Hard Earth

Stalingrad (5 1)

Sokolof has been rounded up by the Army for one of the many, many tasks in preparing the defense of the city. Currently, that involves digging a place of reasonable defense for one of the 1077th's anti-aircraft guns. He's in coveralls and wielding a shovel and other implements of work. He looks less shaky doing the manual labor than he has for several days now.

Elise has a shovel in hand as well, helping to dig. She drags a sleeve across her sweaty face, redistributing the grime a bit.

Sokolof looks up briefly at Elise as she labors. He's sweating himself, thin face streaked liberally with sweat and grime. But it gives him something to pour his energies into, which seems to do him some good. Once they've made a bit of headway he starts packing concrete and stones around the edge of the fortification. The recent bombings have given everyone more than enough rubble to work with. "I hope we can finish before the sun goes down. I do not care for lingering out here at night."

Maschenko is around another part of the trench right nearby, digging for Mother Russia. It's backbreaking work in the late summer heat and the smoke and dust-ridden air, which has the doctor coughing and occasionally spitting a mixture of soot and saliva into the dirt. He follows the instructions of people who know what they're doing, digging here, digging there, and then packing the sides as Sokolof is.

Elise keeps at the digging, using her boot to jam the shovel into a particularly rough patch. She nods to Sokolof, "Da, I don't look forward to working at night. Though at least there are fewer air raids then." Or so it seems to her, whether or not it's actually true. "This will help a great deal, though."

Sokolof snorts to Elise with a shrug. "Are there? I've not noticed. But my sleep has not been the best due to many things of late." He's rather awkward at the grunt work of the task, but he seems to have an idea of the principles behind what they're doing. "I welcome more guns to be used against the Fascists." A pause and he adds to her, "You and the other comrade gunners have been most brave. I have not seen one of the women leave their posts throughout this madness." *re*

Maschenko stamps another piece of broken concrete into place with his boot heel, tamping it into the dirt with a couple awkward stomps. He leans down and picks up the shovel he'd been using earlier, the back end jagged where it broke and splintered around the mid point. Hauling up a small mound of dirt, he hops off on the side where Sokolof and Elise are, boots thudding and crunching on earth and debris. "They're almost got that side in. Need another shovel here, comrades?"

"Thank you, Comrade." The thanks are sincere, but she seems a bit uncomfortable at the praise. "I only wish we could bring down more of them." When he mentions the women staying at their posts, she gives a mild shrug. "Mother Russia is as much the women's home as the men's. We will make them pay for every inch." A nod to the doctor. "Da, if you could try this spot right here?" No matter how much she kicks at it, her meager weight doesn't seem to be making much headway against the rocky patch she's found.

"Mother Russia. Da," Sokolof mutters. Eyeing Elise for a moment, though he voices no more than that. He grunts as he gets a bit more concrete in place, then hefts his shovel again and goes to assist with the rocky patch. "It is hard work in the city earth, even once you get past the concrete. Stalingrad is not a soft place." A thin grin comes to his lips. "As the Fascists are finding."

Elise nods. "Not a place meant for farming." She might have caught the eye, or maybe just understands the irony of her statement. Either way her gaze shifts a bit, watching the digging. She's called over to help with something at the gun itself, and murmurs, "Excuse me, Comrades."

Maschenko is perfectly happy to dig and not touch that damned gun. "Tak, sure." Which is what he sets about doing, grabbing the shaky end of the shovel and jamming it into the broken earth where Elise indicated. The metal end of the shovel clangs on pebbles and a bit of stone. "Maybe we should ply the earth with vodka," he comments in a grunt, wheedling the shovel deeper with repeated jabs.

Sokolof keeps his distance from the gun as well, so much as he can. He's no proper training on the thing. A nod is offered to Elise as she's called away, and he continues to work. Clang, clang, clang. A grunted laugh to Maschenko. "I'd not waste a drop to drink, Luka. I suspect getting new supplies of it shall be difficult for some time."

"Don't I know." Maschenko slams the shovel tip into the ground again, trying to break through to the negligibly softer layer under the concrete bits. "The Fascists will try and take the Volga and if they do, that will be the end of anything." He shakes his head, giving the earth another whack with the shovel. "I listen to the younger ones talk back in the basement, Efim. I know they don't understand all. And I know that's not their fault."

