Airship Attack

Evans started twiddling his thumbs and humming. He had tried to take out his notepad to write another letter, but Lieutenant Ricci insisted that he be ready to go at a moments notice. So humming and fidgeting it was.

The Lieutenant was closely monitoring the cars radio for any communications from the reinforcement cars.

And then the first artillery rounds started to hit nearby. At first they were scattered around, as the airship tried to get it’s range right, but the rounds slowly started to hit nearer and nearer, as the guns onboard got their adjustment right. Evans started to question the wisdom of sitting in the most obvious target in an obvious column.

For like, the fifth time in a month, Evans was absolutely certain that he was going to die. The shells were getting closer. The radio squawked a series of letters and numbers.

Lieutenant Ricci flipped through her notebook, pressed a button, and then responded in kind with a series of letters and numbers. She then looked at Evans, “Only a few minutes more.”

There was a deafening roar and the car was knocked into the air. It slammed back down again and Evans passed out.

He heard grunting noises. He opened his eyes. He could see Lieutenant Ricci in the flickering firelight. She was lying on her back, skirt collected around her waist, leggings singed by fire, with her feet pushed against the door. Evans attempted to crawl next to her and help, but a sharp pain shot through his right leg. He yelped.

Lieutenant Ricci looked over at him. She readjusted herself and attempted to pull her skirt up. She then kicked her legs up. The door opened momentarily before it fell shut again. The fire was getting hotter. Another shell burst nearby and rattled the car again. Evans started moving closer to the Lieutenant. Cringing with every centimeter. He wiped the sweat off of his brow.

Evans placed his left leg onto the door. There was a series of high pitched swooshing roars from outside. They sounded like banshees shrieking. Lieutenant Ricci held a hand over his face. Three. Two. One. They both kicked up in unison, swinging the door open.

Lieutenant Ricci stretched up and grabbed the side of the car. She hoisted herself up out of the car. Another dozen banshees shrieked. Evans attempted to get up, but the pain stopped him. He cringed and fell back. The Lieutenant reached down towards him. Evans held his hand up and gripped it. She pulled him up out of the car as another dozen banshees flew by. He could see fire streak through the air.

When the Lieutenant finally pulled Evans out, she tumbled back, bringing Evans over with her. There was a crack and Evans started screaming. Lieutenant Ricci helped Evans up and started carrying him to the side of the rode. She looked at him and said, “You were supposed to help carry me. You are the worst runner Evans.”

Another dozen banshee’s shrieked overhead, and Evans caught a glance at where they were coming from. A half dozen trucks were parked in a scattered formation, with a moving rack of a dozen tubes pointed towards the airship. Evans looked at that. It was pulling back. Two banshees pierced the side and flames burst forth. The airship started to fall out of the sky. What looked like ants started to fall out of the airship’s cabin.

Privates Head and Delage ran out to help Lieutenant Ricci and Evans inside. They put Evans down on a kitchen table and then helped Ricci into another room. Tiscornia walked over and bent over Evans, “We’re pretty sure that you’re immortal Evans.”

“My legs broken.”

“After being hit by an artillery shell. And you’ve done that at least once before. And ran through fire several times. And disappeared behind Vledscan lines. Through that and just one broken leg. All the evidence is there. You can’t die.”

“Can someone give some morphine?” Evans tried to look at his leg, but Tiscornia pushed him down.

“You don’t want to see that.”

Chilcott walked into view and looked over Evans, “You know in some cultures they eat food off of a naked woman on the table.”

Evans cringed at the pain in his leg, “I’m glad to know that. Really fucking useful information right now. No fucking morphine needed.”

Newey walked up to the table with Cain, “No, it’s um… We should be more multicultural.” He gestured at the table, “Cain, I’m hungry, why don’t you pop your clothes off and lie down.”

“That seems like an awful idea. All that powder would get,” she looked around, “In my lady bits. Not very fun to clean that out.”

Newey nodded as he pulled out a syrette from his bag, “Remind me to ask you when we get solid food. Like steak.” Evans felt the pinch as Newey stuck the needle into his thigh.

Cain laughed, “You’re going to eat steak off of me? I feel like it would be better to eat finger food off of someone. Not something with a knife.”

