Author Topic: Operation Rod of Iron: AU fic  (Read 15673 times)

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Offline TimM

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Re: Operation Rod of Iron: AU fic
« Reply #135 on: May 16, 2018, 05:22:39 PM »
No doubt the Communists didn't want too many armed civilians.  Might give them ideas.
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Offline Nictionary

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Re: Operation Rod of Iron: AU fic
« Reply #136 on: May 19, 2018, 05:50:19 AM »
January 12, 1920

   At the banya in Gus-Khrustalny, a small industrial town, men were hitting themselves with bath brooms and making noise in the steam.  A tall, bearded man in his forties sat on a bench talking with a man of similar age.  The two did not notice when Andrei Churkin sat down on the bench in his no-frills blue felt hat and began to hit himself.  Churkin maneuvered his way closer to the two men as he did so, glancing at the bearded man’s face.  He noticed that the two were speaking in German but the other men’s noise prevented hi, from making out their words.  Churkin was the youngest member of the Intelligence Section O squad that had been rushed to Gus-Khrustalny, twenty-five milyas east of Moscow, to close in on the “bastard,” whose extensive travels had brought him to the sleepy town.
   The bearded man was thought to be Yakov Yurovsky, the lead murderer of the Imperial Family.
   After weeks and months, thousands of hours of reconnaissance, frustrating waiting and watching, Yurovsky’s trail had finally been picked up by the Intelligence Section’s assassination squad.  In a few hours they would be sending him into the next world.  The operational and intelligence achievement this assassination represented would be immense, more significant even than the Shimmering Light.
   The hunt for Yurovsky had stretched across Russia since March.  White agents rattled their contacts for several months until a tip-off came through in December 1919 that Yurovsky had traveled to Moscow for a job interview for a top administrative post.  The tip even came with an address where Yurovsky was said to be staying: a quiet hotel on Tverskaya Ulitsa.
   But just as Intelligence Section agents moved close to the hotel to begin surveillance of Yurovsky, their target slipped out of the hotel by a back entrance and disappeared.
   With White agents hot on his trail, Yurovsky, not a stupid man himself, got busy setting up his own personal security. He wanted to avoid the Intelligence Section and to make the Whites look bad at the same time.  So he arranged with volunteers to get themselves recruited by the Intelligence Section.  Their job was to feed the Whites a series of dates and locations that would map his movements. Not his real movements, of course, but the ones he wanted them to believe.
   In the winter of 1919-1920, White intelligence received information that Yurovsky was near the town of Berezniki; then they got word that he had moved to Kazan; then back to Berezniki.  Next, he went southwest to Ryazan, on the shores of the Oka River, where the trail went cold.
   Most of the agents in the Rod of Iron team responsible for the earlier killings were exhausted by the end of 1919, and Bylinkin, the senior White agent in charge of the assassination team, promptly and hastily began to assemble a new squad of agents in order to locate Yurovsky and kill him.
   At least fifteen White agents were picked out for Yurovsky’s assassination: Bylinkin as team leader, two to carry out the killing, two to provide cover, two agents specializing in logistics, a communications expert, and seven more to fill in where required.  Bylinkin travelled under a passport as Filipp Andreevich Chmykhov.  His deputy Yaroslav Mikhailov posed as Anton Vedeneyev, a schoolteacher from Nizhny Novgorod.
   Bylinkin also brought in Ruslana Havrysh, a beautiful Ukrainian woman recruited by the intelligence section while working as a laundress for the Volunteer Army.  She had already crisscrossed Russia on missions for the Whites, carrying a fake passport and pretending to be a Latvian writer called Kaiva Strautmane.  Other agents involved included “Pavel Shulgin,” “Angelina Lyalyushkina,” “Stanislav Anosov,” “Danila Putilov,” and a stunning auburn-haired female agent known as “Rakhila.”
   Andrei Churkin, a twenty-five-year-old blond, was also recruited.  Churkin grew up in Vladimir Guberniya.  He was supposed to help the team of assassins pick their way around the region and smooth over any problems the Whites had in adapting.
The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.

