Clean Up

“Atten-Tion!” Evans shouted at the remaining members of Second Platoon. Luckily everyone from his squad were assembled there, unharmed. Other squads were not so lucky. “Hand. Salute!”
The Platoon saluted. Captain Gates slowly walked out to the front of the platoon, returned the salute. Evans shouted out, “Ready – Two!” The Platoon went back to attention.
Captain Gates nodded to Evans, “You may return to your squad.” When Evans got to his squad, Captain Gates smiled, “At Ease everyone.” He took a breath in, exhaled, and said, “So… I did not really expect us to get here. Good job. I have never been prouder of soldiers under my command. Now, I have been in radio contact with Regimental Headquarters. All other platoons, including First and Third of Fox Company were all caught up in the retreat from the front. There were scattered pockets of resistance like ours that held their positions. Some like survived, some were rescued, some fell. But because of units like ours being a thorn in the Vledscan’s sides, they’ve stopped. Within the hour, reserve units will begin their counterattack. In another hour, we will be relieved.
“Now, most of Major Thomas’s Squadron. has set up about ten kilometers down the road as a screen. Just in case, I’ll want First Squad to take up a position on the hill and watch the road. The rest of you, consolidate weapons and ammunition so the Quartermaster corps can retrieve them later. Now, let’s move.” Captain Gates smiled and walked away from the formation.
Evans marched out to the head of the formation, “Atten-Tion! Dismissed!”
The platoon dispersed to go about their tasks. Evans quickly ordered his squad to load their weapons and head up the hill.
It took a while, but they eventually made it over the top of the hill, where they could see the Cavalry’s position.
A shot rang out. Evans shouted, “Hit The Dirt!”
Howe shouted, “Pierre!”
And after a few seconds of nothing else, he whispered to the scattered squad, “Everyone all right?!”
There was no answer but for a faint sobbing from behind a bush. Evans pointed for McGilligan to go check it out. She slowly crawled over, to the bush while Evans did a quick check. It was either Howe or Nivelle. They both were out of his eyesight. McGilligan started up a quiet conversation. With what sounded like a woman. After what seemed like an eternity, McGilligan shouted back, “Nivelle’s Dead! Howe’s pretty shaken up!”
Evans’ face went blank. He drew his pistol, stood up, and started firing towards the general direction of the rifle shot. After a few seconds, another shot went off. Evans collapsed to the ground.
Johnson shouted, “Tiscornia, McGilligan, Ollie Suppressing fire on my mark! Callahan grab the Sergeant and drag him back here on my mark.” Just as Johnson was about to shout ‘mark’ she saw Evans extend a fist downwards and push himself off the ground.
Evans dusted off his pistol and resumed his slow deliberate walk to the rifleman, “YOU THINK YOU CAN KILL ME LIKE YOU KILLED NIVELLE?” Evans squeezed the trigger, “I AM THE ANGEL OF DEATH,” Evans fired another round, “I DECIDE WHO LIVES AND WHO DIES,” Evans dropped the magazine while the rifleman fired a shot wide, “AND I HAVE DECIDED YOU SHALL DIE.” Evans slid another magazine into the pistol and hit the slide release. The rifleman got up to run. Evans quickly aimed his pistol and fired a shot into the rifleman’s leg, sending him to the ground, “YOU DON’T GET OFF THAT EASILY!”
The rifleman raised his hands and shouted, “Surrender! Surrender!”
Evans shot the man’s right hand. The rest of the squad could hear what sounded like a loud Vledscan prayer. “YOU THINK GOD WILL SAVE YOU?” Evans reached the rifleman. The prayer got louder. Holstering his pistol, Evans reached for his knife. With each slash of the knife, the rifleman let out a yelp before continuing his prayer. The squad sat in stunned silence.
Tiscornia stood up after the first dozen slashed and aimed his rifle over Evans’ shoulder and fired a shot, “Sergeant!… Evans… Jim… That’s enough.”
With a fluid motion, Evans drew his pistol with his offhand, aimed it towards Tiscornia, who could see the complete rage in Evans’ eyes, “I DECIDE WHEN IT’S ENOUGH.”
“This isn’t you Jim. Where’s that kid from Halton I met a few years ago? Where’s the man Zwev married?”
“This bastard killed Nivelle,” Evans gestured downwards with tears starting to well up.
Howe stood up, tears still dripping from her face, “Please stop Sergeant. This won’t bring Nivelle back.”
Evans dropped his pistol and knelt to the ground. Tiscornia lowered his rifle slowly to the ground, walked forward, and looked down at the body of the rifleman, “He’s dead.”
Grabbing the pistol off the ground, Tiscornia dropped the magazine and racked the slide, “No one say this to anyone. We came out here, took fire, Nivelle was lost, then we killed the rifleman. That was all. This doesn’t need to come out.”
Tiscornia looked over Evans. The bullet that knocked down Evans seemed to have been deflected by his shovel. Tiscornia whispered, “You alright Jim?”
“We survived all that for just for Nivelle to be killed now? I don’t know how much more I can take.”
“Send McGilligan back to get a stretcher for Nivelle. Casualty Collection can get his body home. Then let’s set up our post. Once we get off the line, we’ll get together the rest of the old people, find a bottle of good brandy and drink.”
Evans nodded, “McGilligan, ask Captain Gates for some stretcher bearers to take Nivelle back so we may lay him to rest. The rest of you, start digging foxholes about five meters downslope with ten meter spacing. We’ll dig with a 10 minute rolling watch. Howe, Callahan, Johnson, Madison, Tiscornia, Ollie, repeat if necessary.”


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