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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Crimson Lionheart

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Stalin gunning down the father of the revolution. Really showing his true colors right now
 
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Specialist290

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I wasn't aware you were writing again, HvK. Glad to see you starting on something new :)

That was certainly a brutal pair of updates. The death of the Romanovs... well, I won't say it wasn't unexpected, but I was dreading the moment, hoping against hope that they would be spared by some twist of fate. Stalin's betrayal, by contrast, was sort of the opposite -- I wasn't expecting him to betray his comrades quite in that way, but such brutal methods certainly suit a man like him. It will be interesting to see how the Reds will react to having their Vanguard of Vanguards taken from them so suddenly -- I suspect a collapse is imminent.
 
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Henry v. Keiper

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Stalin gunning down the father of the revolution. Really showing his true colors right now

Father of the Revolution guns down Father of Russia.

Father of Tyranny guns down Father of the Revolution.

Woman inherits the world.

...wait, why am I quoting Jurassic Park?

I wasn't aware you were writing again, HvK. Glad to see you starting on something new :)

Glad to have you on board, ol' friend!

That was certainly a brutal pair of updates. The death of the Romanovs... well, I won't say it wasn't unexpected, but I was dreading the moment, hoping against hope that they would be spared by some twist of fate.

After researching how the murder of the Romanovs happened exactly (and just who okay'd it), I'm amazed anyone today can unironically wear hammer-and-sickle merchandise.
 

The Number 9

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I just caught this. Nice few chapters so far. I'm really interested by your AAR (I did not know the mod, but it seems to be a nice alternate history).
 

Henry v. Keiper

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I just caught this. Nice few chapters so far. I'm really interested by your AAR (I did not know the mod, but it seems to be a nice alternate history).

Glad to have you on board! I definitely recommend at least trying out the mod for something different.
 

Bullfilter

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A tough first part of the prologue, while the second partly balanced it, vicious as it was. All very interesting and looking forward to finding out how things look - and where Russia sits in the world - in 1936. For one thing, Poland might not be quite so beleaguered. Then again, the Tsarists were not exactly friends either ...
 
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Henry v. Keiper

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A tough first part of the prologue, while the second partly balanced it, vicious as it was. All very interesting and looking forward to finding out how things look - and where Russia sits in the world - in 1936. For one think, Poland might not be quite so beleaguered. Then again, the Tsarists were not exactly friends either ...

Glad you're enjoying it so far!

There should be one more prologue update, and then we'll be hopping right into 1936. In fact, I hope to post the update later on today.
 

Henry v. Keiper

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rBKVCB2.png

Prologue – Part 3

16 July, 1918

It got cold at night. Mikhail knew that well. Nonetheless, the cold that night seemed a bit unnatural. He tugged on his long coat, trying to get it closer to his throat, as a strange breeze brushed across his flesh. It was uncomfortable, but he had to count himself lucky. His small unit had been moved to Yekaterinburg, deeper in the Urals, and away from Kolchak and his Siberian Army. They had continued making headway, with no end to their advance in sight. Rumor had it that “the Black Baron” was moving up from the south, towards Moscow. There were rumblings in the ranks on how long this situation would last, but Filipp Goloshchyokin, their dear fearless leader in this region, forbid any and all talk of this, and was ready to whack a soldier over the head with the butt of his pistol if this was disobeyed.

Nearby, the truck they had escorted outside the large mansion was running. Strange, too – it had simply parked and then been left on, with the driver heading in. Nobody had come out of the mansion for several minutes. Mikhail glanced his head towards the mansion and, through the puffs of smoke he blew from his cigarette, could see some of the lights come on, then off, on the second floor. Was it true that the former tsar was there, with his whole family? Deposed and kept under house arrest?

It was all the better for the young Bolshevik soldier. He had signed up partially because of the way his family suffered under the Tsar. Originally they had lived in St. Petersburg, and his father was one of those killed the fateful day when protesters went to show their love and support to the Tsar, only to be murdered like rabble. His mother had taken them out of the city for fear of reprisal, and they had done their best in the harsh conditions to make ends meet. Yet even the hard work of his mother, himself and his brothers wasn’t enough. His siblings died, one by one, before finally his mother had died, perhaps more from anguish than from starvation and sickness.