Albert Einstein

Offline Nictionary

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Re: Operation Rod of Iron: AU fic
« Reply #137 on: May 19, 2018, 05:53:14 AM »
In his first major Intelligence Section assignment, a thirty-six-year-old Estonian called Heigo Viiding was recruited to help, and Bylinkin also recruited Prokhor Naumov, twenty-seven, as the communications specialist.
   Of the two killers, one was tall, blond, and travelled on a false passport identifying him as Yefim Karaulov from Astrakhan.
   On December 30, 1919, the Intelligence Section also approached Vahagn Ispiryan, a thirty-six-year-old Armenian working as a quartermaster for the Volunteer Army.
   The Armenian arrived in Vologda with two other Intelligence Section agents on January 4 and rented a large apartment for six months, which was to be used as a safe house for the operation.  He also had fifteen keys cut for the apartment and arranged delivery of six sets of sheets and bedcovers.
   At this point the Whites were no closer to locating their target.  It was not until January 5 that Bylinkin and his unit received a tip that Yurovsky was living in Vladimir Guberniya.  He was about to receive a visit from a mysterious young Latvian living in Moscow, who had taken a train towards the east on short notice.  The Intelligence Section suspected the man, Gatis Dreimanis, of serving as an emissary for VTsIK, the Soviet Central Executive Committee.  Dreimanis, twenty-eight, a dark, handsome Latvian, had left Moscow for a meeting with the administrative job candidate, Yakov Yurovsky.  A new government department was being created to replace the People’s Commissariat for State Control.  According to Intelligence Section estimates, Yurovsky was being considered for a top role in the new department, and VTsIK was sending Dreimanis to meet with him to inform him of his appointment and deliver some official papers.  The Intelligence Section immediately began hunting for Dreimanis in the hope he would lead them to their target, eventually tracing him to Vladimir.  Then he disappeared.
   With what they thought was the initial link to Yurovsky uncovered, the rest of the White team made preparations to leave for Vladimir Guberniya.  Their mission was to locate the two men who were set to rendezvous— Dreimanis and Yurovsky.  The team arrived in Vladimir by various routes, and under a variety of cover names and identities.  On January 9, after an exhaustive four-day hunt, the trackers learned that Dreimanis had already left Vladimir for the small town of Gus-Khrustalny, which nestles along the shore of the Gus River, eight milyas to the south.  It was a strange destination for a man the Whites suspected of delivering important information and documents to a senior Bolshevik.  There could be only one conclusion: Dreimanis was in Gus-Khrustalny to meet Yakov Yurovsky. 
   The ten members of the O squad, led by Yaroslav Mikhailov, hired sleighs and followed him as he drove down to Gus-Khrustalny.  Despite the unforeseen location, the Intelligence Section’s estimate remained the same: Dreimanis and Yurovsky would still meet, most likely in Gus-Khrustalny.  They found Dreimanis staying at the small Meshchyora Hotel.  Posing as traveling peddlers, two of the White agents even managed to sit next to Dreimanis in the lobby as he idly read a newspaper.
   White intelligence gathering was incessant and earnest, but the intelligence itself was often of medium to poor quality and incomplete.  Low-level sources supplied secondhand information.  The Perekrestok division, charged with running agents, was still struggling to gain adequate intelligence.  Numerous case officers, scattered throughout Russia, invested endless hours recruiting quality sources. Despite their hard work and complete motivation, Perekrestok was not getting enough reliable information from its agents.  It received virtually no solid intelligence about planned Red Army moves and far too little information of the sort that could help in the planning of assassination operations.
   For twenty-four hours, the Intelligence Section team could find no trace of Yurovsky in Gus-Khrustalny.  Surveillance crews in four sleighs circled the city, searching the streets, canteens, and hotel lobbies, to no avail.  On Sunday afternoon, January 11, Dreimanis, who was being trailed at all times, sat in the tiny Restaurant Roman, near the hospital.  Two Jewish-looking men approached him and sat down at his table. The three talked intently for about an hour. To a member of the O squad, one of the men looked like Yakov Yurovsky.
The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.

Albert Einstein

Offline Nictionary

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Re: Operation Rod of Iron: AU fic
« Reply #138 on: May 20, 2018, 10:53:23 PM »
Bylinkin and Yaroslav Mikhailov were jubilant. “We got him!”  Churkin strolled inside to get a closer look, have some tea, and compare the man in the restaurant with an out-of-focus photo of “the dark man” he was carrying in his pocket.  He was not convinced that the Jew was Yurovsky, but one of his senior colleagues was certain.  The fact that the suspect left the restaurant a short while later and rode off on a bicycle did not apparently shake the agent’s belief that the man was their target.  The surveillance crews zeroed in.
   Dreimanis, his work apparently done, left Gus-Khrustalny on the 1519 hours train and returned to Vladimir, and the Whites switched their attention to the Jew with the bicycle.  By the next day, Bylinkin and Mikhailov were increasingly certain of the Chekist’s identity.  As they set about sculpting an operational plan for his assassination, the man went for a sweat in the local banya.  Churkin was sent inside while the surveillance crews waited outside.
   Yakov Yurovsky was a central target for intelligence collection; any agent working for the Intelligence Section was asked and pressured for information about the elusive Chekist.  But despite his high profile, operative intelligence regarding Yurovsky was scant, incomplete, secondhand, and in many cases arrived only after the fact: “Yurovsky was here…” or “Yurovsky visited there…” were phrases Intelligence Section case officers heard all too often. The decision to crown the man in the restaurant as Yakov Yurovsky was made on the basis of very slim intelligence. The available information was certainly insufficient to authorize an assassination. But all this can only be said in retrospect. At the time, the field operatives were certain that Yakov Yurovsky had met with Gatis Dreimanis at the Restaurant Roman.  They had tracked the mysterious Dreimanis from Moscow to the remote town of Gus-Khrustalny.  The same man who met with Dreimanis spoke German at his next meeting in the banya—a language the Intelligence Section believed Yurovsky spoke well.  This was the deciding factor for the Whites.  They knew the dark man was multilingual: the man had to be Yurovsky.  And when the man in Gus-Khrustalny was matched up with another picture of Yurovsky, the final piece of the puzzle snapped into place: the images bore a remarkable resemblance.
   Half of the team immediately converged on the banya, and when the Jew left after his sweat the O squad followed him as he entered a store.  At noon, he exited the shop accompanied by a young Russian-looking woman. She had light blond hair and was clearly pregnant.  The two got on a tram, a surveillance sleigh following.  The couple got off at the tram stop in a residential neighborhood in the western part of town, and stepped into one of the new apartment buildings at Ryazanskaya Ulitsa, 10.  The commander of the mission, Yaroslav Mikhailov, instructed his team to station four sleighs and five surveillance posts around the building, to cover all exit and entry points.  Mikhailov did not intend to let the prey escape this time.  The O squad was told to stay alert and to blend in with their surroundings.
   Some members of the White team apparently found it hard to believe that the Jew who left the Restaurant Roman on a bicycle was their target and continued surveillance of Dreimanis.  However, he booked himself into the Hotel Vladimir in Vladimir, talked to the staff about how he was soon leaving for Moscow, and left for the capital the next day.  Once Dreimanis had left the guberniya, Bylinkin and his team became convinced the bicycling Jew was their target. The entire team converged on Gus-Khrustalny.
   Meanwhile, the A squad— “Yefim Karaulov,” “Kondraty Kazantsev,” and “Valeriy Arzamastsev” — arrived separately at the Barinov Grove hotel outside of town.  The assassins waited for a message from Bylinkin.  An hour later Colonel Ryasnyansky, the head of the Intelligence Section, also arrived in the region on a fake passport, undercover, to monitor the operation; he checked into the Flyad Hotel south of Gus-Khrustalny with a bodyguard.  Mother Russia would soon have its revenge on the man who murdered the czar.
   Working in shifts, the White agents had kept up twenty-four hour surveillance of Yurovsky at his home in Gus-Khrustalny.  In the evening hours of January 12, 1920, they watched as he and his pregnant partner left the apartment for the local cinema.
The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.

