1 - This is a fanwork made for fun and to spread the love for all things Girls Und Panzer and History around. Girls Und Panzer belongs to its legal owners, as well as its characters and story. Also the show is awesome and you should really buy the DVDs.
2 - I need to thank BlueJay62, F-14 Tomcat Lover, FenrirWolf, Karelwolf, Kite Tanril, Rogue Baron, Soviet Fox, Theralion,Yemi Hikari and the helpful guys at the Girls Und Panzer FaceBook group for all the help and support. The good parts of this fic only exist thanks to them. The bad parts, though, are all mine.
THE PRAVDA COMPANY
With their engines roaring as their tracks whined loudly, the armored vehicles entered the large open field that was the motor pool. Standing on a corner, the two girls clad in the green uniforms of the Red Army watched as the hectic formation of Soviet-build T-34s, American M3 half-tracks, and even Italian machines, passed by and sought for a place to park. On top of the vehicles they saw men with somber looks, some having just seen their first true fight.
"Captain Andropov's unit sure seems to have taken a beating," Lieutenant Yekaterina "Katyusha" Fiodorovna said.
"I've talked with some of the rearguard guys," First-Sergeant Nonna Artyomovna retorted, "it seems they have stumbled upon a Fascist tank unit equipped with Tigers."
Katyusha crossed her arms over her chest, standing on her toes for a moment as she contemplated her friend's words. "Whatever happened, the major won't like it."
"I sure wouldn't like to be in Andropov's skin right now."
Nonna's position was more than understandable. The Red Army didn't react well to failure. Even so, Katyusha couldn't help but grin at the perspective.
"Don't you know what this means, Nonna?" She uttered. "This is an opportunity for us."
The older teenager turned toward her fifteen years old commanding officer, her face a mask of incredulity. "Sometimes you scare me, Katyusha."
In spite of her words, the grin in Katyusha's pretty face remained in place. "Just wait and see."
While they talked, Captain Ivan Andropov descended from the command T-34. Major Ilyanovich was already there, hands on his hips, observing the other man with a stern look. The younger officer was trembling when he approached his commander. Swallowing dryly, he saluted.
"Comrade major," the captain muttered.
"Why are you here?" Ilyanovich queried. The other man hesitated, so he insisted, "I will repeat, comrade captain: why are you here and not in Felgentreu, reinforcing your position?"
"Comrade, the Fascists were waiting for us there. My men-"
Ilyanovic gave a step forward, his left hand motioning downward to point at the ground between the captain's feet.
"I've seen the report from the air regiment, captain! You were bested by a handful of old tanks in open ground! How do you explain that?"
The conversation was getting interesting in Katyusha's opinion. She walked forth, approaching the two other officers. Nonna followed suit but kept a respectful distance. Unaware of their movements, Ilyanovich kept chastising Andropov.
"It was an ambush, comrade major," the captain stammered, apparently shrinking in front of his superior's fury. "I didn't expect them to sacrifice their lesser units to draw us out."
"You should expect anything from the Nazis. You kill them, and you do it outright and brutally!" The major straightened, placing his arms behind his back. He now seemed a little calmer, but not by much. "Now, because of your failure the whole regiment will be diverted to take the miserable town you have failed to secure."
Now Katyusha could swear Andropov was about to faint. All color left his face and his eyes widened. She did not know what he had witnessed out there, but if the vehicles that had arrived with him were all that was left of his company, then that meant he had taken a proper pounding. As he hesitated to reply, she stepped in.
Ilyanovich turned around, glaring at the teenage girl as he did so.
"Comrade lieutenant," he grunted, almost as an afterthought. Katyusha didn't react, instead keeping her parade stance with feigned calm.
"Sir, I would like to volunteer Pravda Company to spearhead that mission," she declared.
"Now would you, Lieutenant Fiodorovna?" Ilyanovich mulled over the proposal for a moment. Although the major was known for his temper, the fact remained that he had a lot to contend with. The terms in which the offensive towards Berlin was launched basically put generals Zhukov, from the First Belorussian Front, and Konev, from the Second Ukrainian Front, in a race against each other. That meant that field commanders had to put up with both the well-entrenched German defenses and their own overly optimistic timetables.
In a word, there was not much time to lose, nor enough men to squander around in menial tasks. On the other hand, the regiment needed to capture that town to secure the flank, and she knew very well the depleted company under Andropov's command would never be able to complete that mission. Ilyanovich was about to send those men to their deaths out of pure spite. That's why she decided to insist.
"Pravda Company is ready and willing, sir. We would like to smack some Fascist skulls before this is all over with."
At this point Ilyanovich turned fully toward her. Very aware about how imposing his frame was compared to the short teenager's, he leaned forward, until his eyes almost met hers.
"Very well, Fiodorovna, I'll bring you along." Then he turned to Andropov. "Maybe you can show a few tricks to some of the other officers while you're at it."
Andropov's jaw dropped instantly. His eyes shifted to the girl, who now flashed a mischievous grin.