His youngest sister… she had been the worst. He still had vivid memories of her final days. He could see her, dark haired and laying in bed. Her eyes were rolled under her eyelids, her face pale, her flesh drenched in sweat from a fever. She couldn’t even speak fragmented sentences. She would mutter for her mother at first, but in her final moments, her delirious mind began to make her cry out for father. Still there were nights when Mikhail found himself plagued by dreams where he could see her, and hear that stuttering voice clear as day: “Mama… mama… papa… papa… pa…” And then, the voice went silent forever. Every dream, it ended that same way, with his sister giving those pitiful cries for a parent who would never come… in a moment where she had been determined to die…

His family had been killed because the upper classes had deemed them expendable. The Communists and Anarchists had offered him answers. Vultures, parasites, leeches – all of them. They were to be removed, and the revolution made a reality. The people across the world would no longer be lead by kings and tsars, but by the people. If men like the Tsar had to be taken down and placed in chains to right the wrongs of society, let him be placed in chains – he needed to get at least a little taste of what people like Mikhail’s family had experienced.

The heat from the shrinking cigarette could be felt against his lips, contrasting with the chill in the air. Mikhail dropped his cigarette on the ground and snuffed it out with his boot before asking aloud, “Should I turn that off? We’re wasting petrol.”

Goloshchyokin snarled at the soldier. “Shut up and leave it on. Don’t ask again.”

Mikhail nodded, hiding his disgust. Even a bad gleam of the eyes got a soldier in trouble with this army. And of all the officers, Goloshchyokin was the worst he had encountered. The look on his face did not settle well with the boy, and he seemed to be the kind of man who, in his youth, had enjoyed lighting the tails of cats on fire just to see them run off in panic. Turning his eyes to the other soldiers, he could see some of them shared their annoyance. No doubt they, like Mikhail, were wondering just why they had been summoned here. Their silent annoyance, however, suggested that, like Mikhail, they’d rather be here than out fighting the Whites.

“Anybody got another-”

BOOM. BOOM BOOM.

The men jumped. They turned their eyes to the house.

BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM.

Despite the loud hum of the truck, they could hear the gunshots clear as if the truck hadn’t been running at all. Goloshchyokin cursed and ran back into the mansion. From inside, his shouting could be heard over the gunshots, followed by an abrupt silence. The soldiers outside waited patiently, staring at the mansion. There were a few more gunshots, but otherwise there was nothing but silence. Mikhail swallowed and turned to his comrades who all looked pale. Even the harder ones he knew seemed to be thinking what he was thinking: something had happened inside.

Goloshchyokin came back up, grumbling to himself. “Yakov is enacting some discipline, the fool.” He pointed to Mikhail. “Go guard the door to the cellar. Make sure no one gets in.”

Mikhail nodded, then picked up his rifle. Without another word, he headed towards the stairway leading down into the mansion cellar. To his surprise, the doorway had been left open. As soon as he got to the bottom, he looked in, and froze.

The entire royal family was there. They had been slaughtered. He could barely identify some, but he recognized the Tsar and his family from photos in the newspapers. The tunic of Nikolai was torn from bullet holes, and the face of the Tsarina was covered in blood, a large hole in her forehead. The crown prince was on the ground, his small body a lifeless lump of flesh, clothing, and a bloodied head. Other people of various ages were there, strewn about, covered in blood.

They had killed the Tsar. And not only the Tsar, but his entire family.