Albert Einstein

Offline Nictionary

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Re: Operation Rod of Iron: AU fic
« Reply #139 on: May 21, 2018, 03:33:50 AM »
The couple did not act tense or anxious. They did not try to shake the surveillance. They went straight to the box office in Gus-Khrustalny’s only cinema and bought a pair of tickets for The Picture of Dorian Grey, a drama adapted from Oscar Wilde’s novel of the same title, written and directed by Vsevolod Meyerhold.  An excited and keyed-up member of the O squad sent a message to the rest of the crew, who were in the middle of dinner, to tell them to get ready. The squad spread out to their designated spots, coiled and waiting.
   No one on the O squad questioned certain incongruities. Why was Yakov Yurovsky, the hardened Chekist, who was known to be living in Yekaterinburg, riding a bicycle in remote Gus-Khrustalny—population: seventeen thousand?  Why was he so familiar with the streets? Why did he take a pregnant blond woman to the cinema?  Yurovsky was married and had three children.  It required a giant leap to assume that Yurovsky was leading a double life with a pregnant woman.  No one was sent to check his apartment, to look for documents or other intelligence material.  Bylinkin and his agents believed that they had found their man, even if it required a pernicious suspension of logic and several cut corners.

   At 2235 hours Yurovsky and his female friend left the cinema and walked in silence to the tram stop, trailed by White agents.  Bylinkin sent the two assassins to Krasnoarmeyskaya Ulitsa, where they waited in darkness next to a house.  The tram arrived at the stop and the couple boarded without hesitation. The O squad followed.  The couple got off the tram at their stop at Krasnoarmeyskaya, calm and relaxed.  They held hands, talking quietly to each other as they slowly strolled along Krasnoarmeyskaya Ulitsa.
   They were within sight of Ryazanskaya Ulitsa 10, walking slowly up the hill to their house, when a white sleigh coming in the opposite direction jerked to a halt a sazhen away.  With Kondraty Kazantsev and Valeriy Arzamastsev covering them from the driver’s seat, Yefim Karaulov and the female agent Rakhila leapt out, withdrew their silenced 7.65 mm Brownings in one fluid movement, and immediately began shooting.
   They fired continuously, pumping thirteen lead shots into Yurovsky’s body.  He fell to the ground clutching his bloodied stomach, and Rakhila shot him as he lay dying on the ground.  The screams of Yurovsky’s friend echoed down the road as the Whites jumped back into their sleigh and sped off down the hill.
   The bullets had torn through the man’s vital organs. The woman knelt down next to him, screaming wildly. A neighbor, a young nurse named Aleksandra Krylova, looked out of her window and went to summon the militsiya.  Within three minutes, the militsiya arrived.  Ten minutes later, an ambulance arrived; attempts at resuscitation failed. Fifteen minutes after arriving at the local hospital, the man was pronounced dead.

   According to the original plan, Bylinkin and the two assassins were to leave Gus-Khrustalny separately, then travel north to Vladimir as fast as possible; by the early morning hours they would be scattered throughout western Russia.  The members of the O squad also headed for Vladimir.  There, they were supposed to abandon the sleighs, turn over the keys to the rented apartments they had used during the operation, and sweep, making sure that no “tails” or footprints had been left behind. They were to wait a few days and then get out of Vladimir.
   
   In Tuesday’s newspapers, headlines announced the murder of a Jew by the name of Mikhail Abelev, killed in Gus-Khrustalny on Monday night.   

   A journalist and photographer had rushed to the scene right after the murder. Interviews with eyewitnesses and neighbors revealed the presence of strangers in sleighs driving around the neighborhood, pausing in front of the apartment building earlier that day.  The reporter knew he had a major story: this was the first murder in Gus-Khrustalny in forty years.  He had no idea what he really had.
   The reporter knew Abelev from around town. In a two-page article he described the man as a forty-one-year-old Jew who had lived in Gus-Khrustalny for the past two years.  His wife, Agrafevna Artemievna Abeleva, was a Russian.  She was in her seventh month of pregnancy.  Abelev, the articled noted, had moved from Minsk in to avoid living under German occupation.  He was a doctor, and supplemented his salary with a part-time job at the local banya.
The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.

