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Song of the Amur

KaiserMelech Mikhail

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[i]Amur River Near Pyotrgrad, 16 Months Ago[/i]

It was a moonless night as the smuggler sat in his skiff in the middle of the Amur River. Bobbing up and down with the small waves, he scanned the area, watching as a small line of lights moved back and forth between the two banks of the river, moving luxury goods from Tianxia into Marscurian Siberia. The night was silent, save for the small splashes that accompanied the oars moving in and out of the water. Although the river was at one of its narrowest points, the trip was still almost half a mile long, and took several minutes to do manually, but silence was key now that the Amur Police were out in force. The operation was going well so far, with over 100,000 rubles of smuggled goods on the other side of the river and moving into warehouses scattered throughout Pyotrgrad. However, at 2 in the morning, disaster struck from the criminals. A loud hiss was heard, and a bright pink light flashed on a boat only 200 feet from the Tianxian side of the river.

"Put the flare out you fools," the smuggler boss snapped at the men in the boat, "get rid of it! Throw it in the river!"

After thirty seconds of clamoring around, trying to grab the safe end of the flare and throwing it and the several bundles that it set on fire into the river, the scene fell silent. Nobody said a word, all paddling stopped, all the small lights on the front of the boats were extinguished, everyone just waiting and prayed. A low whir could be heard in the distance.

"Please God," the boss prayed, "don't let it be them."

Silhouettes of two craft could be seen in the distance, churning up a small wake as they moved around a bend in the river to come into full view. Two spotlights came on, and started scanning the river in front of them. Terrified, men in the boats began to throw their cargo overboard, trying to get rid of any incriminating evidence. All this noise directed the boats right to them, and red and blue lights on top started flashing.

"!@#$," the boss said under his breath. Reaching into the boat, he removed a blanket that was covering two RPGs sitting on a long wooden crate. "Brothers," he yelled, "prepare to fight!"

As one boat held back, the other moved forward and sped between the skiff and the boats moving between the shores. There were four men on the boat, one man driving, one man in the back working on the machinery, on man in front on the searchlight, and one man standing at a machine gun. Turning the searchlight on line of boats, the man grabbed a megaphone. "By the authority of the Amur Police, you are ordered to cease action and surrender yourself," he yelled. Turning the light so it shined right at the man in the skiff, he grabbed the megaphone again. "We demand you order your men to stand down!"

"Get that light out of my face boy," the boss in the skiff said, squinting right at the police boat.

"Call in some air support," the driver of the boat whispered to the machine man, who immediately got on the radio.

"I repeat, order your men to stand down and surrender themselves," the man at the searchlight said, reaching for his pistol in the holster. The man on the machine gun swung it around so that it pointed at the skiff, but before they could do anything further, a roar of fire came from the line of boats that they turned their backs to. A dozen smugglers with AKs unloaded a clip into the police boat, causing the man at the searchlight, the one at the machine gun, and the one at the steering wheel to slump over dead. The mechanist survived by hiding in the boat, out of view of the men with rifles, and he got on the radio.

"Mayday, mayday, we are under attack," he yelled frantically, "this is patrol boat one zero..."

Before he could finish the boat burst into a fireball from the RPG fired by the smuggler boss in the skiff. Seeing the explosion, the men on the other boat began radioing for help. "Danger, danger, we are facing heavy weaponry," the reported over the radio, "we need heavy support at Pyotrgrad location."

"Roger roger," a fain reply crackled over the radio, "MSS Formidable en route, ETA 5 minutes."

With that, the boat turned the searchlight on the skiff and started firing the machine gun, but most of the shots fell short, splashing down into the river.

"It was a simple request," the smuggler bossed sighed, loading the next RPG into his launcher, "I try to make a decent living for my family, but they have forced me to be a murder." With that, his second shot skimmed over the water, the rocket leaving and bright white trail that lead straight to the other patrol boat, which burst into flames. "Start the engine," he said to the other man on the skiff, but it was no use, one of the lucky rounds from the machine gun lodged itself right in the outboard motor, severing a fuel line and destroying the spark plug. In the distance, a loud siren was heard and three search lights focused themselves on the skiff and the smuggling boats in the row, most of which had scattered at this point.

"More of them," the boss moaned, opening the wooden crate on the skiff, revealing a dozen more RPGs. Picking one of them up and loading it in the launcher, he pointed it at the light. "Will they ever learn?"

However, instead of the lights breaking up to engage the boats, a bright flash and a loud boom were heard, and one of the boats in the line splintered, sending the three men screaming into the air. Coming around the curve, the exterior lights on the ship flashed on, revealing itself to be the [i]MSS Formidable[/i], a heavy river monitor armed with two 125mm tank guns. The rear gun fired at the line, destroying another of the small boats. Immediately after that, the searchlight moved and shone right on the skiff.

"Oh my god," was all the smuggler boss was able to say before the round tore his boat apart, sending him careening into the river, killing him. Not wanting the same fate, the rest of the men surrendered immediately. While approaching the line, one of the men on the deck of the [i]Formidable[/i] took a hook and dragged the body of the mob boss up onto the ship. After taking the wallet out of his pocket, the sailor rushed up to the bridge.

