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.”
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.