Night Witches: the 588th Regiment

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Poh Tun Kai

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Jan 5, 2016, 9:08:54 PM1/5/16
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Natural-born Soviet airwomen! Announce your names and ranks for roll call!

And we'll use this thread for our stoey recaps and future planning.

Kumiko Yamazaki

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Jan 6, 2016, 9:19:49 AM1/6/16
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Junior Lieutenant Elena "Eli" Sheremetova

Section leader, 3rd Squadron Air Section 3B


On Wed, Jan 6, 2016 at 10:08 AM, Poh Tun Kai <ptik...@gmail.com> wrote:
Natural-born Soviet airwomen! Announce your names and ranks for roll call!

And we'll use this thread for our stoey recaps and future planning.

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"She's so many women 
He can't find the one who was his friend 
He's hanging on to half her heart 
He can't have the restless part
So he tells her to hasten down the wind"

- The Late Great, Warren Zevon.
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Poh Tun Kai

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Jan 6, 2016, 8:16:54 PM1/6/16
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Errr, thanks. I'll also need the full name of Darren's character.

Poh Tun Kai

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Jan 19, 2016, 12:05:20 PM1/19/16
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Gertrude: For a soldier of Karlsland, discipline comes first! Second is discipline! Third is discipline, and fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth are also discipline!
Erica: (sleepily) What's tenth?
Strike Witches, episode 7
 
* * *
 
Duty Station 1: Engels Airdrome, February-April 1942
Airfield on the Borderlands
Accelerated training under Major Marina Raskova has begun at the Engels Aerodrome, across the Volga river from Saratov. Classroom and ground-based instruction happens at Engels, with flight exercises and tactical problems conducted out of a rough field near Tambov that simulates combat conditions. The pace is brutal and the stakes are high - anyone falling behind is immediately washed out.
Flights out of Engels and the auxiliary field at Tambov happen nightly in cold weather, through rain and snow. The pace of instruction is relentless - three years of training are compressed into four months. Hanging over everyone’s head are qualification flights for piloting and navigation, as well as the specter of the final exam, an actual combat mission over German positions.
 
* * *
 
I talk the players through arrival at the airdrome. They meet a gruff supply sergeant, as well as the encouraging Captain Lobodeva, regimental Chief of Staff.
We meet our heroines, and as we do the players start filling in details. Doug plays Junior Lieutenant Elena "Eli" Sheremetova (Nature: Owl) and Darren is Sergeant Yekaterina "Katya" Trushina (Nature: Hawk). 
  • Eli is a Moscow-born beauty whose sister has already given her life for the Motherland. She will not write home until the war is over. As long as the struggle continues, she is silent to her mother. No letters home? That's kind of grim, I note. If not for the war she might be dancing as a ballerina.
  • Katya is a Ukrainian farm girl who lost everything when the Germans invaded. She knows how to fly a crop duster and she's got the motivation to serve her country. That's enough. Darren seems to want to play her as a ruffian, so it's funny that Katya ends up being surprisingly good at getting things done by socialising with other soldiers.
  • We meet a few of their fellow air crew: Sasha, excitable redhead. Mariya, who is slow to take off, slow to land, and good with reports. Lydia, Mariya's best friend and as quick as Mariya is slow. Galina, an outspoken young Aeroflot pilot.
They take the Oath. Yes, I make the players repeat it.
I, [NAME], promise to rise to the defense of my Motherland, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, as a fighting man [sic] of the Worker’s and Peasant’s Red Army, I promise to defend it bravely, skillfully, with dignity and honor, sparing neither my blood nor my life itself for the achievement of total victory over our enemies.
The next day in political consciousness class, the pilots meet the woman who may become their most dogged enemy, Captain Olga Barsukova of the NKVD, and her deputy, Lieutenant Svetlana Sheremeteva. We find out that Katya is quick to answer when asked whether internal threats are as dangerous as the Fascists. We learn that Eli's late father who died for the Revolution has a friend in the nearby logistical unit, and that she is warned not to draw upon friends for favours as this can be seen as treasonous. The recruits receive grim warnings about section 58-14, which deals with counter-revolutionary sabotage and is punishable by death.
 