Albert Einstein

Offline TimM

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Re: Operation Rod of Iron: AU fic
« Reply #140 on: May 22, 2018, 05:53:44 PM »
Ah, they got Yurovsky!
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Re: Operation Rod of Iron: AU fic
« Reply #141 on: May 23, 2018, 01:06:26 AM »
Vladimir papers raised the possibility of a connection between the arraignment of four people—Kaiva Strautmane, Anton Vedeneyev, Andrei Churkin, and Vahagn Ispiryan—and the shooting in Gus-Khrustalny.  The initial reports were unclear, unable to explain how the four detainees were connected to the murdered man. Some raised the possibility that it was a feud over stolen goods.  But the victim, said his neighbors, was certainly not involved in any form of criminality.  He was well known locally and led an exemplary life.
   Gus-Khrustalny was then a small industrial town.  The arrival of more than a dozen strangers had not gone unnoticed, and Abelev’s neighbors proved extremely helpful to the militsiya in the first few hours of their investigations. Several strangers had been spotted outside Abelev’s house in the days prior to the killing. Other locals said they had seen a mysterious group of strangers roaming the town.  One of the neighbors even caught a glimpse of the white sleigh used by the killers as it raced from the scene.
   It was a crucial breakthrough. As the Intelligence Section agents were fleeing Gus-Khrustalny and returning to Vladimir on their way out of Soviet territory, the militsiya had their first lead.  Bylinkin left Vladimir Guberniya on horseback and eventually returned to White lines, but on Tuesday morning, Vahagn Ispiryan was taken into custody.  He was using his real passport while fulfilling an auxiliary role in the Intelligence Section mission.  Andrei Churkin was arrested along with Ispiryan.  The two were stopped at the Vladimir train station abandoning the team’s sleighs.  They had no cover story prepared and failed to explain why they were driving sleighs the militsiya was looking for (the two sleighs had been spotted at a roadblock speeding out of Gus-Khrustalny—and struck an officer as suspicious). Neither of the two was an Intelligence Section combatant.   The militsiya, still unaware the killing had been conducted by the Whites, pressed ahead with their investigation.  Churkin — on his first operation for the Intelligence Section — was flustered and scared, and talked as soon as he was taken in for questioning.   He soon revealed details of their safe house, where two senior members of the O squad — “Vedeneyev” and “Strautmane”— were arrested.
   Mikhailov was a tough and stubborn man who did not cooperate with the investigators and stuck to his hole-ridden cover story, that he was Vedeneyev, aged twenty-nine, a teacher and librarian from Nizhny Novgorod, vacationing in Vladimir Guberniya.
   “Your name can’t be Anton Vedeneyev,” the militsiya investigator charged. “This man doesn’t exist. We checked thoroughly.”
   “So I don’t have a name,” Mikhailov answered angrily.
   Havrysh claimed to be a freelance writer on vacation who happened to meet Anton Vedeneyev, an old acquaintance, by chance at the Ryazan train station.  On the spot the two decided to travel to Vladimir Guberniya for a vacation.  There they met Ispiryan and Churkin and decided to share an apartment with them.
   The investigators were not convinced. There were serious contradictions in the four versions of events the detainees recounted. They could not corroborate the details of the time they lived together.
   When the Vladimir militsiya searched Vahagn Ispiryan’s belongings they found documents that led to the arrest of two additional Whites, Heigo Viiding and Prokhor Naumov.  In Viiding’s coat pocket, the militsiya found a train ticket from Vladimir to Nizhny Novgorod, set to leave at 2210 hours that night. As they searched through Viiding’s and Naumov’s suitcases and personal items, more incriminating evidence was discovered.  With Viiding and Naumov arrested, the number of detained Whites rose to six. 
   Even when in custody the White agents proved embarrassingly willing to disclose details of their operation.  The shaky Ispiryan, who suffered from extreme claustrophobia, proved most useful.  As soon as his cell door slammed shut he was reduced to a nervous wreck and began revealing details of the attack in return for the (unkept) promise of a larger cell with a small window.  Once it was clear that the suspects were White agents, the investigation was taken over by the Vladimir Cheka.
The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.

Albert Einstein

Offline Nictionary

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Re: Operation Rod of Iron: AU fic
« Reply #142 on: May 24, 2018, 02:07:11 AM »
The Intelligence Section’s humiliation deepened when the Cheka found a key on one of the suspects for a safe house in Moscow.  It was handed to the Moscow Cheka, who raided the flat and discovered keys to other safe houses in the capital.  They also found evidence that several of those involved in the Gus-Khrustalny killing had been involved in other Rod of Iron assassinations. 
   Blindly determined, the Intelligence Section had arrived in drowsy Gus-Khrustalny and assassinated a man whom they mistakenly took for a regicide.  The Cheka investigation and the detainees’ confessions revealed the incompetent, unprofessional behavior of many team members.  Adrian Bylinkin and the two assassins managed to escape by the skin of their teeth. Only by chance did they avoid being caught.
   
