Assault on the Trenches

“ARTILLERY! GET DOWN!” Sergeant Griffith shouted to the platoon as they stood along the wall for Stand To. A split second later, Evans heard the telltale whistle of inbound shells. He sprinted into the dugout. A few seconds after he dived in, the first shell hit. It was the loudest sound Evans had ever heard.

As the dirt clumps fell around him, Evans crawled towards Zwev, who was huddled in the corner. He tried to yell something towards her. She shook her head while yelling something back. So the two of them decided to sit and make gestures at each other for about half an hour while the shells rained down above.

When the shellfire began to die down Evans and Zwev stopped their mute conversation and looked around the dugout. Sergeant Griffith was standing near the dugout exit looking at her watch and counting on her fingers. Three. Two. One. “MOVE! MOVE! MOVE! GET ON THE LINE!” She unshouldered her rifle and ran out the dugout.

Evans got up and grabbed his rifle from the dugout floor. He reached to Zwev and helped her up. She grabbed her rifle and they moved out onto the line. The trench was mostly intact, though a few shells had torn up the wire in front of the trench. Evans and Zwev took up positions next to each other and aimed down over No-Man’s Land.

Simmons yelled to the platoon, “STAND READY!” He turned and talked to Lance Corporal Green, “Run down to the Captain and tell him Second Platoon is at full strength.”

Evans looked over the Vledscn line. It had been almost a full minute since the artillery had stopped firing. He could see the Machine Gunners almost ready to fight and their was nothing from the Vledscan line. Could this be a false barrage? To shake them up? He whispered, “Hey, Zwev, shouldn’t they be attacking, Corp Hardin said that heavy barrages are usually followed by an attack.”

“Yeah, it’s really fuckin’ weird,” Lance Corporal Bailey whispered from Evans’ other side, “Usually Vleddy doesn’t use shells on fake outs.”

Evans shrugged and continued watching the line. He heard a faint whistle. A roar. Men started to appear over the tops of the Vledscan trenches. Lieutenant Simmons yelled out to the Platoon, “HOLD UNTIL MACHINE GUNS!”

Evans checked the bolt and safety on his rifle. A few seconds later, he heard a burp of fire from one of the Machine Guns, the other guns followed suit. Evans aimed at the nearest silhouette and pulled the trigger. Without even looking to see if his shot had hit, he bolted and fired another round.

In a few seconds, the attack had stopped, and a few dozen Vledscan soldiers lay dead.

Green ran back into the trench and looked to Simmons, “Captain Jackson says same across the board. Hold the line at all costs.”

Evans watched a man he think he shot. He had collapsed in an odd way, and he was still propped up in the middle of No-Man’s land. He had a red bandanna around his neck.

A whistle. Another wave started to rise. Lance Corporal Turner got excited and opened fire with her automatic rifle early. Evans opened fire at the formation. The machine guns quickly opened up from the wings and the Vledscan troops. They quickly fell dead.

Evans stood their shocked. Why had the second wave charged, why hadn’t they even fired one or two mortars. Evans was distracted by a commotion further down the trench line, he turned to see Tiscornia mounting the parapet.

“WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING! YOU ARE THROWING YOUR LIVES AWAY!” a bullet whizzed past Tiscornia as Lance Corporal Giuliano and Private Renoir attempted to pull him back into the trench. “GODDAMMIT ARE YOUR ORDERS REALLY WORTH IT?” Tiscornia turned around and jumped back into the trench as the whistle blew. Evans turned and opened fire once more.

The rest of the stand to was eerily silent. Their wasn’t even a mortar round from the Vledscan side. Evans took the time to look around No-Man’s land once again. The wire in front of the trench had been almost completely destroyed, it was just a tangled mess, the p

ieces large enough to see. It seemed like all the Vledscan shells had fallen in front of the trench.

The Vledscan lines were mostly unchanged, with the exception of the piles of bodies a few meters from the from the front of their trench. He wondered about this for the rest of the stand to. Once it was over, he walked to Corporal Hardin to receive his breakfast.

“Here you go, first meal after combat. Now your a soldier.”

Evans walked on and found Zwev, who was eating with Renoir and Head in the dugout. They all sat mostly in silence, until Head mentioned the topic on everyones mind.

“What the fuck…”

Renoir leaned back, “Decimation.”

Zwev threw her knife point first into the dirt floor, “What? That’s not an explanation…”

Renoir shook his head, “No, it’s an old leadership strategy. I heard a rumor going around about a Vledscan colonel doing it… You see, He lined up his regiment after a failed attack. The third wave hadn’t gone over the top after the other two had been destroyed…” Renoir looked Head in the eyes and counted on his fingers, “One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, BANG! Every tenth man in his regiment he killed. Personally, walked down the entire line.”

