One Left To Tell

Pedagogical Institute (4 4)

Night falling on smoke-laden Stalingrad means only a small reduction in the noise from the fighting. From the second floor of the Institute, Maschenko can see hints of fires burning here and there in the rubble that stretches forever, though whether they're Soviet soldiers, Fascists, a pocket of civilians, or fallout from one of hundreds of explosions every hour - he can't tell. He's sitting by Gregor in the tiny light circle of one shielded candle, re-wrapping the man's shot (and re-shot) hand yet again.

Having been up on the rooftop for a while, Mikhail comes downstairs again, shaking his head a bit. Moving for a place near one of the windows, he checks his rifle once, before finding himself a place to sit, near the wall.

Yevgenich is sat on the ground floor, rifle laid across his knee.s Apparently he's dozing, it seems he's taken a few extra shifts on guard duty after everyone else was shot up. Presently he starts awake, snorting. A few moments of confusion then he straightens up heading for the stairs, tramping up the stairs to find someone to wake up to take his place.

Workwork, bookbook. Novkova skitters along almost comically after her watch. She doesn't seem to be in too bad a spirits, although she seems pained by all the noises now that she's heard what some of them are. "Comrades," She greets them so no one accidentally shoots her.

Yulia munches on her dinner, using her right arm to eat, keeping the left still. No Greek yogurt here, just rationed hard tack, and a piece of raw potato she found some time ago. Seeing the others come in, she offers up the rest of her food. "Anyone want some?"

Maschenko waited until Gregor was passed out to do this. And for good reason; it looks awful. There's a dirty cloth draped over his knee for Gregor's hand to bleed and ooze on, already stained with red and yellowish fluid. Two major bullet holes in one hand, how lucky can a man get? The doctor's debriding the second one with a sharp pair of bent tweezers and a pick to get at the necrotic skin. Probably don't want to watch this while eating. He glances up at the noises coming into the room, then at Yulia and shakes his head. "What is it tonight?"

Mikhail shakes his head a bit as he hears Yulia, "No, thanks," he offers after a few moments of pause. Closing his eyes a bit, he mutters something under his breath.

Yevgenich looks back as Novi speaks, "Comrade." He greets as he continues, neeed sleeep. A quick detour to shake some other poor Commie awake to take his place. He does perk up at the offer of food, though he waits for the menu to be read out. Meanwhile making himself comfortable on the nice familiar rag of cloth he carries around. Nodding at those awake and looking away from Maschenko as soon as he figures out what's going on with Gregor, he manages to look even paler in the half comparative darkness.

Something about Novi's jacket is a bit funny. Did she have corners before? She smiles at Mikhail. And a look to Yevgenich. "I found two books on watch. They are a little beat up but I think you can read them. I had to put them in my jacket so I could carry my rifle. Although, only while my partner had to go to the bathroom. I tell you every 15 minutes… better than any clock," She rubs the back of her head. A shrug. She smiles at the mention of food. She goes quiet though, to hear what's offered. And it's a Maschenko too!

Yulia's been watching Maschenko work as she was eating. Is that weird? Maybe. But she doesn't seem fazed; it's far more interesting than watching rubble crumble. She now glances around at the others and continues, "Some hard tack and half a raw potato. It doesn't get more appetizing than that." Novi's books seem to pique her curiosity, she sits up a bit and blinks. "What did you find?"

Maschenko picks something out of the crevasse of Gregor's hand wound. Blood shines on the metal teeth of the tweezers as he scrapes a black bit onto the damp cloth and goes back to spelunk for more. Plenty to pale poor Yev, and not to mention the smell of an open wound. He looks up at Novikova again, frowning. "Every 15 minutes? He's not a diabetic is he, your partner?" A slight nod to Yulia. "If there's extra later, comrade, I'll eat it." Extra. Yeah right. But his hands are busy and bloody.

"Every 15 minutes?" Opening one eye, Mikhail looks to Novikova now. "Nice to have that kind of a clock with you?" Glancing between the others for a few moments, then opening the other eye. "So, everyone's still okay?" he asks.

