Digging Party

“So Corp, we’ve never really talked. I’m sorry, what is your name?” Evans was standing with Sergeant Gabriel’s Corporal watching the Team’s Lance Corporals and Privates digging out the dugout. Sergeant Gabriel had gone to talk with the other Sergeants.

The Corporal smirked. “Corporal Canina, but you can just call me Alida. And you’re Jim Evans, right?”

Evans nodded, then screwed up his face, “Wait, Alida Canina? That’s your name?” He laughed, “Alida Canina. Sorry.”

“I get that a lot. When my Husband proposed to me, he said, ‘Alida Hewitt, want ditch Hewitt and have the dumbest sounding name in the world?’ I can tell you one thing, my kids will not have any ‘i’ sounds in their names.”

“That’s why I have a nice, boring name like Evans, planning ahead. And I even saved my wife, her last name was Zakrzewska. That name is impossible to pronounce,” Evans pulled out his shovel, “I’m gonna go make some quick wall scrapes for the Captain, Boswell, and I.”

“Right. You want a little help? I’m a little bored watching the excavation.”

“Alright Alida Canina. Cap’s a bit short, so she can deal with a pretty small one,” Evans knelt and started hacking at the frozen wall of the shellhole. Canina got down next to him and joined in. After about half an hour of hard work, they had excavated barely enough space for the Captain to sleep in. The two stepped back to look on the progress of the rest of the party when the Captain walked in.

She walked over to Evans, “So how’s the progress on my dugout James?”

Evans looked over, “Looks like you’ll be sleeping in a scrape today.

“Very well, I think I will be turning in now, Wake me when Lieutenant Gates has a proper report, right lad?”

“Yes Ma’am.”

“And if you clear the dugout wake me.”

Evans snapped his fingers, “Oh yes, Cap… I could procure a blanket for you if you need one. Sleeping on the surface can be quite cold Ma’am.”

“Be quick about it James.”

“Righto Ma’am,” Evans tucked his shovel into his belt and walked down the line looking for any blankets. He eventually found a wall scrape that had a tattered blanket hanging down. He ripped it off and wadded it up. A soldier inside started to whine.

Evans rolled his eyes, “Fuck off, this is going to an officer.”

The soldier sat up, fluffed her hair, and sarcastically said, “But is this officer as pretty as I?”

“It’s Lady Demetria of Medway.”

The soldier snapped her fingers, “Damn. I can’t top that. I guess I should feel honored. A noblewoman is stealing my curtain.” She paused a moment, “Wait, Lady Demetria is here? Like nearby?” The soldier stepped out, “Can I… uh, go with you to… Make sure this gets to uh… Her Grace?”

Evans shook his head, “No, she gets really annoyed at this. She is just Lady Demetria now. She isn’t called Her Grace until she actually becomes Duchess. Apparently there are a bunch of really weird rules for talking to her.”

“Is that a yes then?”

“Sure, whatever. Fine.”

She smiled, “Best day ever. She’s my hero.”

Evans rolled his eyes, “Ugh. So, what’s your name?”

“Private Pollard. My friends call me Polly.”

“Alright Pollard, with me. And I’m Lance Corporal Evans.”

The two then walked back to the section of line where Captain Kestel was in. She was lying down, attempting to sleep when Evans tapped her on the shoulder. She rolled to face him, “What Lance? Got a Blanket.”

Polly smiled and held it up, “It’s my blanket Lady. I’m so honored to meet you. I’m Ann. Polly. I mean Private Pollard Ma’am”

The Captain nodded, “Thank you very much Private Pollard. I will return this if I am able.” She scribbled a quick note into her notebook, ripped it out, and handed it to Evans, “Give this to her commanding officer.”

“Yes Cap,” Evans stuffed the paper into his pocket and looked to Pollard, “Can you show me where your officer is?”

She nodded and started walking, “It is a bit weird with him though, I’m temporarily attached to the Miner’s as a security detail, so we might have to go underground to find him.”