   When news of the arrests reached the Whites there was panic among senior government and intelligence officials.  “Losing” agents was what Admiral Kolchak had expressly warned against when Operation Rod of Iron was conceived.  White agents were in Red cells, and Intelligence Section operations across much of Russia were threatened. Panic turned to fury when Red newspapers revealed the true identity of their victim.
   The Government of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of South Russia was unsure how to handle the arrest of the six Intelligence Section operatives.  There were long conversations about the right way to respond. The basic question: should the White movement take responsibility for the assassination or try to distance itself?
   In Anton Denikin’s office in Novorossiysk, Colonel Ryasnyansky and Adrian Bylinkin
turned in their resignations in the presence of his chief of staff, Lieutenant General Aleksandr Lukomsky.  He refused to accept them.  “There are people in jail,” he said.  “You can’t get up and leave; there is work to be done.”
   On Sunday, four days after the episode was exposed, Denikin sent Lukomsky to Intelligence Section headquarters, to check on Bylinkin’s emotional and mental state.  Bylinkin did not blame himself for the mistake or the detention of six agents under his command. When asked about the embarrassing affair, he said, “I take responsibility upon myself, but not the guilt.” At other times, he said, “When the sharpest combatants succeeded, it was my success; when they failed, it was my failure.”
   The Cheka’s interrogation of the captured agents revealed the inexperience of some of the White agents assigned to kill the “dark man” and exact revenge for the Romanovs killed in Yekaterinburg.
   Many of the more senior agents responsible for the initial, successful assassinations during the Rod of Iron operation were exhausted after working continuously for months crisscrossing Russia, and their controllers gave them a rest. Thus, for the operation against the Intelligence Section’s most important target, the group leader Bylinkin was forced to rely on several amateur agents, who had little more than cursory experience of intelligence work.
   Just as the arrest of the agents represented the realization of the Whites’ worst nightmare, for the Reds it represented a dream come true.  After months of searching, now they had their hands on the people responsible for murdering their comrades. 
   Mikhailov, as the most senior agent in custody, knew he would do the most damage if he cracked under interrogation.  His stubborn nature enabled him to survive his first torture session with the Cheka without admitting anything, but he knew he was approaching his limit of how much he could endure without breaking.  The Cheka was going to torture him again, and this time it would be far worse.  When they came to fetch him from his cell for further torture, they found he had hanged himself with a rope made of strips torn from his shirt.
   The remaining detainees, unfortunately, lacked Mikhailov’s courage and determination, and the Cheka did not require much torture to make them sing like canaries.  Once they had been squeezed for all they were worth, all five received the inevitable bullet in the back of the skull.
   The bitter mistake that cost the doctor, Mikhail Abelev, his life, weighed like a millstone on the shoulders of the White movement.  The Whites’ image had been tarnished at home and abroad.  With outrage at the killing of innocent Abelev mounting with every new revelation about the Intelligence Section’s involvement, Anton Denikin bowed to the pressure and told the Intelligence Section to immediately suspend all operations connected with Operation Rod of Iron.  He also announced that an inquiry would be conducted into the Gus-Khrustalny debacle.  Bylinkin, however, was eventually allowed to conduct the inquiry himself.  The internal investigative committee prodded, poked, and probed.  The final report they handed in to Colonel Ryasnyansky detailed all aspects of the disastrous mission and the operational lessons to be learned from it, while at the same time absolving all those involved of blame, at which point several junior Intelligence Section officers resigned in disgust, and others wrote strongly worded protest letters to the Commander-in-Chief and the head of the Intelligence Section.
The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.

Albert Einstein

Offline TimM

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Re: Operation Rod of Iron: AU fic
« Reply #143 on: May 26, 2018, 12:03:12 AM »
This story is looking pretty good.

I love these alternate reality stories.
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Re: Operation Rod of Iron: AU fic
« Reply #144 on: June 01, 2018, 04:19:09 AM »
May 3, 1921

   When Yuryev and his team had received a message ordering them to terminate the mission in the aftermath of the Gus-Khrustalny affair, he had greeted the news with a mixture of shock and relief.  The news of the affair was shocking for three different reasons.  First, by killing the wrong man and being captured, their colleagues in Gus-Khrustalny  had committed at one stroke two of the worst sins agents could possibly commit. Both were disastrous mistakes by any standards, but Yuryev and his team were imbued with an additional sense of taboo about them. These were the two errors they were trained above everything else never to make.
   The second reason for their shock was that what happened in Gus-Khrustalny brought home to them for the first time how easy it was to bungle something really badly. Reading the papers, they felt like rookie racing-car drivers witnessing their first crash.
   Then, there was the third reason.
   Other teams. On the face of it, there was no reason why there shouldn’t be other teams.  They didn’t have a monopoly on the Bolsheviks.  No one had promised them an exclusive hunting license. Bylinkin certainly hadn’t: he had simply told Zakhar that he couldn’t answer that question when Zakhar had asked him. This was war; not a safari, with special privileges for Colonel Ryasnyansky’s guests to bag their own quota of monsters. If Yuryev had stayed in the army, he’d be fighting the enemy shoulder-to-shoulder with other units, and he wouldn’t dream of objecting if the neighboring unit started firing on the same target; on the contrary, he’d be grateful.
   Yet there was something about their operation, something so special, that they were profoundly disturbed by the thought of other teams doing the same thing. Who could tell why? They couldn’t quite put it into words. They were probably wrong about it anyway.
   Perhaps they gave every team the same list! Was it possible—Yuryev actually felt a sharp pang when this thought flashed across his mind—that back in Novorossiysk they didn’t even know which team got rid of which regicide?  “I’ll read about it in the paper,” Bylinkin had said. Was it possible that, even now, some other team was being credited with their work in Moscow, in Astrakhan, in Tambov?
   On the other hand, the order to terminate immediately and come home brought a feeling of relief to the team, all of whom were exhausted and homesick after ten months behind Red lines.  Indeed, Yuryev’s first words upon picking up the note from the dead-drop site were, “Thank you, Lord.”  He had then rushed back to the safehouse, and when Mikhail asked “So?” he had shown them all the message, saying “It’s over,” whereupon Mikhail had embraced him.
   “Home,” said Mikhail.
   “Yes,” agreed Yuryev.
   The team members decided to make their way back to the Far East in an attempt to track down their families.
   Yuryev was eventually able to trace Marfa to Chita, under the control of Ataman Semyonov’s Government of the Russia Eastern Outskirts.  By the end of the summer he had been reunited with her and rejoined his unit, and was finally able to meet Yekaterina, the baby daughter born in his absence.
   After the Gongota Agreement in July, which left Semyonov’s forces badly exposed, Yuryev and his family, along with most of Semyonov’s army, removed to China, where they settled in Harbin.
   A year after the mission had been terminated, however, Yuryev began to feel restless.  His mind kept going back to the mission, and the fact that thirteen of the men he had been assigned to kill remained at large.  He was seized with a desire to at least have a chance to hit the remaining men on the list.  When he had been a company commander, Yuryev was a firm believer in the practice of never breaking off an attack or abandoning a pursuit if he could see that the enemy’s ranks were breaking.
The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.