Sokolof exhales a long sigh, resting on his shovel a moment, looking down at the ground. Then back up to Maschenko. "It is still 'if' they take the Volga. But if they do…" A tired shrug. "Well. We shall deal with that when it comes to it." He looks up finally, eyes going around to the increasingly broken city around him. "I will not claim to understand it all myself. We are men born into a hard age, Luka. I cannot remember much peace within my lifetime."

"Did I say 'all'?" Maschenko grimaces, scratching dirty hands through his hair. "I forget my Russian when I haven't slept." He snorts, this a dig at himself rather than a complaint about their general exhaustion level. Clang, goes the shovel, finally baring some darker earth underneath. "I meant 'it', I think. Whatever." He sets his foot on the horizontal part of the shovel, wiggling it around. "I wonder if there's ever been a generation that hasn't known a war. I had hopes for this one, you know." His blue eyes glance at Efim and he smirks, ruefully. "Ages ago."

Sokolof gets off a short laugh at Maschenko's imperfect Russian, his own shovel hitting hard against the rocky earth. They're making some headway but it's slow, back-breaking toil. He lets out a long breath. Hard to tell if he's panting or mourning. "My father used to say, when the Tsar was taken from power, that we'd entered a new age. Peace. Equality of men. A new age." He shakes his head. "When he died…well. He had stopped saying such things."

"My father," Maschenko pauses to slam his heel on the shovel again. "Used to say there were two things that made equals of men. Starvation…" He leans down, pulling a shovel-load of debris up from the hole. "…and death." A grunt and he tosses the dirt to the side, plunging the shovel back in. "The rest, he said, was rhetoric. But men have to have something to hope for."

"Your father sounds a man of wisdom. I am sorry I did not know him," Sokolof grunts, banging at the hard ground some more. Chip by chip, progress is made. But it's a dig of attrition. Voice low he asks, "You think that is how it shall be for us, Luka? I confess, I have wondered of late if I'll meet my end in this city soon."

"Yes, well. He starved, fittingly," Maschenko replies under his breath, watching the ground rather than Sokolof. The earth receives another brutal hit with the shovel. "And I don't know, Efim. We all have to die sometime, don't we? I suppose the only difference between now or later is how much time one has on one's hands to think about things. I just hope it's not in vain, whenever it is. I couldn't take that."

Elise returns from her fiddling at the gun, resuming her shovel. She can tell the two are in the midst of conversation, and not a happy one judging from their low voices, so she doesn't interrupt.

Sokolof simply nods when Maschenko's speaks of his father, nodding and allowing a momentary lapse of silence. Clang, dig, clang. Elise's return is not immediately noticed, intent as he is upon the ground and his talk with the doctor. "We do at that, I do suppose. I admit I am grateful for any task the defenders of the city put me to. At least one feels as if one is doing something to keep the Germans at bay. I hope little for myself. I am only glad my children are far from this horror."

"I wonder if the moskalis are having this much fun," Maschenko mutters, grimly. The word refers to Moscow citizens, as Sokolof has surely heard the Ukrainian use it many many times in the past. It's not the most endearing term in the world. "One might as well hope for whatever we can. What's the point of not?" He does spot Elise as he straightens up with a shovel full of dirt, giving her an upwards nod. "Comrade."

Elise offers a slight smile to Maschenko when he nods. "Comrades." She quirks a curious look at the slang. "Moskalis?" she echoes blankly. Her Russian is darn near perfect, but Ukrainian slang is a bit much to expect. She jams her foot against the edge of the shovel, working it into the rocky soil.

"Moscovites," Sokolof elaborates with a nod and polite "Comrade" to Elise. Another of those thin grins to Maschenko that does not quite reach his dark eyes. "They have withstood. That gives some hope, at least."

"Them." Maschenko jerks a thumb at Sokolof. Indicating the explanation, one supposes, rather than the man. He flashes a minor grin at Elise and gets back to shoveling, foot set on the pile to give the shovel some extra leverage. "It does, Efim. Now see, if you can place hope on moskalis, you can surely spare some for us!"

Novikova has arrived.
Novikova arrives from the North.

Elise aahs, nodding to the explanation without inquiring further. She and Sokolof and Maschenko are digging with shovels to improve the trench around the big AA gun here. Judging from their dirty, sweaty appearance, they've been at it awhile. She smirks at the doctor's remark and looks for Sokolof's response.