Yevgenich screws his face up a little, hoping it's too dark to offend anyone. "Don't spare any on my account comrade." It's not like there's going to be leftovers, "Thank you." He adds, as an afterthought. An eyebrow raises at the mention of books, though he makes no comment. "How much does he drink?" He asks, wishing he had that much. He hadn't caught the smell, it times like this you wish you smoked, his nose wrinkles further. He nods to Mikhail, then speaks in case the man wasn't watching, "Haven't had a need for those bullets since the Commissar left them here." That's a good thing.

"Well, there's one with illustrations and some old things like that. A fellow named Ivan Bilibin," Novikova comments quietly, pulling a book from her coat. "It looks kind of neat," She tilts her head. "Even if I have all the art talent of a - well, I don't," She wrinkles her nose. The other is fished out. "Aaand one on some history." Squint. State approved of course. At the question about her partner, she hmms softly. "Well, I don't think so. But I can ask if you like. It struck me as odd," She admits. She frowns. "I'll nibble some later, but you eat first. I think you took way more of a beating than me," She waves a hand. "And I don't know. I don't see him drink. I wonder if he just hides a little while so no one knows he's nervous." It's not like Novikova CHECKS. "I had to use a few, but I only take 5 at a time so there are some left for others." She smiles at Mikhail, "It is but it's worrisome."

Since no one takes dibs on the food, Yulia attempts to continue eating, but she doesn't seem to have an appetite much longer. Maybe the smell is hitting her too. She tilts her head at Novi's books. "I'm surprised there are any left. Those sound like good ones, comrade." The 15-minute-bathroom-guy makes her wonder, too. She frowns, mirroring Novi's expression. "Eh… I've heard stranger things, but … "

Maschenko snorts at the mention of the books Novikova found. "What a time for a tsar's return," he mutters drily. He lifts his hand from Gregory's and switches the tweezers from left to right, flexing his cramped fingers. The motion warms them too; mid-September and the nights have been getting steadily chillier. He holds his fingertips by the candle, then slowly runs the tweezer tips through the flame. "Seem alright," he tells Mikhail quietly. "Ruckus last night here, I heard."

Mikhail nods a little, offering a grin to Yevgenich. "If that's because he came by with that ammo, he should drop by with some all the time," he offers, a bit lightly. Glancing between the others. "Well, it was… semi-eventful, or something like that."

Well that sounds hopeful, Yevgenich was expecting some technical manuals at best. He gets up, hoping to get a peek at the books. "I think I've heard the name from somewhere before." He shrugs, can't have been that bad if they Soviets let the book be published. He's more immediately interested in the history, even if he hasn't the eyes to read it in this light. His eyebrow takes another hike to his forehead at the mention of the Tsar, but he makes nothing of that either. Pose nods to Mikhail, "Perhaps it would be good to have him around." He agrees, snipers would aim at his hat first for starters. "A fight?" He asks, chalk down another firefight he managed to avoid, no use asking how it turned out if they're still here.

"Well, I didn't have time to really pick or choose," Novikova admits. She watches Maschenko for a moment. "Yeah…" Novikova seems quieter at the mention of last night. She sets the books in Yev's reach. "Here, and i think he does art?" A headtilt. She shrugs and smiles. "I didn't have time to really read them either," She notes. She looks to Yev, going quiet at the mention of the Tsar. "It was an ugly fight though."

Maschenko lowers the flame-heated tweezer tips to Gregor's skin, picking and reheating several times. /That/ is a smell, coppery and slightly…sweet, in a stomach-turning sort of way. Even his own jaw is tense by the time he's done, putting the metal to the side and grabbing some moderately clean cloth to wrap around the cleaned wound. The stink lingers there like a burnt dinner. There's no more comment from him immediately on the books; his blue eyes flicker to them and then back down to what he's doing again.

Yulia's eyes dart from Yev to Novi at the query of last night's fight. She shifts her position on the floor. "It was, but we can say with certainty that there are a few less Fascists out there," she says. "Speaking of, how's your wound, comrade Zoya?"

Mikhail stays quiet for now, listening to the conversation.