* * *
 
After a week of monotonous classroom instruction under the tutelage of Captain Barsukova and Senior Lieutenant Petrova, they are formed into a three-aircraft section as part of the training squadron. Eli, the only officer among the bunch, is made provisional section leader.
3rd Squadron Air Section 3B:
  • Plane 033 - Pilot: Eli Sheremetova. Navigator: Sasha Baranovskaya.
  • Plane 069 - Pilot: Katya Trushina. Navigator: Galina Mirova
  • Plane 027 - Pilot: "Lazy Mariya" Karamazova. Navigator: Lydia Kurila
At this point, Darren has decided that Katya is gonna be a Protector with +1 Skill,
Our first mission: mock bombing, near Bogoslavka. Escorted by Tupolev SB's from the 217th Assault Aviation Regiment. Mariya is last off the runway, hesitating forever before even taking off. Sacha fails her Wayfinding, but Galina manages. Anyway, it's a day mission so there are no serious consequences. Then, close flying by the 217th ruins Katya's attack run. Eli makes her own run but suffers consequences after a near-collision with Lieutenant Ivanov of the 217th. Doug takes Marked as one consequence, which also dooms Sasha. But Doug had missed the part that said NPCs that get marked die, so we later work out a Player's Remorse (my house rule) where he takes back that choice for Eli and Sasha. Anyway, it's still early days.
Returning to base, the 3B women go through a tough scolding at the debriefing. Katya and Eli do their best to shoulder the burden, but Galina speaks up suddenly to lay blame on the 217th. This eagerness to report things to superiors may become an unfortunate habit with her.
Katya goes through an informal interview with Olga and completely blows it. She's marked down as a potential traitor! I decide the NKVD will show up in a couple missions to haul her away unless someone can protect her.
The Advance at the end of the mission causes Bonds to develop. Katya bonds with her navigator Galina. Eli starts a relationship with Sasha.
We skip forward some time.
Day Phase: Katya trails Olga during the day and finds that she is visiting Ivanov of the 217th. Reaching out to a mechanic named Dimitri, Katya shares a smoke and learns about Ivanov's friendship with Olga Barsukova. Most alarmingly, it seems Ivanov may have set up the crews from the 588th to fail in order to help Olga fill her quota of "troublemakers and reactionaries." Katya's intel also helps to build Mission Pool.
Meanwhile, Eli has to switch crew assignments around. Mariya is just too timid a pilot. "But comrade Lieutenant, I have taken reports from mechanics." "OH, you have?" "They say my plane has the least wear and tear. Other planes require more maintenance, but mine requires least." So Eli tells the story of her grandmother and two sets of gardening tools, one scuffed and heavily worn, the other still shiny new all these years because it wasn't used at all... With any luck, Mariya might actually understand the point of the story.
After Eli swaps Lydia and Mariya, 027 starts flying a lot better.
Eli has started an illicit relationship with Sasha, so she goes scrounging for - of all things - flowers as a gift. She does badly - they can't be had for love or money. Well, money, anyway. A well-connected black marketeer mechanic, Matty, tries to trade flowers for a roll in the hay with Eli, but Eli declines. She also takes Harm from lack of rest.
Night Phase: Major Roskova leads a live bombing exercise of a target representing a bridge. Eli's plane develops mechanical trouble during Wayfinding. From the "How is this plane fucked" table I work out that Eli's plane, 033, has a landing wheel hanging loose. Matty's sabotage, perhaps. Fortunately Katya makes a great bombing run. Eli sets her plane down safely in an emergency landing (Doug finds out about Roles at this time and quickly chooses Adventurer to survive crashes better).
Day Phase: Eli needs to get some rest to heal up her Harm. Sasha is really worked up after their near-crash and wants to do stuff with Eli in the storeroom, but Eli declines.
Damage needs to be repaired quickly or the plane will miss the next mission. Katya gets to work assisting the mechanics with 033. They cannibalise the reserve plane, "Footless" and Katya manages to repair 033, though it gains a personality: "Pride of Soviet Agriculture." It is a heroic cropduster indeed. Katya also pays a quick visit to the barracks of the 218th, the night bomber unit that will be escorting the 588th for the next mission, and she befriends Popov, an officer of that regiment. Other men of the 218th make nasty comments and mention a rumour that Eli Sheremetova is a lesbian. Popov shoots them down and insists that the sisters of the 588th be talked about with respect.
Just before the final night mission at Engels, NKVD Colonel Amonov arrives to take Katya away for rehabilitation. So Eli Acts Up to save her pilot, relying on her feminine wiles. She gets her way and keeps Katya, and she even scores a point of Mission Pool. But she does not avoid consequences for herself - I decide Amonov becomes obsessed with Eli and starts stalking her in the future.
Night Phase: Graduating mission. Flying a real recon and bombing raid against German lines, accompanied by some planes from the all-male 218th Night Bomber Regiment. The Wayfinding goes splendidly - Eli has switched with Sasha since Douglas realised that Eli makes a better navigator than almost everyone else with Skill +1.
Fires and camps can soon be seen below. In the distance, other planes of the 588th attack. Some are hit by ground fire, lighting up like torches. Katya must make a bombing run and ends up taking nasty consequences: Enemy Fire plus another plane damaged (GM's choice). I choose Lydia and Mariya to get shredded and have to put down. Meanwhile, 069 comes through without serious damage when Darren rolls very well on Enemy Fire. Shots go right through the plane, narrowly missing Galina (and freaking her out) but without doing real damage.
Eli, Sasha, Katya and Galina watch helplessly as Lydia lands wheels down on a country road not far from the front. And flips the plane. As Mariya can be seen dragging a screaming Lydia out of the burning wreck, our PCs decide to come back for their crashed crew.
The surviving bombers from Section 3B land at the auxiliary airfield at Tambov, along with Popov and his 218th planes. "We're going back for our friends," insists Eli. Popov nods and declares that he's fuelling up to accompany them by plane and run interference. Sasha and Galina are not so eager to volunteer for this risky job, so are left at the aux airfield.
Time to TEMPT FATE with a ground rescue. Katya and Eli commandeer a GAZ 3-tonne truck from the airfield and drive back towards enemy lines - and the crash site. They find a sobbing Lydia with her leg broken badly and a scared Mariya. No time to tarry - Eli helps get the crashed pilots into the back of the truck. But a German night fighter has located the burning wreck and comes in for an attack run. When Popov's plane interferes, the German pilot shoots him down for his efforts. Popov crashes in a fireball, no chance of survival. Darren rolls Tempt Fate for Katya and gets a 10! Amazingly, the strafing run misses and the truck makes it under some foliage, loses the enemy plane, and makes it back to Tambov. Everyone involved takes 1 Harm for exhaustion.
"You realise the 218th is going to blame us for his death?" Katya asks Eli with dread. But that's a worry for the future. For tonight, at least they didn't lose any airwomen from their section.
Each of the player characters gains an Advance to be spent on a custom Move. Eli chooses to be a better Wayfinder while Katya takes the Hawk move that lets her Tempt Fate with Medals instead of Guts. This is because she's met her requirements to advance as a Protector at the end of the Duty Station, and so Darren gives Katya Medals +1 - the Medal of Valor, in her case.
Lydia will be out of action for months and will probably miss the Regiment's move to the front. Duty Station 2 beckons. It's time to take the battle to the Ukraine.
To be continued.
 
