Painting — Second Interlude

It had been three months since the Battle of Northern Gate. The 202nd had spent most of the time off the line in training. Captain Kestel was one of the few experienced officers left in the regiment, so it was a busy time, training the massive amounts of green officers and enlisted. But, there was now two weeks of leave. Leave for everyone except for Captain Kestel. Word had spread about the Battle of the Crater, and General Staff at Newacre wanted her for a series of propaganda paintings and photographs. A series title “Woman of the Ethslin Army.”

She was seated in the lobby, reading a magazine. This was for a painting combining the two most famous moments of the recent offensives. Her at the Northern Gate, and some Lieutenant Atkinson from the Battle of Belaya Valley. Probably the two most famous Junior Officers right now. Captain Kestel because, well, she could eat a sandwich and it would make the papers. The Battle of the Crater didn’t help. Lieutenant Atkinson was different. While from a wealthy family, she was never more than a side note. Until Belaya Valley. Captain Kestel had read the mission report. And the newspapers. Lieutenant Atkinson’s platoon was on a lonely part of the line, without support, and they held against an armored battalion. Even with their weapons mostly ineffectual, they held. Captain Kestel was looking forward to meeting this great warrior.

Lieutenant Atkinson was late. She had gotten dressed in the wrong uniform and had to switch to the stupid officer’s skirt and find a stupid sword. And then she remembered to put on the stupid makeup they wanted her to wear. And then she had gotten lost. But she had finally gotten to the… set? She had no idea. They had told her something about a painting. She opened the door… Holy Hell.

The Blonde Lieutenant put on her glasses and stared at Captain Kestel. The Captain folded her magazine and stared back at the Lieutenant. She was a taller, bookish woman with a nervous air about her. There was a few seconds of awkward silence before Captain Kestel cleared her throat.

“Oh, Hi! Um… Ma’am. Er… Lady Demetria. I’m Lieutenant Atkinson. Um… What are… Sorry. What are you doing here?” Lieutenant Atkinson pulled off the glasses, paused, and saluted.
Captain Kestel returned the salute, “For the painting. Are you not Lieutenant Atkinson?”
“Um, I am Captain Lady. It is um, an… an honor to meet you Captain Lady,” Lieutenant Atkinson smoothed her uniform down and straightened her medals.
“No, Lieutenant Atkinson, the honor is mine,” Captain Kestel stood up and extended a hand, “You may call me Demi.”
“Um… I am Biddy then,” Lieutenant Atkinson shook the Captain’s hand, “And right. The painting is what we are doing.”
“So, Biddy, I have read much about your battle at Belaya Valley, I am in awe of your skills at command,” Captain Kestel smiled, “Can you tell me about the battle from your perspective?”
“Um… Yes… Ma’am… Demi,” Lieutenant Atkinson put on her glasses and drummed her thigh. Her stutter disappeared, “We were told that the Vledscans’ might send a small party through the valley. I deployed the platoon in two person foxholes in an arc of two thirds pi with a radius of approximately 100 meters. I deployed the machine gun team at the center of my platoon on the hill with my radio transmitter. On the right side I put my anti-armor team and my marksman on the left. I then put a series of covered anti-vehicle ditches in random locations between the mouth of the valley and my arc. Finally, I had an outpost in the mouth of the valley with my flare gun. The two soldiers in this outpost rotated every eight hours. We also laid down range markers throughout the valley. There was not really any expectation of any attack, so reinforcements were a armored company about half an hour away. The rest of D Company was about two days march away.”
Lieutenant Atkinson closed her eyes and paused for a few moments before continuing, “A little before reinforcements arrived, I got bitten on the waist, so I had to slow down a bit or I would bleed everywhere.” She smiled, “By the time reinforcements arrived, everything was a bit blurry, but I distinctly remember a very good looking young Lieutenant dragged me to his vehicle.”
The Lieutenant took off her glasses, “It… Well… It is a bit… bit of a blur. Ho… Ho… Honestly.”
Captain Kestel nodded, “You said something about pie? Do you mean, two thirds of a circle?”
“N… N… No,” She put on her glasses, “Two Pi is a circle. So…” The Lieutenant fished a notebook out of her skirt pocket and flipped through the pages. It was filled with strange symbols. She reached an empty page, but before she could draw, a man in a suit entered.
He first faced the Captain and smiled, “Lady.” He then turned to the Lieutenant, “Miss Atkinson.” He then gestured to the door, “If you would like to come with me, we can get started.”
The two followed the man into a room with several large electric lights pointed at a mock trench. There was an easel set up next to three large black boxes that Captain Kestel assumed were cameras. A Corporal sitting in the corner snapped to attention and saluted the officers, “Ma’am’s.”
The Captain and the Lieutenant returned the salute and the Man gestured to the trench, “Captain, Can you stand over here with your sword pointed toward the window and using your other hand to beckon.”
As Captain Kestel got into place, the Man turned to Lieutenant Atkinson, “First off,” He pulled off her glasses, “Heroes don’t wear glasses. Now, I want you to stand behind the Lady here. Good, now hold your pistol upward, with both hands.”
The Man stepped back and made a few adjustments. He then pointed back to the Corporal, “Start the Moving Camera.” He looked forward again, “Now you two look fierce while I take the Standard Picture and the Colored Picture.”
The Man walked back to the cameras, “I’m Duncan by the way. Official Army Painter and Photographer.” He quickly adjusted the cameras and took two pictures. He smiled and sat down at the easel, “Now that that is over, you can feel free to talk to each other, just try not to move to much.”
The two stood still for a while before curiosity got the better of Captain Kestel, “So what’s in the notebook? All the strange symbols? Some kind of code?”
“Mathematics,” Lieutenant Atkinson reflexively reached for her glasses before remembering that the painter had them, “I try work through problems to help me concentrate. It is a li…”
There was a loud bang outside. Lieutenant Atkinson screamed and dove to the floor.

