WARNING: Mild language
The Soviet winters seemed all the worse when one had to actually make it somewhere in a good amount of time. The snow was easily hip deep in some areas and only knee deep in others, but it still made moving rapidly over the winter lands difficult to say the least. The only refuge at times was a broken down vehicle or a rock or a patch of trees that had not been removed for farmer’s fields to grow.
The bitter cold did not help make the journey either. It bit at their faces and made their limbs feel heavily, and the journey was positively miserable. The only consoling that they could do that was them being cold and miserable meant that the Germans were doubly so.
Soviet fighters were used to the cold months, but the Germans were so open to it that Aleksandr found himself chuckling to himself. It was the only humour he could find. Everything else about the journey made him curse of his breath and wish that he was back home tending his own farm lands… or at least hunting for some deer meat.
He hated feeling like he was being hunted. Dmitriy had already informed him that a small battalion of Germans had set out after them when they had been about seven hundred meters out from the tiny village. They were out to make sure that they never made it to Tula to warn the stationed Red Army troops, and it was looking good that they would not make it.
Aleksandr could see small portions of Tula over the rolling hills in the distance, beckoning them onwards. He knew that there would be look-outs facing towards where the last German assaults had come from, and it was terribly unfortunate that their methods of communication were so lax between towns. There were not enough communication devices set up for every trooper to use, and they had not been able to get to a phone or other communication device before they fled. They had suddenly become the beckons of communication.
Hefting Yegor’s pack higher on his shoulder, he did not look back as he marched them as fast as they could manage. He could hear Yegor huffing and puffing at his back, supported by Dmitriy who continued to offer words of encouragement despite what seemed like an impossible situation. It was really grating on his nerves and set his temper on edge.
Grumbling to himself, Aleksandr fought with the weight of both backpacks. He knew he could leave one behind, but he stubbornly refused. They had supplies in them both, supplies that would save their miserable asses if a snow storm suddenly blew through and trapped them. He wasn’t willing to take the risk and lose his neck to the elements when there was still plenty of Germans out there in need of a good shooting. His fingers were itching to set a bullet in a damn Nazi right about now.
“Sasha… how far you suppose we’ve gone,” Yegor asked him. The man sounded exhausted and on the verge of collapse. They couldn’t stop for anything.
“About a mile and a bit,” he replied gruffly, showing his waning temper in his voice.
“Maybe you should run ahead and leave me here, then come back with help?” Yegor sounded like it was more the excuse to sit down more than anything that the big man wanted.
Aleksandr was aggravated enough to want to spite that wish. “No, you’re no good dead. We keep going until Tula scouts find us.”
Dmitriy seemed to be getting temperamental as well and sighed heavily at his back. “We keep this up and we’ll be in sniper firing range soon enough. We can’t be this slow.”
“The snow will slow them more,” he replied stubbornly and continued to walk.
Yegor snorted a soft bit of laughter. “Stupid Nazis fightin’ us in winter time. That Hilter fellow sure farted into a back wind on that decision.” There was a pause in the laughter before Yegor asked, “let’s get a light going on, shall we? The night is falling, and I can’t see a thing.”
“And make ourselves a larger target than we already are? I think not,” Aleksandr replied testily. He knew they ran enough risk getting shot now as it was, and he wasn’t so sure that it would always be the Nazi’s shooting either.
“Yeh, but I’m so cold… legs all stiff and heavy now. Poor Dmitriy here’s carrying almost everything I got left.” Yegor managed a cough, which sounded rather pathetic at this point.
“You are heavy, Yegor,” Dmitriy threw in wearily.
Having enough of that, Aleksandr snarled loudly. “Shut up, the both of you… the fucking Germans are on our asses, so just walk before you’re shot.” He shook his head in annoyance and forced himself to pick up his pace as if to prove his point.
Thankfully, both Yegor and Dmitriy caught on to his non-talkative mood and fell silent behind him. He was at least determined to make it to Tula, and the lights of the city were growing closer with every step that they took. He estimated that they were at least closing in on the scouting outpost lines of sight, that they were at least close enough to be seen had it been light out.
The fading light of the winter sky frustrated him even more. He knew that crossing the next hill would put them so close. It would be a good place to check their position and the possible position of the German’s following behind them. Of course, seeing the Germans meant that they would be just as much in sight from their enemies.
Trekking up the hills seemed to be harder and harder the further that they went as well. The snow somehow seemed like it was thicker and much harder to move through, but Aleksandr was only slightly pleased when he found himself standing on the top of the rolling hill. He could see Tula glimmering in the not so far distance, only half a mile ahead of them.
“Look at that, Dmitriy! Our salvation… don’t think that I’ve ever been so excited to see a small city like that in my life.” Yegor managed a small bit of laughter before it changed to a bout of coughing. “Mother Russia has been good to us today!”
Aleksandr looked over his shoulder to regard the pair. He supposed this was something to celebrate, but he was still concerned about how gutsy the Nazis were feeling on this night. “We should continue,” he pointed out softly, turning his head to stare at the flickering lights.