“I think I just really want steak,” Newey tucked the empty syrette into Evans’ lapel, “I could eat steak with my hands. Plans still on.” He shrugged and waved for Cain to follow, “We should probably head back to Hardin. You know how we gets.” The two left the room.

Evans looked at Chilcott, “Why did you bring that up?”

Shrugging, Chilcott replied, “I’m bored. So I’m trying to get them to do it.” He wrote something on a piece of paper and pinned it to Evans’ chest, “It’s something to pass the time.”

Tiscornia nodded, “You are an idiot Chilly. First juggling grenades, now this… At least this won’t get us killed.”

Closing his eyes, Evans took a few breaths. He opened his eyes again. A Lieutenant was standing over him smoking and directing four soldiers. Evans closed his eyes again. He was being carried along the road. He could see the two soldiers carrying the front of the stretcher. He closed his eyes again.

He was half awake when they finally got him to the medical unit. A bald Captain with splotches of brown on his face was tapping on the side of a machine with his gloved hands. He was looking into some viewport that was over Evans’ leg. The Captain then flipped a switch, stepped back, and jotted down a some notes.

He walked out, leaving Evans alone in the room. Evans looked at the weird machine that the Captain had been using. There were all sorts of levers and knobs. He tried to sit up and get a closer look, but he discovered that he was strapped down.

A Major walked into the room, with the same odd splotches the Captain had. She looked at Evans and waved in front of his face, her right hand looked like it had a bad sunburn. She then bent over him and smiled, “Hi! I’m Doctor Jackson. So your leg is pretty smashed up, but with a cast on, it will be healed in a few weeks.” He heard her pull out a tape measure and move toward Evans’ leg, “Can I say something?”

“Yes Ma’am?”

“I’m really glad you’re here. Most people that come by for X-Rays are really bad off. It’s nice to deal with something not so horrible,” the Major put away the tape measure and put her hands on his leg, “Now this will hurt quite a bit. I can’t give you any more morphine, because there is a shortage. So try not to scream too much. It’s a bit distracting.”

Nightmare

It was completely dark. It must be cloudy or something. Evans shifted on his bedroll and tried to get back to sleep. He couldn’t. Everything was eerily silent. He whispered, “Hey… Is anyone awake?”

He felt around for Evans tried reached in his pocket for his matches. He struck one. The flickering light revealed something disturbing. There was no one nearby. Except… Evans reached into his kit and pulled out his flashlight. He pumped it a few times. Some mauve fabric was blown away by the wind… From Anna! Without thinking, Evans ran after it.

It seemed to have a mind of it’s own. It jumped and dodged. Finally Evans tackled it and shoved it into his pocket. There was a pain in his leg. He had smashed his flashlight under his leg. Evans felt blood on his leg. Fuck. He tried to find his matches, but they weren’t there.

Suddenly Evans was blinded by light. They seemed to be the headlights to a car. He he covered his eyes and walked around to the side, “HEY! IS ANYONE IN THERE?!”

He heard the door slowly open. When he turned, he saw flames coming from the door. Anna exited the car in her mauve dress. She smiled as the skin melted off of her face. Evans backed away. He tripped over something. Barnes appeared over him, “You killed me Evans. Why did you do that?”

Evans screamed.

He couldn’t breath. Evans opened his eyes. Tiscornia had his hand over his face. He tapped his arm. Tiscornia pulled his hand away.

The mornings first light was beginning to show. Evans sat up. Tiscornia sat across from him and stared. He looked deep into his eyes. Several minutes passed. Tiscornia pulled a worn piece of paper out of his breast pocket. He handed it to Evans. There were about a dozen names on the paper. Tiscornia grabbed the paper back and mouthed the names. He put the paper back, “Everyone who has died either in my fire team, following my orders, or placed under my command. And you’re right. I would have forgotten half of these names if it weren’t for this list. But I read them everyday.”

“Does it get better?”

“I’ll tell you if it does,” Tiscornia looked over at two of the soldiers on watch, “Since we are awake, why don’t we relieve those two. Give them an hour of rest before we move on out.”

Evans nodded and got his kit together. The two then walked over to the soldiers. Two cav privates on the hood of one of the cars. Tiscornia waved at them. One of them got off and walked over, “Hey Lances. You need us for anything?”

Evans nodded, “We can take over the rest of your watch, give you guys some rest.”

