Out for a Walk

McGilligan and Madison were walking near the climbing wall. Evans turned to walk towards them. Hopefully he hadn’t been doing too much moralizing. McGilligan didn’t need any more of that.

Once Evans got close, he shouted, “McGilligan! Can I talk to you alone?”

“Yes Sergeant!” McGilligan responded. She turned to Madison and gave him a quick hug.

Madison smiled, “You’ll have to show me those pictures of your son later. He sounds adorable.” Then turned and started walking back to the Squad’s tent.

“What do you want Sergeant?”

“Just wanted to see how you’re doing McGilligan,” Evans nodded and gestured for her to start walking.

“Tiscornia and Callahan haven’t really talked to me. Madison is nice and understanding. Johnson and the rest, not so much,” McGilligan looked down.

“So Madison is nice?”

McGilligan smiled, “He’s made me feel a bit better about myself. Told me that no matter how far we’ve fallen from God he still loves us. Because, while we’re all imperfect, the messiah died so we can be saved. Plus, it turns out he’s read some of the same Vledscan stuff that I’m reading.”

“That’s good. Maybe he can help convince the rest to go easier on you,” Evans nodded, “So far Johnson has said she doesn’t want to room with you and Howe says she can’t take orders from you.”

“You know… When I entered the war, I’d probably act the same way. I just thought he loved me and made a mistake.”

“Lance Corporal,” Evans looked at McGilligan, “That doesn’t matter now. You’re a soldier, and from what I’ve read, a damn good one. You just focus on doing your job, alright?”

“Yes Sergeant. But, if they don’t trust me-”

Evans interrupted, “Doesn’t matter. You have earned your right to be here. Johnson is a professional, she’ll fight with you, even if she hates your guts. I think I can pressure Howe to accept you, and Nivelle will follow her. Ollie works with Johnson, and Sheppard is under Callahan, so that should be good. Once we get through our first tour, they should see that they can trust you. And don’t listen to them.”

“Yes Sergeant, thank you Sergeant.”

“So, on to other things. You say you’re from the Western Desert? What’s it like out there?”

McGilligan smiled, “Well hot.” She laughed, “People often think of it as a wasteland, but it’s really full of life. You just have to know where to look. I grew up hiking in the mountains with my family collecting lizards.”

“Sounds lovely, now, I need to get back to the tent, why don’t you come and you can talk with Madison some more.”

“Yes Sergeant.”

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Falls Apart

“I WILL NOT SHARE A ROOM WITH  THAT COMMON WHORE,” Johnson was screaming at Evans. It had been less than twenty four hours and the Squad was already fallen apart.

The beginning had all been so innocent. Evans had been reading over the service records for the squad when he got to McGilligan. There was a ten month gap in her service record followed by a demotion. So he called her in to talk about it.

 

“McGilligan, glad you could come in,” Evans smiled as he glanced over the service record, “I just have a few questions.”

McGilligan sat down in the chair in front of Evans’ desk, “No Problem Sergeant. I was just doing some light reading.”

“Oh, what book?”

“You probably haven’t heard of it Sergeant. I’ve been on this Vledscan kick lately and I’ve been getting into some of the more obscure novels.”

“Hmm,” Evans looked back over her record, “That isn’t in your record. That you know Vledscan.”

“Oh, just reading and listening. I can’t really speak it at all,” McGilligan smiled and played with one of her gloves, “So why did you call me in here Sergeant?”

“It’s about your record Lance,” Evans tapped the table with his finger, “You got to Corporal, and then you suddenly disappeared for the better part of a year. And when you came back you were a Lance and transferred to the 202nd.”

Blushing, McGilligan looked down and spoke quietly, “It is my great shame Sergeant. I…. I made a mistake with a man who I thought loved me… He did not. So I returned home in shame. And after the forty weeks,” McGilligan started to cry, “When this war is over, I will return home. A woman without virtue. Without honor.Maybe I can die a noble death, and my son will not bear the shame of his mother.”

 

The conversation was overheard. After Evans consoled McGilligan and the two exited, the whole squad sans Madison and Tiscornia,  was staring from the common area. Someone muttered the word ‘Harlot’ and McGilligan began to cry again. Evans led her to the bunk room she shared with Johnson and returned to his office.

There was about an hour of silence before Howe came in. She still had a shocked look of disgust on her face.

 

“Sergeant, may I speak freely?”

“Yes Howe,” said Evans hesitantly.

“Aren’t you going to do something sir?”

“About what soldier?”

“About that… that fille de joie,” Howe shook her head, “How can I trust her to command me in battle when she can’t even keep her legs closed. We’re fighting to preserve our values, not to degrade them.”

“Get out of my office Private.”

“Sergeant?”

“GET THE HELL OUT OF MY OFFICE!”

 

Another hour passed before Johnson came in and started screaming.

 

“How, Sergeant, do you expect me to sleep at night when I have to endure that strumpet and her lurid pursuits? And how is she going to focus on her job if she is focusing on men?”

“Corporal, look at her record. She’s got an MoE 3rd with a cluster and an MoE 2nd. All combat. Like she said, all three Tsiv’s. I’ve read her citations and promotions. She’s a fine soldier.”