He shifted his weight and adjusted the packs on each of his shoulders, feeling the strain. He dropped one down and stretched his shoulder, rubbing it with a hand to give Dmitriy a bit of a break as well. He estimated the time that it would take for them to get from where they were now all the way to Tula with Yegor holding them back, and he estimated that their current pace would take them there easily within an hour.
“Aleksandr… did you hear that?” He heard Dmitriy cock a rifle at his back. “Dogs…?”
He turned to look back the way that they had come, and he tilted his ear towards their backs. He did hear the faint sounds of dogs barking, but it seemed much too far away to be a threat to them at their current location. They would make it at least within the sights of Tula before the dogs even crested the hill. “Too far back…”
“No… I thought I heard a voice on the wind,” Dmitriy replied. He watched his fellow soldier drop down into a crouch and set the rifle while staring out into the increasing darkness.
Aleksandr reluctantly settled into a crouch himself, swinging his pack strap up to fix the backpack on his shoulders securely. He set his own rifle and motioned for Yegor to sit down until they were ready to move on. The man seemed much more content to have a cigarette and stare towards Tula. “Yegor, get down,” he ordered harshly.
“Sasha, Dmitriy… I love those lights. They remind me of the opera house in Stalingrad. It was so beautiful and the crowds just bustled here and there…” Yegor took a drag, ignoring his order completely.
“Get down, you stupid fucker! You want to get shot!” Aleksandr stood up to take a step over to Yegor to knock the bleeding man down. He set his hand to Yegor’s shoulder, and his eyes widen as a loud crackle noise sounded on the wind and then Yegor’s body was spinning forward.
His face felt suddenly warm in places, and he did not need to life a hand to know that blood was trickling down his features. It quickly froze in place, but the shout of German yelling just a small distance away jarred him from the shocked trace he had been in.
“Schießen Sie sie! Nehmen eins lebendig!”
Aleksandr scratched through the limited German that he knew for a rough translation of what was yelled. He managed to understand that they would be shot, which spurred him to grab Dmitriy by the arm and drag the man off of the bluff they were standing on. “They’ve got a fucking sniper! We move! Don’t look back and don’t stop running even if I fall.”
Dmitriy had longer legs than he did, meaning his comrade easily got out ahead of him on the downhill of their sprint. He bounded through the snow with what appeared to be less difficulty thanks to the burst of adrenaline in his system, but he was still all too aware of the shouting band of Germans. They didn’t have dogs with them, but it was clear that their previous slower pace had allowed too much ground to be gained.
Hearing the fire of guns at his back only inspired him to slide his gun to one hand while he slipped his arm out of the strap of his backpack. It was terribly awkward and slowed him up a few steps, enough to make him look over his shoulder to sight the band of five Germans trailing them and gaining ground. He tossed his gun to his other hand and slid his pack off his other shoulder, allowing it to just fall to the frozen ground.
That considerable weight removed, Aleksandr swung his gun over his shoulder so that it bumped against his lower back. He lifted his legs a little higher and sprinted harder, bounding through the powder snow and gaining on Dmitriy; he had always been the fastest runner in his village. He almost easily surpassed Dmitriy with his much wilder gait and let some distance form between them as his comrade took the hint and also dropped the heavy backpack.
He heard a different gauge gun firing, and he saw Dmitriy fall out of the corner of his eye. Don’t look back and don’t turn around… ah fuck. He wheeled around and his gun came to his hand with a simple reach over his shoulder.
He aimed at the closest Nazi and fired, only mildly satisfied. His gun shifted over as the other four began to aim at him, but he squeezed the trigger faster than them, used to shooting in the dark. He took down a second before he heard the retaliatory fire back at him, stepping to the side to put himself closer to Dmitriy who was struggling to get up.
Thankfully, bullets whizzed by him as he set up another target. He missed on his first shot, and he failed to acquire a kill on the second, but he made his mark on the third. He smirked evilly as the blood began to really pump in him, drawing on the exhilaration that he was facing off against the fuckers that had invaded his country.
“Cow fuckers,” he taunted in German, stepping in front of Dmitriy for a moment as he lined up one of the Germans who was lining him up in the same way. He allowed them both to walk a circle, completely uncaring if he was exposing his back to the other two, sniper included. “You fuck your cattle like your women… shallow and nothing better than meat afterwards.”
He drew a preemptive shot for his slurred German comments and found a perfect shot just afterwards. He took down the Nazi he was facing off against and quickly swiveled on his heel as a shot was taken at his back, feeling a hotness graze his arm. He took a risky shot as he side-stepped to his right, thankful the shot connected enough to pause the next shot.
Dmitriy’s weapon sounded all too close to his ear right after he moved, leaving his ears with a distinct ringing noise. He felt a hand on his shoulder drawing him away from the scene, and he turned to look at his comrade. Dmitriy was saying something to him, but the ringing prevented him from hearing it. He shook his head as he was drawn away; he wanted to piss on their bodies.
Still, he knew that the sniper was still out there and withdrew, taking up a run behind Dmitriy again. He didn’t hear a shot, nor did he feel a bullet impacting with his brain… so he was left to believe that they had called a truce and both parties were respectfully retreating.
He found out quickly that the retreat might also be due to the team of Red Army soldiers cresting the hill to investigate what was going on. They had made it to Tula. Two out of fifty… those were actually good Russian statistics right there.