* * *

Night Witches suits my GMing style. The game plays out conversationally with the formal structure dictated by the Regiment's day/night cycle, but a lot of freedom in how the fiction is created by the player actions. Each Day Phase only calls for a few dice rolls to resolve player moves like Act Up, Reach Out, Scrounge or Repair. These are the main activities for social interaction as well as building up resources to make sure the Section's planes keep flying and achieve their missions. Each Night, there's a Wayfinding roll to find the target and an Attack Run roll to bomb it. But if things go wrong, it could snowball into rolls on more dangerous activities, like additional Attack Runs, taking Enemy Fire, Wheels Down and even Behind Enemy Lines moves. Dangerous stunts that don't come under any of the other moves count as Tempt Fate (the entire truck-borne search-and-rescue sequence was resolved with ONE Tempt Fate roll).

Naturally, the machinations of the Soviet officer corps, the dangerous political atmosphere and the endemic prejudice against female aviators makes the friendly base almost as dangerous as the German-held lines. That's the whole point - to discover how these airwomen face all the challenges between the fire and the frying pan. And with the Apocalypse engine, they often have to choose between tough trade-offs. When rolls go bad, the players decide who gets sacrificed and who gets to be heroes. Much more interesting than letting the GM decide.

I'd love to hear comments from Doug and Darren about the game so far. When shall we fly again?

* * *
 
Important NPCs:
  • Sergeant Sasha Baranovskaya, Eli's lover and navigator.
  • Sergeant Galina Mirova, Katya's navigator and the section's tattletale.
  • Sergeant Mariya Karamazova, pilot of the section's third plane.
  • Sergeant Lydia Kurila, former pilot of the section's third plane and Mariya's friend. Wounded in action.
  • Captain Lobodeva, the 588th's Chief of Staff, who seems to treat the airwomen of Section 3B fairly.
  • Olga Barsukova, NKVD captain. Out to weed out "traitors" and "troublemakers."
  • Lieutenant Ivanov, the 217th Assault Aviation Regiment. An old friend of Olga's.
  • Dimitri, mechanic at the 217th. A contact of Katya's.
  • D. D. Popov, the 218th Night Bomber Regiment. One of the good guys. Dead.
  • Matty, mechanic, black marketeer
  • Colonel Amonov, NKVD man. Enamoured with Eli.

Kumiko Yamazaki

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Jan 19, 2016, 6:10:30 PM1/19/16
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Thanks for all your hard work on this report Kai.

Also, I ADORED the game...both the mechanics and how the GM ran it. :D

While it can be deadly to players in the long run. (marking tends to do that)  and it does encourage players to PVP for their own safety (which Darren and I have avoided thus far), I do love the way this rpg plays out.

Thanks again Kai..and Eli is ready to fly whenever you're ready to run and Katya is ready to cause some more mayhem with Eri!

DWL

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Poh Tun Kai

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Jan 19, 2016, 6:26:51 PM1/19/16
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One correction...Eli tried to scrounge for candy, not flowers. Will update that in the FB version of my post. And the RPG.net version.

Poh Tun Kai

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Jan 19, 2016, 6:31:57 PM1/19/16
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Interesting detail: you can get a bit of milk candy in your air crew survival kit. After a while, the survival kits started running out of milk candy as these items got eaten or traded away. The officers tried to discourage this practice...

Poh Tun Kai

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Feb 20, 2016, 5:22:00 AM2/20/16
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Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them. With Major Major it had been all three.
- Joseph Heller, Catch-22

* * *

Duty Station 2: Trud Gornyaka, June-August 1942
Welcome to the Churn

Two months have passed. The 588th has relocated to a remote field in the middle of nowhere, within striking distance of active combat zones on three sides. The thunder of artillery is constant. The badly battered Red Army is in retreat; communication and supplies are erratic. It’s time to earn first blood in the Don river basin.

The summer weather is good for flying and the Fascist scum have not quite learned how to counter harassment bombing. The biggest dangers come from inexperienced crews and your own primitive airfield, which is made of split logs and mud. Hay bales line the runway and are set on fire to guide damaged planes home. Circumstances are … not ideal.

* * *

I have Darren read the Duty Station 2 introduction for us. We also work out that:
  • Capt. Lobodeva is currently sick and in no condition to fly.
  • The cows keep eating the rope that's supposed to keep them from wandering onto the makeshift runway.
  • And the 218th Regiment, also based nearby, has already seen some action and has nicknamed a particularly persistent FW190 "Yellow-Tail."
 The supply situation is very bad, and our crews get a -1 ongoing for Scrounge and Repair at this Duty Station. Find it and fix it yourself. Welcome to the war.

On the train to Trud Gornyaka, Sasha asks Eli why she never writes home. "To my mother, I am as good as dead. My sister was always the favourite. I was only expected to be a ballerina. When my sister died, that was the only thing that mattered. So I have no mother to write to." "That's awful," says Sasha. "I have an idea. I...I am not good at writing. Could you...write to my mother for me? And you tell her things about yourself too. Like the mother you do not have." Eli agrees to do as Sasha asks.

