Gun Emplacement

Evans ran forward to the sunken gun pit in the front of the boat. One sailor was attempting to lift the body of another out of the pit. Figuring that it was the right thing to do, Evans knelt down, dragged the body out of the pit, and slid in.

The Sailor in the pit with him stepped behind the gun and leaned towards him so her mouth was over his ear, “Gràçie! I am Rosetta!” She pointed to a small niche in the wall, “Boxes of Bullets! When I need to reload, throw old box on deck and attach new box. You also help me pick targets.”

Evans nodded. He knelt down and grabbed a box. He then picked it up and latched it on. Pulling off the top and tossing it to the side, Evans began the loading the gun itself. He took the end of the belt and put it into the chamber. Rosetta closed it and racked the bolt.

Evans finally looked up and away from the deck of the Torpedo Boat.

The sea was well… a sea of chaos. God that sounds stupid. Evans shook his head to snap out of it. He couldn’t tell what the hell was Vledscan and what was Ethslin. He could barely even see anything with the speed the torpedo boat was twisting and turning and the walls of water being thrown up. Rosetta wheeled the gun to the left and started firing. Evans followed the tracers with his gaze. They were flying towards the deck of a somewhat smaller ship. Though smaller didn’t really mean much. The ship still dwarfed the Torpedo Boat. The tracers collided with an area of the deck that held a small 20 millimeter gun emplacement that was trying to keep up with the Torpedo Boat. There was a puff of smoke from the gun emplacement and the Torpedo Boat rolled to the side. Evans puked into an empty ammo tin.

Rosetta tapped Evans on the shoulder, “JAM!”

Evans helped pop open the top of the machine gun and tried to clear it. Rosetta yanked Evans down right before an explosion hit and shrapnel ripped overhead. A sailor shouted into the pit, “SURVIVORS COMING UP. YOU TWO ON DECK!”

Swimming

Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuuuuuucccckkkkkkk….

Evans attempted to keep a grip on the Major while flailing around. After all he’d been through he was going to drown. All the goddamn ways he could die and it’s because he doesn’t know how to fucking swim. And it was probably going to be his fault that the the future fucking Duchess of Medway drowned. Not the glorious death befitting someone of her fucking stature. That is if she was still alive. Evans tried to remember what Anna had told him about swimming. Or just trying to float. Why the fuck did people start swimming anyways? Evans flapped with his right arm and legs to try and get towards a floating plank,near the ship, keeping his left arm gripped tightly around the Major’s waist.

“THE SUCTION!” Major Kestel shouted, “SWIM AWAY FROM THE SHIP!”

“I CAN’T FUCKING SWIM!”

“HOW CAN YOU NO…” Major Kestel coughed out some water, “NOT SWIM?”

“THERE ISN’T MUCH!”

“SOLDATI!” Someone shouted at him over the cacophony of gunfire and explosions. A circular ring hit Evans. Major Kestel grabbed it. A rope attached to the ring started to be tugged. A hand reached down to Evans and yanked him onboard a boat. The sailor the bent down and yanked up Major Kestel.

The Major then yelped in pain. The sailor looked at her shoulder boards, “Un ufficiale?” The boat shook violently.

Someone yelled, “Diego! Il Cannone!” The sailor ran to the front of the boat towards a deck gun. Another sailor ran over from the cockpit of the boat. She saluted, “OFFICER!? I AM SIGNALMAN TWO ELENA CASTIGLIONE! BENVENUTI A BORDO TORPEDINIERA SEI!”

“WE’RE FROM THE STEVEN’S POINT! SHE HAS A BROKEN LEG!”

“BELIN!” Castiglione knelt down next to the Major, “LET’S GET HER BELOW DECK! WE RESCUE A HOSPITALMAN!” Evans helped Castiglione carry the Major to the cockpit. Castiglione used her boot to knock on the hatch cover. The ring started to turn. Castiglione stepped back and the hatch flung open.

The boat rumbled again. Major Kestel and Evans tumbled down the stairs. Castiglione shut the hatch. Evans yelled to the huddled soldiers and sailors below decks, “MEDIC! I NEED A MEDIC!”

