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.