The protagonist of the novel is Yegor Tashevsky, a special forces soldier fighting in Chechnya. A platoon of special forces from the Russian town of Saint Spas comes to a business trip to Grozny. Spetsnazovtsy eighty people, commander Semyonitch, zamkvvzvoda Yazva, platoon Neck – so their names are subordinates. The platoon passes through the ruined boring city and settles on the outskirts, in the former school, now abandoned and mined.
Special forces are turning the school into a fortress and begin to count the days of the trip. At night they carry patrols, they are sluggishly fired. Sleeping for the first few days without incident and serious danger. Guys have fun, joke with each other, secretly violate the regime, drinking alcohol, and do not stop being afraid. Fear embraces everyone, some do not hide it, most of them are making fun of it. Fear is determined by the actions and relationships of soldiers.
There is a work – cleaning of city objects. Spetsnaz
kill the first eight Chechens and get drunk after the operation. Night shelling of the school does not stop, there are several more sweeps and raids with victims among the local population and the destruction of militants. At the airport, Yegor Tashevsky sees the corpses of Russian soldiers-demobilizers, who died because of treachery and connivance of the command. This spectacle does not add optimism to his already morose mood. He is saved from fear only by memories of his deceased father and beloved Dasha.
At the next attack of militants the first special forces die. Soldiers drink more and more, not concealing fear. Egor, who pondered and philosophized a lot, came to the conclusion that they had arrived in vain for Chechnya, he did not want to fight, he did not feel hatred for the Chechens, and he considered some orders of command to be foolish. When the next village is mopped up, bandits who want to surrender are shot again. Prisoners do not take, breaking orders. After the battle, having lost several of the guys killed, the platoon gets drunk and falls into a drunken sleep. Drunk guards leave their posts, and
Chechen fighters attack the school.
In the last battle Yegor commands his squad and is terribly afraid, but tries not to show it. They kill almost the entire platoon, Tashevsky’s friend, Sanya, is dying before his eyes. The guys are being shot. The commander Semyonich breaks through to rescue them with a fight (he drove off to headquarters with a report) on two armored personnel carriers. Machines take away the wounded, and the platoon continues to shoot back from the superior forces of the militants. The fighters behave differently in the last battle: someone is coward, the majority are fighting. Semenych says that the militants attacked the city simultaneously from all sides. Russian troops were not ready for the offensive, since the command did not monitor the situation. As a result, many died.
The bombing of the school continues for many hours, and the remaining special forces ordered Semenych to leave through a ravine filled with mud and water after heavy rains. There is nothing to shoot, fighters jump out of the window, the enemies meet them with fire, many are killed.
Yegor survives by diving into the mud. Together with the fighter Monk, who never liked the hero, they hide in the bush for a long time. As Egor anticipated, Monk saves his life. With their bare hands, they kill two mercenaries, Ukrainians, who are killing wounded Russian soldiers.
In the morning, after meeting a few more survivors, the special forces march along the road from the destroyed school. They are selected by Russian connections that have come to the rescue. Drunk, silent, devastated, the rescued fighters return home, to the Holy Spas.