A soldier crawl ran over towards Evans and Major Kestel. Evans pointed to the Major’s leg, “MAJOR KESTEL BROKE HER LEG!”

The hospitalman started to work on splinting Major Kestel’s leg. He had to move to work on a few more seriously wounded soldiers that were rescued and brought down below decks.

Evans just tried to keep from puking. The boat was bouncing back and forth normally, and when the deck gun went off, the whole boat shook. The constant roar of gunfire and explosions wasn’t helping much.

After what seemed like an eternity, Castiglione came down, quickly looked around, and pointed at Evans, “CAN YOU LOAD A MACHINE GUN?”

Evans nodded and followed Castiglione up the stairs. She pointed to a sunken gun position towards the front of the boat before she ran back to help with the loading of the deck gun.

Sinking Ship

The ship pitched and rolled, which made it very hard for Evans to aim. He missed his first, but the second hit home. He looked up at Major Kestel, “I’m sorry Demi. I will mop that up.”

Attempting to stand up, Evans slipped on the slick vomit. Major Kestel started to laugh, “Come on Corp, puking in my office. You have got to be better with ships.”

“Well this is the first time I’ve been on a boat,” Evans vomited into the bucket again.

“It is a ship lad, not a boat. A boat is…”

Major Kestel was interrupted by an announcement over the loudspeaker, “ACTION STATIONS. ACTION STATIONS. ALL HANDS TO ACTION STATIONS. SET REDCON ONE.” It repeated four times before it was shut off.

“Well Jim, I guess we have reached the blockade. Reports say that, if all goes well, two ho…”

Major Kestel was interrupted again. This time by loud whump. The two were thrown against a bulkhead. There was a loud groaning noise and the ship started to list.

There was another crash moments later and the ship rolled the other way. Evans grabbed onto the loudspeaker as the world shifted the other way. The loudspeaker blared into his face, “ALL HANDS ABANDON SHIP. ALL HANDS ABANDON SHIP. Fucking Hell.”

There was a tug on his leg. Evans looked down. Major Kestel was clinging to his leg. She shouted up, “SORRY JAMES! HOW ABOUT WE ABANDON SHIP?”

“SOUNDS GOOD MA’AM!”

The Major let go. Another explosion knocked Evans down from the loudspeaker. There was a snap. The Major yelped in pain. Evans rolled over off of her. She attempted to stand and collapsed, “Darn it!” She looked over to Evans, “You broke my leg you oaf.”

Evans laughed, “Fuck and bastard.” Evans knelt next to her and lifted her onto his shoulders, He turned to her head, dangling next to his face, “Now let’s leave Demi.”

He stood up and stumbled to the door. He used his boot to kick open the loose hatchway. Luckily, officers quarters were near the top of the boat… ship, so he wouldn’t have to carry her that far. He took a left. He ran up the stairs. The hatchway to the deck was already open when Evans reached it. He stumbled upward in time for the deck to start listing the… right… starboard. There were explosions all around. The fleet was taking heavy fire and machine guns strafed the deck.

Evans looked for a lifeboat. Lieutenant Commander Barrett was standing near one, waving to the Evans. He shouted something that Evans couldn’t hear over the roar of fire. An artillery piece had come loose. It slipped across the deck and smashed him into a bulkhead. The barrel was in just the right position that it smashed Barrett’s skull like an egg.

Another sudden blast to the ship sent Evans and Major Kestel slipping down towards the ocean. The deck was almost perpendicular to the water.

At this point, with the turbulent water rushing towards him, the world exploding around him, Evans decided that ships were not for him. Major Kestel was probably wishing she could hit something with her sword. He should probably tell the Major that joke.

The two slammed into the water.

Boarding the Ship

The Battalion stood at attention at the docks. Major Kestel walked forward onto the podium in front of the ship. The Steven’s Point. The press was gathered nearby to take pictures. Which is why Evans had to spend what seemed like a hours making sure that Major Kestel’s uniform was perfect. He had even sewed weights into the bottom of her skirt so it wasn’t ‘to flappy’ as she had put it.

