The Lady in Charge

The ground in front of Evans exploded and Evans was thrown to the ground. He saw Captain Simmons waving his arms, yelling something inaudibly. Evans felt someone grab his shoulders and start dragging him. It was Clark, the Lieutenant’s runner. She started to smile at him when a bullet ripped through her neck and the blood started pouring out. She dropped Evans and grabbed at her neck, before a bullet ripped through her skull, ending her life.

The body fell quickly. Evans got up, grabbed Clark’s rifle, and ran to the side of the road, behind cover. Sergeant Gabriel pointed towards a destroyed car about a hundred meters down the road and patted Evans’ rifle grenade pouch.

Nodding, Evans loaded a rifle grenade and waited for the Sergeant to lay down suppressing fire. Then Evans took to a kneel, adjusted his aim, and fired the grenade right behind the car. Evans then ducked back down and looked to the Sergeant, who signaled for him to keep firing his rifle downrange.

Eventually, a smoke grenade was thrown between the Ethslin and Vledscan positions, and the billowing smoke obscured the view. The Captain ran down the line holding up his pointer finger and gesturing to a side alleyway. Taking the signal, First Platoon quickly moved up towards the alleyway. Running back, Captain Simmons pointed his fist at the Vledscan position with one hand, and switching between a two and a three with the other.

Captain Simmons attempted to take cover again while Second and Third platoons opened fire, but a stray Vledscan bullet slammed into his shoulder, turning him around like a top. Evans shouldered his rifle and ran to get the Captain into cover. Once the smoke cleared, the Vledscans would take the chance to kill a wounded officer.

Evans knelt behind the Captain and started to drag him to the side of the road. He saw Lieutenant Claybrooks from Third Platoon run out to take command and focus fire as the smoke started to dissipate. Evans then looked down at the Captain once they got behind cover. The Captain looked up, “Thanks Evans.” He then passed out.

Nodding, Evans reached into the Captain’s jacket, pulled out some dressing, and applied it to the wound. When he was finished started firing downrange. He saw a rifle grenade soar over, collide with Lieutenant Claybrooks’ haversack, and she ceased to exist. Evans then heard a machine gun open up to the right.

Lieutenant Kestel took over. She grabbed the rifle off of a dead soldier and one of his rifle grenades. Then, with careful aim, she fired it into an abandoned grain truck, partially obscuring the enemy position. She then ordered a salvo of rifle grenades, drew her sword, and gave the command to charge. Evans drew his bayonet, fixed it, and started running forward.

As the dust settled, a surviving Vledscan officer started to rally his men to resist the attack. They didn’t have time to set up a machine gun before Fox Company struck.

Leaping over a machine gun nest, Lieutenant Kestel hacked down with her sword into the neck of a soldier. Evans jumped next to her and skewered a soldier in the stomach. The Lieutenant chopped into another man, looked at Evans, and grinned. The firefight was over, and the surviving Vledscan soldiers surrendered.

Evans looked towards the alleyway where First Platoon had gone. A machine gun had been set up facing straight down the alleyway. A few survivors from First Platoon came out of the alleyway, stunned.

The Lieutenant was looking around, and, not seeing Clark, pointed at Evans, “Go to find Lieutenant Woodward. He needs to take command of the company.”

Evans nodded and jogged to the survivors of First Platoon, “Is Lieutenant Woodward alive?”

The Sergeant wiped the blood from his face and looked past Evans, “Maybe… It was charnel house back there. Evans nodded and walked into the alleyway, looking for the Lieutenant.

Most of First Platoon lay dead and dying in the alleyway. Evans picked his way through the bodies, looking for Lieutenant Woodward.

Eventually, he saw the officer’s body lying face down on top of a private. Evans rolled the body over, and half his face was missing. There was a whimper from the private. Evans knelt down and helped the soldier up. She was covered in blood, but otherwise, unharmed.

The Private looked at him and started bawling. Evans tried to comfort her, “It’s alright Private. We beat them. Now what’s your name?”

Trying to compose herself, the soldier responded, “I’m… I’m… Private Emily Wesley,” She looked down at the Lieutenant, “He fell on me… Knocked me to… And I just stayed there. I didn’t try and fight I just hid.”

