Party Part II

“So, Private, where you from?” Moore asked.

Gibson smiled, “The Western Desert, Red Sands.”

Moore’s face dropped. She looked back over her shoulder, “Steffie, get over here.”

A women walked over. She nodded to Gibson, “Corp Steffie Basset,” She looked over to Moore, “What you want Doe?”

“She’s from Red Sands.”

Steffie looked at Gibson, “You get news much kid?”

“Not really. Not a fan of reading,” Bessie responded.

“Two days ago a group of rebels in the Western Desert rose up and claimed secession from Ethslin. Red Sands was their declared capital. My sources say officers are going around and interviewing all soldiers from the Desert. So be ready to pledge your loyalty, or you’re getting pulled out.”

“My God,” Gibson’s mouth opened wide, “Did they say who’s involved?”

“No,” Steffie shook her head, “Just that they’ve seized a few storehouses of arms.”

“Lord, I hope those rebels get what’s coming. I always heard the talk growing up, but I’d never think they’d rebel in our time of need,” Gibson looked down, “So, is the army doing something?”

“They’ve cancelled the leaves of everyone there and called the militia up.”

“Those militia idiots?”

“Oi!” one of the older soldiers spoke up, “What’s wrong with the militia? I was a Corporal in the militia before the war.”

“Well they just walk around and think they’re important, pretending they’re real soldiers, telling us what to do, even though they can’t shoot straight.”

“I’m a fucking real soldier.”

“Now you are,” Gibson took a swing of the krupnik, winced, and continued, “But now you also have real rifles.”

“I’ll give you that kid, the SER Militia is shit. What genius decided that giving multiple rounds to the militia is a bad idea?”

“What the hell do you mean,” Steffie asked?”

“The army bean counters decided that since the Militia has less training, in any firefight they’d waste ammunition if they had a magazine, so they welded a cutoff in place. So with every shot you have to reload. It’s supposed to ‘encourage marksmanship.’ But since they can only afford about tenrounds a month, most of the militiamen are terrible shots. The only weapons that can fire multiple shots in a standard company are the officers who have Benett Pistols. Each Regiment has exactly one Blaire Gun, with pretty much no training. And that’s in the Newacre, where we have money. I’d guess the Desert has less.”

Party Part I

Evans, Shaw, and Gibson arrived at the building with sounds of revelry inside. They entered a room with about a dozen soldiers, most stripped down to their undershirts, a few wearing their jackets, unbuttoned. Evans saw the two that Shaw had mentioned, Kasia and Fitz, shirtless and arguing. They looked different than Evans had expected. Kasia was skinny, but muscular, with a few dozen scars and pits on her chest. Fitz was lanky and pale. Kasia came over and offered a bottle of krupnik, then slurred at Evans, “A Sergeant? Shaw you shouldn’t have. I am Katarzyna Kowalska, and how would you the chance to go to bed with a famous ballerina?”

Evans took a drink of the krupnik and ignored the question, “So this is what my wife always wants me to drink. Too sweet for me,” Evans passed it back, “So, you’re a ballerina?”

“Yes, if your wife is Silesian she will have heard of me. And she would probably be so proud of you for sleeping with a great dancer of her nation.”

Evans was about to respond when he heard a smack coming from where Gibson was. She had slapped Fitz hard for what Evans guessed was a rude remark. Kasia turned her attention away from Evans and shouted at Gibson, “Good choice, Fitz is tiny down there, you can’t feel anything.”

“All I know is for a ballerina, you are boring in the sack.”

Kasia stormed over, “I’ll fucking show you boring.” She grabbed Fitz’s arm and the two left.

Shaw nodded, smiled, then stepped up on a table to address everyone, “Now that they’re gone, these are our guests from the 202nd. My buddy from back home Jimmy Evans and Bessie Gibson, a private who tagged along.”

One of the soldiers wearing a jacket with the Lance Corporal’s insignia spoke up, “Is he the one with all the medals?”