Sokolof has been rounded up to take part in the labor for defense of the city. He's at work on the fortification around the anti-aircraft gun at the moment. His thin for sweaty and covered in dust and dirt. His smirk curves a bit at Maschenko. "You've a point, perhaps, my friend. Perhaps." Hard to tell how heartened he is by those words, but he throws a bit more enthusiasm into his toiling.

"Don't be sour. Just admit I'm right. There's peace in that, my friend." Maschenko's toothy grin is not in the least bit serious. Well, maybe a little. He hauls a shovel load of dirt up again and tosses it to the side. His collar and face are damp with sweat from the heat, as is a line down his back. The smoky air stirs a bout of coughing and he turns away, spitting a mouthful of disgusting black into the earth.

Time to help out too! Novikova has an empty metal bucket with her, but pauses, noticing the work being done. She walks along quickly, not eager to be caught out in the open after all. She smiles, seeing the familiar faces. After a moment, Novi comes scrambling down into the trench. "Hello there!"

Elise smiles on hearing Novi's voice. "Hello, Cousin." She spies the bucket. "Is there any water in there?" she wonders, peering. She notices the doctor's hacking with a wrinkled nose and instead turns her attention to Sokolof. "Your children were evacuated?" she asks conversationally.

Sokolof snorts a faint laugh at Maschenko. "If it is so important to you, you are right." It has a more glib than genuine sound. A look up, and nod in Novikova's direction as he continues to work the shovel around the fortifications. "Comrade Zoya." He works a bit longer, only realizing after a beat Elise was speaking to him. "Eh? Nyet. My son and daughter were sent to live with my sister's people in Pyatigorsk near three years ago. After the death of my wife…it seemed a better place for them." And he lapses entirely into silence again, all trace of laughter fading.

Maschenko's lungs don't like this acrid haze one bit — irony considering how many cigarettes he can go through in a day. He hawks and spits once more, as politely as he possibly can. "Fucking Fascists." As if they were directly responsible for his coughing. Which, in his mind, they probably are. Straightening up once more with shovel ready to dig, he glances past his shoulder at Sokolof. "They'll be okay, Efim." He bangs the tip of his shovel into the little hole he's gradually widening, and his smoke-reddened blue eyes spot Novikova near Elise. "Zoyenka."

"Da," Novi nods. Workin' hard or hardly workin'? Oh Novikova. She smiles at Sokolof. "Hello there." A pause at the quiet moment. Oh dear. Her eyebrows furrow. She coughs a bit and smiles to Maschenko too. "None other. How are you?" She asks quietly. "I can help a bit if you like. I was on my way home," She explains, perhaps trying to catch up to the conversation too.

Elise looks chagrined by Sokolof's response to her laughter-killing question. "Oh. I'm sorry Comrade I didn't know." She nods her agreement with Maschenko. "Indeed. And fortunate they have been spared this madness." She looks disappointed to discover that Novi's bucket doesn't contain fresh water, and instead takes a drink from the stale stuff in her canteen. "Sure, grab a shovel if you like."

"It is of no moment, Comrade," Sokolof brushes off Elise's apology as unnecessary, keeping his eyes on the ground. Clang, clang, clang continues to go his shovel against the hard mixture of cement and rocky earth their efforts have created. He clears it as best he can. A short, somewhat grateful nod to Maschenko. Trying to look as if he truly believes that. Grunt. Dig.

Maschenko digs too. The heaviness of the prior moment sort of hangs over their effort, and after a few moments he comes up randomly with, "Have any of you ever met a Britisher?" His mangled guess at the word 'Englishman' in Russian. And it sounds like the intro to a story. Oh boy.

Heavy. She tilts her head. "No, I've always wanted to learn to speak English. British. I hear they have good tea. I wonder what plants they use?" Neeeeeeeeeerd. It seems even Russians had nerdy types hovering about. Sadly, Novikova is no Tesla or she'd be shooting lightning at the Fascists. She goes quiet at the brief awkwardness. "Did you need to refill your canteen? You can use what's in here and I'll just go back before we go home," She offers quietly.

Elise lapses into silence after sticking her foot in her mouth. She gives a slight nod to Mascheko's question but mostly just looks curious for the rest of the story. She doesn't respond to Novi's question about the water. Perhaps she didn't hear it in her distraction.