The other private walked over and shook his hand, “Thanks really much.” She then lifted the field glasses off of her neck and handed them to Evans, “Have fun. It’s boring as fuck out there.”

Tiscornia shrugged, “We’re used to it by now pivélla. You been in long?”

The private replied, “I finished basic two weeks ago. A week of home and sent here.”

“Well good luck. I’m Tiscornia by the way.”

“Smitty. Allison Smith. From Strongfield.”

“Evans. Now you should get some rest Smitty. Long day ahead of us.”

“Right. Thank you again Lances,” Smitty then ran off to catch up with the other Cav private.

Evans sat down on the hood of the car and pulled up the field glasses. He scanned the road and the windows. No movement. Evans pulled out a cigarette and offered one to Tiscornia, who accepted. Tiscornia struck a match and lit them both.

It was almost pleseant. No hostile movement and watching the sun rise. It was half an hour before Tiscornia saw something. He pointed at the sky, “What is that thing?”

Evans’ eyes widened. It was the thing Lieutenant Ricci had been so terrified of. And it was moving towards them. Evans tapped Tiscornia, “Wake up the Lieutenant and bring her here. I need to go find someone.”

Evans started to sprint down the line, jumping over the sleeping soldiers. He only kicked a few people on his way to the communications car. Lieutenant Ricci was sleeping underneath. Evans shook her shoulder, “Lieutenant Ricci!”

“Yes Pri… Lance Corporal?” Lieutenant Ricci rolled out from under the car and stood up.

Evans pointed back at the airship, “Those things from before. What you saw earlier.”

Lieutenant Ricci mouthed a rude word, turned around, and threw open the door to the communications truck. She leaned over and started up the radio. She yelled back to Evans, “Tell your officers to get everyone inside and away from the street.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Evans ran back to the car, where the Lieutenant and Tiscornia were waiting. Evans quickly extended his hand and the Lieutenant moved her hand in front of her.

“What is it that you want Lance Corporal?”

“I just talked to Lieutenant Ricci. She wants us to hide indoors. Now.”

The Lieutenant nodded and drew her pistol. She fired it into the air, “EVERYBODY! ON YOUR FEET! MOVE INSIDE NOW!”

The Lieutenant kept yelling. Evans was surprised that someone that small could keep yelling that long. He then sprinted back to Lieutenant Ricci through the chaos. She was still working the radio. He waved at her. She gestured at him to wait for a minute.

Evans stood nervously. Most of the unit had gotten inside. Only a few of the Cav soldiers were getting some last pieces of equipment from the cars. And here was Evans. Standing in the middle of the road. A nice target for a sniper. Shit Shit Shit.

“Evans.”

Evans snapped out of it and shook his head. Lieutenant Ricci was standing in front of him, she had finished her radio call. She gestured to the car, “We need to hide in here with the radio until the reinforcements arrive.”

“Reinforcements?” Evans started to help the Lieutenant into the car. He then slid in next her and shut the door.

“Anti-Airship guns. They’ll be fun. If we survive this,” Lieutenant Ricci smiled at him.

“Why do we need to stay in this truck Ma’am?”

“Well, I need to monitor the radio. And if I need to get out of here fast, I still can’t run. So that’s your thing. You need to help me.”

Ambush

Pastor, Riley, and Barnes took a few minutes to set up the charges. The ran the cable behind the lead car and had the platoon take cover. Barnes pulled the plunger up on the blasting machine. Barnes collapsed to the ground as a shot rang out.

The turret gunners opened fire as the platoon took cover on the opposite side. A mortar rammed into the lead car, detonated, and engulfed the car with flame.

Captain York rolled out of the car. A few seconds later, another soldier came out on fire. They were screaming and clawing at their face. There was a gunshot nearby. Evans saw Lieutenant Kestel standing over the now dead body with her pistol in hand. She yelled something at Evans then started firing from behind the engine block of the flaming car.

Evans pumped his shotgun and took cover. The heat was almost unbearable, but the fire was too heavy to pull back. He fired a few shots before he poked his head around the corner of the car.

There were three distinctive spots down the road where fire was coming from. All too far for Evans to make a difference with the shotgun. He took cover again and looked down the line. Two of the Male Cars were attempting to turn to bring their cannons into the fight. Evans felt a tap on his shoulder.