“I only have like two medals. An MoE Third with two clusters and an MoE First. Then I’ve got the standard campaign ribbons and wound stripes. Plus that Prisoner of War thing I got.”

The Lance Corporal spoke up again, “That’s five medals not two.”

Another soldier spoke up, “The 202nd is one of those units that gets all the awards. If we were involved in those actions we’d get a pat on the head and sent to somewhere else.”

Gibson spoke up, “Isn’t the 351st regular Infantry? The 202nd is Shock troops. We go in when the regular infantry can’t hack it.”

“Those are fighting words Private.”

“That’s what Army headquarters says.”

Shaw started to laugh. After a few seconds of silence one of soldiers stepped forward and offered a bottle of whiskey to Gibson, “Lance Corporal Moore. You can call me Doe.”

Gibson took a big gulp then immediately spat it out, “This is awful!”

Evans shook his head, “You have no taste kid.”

Moore looked around, “Did Kasia leave any of her Krupnik.”

Someone tossed a bottled to Moore who handed it to Gibson. Gibson took a sip, made a face, then nodded, “This is better.”

To the Party

Evans and Gibson entered the tent that Shaw said to meet him at. There was no sign of drinking, but Shaw was standing in the center, “I see you brought the kid.”

“She needs to learn to drink like an adult sometime,” Evans smiled, “Plus, she reminds me of my daughter.”

“Isn’t your daughter like two?” Shaw cocked an eyebrow.

“Are we going to drink or what?”

Shaw waved for the two to follow him, “We’ve got an abandoned building a few minutes away. Nice and hidden from all the officers. Just gotta give you a few warnings first. One, kids gonna be lowest rank there. It’s all the old hands. Two, one of us, Kasia, will hit on you very unsubtly. Even with your thick head.”

“Keeping in mind my thick head, how will I identify the one who will be disappointed by my monogamy?”

“Oh she will be topless. First thing to fucking go when she drinks. Says it’s unfair that women can’t go shirtless but men can. I of course agree and think men shouldn’t be allowed to go shirtless. Apparently this is the wrong answer,” Shaw turned to Gibson, “Kid, you’re young and pretty, so Fitz will say something rude about your body. I advise hitting him hard on the face. He will, not to be outdone by Kasia, also be shirtless and then encourage you to follow suit. So hit him hard in the face. Fitz and Kasia will then insult each other sexually, then leave with each other.

“The rest of them should be fine, expect some ribbing about how you’re a kid. And bulshitting about units.”

“Why, you guys are insecure that you’re in the 351st? Maybe you can get transferred to a better unit.”

“Well once we get wasted we’re doing a competition. You and the kid versus us.”

“How many you guys have?”

“Fourteen or Sixteen. Depending on Fitz and Kasia.”

“So me and the kid versus fourteen of you guys. That’s hardly fair Shaw. The kid alone could beat you six ways from Sunday,” Evans snapped his fingers, “I don’t even care what it is. She could do like a thousand push ups without falter. ” He paused a moment, “I may be slightly drunk already. Plus she’s only been in the 202nd for like two weeks. We absorbed her unit after our platoons teamed up to fight off an attack by an enemy regiment.”

“Huh, I seem to remember a time when my platoon fended off a battalion all on our own.”

“The 202nd at about half strength held off several waves of attacks in a crater with only a few rounds of ammunition a person and a visibility of less than ten meters. The only reason I missed it was I had been shot in the head and captured by the Vledscans. After months in prison, I escaped and crossed back through Vledscan lines to rejoin the 202nd.”

Gibson held up her finger, “I cut out that article.”

Talk with Gibson

“Gibson, can we go for a walk?” Sergeant Evans waved in such a way to indicate that wasn’t an option.

Gibson nodded, “Yes Sergeant.” She then followed him outside

Evans started walking and made a few inane comments about the weather while they walked out of the camp and made their way into the rubble and he got to the point, “How old are you Gibson?”

“Sergeant?” Gibson paused, “I’m nineteen.”

“What year were you born?”