Albert Einstein

Offline Nictionary

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Re: Operation Rod of Iron: AU fic
« Reply #145 on: June 02, 2018, 02:24:14 AM »
Yuryev decided to summon the rest of the team and discuss it with them.  As it was, only four answered his summons: Feliks, Zakhar, Nikita, and Lazar.  The others either did not respond or couldn’t be found.
   “Thank you for coming,” said Yuryev, as he poured tea for the group gathered in his sitting room.  It was late March, almost a year to the day after he had first met these men.  “I know our mission is supposed to be over, but something has been bothering me.”  And he shared his thoughts with them.
   “Nikifor, this is madness!” said Zakhar.  “The war is over, those Bolshevik scoundrels have won, and if you think otherwise you’re deluding yourself.  With no war to distract them, they’ll be onto us in no time if we resume the mission.”
   “I agree with Zakhar,” said Feliks.  “Besides, it would be disobeying orders.  We were ordered to stop and we must stop.”
   “But this isn’t disobeying for mere vanity, insubordination or fanaticism,” protested Yuryev.  “It’s about finishing what we started, and doing justice for the House of Romanov.”
   “I agree with your sentiments,” said Nikita, “but I must concede that both Zakhar and Feliks make good points.  We’d get caught before we finished the remaining thirteen, and it would be insubordination.”
   “But what if we don’t get all thirteen?” asked Lazar.  “What if we just get one?  Yurovsky and Yermakov were the top two on our list.  What if we sneak back into Russia, eliminate whichever of them we can find first, and get out of there?”
   “All right,” said Yuryev.  “I’m amenable to that.  Those two are the leading ones who literally have the tsar's blood on their hands.  If we get either of them, I will consider the mission accomplished."
   In the end, Lazar and Nikita agreed to go with Yuryev, while Feliks and Zakhar refused.  Yuryev immediately began making preparations.  Yuryev secured funding for the venture from Prokhor Budylin, a wealthy Russian merchant who had lived in Harbin since before the Revolution and supported Grand Duke Kirill’s claim to the throne.  Next, Yuryev, Lazar and Nikita secured a two-month leave of absence from their units, under the pretext of purchasing land in Jiangsu Province, where they hoped to go into partnership to develop salt deposits.  And on a wind-blown day in early April they set out.
   After sneaking across the border, they disguised themselves as peddlers; in that difficult period, with the civil troubles and problems of movement around the country, there was a multitude of “sackmen” as they were scornfully known: second-hand dealers, peddlers and other traffickers, so the agents would have a cover that would enable them to travel about Russia, and perhaps make a small profit to boot.
   During the month of April they began tracking down leads from those old local informers they were able to find.  The rumors were constant about impending meetings involving Yurovsky, Yermakov, or both. On two occasions—once in Moscow and once in Samara—Yuryev and Lazar, with Nikita acting as a backup, had started surveilling apartment buildings to which the regicides were supposed to come. On both occasions they had rifles in the bed of their wagon, ready to do a frontal attack on sighting any of their targets. On both occasions they did see men in black armbands entering and leaving the buildings, but they made no move.  Nor would they do so without actually seeing Yurovsky, Yermakov, or Nikulin, without making a positive identification.
   Which they were unable to do in either Moscow or Samara.
   Then, early in May, Yuryev was able to make contact with a man he knew only as Fyodor.  Fyodor had been a member of the National Center, and before the Cheka had broken up that organization, Fyodor had been one of the team’s best sources.  After the Cheka had dismantled the National Center, Fyodor had gone to ground, but Yuryev had stumbled into him by chance in Moscow. 
Fyodor still had a handful of good connections of his own left, and he soon had news for Yuryev: “Yakov Yurovsky is in Vesyegonsk, on the Mologa River.  He’s in a compound guarded by all the predictable trouble.  It’s dangerous, going after Yurovsky.  But he shot the tsar.”
The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.