"Commander Lieber," the sailor said to the commander of the ship, "it's him. It's Vazov."

[i]The Next Morning[/i]
Pulling the ship into the small harbor in Pyotrgrad, the body of expert smuggler Fyodr Vazov was unloaded and delivered to the Pyotrgrad police. His personal effects were taken to be searched for evidence, and the ones that were deemed clean, such as his watch and wallet, were placed in a plastic bag. Commander Lieber and his son, Mendel, in training to be a barge captain, drove to the Vazov house, a good sized apartment in the northern part of the city, no doubt paid for with fund acquired through illicit means. After knocking on the door, Mrs. Vazov opened.

"What do you want," she said coldly to the commander in his naval dress uniform, "I have no sons for mandatory service. Please go away."

"Ma'am," the commander said, handing her the small plastic bag, "I must inform you that your husband, Fyodr Vazov, was killed last night in a firefight with police. Here are his personal effects that he was carrying on the night in question."

Taking the bag, the woman fell to her knees and began sobbing. Looking over the woman, Mendel saw the two daughters, the older one, a young woman who had to be in her late teens or early twenties, holding her preteen sister close, trying to hold back tears. As their eyes met, Mendel could see nothing but contempt for him in her face, while he felt only concern for her. Her father may have been a criminal, but it was others who will now suffer for his death.

Edited by KaiserMelech Mikhail
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  • 2 weeks later...

Katya Vazov could feel the tears of her sister soaking through her clothes as her mother fell to the ground, sobbing, holding her father's jewelry and other parcels of clothing. She had never been privy to death in her life and there was a sickness that grew in her throat as the realization of Mendel's words fell upon her ears. Her father would never walk through the door again, she would never hear his laughter or see his smile. Katya knew that he wasn't a good man, but he was a good man to her, he took care of their family, and he took care of the neighborhood. Her grip tightened on her sister as she closed her eyes and felt her body shiver as tears began to trickle down from her eyes. She knew, however, she couldn't cry, if her father was gone then it was up to her to take care of the family and she took a deep breath and gently pushed her sister out of her arms.

Walking up to the door, Katya took her mother deeper inside and pulling her brown hair over her shoulder. "If you could please leave us, my family needs time to grieve." She said and shut the door on the officers and turned back to her mother and sister who were holding each other tightly in their arms. Taking another deep breath, Katya fell to her knees and embraced the remains of her family as tightly as her strength would allow.

Burying her face into her mother's shoulder, she straightened out her dress and closed her eyes. In only a few minutes, Katya had become the woman of the house and she could hear her father's voice in her head speaking in that same stern manner when he bounced her on his leg.

"Everyone has to grow up and often times, it's a sudden thing."

Nothing could be more sudden than this and Katya let one more tear fall as she squeezed her mother and sister. She had to be strong, for them, and for herself.

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[i]Amur River Near Pashkovo, Present Day[/i]

"Alright men," a voice said over the intercom of a towboat on the uppermost reaches of the Marscurian portion of the Amur River, "remember, everyone works, everyone stays cautious." Turning to the first mate, the captain ordered the standard speed of ahead-half.

"Aye, Captain Lieber," the first mate replied, moving the throttle control up to speed with a ring of three bells.

Like his father, Mendel Lieber had taken command of an Amur River vessel. In this case, it was the heavy towboat [i]Ber Indzl[/i], responsible for moving barges up and down the Amur River, from Pashkovo to Telmana and even down to Glubokiye Vodishtot. Placing his hands on the control console, Mendel looked out over the nine barges that were lashed together, ready for the trip to Telmana. Red tops, flammable material, in this case bio-diesel from the processing center in Obluchye. Although a this was a dangerous cargo for a captain's maiden voyage, Mendel proved himself as an able sailor, always cautious and by-the-book.

Slowly picking up speed, the barges rounded the initial curve in the river, opening into a long, strait stretch running several miles. Returning to his seat, Mendel swiveled around to look at the package on top of a small back of lockers that lined the back of the bridge. It was an unassuming parcel, a medium-sized wicker basket with a red strand of cloth keeping the lid on. However, it was part of a major tradition for Mendel. Every voyage, the barge he was on would need to pull into the small harbor of Pyotrgrad, sometimes to take on fuel, other times just to check in with the regional office for the barge company. The stop always took several hours, and Mendel took this time to step on land. Lacing up his boots, straightening out his work uniform, and putting on the navy blue baseball cap so that his face was shaded, he always took a small package with him. Sometimes it was a soft drink, others it was crackers and cheese, and sometimes it was an envelope with a couple 20 ruble bills inside. This time, in recognition of his first voyage as captain, he went all out. Inside this basket was a bottle of apple juice, two fine loaves of bread from a bakery in Obluchye, large strips of cured beef, and oranges, one of the more expensive fruits in the country.