Sokolof pauses in his dig/picking at the ground, leaning on his shovel and looking over at Maschenko at his question. "I've not taken many trips to London Fair City, Comrade Doctor," he says dryly. "Have you now?" While waiting for the answer, and some story-time, he gulps some lukewarm water from his own canteen.

"I have met one," Maschenko informs the others, gravely. His shovel clangs against rock again. "Nice fellow. I asked him what was the difference between the peoples of Europe and he said this: At -10 degrees Celsius, heating is switched on in British and Spanish homes, while Lithuanians change into a long-sleeved shirt. At -20 Austrians fly to Malaga, while the Swedish celebrate midsummer. At -200 hell freezes over and France wins a war. At -273 absolute zero temperature is reached, all atom movement ceases. You Russians shrug and say: "Fuck, a bit chilly today, isn't it?""

Novi is distracted too. She listens to Maschenko's story, wide hazel eyes on him. She tilts her head, then laughs at the joke. Wait. hah! She grins. "Hah… that's a good one," Nod. She adores jokes it seems. Very impish, Novikova. She's obviously filed that one away for later. The bucket is set down, for use or draining as needed. She'll pick up something to scoop dirt with.

Elise laughs softly. "That is a good one, Comrade Doctor." She shares an amused glance with her cousin and then resumes her digging. "Have you ever been to England?" she wonders. "Is it really so much warmer than here? Or are the Englishmen just soft?"

Sokolof gets a laugh out of that. A bit forced, but there's some genuine humor behind it. "Everyone talks of the whether. If I met a Fascist tonight, I swear before he tried to kill me he would ask about the snow. And I would tell him Stalingrad is a fairer place than the north."

Maschenko shrugs at Elise. "I have no idea. I've never been off the continent. I've heard it rains terribly in London, that's about all." He smirks, hefting dirt off onto the growing pile. A snort at Sokolof. "Well, if the weather has a heart she'll curse the Fascists with a bad winter this year. I wouldn't mind much if they all froze to death on the streets."

"I've never been north," Elise notes randomly. "A bad winter would make it all the harder for those still in the city as well, though." Frostbite does not discriminate between friend and foe. She takes a break from digging to get another drink from her canteen.

Novi grins as she shares the glance with Elise. "I think it is probably warmer there, if I remember geography. but that class bored me to tears. All those maps and their colors mean so little unless you can see pictures I think," She notes quietly. Apparently Novi isn't a fan of Geography. "The winters can be really bad though." Shrug. Then a soft laugh at Sokolof. "I am sure they will freeze up anyway, I couldn't imagine flying around in the winter." She shrugs. "But it would be a funny show. Fascists on Ice." She seems to think the Germans will get punked by the weather for sure.

"I would not mind seeing England. I have read of it a little," Sokolof says in a half-dreamy sort of way. A shrug to Novikova. "They have made it through one winter in the north country already, though I hear it was hard for them. It is summer now." Said rather grimly. He does not particularly welcome fine weather for the Russians. A smirk to Maschenko. "You are just having fun with us, my friend. Or have you truly met a Britisher?"

Vladmir has arrived.
Vladmir arrives from the North.

Maschenko scoffs at Sokolof, jabbing a finger in the teacher's direction. "Could I make up hatred of the French like that? You give me too much credit." He pauses a moment, wrinkling his nose colorfully. "Well, maybe it was an Irisher…" A long pause this time. "But the point still stands!" He whirls the shovel, jamming it back into the dirt. His head shakes at Novikova. "That is not what I'd want to see. Fascists frozen in ice would be better."

Elise nods to Novi. "I think you're right." She chuckles at Maschenko's clarification of the joke, and then nods. "Indeed it would. Solid blocks of them." She gets back to work on the shovel. "It will be good to have another gun up in this neighborhood," she notes randomly.

Novikova is chuckling a little at all of this. Her wide hazel eyes are bright. "I think so too." She nods. "We'll see how it goes. Perhaps I can dance around for rain or something. Ooga ooga?" Hmmm. It's obviously a joke, given the stance. "No, not even if everyone got drunk and peed off the edge of the roof at the same time…" Sadness. So much for raining out the Germans! A shrug. That was bad Novi! She looks briefly abashed. "Sorry, that was bad." Hee. "I did bring some water if you're thirsty. It's kind of a trip over though." Sigh.