Gibson paused a moment screwed up her face while trying to count back.

Shaking his head, Evans said, “How old are you actually?”

“Sixteen sergeant,” Gibson looked down in defeat, “Don’t send me home Sergeant. I can’t go home.”

“You shouldn’t be here kid. You’re too young for it,” Evans kicked a broken piece of concrete, “You should be back with your family.”

“They hated me there Sergeant. You ever notice how I never receive letters from home and never send them?” Gibson looked west, as if the Western Desert were just over the horizon, “My parents are both smart. They’re both educated. I’m not. Failed every class I ever did. My father…” Gibson looked down, “Hit me. Beat me. I can’t go home Sergeant. And if they find out I’ve been fighting for Ethslin…”

“Why wouldn’t they want you fighting for our country?”

“They’re patriots. They want a free Western Desert. I’m sure Lance Corporal McGilligan could tell you about it. It’s a big movement. When my parents found out that I was keeping newspaper clippings… About you Sergeant. I said I wanted to marry someone like you Sergeant. A hero. A good father… They hit me. Nearly killed me. Mother said I was to marry a good patriot. They ‘arranged’ something for the next day. Said that he’d make a ‘proper’ woman out of me. I snuck out and ran for the next train. Hopped on board and left. If I go back there, at best I’m gonna be dead Sergeant.”

“So you’re nineteen Gibson… That your real name kid?”

“It is now Sergeant,” She smiled, “Bessie Gibson, proud Ethslin soldier. Born in 1309. I choose my family from here on out.”

“Very Well Bessie. When all this is over, I hope you find your family.”

“I already have Sergeant. Now, is that all you need to know Sergeant?”

“We’re good Bessie,” Sergeant Evans pointed back to the tent, “Now do you want to go get wasted with the 351st kid?”

“Get drunk with my dad?”

“I’m your dad Private?”

“I’ll see you tonight dad,” Gibson did an about face and went back to the tent.

Meeting Shaw

Evans was sitting in the Squad’s tent flipping a pen. A General somewhere in Newacre had decided that a selection of the soldiers involved at the Strongfield recovery should be interviewed psychiatrists, to see how it was affecting everyone. First Squad was selected because of the 202nd’s extensive combat experience and use as Shock Troops. Evans had gone first then came back to the tent. There would be nothing to do until the whole squad was done, so Evans just had to wait.

After a few minutes Gibson came in. She waved, “Sergeant? Do you know anyone from the 351st?”

“Yes, are they in town?”

“Yes Sergeant. I gave one of them directions to us. It was a Lance Corporal… Shaw I think?”

Evans smiled, “Oh that idiot’s coming by?”

“At least I ain’t a fucking farmer!” Lance Corporal Shaw walked into the tent.

“At least I ain’t a fucking farmer Sergeant.” Evans corrected before standing up and extending his hand, “How you doing Jack?”

Shaw took his hand and shook it, “Getting by. And you Jimmy?”

“Well this is the closest I’ve been to home since I joined up.”

“Yeah, you should get back there. Everyone in Halton talks about the great hero James Evans. And your parents want to see you more.”

“Hey, I have a wife and kids in Medway now, I have to go see them on leave. Anna’d kill me if I spent all my time avoiding her.”

“Yeah, that to,” Shaw smiled, “You go off to war and marry some exciting foreigner. Izzy seemed pretty disappointed that you’re not available. And once those medals started rolling in it got worse.”

“Really? I always thought Izzy liked you. Always hanging around and muttering your secrets together.”

“Lord, now I know why they made you Sergeant. You’re fucking thick. Our only secret was she wanted to get me to hint to you to ask her,” Shaw laughed, “Hey, you free tonight? One of the old hands in my platoon got their hands on quite a bit of whiskey and we’re getting plastered.”

Evans turned to Gibson, “Kid, can you go to the Captain and get orders?”

Gibson nodded and ran out. Evans turned back to Shaw, “I guess we’ll find out when she gets back.”

