How many had died now?
Aleksander lifted his cigarette to his lips, hating how his fingers shook as he took a long drag. He just stared at the floor of the moving vehicle, sensing the fear and forced bravery of his fellows. They are supposed to be ‘unit’, but the only thing they shared was the drag from a cigarette at this point.
Turning his head, he regarded the outside world from the tent that had been haphazardly thrown over the metal framing of the truck. His commanding officer paced back and forth in the truck between them, ordering them on what their mission was and how they were serving the Motherland. They would serve, or he would shoot them himself.
At least there was still some truth to the world.
They would die from a bullet to their backs from their own kind or from a bullet to the front from the Germans. He could not decide which was worse, but he had fully accepted that he would die eventually. It was just a matter of time before the Germans took everything from him, and the only fleeting dream he had was that he could see his sister marry to a good upstanding Russian fellow, maybe an officer or something.
She was so pretty. She deserved a good husband, maybe with a patch of land to raise her children and live a happy life. She would succeed, and he would defend that dream of hers by fighting for her future. Mother and father had at least lived their lives well, but his sister was still young.
His eyes watched as the empty fields passed by them. Men not already on the battleground had abandoned their farms to take their families towards Moscow where things might be safe. He once had worked a farm like that, and it was terribly sad to see the fields laying fallow or caked with the bodies of shot cattle and other farm animals.
If families could not take it with them, they shot it so that the Germans could not take everything. It seemed to be a need for control. The only control they had at this point is where they might piss, and even that was potentially up in the air.
He could hear the explosions in the distance. Tula would be their stand, the land to stop the German advance. His ‘unit’ was not the only one being rapidly shipped there as reinforcements, but if defense for the Motherland was all he had left, then it would be something he would defend until his death.
Aleksander looked up when he was handed two clips of bullets, sitting straighter as he examined them. They were cool in his hands. He glanced to his right and found that the soldier next to him had been handed the weapon that they were supposed to use on the battlefield. There were not enough guns to go around to every common soldier, so they had to be in a buddy system of unity.
When a man with a gun fell, it was his job to grab the gun while running for his life and use it to shoot the Germans. If he was shot first, his partner would have to go back and grab his clips of ammunition to use in said weapon to shoot the Germans. The principle was rather simple, but the logic behind it made the gravity of the situation weigh more heavily on them all.
He took another drag of his dwindling cigarette and handed it off to his partner. At least they would be united on something other than bullets flying at them.
He used his now free hands to tuck one of the clips of ammunition in his coat pocket. His head itched and he scratched at the blue bandana that kept the sweat from falling into his eyes, hating how his cropped hair made him uncomfortable. He couldn’t afford so many distractions where he was going.
To war… to defend the Motherland.
“All hail the Soviet Union,” he muttered softly, feeling the truck lurch to a stop. He looked out the door as it was pulled open, and he noted that every hesitated on who would be the one to get out first. The gunfire sounded close.
He unclipped his helmet chin strap, aware it would do nothing but choke him. A bullet to the head would be an easy way out anyway. His commander started screaming at them to get out of the truck and defend their lands, but no one moved, even leaned away from the doorway as a bullet flew and impacted with the ground.
Aleksander closed his eyes for a moment. “There is no god… just the Motherland,” he whispered before he rose up to his feet and grabbed his gunman up next to him. He said nothing more as he pushed himself off of the truck and felt the earth rise up to meet his feet.
Everything went into slow motion as he grabbed the gun out of the hands of the officer who had been driving and opened the back of the truck up. He waved a hand in a mock salute and pushed off into a run, sprinting for cover as bullets flew passed his head. He heard his gunner go down with a cry, but he never looked back as he raised his weapon and fired forward.
Always look forward. Never look back unless in enemy territory.