Evans brushed the snow off of his uniform. Once he was relatively clean, he walked downstairs into the deep dugout. He saw Captain Kestel in the candlelight, making notes on her map. She looked up, “He… Hey… Ja… James. How is the wea… weather up there?”

He smiled, “I just checked my watch Cap. It’s midnight. Happy Birthday.”

She laughed as a shell burst overhead, shaking the dugout, “Ha… Happy birthday to you too James.”

Evans grabbed a blanket and tossed it to her. She caught it and wrapped it around herself, “You know what I did for my birthday last year?”

“I don’t really follow the tabloids Cap.”

Standing up, the Captain acted as if her blanket was a dress, “Huge party. I wore the most beautiful dress. I should show it to you sometime. I danced most of the night. The feast was amazing, and the cake was exquisite. When the time for presents came, I revealed to my parents that I intended to join the army.”

“What kind of presents did you get Cap?”

“Well, my favorite one was a new horse. My older horse I had gotten when I was twelve, and she was way to small for me. Next… Ooh, I got this most beautiful golden necklace that went amazingly with my dress. Then of course a few new dresses, a few books for my collection. You know normal stuff. And, two of the gentlemen I danced with proposed to me,” The Captain smiled, “I turned them down of course, but you know how that is.”

“I must say Cap, I do not think that is normal gifts, and I have never experienced multiple people proposing to me on the same night,” Evans laughed, “Last year for my birthday I got a book.” He sighed, “Also, that list of gifts make my present look really bad.” Pulling an envelope out of his pocket, he extended it to the Captain, “Happy Birthday?”

Laughing, she accepted the envelope and opened it up. Inside there were several folded paper animals, “You probably put more effort into these than most of my gifts last year, and at least I can carry these with me. You know how hard it is to wear a frilly red dress into combat?”

The Captain then reached into her desk and pulled out a gift wrapped in brown paper, “Now, I did not really know what kind of things poor people would buy each other, but I did notice the Bernard Sharpe book in your kit during inspection last month.”

She handed the gift to Evans and he opened it up. Captain Kestel smiled, “He’s a family friend, so I sent a telegram to him, and he sent me one of his manuscripts.”

“Wait,” Evans looked through it, “Holy Shit Ma’am. I’m pretty sure this is worth more than everything I own. Um… Wow… Thank you.” Evans carefully wrapped some paper around the gift and placed it into his kit underneath the Officer’s Assistant cot. He worked on a letter while the Captain went back to her paperwork.

After about half an hour, Captain Simmons walked down the steps, “Good Night Lady.” He paused, “It still feels weird using that as a greeting.” He took off his helmet and greatcoat, then walked to Captain Kestel’s desk. She walked up to him and extended her hand. Captain Simmons accepted the handshake and sat down. Captain Kestel followed suit. “Plus, it’s weird that your promotion to Captain went through before mine to Major. Ah well.”

“What do I owe the pleasure of this visit Captain Simmons?”

Captain Simmons pulled a stylus out of his pocket and tapped it on the map, “Boxer’s have set up a bunker here. Don’t ask me how we missed it, but it happened. The machine gun there enfilades a large part of the line over by the 127th. We’ve tried shelling the area, but we can’t seem to get accurate fire on it. Thanks to your actions at Urbs, Fox has been re-designated as Shock troops in the official books, and as such, when the General was told he needed someone to take it out, he specifically asked for you. The horrors of competence Eh?”

He sat back in his chair while Captain Kestel circled the bunker. “It goes down tomorrow morning at One. The team should meet at Regimental HQ an hour beforehand. Arty is going to fire a quick barrage of smoke shells, so, every single Vledscan Machine gun will be firing on that position. You’ll be given a pack of explosives, fifty meters of wire, and a blasting machine. Since this is your first time in charge a raid, I could give you some advice.”

“Yes Captain. That would be very much appreciated.”

“Well, I’d recommend sending one rifle team, along with an officer, and a runner. No rifles, a pistol for the officer, Sergeant, Corporal, and Runner. These should only be used as a last resort, because the Vledscan’s will open up on you. Everyone should have shovels, clubs, and bayonets. Politically, I’d recommend going yourself, since there are a lot of officers who think that Urbs was a pushover, and trench raids are where real officers are born. Speaking of officers, if you can take one prisoner, do it. Try not to disembowel them this time,” He laughed, “And stay low. If a flare goes up, close one eye and freeze. Try darkening your face with mud before hand.” He tapped his hand, “Right, and sense the smoke shells are a beacon to gunfire, move fast. Once it goes up though, it might be wise to stay in cover for a while to give the fire some time to cool off. Unless the Boxers fire rifle grenades at you, then run like Hell. Most importantly, get some good sleep today. Got it?”

“Yes Captain. Thank you.”

“Righto,” Captain Simmons looked at his watch, “Well, I’ll be off now.” He stood up, put on his helmet and greatcoat, and left the dugout.

Captain Kestel looked at Evans, “So, want to have a bit of fun tomorrow night?”

“I’m always looking for an opportunity to give Anna one of those lifetime dead spouse pensions Cap.”

“Good lad,” She paused, “Privates Lewis and Riley have experience with explosives right?”

“Yes Cap. And they are in Sergeant Chilcott’s team.”

“Very well, wake Boswell and have her inform Lieutenant Windsor and Sergeant Chilcott of the raid. Windsor might have to rework the watch schedules to allow the team some sleep. Then have her go down to the 127th and sketch the bunker.”

“I can do it Cap.”

“Alright James, we can let Boswell have some sleep for a little longer.”


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