Author's note: Hey guess what! I'm finally graduating! Yup, my last semester has been what's been keeping me away for so long. It's a real drain on time, energy, and imagination. But I'm back now, and the only thing threatening to separate us in the future is me getting a job that zaps me of energy. Well, I haven't got one yet so in the meantime I can start posting again. I don't own APH, etc.

The Chronicles of the Aftermath

Chapter 19: Rescue

There were days out in the Russian wilderness when Prussia wished he had thought to bring a straight razor. Aside from allowing the ability to wipe the sweat off his face, a daily shave would have offered some small comfort of normality to his life.

Even as an ex-Nation, Prussia found himself repulsed by the nomadic life- while battles or diplomacy occasionally drew them away from their lands, Nations were by nature the types to put down roots. It was all fine and dandy if you were a Nomad like Gypsy or Sami sure, but the Nomads were… kinda creepy that way- a people without a home…

The small group of five had to move fast and erratically, trying not to make their paths too predictable. On the other hand, they still had to find Russia. The balance was a difficult aim to achieve, especially when they had to travel through towns to find what meager supplies they could restock with. Belarus and Prussia had to remember to act like lowly homeless (the Baltics pulled off humility very well), not to mention the problem of Prussia's unmistakable coloring. No doubt they were wanted by the KGB, and the tell tale of the group would be the albino. But Lady Luck smiled upon them, and Prussia promised, when all the stupidity was done with, he'd like to talk to America to see if he couldn't pay her a visit. Vegas, baby- gambling your money away was way more awesome than gambling your life.

The Autumnal equinox had already passed and the chill in the air bit a little harder with each passing day. In an alleyway of Moscow, after the sun sank in its daily retreat, the five Nations huddled together for warmth, sharing some stale bread between them. They were not too far from the street, but were still invisible to the authority of the man in the military regalia. The man himself huddled against the cold, fishing a cigarette out and lit it, hands cupped against the wind. Latvia, who had been watching the man out of the corner of his eye, motioned to the others when a convoy vehicle stopped in the street. The motor sill running, the driver leapt out of the cabin, saluted, and entered into conversation with the first man. Still munching on their bread, the Nations turned their ears to the soldiers, hoping for the least bit of information. What they got was the mother-load.

"Ah, Sir, we were looking for you. They want your opinion on the Braginsky freak."

Make that the Mother Russia load. Prussia quickly laid a hand on Belarus's shoulder, barely shaking his head 'no' when her glare turned to him. The first man agreed to pay a visit and the two turned to the cabin, the first man taking the passenger's seat.

Prussia didn't know how the five Nations didn't make a sound when they made a break for the back of the truck, but they all managed to swing up before the truck pulled away. There was no sound coming from them, and they listened for the obliviousness of the two in front. It was then that Belarus snapped. Prussia only heard the screech of metal being torn away, a surprised dying gasp, and the muffled shout.

"Just keep driving," he heard the girl growl. "Keep going where you were headed, and you increase your chances of surviving." Prussia got the feeling that the driver was all too willing to accommodate for Belarus's orders. With the world being nothing but a wall of black to him, Prussia decided to sit back and get some shut-eye. He settled back, letting the rumble of the truck lull him to sleep.

"Get up, you lump. We're there." Prussia received a nasty toe to the ribs.

"Ow! Okay, okay, I heard you; I'm up." Getting his heels underneath him, Prussia pushed himself up, following Belarus out of the back with his gaze. One quick look behind him told Prussia that the driver's chances were not high enough.

"Prussia, change into his clothes." Estonia motioned to the driver, blood trickling down the back of his neck. Estonia had already stripped the passenger of his uniform and donned it on himself. He was completely unaware that had happened- talk about a catnap.

Prussia shrugged, and hauled the body over the back of the seat. "There's no way in Hell I think this'll work, but your call." When finished and armed with the man's firearm, he leapt out the back and the group started off. The night wore on and they were both gifted and hindered by the moonless sky. For Prussia, it didn't make any difference anyway; his hearing became more sensitive than most, turning his head left and right. He heard the expanse of the space, the dew slipping across the grass in their wake, the nerves in the rustle of the Baltic's clothes, and the determination of Belarus. He could hear the blood in his veins pace with the anticipation of battle.

"Move faster!" Belarus hissed.

Lithuania was gasping for air, "We can't see too far ahead, Miss Belarus. Besides, we need the energy to make the getaway." Prussia and Estonia grunted in agreement, but Latvia whimpered. He lagged behind the rest. What a wimp.

"Quit yer bitchin'," Prussia snapped at him. "If you think saving Russia is crazy, imagine what he'd be like if they got to do all they wanted to him." As expected, the only one who had any response to that was Belarus. And that response was to shriek madly and jump to the head of the group, storming forward.

" 'All they want to him?' Those- SADISTIC PERVERTS! We've got to hurry!"

Between the four men, in the moment that followed, a telepathic event occurred. They never discussed it afterward. Eventually the building stood over them on the low rise, and they slowed their pace, alert for anyone one and anything. The only obstacle between them and it was a razor-wire fence, and a gate guard.

Instinctively, Prussia and Estonia took to the front in the stolen uniforms. As they neared the gate, the guard failed to notice them. Walking up to him, they noticed the stench of vodka on his breath, although he somehow managed to pass out while still leaning against the post. Belarus gave the man mercy (as she put it), and Lithuania got a new disguise.