Yevgenich squints at the volume of history but it's no use even trying to decipher, he sets it down gently. A quick rifle the pages of the arty books until he stops, it's a black and white print, barely visible but there's a dragon fighting a man on a winged horse. "And to think that was in this library." He breaths ruefully, hands trembling. The smell hardly seems to bother him anymore, in fact he lowers himself so he is level with the candle, though still far enough to be out of Maschenko's way. "Did we get any of them?" He asks, taking a disinterested tone. Though the comment about Novi's wound brings him back to reality, "Was anyone else hurt?" He asks, he might not have noticed Novi's wound but he'd surely be able to tell if someone was actually dead.

Ew. Novikova winces at the smell, although she says nothing. Perhaps she understands his work. She looks to her haand and smiles at Yulia, "Plenty better. We're lucky." A reference to Maschenko, perhaps vague so he won't deflect it. "Several," A nod to Yulia, "Comrade Liliya too. And Comrade Tikhon," She ticks off on her good hand. She smiles at Yev as he looks at the art book. "We got three out of four at least. The last fellow ran away though," She'll count that as a win.

"I didn't get back until after." Maschenko says; clearly this is not his story to tell. And he's busy bandaging, which he finishes up and moves Gregor's hand to lay back on the cot. The cloth over his knee's folded up, damp as it is with blood and pus. Gross. His eyes flicker to the books again, something in his eyes rather tough to read. Nothing said about them, as he rolls to his feet to put the dirty cloth into a pile with others that'll get re-used.

Yulia reaches for the history book with her good arm and absently flips through it, feeling the paper between her fingers and the weight of the book on her lap. It's comforting to be doing this sane, normal action after the craziness of the past few months. Like Yev found, it's too dark to actually read it, but she just likes the familiarity of it. She can hope that they'll not see anything like last night again, but the realistic chunk of her brain tells her they've still more atrocities to go through.

Mikhail keeps silent for a few moments, before he offers a half-smile, "Three of four? That's not too bad. And none of us killed?"

Yevgenich looks up, catching a glimpse of the used bandage and flinching. "And they are well?" He asks, snapping the book shut and laying it with some reverence on a good patch of floor. He shakes his head, "It is unfair that I was not here." This time he was giving a hand to fortify a building beyond the hospital. Still people seem ok for it, so he lets himself attempt a smile.

"I sort of started it," Novikova admits. "The Fascists were doing something very cruel and I guess I couldn't sit and watch," She admits quietly, settling in her usual spot. Novi smiles as she watches Yulia. Then she shakes her head. "I don't know. I'm glad not more had to be shot or witness it personally."

Mikhail pauses a little as he hears that, "What?" he asks, in Novikova's direction.

Yevgenich gulps, he gives a short nod to show Novi he heard and settles down to listen to the story, if it's forthcoming. He's careful to do nothing to prompt it only looking from Novi to Yulia to what he assumes is Liliya's sleeping form with guilty glances, half hidden by the angle of his face.

"Well. I can tell you, but it's kind of unpleasant," Novikova admits quietly, looking to Yev. She offers a sad smile.

"I can handle that," Mikhail replies, with a bit of a shrug. "Need to know what we're dealing with here."

Yulia pauses in her page flipping to look at Novi, lowering her brows. "I still don't think it was a mistake, what we did," she offers, trying to bolster the young botanist.

Yevgenich shrugs. "I am not adverse to unpleasantness." He lies quickly, only taking the time to study Novi's face afterwords. Another shrug, he flashes her a quick smile, "Though if don't want to…" A slightly irritated glance to Mikhail, then another hopeless shrug.

Novikova lowers her voice, "We heard shots to the north. They were shooting civilians in the street. There was a lady and a child at the least. They shot her before I could draw a bead. But then they were going to get the child next so I shot. I wasn't the only one by a moment though," A faint, sad smile at Yulia. "But none of us really wanted to watch that and do nothing. I think she had a point about risking ourselves," A headtilt to Liliya, "But I think once they were done there, they'd come here."