Zwev shuddered, “Why didn’t they run? Surely it was clear after the first few soldiers what was happening.”

“He had machine gun teams aimed at the regiment. When one platoon ran, they were cut down before they had gone ten paces,” Renoir pulled a cigarette out of his breast pocket and lit it with a match, he offered it to the other three, who all declined.

“Fuck…” Evans shook his head and took a bite from his jerky.

“How do you know so much about the Vledscan’s Renoir?” Head cocked his head and looked at Renoir.

“Ustinov. We were chatting, He manned a listening sap on our last tour.”

Evans replied in a confused voice, “Ustinov, isn’t that a Vledscan name?”

Zwev perked up, “Yeah, his family immigrated when he was young, he’s on watch now.”

“You should really get to know him,” Renoir laughed a little, “He’s probably the funniest guy in Fox.”

Lance Corporal Green walked into the dugout, “Sergeant Parker, Corporal Davis, Lance Corporal Chilcott, Lance Corporal Tiscornia, Privates Ustinov, Cook, Alden, Evans, Anna Zak something, and Geary, you are needed in the Lieutenant’s dugout now.”

Renoir called out as Evans and Zwev got up, “Ustinov is on watch!”

“Well then congratulations, your replacing him, Move.”

Renoir grumbled as he got up, “Merde. Should have known better than speak up.”

Evans ducked down a little while walking through the trench. He followed the line in front of him into the Lieutenant’s dugout. The dugout was more furnished than the enlisted dugout, and Lieutenant Simmons was sitting at a desk, looking at a map. After a seconds, he looked up at the gathered soldiers, He then looked to Lance Corporal Green, “Is this everyone Jenny?”

Lance Corporal Green nodded as Private Ustinov entered the room and shouldered his rifle. Lieutenant Simmons nodded and looked to the soldiers again, “Tonight, y’all have the luxury of going on a mission over the top. The Captain decided that we need to strengthen our wire and wants me to lead the party. I’m dividing our party into two teams, Team One lead by Sergeant Parker and Lance Corporal Tiscornia, and Team Two will be led by Corporal Davis and Lance Corporal Chilcott. Team One will be Privates Ustinov, Geary, and Cook. Team Two will by Privates Alden, Evans, and Zakrzewska.

“Team One will be in charge of setting up the wire. Team Two will screw in the stakes. We are starting out at First Platoon and move down to Third. We should work fast, and if all goes well, we should be done within an hour. We kick off at midnight, so you should get some rest after stand to tonight.

“When midnight comes however, make sure you are at First Platoon’s trench, our exit sap is there. Privates, you should leave your rifles behind, if the fire gets to heavy, we have two machine guns ready to respond. Lance Corporal’s and above will have rifles as well. Don’t bring canteens, bombs, or anything else that will rattle.

“Lastly, if we start getting shelled, dive into the nearest shell hole and pray you don’t get hit. Dismissed.” Lieutenant Simmons went back to his map.

The wiring party left the Lieutenant’s dugout into the trench, where the rest of the platoon was working on fixing parts of the trench destroyed in the barrage. The wiring party joined in and helped with the improvements until the time came for stand to. The stand to was unusually quiet, with only a few machine gun bursts. Evans and Zwev went to their blanket and laid down with their heads against the dug out wall for a few hours rest.

Into the Trenches

It had been a week since James Evans had arrived at Fox Company, and it was already time to move. They were moving to the front line trenches at White Beach. The Battalion was mustered right where the train had dropped Evans off the week before. Major Parker was standing out front speaking. Evans wasn’t really paying attention though, there was to much going through his mind.

Less than two hours from now he would be in the front line trenches. And he was terrified. Up until now, it had seemed like an abstract concept. And now it was finally coming. He and Zwev had managed to sign up for all the same shifts on watch, so at least he would be with someone he could trust.

“COMPANIES MOVE OUT BY FILES!”

Captain Jackson did in about face and looked at the Platoon Leaders, “Fox Company, Right Face.”

Lieutenant Simmons did an about face to face the platoon, “2nd Platoon, Right Face.”

Evans turned to his right and waited for the next command. It was a few minutes until Dog and Eagle Companies had moved out towards the front. Finally the command came, “Fox Company, Move Out By Files.”

After First Platoon cleared, Lieutenant Simmons said the command to Second Platoon, “Second Platoon, Move Out By Files.”