Albert Einstein

Offline Nictionary

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Re: Operation Rod of Iron: AU fic
« Reply #146 on: June 03, 2018, 10:38:54 PM »
The three partners took a train to Tver, arriving on April 30.  They examined the weapons that Feodor’s contact there had got for them: three 7.65mm Brownings, and three Fedorov Avtomat automatic rifles, then drove north to the river in a used wagon.  As a precaution, they did not take their guns along with them but had Fyodor’s contact bring them to Vesyegonsk in a small cart.
   Just outside the town, Yuryev and his partners checked into a hotel and waited for Fyodor’s man to arrive.  They needed him not only for the guns, but also to point out the particular dacha where the Chekists meeting was supposed to take place. It was, apparently, a large, rather isolated house on the top of some low cliffs lining the river.  It had belonged to a wealthy industrialist before being seized during the Revolution, and had eventually been taken over by the Cheka.
   Yuryev’s plan was to penetrate the grounds in a silent operation.  The house would probably be guarded, but perhaps not too well. At any rate, a scouting party could find this out and whether any of the top regicides were in the house or not. The team would attack only if they could confirm through direct observation that they were.  The team had resolved not to proceed unless there was a reasonable chance of success.
   Fyodor’s man arrived in Vesyegonsk on May 2.  He delivered the weapons, then drove with the team to the foot of a gravel road, about a verst and a half long, winding its way up the cliffs from the road.  There were only three houses on it, surrounded by sizable grounds.  Fyodor’s man explained that the very last house, where the road ended in front of a large iron grille gate, was the one in question. They couldn’t miss it.
   Yuryev, Lazar and Nikita drove halfway up the road around 2200 hours the following night. The night of May 3 was damp and windy. The wind blew from the direction of the Mologa River, the northeast.  The sound of footfalls would not be easily heard on such a night. The cresting moon was completely covered by clouds. The trees and bushes grew in thick, dark, gnarled shapes on both sides of the road. It was ideal terrain, and an ideal night for a reconnoitering party.”
   Nikita stopped the wagon before reaching a bend in the road, about a third of a verst from the main gate. He made a three-point turn, leaving the vehicle parked facing the direction from which it had come, on the shoulder of the road, almost in a shallow ditch, where it was half hidden by the bend as well as by some roadside bushes.  Lazar stayed behind to hold the horses, armed with one of the Fedorov Avtomats.
   Yuryev and Nikita had left their automatic rifles in the bed of the wagon.  Their immediate purpose was to reconnoiter, not to attack. Should they see Yermakov or Yurovsky—and should they decide that it was feasible for the three of them to make an assault—there would be time enough to come back for the Fedorov Avtomats.  Now, armed only with their small Brownings, “they planned to penetrate the grounds of the house by skirting the main entrance and, making their way through the bushes, approach the building from behind. The dacha backed onto the river, so that following the line of the cliffs should take them to the back garden.
   The bushes, though thick, were not impenetrable. Wearing dark pants and black sweaters, faces grimed for camouflage, crawling cautiously through the trimmed grass, in the shadow of the garden wall, and stopping every now and then to look and listen, Yuryev and Nikita took about twenty minutes to cover the distance. The house and its immediate surroundings were easy to see, as there was light coming from nearly every window. They could see no guards patrolling the garden. 
   Coming up to the corner of the house, Yuryev and Nikita could hear voices talking and the Gypsy song “Bright is the night” playing on the gramophone.  The voices were not coming from inside the house but rather from a stone patio just outside the French windows leading to a pond, which was empty except for dead leaves and a few fingers of brackish water collecting at the deep end.  Flattening themselves against the wall just around the corner of the house, Yuryev and Nikita couldn’t see the speakers. However, they could make out some of the words.
   “Why not tell him we need more money?” one man said. “Are you afraid to say it?”
   “We need a handful of fruit, that’s all,” replied another voice.
The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.

Albert Einstein

Offline Nictionary

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Re: Operation Rod of Iron: AU fic
« Reply #147 on: June 04, 2018, 02:35:38 AM »
The next sound that came to their ears was the click of a glass door closing. They could not hear the voices any longer. Very cautiously, Yuryev peered around the corner.
   Yes. The stone patio was empty.
   Without looking to see if Nikita was following him, he tiptoed in the direction of the French windows. He was confident that no one could see him standing on the dark patio from inside. On the other hand, he could easily see every person in the brightly lit room.  The panels of glass in the exterior doors of the room were clear, smoke and amber, thick, wavy, bevelled.  The room within was panelled with mirrors set at odd angles, and mirrored doors that swung open and closed, catching and losing reflections.  A row of big crystal chandeliers down the length of the room added myriad prismatic lights to the confusion.  There were seven or eight men standing and talking next to a long table laden with fruit. Two of the men were wearing black leather jackets.  They were rendered cubist fragments by the distortions of the glass, the light and the mirrors. 
   “Chekists,” Yuryev heard Nikita’s voice whisper beside him. He nodded. Though he could see no weapons, they were probably Chekists.  But black leather jackets were not worn solely by the secret police.  These Bolsheviks, at least in theory, could have had nothing to do with the execution of the Romanov family.  The only way to be certain that they were regicides was to recognize one of them. Yurovsky or Yermakov.  Or Nikulin.  Or Fyodor Lukoyanov or Aleksandr Beloborodov.  Or any of the others.
   But Yuryev and Nikita recognized no one in the room.
   Of course, there were many other rooms in the dacha.  There could easily have been as many as a dozen other people in it. Also, according to Fyodor’s man, the Bolsheviks would not arrive all at once. Perhaps more were due within the next few days. Perhaps the meeting, if there was to be one, had not yet even begun, and the Bolsheviks in the room were only some foot soldiers in the vanguard.”
   “Too many men,” said Nikita.  “We’re going to get killed.”
   Yuryev and Nikita were still standing on the patio, looking through the French windows, when they heard the unmistakable sound of bushes swaying and crackling behind them. Someone was making his way through the undergrowth. Someone unsuspecting, judging by the noise he was making, was coming along the gravel path behind them. 
   They turned. With the lights behind them, they knew they would appear as silhouettes to anyone approaching from the garden. He would not make out their faces immediately. But he would soon realize that they did not belong there. Two White agents, surrounded by hostile Bolsheviks in a remote garden.  They could take no chances. Even as they turned,  their knees were bending in a crouch.  Their right hands were coming up with their Brownings, their left hands describing an arc in the air as they pulled back the slides.
   A man was standing with his back to them, taking a leak.  He had a Mosin-Nagant slung across his back.  He finished and buttoned up his fly.  Nikita’s elbow snapped something dry in the grass.     
They looked at the person who had wheeled around and stepped out from the bushes. A teenage boy, fourteen or fifteen years old, wearing his black leather jacket.  The boy saw Yuryev and Nikita.  Standing maybe a sazhen away from them, “looking uncomprehendingly at the guns in their hands. Even if he had noticed them from the bushes long before they had heard him, he was clearly not expecting them to be hostile. He had probably taken them for two of his comrades.
   He started to fumble for his Mosin-Nagant.  Nikita was already on his feet, taking aim, Yuryev close behind him.
   The boy began raising his rifle.
   Yuryev and Nikita fired together. Twice, and twice again.  The spring wind swallowed up the pop-hiss of their guns.  Pffm-pffm, pffm-pffm. Pffm-pffm, pffm-pffm.  The boy was trying to balance himself as they were stepping closer.  Then he doubled over and fell to the ground sideways, squirming, trying to breathe. He did not drop his Mosin-Nagant as he fell. He was holding it in his left arm, looking up at Yuryev and Nikita, cradling it closer to his body.
The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.