Lieutenant Petrova pulls Eli aside for a private word. "I'm sorry to tell you this. You've done a good job as provisional section leader, but...we need to do a favour for a general. His favourite god-daughter, whose parents were heroes of the Revolution, she joined up too late to make training with the 588th. She's being assigned to 3B to give her a chance to earn her glory, to show her leadership. Please help us to watch out for her."

* * *

We cut to the introduction of Lieutenant Elizabeta Oktobrskaya, a pint-sized blonde fireball with a perpetually raised chin and a squeaky voice that belies her ambition and ego. She is trouble. She explains that she is energetic, ambitious, driven, destined, born to natural patriotism, brave, talented, and above all, humble. She promises to speak with the Major to ensure that the Section receives enough supplies and spares. As a former Aeroflot pilot she is eager to work with Galina, who is also an Aeroflot veteran, and we know Aeroflot girls have to stick together. The two of them will fly in plane 069.

Since Mariya seems to be the poorest performer in the section and has recently lost her pilot, she will be Eli's new navigator. Meanwhile, Sasha will be assigned to be Katya's navigator in the replacement plane, 082 "Footless." And just like that, with the existing partners all split up, the section's Regard relationships are now a lot less useful.

3rd Squadron Air Section 3B:
  • Plane 069 "Aeroflop" - Pilot: Sgt. Galina Mirova. Navigator: Lt. Elizabeta Oktobrskaya
  • Plane 027 "I'm Fucked," the Pride of Soviet Agriculture - Pilot: Junior Lt. Elena "Eli" Sheremetova. Navigator: Sgt "Lazy Mariya" Karamazova.
  • Plane 082 "Footless" - Pilot: Sgt Yekaterina "Katya" Trushina. Navigator: Sgt Alexandra "Sasha" Baranovskaya
Plane numbers may have changed due to a record-keeping mix-up. Also, Eli's nicknames for the planes are not flattering.

As Lt Oktobrskaya stomps off to see the Major, Eli quips to her deputy Katya: "I didn't know we had Zeppelins in this squadron. I've never seen so much hot air." Katya replies: "That's fine as long as she uses those connections to get Matty the spares she needs for our planes..."

Our players choose new Roles for the Duty Station. Douglas picks Adventurer for Eli, as she will be piloting now and might need to survive a tough landing at some point. Darren picks Leader for Katya since she is expected to lead attack runs. The drawback is that the only person Katya has under her command in 082 is Sasha, and Eli might not want to see her girlfriend die just so that Katya can pick up another Advance.

During the Day Phase, former airwoman Sgt Lydia Kurila comes by to visit. She's now a supply clerk with the regimental quartermaster. "If you need any help with supplies, I can help." Eli asks Lydia to show her leg scars and makes sure that Mariya gets a good long look at the damage from the crash she and Lydia were in. "Remember that this is what can happen if we get it wrong."

The scare tactic might have worked a little too well. After the visit, Mariya has trouble concentrating. Eli pulls Sasha and Mariya together for a map orientation session, to identify target areas and potential landing sites. "Mariya, do not be so anxious," Eli tells her. "It is not your fault that she broke her leg. But let this be a reminder of what is at stake."

Meanwhile, Katya takes a walk outside the base to scope out the situation - an Eyeball roll. The tactical area encompasses the western gateway to the Caucasus, consisting of birch forests, marshes, and fertile agricultural lands. Most of these have been abandoned, and cultivated fields make useful landmarks from the air. A major southeast-northwest rail line from Donetsk through Luhansk to Starobilsk is also a key strategic feature and navigational reference, as is the Donets River just north of Trud Gornyaka. The navigators look for structures around the Bryanka coal mines and long fire breaks in the forests. A skilled pilot can put a Po-2 down in one of these fire breaks in an emergency. Katya also notices that two other regiments are based nearby, down the road: The 217th and the 218th. Both of them have better access to the supply depot than the 588th.

With the morning's planning and preparation done, the women get some sleep - sufficient to avoid Harm.

Night Phase. Thanks to successful a Reach Out by Eli, the section has a point of Mission Pool when the first briefing occurs. Lt Oktobrskaya declares that they will be harassing German and Hungarian infantry massing at a crossing along the Mius river. There shouldn't be too much resistance. Elizabeta Oktobrskaya will Wayfind. Katya is assigned to make the first Attack Run. Eli will be Vedomaya.

The planes are soon up in the air, soaring over the Don River basin. The first thing Lt Oktobrskaya does is point her plane off in the wrong direction, completely failing in her navigation skills. The other planes opt to find the target themselves, late and alone. Sacha's navigation is enough to get them there. As it happens, Katya is able to make a pinpoint bombing run, and the airwomen fly low enough to see the German and Hungarian soldiers scurrying like mice along the river banks. The bombing successfully disrupts the troops on the ground. However, there was one negative consequence of Katya's attack - one of the planes in her section is damaged. I choose Eli's fuel pump to crap out as a result of this mission - not instantly so it's not a cause for Wheels Down, but it definitely becomes a supply problem as the entire regiment is short on fuel pumps.

I also abstract the rest of the night, which consists of more bombing runs against the Mius River crossings. Return to base, refuel, rearm and go hit them again. Except for Lt Oktobrskaya and Galina, who end up landing at another friendly airbase and waste the whole night finding their way home.