With that, Jim Evans marched off to war.

 

After an hour of marching through winding trenches, Second Platoon made it to the front line. It was quieter than Evans had expected, only a few shells bursting far down the line, every few minutes a rifle would go off in the distance, but not the constant barrage and hail of gunfire he had expected.

Lance Corporal Green, the Lieutenant’s Runner looked at her watch, “Alden and Morgan, you two are lucky, your watch just ended. Next watch is Evans and Zakr… something. First name Anna?”

Evans walked over towards Zwev and tried to remember what he had been taught about standing watch. Zwev had already taken her position standing on the fire step, leaning against the trench wall and aiming towards the Vledscan trench. Evans took up position about an arms length from her. He was about to speak when he heard a thump in between them.

“Hey you two. Zwev and Evans isn’t it,” Tiscornia’s familiar voice was coming from between them, “I figured I’d help you two out on your first watch, to show you the ropes.”

“Thanks Tiscornia!” Zwev said from her position.

Evans looked down the sights of his rifle and adjusted range a little. He then took in the full view. The Vledscans had set up their trenches about a hundred meters downhill. He couldn’t see any of their further lines because the slope increased shortly after the front trench, but he could see over the line at the sky… A few moments later Evans realized, it was the ocean.

“I’ve never seen the ocean before,” Evans lazily said as his eye drifted back onto the Vledscan trench.

Tiscornia and Zwev laughed. Zwev responded, “You mean you’ve never been to a beach? We should go to one on leave. We could make a sandcastle!”

Chiming in with a proud voice, Tiscornia said, “As a Ligurian, I’m an expert on beaches, and if we managed to drive the Vledscans off this chunk of sand, we might just be able to go to a beach without bothering with leave.”

“I feel like a sandcastle is less exciting if a part of our job is building actual military fortifications.”

Sighing, Zwev responded, “Sandcastles are different though, not as big and more of pretty… Ooh, we could collect some seashells and put them on the towers.”

The conversation died and the trio stared across No-man’s land at the opposing trench.

“So does anything really exciting ever happen Lance Corporal?” Evans asked.

“Eh, not really. A few times you’ll see someone pop up and you’ll want to… sparâ. Most of the time you’ll miss.” Tiscornia paused and yawned, “When you do fire though, duck down for about thirty seconds so they can’t find out where you are… Oh, and call me Tiscornia or Dom.”

“What are we supposed to look for Dom?” Zwev asked as a shell burst a few hundred meters to their right.

“Anything fishy. Something reflective, movement, loud noises. Pretty much anything warrants a shot or two. If you see something you want to report, tell it to the nearest Sergeant or Corporal.”

It went like that for the first hour of the watch. Evans and Zwev asked questions and Tiscornia answered. As the second hour of the watch began, Zwev hissed at Evans and Tiscornia, “I think I see something. By that tree.” Evans and Tiscornia turned and looked at the lone tree between the two trench systems. It had been stripped bare of all of the leaves and was now just a husk. A small reflection came from the bush next to the tree.

“Belìn! Marksman. Nice spot,” Tiscornia stepped down from the fire step and pulled a bomb from his webbing, “Fire for the reflection, I’ll toss a bomb after you fire.”

Evans stepped down from the fire step and looked at Zwev, who was using her knee to balance herself on the wall. Her hand slowly squeezed the trigger back. She gracefully slid back down the wall with the recoil as Tiscornia tossed the bomb. Three seconds later there was a dull thud of the bomb going off.

Zwev lay unmoving on the wall. Evans walked over and tapped her on the shoulder. She turned to him, revealing her pale stunned face, “I’ve never killed someone before.”

Evans turned his head cockeyed, “You seemed fine about it a few seconds ago.”

“I… He… The marksman crawled a bit forward… He was just a regular guy…”

Tiscornia looked over at Zwev with a sympathetic look, “Don’t worry pivélla, same thing happens to everyone.” He turned to the fire step, “We should probably stand back up now.”

The three remounted the fire step. A few seconds later they heard four muffled rifle shots. Tiscornia yelled, “DOWN!”

Evans dove down and put his hands over his neck. There were four explosions around the trench. Evans looked to Tiscornia, who was crouched between him and Zwev. He had his eyes closed and was counting in his head. Evans could make him out saying the word ‘now’ a moment before four more rifle shots went off. Three explosions and a dull thud. Looking around himself, Evans saw a rifle grenade embedded in the back wall of the trench a few feet away.