“I’ll believe that when I see it Sergeant,” Johnson stood up and left the office.

Evans walked out of the office, spotted Tiscornia, walked up and whispered to him, “Where’s McGilligan?”

“On a walk with Madison.”

“Pastor Junior? Is that a good idea? Heavily religious type and her?”

“What I thought,” Tiscornia shrugged, “I think they went to the obstacle course?”

“Well, I’ll head over there now.”

The New Team

After the dinner, Evans, Tiscornia, and Johnson walked back to the Squad’s tent, where the full team had finally arrived. They gathered in the meeting room. Evans sat on the desk at the front, with Johnson and Tiscornia going to the side.

“All right, now that we’re all here, let’s do some introductions. I’ll start,” Evans introduced himself, followed by Johnson and Tiscornia. Then the Squad went in order of rank.

An average looking, bookish woman stood up, took off her glasses, smiled, looked around, and said, “I’m Lance Corp Kitty McGilligan. I’m from the Western Desert. Been in a while, but I had an affliction and was forced out of the show for a time. Fought at all three Tsiv’s.” She sat down.

The next Lance Corporal stood. He was a tall, confident man with blond hair. He snapped his fingers and stood, “Callahan’s the name. Farming’s the game. Missed the Gate by a few days. When this lovely show is done, I’m gonna go to University.”

The final Lance Corporal stood. He smiled with his bright eyes, “Lance Corporal Olejniczak. You can call me Ollie. I’m from Silesia. I’ll be Miss Johnson’s spotter. I’m a carpenter by trade.”

Howe stood up, “Private Howe. I’m from Didcot. It’s just outside Strongfield, and I work at the market. I fought at Third Tsiv.”

The next private stood up. He was an average sized good looking young man, “Pierre Nivelle. I’m from Newacre. Fought at the Third Tsiv. And I’m going to be an actor someday.”

A tanned man stood up and smiled, “Stephen Madison. From Seahaven my parents are fishermen. They were in the Navy, so they aren’t quite happy about me being here. But well, this isn’t a career anyways, I’m going to be a Pastor. I got here a few days ago.”

The final private stood up. She was an attractive looking young woman with what seemed to be makeup on her face, “Patricia Sheppard. I’m from Strongfield. I was at the Third Tsiv and once this war is over, my fiancé Morgan and I will be married. He’s in a Logistics battalion.”

“So, Private Madison, since you’re the future man of the cloth here, want to give us a blessing?” Evans smiled to the young Private Madison.

Madison smiled and stood up, “If everyone could circle up around me and join hands.”

While Evans walked forward he watched everyone’s reaction. Howe excitedly grasped Nivelle’s hand and locked their fingers together. McGilligan put on gloves before gingerly joining hands with Howe and Callahan. Callahan grabbed onto Sheppard’s hand and gripped McGilligan’s hand tightly. Sheppard and Olejnicz… Ollie grabbed hands coolly. Ollie grabbed Johnson’s hand. Evans grabbed Johnson and Tiscornia’s hands and finally Tiscornia grasped Nivelle. Madison smiled in the center, “All nice and cozy now isn’t it? Lord, protect these brave men and women in our hour of need. Shield us with your almighty love. May your power bring us all home safely and guide us in our service of you. Amen.”

This was gonna be a good team. Evans knew it.

Dinner Continued

Across the room, Tiscornia was waving Evans over, so Evans politely excused himself from Totti and Turner and took his food over. Tiscornia was seated across from Corporal Johnson, who rose and extended her hand, “Emily Johnson, It is a pleasure to be properly acquainted Sergeant.”

Evans shook her hand, “You too Corporal. From What I’ve heard, I’m lucky to have you.” He put his plate on the table and sat down. Johnson followed suit.

“Well I am most pleased for a decorated man such as yourself to take charge of me. I have read of your exploits at Urbs and the Vledsco Landings. You seem to have a keen tactical mind Sergeant.”

“Well I learned a lot of what I know from Tiscornia here, so it looks like we’ll do very well for ourselves,” Evans smiled, “So, Johnson, tell me about yourself.”

“I am from Medway. My parents were hunters, so I grew up shooting. I was engaged before the war. We joined up together,” Johnson looked down, “I surprised him with a visit to his unit about six months into the war. Well. I found that he had not told anyone about me, and gotten another soldier in the family way. I guess he did not share my desire to wait until marriage. So the engagement was called off, his family shamed.”

“I’m sorry Johnson.”

“Do not be sorry, I saved myself the trouble of being married to someone such as him,” Johnson looked back up, “How about you two?”

“I’ve got a wife, Anna. She’s in Medway with our three kids,” Evans smiled and continued, “I grew up on a farm somewhat near Strongfield.”

“Where in Medway?”

“Near the castle, I don’t know Medway so well. I’ve only actually been there a few times.”

“Well, I will have to show you around after the war. Your wife can come too if she wants.”

“She’d love that, and she’s also seemed interested in hunting in the area, maybe you could show her around.”