"S-sir? You'll bring the girls to the front?"
"Women have already fought and died for the Motherland, comrade captain. You should be more concerned with how your failure will look like in your service file. Consider this your opportunity to redeem yourself. Now go ready your men!"
Unwilling to face Ilyanovich's glare any longer, Andropov saluted and quite literally turned tail and ran for his life. Katyusha's grin grew wider as he did so. She could clearly see a promotion finally coming in for her. She only needed to take care of the Germans that would be waiting for her up ahead.
But Ilyanovich wasn't done yet. He turned back at her.
"Very well, you'll have what you want, little girl. Now do not fail me on this, or I'll send that pretty head of yours to Comrade Konev on a plate, is that clear?"
Katyusha straightened. "Crystal, comrade major."
"Good. Now go gather your people. You should be ready to depart at any moment."
With this said, the major walked away, giving the matter no more immediate thought. There were many more issues concerning him at the moment
"That went well," Nonna declared as she approached the young lieutenant.
"It went perfectly," Katyusha retorted, her grin never wavering. "Now we'll get to prove our worth to these jokers, Andropov included."
"You've heard what he said."
Katyusha turned around and started to stride down the motor pool. "I'm fully aware of what he said. But we won't fail. The Germans are collapsing all around us, and it won't be a couple of stragglers that will stand between us and our destiny."
"I thought our destiny was to fight and die for the Motherland."
The dry sarcasm didn't escape Katyusha, who spared an aside glance at her aide. They had known each other for years now, ever since they were just a part of the masses walking down the basin of the River Don to escape the fighting between the Red Army and the German invaders, four years ago. The orphan girls met each other and made a good team from the onset, with Katyusha showing a clear tendency to act, and pull others along with her, with Nonna's restrain being the balancing force that kept her ideas grounded. Together they had endured the long walk, surviving famine, disease, and even the dangers of being alone in such a tight cluster of despaired and opportunistic human beings.
Then they arrived at Stalingrad.
Their survival has always hinged on them depending on each other, and both were keenly aware of the fact. Which meant that Katyusha was uncommonly lenient to the humor of her aide compared to the ordinary Soviet officer. Then again, their company was all but ordinary.
"Hear, hear," she told Nonna, without slowing her stride. "Of course, I'm doing this for the Motherland." She looked over her shoulder to glance at Nonna. "But if we add a great victory to our file the better. Maybe that will guarantee some proper compensation when this is over with."
"So you're worried with your people's future. Nice to know that vengeance has nothing to do with it."
Katyusha snorted. "Don't be silly, Nonna. This is all about vengeance."
The current headquarters of the Pravda Company was set in a house deeper into the town. It was just a few minutes away from the motor pool, and the tank crews needed a place to rest, while the infantry needed a place to set their equipment.
Some of the unit's boys were at the entrance, smoking Lucky Strikes captured from the Germans. Funny how supplies and equipment tended to change hands so quickly in those frantic last days of the war. They were also talking to each other, ignoring the other Soviet troops walking back and forth, between the different buildings now used to accommodate the regiment. The few German civilians who stood there in face of the Soviet advance were also moving around, most of the times working for the invaders in one way of the other, further cluttering the roads.
Because of this the boys didn't notice the two girls approaching them until Nonna called out for them.
Recognizing the voice, the teenagers straightened, some even forgetting to take their cigarettes from their mouths, moving frantically to correct the mistake and give the lieutenant a proper salute. Katyusha kept her grin. Young and silly as those kids seemed at a first glance, the truth was that they weren't children anymore. The lumbering beast of an army that had crumbled under the German onslaught four years ago was no more, its weakest elements culled by the harsh reality of war. Those kids were now seasoned veterans, who barely remembered anything before the war and fought with a ferocity that put the adults to shame.
Being fifteen herself, Katyusha was no different. The only thing she could remember from before the war was the warm embrace of his father, the smell of her mother, and the smiles of her sisters, all of them lost in a single evening, when the Germans arrived at her village in the now distant Belorussia. That day Yekaterina died, and a demon was born.
Like the good soldiers they were, the teenage boys got out of the way to let her pass, and Katyusha opened the door unceremoniously, startling everyone on the living room on the other side. As she entered she quickly scanned the space. Some of the girls were on the farthest corner, talking while they drank some local brew from the same bottle. Some small groups of tankers and soldiers were spread around, and right in front of the door, propped on an old couch, was Sergeant Timur Pýotrovich Senk'ov.
As he saw Katyusha come in his thick mustache twisted, as he made something that could pass for a grin, while he pushed the scared German girl on his lap closer to him.
"Comrade lieutenant," he saluted, his hoarse voice echoing inside the room, getting the attention of almost everyone present. "It is a literal pleasure to see your face. Would like to join me and," he looked at the German, "what's your name, dear? Erika?" His gaze shifted back to Katyusha. "I think it's Erika."
Without a hint of vacillation, Katyusha got in parade stance and glared at the girl. "Out."