He turned around, Lieutenant Kestel signed to him. Get five soldiers. Follow her.

Evans managed to get five soldiers to come over to him. Pastor, Riley, Nazarri, Delage, and Hunt. Lieutenant Kestel put her pistol in her left hand and drew her sword. She then charged to the nearest wall. Evans waved to the Privates with him and followed after her.

The Lieutenant gestured back. Rifle Grenade. Evans pointed to Hunt. She was the most experienced rifleman. Rifle Grenade. She nodded and reached into her pockets for a grenade and blank. In a few seconds she was ready.

The Lieutenant gestured again. Second from left. Sixty meters. She counted down. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Evans knelt and fired his shotgun around the corner. Hunt stepped out and quickly fired the rifle grenade and stepped back into cover. Evans saw the grenade impact, knocking out most of the cover.

Moments later, the two Male cars fired their cannons, knocking out the other two nests. The fire dropped down a bit now that there was only one machine gun left. Lieutenant Kestel ran out into the center of the road and waved her sword. She then started sprinting towards the Vledscan troops.

It took a few seconds for Evans to realize what was going on. He gestured back and started sprinting after the Lieutenant. He fixed his bayonet while running. He looked back for a moment. His five soldiers and about a quarter of the platoon were following. He was surprised the Lieutenant was still alive. What was more surprising was that the Vledscan soldiers started to retreat.

When Evans reached the three nests, the Lieutenant had picked up a rifle and was firing at the retreating soldiers. Evans panted for a moment and took a drink from his canteen. A few seconds later the rest of the soldiers arrived. The Lieutenant dropped the rifle and turned to face the soldiers. She nodded and smiled, “Good work. We sure showed them. Lance Corporal Evans, don’t you have a roadblock to destroy?”

“Yes Ma’am,” Evans turned about and looked for Riley and Pastor. They were still alive. He walked over to them, “Let’s destroy that roadblock Privates.”

As they jogged back, Evans pulled the bayonet off of his shotgun and put it back in the frog. They got back to the wrecked car. Captain York was attempting to get the column back together. Evans looked at the two Privates, “Pastor, check the wire for any breaks. Riley, prep the blasting machine… Is that the right word?”

Riley shrugged as she started moving Barnes’ body away from the blasting machine, “We just called them plungers at the mine.”

Evans nodded then looked around. He saw the burned Cav soldier on the ground. He looked at the soldiers head. He had seen it right. Lieutenant Kestel had shot the man.

“She did the right thing Lance Corp,” Captain York was standing behind him, “He would have burned to death slowly. I have done the same thing. Now get back to that Roadblock. Every minute we stay here is a minute more in danger.”

Evans walked back to the blasting machine. Pastor gave him the thumbs up. Evans nodded and yelled out to the column, “EVERYONE COVER! DESTROYING THE ROADBLOCK! EVERYONE COVER!”

Riley pulled the plunger on the blasting machine then pushed it down again. There was a loud roar. Evans felt something knock him on the head. He fell over. Everything went black

“Evans. Evans. Lance Corporal Evans,” Evans opened his eyes. Giuliano was standing over him. She squatted down, “Good thing you had that helmet.”

Evans felt his helmet. There was a large dent in it. Riley pointed at a chunk of concrete, “This came flying over and hit you on the head.”

Evans slowly pushed himself up. Tiscornia walked over and handed him a new helmet, with a few bloodstains on it, “This was Barnes’ helmet. Surprisingly he was the only one of our guys platoon,” He gestured to the burned out truck, “Cav guys lost a few people and their command truck.”

“Well, the Lieutenant is definitely crazy,” Evans put on Barnes’ helmet, “Who the hell leads a charge against machine guns with a sword?”

Giuliano shrugged, “Well it worked didn’t it?”

There was a low rumble as the cars started again. Evans checked his gear and started to walk forward again. He walked around the still burning wreck. There was another Cav soldier he hadn’t noticed before hanging halfway out the door, their face ripped away from the blast. Just a blackened skull. They barely looked human. Evans put his hand over his mouth and swallowed down the vomit.

Turner walked over, “I’m no longer complaining about being infantry. A bullet to the head is way better than that. Fuck.”

After another hour, the column came to a stop for a quick food break. Evans sat down by Tiscornia, Turner, Ustinov, Chilly, and Giuliano. He took a few bites of jerky and stared into space, “Why the fuck didn’t I care about Barnes?”