Every trip was the same. Stepping onto the riverfront sectors of Pytorgrad, Mendel would flip of the color on his blue polo shirt, lower the visor of the cap so that it covered some of his face, and then he made his way through the crowds. Passing fish vendors, businessmen in second-hand suits, and the occasional smuggler constantly on the lookout for the police, Mendel made his way to the southwest area of the docks. The crowds were significantly sparser here, people keeping their heads down as they engaged in a mixture of legal and illegal business transactions. There, he always found the special person moving between buildings. A woman in her early 20s, small and slender, with a long brown braid that always swung out when she turned to talk to someone, a woman who never left Mendel's mind these past 16 months. Observing her moving between buildings, trading some found objects or second hand clothing for rare food or medicine or other useful goods, Mendel would quietly lay the gifts on her expected path and try to leave the area as fast as he could, hopefully without her seeing him. People as strong as her are often reluctant to accept charity, especially from the son of the man who killed their father.

A day after the barges left Pashkovo, they approached Pyotrgrad. The harbor of the city was small, allowing only five or six boats in at a time, meaning that the massive group of barges and the towboat would need to stay outside the harbor, making anchor just to the southeast of the city and making their way on shore by means of small dinghies. Bending over, Mendel began lashing up his boots, being sure to keep a close eye on his basket.

"Alright guys," he yelled out so all the boats could hear him, "you have 24 hours shore leave. Meet back at the docks at 12:00 this time tomorrow."

Tucking the basket under his arm, Mendel walked up the small flight of stairs that led onto the concrete pier. Looking around, he turned to move down the docks to find the girl to deliver his care package.

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[b]***8 years 3 months ago, East Ingushetia, Vaule***[/b]

In the former Vauleyo-Buryatia, major changes were underway. What years ago was a quiet rural region of East Ingushetia suddenly exploded into a noisy hive of activity. The construction industry boomed as small villages rapidly expanded into new cities and urban hubs of trade and industry. A long forgotten region, far removed from the Vauleyo-Ingush strife, suddenly became home to thousands and thousands of Marscurians. Small rural towns were quickly becoming cosmopolitan as the influx of Marscurian refugees arrived to their new home. Among the native population, thousands of Vauleyo-Buryatians elected to remain behind forming the largest Vaulian diaspora in the world. Vladimir Tarkov was among them.

A career soldier in the Vauleyo-Buryatian army, Tarkov was among a handful of Vaulian soldiers deployed to the Birofield Military Garrison. With massive spending cuts underway, the military contingent to East Ingushetia was among the most underfunded units in the entire Vaulian Army.

[b]***Birofield Military Garrison, Day of Marscurian Independence (8 years ago)***[/b]

After three months of cautious waiting, the fate of the entire military garrison was revealed. At 7am, a letter from the military high command was circulated to all soldiers at the garrison.

[quote][b]To: All military personnel of Birofield Military Garrison
Fr: Vauleyo-Buryatia Military High Command[/b]

Per Directive 7 c), the Birofield Military Garrison will be dissolved in 24 hours and all personnel will be recalled. The Garrison will be turned over to Marscurian forces effective tomorrow afternoon.

The High Command apologizes for any inconvenience that this may cause.

Some soldiers celebrated, throwing caution to the wind, while others greeted the news with anger. For Vladimir, his entire world was suddenly torn apart. Once again he had to make a life changing choice. He could either remain in the newly created Marscurian Siberia with his wife and child, or he could return to Vaule leaving the love of his life behind. One option provided him with clear career advancement at the expense of his family, while the other option meant financial uncertainty with a child on the way.

In the midst of the celebrations on the base, Svetlana Tarkova rushed into the hospital wing clutching her stomach and wincing. Without having to say a word, two military nurses rushed her into the maternity unit and had the receptionist call her husband. As soon as the doctor arrived, Svetlana was moved into a sterile room and prepped for delivery.

Minutes after receiving the call, Vladimir ran across the base like a man possessed. He shoved through groups of celebrating soldiers and throngs of civilians as he approached the medical wing. Despite being out of breath, he ran up to the receptionist and all but shouted:

[i]“Svetlana Tarkova!”[/i]

With no sense of urgency, the receptionist hit a few keys on the keyboard in front of her then asked:

[i]“Please present a valid military ID sir. We don’t allow any unidentified individual to proceed beyond this point”[/i]

Vladimir quickly flashed his ID, and the receptionist handed him a card with a room number on it. He ran down a corridor, bumping into hospital staff and patients alike as he finally found the maternity unit. He found the room, took a deep breath and pushed open the door.

As the door swung open, he heard his newborn daughter’s cries and saw her safely in her mother’s arms. Without saying a word, he kissed Svetlana, then looked down at his newborn daughter. The most beautiful pair of blue eyes stared back at him. He smiled and thought to himself that the sacrifice of his career would be well worth it. There would be some difficult times ahead, but it would be all worth it. As a new nation was born, giving hope to thousands, the birth of his daughter gave him hope. He smiled at his daughter and said:

[i]“Hello Yulia.”[/i]

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