"How did you come to meet him? Britisher or Irishman?" Sokolof asks. Properly curious now. Maschenko's hooked him and now he must know more. He's a fairly easy mark when it comes to tales like these. They're all still at work fortifying the position around the AA gun. It's slow but progress is being made. Back-breaking progress. A nod over his shoulder to Elise. "Anything more to aim at the fascists is for the good now."

"Eh?" Maschenko squints at Zoya. Not familiar with the concept of rain dancing, is the Ukrainian. "Is that a Chukchi thing?" He jams the shovel into the dirt and leans on it for a moment of long-overdue rest, waving a dirty hand. "I wouldn't waste the piss. The way this is going we'll need it for firefighting." He exhales a tired breath that puffs out his cheeks, and turns narrowed eyes on Sokolof. "Do I really have that word right, 'Britisher'? Or are you just fucking with me?" Which would be turnabout, and thus fair play. "Anyway, I met him in L'viv. 1936, I think. He'd been injured in the war in Spain and they sent him to the Soviets for his treatment. Spoke Russian like a bulldozer."

"It was," Novikova admits, looking abashed for a moment again. "I think so, they mentioned it in geography. People used to think dancing around would bring rain. It's kind of silly… but it might be fun." An excuse to hop about! She nods sagely. A laugh at Maschenko's comment. "Fair enough," Nod. She is helping move dirt now being somewhat fresh today. "It sounds like it could go either way," Ponder. She listens for now. Old stories are fun.

"A veteran of Spain? Like Comrade Nowakowski?" Sokolof is even more curious now. "When I was a younger man I wished I had gone to Spain to fight the fascists there. But I had happier obligations at the time. Hearing Nowakowski talk of it, I am not sorry I missed the chance. What was he like? Your patient from the western lands?"

Elise frowns a bit when Maschenko mentions the firefighting. Then nods. "Englishman," she provides helpfully. "Comrade Nowakowski fought in Spain?" Now she's curious as well. Novi's explanation of the rain dancing gets an amused smirk.

"Superstitions," Maschenko grunts, as to dancing for rain. He wipes his dirt-encrusted sleeve over his face, patches of sweat dampening the once-white fabric. "Tak, like Nowakowsi. The Britisher had been around Madrid, so he said. Franco was making a go then to capture it, and the internationals helped push the fascists back." He fishes around his pockets, finding his battered pack of cigarettes. A few remain, which he jostles in the pack. "He seemed a good man, that one. Didn't really understand what we'd done here…the Civil War, the revolution. It was strange, you know, we had heart for the same side of the Spanish war, but from what felt like two completely different sides."

Oooh, old war stories. Novikova nods at Maschenko. Superstitions! She listens now, tilting her head. She looks almost like a parrot sometimes. She takes a deep breath then regrets it. Yick! She moves some dirt as she hears the story. "Really?" Hmmmm. Ponder. "I remember Comrade Nowakowski telling us a little bit about it one afternoon…"

"He was a Communist?" Sokolof asks. "I would think he would have been, to go and fight in Spain." A nod back to Elise. "He has spoken of it. But a little. Mostly, of the destruction that war caused the Spanish people." A grim look around the streets, scattered with scars of near-constant bombing. Not like they're faring much better here so far.

"Oh did he?" Elise says to Novikova when she talks of old war stories from Spain. Clearly interested. She follows Sokolof's glance. "There is certainly no end to that here." Once again Elise is called away to go and deal with something on one of the other guns. "Excuse me, Comrades." She leaves her shovel against the wall should anyone come along to take it up, and then scrambles up and out of the trench.

Maschenko shakes his head to Sokolof. "He wasn't a Communist. I don't think many Briti-…er, Englishmen are." He pulls a cigarette from the pack with his teeth and offers the pack over to the teacher. "He was anti-Fascist, I think that was good enough for a uniform where Spain was concerned. It was like I said. He didn't really seem to understand us. Said a revolution like this would never happen in Britain." He looks up and nods to Elise. "Be well, Comrade."

"He did," Nod back to Elise. "See you!" Novikova will take up the shovel in Elise's absence. "Be well," She murmurs. "Man, you'd think the Fascists would take the hint when no one likes them," She grunts softly. She tilts her head at Sokolof. Then she looks around too with a frown. She'll move dirt to avoid thinking about it.

Sokolof shakes his head a little. "Strange times, Spain must have been. But, the English fight the Fascists now. I know not of Britain. They had no Tsar. Perhaps that was what was needed to light the spark of revolution. My father once said it would spread across the world like wildfire. But there are other concerns in these times, perhaps." He gulps some water from his canteen.