A groan came from near the door on the opposite wall. When Mikhail looked, he saw one of the young women, wearing a bloodied, torn white blouse, forcing her way to the door. It must have been one of the Tsar’s daughters. One of his little brats that had grown up in wealth and luxury while his family starved to death. Had she survived the shooting? She must have. He could see her reach up a bloodied hand towards the door knob. Yet in his mind, all he could think was hate. Hatred towards this girl. A girl who had grown up in wealth and luxury all her life. How many times had this evil witch dined on twenty course meals while Mikhail’s younger siblings begged mother for a crumb? How many times had she gone to a warm, thick bed with a fireplace in her bedroom, while Mikhail huddled in a corner, wrapped in a coat? How many times had she gone to balls to see countless noblemen while Mikhail traveled to town only to find out more of his neighbors had passed? The more he asked these questions to himself, the more and more the very sight of the struggling girl filled him with revulsion.

“One got away,” he whispered. With a shrug of his shoulder, the strap holding his rifle slid down, and the barrel landed in his hand. Mikhail now lifted his rifle and aimed the barrel straight towards the girl’s head. Being only several feet away, he had a good, clear shot. All he had to do was pull the trigger, and a bullet would end the girl’s life. Already, in his mind, he could see the royal blood splattered against the doorway. Already, he could see the smile from his comrades, feel the pats on his back, and see the grinning face of even hard-nosed Goloshchyokin. He could get a promotion for this. All he had to do was pull the trigger.

As he aimed, a timid, sad voice left the girl’s throat:

“Mama… mama…”

Mikhail kept his rifle pointed. His lips curled into a snarl. She’s a leach, he reminded himself. She’s a vulture. She deserves to die. This is the fate of all royalists. His lower jaw began to grind his teeth in a slow, steady rhythm. The finger on the trigger squeezed gently.

“Mama… papa…”

His finger stiffened. That snarl on his face stayed. A low sound of his teeth grinding filled the room. And yet…

And yet…

…he felt the warmth of an involuntary tear sliding down, trailing slowly over the curve of his cheek.

“Papa… pa… pa…”

Pull the trigger. End the vulture’s life.

“Pa…”

“It’s… it’s okay...”

It was Mikhail’s voice. His rifle was still aimed at her head. He could have pulled the trigger and ended this girl’s life. With a tighter squeeze, it would have all been over for her. And yet, he could not pull the trigger. His mind told him to. His mind ordered him to. His mind BEGGED him to pull the trigger and kill this royalist vermin.

And yet… his finger remained still.

“It’s… it’s okay,” Mikhail murmured, even as he felt the cold of his weapon against his cheek. “Don’t worry… I’ll get help.”

He lowered the rifle now, staring at the girl. Her hand was sliding down the door, her strength clearly weakening. Slinging his rifle over his shoulder, he leaned forward and gripped her by the shoulder. As soon as his fingers curled around her shoulder, the girl suddenly slumped forward. A gasp left the soldier’s lips, worried that she had died. When he turned her over, however, he could see the flare of her nostrils as she breathed. He swallowed, and then wondered how, exactly, he was to move her. The thought occurred to use his coat to cover her body, or at the very least keep the rest of his body from getting blood as he moved her. Moving quickly, he undid his coat, wrapped it around the girl, and lifted her up. She seemed to be completely unconscious, and didn’t even mutter a peep as he walked her out of the room. He took her up the stairs and glanced over by the truck. The soldiers were facing away, enjoying another cigarette. Mikhail leaped to the other side of the house, towards some thick trees and bushes. It was there that he laid the girl down, as gently as he could. For a moment, he pressed a finger against her nostrils. Warm air flowed out. With a sigh of relief, he got up and rushed back to the cellar.

He was there when Yakov returned with his men. “Everything alright?” he asked.

Mikhail saluted. “Yes, sir.”

“Good.” He motioned for his men into the cellar. “Collect them and put them in the truck.” Yakov turned then to head towards the truck, where he began to speak with Goloshchyokin. Mikhail watched and waited as the two men were occupied speaking, then glanced into the cellar. Yakov’s men, who seemed drunk and disoriented, were collecting the bodies, and none seemed suspicious of the number of corpses. He swallowed hard, and, for the first time in many years, began to pray. As the bodies were carried out, one by one, he waited for someone to bring up that one of the girls was missing. However, nobody seemed to protest anything. At last, Yakov went to join the driver in the truck, and it drove off.