Senk'ov sighed but got the cue and tapped at the girl's cheek, forcing a desperate yelp out of her mouth. "She doesn't know a word of Russian, comrade lieutenant. Geh weg! Sofort!"
The girl understood his broken German and immediately got up. She passed by Katyusha, yelling something at the grizzled sergeant, before running out of the building.
"Nice one, that girl." Senk'ov said, eyeing Katyusha with an expression that gave no doubts about his thoughts and was way beyond mere insubordination. "You don't need to know the language to understand certain things, you know?"
"I'm well aware. Now stand in line, we have new orders, sergeant."
The veteran grimaced and moved uneasily over the sofa. "You know, my dear, I was starting to enjoy this spot."
Now that was pushing it too far. Katyusha lowered her chin, sparing the man a cold gaze, and gave a step forward. For his behavior she could have the man shot right there, but, then again, he was great at commanding the infantry troops in the field, and in pushing favors to get the company some of the best loot. She needed him, but she could also get rid of him if he started to become more trouble than he was worth.
"Fall in line."
She noticed Senk'ov passing his tongue over his teeth, his lips twisting into a forced grin. He got up, his almost two meters of height towering over the short teenage girl. She had to look up to lock her bright blue eyes on his dark-green irises. For a moment it was as if he was about to crash over Katyusha. Even Nonna subtly took her hand to her holster. Then the old sergeant grinned openly, his stance changing in an instant.
"Of course, comrade lieutenant!" he said with feigned joy. "I was just kidding!" He glanced at the infantrymen standing nearby. "We all need a moment of good humor in this forsaken front, don't we?"
His laugh echoed inside the room, and some of the troopers chuckled along, albeit nervously. Senk'ov then turned around and started to issue orders, telling the soldiers to go get their gear and the sergeants to gather around the table on the other side of the living room. As he did so, he still spared a glance at Katyusha, observing her lean figure, before focusing completely on his job.
"So, tell me again why we don't have him shot?" Nonna questioned in a low voice.
"We need his experience. Don't you forget what he did for us back in Stalingrad."
"He's getting bolder, though."
Katyusha shrugged, and then holstered the pistol she had hidden behind her back for the whole time.
"If he ever stops being useful to me…" her voice trailed off as she stalked to the center of the room. The troops were already moving back and forth, pilling crates of ammunition and checking their weapons once more. Meanwhile the sergeants of the company were already gathered around the table, the infantrymen on one side, and the tank commanders, mostly women, on the other. Katyusha pulled a map from under the table and spread it over the top.
"So, what are we going to do, comrade lieutenant?" Sergeant Nastia Markova asked. Katyusha grinned at the older woman. Nastia was probably the best tank commander under her, a young woman who lost her husband, a soldier in the Red Army, in the fighting around Moscow back in '41. Having lost her reason to live, she sold everything she had to buy a T-34 and join the army. But no one would take such a young widow seriously, until she crossed paths with Katyusha and Nonna in Stalingrad, and quickly became the first recruit in their impromptu tank company.
"Well, it seems Andropov screwed up again, and we were asked to clean up his mess."
"So, they finally decided to call in the real soldiers?" one of the boys on the left side of the table said, flashing a wolfish grin at the lieutenant.
"Did you have any doubts, Dima?"
The young sergeant, just a couple years older than Katyusha herself, had joined the company just before the start of Operation Bagration. Like most reserves, he had a rough time during his first few weeks, but a few examples of surprising courage had been enough to earn him a place in the company. Senk'ov himself had asked Katyusha to promote him to his current post, so he could have him leading men into battle. Knowing very well not to waste talents, she had followed up with the advice.
"I like your enthusiasm! Recalls me of my younger years." Senk'ov leaned over the table. "Did the Germans remember to give a name to this place where we are to kill them next?"
"Indeed they have." The grin in Katyusha's face grew. She grabbed a combat knife that someone had left on the table and stabbed it at a small point on the map. "Felgentreu is where we'll go. And there we shall bury the Fascists!"
Well, this has been quite the hiatus. Sorry for that folks. I must admit the guilt is at least partially mine. Whilst this story has been more or less set in stone back in 2014 or 2015, I haven't had as much time for fanfic writing as I had in the past. Moving to a new house and relying more on oneself does that, I guess. However, it has always been my intention to go down this rabbit hole to its very end – it is the time for deliverance that has been eluding me.
This episode is not truly finished yet, but I do know where I intend to go with it, so I decided to start posting chapters immediately – you people have been waiting for too long already. The WWII Mondays from yore will not happen again, instead I will simply post chapters as I finish them. This means that I will post in a less regular fashion, but at least it will help me double my efforts to deliver.
As always, thank you all for the continuous support and the kind comments. They have helped me in keeping this project going. Knowing that people appreciate one's work and leave all sorts of comments, either positive or constructive criticism, pushes me to improve and make this the best story it can be.
Thank you and thank you again.
And now that Katyusha is definitively on the scene, let's see what the future holds for Maria and her friends.