Since Sok doesn't seem to want a cigarette, Maschenko returns the pack to his pocket. There's a pause as he strikes a match, gray smoke rolling up to join the thick clouds of black over Stalingrad. "Maybe this will do it for them. They'll see what Fascists do firsthand and it'll convince them. I don't know, a thousand kilometres away isn't our concern." A shrug there, and he takes a drag off his cigarette. "Anyway. Zoyenka, how were the others doing at the apartments?"

Listen, listen. Novikova is a good listener. "I hope so. The Fascists are positively awful and rile everyone up I think." Nod. Boo Fascists! "Comrade Morozov was asleep. Everyone was doing alright as can be though. Not much more damage to the apartments at least either," Not that… there is much LEFT to damage, alas. "I went to help around as I could and then I wound up here." Nod. No major emergencies to report.

"That is good, Zoyenka. That is good," Sokolof says, as to the lack of more emergencies. He looks a bit sorry to have missed the chance at a cigarette, but he doesn't retract his rejection of it. He can bum one off the good doctor later. A nod to Maschenko. "Perhaps. I am a poor Soviet for saying it, but I have little concern for politics just now. I shall face those who are pushing at my doorstep, and worry about the rest of it later."

"Good," Maschenko replies to Zoya. He gives Sokolof a thin grin and looks around the well-dug trench. Then up. "Fuck, it's gotten dark. We should get back rather than lingering, eh? The other shift's due in, and I don't want to be underfoot."

Nod. Novikova smiles at that. "And I do not think that's true," She shakes her head at Sokolof. "I think not getting exploded tends to take priority. Exploded Party Members really don't show up to meetings or help anymore," She points out. A smile at Maschenko then she looks up. "Oh. That it is." She has less water than she'd hoped, but c'est la vie. "I'll with you. I don't want to get underfoot either. They yell at me unlike you." She sticks the tip of her tongue out.

Sokolof gives Maschenko a nod. "This will do for the moment. It's some cover for the gunner, at least." He's ready go to, taking his shovel with him. He could use a shower, but there's little chance of getting that back at the apartment. He'll learn to love the grime.

Maschenko sticks the cigarette in his mouth, turning to start the haul up out of the trench. "They yell at me too, Zoyenka." The cig bobs between his teeth as he talks. "I simply yell back. You should learn this, it's good practice for marriage." He turns around once out of the trench to wait for them, offering a hand down if someone needs.

"That's good," Novi smiles at Sokolof. She likes cover. She assumes others do too! She lets the shovel she borrowed stay in the trench. "Oh?" It seems hard for Novikova to imagine Maschenko getting yelled at. "… hah!" She grins at his marriage comment. "I don't know about that. I suppose what will happen will happen. But I have many house plants. He might get mad having to live with them all," A shrug. "Thanks. She has to scramble a bit, after picking up her bucket. yay she be keepin' her bucket.

"And why would he do that." Maschenko gives a reflex glance to the sky as they climb out. No bombers…for now. He motions Zoya closer, heading for what cover they can get alongside the ruined buildings. "Are they loud houseplants?"

"Nah, just lots of them. I guess flower smell can be a bit much." Maybe jealousy? Novikova is clueless. her idea of husband hunting probably involves a net, vodka and a spear. "I don't know. I never gave it much thought." Apparently she focuses on work and looks up. She moves closer to Maschenko, nodding. "Thank you." She appreciates his sharp eyes. "Is it tough to be married?"

Maschenko gives a wry sounding breath at that, not quite a chuckle. "Only when it's over." He ashes his cigarette over the broken ground, gray specks joining the piles of rubble that was Stalingrad not a few days ago. "I wouldn't worry about the plants. A good man doesn't focus on the trivial when there's concerns like a family to feed."

"Oh?" Awwww. Hmmm. Novikova is pondering this as she walks along the rubble. "I see." She smiles. "Well, I'll remember that. I hadn't given it too much thought honestly. I like classes and tending the plants and when Elise visits, I watch out for her sometimes. She's pretty and from another place so I think I'd be made if people pranked her or something." Sigh! Poor German cousin.