Goloshchyokin led some men towards the cellar door, joining Mikhail. “Get in the mansion, and collect whatever you can. Burn what you find.” He paused to study Mikhail. “Where’s your jacket?”

“It got hot in there, sir,” Mikhail replied.

The answer seemed to satisfy Goloshchyokin, who was obviously more excited about the chance of looting than enforcing uniform standards. “Get in the mansion, all of you. Burn any papers you find. I don’t want any record left that these pieces of trash ever existed.”

The soldiers all departed to execute this order, most of them heading through the front door, while others moved around to the back. Mikhail made as if he were following them, and yet, as he lingered back, he soon diverted his motion towards the nearby trees. Heading into the thick woods, he found his jacket where he had left it.

And found it empty.

Mikhail blinked. He looked about frantically. Within his tunic, his heart was racing. The fright only lasted a moment, for he saw, a few feet away, that the girl had somehow managed to crawl towards a tree. She was leaning against it, like a baby learning to crawl. Heavy gasps left her mouth, and sweat was building over her face. Mikhail grabbed his coat, then went over and wrapped it around the girl. Once again, she offered no resistance, and he had to wonder for a moment if she even knew he was there. When he picked her up, he was amazed at how light she seemed, even though, when glancing at her face, he perceived she might have been closer to his age.

Holding her in his arms, Mikhail was struck suddenly by how beautiful the girl was. Her head was laying against one of his arms, looking upward, though her eyes were closed. She had a classical beauty face, with soft cheeks and yet a tender neck. Dark hair was matted about her pale face, highlighting her flesh. She was a combination of girl and woman, youth and blooming adulthood, all in one.

At any rate, he had to get her to a good hiding place… and he only knew of one in the town: the British consulate. He’d heard that the British consul was under suspicion of being allied with the Romanovs, and as he was the only British diplomat in the country at the time, he was under greater watch. Still, if he was friendly to the Romanovs, Mikhail was certain he could at least try to help. He made his way on foot through the dark streets of the town, using as many alleyways as he could find, and managed to get to the house. Once there he banged on the door with the tip of his boot.

A female voice called from the other side, speaking in Russian. “Who is it?”

“Please, open the door,” Mikhail said. “I have a girl hurt here. She needs help.”

The door creaked open, and an elderly woman’s eye looked out, incredulity gleaming within it. She stared at Mikhail, then glanced down. At once, her facial expression changed into one of shock. She opened the door wide, gawking at the young girl. “What is this?”

Mikhail rushed in, using his size difference over the woman to gain entryway. Once he was in, she shut the door. “Please, I need help.”

“What’s going on?”

It was the voice of another man. When Mikhail looked to a nearby stairway, he saw Thomas Preston, the British consulate, coming down the steps. He wore a fanciful robe, and was holding the stairway with one hand as he studied the scene through tired eyes. When he saw the girl in Mikhail’s hands, he grimaced. “What… who is…” Something seemed to dawn on him. His eyes widened as large as eggs. “Her royal highness…”

“What?!” the old woman squawked.

“Anastasia,” Preston remarked. He rushed down the steps, then over to Mikhail. He regarded the soldier with confusion. “What happened to her?”

Mikhail swallowed. “They shot her. They shot the whole family.”

Preston’s face grimaced. “I feared as much. We heard the gunshots from the mansion.” A sigh left his lips. “I tried to telegram the Foreign Secretary in London about it. An officer at the telegram station snatched the telegram from my hand at the office before I could.”

“Please, she needs help. She might die.” Mikhail gripped her close. He could feel Anastasia’s head roll over, her cheek pressed against his firm chest. “Please, you must!”

The British man pressed a hand against Mikhail’s shoulder and squeezed. “I can get you a doctor. But she can’t stay here. I know of a place outside of town. We’ll take you both there.” He turned to the old woman. “Call for Dr. Rostov. Also, get this man my jacket and hat. It’ll look less suspicious when they use my car. Oh! I’m getting ahead of myself. Wake my driver. Yes, eh what? That will do.”