“And Now, we embark upon the journey we have been training for. Lieutenant Commander Stanley Barrett has agreed to give us a lift in the Steven’s Point. The rest of our regiment is going to be in the Elm Grove, while we share the ship with the ammunition and heavy weapons. We should be landing in about six days. We will be hugging as close as we can to the coast of Liguria without violating their neutrality. Our spies have been reporting on the Vledscan ship movements. According to them, there are two main points of enemy resistance. The first will be about halfway through our journey, when rounding the Ligurian Cape. There is a small amount of Vledscan Frigates that, if the intelligence is correct, are acting as a picket, and will fire a few shots and then flee.

“The second will be the dangerous one. It seems that a large portion of the Vledscan fleet will be about two hours from the landing beaches. There might be some mines around there as well. So when we hit the blockade, everyone should be ready to abandon ship just in case.

“Now, without further ado, let us embark,” Major Kestel pulled to attention, “BATTALION! ATTEN-TION!”

“RIGHT FACE!”

“BATTALION MOVE OUT BY FILES! FORWARD MARCH!”

The Battalion turned started to move out. Squad by Squad, Platoon by Platoon, and Company by Company. Eventually, Evans and Major Kestel were the last two members of the battalion remaining on the dock. She smiled, “Let’s go Jim.”

The two walked, Major Kestel leading, until they reached the middle of the brow. The two came to attention. Major Kestel did a left face and saluted the Ethslin flag. She did a right face and the two walked the back to the end of the brow. Major Kestel saluted the Petty Officer, “Request Permission For Myself And My Orderly To Come Aboard.”

The Petty Officer returned the salute, “Permission Granted.”

The two then walked aboard. Lieutenant Commander Barrett was standing around the corner. Major Kestel saluted, “Captain, The Battalion Is Aboard.”

Lieutenant Commander Barrett returned the salute, “Very Well Major.” He shrugged, “God damn I hate military protocol.”

“You new then?”

“Sort of. Me and my crew are technically Naval Reserve. It’s an exchange. We get special government contracts, but the Navy can requisition our ship and crew at any time for something like this. It really sucks because Navy regs say no booze while underway. God damn them all.”

Cliff Training

“Sir!” Evans saluted the Captain.

Captain Stoddart stood up and saluted, “It seems I cannot escape you Corporal.”

“Well Major Kestel wants us to learn from the best Sir.”

“Well I am hardly the best, I just know the area rather well.”

Evans looked at his watch, “Well Captain, you’re almost on Sir.” He then led the Captain to the side door, where he would make his entrance as soon as Major Kestel stopped talking.

 

“Hello… I am Captain Stoddart. Of the Ethslin Mining Corps. Major Kestel asked me here today to, uh, describe the terrain features that you will encounter during your operation. I, uh, studied that area during my time at university, so I am… I guess an expert. And I agreed to come because my lovely wife Polly is attached to your unit. So, I guess I should introduce what I am going to talk about specifically. The terrain you will be fighting in. You will be landing in an area with about 100 meters of open beach followed by sedimentary cliffs.There a some trails cut into the cliffs, and then mostly flat ground. The soil is about two meters deep before it gets into the bedrock. The top formation is very friable sandstone, so you should be able to just use your shovels to hack through it pretty easy. Ooh,” Captain Stoddart snapped then pointed at Polly in the back corner, “Polly, I just remembered, the formation at the base of the cliff has some ooids if I remember correctly, can you break off a chunk for me?”

Polly stood up and saluted, “Yes Sir.”

Captain Stoddart reached for his hip and yanked a funny looking hammer out. He held it out towards Evans, “Corporal, take this to Polly for me,” After Evans took the hammer, the Captain looked forward again, “Right then.”

Evans stopped paying attention to the lecture. He slowly walked to the back of the meeting hall and looked at the hammer. It had a square head and a pick in the back. The pick seemed hardly big enough to do anything that useful. He flipped the hammer in his hand a few times before he got to the back. He looked at Polly, shrugged and held it out. She didn’t notice for a few seconds because she was enamoured with Captain Stoddart, who was off track again and talking about grain size or something.

She looked at him, grabbed the hammer, and went back to watching. And she was probably the only one in the room who was paying attention. Evans walked back to the front of the room and took out his notebook. For sake of appearances. He was really writing a letter to Anna, but writing looked like writing, so he was good.