“Dom…”

Tiscornia looked at the grenade and slowly nodded his head. He waved for Evans to get behind him and approached the grenade. Slowly taking off his helmet, he capped the grenade and nudged it until it fell into his helmet. With a quick toss, he threw it towards the Vledscan lines, “Alright then… That’s how you take care of unexploded ordinance… Next Question…” Tiscornia laughed nervously and stood back up on the fire step.

The next two hours were uneventful and mostly quiet. Green walked up with her watch out, “Evans and Zwev, you’re off watch, And Tiscornia, good job being here on time unlike Chilly… Zwev, could you run and grab Lance Corporal Chilcott, he has watch right now and is late as usual.”

As Zwev ran off, Evans stepped down and cocked his head at Tiscornia, “I though volunteering for an extra watch was weird, and you have watch again right after? Isn’t that six hours on duty?”

“Eh, It’s mostly because I like being around Zwev. She’s basically my little sister except Silesian,” Tiscornia shrugged, “I haven’t seen her since the war started, she moved back to Liguria… It just reminds me of a time when everything was alright in my life.”

Evans shrugged, drummed against the side of the trench with his hands, and stared at Tiscornia, leaned up against the wall staring off into No-Mans Land. Chilcott walked up and tapped Tiscornia on the shoulder, “Sorry I’m late Dom.”

“No problem Chilly.”

Evans shrugged and went to find Zwev. He got to the first dugout he saw and walked down the stairs. It was filled with the soldiers off duty, Zwev was sitting in the corner on a ragged looking mat. She waved Evans over.

“Last sleeping spot left in the platoon. So I guess we are sleeping together.” Zwev patted the mat she was on.

Private Newey’s voice called out from a few spots over, “When Corp Hardin says ‘Nighttime Fun’ he doesn’t mean it literally!”

Stanhope called from the the other side of the room, “Shut the fuck up Newey. No one likes your jokes.”

Evans looked back at Zwev, who was blushing, face buried in her hands. He knelt down and sat down next to her. Evans patted her on the back, “Ignore him, I understand what you meant… So Zwev, how are you doing, still shook up by your kill?”

Sighing, Zwev looked at her feet, “I’m supposed to be a soldier, upholding the ideals of the free? Right? I… Just always imagined the Vledscan soldiers as more of a faceless foe. And… I figured if I was going to kill, it would be while they were trying to kill me right? He didn’t even have a rifle, that flash was from his binoculars.”

 

The conversation carried on for the rest of the day, even through the uneventful stand to. Finally, their duty for the day had finished and they were allowed to rest. Zwev sadly looked into Evans eyes, gave a half smile and laid down. Evans laid down with his head the opposite direction and went to sleep.

Meeting the Team

It had been a long day. After the shooting, most of the day had been spent doing paperwork. Evans, Zwev, and Cain were all sitting on their beds, waiting for their Corporals to come in to introduce them to their rifle teams. Cain and Zwev were talking while Evans was writing a letter, dodging Zwev’s legs as she kicked back and forth.

Cain gestured at Evans, “Who are you writing to?”

Zwev swung herself around and poked her head down at him, “Yeah, who are you writing to Evans?”

Dropping the pencil, Evans replied, “My friend Jack from back home. He’s deployed up at Dry Forest.”

Zwev laughed a little, “Writing about our exciting day writing our names and serial numbers on form after form. I feel like I will remember Two Nine One Five One Five Six for the rest of my life.”

“I’m writing about all the exciting new people I’ve met, like that… very interesting Lance Corporal.”

Turning back around, Zwev slid off the bed and dropped down next to Evans, “Did you write anything about me?”

Evans folded the paper and pulled it away from Zwev, “That’s for me, Jack, and the censors to know.”

Zwev laughed and got up. She walked to the far corner of the room and started stretching her arms. Evans leaned back, “So you were pretty handy with the rifle.”

“Practice. My dziadziu took me hunting a lot when I was a little girl.”

A Corporal entered the room and tapped on the wall to get everyones attention, “Hi friends, I’m Corporal Hardin. I need Cain, Evans, and Head… I’m guessing Head or Evans isn’t here yet.”

Evans nodded, “Yeah Private Head isn’t, he’s with the other Lance Corporal. Chilcott I think. I’m Evans.”

Cain stood up, “I’m Private Cain.”

“I’m Private Zakrzewska!” Zwev turned around, “You probably didn’t need to know that, but I felt left out of the introductions.”

An excited look appeared on Corporal Hardin’s face. He smiled and pointed at Zwev, “Kurwa masz!”

The smile on Zwev’s face turned to a look of disgust. She took a step forward and slapped him in the face.

