An alternative, magitech-based USSR and a disastrous battle. . .
Maya travels by railcars, with roses and a letter she's writing, to her husband's -- well, memorial marker. A soldier also visiting graves asks her ("Comrade Sorceress") to light his cigarette, since soldiers thought it was good luck. She tells him of the battle of Kar Dartha's gate, nine years ago, and the disaster -- she was saved only by a friend who knocked her out so she could not look for her beloved husband, Markus. We also get scenes she did not know of, where mysterious and powerful figures appear.
Her husband's brother Urik also visits. He has their orders, and suggests she could make her farewells to the grave -- or perhaps tell his brother they are about to join him.
This involves a rebel girl named Marika who digs two graves; mutiny; a dream of a dead woman with a message and red roses; Urik drinking and remembering how he talked with Markus about joining the sky service; a letter oddly delivered, and another letter that first persuaded Maya to meet with Marcus; looters; a protocol (spell) that brings back the past; and more.