Evans gave her an awkward hug, “Wesley, your not in the army to die. Look around you. If you had gotten up, you would have been cut down. All that you could have accomplished would be providing a fleshy place for a few bullets to rest… Is this your first show Wesley?”

She nodded.

“Just stay down, keep your rifle loaded, follow your orders, and you might get out of this. Now, if in a week, you still want to go home, talk to me. I might be able to give you some advice… And I’m Evans,” He let go, bent down, picked up a rifle, and handed it to her, “You should report to your… Someone in your chain of command. Or a Sergeant in your platoon.” He turned around and jogged out of the blood soaked alleyway.

Stopping for a moment, Evans wiped some of the blood off of his clothes and walked to the Lieutenant, “Ma’am, Lieutenant Woodward was killed in the alleyway, along with most of First.”

Lieutenant Kestel nodded, “Evans, Clark is dead, and I need a new runner. You are it. First things first, find out how many members of First Platoon are still active.”

Evans nodded and ran back to the Sergeant he had seen earlier, “Sergeant! The Lieutenant wants to know how many soldiers are in your platoon.”

The Sergeant nodded slowly and then shouted, “First Platoon, on me!”

A half dozen soldiers worked their way over. One Lance Corporal and Five privates. Wesley had wiped some of the blood off of herself. The Sergeant shrugged, “This is it Lance.”

Evans nodded and went back to the Lieutenant, “Seven Ma’am, a Sergeant, two Lance Corporals and five Privates.”

“Right,” She drummed her leg, “Run back to Colonel Strummer, Request a company to recover our wounded, and tell her we will be moving forward with two full strength platoons. Take a Private with you just in case.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Evans walked towards the survivors of First. Maybe a few minutes off the line would help Wesley. He waved to the Private, “Wesley!”

She looked over, “Yes Lance Corporal?”

“I need you with me to deliver a message. Lieutenant’s orders.”

“Yes Lance Corporal,” She looked towards First Platoon’s Sergeant, “Sergeant Howard… The Lady needs me.”

“Don’t die.”

“Alright, let’s move,” Evans pointed to the rear of the unit, “We need to update Colonel Strummer.” He started to jog back towards the rest of the battalion.

“Yes Lance Corporal,” She started to jog after him.

“So Private, did you call Lieutenant Kestel, ‘The Lady’?”

“That’s what everyone calls her… She is a Lady.”

“No one in Second says that. We just call her Lieutenant Kestel.”

Evans saw Wesley smile for the first time, “I like calling her the Lady. It makes me feel like someone important. Plus she’s so fabulous. I saw her in normal clothes when my train arrived. Her dress was so beautiful.”

The Battalion came into view, Evans pointed, “Let’s find the Lieutenant Colonel.”

The pair worked their way through the crowd until they found an officer. Evans saluted, “Sir! We have been ordered to report to the Lieutenant Colonel.”

The officer looked at Wesley’s bloody uniform, “She is over there.” The officer pointed behind him.

Evans and Wesley walked to the Lieutenant Colonel. She was holding a mug of coffee in her left hand, sipping it. Evans and Wesley Saluted. Lieutenant Colonel Strummer returned the salute, “News from Fox Company?”

Nodding, Evans responded, “Lieutenant Kestel is requesting a company to deal with the wounded. She also reports that she will continue moving forward with two full platoons.”

There was a crash as Colonel Strummer dropped her mug, “The Hell? What the Fucking Hell happened to Fox Company. Why is the junior Lieutenant in charge, and why are there only two platoons.”

“We were ambushed Colonel. Captain Simmons ordered First Platoon on a flanking maneuver. The Captain got hit. Lieutenant Claybrooks took command, and was immediately killed by a rifle grenade. First Platoon was then hit with a machine gun…”

Wesley spoke up, “Several Grenades as well Ma’am.”

“Lieutenant Kestel then took command. She ordered a charge across the ground and we took the Vledscan position.” Evans paused, “This is when we found out about first platoon. Seven of them uninjured. Lieutenant Woodward was killed by the machine gun.”

“Shit,” Colonel Strummer punched a wall, “Tell her that we will mobilize Eagle, and to push forward. She has the company.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Evans and Wesley saluted, did an about turn, and ran back to the company.

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