Mikhail's expression hardens a little bit as he hears that, and he nods. "The demons…" he mutters, before he looks back towards Novikova. "For whatever it's worth, I think you did the right thing."

"But I wasn't the only one. Everyone was really brave,"Novikova notes, giving credit where it is due. A motion towards Yulia, Liliya and - "Comrade Tikhon too, wherever he got off to. Comrade Appo made a sniping rival too." She sighs, and shakes her head. "Either way, at least some of them made it and there's a few less fascists."

Yevgenich draws in a short sharp breath. He's on his feet quickly, taking a couple of strides to a window and spitting out. "Bastards." He mutters loud enough for the others to hear. There's a curious stare in Liliya's direction, but there's more pressing things to be angry about it. "Bastards." He repeats a little louder. Then a sigh, "You did good." He agrees, that directed at both women. His eyes dart around the room, sure he hadn't seen another kid. He's even paler now, though further from the light.

Yulia nods in agreement with Mikhail. "They already knew we were here. They would have come, regardless." She shakes her head, returning her gaze to the book in her lap. The wound in her arm is a constant reminder of that risk. Yeah, it would be nice if she didn't have it, but … "They have no right," she adds with a bitter sigh. "What would we be to stand by and watch?"

Maschenko had gotten up to fetch something from the hall. A shirt someone found, which he starts ripping into strips as he walks back in. The conversation is what he expected, having heard the story last night, and he's quiet for the time being to listen further.

"Well. Whatever it was, it happened." Novikova shrugs. "We saved who we could and they're minus a few." She sighs softly. She looks to the others. "Oh well. No sense rehashing it I suppose."

Yevgenich's mouth is curled up from distaste, though he seems to have recovered from the shock of the idea, he heads back to the circle of candlelight. "That's right he nods." Though he'll remember it now, "No sense thinking of it besides that you did the right thing." He's lying again, it's not hard to spot.

Mikhail nods a little bit, shrugging. "Sorry to bring it up…" he offers, after a few moments of pause.

"No don't be sorry," Novikova shakes her head and smiles. At Yev's lie, she frowns a little. She pulls her legs in close at that. "Maybe." She just takes a deep breath. A look around, "Did you like the art book? Hello there," A smile to the returning Doctor.

The cloth in Maschenko's hands rips again as he pulls another strip off it, settling down to a crouch by the wall where his satchel sits. He winds the strip of dull brown around his hand and puts the coil into his bag by a small glass bottle that's nearly empty. "Zoyenka. Comrades." That second for the room at large, of course. "There's a little water, is anyone thirsty?"

Yevgenich looks up, there's a quick nod for Maschenko. "It looks fascinating." He replies, glad for a change in topic. "Didn't know they had books like this round here." He admits, "Would have checked sooner if I'd known." Well it's too late now, he'll have to live with that. "They're a fine find." More praise for Novi, even if you can't eat books. A shake of the head follows, there's still some water left in his flask.

A smile to Maschenko. "I think I'm a little low, but I should be fine," Novikova shakes her head. "Unless my patrol partner gets too thirsty." He might just be diabetic and in denial. "I appreciate it though," She is grateful. "And ah, yeah. Lots of good ones even if you weren't a student. There's only two though. Shame," She frowns. But hey, brains need feeding too. "It was such a nice library." As far as State Approved goes at any rate.

"Wonder if they stuck only to Russian works," Maschenko muses quietly. Another strip's ripped off the shirt and he picks up the small bottle of water he'd brought in, giving it a light toss towards Yevgenich.

Mikhail keeps silent for now, listening to the others. Picking up a small notebook from a pocket and looking through it again.

Yevgenich gives a short nod, "I am sure, but now we use what we have." He says, and at least one of those is very interesting. He's careful to catch the bottle of water. A quick sip and it's handed round to whoever will take it.

"I don't know," Novikova admits, "I still had lots to catch up on. But I would be shocked if it were Russian only. There are many authors the State learns from," She points out. MOSTLY Russian, but even Marx himself was German. A shrug. She smiles at Mikhail. "True enough." She will take a sip then.

Mikhail keeps all his attention on the notebook in his hands now, expression… Well, peaceful would be a word to use to describe it.