Corporal Hardin’s smile turned to a look of horror, “Oh shit, that didn’t mean ‘You’re pretty’ in Silesian did it?”

“No, it meant ‘You whore’ which is a very rude thing to say to someone you just met.”

“Sorry, Twardowski told me it meant ‘You’re pretty,’ and since you are Silesian I thought…” Corporal Hardin shook his head, “Just come with me Cain and Evans. And I’m really sorry Miss Zakrzewska.” Corporal Hardin turned around and started to leave the room. Evans put his letter and pencil into his bag and left with Cain.

“I’m taking you two to Sergeant Campbell’s office, it’s cramped, but it is where we have Team meetings, and it is right here,” Corporal Hardin knocked on the door and opened it, “Hey guys, this is Privates Evans and Cain, two of the new kids, Chilly still has Head apparently.”

Evans and Cain walked in the room. Four soldiers were seated around the room, the Sergeant sitting at the desk with his feet up, “I’m Sergeant Campbell. Team leader.”

A Lance Corporal stood up and extended his hand to Cain, “I’m Lance Corporal Morgan, I’ll be your fireteam leader.” Cain shook his hand and nodded.

The Private next to Morgan stood up and waved at Cain, “I’m Dan Newey, the other Private on the fireteam.”

The last Lance Corporal stood up, she shook Evans’ hand, “I’m Lance Corporal Stanhope. I’ll be the fireteam lead for you and Head when he gets here.”

After a few silent moments, there was a knock on the side of the open door, “Hi! I’m Eddy Head, is this Rifle Team 1?”

Sergeant Campbell nodded, and everyone introduced themselves again. Campbell then leaned back to reach at one of his desk drawers and pulled out three paper backed field manuals, “This has all the information you should know if you expect to be promoted to Lance Corporal. It’s also useful information for general living and fighting in the trenches. Corporal Hardin will go over the rest of the information you three need, and Morgan, Stanhope, and Newey, you three can leave, I don’t need you anymore.”

The three nodded and filed out. Hardin took a seat on Sergeant Campbell’s desk and passed the field manuals to Evans, Cain, and Head, “OK, I have three main things to go over with you. One, the chain of command. Two, mail. And Three, what the fuck you’ll actually be doing day to day.

“Chain of command for our unit is easy. First your Lance Corporal. Then Me. Then Sergeant Campbell here. Then Lieutenant Simmons. A note about the LT, you should usually just talk to Green. She’s his runner. She’ll set up an appointment with the LT. You usually shouldn’t interact with anyone above the LT, but you never know, so next you have Captain Jackson. Battalion XO is Major Parker. Battalion CO is Lieutenant Colonel Wood. Regimental is Colonel Darling. Division is General Richardson… That’s about that…

“Next mail, you can drop it off in the box outside the Lieutenant’s office. For each duty station we will have a specified mail area. Mail will usually be collected daily, except for on the front, where it will be collected as often as the Vledscans permit. If it’s quiet, every two days two lucky soldiers will get to run the mail back to the Company collection point, then the Battalion collection, and finally to the Regimental point behind the lines. Censoring will be done by the Lieutenant. He does not censor all letters, but is able to read any letter you are sending, so don’t insult the LT, and don’t seal your envelopes.

“Finally, the most important part. Duties. Yay. Behind the lines is mostly training and watch. Occasionally we’ll play some sport for exercise. In the trenches is the more exciting bit. Wake up is about 5:00 in the morning. We get ready for the stand to, clean weapons, and other shit. Then stand to starting about 30 minutes before dawn, ending about an hour later. We will also have a stand to an hour before dusk and lasting half an hour afterward. Daily duties are generally either shoring up the defenses or standing watch. Watch is two soldiers below the rank of corporal for three hours. On days when an attack is expected, watch will behave differently based on Regimental decision.

“And shoring up defenses mostly consists of fixing bits destroyed by artillery barrages. The really painful part is ‘Nighttime Fun’. Nighttime Fun is the general term for the shit done in No-Man’s Land at night. Occasionally, word may get passed down that a wiring, scouting, or raiding party is needed. These can last a variable amount of time, and you still have to attend stand to in the morning. So try and avoid being assigned to one if you can. For example, I used to volunteer for night-time watch, which exempts you from going on Nighttime Fun,” Corporal Hardin looked at Sergeant Campbell, “That’s it right?”

Sergeant Campbell nodded, “You can go back to your barracks room now. Wake up call is 6:45. Meet in here at 7:15, Corporal Hardin will then give you the plan of the day. Dismissed.”