“Right, At least we’ll be out of the rain, eh?” Evans gestured back to the recent shell hole.

“Yes indeed. I would rather be in your company though, under the command of Lady Demetria.”

Evans shrugged, “Eh, sometimes, I have to deal with annoying people who treat my officer like an animal at a zoo.”

Polly mocked him a little then pointed to the entrance to a tunnel, “Here we go. We need to find a Captain Stoddart. He’s a bit crazy, but he’s a good officer.”

Evans paused, “Wait, Winston Stoddart the Third?”

“Yeah? You know him?”

“He was my platoon leader before Captain Kestel. And he’s a good officer now?”

“Yeah, He really knows a lot about mining and really passionate about rocks. Sometimes, during our special meetings, we won’t even do anything, he’ll just talk about the different rocks he encountered while mining. Plus there’s this weird thing called Uniformi… something. And that is wrong according to him? It’s all really complicated.”

“Uniformitarianism is not wrong, it is just flawed Polly. Everyone treats it like gradualism is the only way, while I am here, digging through what is obviously evidence that Catastrophism is somewhat right. Now of course in a few weeks it will all be blown to Hell. Which is of course even more evidence that Geology happens fast sometimes. I’m about to make a huge crater that would take erosion untold millennia to make. I did most of my research out here until my Professor told me to knock it off and not make waves,” Captain Stoddart paused and stared at Evans for a few seconds, “Private Evans?”

“Lance Corporal Evans Sir. I have a message from Captain Kestel regarding Private Pollard’s blanket Sir. Captain Kestel has requisitioned it for her purposes while her dugout is being excavated, and, it will be returned as soon as possible,” Evans held out the piece of paper to Captain Stoddart, “Here it is Sir, signed by the Captain herself.”

“Very Well Lance Corporal,” He smiled, “I should like to meet her sometime, her families land has some interesting structures from the Carboniferous that I have wanted to look at.”

“Right Sir, Am I dismissed?”

“Yes Lance Corporal,” Captain Stoddart gestured to Private Pollard, “Now that your up Polly, I need to talk about something.”

Change Over

“I’ll take this up, right Ma’am?” Evans hoisted the Captain’s Kit Bag onto his shoulder.

Nodding, She finished up the handing over checklist, “Yes James, and make sure Lieutenant Gates does a proper takeover, I do not want arrive only to find that we have no shovels or something.”

“Very Well Captain,” He walked up the stairs and made his way down the line. Luckily, the shelling was rather light that night flares weren’t even doing their normal criss cross, and Evans could see the stars in the sky. He was jealous of those lucky bastards coming off the line through the underground sap though. No chance of snipers or machine guns. And unless they got a direct hit, no problem from artillery. At least those fuckers didn’t get to see the stars. He did wish he could smoke right now. Nothing better than smoking on a cold night looking at the stars. Stupid artillery spotters.

It took a few minutes, but he found the dugout. Evans walked down the stairs and set down Captain Kestel’s bag. He saluted the Captain in the dugout, “Sir.”

“You from the 202nd lad?”

“Yes Captain, is Lieutenant Gates not here yet?”

“No lad, you mind popping out to look for him? He was supposed to be here a few minutes ago,” The Captain tapped his clipboard, “And this takes a bit of time.”

Evans nodded, “Alright Captain. Mind if I leave Captain Kestel’s bag here?”

“That’s fine lad. Now go get that Gates fellow. I am Captain Thompson by the way.”

Evans ran back up the stairs and started to track down the Lieutenant. He ran back up towards Fox Company and looked around for anyone in First Platoon. How the Hell was he supposed to find the Lieutenant? These were confusing enough as is without having to look for someone.

He eventually found a Sergeant from First Platoon, “Sergeant, do you know where Lieutenant Gates is?”

“Isn’t he at the new position?” She screwed up her face, “The Lady told him to get down there. Wait, aren’t you her kid?”

“I’m her assistant, yes. And Lieutenant Gates is a bit lost. Or dead.”