"Mm." That grunt is Maschenko's only reply to that much. His own expression's tough to read. He tears another strip from the shirt, curling it around with the others, and then using the torn collar as a tie to bind them all together. "You've been down to the library itself then, or were those just laying about? Efim wanted to see what's become of that place, I know. If it's standing in any way."

Yevgenich takes another look at the books, "Whatever they were, they are gone now." He comments sadly. He stifles a yawn, and looks out of the window at the haze, "Must have been at least an hour since I came up from watch." He comments, he was tired then. He looks around those awake, "Have a quiet night." He smiles as a goodnight and he trudges off to a wall he can face while he's trying to sleep.

Novikova nods at Mikhail. She seems curious at Maschenko's grunt. She takes a deep breath. "Not to the library itself. I wanted to, but- I am sure parts of it still stand. It had good walls. It's probably keeping the books safe with the rubble if that's the case." She shakes her head. "We didn't get that far. I bet we will tonight though." Long as her buddy doesn't take too many restroom breaks. "I hope it is." She looks to Yevgenich. "Sleep well." She offers. Then back to Maschenko. "Do you need any help there?"

"Sleep well, Comrade." Wait, was that words coming from Mikhail? He didn't look up from the notebook, at least, studying it with a half-smile.

"Have an unbloody one," Maschenko returns to Yevgenich, a little wryly. "Good night." He picks up the bottle of water and motions with it towards Mikhail. "Comrade. Take some." To Novikova he raises an eyebrow. "Keeping them safe?" From his tone he probably wouldn't have chosen that assessment. "Wait for Efim, then. He wanted to see it himself and he deserves to."

"Be well," Novi nods and looks towards Mikhail and Maschenko, "Think about it. Those walls and ceiling were stone. If the Fascists found them, they'd burn them and stone itself doesn't really burst into flames." In other words, a rubble house for the books. "At least the ones that didn't get crushed. It's a lot like us. We save what we can," She frowns. Then a smile. "I promise I will take him then." She apparently holds Efim in high regard. "I promised I'd let him come with me when it stood too."

There's silence from Mikhail for a while before he stirs a bit, "Hmmm?" Looking up, he sees Maschenko motioning with that bottle. "Oh…" Closing and pocketing his notebook, he moves towards the man with the bottle now.

"Voda," Maschenko tells Mikhail as he lifts the bottle for the man to take. 'Water'. "I've always wondered if that is why you call the liquor vodka, in Russian. A man needs that too, like water." He smirks at that, settling his shoulder back. A nod to Novikova, satisfied Sokolof will get his wish now.

Novikova watches the bottle and water talk. She tilts her head. "That's a good question and I'd be surprised if it weren't true though," She grins at Maschenko. But a nod and a hand on the heart. Cross her heart, hope to die, needle in her eye, etc. Novi likes Sokolof anyway. "I promise." She takes a deep breath. "It'll be something perhaps a bit nice and sad at the same time." She can appreciate that. "I wish I had taken him sooner."

"The little water," Mikhail offers, at the mention of Vodka, before he takes the water, "Thanks." Taking a sip from the water now. Pausing after that, looking between the others a bit thoughtfully.

Maschenko quirks a thin smile at Mikhail. Then he shakes his head at Novikova. "There's nothing fucking nice about what they've done," he says, lowly. "Nothing. I will never give them that, not over the bodies of these people." Books won't be the only thing trapped in that avalanche of cement and wood. "Even if they take out every library in the Union they'll not wipe out every memory. Remember this, Zoya, when this is done and you're out of here." Obviously something in him believes she'll survive. "Write all this down all you want, but never forget to tell it too. Okay?"

"Nothing nice about what they've done, no. But to see the the library," Novikova frowns, looking worried. "But to help Comrade Sokolof at least see what we can," She remarks quietly. And alas, she knows that too. She goes quiet for a moment and takes a deep breath. His words have an effect on her. "I promise to remember, but I won't need to if you're still here as much." She will, but she wants to think Maschenko will be around too. Admittedly, Novi is blessed with a thick skull and uncanny ability to heal back. "Because … I'm gonna be really sad if anything happens to you or anyone," She shakes her head.