Evans, Head, and Cain turned around and left the room, field manual’s in hand. Head turned to Evans, “We’re in the same fireteam Jim! Exciting isn’t it?”

Evans walked down the hall to the barracks room, trying to out pace Head, “Yeah, really exciting Head.” Evans opened the door, revealing two of the privates he had met earlier in the day who had gone with Lance Corporal Chilcott. He ignored them and sat down on his bed, trying to tune Head’s talking out. He took off his jacket and helmet and hung them on the bedpost. Sitting back down again and started rooting through his kit bag for his letter and pencil.

Zwev entered the room, Evans waved, and she got a funny look on her face. She quickly scaled the bedside and hid from Evans. Evans shrugged and opened up the letter. He immediately noticed that the section about Zwev had been crossed out and replaced with, “I met the pwettiest girl in all the world named Anna Zakrzewska. She is so pwetty and wonderful.”

His laughter got Zwev’s attention, who poked her head down to explain herself, “I couldn’t let my description be, ‘Next, Zwev, a nice Silesian girl.”

Evans sighed, “Just don’t mess up any of my other letters.”

“Does that mean you are going to keep it in?” Zwev slid down next from her bed next to Evans, “Does that mean you think it’s true? You’re so sweet Evans.” She patted him on the head, stood up, and put her jacket and helmet on the other bedpost, “Night!” Zwev climbed back up to her bed.

Shrugging, Evans went back to his letter. He added a note telling Jack to ignore Zwev’s addition. Evans heard a tapping on the wall near the door. He looked over to see Head, who was yelling over everyone, “Hey guys! Why don’t we introduce ourselves? I’m Eddy Head!”

Evans shrugged, “I’m Evans.”

A voice called down from above, “Anna Zakrzewska, you can call me Zwev!”

A lanky man cleaning his rifle in the corner replied, “Geary.”

“Rachel Hunt,” the blond woman sitting on the bed above Cain replied.

“And I’m Hannah Cain, now I’m tired, so can you shut the fuck up,” Cain pulled her sheets over her and tried to fall asleep.

Evans shrugged and finished up his letter. He finished just before Geary blew the lantern lighting the room out.

Arrival

The train pulled to a stop. The Major at the front looked at his chart, “2nd BATTALION, 202ND INFANTRY!”

Private Evans grabbed his kit bag and slung it over his left shoulder. On his right shoulder he slung his rifle. Edging past a few soldiers standing in the aisle, he exited the train. Leaping out onto the sandy ground, he looked around the camp. In front of him was a large carved Eagle. A Corporal sat underneath it reading a magazine. Evans approached the Corporal, “Excuse me, Corporal, I’m new here, I’ve been assigned to F Company. Where can I find it?”

The Corporal raised his eyebrow and pointed up, “This Eagle.” He pointed to the right, towards a green flag, with a red fox on it, “That Fox.”

“Thank you Corporal,” Private Evans jogged towards the green flag, where he saw two dozen other Privates with their kit bags. He approached them and waved.

The closest stepped forward, shifted his weight, and offered his hand, “Hi! I’m Eddy Head! You just got in off the train too?

“I’m Jim Evans, This is F Company?”

Private Head nodded, “Yep!”

Head looked like he was going to continue before he was interrupted by an olive skinned Lance Corporal, “Oi, belinoìn! Shut up.” The Lance Corporal pulled out a list from his breast pocket, “Privates Cain, Evans, Geary, Head, Hunt, and… Zak… Something? I can’t pronounce that mèrda. You six need to come with me.”

Evans readjusted his weight and followed the Lance Corporal, along with the five other privates. He looked to the private next to him, “Hi, I’m Jim Evans, you?”

“Anna Zakrzewska. Most people call me Zwev on account of the name,” She smiled at him and looked back ahead of her. The Lance Corporal was weaving between tents and various soldiers working outside.

A larger tent came into view, A small cloth sign read, ‘Second Platoon Headquarters’. The Lance Corporal walked in and saluted, “Lieutenant Simmons, these are the new bagarìlli.”

The Lieutenant, a stocky man, returned the salute, “Thank you Tiscornia. Take Cain, Evans, and Geary for training. I’ll have Chilcott train the rest.”

Lance Corporal Tiscornia raised an eyebrow, “Wouldn’t it make more sense if I trained Zak? I’m guessing she’s going to be in my fire team and I might as well get to know her now.”

Lieutenant Simmons nodded, “Leave Geary then. And grab Chilcott from the main building.”

Tiscornia nodded, “Cain, Evans, and whatever your name is with me.” Tiscornia walked out of the tent. Evans, Zwev, and a female Private who Evans assumed to be Private Cain followed.

