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.
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.