At the debriefing, almost on cue, Galina points out the failings of her commander to the NKVD officer. Cue Lt Oktobrskaya's shocked surprise. There is much facepalming among Section 3B.

Day Phase. The fuel pump problem is Eli's top priority. Lt Oktobrskaya claims she will help pull strings to get a new fuel pump, but her words are empty boasts. Other planes in the Regiment also need new fuel pumps - at least four in total. Matty the mechanic frowns as she tells Eli that they also need more cables and other spares. Eli sits down with Matty. "I know we've had our differences, but right now neither of us can do our jobs unless I can scrounge the spare parts we need. Please, is there any advice or help you can give?" She manages to connect with Matty. who gives her some tips on whom to ask, and some snacks to keep her energy up during the day. It's almost like they're friends now.

Eli starts putting together a team to go out with her to scrounge for parts: Katya, Lydia and Mariya. They drive a commandeered Zis truck out to the nearby village where the 217th is billeted - and also closer to the supply depot. Katya finds her contact Dimitri the mechanic and finds out that the regiment is currently being inspected by NKVD Colonel Amonov - not a nice situation to be in. 

A group of babushkas from the village approach Eli's group. "The soldiers are ruining our village, taking all the houses and looting everything. Please, can you get them to at least spare our farmhouses?" When Katya reports back about the presence of Colonel Amonov, Eli already knows what she must do.

Amonov is pleasantly surprised to see Eli, and immediately lights up and offers her a drink...some food...and all his hospitality. He's immediately distracted from his mission to find traitors in the 217th, to Dimitri's relief. He takes Eli upstairs for an hour or so, and Eli obliges him without question...fade to black.

Meanwhile, Katya is able to arrange for the 217th to spare some fuel pumps and supplies in exchange for Eli's diversion. And she even gets the soldiers to give the local villagers some peace. Everyone gets what they want.

Driving back, in a truck laden with spare parts, Eli straightens out her uniform, while Mariya and Lydia try not to stare at her. Then the truck lurches and jolts and plunges into a mudhole in the dirty road. It takes precious time and energy to get the truck un-stuck, by which time the women have taken Harm from exhaustion and lack of sleep time.

While Matty and the others unload the fuel pumps and get them to the planes, Eli sneaks into quarters and strips down, then starts towelling herself off (not enough water for a bath here) to wipe off the smell of the Colonel. Which is when Sacha walks in, sees Eli, and realises what has happened. "Sacha -" Eli starts to speak. But her lover leaves in grim silence.

Night Phase. Tonight, Lt Oktobrskaya tells Section 3B that they will undertake the bombing of the railroad crossing at Likhaya. 40th Army has requested the destruction of enemy rolling stock in advance of an attempt to retake the railroad. The Lieutenant explains her bright idea. "We had some...problems with navigation last night. But I have come up with a brilliant solution! We will switch all of the crew assignments in the planes!"

Eli and Katya share a worried sidelong glance.

3rd Squadron Air Section 3B:
  • Plane 069 "Aeroflop" - Pilot: Lt. Elizabeta Oktobrskaya. Navigator: Sgt. Galina Mirova.
  • Plane 027 "I'm Fucked," the Pride of Soviet Agriculture - Pilot: Sgt "Lazy Mariya" Karamazova. Navigator: Junior Lt. Elena "Eli" Sheremetova.
  • Plane 082 "Footless" - Pilot: Sgt Alexandra "Sasha" Baranovskaya. Navigator: Sgt Yekaterina "Katya" Trushina.
Katya gets the role of Wayfinder, while Lt Oktobrskaya will lead the attack run. Eli's crew gets assigned to as Vedomaya for Oktobrskaya's plane.

The section takes off into the night, and at first, things go well. Katya navigates perfectly and they find the railroad crossing with ease. But Lt Oktobrskaya flubs the bombing and fails to hit her targets. All along the rail, German troops light up the searchlights and truck-mounted flak guns start firing.

As Oktobrskaya turns back, her bombs expended, Katya takes action. "We're going in!" she tells Sasha. Surprisingly their luck holds, and the bombs strike true, destroying the targets and even some of the flak trucks. But some stray shrapnel damages the controls, and Plane 082 sputters further east into enemy territory and is forced to land in a firebreak. It's not a clean landing. Both Sasha and Katya take Harm and they attract a truck full of German gunners.

"Go after them," orders Eli to her pilot. Lazy Mariya is extremely reluctant. "But...standing orders say we have to go back to base..."

"You felt guilty about Lydia's leg? That wasn't your fault. But if you turn back now, if you don't go after Sasha and Katya, what happens to them will be your fault!" Eli's words convince Mariya, and they fly in, right over the German gunners. Eli's bold attempt to Tempt Fate is, again, astonishingly lucky. They drop their unexpended bombs ahead of the German truck, dropping shattered trees right into its path. Then they make a desperate landing right by the crash site, administer first aid to the wounded, and pack them onto Plane 027 as best as they can.

As Eli and Mariya's plane returns to base near the crack of dawn, they narrowly avoid being sighted by a sinister FW-190 with a yellow tail...and once again they've managed to escape disaster.

How long can their luck hold?

As it turned out in the next session, not long.

Kumiko Yamazaki

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Feb 20, 2016, 12:29:14 PM2/20/16
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Ah...the memories! Da!