“Hope he isn’t dead, we’re starting to get a reputation for losing officers. Shit, it will be really bad when the Lady kicks it.”

Shrugging, Evans ran back through the communication trenches until he saw a Lieutenant looking at a map, “Sir!”

“Evans?” Lieutenant Gates folded his map and put it away, “Would you happen to know where I am supposed to be?”

“Yes Lieutenant, the Captain you have a meeting with sent me.”

“Damn, this is so embarrassing, can you not tell the Lady about us?”

Evans gestured towards the second line, “Shall we Lieutenant?”

“Alright Lance, Thank you very much.”

The two started walking down the communications trench. The artillery started to get heavier, so Evans started to crouch lower. They approached Captain Thompson’s dugout. A quiet whistle started to come over the rest of the artillery. Evans turned around and dived onto Lieutenant Gates.

There was a deafening roar followed seconds later by a shower of dirt and timber.

The Lieutenant laughed, “A bit forward, but it is nice to know someone else shares my view on romance. Now, take me to that meeting.”

Evans got stood up and shook the dirt off of him. He then extended his hand and helped up the Lieutenant. When he walked around the corner to Captain Thompson’s dugout, it was gone. That whole section of line had been replaced with a large crater.

“Oh fuck,” Evans pulled out his shovel, ran to where the entrance was and started to dig. Lieutenant Gates ran up next to him and started throwing pieces of timber out of the crater.

Another Lieutenant ran in, “Dan! Dan! Fuck! You There! Sergeant! I need a team here! Now! Captain Thompson’s dugout has been hit!”

Lieutenant Gates stepped back when the team came in to start digging. They kept digging until Evans hit something squishy. Rubbery. Not again. He felt the revulsion from that first week in the trenches those long months before.

Stumbling backwards, Evans started to vomit. The team dragged out what was left of Captain Thompson’s body. Lieutenant Gates helped Evans up, “Tell Captain Kestel that Captain Thompson and the dugout have been blown asunder.”

“Yes… Sir? What does asunder mean?”

“It means apart. What are you, a farmer?”

“Yes sir I am sir.”

Lieutenant Gates nodded, “Right, I forget sometimes. Tell her I am doing the hand over with one of their surviving Lieutenants.”

“Yes Sir,” Evans ran back up to Captain Kestel’s dugout. He ran down to the bottom and saluted. The Captain looked away from the incoming Lieutenant and saluted.

“What do you need Lance?”

“Lieutenant Gates sent me. Captain Thompson was killed before we could talk to him. He is talking to one of the surviving Lieutenants. Your kit bag was also lost Ma’am. The dugout was ‘Blown Asunder’”

“I guess Gates was the one used that term, but very well, get Sergeant Gabriel’s team to try and dig it out again. Also, build me a wall scrape just in case.”

Raid

The party was gathered at the end of the sap. Captain Kestel was looking at her watch. Evans looked at the pistol in his left hand. He slid it back into its holster and hefted the trench club. Hopefully he wouldn’t have to use either. He felt a tap on his shoulder. He looked up and Captain Kestel nodded. He turned around and tapped Corporal Giuliano on the shoulder. She turned and continued the chain.

Shells started to rain down on the Vledscan line. Three quarters explosive, the rest smoke. Distracting machine gun fire opened up to the right, hopefully drawing the attention of any Vledscan soldiers on watch. Two flares went up a bit further down the line to add to the confusion

The Captain then disappeared over the edge of the sap. Evans quickly followed. Slowly the party worked their way towards the bunker, dashing from shell hole to shell hole. They got halfway there when the Captain stopped. She looked back and whispered, “Long flat up ahead. About ten meters. Evans first, Lewis second, Tiscornia third, Giuliano fourth, Riley Fifth. The rest of us will stay here and provide fire if need be. You have all the equipment, so you should be able to set the charges in place. Move.”