“Your wife hunts? Wonderful, and would you be joining us on these expeditions?”

Evans shook his head and said, “No thanks, I’m not good with guns…”

Tiscornia chuckled, “I’ll say.”

“So, Lance Corporal Tiscornia, how about you?” Johnson said.

“I’m from Liguria if you haven’t guessed. Once this whole war is over I’m going to go to University and becoming a professor of history,” Tiscornia paused, “I’d rather not talk about my family if it’s OK with you.” Tiscornia got up and walked away, leaving his plate.

Evans leaned in and whispered to Johnson, “His little sister passed away a few years ago. He later married someone from the unit and she passed away too. It’s hit him pretty hard, so don’t bring it up.”

“My Lord. I am so sorry for him.”

Dinner

Food here was better than the usual fair. Someone had gotten their hands on fresh fruit and fresh meat. Evans made sure to get some extra servings and then went to talk with his old friends. He walked up to Turner, who had made her way to a seat in the corner, away from much of the bustle, “Mind if I sit here?”

Turner smiled, “I’m always happy to sit next to the Immortal Jim Evans.”

“Immortal?”

“You’ve got a reputation Evans. You’ve been wounded more times than pretty much anyone else. Don’t have any noticeable scars. And you’ve been reported dead many times,” Turner smiled, “I know Immortal isn’t quite the right word, but it rolls off the tongue better than inextirpable.”

“Inex-what?”

“I do lot’s of crossword puzzles. It means impossible to destroy,” Turner took a few bites of her apple, “I’ve also heard people say ‘The Immortal Soldier.’ But Immortal Jim Evans sounds a lot better.”

“So I’m a folk hero then? The Immortal Jim Evans?” Evans smiled, “Anna would probably be happy if I didn’t die.”

“So how is Zwev doing these days?”

“Good, we’ve got three kids now, and with any luck, a fourth coming in nine months.”

“So you’re one of those couples then?”

“What?”

“You’ve gotta have as many kids as possible as fast as possible. You’ve got more kids than years of marriage.”

“I mean, I figure, I’m gonna go back to farming after the war. So I might as well get started on making farmhands. Free labor basically,” Evans laughed. Then noticed out of the corner of his eye someone standing. He turned to face them. It was the Corporal with the scar across her face, “Hi. Would you like to sit down?”

“Yes Mister Sergeant Evans. It is an honor to meet you Sergeant.”

Evans rolled his eyes at Turner, before replying to the soldier, “Just call me Jim. And what was your name?”

“Corporal Sara Totti at your pleasure Ser… Jim,” Totti put her tray on the table and sat down.

Pointing to Turner, Evans said, “And have you met Kelly?”

“Yes. So, Jim. Is it true what they say?” Totti said as she smiled to Evans.

“What are they saying about me?”

“That you escaped from a prisoner camp powered by your love for your wife?”

“I also have a daughter that I love very much. As well as two baby boys.”

“That story is so beautiful Sergeant… Jim,” Totti smiled and looked upwards, “I hope I can have a husband such as you someday.”

“Well I hope your future husband never has to do anything like that. And I hope my kids never have to go through anything like that,” Evans sighed, “And with any luck, the war will be over before we have to do anything more.”

Totti nodded, “I do not need anymore scars. Now,” She pulled a flask out of her jacket, “May I offer you two Heroes of Urbs some refreshments?”

“Hardly a hero, but what’s in the flask?” Evans smiled.

“Only the best of cheap Ligurian Brandy,” Totti said as she handed him the flask.

Evans took a gulp and made a face, “Is it supposed to taste fruity?”

“You’ve never had Brandy before Evans?” Turner grabbed the flask, took a gulp, and grimaced, “Oh yeah that’s bottom shelf.”

“I’m from a farm, we pretty much just drink Whiskey distilled in town. I’ve also had Wine a few times for celebrations, but that’s all the alcohol experience I have.”

Totti butted in, “Brandy is wine that has been distilled. Once this war is over and I can stay in one place, I will make both of you Heroes a bottle.”

“Well, since you obviously know all about us, why don’t you tell Turner and me about you?” Evans said, “Why don’t you tell us about your scar?”

Totti shook her head, “No no no. It is too stupid. I won’t tell. It was not important.”

“Tell us,” Turner looked at Evans and smiled, “Or we’ll give you a Geology lesson from a former commander of ours.”

“All right, all right. I was in a raid, and I forget to toss a grenade, so when I come in, a man swipes at me with a big knife. Now my face looks unpretty.”

“So what happened?”

“I put my knife in his chest, then he threw up on on my uniform. Then he fell and his knife fell in my…” Totti blushed, “Dairy. I don’t remember much after then.”

“That’s a perfectly fine way to get wounded Sara.”

Evans nodded in agreement, “I broke my leg because I was in an armored car that flipped.

“And after the Battle of the Crater, like right after, I tripped getting on the train and broke my nose,” Turner smiled and continued, “So getting slashed with a knife is by far the stupidest way I’ve heard. And you can at least build it up a bit. You fought someone hand to hand. They struck the first blow but you got them in the end”