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Poh Tun Kai

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Mar 5, 2016, 4:34:28 PM3/5/16
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Todd "Maniac" Marshall: Con, Con. This is Baker Three and Baker Four. We're coming in, and we're coming in hot. Get everything off that deck that ain't bolted down. Over.
Wing Commander (1999)

* * *

Day Phase. Katya and Sasha, despite earning a few scars for their trouble, are cleared for duty within a day or so. Their relationship is still on the rocks, and while Sasha does ask Eli to write to Mother to mention Sasha's crash landing, there's still a huge issue hanging between them: Eli slept with Colonel Amonov.

The Section's troubles have eased somewhat: 3rd Squadron's leader has been forced to leave her position due to a sudden pregnancy, or so the rumours go. So, Lt Oktobrskaya has been moved up to Squadron Leader! And Eli is Section Leader again.

Oktobrskaya tells Eli: "I know that I could not have made it this far without the help of you and Katya. So although I am now Big People, I will always remember you, the Little People. I want you to be Section Leader to look after 3B, and I want you to come to me whenever you need help."

Eli looks over at her depleted section. "We could use some more planes." They're down to Plane 027 "I'm Fucked" and Plane 069 "Aeroflop." Oktobrskaya asks Eli to put in a request for butter, jam and bombs - three things that the Regiment is currently lacking. She also asks to borrow Katya. "I'm visiting General Miroshnichenko for lunch today, and he wants to see our medal winner," she explains. Katya is more than willing to face the peril.

Eli doesn't get another plane. She gets another pilot, which now makes six airwomen and only two planes. Captain Lobodeva sends Eli a sullen, black-haired young woman named Tatiana Karpova, a Chechen from Grozny. "My father take me up in plane, teach me to fly, teach me everything." she says. "Now I join Red Army to kill Germans. And get away from marriage with ugly pig district supervisor, arranged by father. I hate my father. He teach me everything." She tries to present a smile to her new commanding officer, but it comes off more like a wince of discomfort. Tatiana is the most promising airwoman in the trainee section, and her preferred crew position is pilot.

Eli has a word with the Captain. "We don't need more pilots, we need more planes," Eli says. The Captain tells her that nobody has replacement planes yet. She'll have to make do. "Sir, I have an idea!" chirps Mariya. "The Major has a three-seater 'limousine' to ferry her staff around, right? If we just converted both planes to three-seaters, we could fly with the whole section!"

"And that would help how?" Eli asks, deadpan.

Back to the question of butter and bombs. Sgt Lydia Kurila is Eli's best contact in the supply office. When Eli and Mariya go looking in the office (actually a commandeered farmhouse in the village where the Regiment is billeted), they don't find the last of the butter, jam and milk. Instead they find Lydia feeding the last of the milk to the cutest little cream kitten they've ever seen. "His name is Comrade Vlad, I just couldn't leave him out in the cold!" says Lydia excitedly. Mariya dotes over the adorable creature. Eli isn't impressed at all. She puts in the paperwork requesting for more supplies, visits the necessary quartermasters and eventually gets the bombs and butter, but at the cost of owing a favour to Lieutenant Ivanov of the 217th, and taking 1 Harm due to lack of rest. Then she heads back to her bed to crash for the rest of the day period.

Lt Oktobrskaya brings Katya with her to the motor pool, where she requests a GAZ jeep. "We ride in style!" she tells Katya. "You drive."

Eventually they reach a distant house - a nice place, possibly once a mayor's home - somewhat farther from the front lines. Even so, the thunder of German artillery and the tumult of fighting is drawing closer. The German offensive is tearing across the Caucasus and the Red Army is losing ground every day. Lt Oktobrskaya and Katya meet with a table full of overstuffed officers having tea and cigars. While Oktobrskaya talks with the General, Katya gets to entertain Sergei, a skinny and nervous young man from Pravda.

Sergei knows little about the 588th. He's even surprised to hear that Katya flies combat missions. Women don't do that sort of thing, do they? Katya succeeds in Eyeballing Sergei's fear and nervousness and asks him why he's scared. "You're not afraid?" he asks. "Even though your entire base area is going to be overrun by tomorrow morning? At least, that's what I'm hearing from everyone." "Of course I'm not afraid," she replies. She was very brave, he writes in his notebook. I'm not dead yet! thinks Katya.

"I'm sure that our Soviet courage and fighting spirit will prevail against the Fascist invaders," she says confidently. He writes: She expressed faith in the fighting spirit of the Red Army. She was very confident. That was the last thing she told me. I will never forget her courage.

Katya does not very much appreciate being written about in the past tense.

The General's meeting with Lt Oktobrskaya comes to an end. One of the captains comes to escort Sergei away. "A-are we leaving the front lines?" the reporter asks timidly.

"Yes, don't worry," replies the captain. "I'm taking you somewhere much safer. We're going to Stalingrad."

When Katya gets back to the Regiment and ditches Lt Oktobrskaya, the first thing she does is find her Section to warn them that they might be overrun in the night. She can't trust her own friend Galina (the snitch!) and the new girl Tatiana is an unknown factor (Chechen terrorist!), so in the end she confides in Matty the mechanic and Lazy Mariya, tells them to be ready in case the Regiment gets attacked.

And then she gets some much-needed shut-eye.

* * *

Night Phase. Barely after she shuts her eyes, Katya is awakened for the mission briefing. It's nightfall and the sound of nearby shelling continues even after darkness.

Lt Oktobrskaya has called all section leaders of 3rd Squadron for the briefing. This time they're all going to support the Red Army's retreat from Rostov-on-Don by harassing German ordnance depots.