“What?” Chilly looked at Evans.

“Barnes. He got killed right in front of me. I didn’t care. Why did I care about that Cav soldier I didn’t even know? It’s my fault that Barnes is dead, and I don’t care.”

Tiscornia nodded, “Yep. It gets worse. Wait until you have to order a friend to their death. God help us all.”

The group sat in silence for a few moments. Giuliano looked at Chilly, “So you were a professional juggler?”

“Yeah! Here, let me show you,” Chilly reached into his haversack, pulled out four grenades, and handed one to Tiscornia, “Alright, I’m going to start off with these three. Dom, when I say go, toss that one in.”

Chilly started to juggle. Tiscornia laughed, “This seems like an awful idea. Think of how awkward that would be. The platoon loses six NCO’s in one freak juggling accident. I’d like to see Captain Simmons write up that report.”

“Now!”

Tiscornia tossed the grenade and Chilly caught it, continuing to juggle. He slowly stood all the way up and started throwing them behind his back. “OK, now someone else, throw me one of your grenades right in front of my right foot.”

As Tiscornia tossed a grenade from his haversack, more of the platoon started to gather. Chilly kicked the grenade up from his foot and started juggling with that one. Tiscornia laughed again, “I’m just imagining. Chilly kills us all. Our column fails because there is no infantry. The offensive crumbles because our column is on the wing and the Vleds can outflank the army. The battle is lost. This resounding victory pushes our army into retreat. And Chilly, the Vledscans will erect monuments in your honor. The man who juggled his army into defeat. They will sing songs of your idiocy for generations to come.”

Giuliano burst out laughing. Lieutenant Kestel yelled out, “Time to move out!”

Chilly caught the grenades and put four in his haversack. He then handed the fifth to Tiscornia. Evans stared. He still couldn’t get his head around Private Ray Barnes and the Cav Soldier. He should have been focusing for the rest of the day, but he couldn’t. Even after the column stopped for the night and Evans tried to sleep.

Move Out

There was a loud clanging. Evans opened his eyes, sat up, and pulled his blanket off. It was still dark out, Evans looked at his watch, Five Thirty. Private Clark was banging a frying pan against the side of an armored car. The Lieutenant was standing next to her, smirking. When most of the platoon was awake, she started walking down the line and yelled out, “ALRIGHT! WE ARE MOVING OUT IN FIVE MINUTES! PACK YOUR BED ROLLS AND STEEL BUCKETS ON! TODAY WE ACHIEVE GLORY!”

Evans quickly packed his bed roll, slipped it into his pack, and put it on. He then picked up his shotgun and looked over at the Lieutenant. She was sitting on the hood of a truck polishing a sword that was over half her height. She tossed it from hand to hand. Evans walked over and extended an upturned hand.

The Lieutenant brought her right hand over her waist, “Good to see you Private Evans, I hope this day goes well for us.”

“If you will pardon my question Lady Demetria, Why do you have a sword?”

She smiled and slid the sword into a scabbard, “Family tradition. A few hundred years ago, it was a law or something that in order to marry a noblewoman, you must first defeat her in combat with a sword. To show that you could protect her. Because women are dainty flowers or something. So the story goes that one of my ancestors fell madly in love with a man who was fourth in line to marry her. So she trained constantly for the year leading to her betrothal, so she could defeat the first three suitors. When her lover came, she kept her sword in it’s scabbard and refused to fight.” The Lieutenant shrugged, “So, the women in my family started training ever since so they could choose their own path.”

Evans bowed and returned to his team. He looked at Chilcott and shrugged, “Well, the Lieutenant is crazy. She has a sword. It’s like half her size. And it seems like she wants to use it.”

Tiscornia shrugged, “Well, she did have that speech about all of us dying.”

A low rumble started. Exhaust started billowing from the armored cars. The Lieutenant got on the hood of the front car and extended the sword, “FOR GLORY!”

The cars slowly started to drive forward. The platoon started to march forward. Nazarri walked up next to Evans, “Lance Corporal, do you need anything?”

“No thanks Nazarri… And call me Evans, we’ve been in the army for the same amount of time. It just feels weird,” Evans looked over at Pastor, who was talking with another private, “Keep an eye on him, I like him, and wouldn’t want him to die so soon.”