Fuck, a column of armored cars were pulling into view. Lieutenant Atkinson crawled to the edge of her hole and shouted towards Rifle Team 3, “BRYŁA! SWITCH TO RIFLE GRENADES AND TARGET THAT VEHICLE WITH THE TRAILER! AUSTIN! GET ON THE WIRELESS TO THE FIREBASE!”
Fucking General Maxwell had said only a few scouts were expected. This was at least a battalion, “COOPER! MACHINE GUN! NOW!” Lieutenant Atkinson aimed her pistol towards the front of the column, probably useless, but so were the forty rifles under her command. Fucking General Maxwell.

Captain Kestel dropped her sword and ripped the pistol from Lieutenant Atkinson’s hands. The Corporal who had been operating the Moving Camera ran forward and restrained the Lieutenant, “It’s a backfiring truck Ma’am!”
“So… So… Sorry, I… I… slipped,” Lieutenant Atkinson slowly stood up and reached for the Pistol that Captain Kestel now held.
Captain Kestel ejected the magazine and locked the slide back. No rounds chambered. She looked into the magazine, fully loaded. Stuffing the magazine into her pocket, Captain Kestel handed the empty pistol to the Corporal, “Lieutenant, stand up, arms out”
Lieutenant Atkinson complied. The Captain then walked over and patted her down, pulling an extra magazine from the Lieutenant’s belt and a few loose rounds from her skirt pocket, “You could have hurt someone there Lieutenant.” She grabbed back, rode the slide forward, and handed it back to the Lieutenant, “Shall go back to the painting?”
Duncan looked somewhat scared, “Um… I… Have the basic sketch down and the two pictures… I can do the rest of the painting on my own.”
Captain Kestel pointed to the people in the room, “None of you saw anything. Corporal, help me bring the Lieutenant back to her tent.”


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