Taking a deep breath, Evans drew his pistol. He wasn’t really sure why. It wouldn’t help him in any way. He scrambled over the top and sprinted as fast as he could. He dove down and took a deep breath. Lewis dropped in behind him with the bag of explosives. Tiscornia came across with the wire and smiled. There was a burst of machine gun fire and Giuliano tumbled in.

Tiscornia’s eyes widened, “Marie? Marie?”

“Ow. That hurt a bit.” Giuliano stared blankly at the stars

Riley dove in next with the blasting machine, “Oh shit.”

Lewis started to pat down Giuliano, “She’s hit in the chest. Very Bad.”

“She’ll be alright?” Tiscornia leaned next to Lewis.

“I do not know.”

“Dom?” Giuliano stared through Tiscornia, “I love you.”

Tiscornia snapped, “Lewis, you’re a pastor. Can you marry us?”

“What?”

“Marie, will you marry me?”

“Of course. You might be a widow soon though.”

Lewis looked at the two, “I can do this quickly. Riley, can you try and patch up the Corporal?”

“Alright Pastor,” Riley put down the machine and started to apply gauze to Giuliano’s wounds.

“Lance Corporal. I mean Dominic. Do you take this woman to be your wife?”

“Yes.”

“Marie, do you take this man to be your husband?”

“I do.”

“I know pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride.”

Tiscornia bent over and kissed Giuliano. He then grabbed the bag of explosives and plugged one end of the wire in. With a quick motion, he drew the pistol from Giuliano’s holster, “I’ll be borrowing this honey.”

Hefting the bag, he rolled over the top.

There was a beat.

Evans blinked.

“Oh Fuck,” Evans poked his head over the edge of the shellhole. Tiscornia was running as fast as he could while trailing the wire behind him. Evans saw the Tiscornia disappear into the bunker and heard four muffled gunshots.

A few seconds later, Tiscornia emerged from the bunker and sprinted low. He tumbled over as a bullet caught him in the leg. Tiscornia then dragged himself slowly towards the shellhole and rolled in. He looked at Giuliano, “You’re right, bullets hurt.”

Giuliano coughed, “I told you so. Riley. Do it quickly.”

Riley nodded and connected the end of the wire to the blasting machine. She raised up the plunger and slammed it back down. An explosion ripped through the air.

Evans poked his head back up. The bunker had been ripped apart. Machine guns from both sides started to strafe back and forth over the bunker.

Giuliano spoke up, her voice slowly getting softer, “Riley and Lewis, Help Dom run along. Evans, I am afraid that I can’t really walk right now, so can you carry me?”

“Yes Corp.”

“Right. Riley and Lewis, move out now. Evans and I will join you in a moment.”

The two Privates nodded and put Tiscornia’s arms over their shoulders and ran across. The machine guns didn’t seem to notice them. Evans bent down to pick up Giuliano. The warmth of her blood was somewhat of a surprise to Evans as it trickled down the back of his neck. He then stumbled as fast as he could towards the shellhole the Captain was in. He slid into the hole and looked around.

Rifle grenades started to fall nearby. Captain Kestel drew her pistol, “I’ll provide cover with my pistol. Fall back to the sap. I’ll come back once this fire dies down.”

Evans put the Corporal down slowly, “Ma’am. I should stay with you.”

“If you insist James. Nazarri, take the Corporal with you,” She shrugged, and pulled a cylinder out of her greatcoat, “I’ve got one smoke. Evans, want to toss it?”

“Yes Ma’am,” Evans grabbed the grenade and pulled the pin. He ran up the edge of the shellhole and threw it onto what looked like an open flat. It shot out and slowly billowed. He waited for the rifle team to leave and then pulled his pistol and fired it wildly towards the Vledscan line. The Captain joined him and they fired until empty. The machine guns focused on the pair, while the rifle team escaped unmolested.

Three white flairs went up and rifle grenades started to rain down. The Captain and Evans slid down to the bottom of the shellhole and waited. After about an hour, the fire died down. The Captain looked at Evans, “Shall we?”