Or shot her. But Maschenko is thankfully not so grim as to say that aloud. He walks on what would've been Zoya's street side, were there much difference between street and building ruins now. Steps stay quick, headed north as his eyes make constant alert scans of the street. "Well, you've got time." Kind of. "I'm sure Comrade Elise has been pretty grateful for you. Dangerous for any woman to go around by herself too much." There are pockets of people everywhere, running from fortification spot to fortification spot. A long line of Red Army soldiers, rifles in hand sprint down the corner of Prospekt Lenina, headed for the northern side of the city.

Shot her too. Novikova either has not or does not want to think of that possibility. She smiles over at Maschenko, inching close as she can so he can be under cover too. "I suppose so. Maybe I'll put out a vodka trap later? Put it under a box with a stick…" She motions with her hands. Grin. She nods, "I am glad for her company too, though I feel kind of bad she had to leave home. It's not really wise to go out alone much these days. Like if you got hurt at least they could run for help." But Germany IS Fascist HQ right now and - well. She says nothing on it. Novi catches glances at people, blinking at the line of soldiers. "Do you think they are practicing?"

"They're going to prepare," Maschenko says, talking under his breath. His blue eyes follow the moving line of armed men and women. "The Fascists are probably trying to reach the Volga, and push in from the sides of the city. They'll be setting up the army there, I expect. If the Fascists can take the whole Volga, we'll be cut off."

"Oh, that makes sense," Novikova replies, her hazel eyes following as well. A deep frown at that. "I wish they'd just fall in and go away. But the Volga doesn't deserve that." Huff. She really really really hopes it doesn't come to that. Her nose wrinkles at the idea. "I am sure they will do fine." Nod. Home turf advantage right? She looks to Maschenko then towards home. "We're even getting room for another gun to deal with those planes." That's a plus right?

"It won't be the planes they're dealing with. Not for long." Maschenko speeds up his walking again as the last Red Army soldier clears the debris-strewn intersection, motioning with his hand for Zoya to hurry. "All this is just preparation, Zoyenka. The first step, for us and for them. Soon they'll come and try to finish what they've started."

Novikova frowns and speeds up walking too. At least being a wiggly git is good for being fairly fast. She watches the last soldier go then looks to Maschenko. She takes a deep berath. "I thought so, but it's not something you want to believe. It's childish to just pretend it won't happen huh?" Frown. "Maybe I should learn a bit of first aid before this all starts in earnest. Them coming by ground at least."

"Even children can't afford pretend now," Maschenko replies, bitterly. "If you really want to learn, I'll teach you what I can quickly. Comrade Elise should be able to show too. She's a medic, ni?"

"I think so, she is a bit of a medic and works the big gun too," Novikova replies. She frowns at the pretend remark, although it could be his tone more than anything else. "I think so. A little bit couldn't hurt in a pinch right? I know a bit about folk medicine and herbal things but - fat lot of good it does when most of my plants are smoldering." A headshake. "So that's that."

"It will do fine, believe me," Maschenko hustles across the intersection with Zoya, the wide open space making the hairs on the back of his neck prickle. Open space bad if the shells start falling. "Did I think I would ever must to use garlic again? Trust me, no. We don't know what we will find in this days, everything will be important." His Russian gets shakier when's he tired, some of his grammar reverting to Ukrainian structures.

A soft laugh at the garlic comment. Novikova nods, trying to ignore that odd feeling of being vulnerable again. "That's true. Garlic is a great plant. Cept for the stink. But I guess if it were tasty, stinkfree and good for medicine, everyone would eat it and there'd be none left." Ponder. Novikova considers that. "If you like, I can just be here with you quietly or keep watch while you take a nap when we get home," She offers perhaps picking up on his tiredness.

Maschenko hehs. "This is true." About the garlic, anyway. As to the rest: "Tse, we'll see how everyone is doing down there. If there is time for rest, there is time. You need to sleep too, you know."

"Yup," A smile at Maschenko. "Okay. I sleep just fine too. But you seem sleepier and I would feel really bad if you were sleepy and had to run, you know?" Novikova notes. "We can take turns. I think most of the time we're catching naps or finding supplies as best as we can."

Maschenko laughs under his breath. "This is not a contest I can win. Women are always better at it." The humor's a little thin but he does a remarkable job with it. "Fine. Let us check on Comrade Yulia. I'll show you how to look after her leg, and then time for resting."

"It's true," Novikova grins at Maschenko. "But I'm okay with compromise so that sounds good." She lets her grin fade into a smile. She will open the door for him when they get to the basement then.

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