It took about half an hour, but the Captain did eventually get to some useful information about the cliffs the battalion would be climbing. He then had Polly come up and demonstrate how to fit proper climbing gear. Which was less useful because the Battalion had only been issued ropes and ladders, not harnesses.

 

The morning after, the Battalion was trucked out to an area with some cliffs to climb. Of course, the cliffs already had the ropes and ladders set up. The training basically consisted of constant climbing and lowering. Soldiers had to practice climbing up to the top in full kit, then hauling up heavy equipment, and then lowering people down in stretchers.

 

Trench Attack Training

First Company was in the trench, ready for the “defense.” Magazines were loaded with blanks, shovels tucked into belts, and, at the insistence of Chief Jackson, Wooden bayonets fixed. Evans could see Second and Third Company waiting for the order. In addition to the blanks and wooden bayonets, each soldier had a practice grenade, and every third soldier had a haversack to carry three more of them.

The practice grenade was new, When Evans was in basic training, the practice grenades were really just potatoes that an officer had requisitioned, and most soldiers had just saved them to eat. The practice grenades all had five second timers that, when depleted, would use a spring to launch a streamer, to signify that the nearest people were now dead. Politics probably also played into this though, the Naval Infantry were the cool new thing and the landings were supposed to be the decisive action of the war.

What the attackers and defenders didn’t know, was that Polly and Evans had stayed up most of the night into the stand-to wiring the entire field with explosives. They wouldn’t cause much damage, just make some craters and throw some dirt into the air. It should shock everyone though, and help the soldiers get used to the sound of explosions.

Major Kestel looked at her watch. One minute to go. She nodded to Polly, who was standing at the  blasting machine. Polly raised the plunger and pushed it down again. There were a few silent seconds before all the explosions went off. The field between the trench and the attacking troops was filled with newly created holes. The attacking officers started to blow into their whistles. The somewhat stunned soldiers started to advance. They walked, in a single line, trying to keep spacing. The soldiers in the trench started firing on their Lieutenenat’s orders. Evans looked at the Major, who was furiously taking down notes. Polly was laughing. Warrant Officer Wright walked over to Evans, “What’s going on?”

“It looks like the troops are trying to fight like they have muskets,” Evans pointed to the attackers, “They are moving way too slow, are way too close together, and are attacking in a line.” He then pointed to the trench, “And over there, we have the soldiers depending on Lieutenant Bridges to shoot. What if he gets killed? Will Chief… Ah…” Evans snapped his fingers, “Lorenzo take over? And when Lorenzo gets hit? And what if someone sees a higher priority target? Do they wait to shoot them and hope the officer doesn’t take cover? The soldiers are also standing up to high above the parapet. I mean, in this case, the attackers would definitely lose in this case, a machine gun could easily sweep the entire line. Then everyone will be dead. The attackers should be dashing from hole to hole and keeping in cover, trying to make sure that they are seen for the shortest amount of time possible. Of course, in a real attack they should be under the cover of artillery fire.”

“Ah,” the Warrant Officer shrugged, “So our basic training is a bit shit?”

“Yep,” Evans looked back at the attack, “But hopefully we can fix this up and not all get killed in the first five minutes.”

 

Battalion Meeting

“Hello,” Evans talked into the weird ball of metal netting and was a bit shocked to hear his voice amplified, “I’m Corporal James Evans, MoE Fourth Class. I’ve been temporarily attached to this battalion to work with your Petty Officers as an instructor and Major Kestel’s orderly. We’ll stay with you guys until Newacre decides we can go home. So… I guess to start off, a little history about me. I’ve been in the Army over two years now. Sort of. There’s a bit of discrepancy in the paperwork because I was officially declared dead for six months of that time. And I’ve fought at White Beach, Urbs, and the Northern Gate. Um… Not good at speeches. I’m also from Halton if anyone’s heard of it.