“Alright Cap. To the sap?”

“To the sap,” She climbed to the edge, “Last one there is a rotten egg.” She then vaulted over and started sprinting. Evans followed a few seconds later and ran as fast as he could machine gun fire started to whiz past. Shrugging, he drew his pistol and fired blindly as he ran. A bullet slammed into the pistol and shot it out of his hand. “Holy Fuck!” He kept running. He eventually slid into the sap moments after the Captain. He stared at her and burst out laughing, “Shit that was a rush. I did lose the pistol though.”

The Captain put on a serious face, “You dare use that language in the presence of a Lady?” She laughed, “Let us head back James.”

“Yeah, le…” Evans paused and listened, there was a whistle. Evans knocked the Captain to the ground and attempted to cover her with his body as much as possible. The shell burst and Evans felt a few impacts onto his back. He patted his back, feeling where shrapnel had embedded in his haversack. He looked into the Captain’s face, her eyes, which were centimeters from his, twinkling under the light of the flares. He whispered, “You alright Captain?”

She smiled, “No, there is this guy on top of me and he’s really heavy.” The Captain laughed, “Also, I think you pushed me onto some barbed wire.”

“Sorry Cap,” He nodded towards the newly formed shell hole, “That was one of ours that fell short. We should wait a bit in case they haven’t adjusted their range.”

The Captain looked at him, accidentally hitting his nose with hers, “Can you move then James?”

“I’d rather have a shell hit you than me Cap. All the other Orderlies will make fun of me if I get you killed,” He bit the air in front of her face, “Ooh, if I kill you, will I become a Duke?”

“Ugh, You should know this. One, I am not the Duchess yet, and two, if I was, that is not how titles pass down. Think, if I killed you, would I become a poor peasant farmer?”

“Damn, it would have been a cool surprise for Anna, ‘Hey Honey, I’m home on leave, also, I am now the Duke of Medway.’”

Another Ethslin shell burst nearby. The Captain craned her head back to see where it hit, “Back in the good old days, I could have you beheaded for all this. You tackled me, you refused to let me up, and now this talk of assassination. Actually, I might be able to get you executed if I really push it.”

Evans shrugged, “I think they’re done Ma’am. Let’s scram.”

Back in the Trenches

The trenches in the Northern Regions were very different than the ones at White Beach. They were much deeper, having been continuously improved since the beginning of the war. Most of the artillery guns were buried in deep concrete bunkers. There was also a much more rigid structure for advancement to the front. An Infantry Regiment would come in to the rear line, where the 202nd was now. It would spend a week there, going on any raids necessary, and resting in the relative safety. The next week would be in the fall-back line, with the job of repairing the wire. Finally, the third week would be in the front line trenches. Their job was too watch, hope, and pray. This line rarely got any sleep, due to the near constant machine gun, rifle, and artillery fire.

These trenches felt much safer to Evans. It didn’t hurt that the front line was a few hundred meters forward. He snaked his way past the signs, looking for “Smithies Hole,” the trench where Second Platoon was. He wondered who Smithie was. And why this was their hole? Was it innuendo? Probably. Would Newey make a joke about it? Definitely.

Once Evans found it, he walked into the Lieutenant’s dugout and saluted, “Sir! Message from the Captain!”

“Um… Yes. Very well Lance Corporal… What is it?”

“A Raid Sir. Captain Kestel will be leading, and she wants to use Sergeant Chilcott’s team.”

“Thanks for telling me Lance Corporal. Um… You are excused?”

“Very well Sir,” Evans did an about face and left the dugout. He walked to one of the soldiers on watch and tapped them on the shoulder.

Kempe turned around, “Evans, need something?”

“Yeah, do you know where Chilly is?”

She pointed at one of the dugouts, “I think he’s in their. See you around.”

“See ya,” Evans walked into the dugout Kempe had pointed at. It was much less nice than the officers’ dugouts. Less deep too. He picked up a candle by the entrance and walked in, casting the flickering light on the various cots until he found Sergeant Chilcott.