Inside the gate, an idea occurred to Prussia. "Belarus," he spoke in a low voice, "how good are you at feigning fear? There might be a chance that they won't recognize you, and think you're just some common prisoner."

"Why not just kill the bastards?"

"Let's avoid attention as long as possible, it increases our chances of saving your brother."

Belarus 'ah'ed and nodded curtly. Then she stopped in her tracks, and fished around her pockets. "Then take these." She pulled out four knives and held them out to the other Nations. "One stab at the base of the skull is enough. If you are quiet, they won't even know what happened." Prussia pursed his lips into a scowl: the whole operation wasn't his style and didn't meet his standards for honor, but he took a knife anyway. The Baltics reached for theirs more nervously. Everyone took up their positions again and entered the building.

Belarus's idea proved indispensible. The prison warden barely had a chance to look up from his newspaper before that the owner of that sweet little face plunged her knife up into his jaw and far deeper. It came free with a small twist to break the suction. She wiped the blade off on a dry part of the man's sleeve.

"Can't we just knock them out, or something?" Latvia still hung back.

" 'Dead men tell no tales.'" Estonia reached over the red river, slipping the man's pistol out of its holder. "Take this, Latvia. We'll need it later, I think." Estonia searched the pockets for the keys, and retrieved them. The man impressed Prussia; it looked like he was getting the hang of it. Prussia snatched up the clipboard and from the desk and handed it over to Lithuania.

"Find Russia's cell number. I'm still adjusting to the light," Prussia said, straining his ears for sounds further in.

"Braginsky, one-fifty-one."

Belarus grunted. "Let's go then."

In formation, they slipped through the hall eyes casually glancing at the numbers on the doors until Estonia turned abruptly toward one, and fished out the keys. There was a jingle of metal, and the lock gave way. He and Lithuania took guard outside as Prussia, Belarus and Latvia slipped in.

Although Prussia could spare Russia no sympathy as his captive, the scene before him made his gut quail. Belarus practically leapt across the small room, hovering over her brother. Russia was pale, he had as little color left in him as Prussia had, and his shallow breaths were catching before they reached his blue-tinged lips. He was shirtless, and an inflamed ridge of flesh rose from an operational scar, looking particularly repulsive over the heart and visible ribs. Prussia pursed his lips and swallowed back his bile- in this century there had been far too many leaders who should have never been.

"Brother! Brother!" He was being dredged to the surface of awareness, but all Russia wanted to do was sink back down again. "Brother, wake up!" There was someone shaking his shoulders, and the silt of sleep was loosened around him. How sore his throat was. He opened his eyes and rolled his head around. Faces focused. Belarus. Russia almost screamed at the sight of his sister, but someone clamped a hand over his mouth.

"SHHH! It's us. Stay quiet." It was that albino of his, Prussia, plus an unkempt beard. "We figured they got you when you didn't show up." Slowly Prussia removed his hand. "It's nighttime; we have to move quickly and quietly if you want to escape. Can you get up?"

Russia opened his mouth to speak, but all he issued was a wispy rasp. It was then that he remembered: they wanted to silence the populace and stop his screams, so they severed his vocal chords. Russia shook his head. He got his knees under him, when the other two realized he was handcuffed and ankle-chained. One fierce cut of the knife and two carefully aimed bullets solved that. His sister and the two satellite Nations hauled him to his feet and before he knew it, they charged out the door.

"Shit, why'd you fire?" the guard on one side of the door had Lithuania's voice, and in the flurry of movement, Russia thought the other looked like Estonia.

"Shackles, and we need to run fast." Prussia snapped, already hurrying down the corridor; he slung Russia's arm around his shoulder and supported the small of Russia's back, dragging him along. Belarus pulled him by the other hand.

"Well, we do now! Why couldn't you have waited till we got outside?" Russia's head pounded, he was blind by the head rush, and he couldn't get a proper breath in.

"I'll plan further ahead next time." One of Prussia's typical curt replies. "Now RUN!"

"What?" came the squeak of Latvia's voice. Russia heard the distant pounding of feet, and he got his straightened out. They bolted this way and that, shots being fired every time a figure would appear in the distance, but the faculty doors came into blessed view. It was Estonia and Lithuania who swung them open, and as the others bolted out, they slammed them shut. It was a straight shot to the open gate, and beyond that was the cover of darkness. Russia couldn't feel anything but the pounding scream of escape.

Into the night they ran, down a slope of wet grass. They kept their slip ups to a sharp hiss, and paid the bumps and bruises no mind. Ahead in the darkness, a convoy sat parked before them, and there Lithuania broke off from the group, leaping up onto the foot board of the cabin, opening the door and hauling a body out of the front seat. The others dragged Russia along to the back. Prussia and Estonia gave him, Latvia and Belarus a leg up before swinging up themselves. "GO!" shouted one of them, and the truck roared to life, jerking them around as it started to move.

The sudden jarring shook off Russia's adrenaline rush. He didn't realize how badly his heart was pounding; it felt ready to rupture. His lungs burned and his skull weighed down on him. He felt himself hitting the floor, dizzy, gasping and coughing at the strain. He then felt the warm presence of others huddling around him, and he couldn't stay awake any longer. Russia sighed. He was safe.