“I have the honor of introducing your new commanding officer. I’m… I am very sure you all know of her. I have been her orderly off and on for the past year and served under her for most of my career as a rifleman. So… Well…” Evans pulled the scroll out from his back pocket and unrolled it onto the podium, “I am most honored to present The Most Beautiful, Marriageable Lady Demetria Kestel, Heiress to the Duchy of Medway, Major attached to the 1st Naval Infantry Regiment, Medal of Ethslin Third Class, who sheathed her blade inside Baron Semyon of Kalach at Urbs.”

Evans rolled up the scroll, turned right, and walked to a seat in the front row. Major Kestel walked into the room and stepped up to the podium. The gathered Battalion stood to attention, “You may be seated.” She waited a moment for everyone to sit down,  “As the Corporal said, I am Major Demetria Kestel. I have been assigned to lead your Battalion by an interservice program. The purpose of the program is to provide the Naval Infantry with experienced officers. Why do you need experienced officers? Well, in about a month, the Naval Infantry will be taking part of the largest amphibious operation ever devised. We will be landing in the south of Vledsco. The operation will have two waves. We will be in the first wave, in charge of securing a beachhead for the larger second wave, coming a few hours later. Our battalion is expected to push forward, scale the cliffs, and set up a trench line at either half a kilometer from the beach, or at the first heavy resistance.

“Our training over the next three weeks will consist of intense training in trench digging, hand to hand fighting, climbing, moving under fire, and all the other skills you will need to have a chance of surviving. Every evening there will be a lecture in here that will apply to the next days training. Most of these lectures are by Myself or Corporal Evans, but a few are by experienced Officers and Sergeants that are willing to give up part of their leave to train you. After these three weeks, we will take part in two practice landings before finally boarding our ships to earn our place in eternity.

“But tonight, we are going to have a shorter meeting. I will just be explaining tomorrow’s training. Roll Call will be at 530, full battle kit. Your platoon leaders will pass out rifles on your way out of the barracks. Stand-to will be after that until fifteen minutes after dawn. We will then dig trenches until breakfast at nine. At 930, we will go back to digging trenches until 11. At 11, we will practice trench attack and defence, with one company holding the trench and the other two attacking. At 3, we will do a practice barrage. At 4, we will have PT. At 445 we will have dinner. At 5 we will have Stand-To until 15 minutes after dusk. Meeting once Stand-To is over and platoon leaders get to decide what happens after that.

“So, that is it. Everyone not listed now will return to their platoon barracks,” Major Kestel pulled out a notepad and read off the names, “Lieutenants Carter, Cooper, Bridges, Jones, and Hope. Apprentice Warrant Officers Wright and Ferri. Senior Chief Belluci and Chiefs Lorenzo, Jackson, and Edison. All of you come with Corporal Evans and I. Alright. Dismissed.”

 

Major Kestel was sitting at the head of the table, Evans next to her writing in his notebook.

“First off, Since we will not have a trench yet, Stand-To will be in the same field as roll call with everyone lying down. Chiefs, Corporal Evans, and Private Stoddart will inspect up and down the line to make sure everyone is proper. Evans, could you explain the proper way to Stand-To?”

“Yes Ma’am,” Evans stood up and started to get in position when he looked at Major Kestel, “May I have your scabbard for a moment Ma’am?”

Major Kestel unclipped the scabbard from her belt and handed it to Evans. Evans held it like a rifle and faced the group, “So, first off, note how I’m looking somewhat past the sights. I’m not focusing on a specific target, I’m scanning the area in front of me. I do have the rifle ready to fire though. Your head should be as low as possible while still being able to see, preferably aiming through a loophole. For tomorrow morning, just make sure everyone is as low as possible. My middle finger is also the one on the trigger. This way my pointer finger can be on the bolt, so I can fire another shot as quickly as possible. Another important thing is that shovels should be readily accessible for fighting. Bayonets should not be fixed unless there is a trench breach.”

“Corporal Evans,” a Chief stood up, “Chief Jackson. Doctrine states that bayonets should be fixed to defend against an attack, and that’s how we’ve been drilling the battalion.”

“Thank you Chief, but bayonets are more cumbersome to aim with in combat, and not that useful if someone drops into the trench next to you. It might be better for open combat, but in a trench, it’s pretty much only good for clearing long stretches. It’s best to use your shovel to hack into the neck. This also leaves your rifle open for use in fighting.”