Nodding, Shaw asked, “How old is she?”

“Nineteen I think, Why?”

“We had someone in our platoon named Austin. After he… After Belaya Valley, we met his parents. He was seventeen and had lied about his age to join the army when he was fifteen,” Shaw looked sadly at the ground, “She looks young Jimmy. You should talk to her. Make sure there isn’t a family that’s gonna get news that their kid has died before she’s 18.”

Before Dawn

Lance Corporal Dominic Tiscornia was sitting on the edge of a burned out building. The revolver weighed heavy in his hand. He looked out over the dead city. Fires still raged in the distance. It was three hours before the squad was supposed to wake up. But Tiscornia couldn’t sleep.

Every time he closed his eyes he saw Mary.  He saw Adelinia. He saw every person he outlived.

Tiscornia dropped all but one cartridge from the revolver and spun it. The cylinder finally clacked to a halt and Tiscornia put the revolver to his head. Click. He heard footsteps behind him. Tiscornia lowered the revolver.

“Dom,” Evans said quietly.

“What are you doing up Jim?”

“I can never sleep off the line. Just go back to Urbs in my head,” Evans sat next to Tiscornia, “Anna hates it. She doesn’t really understand. Thank God she got out before she’d have to understand.”

The two sat in silence for a few moments before Evans picked up the revolver and pointed it in the air, “You’ve gotta spin it straight up and down, otherwise the bullet will settle at the bottom.” Evans spun the cylinder, held the pistol to his head and pulled the trigger. The hammer fell on an empty chamber. He spun again and clicked the hammer on an empty chamber again. He offered the revolver back to Tiscornia who refused. Evans tossed the revolver off the edge of the building into the rubble below, “Is this all worth it?”

“The Vledscans shelled that town.”

“And because of the war… Hell, I don’t know how many towns have been utterly destroyed. Fuck, Strongfield is gone. Like Shepard, Everyone she grew up with is gone,” Evans kicked his feet a little bit, “I killed a man yesterday. One of our officers.”

“That was no man. That thing betrayed its oath as a soldier and betrayed its basic sense of humanity,” Tiscornia looked back to the camp and said, “I’ve got a bottle of brandy tucked into my bedroll.”

“Sounds good.”

“I’ll wake Turner.”

“Are you and her?”

“No, I can’t feel that way about anyone anymore. We still, you know… But it’s just an attempt to feel something,” Tiscornia said as he got up and started to walk down the stairs.

Evans stayed on the ledge for a little longer. He opened his right fist and looked at the cartridge. He had slipped it out when he grabbed the revolver from Tiscornia. Hopefully, that would keep Tiscornia from killing himself. Fucking Hell.

Looters

“We’ve been tasked with going in behind the firefighters and securing the area from looters. The areas have been cordoned off. So anyone who is in your area and not in uniform can be considered a looter and arrested, or, if they resist, shot on the spot. First Squad will move North on 500 East. Second Squad on 600 East. Third on 700 East. Fourth on 800 East. There will be an MP Officer along your road to give you further orders. When someone is arrested, handcuff them and bring them back to the station,” Lieutenant Welch pointed to a pile of crates and continued, “Handcuffs are in that crate. Two per person.”

The squad moved out

“There. Looter. HALT!” The MP Lieutenant shouted, “He’s running! Shoot him!”

The MP Private responded in a shaky voice, “It’s a little kid Sir.”

The Lieutenant drew his pistol and leveled it at the Private’s head, “You will follow orders or you will die. And then I will take your rifle and shoot the scum. Your choice.”

The Rifle cracked. “You just got it’s leg. Now we’ll have to finish it off. But-”

The Private dropped their rifle, grabbed the Lieutenant’s pistol, shouted, “God Forgive Me,” put it in his mouth and fired. The Lieutenant was sprayed with bits of blood, brain, and skull while the Private’s body crumbled to the ground.

The Lieutenant saw First Squad a block away, “You there! Are you the infantry sent to assist me? Get over here!”

