NCO Meeting

“To start off, Well, most of you already know each other, but we’ve got a few new faces, so why don’t we go around and introduce ourselves. I’ll start,” Sergeant Major Gabriel, a tired man with many scars, stood up and said, “Chris Gabriel, I’ll be your Sergeant Major.”

Being the First Squad leader, Evans went next, “Jim Evans. First Squad Leader. Finally escaped Officer Country.”

There were a few laughs. Evans’ Marksman went next. She was a slender woman who carried herself with a sense of pride. Her uniform was meticulously cleaned. She even spoke with an accent unbecoming of her rank, “Corporal Emily Johnson. I am most pleased to be returning to the front as Mister Evans’ personal hunter.”

Tiscornia went next, “Dom Tiscornia. Rifle Leader for Sergeant Evans.”

Second squad was next. Turner was the Sergeant. Still a beautiful woman even with her dirty face and uniform, “Kelly Turner. Second Squad Leader.”

After that was Kempe, a shorter woman with reading glasses, “Vivien Kempe. Rifle Leader for Second Squad.”

Delage followed. He had matured since Evans remembered him. The handsome man introduced himself with a smirk, “Victor Delage. I shoot bullets fast with my machine gun.”

Next was the perpetually smiling Canina, “Alida Canina. Sergeant of 3rd Squad. Yes I know my name is hilarious, but it was a gift from my husband so I can’t return it.”

The next Corporal Evans almost didn’t recognize. She had been so peppy when he was in the platoon. But after many battles and several wounds, she seemed… darker, “Rachel Hunt. Rifle Lead for Sergeant Canina. And I intend to kill every last Vledscan I set my eyes on.”

The next was a short man Evans didn’t recognize, “Too follow that cheeriness, I’m Paul Fitzsimmons. Rifle Grenadier.”

The next was Sergeant Hardin. Evans’ first Corporal, but had been out with wounds for a few months, “Max Hardin. Fourth Squad. Glad to be back in the show.”

Next was a tall, black haired Ligurian woman with an ugly scar across her face. She smiled, “Sara Totti. I am the Rifle Leader for Sergeant Hardin. Do not mind the scar. I am a very happy person.”

And finally, a happy looking man, tapping the table with his four fingered left hand, “Rog Baldwin. Rifle Grenadier. How I lost my left pinky even.”

Sergeant Major Gabriel smiled, “Now that we’re all acquainted, time to get to the meeting. We’ll have dinner afterwards if you all want to catch up.”

Moving In

Evans walked into the office. Tiscornia was leaning on the desk, “Hey Evans. Good to see you. How’s Zwev and the kids?”

“Anna’s fine. Got to spend a few nights with her and the kids before being shipped back here. So, how’s the Squad? I tried picking Howe’s brain, but her brain’s on Nivelle.”

“Seems good so far. Two team leaders are Lances Callahan and McGilligan. Callahan’s been with us for a while. Never really been that noticeable, but he’s survived since Northern Gate, and that ain’t nothing. He’s got a good grenade throwing arm. Personally, I like him. He wants to go to university to study history. Get’s along with everyone pretty well. Cool head under fire.

“McGilligan is a transfer, I sent a letter to her last unit asking for any information, but she’s got some medals and has been in since the first Tsiv River. Seems to have plenty of command experience. Personally, she’s a bit of a loner, mostly just reads books when off duty.

“For the Privates, Howe is still a bit nervous about going back combat. She can run pretty fast and can fire the fastest. You know her personally already so we can skip that.

“Nivelle is a good kid. Strong as an ox. Good with bayonet play. And I know it’s a stereotype, but he’s a good cook. Terrible with jokes. Though Howe laughs at everything he says.

“Sheppard follows orders well. A bit tetchy with dirt. So you needn’t worry about her during inspections. Plus her rifle is very clean. I’ve actually been getting her to clean my rifle. She says she likes it. And never wear civvie clothes around her. She is up to date on all the fashion and will go on about how some sort of thing is last season. What the hell is last season?

“Madison is…. I really don’t know, came in a few days ago. Says he wants to be a Pastor when the war is over. So I’ve been calling him Pastor Junior.

“Next is the Marksman team. Leader is Corp Johnson. You’ve managed to perfectly miss her career. She was a marksman with the 202nd up until White Beach. She took some shrapnel there and when she recovered she was reassigned to a training battalion to teach shooting. She complained until she finally got back to the front. She kinda acts like she’s a lady though.

“Finally is Ollie. Just like your wife, he has an unpronounceable Silesian name so his name was shortened to Ollie in bootcamp. He joined the show after Northern Gate. Good shooter. He’ll be the spotter for the Corp. Plus, he’ll fight like Hell if you need it. At Third Tsiv, he held with a few other soldiers to cover our retreat.

“And that covers the whole lot. Our Lieutenant hasn’t been assigned quite yet, so Captain Gates just stops in every once and a while to check in.

“We’re having a Sergeants and Corporals meeting later so you can meet the other Sergeants in the Platoon. Corporals and me. Still refuse that promotion on principle.”

Evans nodded, “So how are you doing Dom? Last time we talked at Tsiv you weren’t doing so hot.”

“I’m taking it day to day Evans,” Tiscornia laughed grimly, “How is it that someone who has nothing in the world makes it out of that mess when all these kids with everything get killed.”