Albert Einstein

Offline Nictionary

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Re: Operation Rod of Iron: AU fic
« Reply #148 on: June 04, 2018, 02:36:32 AM »
Inside the house no one seemed to hear or notice anything. People were still standing next to the long table, eating, talking, gesticulating.  Yuryev could even hear the sound of laughter. Without putting his gun away he turned and started walking out of the garden. Not in the direction from which they had come, but the short way, toward the main gate.  Nikita started to run back towards the river bank, but Yuryev caught his arm, spun him around and dragged him in the opposite direction.  Yuryev walked in this direction, and Nikita followed.  They were walking quickly, turning around once in a while. No one was following them.
   As they approached the main gate, Yuryev tripped, stumbled, cutting his face.  He sat there, stunned.  Nikita hauled him to his feet and they resumed their walk to the gate.  Yuryev fired at the center of the locked gate.  “Go!” said Yuryev.  Both men ran at the two halves and crashed into them.  The gates burst open, and Yuryev and Nikita ran pell-mell down the drive.  Downhill, with the damp spring wind behind them.  Running faster and faster.  Their speed accelerated
   Running.  Yuryev would always remember that. They ended their great, historic mission running down a winding gravel road in Rybinsk Guberniya, like a couple of schoolboys who had done something irrevocable and were now trying to escape their punishment.
   They ran breathlessly towards the spot where Lazar was waiting beside the wagon.  Nikita drove maniacally until Yuryev yelled at him to pull over. They were not being chased. There was no point in calling attention to themselves by turning the highway into a racecourse.  Lazar had put his automatic rifle back inside the wagon bed; however, they did not relinquish their pistols until they were safely back at their hotel.
   Sitting in Yuryev’s room they tried to collect themselves and assess the situation.  The only person who could give any kind of description of them, the boy with the rifle, was probably dead.  There was nothing to connect Yuryev and his partners with the attack.  They were peddlers, like thousands of others, with impeccable passports.  Apart from the guns, the only thing that could possibly connect them to the shooting would be the impression of their wheel ruts on the gravel road.
   Yuryev contacted Fyodor’s man to come for them with another vehicle in the morning, collecting the guns at the same time. They would be, he thought, safe enough at the hotel for the night. The next day they could drive back to Tver in a new wagon with no weapons and without having to worry about searches and roadblocks.
   Which was what they did. It was a long drive and they sat in the wagon without saying much, Yuryev occasionally relieving Nikita with the reins.  Yuryev knew they were all thinking about the same thing even when they were talking about something else. Had they acted wrongly? Could they have done anything else? Had they lost their heads? Should they have attempted to withdraw without shooting the boy? Did they really kill him in self-defense?
   Did they, in fact, kill him?
   Was this the inevitable consequence of missions like this? Or were they doing something wrong? Was the job getting to them? Were they losing their nerve?
   Had they, in the final analysis, failed?
   Certainly since the assassination of Chutskayev, nearly a year and a half before, they had reached none of their targets.  This was defeat. There was no other way of looking at it.
   Worse, now they were acting in defiance of plain orders. They were acting without authority.  Running about gardens shooting Chekists.  Like amateurs.
   During the following week they left Tver one by one and made their way back to Harbin.  They felt rejected by luck. Like all soldiers, they were not without a certain superstition. Also, there is an indignity attached to being betrayed by something which favored one before: success, a woman, a winning streak, fortunes of war. It brings with it a sense of hurt and humiliation, a sudden questioning of every value and belief.  There was to be no more unilateral action; they could not justify it. 
   The mission was over.
The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.

Albert Einstein

Offline TimM

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Re: Operation Rod of Iron: AU fic
« Reply #149 on: June 07, 2018, 05:25:05 PM »
So is this story over? 

Or will they continue the mission, despite the setbacks?
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