Evans waved the squad forward. They slowly walked until they reached the Lieutenant. Evans reported in a blank voice, “First Squad, Second Platoon, Fox Company, 202nd Infantry. Sir. No one spotted on our way here.”

“Then you were not trying hard enough. Sergeant, I want a rifle monitoring every street. Your marksman team to the roof of that building. The rest of you build barricades.”

Corporal Johnson looked up at the burnt out husk of a building, “Sir, that building’s going to collapse if we go up there.”

“Well you might spot a few looters if you go up there before it collapses.” The Lieutenant pointed at Shepard, “I’ll need her to clean my uniform. Get the stains from,” He kicked the body of his Private, “This useless thing out.  Then I’ll be using her for stress relief afterwards. It may take a while Sergeant, especially if she’s good, so I might hold onto her for a while.”

Evans stared in stunned silence.

“Are you dumb Sergeant? Speak Man.”

Evans walked up and punched the Lieutenant in the face. The Lieutenant fell to the ground. He attempted to yell out for help, but Evans put a hand over his mouth. Evans kept raining blow on the Lieutenant. After a what seemed like an eternity, the Lieutenant stopped struggling. Evans picked up a brick and started smashing with that. He stopped when he saw brain.

There was silence but for the raging fire further to the North. Standing up slowly, Evans took off the belt that held his pistol and handcuffs and held it out to Johnson, “I believe I am now under arrest Corporal. You have command.”

“I did not see anything Sergeant,” Corporal Johnson said while the rest of the squad nodded in agreement.

“Sergeant,” Callahan spoke up, “There appears to be two dead bodies. The MP’s we were supposed to meet with I believe. What are your orders Sergeant?”

Evans smiled, “Callahan and Shep, get that child to an aid station. Say they were shot by looters or something,” He put his belt back on and looked around, “I guess we hold this position. Madison, take the pistol from that poor Private’s hand and put it back in the Scums holster. Make sure the poor kid’s family get’s death benefits. Tiscornia, report to Lieutenant Welch in a somewhat panicked state that we found the bodies and the child here. Make no Speculation. We’ll fortify this position as if to prepare for a fight. Howe, I think I might have broken my hand, could you wrap it up?”

Everyone was about to start going about their tasks when they could hear screaming from the North.

Evans looked down the road. About a dozen firefighters were sprinting down the road with a wall of fire behind them. One of them shouted, “THE WIND’S SHIFTED! THE FIRE HAS TURNED! RUN!”

Townsend Vignette

Harold Townsend was throwing flipping his pencil. His shift was over in about an hour. Then he’d get to go home and sleep. But fuck night shifts. He’d get home. Then kiss his wife goodbye as she went to work. Because she, for some reason had wanted a house on the outskirts of town. An hours walk from the station. He guessed he could play with the kids and walk them to school. Harold looked at his watch, five minutes before the inbound munitions train. Thirty minutes until the passenger train from the Medway. Who wants to ride a train overnight anyways? What’s wrong with these people.

“Harry? The munitions train has it’s own loaders right? I always get scared loading the explosives.” Myrtle had walked in without Harold noticing.

She was a beautiful woman. Nineteen years old and had been working here for six months after it came out in her Army training that she had Asthma. And for five months now he’d been having an affair with her. It’s not that he hated his wife, it’s just they never had time for intimacy. Between their schedules and the kids, they were never really alone. At least that’s what he told himself. He did sometimes fantasize about running away with Myrtle sometimes.

“Harry?”

Harold shook his head, “Yeah Myrtle. They’ve got about forty people…” Harold looked Myrtle up and down, “I’m feeling a bit… You know… How about we have a tumble at your apartment after work? I can tell my wife I needed to stay late.”

Myrtle blushed, “I was thinking we could do it in one of-” She was interrupted by an impact.