The first stop was a building, that had a bustle of activity. Tiscornia pointed to a room with several bunked beds, “Pick a bed, take your hat and ribbons off, put your kit away, grab your helmet and rifle, and meet me out in 5 minutes.”

Evans nodded and went for the closest bed. He dropped off his kit on the bed and unslung his rifle. Feeling a tap on his shoulder, he turned to see Zwev, smiling a bit funny, “Hey, Evans, could you…” She gestured to her kit bag and pointed upwards, to the bed above his. Evans smirked and helped lift her kit bag onto the bed. She smiled at him then hoisted herself onto the bed.

Evans pulled the single ribbon off his jacket and dropped it onto the bed, along with his hat, he rooted through his bag and pulled out his helmet. Putting it on his head, he adjusted it and turned to the other Private, who was putting her things on the bed opposite to his, “Hi, I’m Evans, are you Cain?”

The Private smiled and dropped her hat on the bed, “I’m Hannah Cain.”

“I’m Zwev!” Zwev yelled down from her bed. She swung her legs around and sat up, with the helmet sitting cockeyed on her head, “You from the Medway area? My Uncle Stanislaw went there when he moved to Ethslin. I can tell from the accent.”

Working through her bag for her helmet, Cain replied, “Yes, and how long have you lived in Ethslin, you don’t have much of an accent?”

“Five years ago, but lived near the border growing up,” Zwev bent down to look at Evans, “Where are you from Evans?”

“Halton, it’s a small railway town in the middle of nowhere.”

Lance Corporal Tiscornia walked into the room “And I’m from Liguria, now do you three have you’re things ready? I need to get you down to the range.”

Evans grabbed his rifle as Zwev slid down next to him to grab her rifle leaned up against the wall. Cain put her helmet on flat and picked her rifle off her bed. The three followed the Lance Corporal out of the building. The Lance Corporal started talking to them as he walked them to the rifle range, “Alright, bagarìlli, this is Fox Company Second Platoon. Lieutenant Simmons is our Platoon Leader. Captain Jackson is our Company Commander. I’m Lance Corporal Tiscornia, and I have the distinction of being the most experienced soldier in the Platoon, so you should listen to what I say.”

Cain spoke up in confusion, “If you are the most experienced soldier in the Platoon, why are you only a Lance Corporal?”

“Because Miss Cain,” Lance Corporal Tiscornia turned around and started walking backwards, a suddenly serious face, “I really don’t want that much responsibility. Have you ever been in charge of 13 soldiers? I was, a week after picking up Lance. Bad barrage and ill timed attack left me in command of a company… Well, the thirteen privates still able to fight.. I got transfered to the 202nd because my battalion was wiped out. And there is no way in hell I’m going to command in combat again.” Tiscornia shook his head and turned around, “And Zak, how the fuck do you say your name?”

“Zakrzewska Lance Corporal. You can call me Zwev.”

Tiscornia nodded, “Yeah, I think I’ll go with Zwev.” He looked up ahead at the empty rifle range. Sergeant Major Laurie was sitting next to the ammunition crates. Tiscornia yelled out, “Sergeant Major, permission to bring three Privates in for initial?”

“Granted Dom. New kids or Transfers?”

“Bagarìlli. Sounds fancier that way.” Tiscornia paused for a bit, and then turned to Evans, Zwev, and Cain, “Alright, you three play with Sergeant Major Laurie. He’ll do your Rifle tests.”

The three privates nodded. Evans took the lead onto the Rifle range and presented his rifle to the Sergeant Major. The Sergeant Major grabbed and inspected it, “Alright kid, looks ready to go, take Lane One.” He paused and looked to Tiscornia, “Dom, give get thirty rounds, ten for each.”

Evans took his rifle back and walked to the lane labeled One and checked the sights on his rifle. He then pulled the bolt back and waited for the test to begin. He smiled and looked up at the blue sky. It was peaceful, a few birds lazily soaring overhead.

Tiscornia walked up and held out ten rifle rounds, “Here, load your rifle, lie down and get ready to fire. Wait until the Sergeant Major tells you to fire. Fire all ten rounds at the target.”

Evans took the rounds and nodded. He clicked them in one by one, until the internal magazine held all ten rounds. He slid the bolt forward and knelt down on the ground, aiming the rifle carefully downrange. He looked to his right at the other two lanes. Zwev was kneeling on the ground, still loading her rifle, and Cain was still receiving ammunition from Tiscornia. Sergeant Major Laurie was sitting down looking at a clipboard.