As the woman rushed off, Mikhail said, “We may not have enough time for that.”

“My dear boy, I’m doing all I can,” Preston said. The look on his face was a mix of exasperation and worry. “The Bolsheviks don’t like me. When I first met them, they said they weren’t sure if they should greet me or shoot me. They said that to me! Even now, I’ve been warned by the Swiss consulate that the Ural Soviets are looking for any excuse to kill me. If those monsters realize that one of the grand duchesses is missing, I am certain this house will be one of the very first they search. That is why I cannot keep you here long.” He closed his eyes, inhaled deeply, then sighed. “But believe me, I will help however I must. See here, put the poor girl down here...”

Mikhail, with Preston’s help, laid Anastasia on a nearby couch. The girl was still sweating, but, to Mikhail’s relief, still seemed very much alive. He knelt down beside her and adjusted her head to make certain she was comfortable. As he did, his fingers shifted through the locks of her dark hair. It was amazingly smooth, and flowed about the space between his fingers like he were running his hands under a waterfall. Once again, he was struck by her beauty, and yet, he was also struck by her… humanity. Her chest rose and fell in deep intervals as she breathed heavily, and her eyelids fluttered in a sporadic pattern. Laying here like this, he didn’t think of her as a rich noblewoman, let alone the daughter of the Tsar. No… she was just another girl. Another Russian woman with a will, if not desire to live. It was strange – even disgusting – to think that, only less than an hour ago, he had seriously thought to shoot a bullet through this young girl’s head.

“Pa… pa…” came a weak voice from her throat.

Without thinking, Mikhail reached out and took her hand. He felt those bloodied fingers immediately squeeze around his palm. Surprisingly, it almost hurt, but he didn’t mind – it was yet another sign that she was still very much alive.

“We’ll put my hat and coat on you,” Preston explained. He took out a handkerchief from his robe pocket and used it to dab Anastasia’s forehead. “If anyone sees you leaving out the back to my car, they’ll think I’m on a drive. Oh, no worries about returning the clothing, I have plenty more. But… ah. This poor girl. This poor, poor girl…”

“Ma… ma…”

Mikhail began to pat Anastasia’s hand. “Please tell me she’ll live… please tell me she’ll live…”

“I cannot promise anything. The doctor will tell you. However…” Preston pressed his lips together. “If she lives… oh, what would that mean for Russia…?”
 
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stnylan

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Mikhail has proved a better human being than Bolshevik, though it was a close run thing.

Good on him.

Of course, now his life is about to get alot more complicated - no good deed ever goes unpunished and all of that.
 
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Specialist290

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Mikhail has proved a better human being than Bolshevik, though it was a close run thing.

Good on him.

Of course, now his life is about to get alot more complicated - no good deed ever goes unpunished and all of that.

Seconding this on both counts. Mikhail did the right thing by saving the life of an innocent, but it won't be too long before someone puts two and two together even if he hasn't been caught in the act -- if nothing else, him being away from his post would certainly be grounds for suspicion. Hopefully he's able to put together some sort of exit plan, but if not...
 
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mike the knight

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That was a classic struggle of mind with heart and we all know how prevails mostly in such cases , lets hope Mikhail wont suffer terribly over his decision
 

DensleyBlair

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Good stuff so far. Looking forward to seeing what happens to Russia in the intervening 18 years before the game picks up.
 

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So, mercy has been shown - and we wonder if Mikhail will become a permanent fixture. But will this act of mercy lead to even more blood being spilt 20 years later?
 
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Seems like the world just lost a Bolchevik an gained a Tzarist.
 

Henry v. Keiper

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Mikhail has proved a better human being than Bolshevik, though it was a close run thing.

Granted, it's hard for one to be both at the same time.

Hm, I was hoping the Whites would come to Anastasia's rescue in suitably heroic fashion instead. Still, excellent update.