“What the hell was that?” Harold got up and looked outside. There was a flaming train impacted in the rear wall of the station, with some of it’s cars laying across the tracks. Harold’s eyes widened as he noticed the numbers on the train. It was the munitions train. It’s brakes must have failed. And it was loaded with explosives. And as soon as those explosives went off, They’d catch the shells on the platform, then blow the munitions warehouse a block over. He turned around, “Myrtle. Get everyone you can onto the two trains on the outbound tracks and get out of here.”

“What’s happening?”

“This whole stations gonna blow. You and everyone else here will die unless you get the trains out of here.”

“But what about you Harry?”

“I need to send a warning to the fire department. I’ll get on the train when it’s leaving…” Harold paused, ran to the telegraph, and started tapping a message, “GET OUT OF HERE! Leave me. I’m sorry.”

Myrtle nodded and ran out, screaming for everyone to get on the trains. Harold finished tapping out his message and ran to the set the alarm. After no message was received, he repeated his message. He started whispering the Lord’s Prayer. By the time the message was acknowledged, Harold was shouting his prayer. He looked up at the station. The two trains Myrtle filled were gone. The platform was clear of people. Harold Townsend smiled a last smile.

The sixty seven people at the station were evacuated. The train carrying four hundred people was stopped in time. Saved by Harold Townsend’s telegraph message “SF STATION EXPLOSION IMMINENT HALT TRAINS SENDING EVAC ON TRACKS ONE AND TWO.” The blast at the station leveled the industrial district of Strongfield. About four thousand were killed in the blast, with thousands more injured. Harold Townsend and Myrtle Stark would get a monument at the rebuilt train station. His wife would receive a full government pension. Myrtle Stark would be given placement at the University of Strongfield and became a silent movie star after the war, but suffered from nightmares about the event for the rest of her life.

Strongfield

At about Six in the morning, the camp trembled. Evans was giving a briefing, but stopped what he was doing to run to Captain Gates’ tent.

After a few minutes, he came back and reported, “We’re moving out again,” Evans looked around the room, “Be ready in half an hour. Combat gear only. Rest of your gear we’ll drop at a storage facility by the tracks.”

“What’s happening Sergeant? Is it related to that rumble?”

“No one knows. Captain Gates just said that we’re headed to Strongfield.”

“No!” Shepard shouted, “Why are we bringing weapons to Strongfield?”

“Yeah, Sergeant, What’s happening?” Howe looked scared.

“I don’t know,” Evans shook his head, “I’m worried too. My hometown is outside of Strongfield. But we can’t know anything now, so everyone get ready to move.”

The Squad gathered their gear in relative silence, then moved to the railroad tracks. The train ride itself was mostly silent, until, about twenty miles outside of Strongfield. The sky turned a dirty brown. As they got closer, they could see orange light dancing across the brown sky. A few soldiers started crying. One screamed in horror. There was some murmuring, but most sat in stunned silence.

Tiscornia whispered to Evans, “What the Hell happened here?

The train came to a halt at a makeshift rail station about two miles from where Evans remembered the station being. As the regiment started unloading the train, Evans heard scattered bits of conversation. Explosion. Destroyed. Death. Inferno. Hell.

It was unreal. There was a firestorm off to the North. Screams everywhere. He noticed a few people stumbling through the station. They looked like civilians, dressed in tattered nightclothes. Their eyes were staring past everyone. Evans was so transfixed he almost missed a shouted order from Captain Gates, “Fox Company! Collect a rifle, a bandolier, and move down the rail line until you hit the station!”

Once First Squad filed through the makeshift armory, they started walking down the tracks. No one talked before Howe looked around, “Sergeant. Where’s Shepard?”

“Shit,” Evans looked around, “When did someone last see Shep?”

“She definitely was here at the rifle pickups.”

“I think I saw her on the North side of the tracks.”

It hit Evans like a brick. He took off his pack and rooted through it before pulling out a small bag.

Gibson asked, “What’s that Sergeant?”

“Letters. I hadn’t turned them in to the censor yet,” Evans rifled through the bag before finding one addressed to a ‘Shepard.’ He memorized the address before putting it back in his bag, “Johnson, you have command of the squad. I’ll meet everyone at the Train Station.”