This is a particularly hard mission (that Doug's picked) for the section, because all planes have to take Enemy Fire en route to the target.

Eli decides that she can't risk taking a rookie out tonight. She assigns the most experienced crews. She will fly with Sasha. Katya will finally reunite with her partner Galina. "Sorry," Eli says to Tatiana and Mariya, "but you will have to wait a little longer to kill Germans."

3rd Squadron Air Section 3B:
  • Plane 069 "Aeroflop" - Pilot: Sgt Yekaterina "Katya" Trushina. Navigator: Sgt. Galina Mirova.
  • Plane 027 "I'm Fucked," the Pride of Soviet Agriculture - Pilot: Junior Lt. Elena "Eli" Sheremetova. Navigator: Sgt Alexandra "Sasha" Baranovskaya
They have no Mission Pool, although at least the most compatible crews are paired back up so they have some Regard bonus to work with. Eli will Wayfind. Katya will lead the attack.

Oktobrskaya tells them: "The enemy has been moving near, so ground crews will get ready to pack up and move base on a moment's notice. If you see the base abandoned when you return, fly on to the reserve airfield instead."

Matty and Mariya are placed in charge of packing up all their things and bringing them along if and when the base gets evacuated. Lydia also shows up and holds up Comrade Vlad so that he can meow the planes goodbye. How disgustingly cute.

As the engines start, Sasha shouts something to Eli. Something about Colonel Amonov. Eli cringes a little.

"I promise, I'll tell you everything when we get back," Eli shouts back over the sound of the planes.

The moon is half full tonight, which is still far more moonlight than anyone would like. The entirety of 3rd Squadron is strung out across the sky on this mission, eight planes including Section 3B. Eli uses her Intense Navigation to guide them choosing to take a Mark (Tell a war story) rather than take more Harm. So they're on target and on time.

And so is the enemy flak. The ground ahead lights up and a solid curtain of flak explodes across their entire horizon. There's no way to go but through.

Katya does remarkably well - another really lucky roll allows her to dodge between shots with perfect alacrity. Eli's Plane 027 takes a few hits, but not enough to cause harm, either.

Lt Oktobrskaya and her new crewmate also pass through the flak (Hard move by the GM). Suddenly now, her pilot is slumped over, the entire fuselage is soaked with blood, and the brave young lieutenant is struggling with the controls on her own. Remarkably, she's not hurt, and the plane can still fly.

Other planes in 3rd Squadron take some damage, but none of them go down as of yet.

They keep going. Now they're over the ordnance dumps. Already, searchlights are scanning across the sky. So Katya leads the way in with Galina, choosing to circle around the target and come in at an angle almost opposite from the rest of the squadron. Despite her approach works wonders, the entire attack is a close call. Eli's plane 027 takes some damage. Katya and Galina are Marked ((player chooses Marked for both Katya and Galina, which is a death sentence for the latter), while a nasty burst of flak rips through plane 069 (both crew Marked again and the plane is Damaged, triggers Wheels Down later).

Down below, the depot goes up in flashes, thunder and smoke. The other planes drop their payloads, scoring hit after hit. And now the Squadron must limp back.

Katya can't make it. Her engine is failing and she's losing too much altitude. Already there are flashes from the ground - German troops skirmishing with Red Army pickets in the dark. She is heading straight for it.

And this time, Eli's plane is too damaged, and Eli too exhausted, to attempt a rescue. She can only watch 069 go down with Katya and Galina aboard.

Wheels Down is disastrous for 069 (GM picks just about all the bad stuff to happen). 069 smashes through the trees, breaking into flaming sections, battering both Katya and Galina badly, and the nearby German troops are immediately alerted. With the last of their strength, the two wounded airwomen limp free of the wreck and blunder through the combat zone. The Behind Enemy Lines roll is not kind either - Katya will return late and unfit for duty.

The hay bales are still burning when they return to Trud Gornyaka for the last time. The base is a hive of activity, half-evacuated but still with ground crews running across the airstrip. 

Eli watches with cold dread as Lt Oktobrskaya's plane comes alongside hers. Oktobrskaya's landing gear is now completely gone. The squadron leader is trying to fly the plane herself, aiming for the runway, completely unaware that she has no chance. Her head turns slightly - she's seen Eli.

(what do you do, Eli?)

Eli just salutes. No warning, nothing. Elizabeta Oktobrskaya, bright light of the Red Army, grins heroically and salutes back. She's going to make it! She's going to make it! Oktobrskaya plows hard into the mud, her plane crumpling into a burning mess and coming to an instant, wrenching,final stop.

Eli's landing is perfectly smooth. She and Sasha are about to get out when they notice Matty's team of mechanic-armorers approaching with fuel and bombs.

Major Bershanskaya herself is standing on the back of a truck, shouting instructions through a loudhailer. "ALL PLANES REFUEL AND REARM. AFTER TAKEOFF WE EVACUATE THE BASE. BOMB THE AIRSTRIP. LEAVE NOTHING FOR NAZIS!"

Eli has no time to catch her breath, no time to grieve for Oktobrskaya or Katya or Galina. She does as she's told, takes off once more with the rest of the planes. As the last of the 588th abandons Trud Gornyaka, she banks in for one more attack run. The airfield goes up in gouts of dirt and fire.

* * *

Katya and Galina hooked up with a few Red Army infantrymen in the night, including some young rifleman named Sergei and a couple of wounded men who don't speak at all. But come morning, their hiding places are too far apart when a German patrol arrives.