Mikhail frowns at the talk about remembering. "If I don't make it through all of this. Get this notebook out of here, will you?" One hand indicating the book in his pocket. Taking another sip of the water, before handing the bottle back again.

"Even if every single Soviet alive right now made it out," Maschenko tells Novikova, his eyes still on hers, "I would tell every one of them to tell as many people as they could what's happened here. There are billions of people in this world and only some thousands of us, Zoyenka. Who is going to tell them all?" His head shakes slowly. "Only us." His eyes turn to Mikhail, then the notebook. "We can try. There are some promises nobody can make in a war."

Novikova doesn't look away. She nods solemnly. It's hard to imagine only some thousands at times. "I will try if I see it," And make it. She agrees quietly with Maschenko. "But I don't want to think about that just yet, to be honest- the idea of you guys going away," Frown. "We will write it down and tell them." Nod. A world without Maschenko or Socks or Mikhail - or any of them. It pains even Novikova.

Mikhail nods a little bit, "That's all I can ask," he offers quietly. Looking around the room for a few moments.

Maschenko nods to Mikhail. He looks down and fishes about in his front pocket, finding what cigarettes someone gave him earlier. Three, half-broken in a pack that's got a smear of blood on the paper. One's offered Mikhail's way, the other stuck in his own mouth. "Here, comrade. Here's to someone getting out of here alive, eh?" He gives Mikhail a thin, dry grin, then a nod to Novikova too. "Good, Zoya. Because I will tell you this." He plucks the cigarette right back out, gesture to the window with it. "Those Fascists fucks? They'll be talking too, after this. They'll be telling stories, and those stories won't be ours."

A nod at Mikhail in turn. Novikova fidgets in place. She smiles at the little grin. And she tilts her head, listening. "That's true, isn't it. I hadn't thought of what they talk about besides how they'll ruin someone else's day," A deep frown. "Or something." She does seem to draw a distinction between German and Fascist though. "I will do my best then, and wear a hard hat. It's a bit tough to speak after that thought though. Still, if I ever find some paper, I'll give it a shot at least at writing it all down. But it feels strange."

Mikhail takes that offered cigarette, nodding a bit. "Thanks," he offers, after a few moments.

"Write it, speak it, however you can." Maschenko nods to Novikova. The cigarette's returned to his chapped lips and he strikes a match, holding it out first for Mikhail to light off. "There's only one way to erase the truth, and that's never to speak of it. It's what…men do. That's what they'll do." He flicks eyes towards the window. "We won't." He sniffs quietly, as if that tiny sound had all the defiance in the world. "Anyway."

Novi looks to Mikhail. She looks to Maschenko, "Now I am very sad all of my notebooks are gone." This is something she hasn't admitted publicly before. She shifts in her spot and looks to the world. "They won't just stomp us out that easily though. Not with people like you determined," She considers. And inspiring others hopefully. "At least we've saved a couple of these books. The art one is very nice," She notes. "You should look through it. But - I think I may see if my partner is awake. We're up to go out soon."

Mikhail prepares the cigarette for lighting, and when it's done, he starts moving over to a corner again. "I should smoke this, then get some sleep. You guys wake me if the Fascists appear again, will you?"

"Tak," Maschenko tells Mikhail. "We will." He starts to get up himself. Many, many wounded to be looking after through this building. "I'll look at it before we go back to the hill, Zoya. I promise." Smoke curls up from his cigarette as he puffs on it, pulling his satchel up from the floor and slinging it over his shoulder. "And I'll let you know if we find any paper, eh?" His head tilts towards the door. "Go on."

"Sure thing," Novikova nods. She grunts, pushes herself up and brushes off. A smile. "Thanks, I'm glad. I'll leave them here for the others then, in that spot." A safe spot near the corners. They are state approved at least. Novi's no fool. She smiles watching him smoke. "Of course. If I find cigarettes or anything, I'll find you," She bobs her head. "Be safe!" With that, she shuffles along to keep an eye on things.

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