In real life (and as hinted at in the first chapter) the White army was about a week away from where the Tsar was. There's even a Russian poem about the soldiers lamenting they weren't there in time to save the royal family. So, sadly, there couldn't have been a miraculous rescue.

That being said, I guess I could have invented Robokov, a White soldier brutally tortured by Bolsheviks who is rebuilt as a cyborg. He can pop in just before the murder happens and say to Yakov, "Dead or alive, you're coming with me..."

Good stuff so far. Looking forward to seeing what happens to Russia in the intervening 18 years before the game picks up.

The next chapter will pick up in 1936, when the actual gameplay starts.

However, there will be plenty of discussion and exposition on the current state of Russia, as it has developed during those 18 years.

Seems like the world just lost a Bolchevik an gained a Tzarist.

And in the most unexpected way (for his part).

Seconding this on both counts. Mikhail did the right thing by saving the life of an innocent, but it won't be too long before someone puts two and two together even if he hasn't been caught in the act -- if nothing else, him being away from his post would certainly be grounds for suspicion. Hopefully he's able to put together some sort of exit plan, but if not...

That was a classic struggle of mind with heart and we all know how prevails mostly in such cases , lets hope Mikhail wont suffer terribly over his decision

So, mercy has been shown - and we wonder if Mikhail will become a permanent fixture. But will this act of mercy lead to even more blood being spilt 20 years later?

What becomes of Mikhail?

Future chapters shall reveal...
 
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The heart prevails, and the world will never be the same
 

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PART I - THE EAGLE REBORN

Henry v. Keiper

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rBKVCB2.png

Chapter 1
Masha


March, 1936

nQavlai.jpg

Masha stepped off the trolley and, for a moment, took a long, deep breath. Still alive, she thought. It was unfortunate that such a thought would occur in her mind, but it had become commonplace. Her mother had written her a while ago, and told her she couldn’t believe she even bothered riding on the trains at all. There had been, in the past year alone, at least three incidents where trolleys had been blown up by the Communists. Each time, the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks both took credit, though it was hard to tell which one had actually carried it out. After that, there would be a while where police would monitor the trolleys, but after that things calmed down – only for another trolley to blow up a few months later. Masha assured her mother that the incidents were rare and scattered across the country – not just around Moscow. As much as she was frightened at times, there was statistically little chance for her to die in a Communist attack.

xqBkyMa.png

Not that the law of averages didn’t at times rear its ugly head…

Besides, Masha had no choice: she couldn’t afford her own vehicle or a taxi, and she had to ride the trolley to get to work. Jobs were scarce enough in the country as it is. Men who couldn’t work had to join the army, sign up with the Communists, or leave the country. Not that other countries around the world were faring much better. Some places were just now getting off their feet, but many others still struggled. Although the military enjoyed a steady support from the plurality of the people, at least a quarter supported the Communists, with others supporting democratic reformers and others fleeing to Kornilov and his Russian Fascists. Sometimes she was amazed the entire country didn’t fall apart.

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A few blocks from her stop, she arrived at the radio station. Catching her own reflection in one of the outside windows, she paused to adjust her wavy, blonde hair, to keep it from frizzling out of control. She adjusted her blouse over her full figure and modified her skirt as well… then realized she was standing at a window overlooking someone’s desk. The man eyed her with a brow raised. Masha smiled awkwardly at him, then quickly darted in through the front door.

Down the hall, last door on the left, and she was in the control room. Ivan and Alexei were there, where they normally were: Ivan at the controls, and Alexei rummaging through the papers. He looked up, his face enshrouded with the smoke from the cigarette dangling from his lips, and his eyes peering through the bottle-cap glasses on his nose. He pulled the cigarette from his mouth with an audible pop noise. “Maria. There you are.”

“I’m sorry I’m a bit late,” Masha said. She took the script. “Is this the final copy?”

“Oh, how should I know?” Alexei muttered. His voice was cracking, as it often did under stress. “The way they change things last minute, they might have a new one for you by the time you get on the air.”