(GM resolves Galina's Marks as brutally as possible)

Galina is caught instantly. "Where are others?" asks a Nazi officer gruffly, waving his Luger around.

Galina doesn't hesitate for long. She gets up, turns to point -

A Mosin-Nagant barks and Galina's brains exit the side of her skull. Katya did not miss. The Germans dive for cover. Katya, Sergei and the others quickly retreat into the brush and narrowly escape being caught by the enemy patrol. 

* * *

Eli wakes up in the infirmary at the reserve airfield. "You passed out after we landed," says Sasha.

They're alone for now. After all the events of the past day and night, it is a surprise that Eli can still speak. "I said I would tell you, Sasha. The story of the only time my grandmother ever slapped my father.

"He was just a boy, and his mother was seldom around. She worked hard on the farm, while he endured taunts at school about how his mother was just a dumb laborer. One day, he got into a fight at school over this. After she brought him home, she asked him why he was fighting and messing up his clothing.

"It was because we are poor and ashamed, and you are always working, he said. So she asked him what he wanted to do. He wanted her to work harder, so that they would not suffer.

"If he thought it was so easy, she said, he should follow her around work for one day. And so he did, and he say how she did sweat and bleed and suffer under heavy loads, all through the day.

"At the end of the day, he came to her to call out to her. She turned and slapped his cheek. An insect, she explained. But he thought, later, that he wished that it was for another reason, because he deserved to be slapped.

"And she told him that he didn't need to work like her, He had to study hard, to become a good officer, and make her proud."

Eli asks Sasha if she understands what Eli has to do for the Section. Sasha nods quietly.

Tatiana the Chechen punk suddenly appears, sliding out from under Eli's hospital bed and scurrying away. The little sneak.

* * *

It is several more days before Katya finds her way back to the Regiment at its new airfield, in the midst of the chaos of Operation Blau. She will receive a field promotion to Junior Lieutenant, as well as the Order of Glory, Third Class, for her heroism.

"What happened to Galina?" asks Eli.

"She didn't make it," replies Katya.

The dead crews, including Galina, are noted in a brief memorial service. There were no bodies that could be recovered.

At the end of the Duty Station, Katya will receive another Advance for losing someone under her command, as a Leader. But for now, she's out of action. 

Darren will take over as GM while I join as Tatiana. We look forward to the next session.

* * *

Important NPCs:
Lt Elizabeta Oktobrskaya, incompetent golden child, ex-Aeroflot pilot. Dead.
Sergeant Sasha Baranovskaya, Eli's lover.
Sergeant Galina Mirova, section tattletale, ex-Aeroflot pilot. Dead.
Sergeant "Lazy" Mariya Karamazova, miserable pilot.
Sergeant Lydia Kurila, supply clerk and Mariya's friend.

Captain Lobodeva, the 588th's Chief of Staff, who seems to treat the airwomen of Section 3B fairly.
Olga Barsukova, NKVD captain. Out to weed out "traitors" and "troublemakers."
Lieutenant Ivanov, the 217th Assault Aviation Regiment. An old friend of Olga's.
Dimitri, mechanic at the 217th. A contact of Katya's.
D. D. Popov, the 218th Night Bomber Regiment. One of the good guys. Dead.
Sergeant Matilda "Matty" Zurova, mechanic, black marketer.
Colonel Amonov, NKVD man. Sleeps with Eli.

Poh Tun Kai

unread,
Mar 5, 2016, 4:41:12 PM3/5/16
to Gamers of Kuala Lumpur
Also, after that last scene with Eli and Sasha, I asked Doug if he wanted me to put the boot in one more time.

A doctor comes up to Eli and said that they checked her after she passed out, to see if she was all right.

"You're pregnant."

"I see."

"Do you want it...taken care of? Discretely?"

"Yes. Thank you."

Poh Tun Kai

unread,
Mar 10, 2016, 10:42:18 AM3/10/16
to Gamers of Kuala Lumpur
Sgt Tatiana Karpov writes a letter home.

* * *

Dear father, I hope you and Mother are well. I still hate you.

The last few days were very eventful. Some of the girls lost their lives when their planes crashed coming back from a raid, and shortly after that we were ordered to pack up and move base! Our bombers even blew up the airstrip to make sure the Fascists have nothing left to use when they arrive.

Third Squadron Leader Lieutenant Oktobrskaya, the stupid woman I told you about, is dead. She was one of the pilots who crashed and died the other night. Also, Sergeant Trushina crashed and barely made it back to our lines alive. This means there are vacancies, and I will be given the chance to fly in Section 3B very soon. My direct superior is the other stupid woman I told you about, Lieutenant Sheremetova, who has been promoted to full lieutenant. I do not know if she will become the new leader of Third Squadron, but at least she knows which way North is. Whoever they put in overall command of Third Squadron cannot possibly be as incompetent as Oktobrskaya.

I hate the other girls, but I cannot wait to finally fly alongside them. At last I can use the flying skills you taught me. At last I can use the hatred that you planted in my heart like a rotten fruit. I will take my hatred for you and the love of flying that you gave me and I will soar in the night and kill many Fascists.

But the supply situation is very bad. We are constantly retreating towards the Volga, and I don't think there will be anything left of the Ukraine in friendly hands by the time snow comes.

I have to finish now because I can hear Lazy Mariya screaming because she just noticed that I stole her last jam ration.

If you never hear from me again, remember that I still hate you.

Tatiana
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