishes on the bare facts, and i didnt feel that what you wrote was long winded in any way - im easily bored by writings but i felt it was very good. ok it maybe quite a bit was not essential to the text, but then you may as well bullet point what happens if everything has to be necessary to the story. as i said, i mean no offence to stnylan who is good and helpful, but i thought id offer my counter-opinion: dont make it too spartan :)
 

stnylan

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Methinks Nikolai is in a certain amount of trouble. I wonder how on earth he is going to explain all this. On the other hand, if his AK still works he will be very impressive ... until his ammo runs out. :)

@BritishImperial - 'brutal' is actually a very good word to describe it, so no need to apologise! :) The reason why I think it is good to approach ones's own work with such a brutal attitude to slack, is that anything that remains is likely to be very good. Also, it is very easy to over-write, but conciseness is hard work. Once one has cracked it however, then it is easier to add a few more details without being verbose.

Thinking about this there is something I could have said in my first comment, which robou (and indeed, anyone else) might find useful. In his book about writing, On Writing, Stephen King passes along a piece of advice that he was given when he was just starting out. It goes:

Second draft = First draft -10%

In my own editing I find this a useful target - to try and cut out at least 10% of the word total.

The rest of his book is very handy for a new writer too, and I can recommend it.
 

robou

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Time for some feedback...

J. Passepartout: Indeed it is, that would be unfortunate, and have made this a very short AAR ;)

BritishImperial: It is good to know you made this an exception, but i would urge you to explore our community here more! It is nice to have you following :)

stnylan: Without giving too much away, he won't be able to have an explantion about happened... yet.

Dr. Gonzo: Thank you! Nice to have you along :)

Just a quick heads up/reminder that we have one week from now remaining before this begins regular updating. I hope Dr. Who can fill in your timetravelling quota for the week until then :D