“Don’t make her more nervous than she is already,” Ivan remarked. “It’s her first day.”

“Alright, alright.” Alexei took a deep inhale of his cigarette, then waved into the studio. “Go on in. They’ll be starting in a few.”

Without another word, Masha walked into the studio and closed the door behind her. She could no longer hear her high heels click-clacking, given the thick carpet underneath her. Some parts were torn a bit, but she knew the station was hard pressed to complete any kind of renovations. As she sat down in the chair, she heard an audible squeak come from below. Alright, so she won’t be able to move her hips too much during this – she’ll have to sit as still as possible. Ivan held up his pinky and ring finger high so she could see, and Masha gave him a curt nod. The headphones she put on brushed over her blonde locks, and she felt the cushioned ear pieces fit snugly over her. The dark microphone stared back at her as she looked down to review the sheets of paper in front of her.

A yellow light turned on in an upper corner of the room. Go time.

Dobroye utro. This is Maria Stepanova for the Moscow service. Here is the news.”

First time I’m uttering those words, Masha thought for a moment. Hopefully not the last!

“General Pyotr Wrangel announced yesterday that the government will be launching a stimulus package for businesses in the empire to assist with economy difficulties. This will be directed at larger and medium sized businesses. The government said that a longer term solution will be sought after soon.”

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Masha paused for a moment to shift papers, then continued. “General Wrangel also announced some incentives in the realm of development. Imperial researchers are currently seeking to bring Russian electronics to a higher standard with the rest of the world.” Out of the corner of her eye, Masha saw Ivan mouth to Alexei, Can they get us new equipment? “Funds are also being placed to update construction equipment, in order to assist with the expansion of industry. Finally, Wrangel announced that there will be efforts to update the support weapons in the Imperial Army. Military analysts have said that current weaponry is woefully inadequate, with many soldiers still carrying artifacts from the Great War.”

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Masha pushed the paper aside, then continued. “In response to mounting violence from Communist forces, the government announced that it was expanding the Okhrana in an effort to suppress terrorist activity. Citizens of the Empire are still encouraged to report all suspicious activity. Citizens are also warned about traveling in the Urals, where in-fighting between Menshevik and Bolshevik forces has intensified in recent months.”

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“And now for international news: pushes are being made by Adolf Hitler, the Fuehrer of Germany, for the removal of foreign troops and influences from the Rhineland. German forces of the Wehrmacht marched right up to the border of France earlier this month. Analysts say this is a violation of the Treaty of Versailles – however, there has been no major response from the French or British governments.”

Masha turned her head and buried her mouth in her elbow in order to cough. Taking a deep breath, she continued. “Also, in Africa, Italian forces are pushing into Ethiopia, and destroying every defense before them. Reports from the front say that the death toll for the Ethiopians thus far has been roughly 21,000, while the Italians have lost little more than a thousand. Ethiopia is expected to surrender by the end of the month.”

Through the studio window, Masha could see Ivan lift up his index finger and wave it around in a circle. She nodded quietly. “That is the news at the top of the hour. We now have for you Danse des Petits Cygnes from Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. This is Masha Stepanova, with the Moscow service.”

The light flashed off. Through the window, Masha saw Alexei stand up and walk out with a start. Ivan gave her at thumbs up before returning to the dials. In her headphones, she could hear the low hum of the music. As she began to rearrange the papers before her, the door clicked open and Alexei rushed in. In his shaking hand was a new sheet of paper. “This was just typed up. Updated news. Ethiopia fell.”

Masha glanced at the sheet, reading it over. Sure enough, it was a script for her to announce the surrender of Ethiopia to Italy. The producers had detailed over twenty-thousand casualties for the Ethiopian side, with only a thousand casualties for the Italians. With a sigh, she said, “Well, that means the world is at peace again, right?”

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DensleyBlair

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Russia, and indeed the world, seem to be in dire straits indeed. With a military junta in power and rampant secret police suppression, one wonders what exactly has taken place over the last couple of decades.