Evans took off running towards the firestorm of the North. Trying to remember the streets of Strongfield. Except when he was there before, he never saw railroad cars crashed onto buildings. There hadn’t been a raging inferno. He knew her house must be somewhere in the industrial district. After twenty minutes of searching he came to… Hell. The district had been reduced to rubble. Worse than Urbs. There were a few walls still standing. Bodies were strewn everywhere. Men… Women… Children… torn asunder by the blast. Evans choked back tears while he searched the rubble. A few blocks away, he spotted a soldier attempting to move rubble from a pile. He ran over, “Shepard!”

She looked up and stared blankly, “What the fuck am I fighting for?” She took off her helmet and tossed it into the rubble then looked down, “This is where my family lived. Two blocks down my Fiance. He was home on leave. My brothers, my sisters, my mom, my dad, Morgan. They’re all gone.”

“Let’s get back to the rail station.”

“Shouldn’t you shoot me?” Shepard stared blankly at him with dead eyes, “I deserted. There’s no reason for me to live.”

Evans started to walk closer to Shepard, “Live for them.”

“That’s horse shit,” Shepard stared through him, “Do you want me to fight back? I went into a frenzy after seeing my family gone. You killed me in self defense.”

“Either you walk back to the rail station with me or I drag you back. Enough people have died.”

Shepard dropped to the ground bawling. Evans helped her up, put her arm over his shoulders and helped her walk back to the rail station.

Off the Line

It had been a few days since the 202nd had been pulled back off the line. Captain Gates pulled some strings to get the survivors of Lieutenant Welch’s platoon as the 127th was disbanded after the great retreat. He had also managed to reassign Second Platoon’s still absent leader and put Lieutenant Ethel Welch in charge. Because of this maneuvering, the platoon only got a few fresh replacements. Evans’ First Squad had been given Private Gibson as a replacement for Nivelle. Shepard was apparently making a good recovery and had been returned to the squad with doctors orders for only light duty.

Evans looked at his watch and then looked up at Tiscornia, “Shep and Gibson should be arriving in the next train.You wanna go out to the station at 10:20 to pick them up?”

“Isn’t Gibson the one who kept asking about you?”

“Yep,” Evans nodded, “I’m pretty sure Captain Gates did that on purpose.”

“Well won’t that be exciting? Your biggest fan under your command?

“Yeah. Definitely,” Evans snorted, sat silent for a moment, then held up an envelope from his desk, “You know who delivered this?”

“No. Is it just a blank envelope?”

“Yeah. I don’t want to open it in case it’s some classified bullshit that’s been sent to me by mistake.”

“Huh,” Tiscornia grabbed it out of Evans hands and looked at it, then pointed to the wax seal, “You’re too tired Evans. Look at the seal. It’s from the Duchess Medway”

Evans eyes widened before he yanked the envelope out of Tiscornia’s hands and ripped it open. He quickly read it and then smiled at Tiscornia, “She’s alright. Well. She can’t walk on her own, and has to stay in bed most of the day, but she’s alright. Government wants to keep it under wraps because she’s supposed to be an image of Ethslin’s Strength and they’re afraid everyone will panic and run away.” Evans paused, “How did this even get here? It’s not addressed to me even. So it would have to have been hand delivered by someone.”

“She’s rich and powerful. She probably had some servant do it.”

“Well I feel special.”

“You were already the closest friend of her and your wife works for her.”

“Yeah, but. Whatever. Go pick up Shep and Gibson.”

“Should I regale her with stories of your wonder?”

“Shut the hell up and go.”

Tiscornia laughed, “Sergeant James Evans of Halton. Manly Mans Man of Manliness. Personally has slain entire regiments of the Boxer foes. Came back from the dead dozens of times… Good at Farming?”

“I’ll have you know Dom, I am amazing at farming.”

“OK, I’m leaving now,” Tiscornia turned around and left.

Evans frowned. God when would this war be over?