Grinning, Evans looked down his sight at the target, flicked his safety off, and waited for the command. Evans had been one of the best shots at his company in basic training. Now to just shoot a max, impress Tiscornia and Zwev, and he’ll be set.

“Alright kids! Aim your rifles downrange. On my mark, fire all ten rounds at the target, you will be judged for accuracy and time, so when you are done shooting, raise your right hand and I’ll note it. Only fire at your own target, and remain in place until everyone is finished,” Sergeant Major Laurie took a breath in and shouted, “FIRE!”

Evans opened fire. In what only seemed like a moment, Evans had fired all ten rounds downrange. He drew the bolt back one more time while flicking his safety on and threw up his hand. A few seconds after him, the last rifle fell silent, as Cain fired her last round.

The Sergeant Major yelled out again, “Tiscornia has placed ten more rounds near you, Load them and prepare for the standing fire test.” He turned to Tiscornia, “Dom, go run and switch the targets out. And score everyone when your done with that.”

Evans propped himself up and picked up the ten rounds, this time they came in two stripper clips. He clicked one in and pushed the five rounds into the magazine. Pocketing the first clip, he grabbed the second and loaded it in. He slid the bolt forward and stood up. He looked downrange at Tiscornia, who was fumbling with the targets. He looked over at Zwev, who had slung her rifle over her right shoulder, “How do you think you did?”

Her eyes looked up over his left shoulder and shrugged, “I dunno. OK I guess. You?”

“I think it did well.”

Sergeant Major Laurie shouted out at the three, “Ready your rifles!”

Evans turned to face the target, checked his bolt, and flicked the safety off.

“Aim!”

Evans aimed downrange.

“FIRE!”

Evans opened fire at the target. Twenty seconds later he had expended all his ammunition. He raised his left hand while he flicked the safety on with his right hand. After the last rifle fell silent he slung his rifle and turned to look at Sergeant Major Laurie

“Alright kids. Lance Corporal Tiscornia will collect your targets, I need to go over a few more things.” The Sergeant Major then turned to speak to Tiscornia, “And score them when you’re done Dom”

Evans walked over to Sergeant Major Laurie and knelt down next to Zwev and Cain.

“So, this is my range. And, if I understand correctly, your company will be here for the next week before you head to the front, and in a month when your rotation brings you back here, you’ll be at my range again. I am the range master and will be here from dawn until dusk on most days,” the Sergeant Major paused, looking for the right words, “You should probably practice at least two or three hours outside of your normal training, after all, you three are riflemen, so you should be good with rifles. Unless there is an official training going on, you can come here at any time it’s open. That’s about it for that.”

The Sergeant Major the looked over at Tiscornia, who was still collecting the targets, “You kids are lucky to have Lance Corporal Tiscornia in your company. We were in the same Battalion at the Battle of Tsiv River. He was one of the six soldiers to survive Charles Company unscathed. So listen to what he says.”

Tiscornia had finished grabbing the targets and jogged back to the four. He picked up the clipboard and tallied the scores. He looked up at the three, “Which one of you was lane two?” Zwev raised her hand. “Well really good job Zwev. Some of the best scores I’ve seen for someone just from basic. Lane One and Three, average scores overall, Lane One, you might want to adjust your sights, all your shots were a bit low. And if you are done with Sergeant Major Laurie, we have a few more things to do before you are assigned to your Rifle Teams.”

Introduction

In 1325, total war engulfed the Velian continent for the first time in several hundred years, with the great powers of Ethslin and Vledsco each taking their own respective sides. War was officially declared on 13 October, when the Ethslin main force advanced into the Vledscan Southern frontier. The Vledscan forces, momentarily forced int a retreat, quickly began to dig a network of trenches, starting at the Southern mountains, and ending in the frozen Norhtern Regions. To counter the network of trenches, Ethslin and her allies dug their own corresponding trench system, where the war remained stagnant until the Summer of 1326, when the Vledscan forces sent a fleet to land at White Beach on 13 June 1326, along Ethslin’s southern borders. The Ethslin offensive at Dry Forest started a month later, on 15 July 1326, to draw Vledscan troops to the defense and relieve pressure from the White Beach bridgehead.

Jim Evans and Jack Shaw were two inseparable friends. They grew up together in a small railroad town. After they turned 18 in 1326 and joined the Army together. Disappointingly, they were immediately separated after training. Jack was sent to the 351st Infantry at Dry Forest. Jim was sent to the 202nd Infantry, sent to stop the second wave of assaults at White Beach. He arrived to the front lines on 10 July 1326.