Unit

Coming to a slow halt, the train pulled into the station. If you could call it that. It was a small wooden platform with scattered piles of crates. There was one wooden booth so the two soldiers on duty could have some shelter for their shift. Beyond the platform was a thick maze of tents. And just beyond the tent city, Evans could make out the drilling grounds. There was Platoon of soldiers practicing their marching.

“202ND INFANTRY, STOP FOR THE 202ND INFANTRY!”

Using his cane to push himself up, Evans grabbed his pack and made his way off the train. He didn’t really need the cane for most walking, but the pack was a bit easier to lift with it. Plus the doctor told him to use is it for the next two weeks. Luckily, these two weeks were just getting his new squad put together. And Tiscornia had already started that. Because, even better, Tiscornia was the rifle team commander.

Apparently, the army had selected the 202nd as a trial for a new fighting system. Instead of having the standard Sergeant commanding two three soldier teams with a Corporal as an assistant, Now, the Corporal was in charge of the two rifle teams, and there was an additional two person special team. Evans was assigned a marksman team. The Corporal would have a scoped rifle and the Lance Corporal would have a spotters scope and regular rifle. So his was considered a Rifle Squad. Two of the other squads in the platoon would be Grenadier Squads with a dedicated rifle grenadier and assistant each. The fourth squad in the platoon was the Automatic Squad. They had an Automatic rifleman and an assistant.

As he got onto the platform, Howe greeted him, “Sergeant! Lance Corporal Tiscornia told me to guide you to our squads tent and to take your bag Sergeant.”

“So you’re in my squad Private Howe?” Evans let Howe take the bag from him.

“Yes Sergeant! I won’t let you down. I owe you,” she smiled and started walking off the platform.

“You owe me nothing Private, I was just doing my job,” Evans walked next to her, occasionally remembering to use the cane properly, “So, What can you tell me about the rest of the squad?”

“I don’t really know them that well besides Lance Corporal Callahan and Privates Nivelle and Sheppard. As well as Lance Corporal Tiscornia,” Howe took a breath and continued, “Lance Corporal Callahan has been in for a while. He was at the Crater Battle where everyone got all those awards. He’s one of those smart people who aren’t all mean about how smart they are. Mostly he’s shy and likes to read books on his own. Next would be Nivelle. He was born in Newacre, but he grew up in an Ambarian community, so he still has that accent. Which just adds to his overall… cuteness. He know’s a lot of plays and is so funny. Ooh, and when we were in Newacre before we shipped here, his family came to see him off, and they had the cutest little dog.”

Evans rolled his eyes at the description.

Not noticing, Howe continued, “Finally is Sheppard, she looks like she should be in one of those moving pictures. She seems a bit full of herself, and she has a boyfriend that she talks about a lot. She does have like the most beautiful dresses when we’re on leave, and, like I don’t know where she gets the money, her parent’s work in a factory in Strongfield. I thought for a bit that it was her boyfriend, but she doesn’t seem like one of those women.”

Evans took a moment to formulate his response, “I meant to… inquire about their abilities as soldiers. Not the gossip and who you have a crush on.”

Blushing, Howe pointed to the tent, “Here we are Sergeant. Lance Corporal Tiscornia is in your office. I’ll put your pack in your bunkroom.”

“Thank you Private.”

Smoking

Well… At least Major Kestel was still alive. Evans read the message from Lucy for the third time. Time for a smoke break. Evans folded the envelope and slipped it into his gown’s pocket. He then grabbed a pack of cigarettes and his lighter and put them into the pocket. He then grabbed his crutches and limped to the smoking area. It was pretty late, so there wasn’t anyone out at the moment. Good.

Evans put a cigarette in his mouth and pulled out the lighter and paper. He lit the paper and stared at the fire for a moment. He then used it to light the cigarette, put the envelope on the ground and  put the lighter away.

Evans took a drag on his cigarette. Someone opened the door behind him. He stamped out the smoldering embers of the paper and turned around, “Lucy?”

“One last thing before I go,” Lucy put on her hat and continued,  “You’re being sent back to Fox Company when you get better. Unless… Captain Ricci heard I was going to visit you and wanted me to tell you that her offer still stands. She’s got discretion over her command and can transfer you anytime. Just say the word.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t.”

“I don’t get it Goldfish. No one would blame you. You’ve done more than enough already,” Lucy turned away from him, “What? Are you worried people will think less of you?”

“No it’s-”

“After the glory then, need a few more medals on your chest? I’m sure your children will prefer those over a living father than I few shiny trinkets.”

Evans dropped his cigarette on the ground and spit on the ground, “You couldn’t understand.”

“You’ve got a loving wife, a job waiting for you, three children… real friends,” Lucy turned, put her back against the wall, and slid down to the ground, “Who the fuck am I? You know what’s going to happen to me? I’ll stay in after the war. Eventually I’ll grow older and men will stop being interested because eventually they’ll want to have kids. And well, who wants to associate with some asshole from the fringes of society? I’ve been practically disowned by my family for being a shame on them. Even though I’m by far the most fucking successful member of it. I’m going to die alone surrounded by cats. I don’t even like cats. But an unmarried career woman? I’ve gotta have like a half dozen fucking cats. All I wanted was some kids. Fuck this war. Fuck this life. Fuck this army. Fuck this country. Fuck the Vledscans. Fuck you and Fuck me.” Lucy bowed her head.

Evans knelt down next to her and patted the back of her head.

“I’m sure it will be fine. The war makes everything chaotic, afterwards, you can settle down and adopt a kid or something. God knows how many orphans this war has created.”