Nazarri nodded and walked over to Pastor. Evans walked over towards Turner. She looked at him, “I feel like we could move faster if we could ride in the cars.”

Evans nodded, “Yeah, it also would have made Lady Demetria’s whole thing more inspiring… I kind of hope she kills someone with it.”

“Yeah. That would be pretty impressive,” Turner nodded, “But seriously. Why do we have to walk everywhere? Those cars are right next to us. We could just hang on the side.”

“No,” Evans shook his head, “We’re the Infantry. Everyone hates us. So we walk. We walk everywhere.”

“HEY!” A women shouted from behind the platoon, “PRIVATE EVANS!”

“Well aren’t you popular.”

Evans nodded and jogged to the back of the platoon. Lieutenant Ricci was limping towards the platoon with a cane, “Evans. Good. This is your platoon. Ooh, and congratulations on the promotion.”

“Should you be here Ma’am? You got shot like three days ago.” Evans gestured at her uniform, which still had a hole and obvious bloodstains.

“I snuck out. I was getting antsy,” She gestured to the cars, “The Majors told me to follow your column.” She then pointed to the car with a radio antennae sticking out the top, “Can you help me to that car?”

Evans put his shotgun into his right hand and his left hand around Lieutenant Ricci’s waist. She put her arm over his shoulder and he helped her move alongside the car. He knocked on the door.

A Lieutenant opened and looked at them, “You need me Lieutenant?”

Lieutenant Ricci nodded, “Can I have a ride? I’m an Intel officer and I’m not supposed to be walking.”

The Lieutenant tapped the driver on the shoulder and the car came to a halt. He gestured to the person behind him and the door opened. Evans helped Lieutenant Ricci onto a bench in the car next to a Corporal. He saluted Lieutenant Ricci as the door swung close and the car started moving again. He then walked back up towards Turner, “Man it seems like every officer loves me,” He gestured back to the communications car, “She apparently snuck out of a hospital to join our platoon on the way to the front. She can’t even walk without help.”

Turner nodded, “I think it’s a sign. You should become an officer. And that way you can be crazy and people will just laugh and call it eccentric. And you get to yell at people.”

“Great, Now all I have to do is be rich enough or smart enough to become an officer.”

“Hey! You could also be well connected and be an officer. Think. Are any of your relatives important government figures?”

There was a burst of machine gun fire. Evans dived to the ground. There was a loud explosion next to him. A large piece of brass fell to the ground. The machine gun didn’t fire anymore. Turner looked over at Evans and yelled, “I LIKE THESE CAV GUYS!”

Lieutenant Kestel was looking through a pair of field glasses at the building that used to hold the machine gun nest. She drew her sword and gestured forward. The cars started moving again and the platoon rose. The lead car swept the building with a few bursts from it’s machine gun.

Evans looked at Turner, “OK, so that use of the sword looked pretty cool.”

After about an hour of this slow march forward, with sporadic enemy fire, the unit arrived at a roadblock. The cars halted and the platoon sat down to take a few moments rest. A Cavalry Captain came out of the lead car with a pipe in her mouth, “Any of you infantry lot have any experiences with using explosives to blast holes in things?”

To Evans’ surprise, Pastor was one of the few who raised a hand, along with Barnes and Riley. The Captain then pointed to the three Privates who had volunteered. She then saw Evans and his Lance Corporal Stripes near the front of the column, “You too Lance Corp. With me.”

The four followed the Captain to a car nestled in the middle of the formation. She looked at the four, “I need you three to blow a hole in that road block. Lance Corp, you’re here to supervise and help carry explosives. You can get the charges out of the back of this truck.” She then knocked on the back door and left to her car.

The door swung open and a Private stepped out, “Hi, I’m Peters. What do you four need?”

Evans stepped forward, “I’ve been tasked by your Captain with blowing a hole in a roadblock,” he looked back at his detail, “Pastor, how much do we need?”

“One case James.”

Peters nodded, pulled out a case of explosives, and handed it to Pastor. He then pulled another box labeled ‘blasting caps’ and handed it to Riley. The next box was labeled ‘blasting machine’ and Peters handed it to Evans. Peters then pulled out a large spool of wire and handed it to Barnes. Evans then led the group to the roadblock.