Sergeant Chilcott was attempting to sleep.

“Chilly” Evans whispered.

The Sergeant let out a thin, slow, “Fuuuuuuuuckkkkkkk” and opened his eyes, “What is it Evans?”

“Captain sent me. She wants your team on a raid tomorrow. You should meet with her after stand to for details.”

“Dammit,” Chilcott rolled over, “I hate doing things.”

“See you later Chilly,” Evans walked to the entrance and put the candle back in place. He left the dugout and walked down towards the exit. There was a rustle in one of the wall scrapes, a smaller dugout for two or three soldiers covered by a curtain. Tiscornia rolled out, stood up and brushed off his uniform. Giuliano slowly scooted out a few seconds later and stood up.

A flare went up and Evans waved, “Hey Dom and Corp.” He paused a moment, “Um… Corp, your, ah, fly is undone.”

She blushed, “Dom, broke one of the buttons off.”

Tiscornia interrupted, “Yes, while we were sitting and doing platonic things with each other.”

Laughing, Evans walked past them, “I’ve gotta go stare at the front lines. Corp, don’t let Dom get you platonically pregnant while I’m gone.”

He then wandered his way to the front line. It was somewhat quiet tonight, much less artillery than usual. Flares only were coming up every few minutes. Evans quickly patted his pockets to check if his periscope and notepad were there. They were.

127th Infantry Headquarters was somewhat quiet. Evans walked into the deep headquarters dugout and saluted the first officer he saw, “Sir, I’m here from the 202nd to check out the bunker before tomorrows raid.”

The Captain nodded, “You’ll be Lady Demetria’s assistant then?”

“Yes sir.”

“Well, I guess I will show you to the position lad,” The Captain put his helmet and greatcoat then walked towards the entrance.

“Thank you Captain.”

“Sorry, not Captain. I was promoted about a week ago have not had time to put on my new tags,” The Major gestured to the insignia on his helmet, “At least I still have the Captain target.”

“Yes sir.”

The Major then led Evans through the trenches to a listening sap. The two crouched low and walked to the middle of No-Man’s Land. A few shells dropped nearby, and a green flare lingered a few hundred meters down the line. Once they got to the end of the sap, the major pointed to a small bulge in the ground about sixty meters away. He whispered into Evans’ ear, “It’s well hidden in there. It has a machine gun facing the opposite end, facing down two companies worth of trench. The last attempt got hit by a machine gun,” the major turned and pointed towards the Vledscan line, “There. So you will have to watch that.” He gestured to a few other locations, “As far as we can tell, there are more machine guns there.”

Evans frantically drew out the positions in his notebook as best he could in the low light.

The Major shrugged, “That’s about it.” He reached into his pocket and fired a red flare. A burst of rifle and machine gun fire opened up about a hundred meters down the line. The Major smirked at Evans, “That’s for the party coming up. They will be extending the sap a little closer to the nest. We will try and do something to draw the fire a little tomorrow night. But, you can use it a little to get a better look.”

“Yes sir. Thank you sir,” Evans stood up a little to get a better look at the bunker. It was sunk somewhat low in the dirt. He could see a few scars where artillery gunners had fired a failed direct hit. He could make out a little sap that made it’s way to what Evans presumed was the entrance to the bunker. He noted it on his drawing.

A flare went up nearby. Before he had a chance to duck, Evans noticed about four members of the previous party, torn to shreds by a machine gun. He ducked down to avoid joining them.

The Major then waved him back and the two walked back down the sap to the main trench. They passed six soldiers with picks and shovels. They worked their way back to the dugout. The Major took off his greatcoat and helmet, “Righto, stop by before you kick off tomorrow night.”

“Yes Sir.”

Dugout

Evans brushed the snow off of his uniform. Once he was relatively clean, he walked downstairs into the deep dugout. He saw Captain Kestel in the candlelight, making notes on her map. She looked up, “He… Hey… Ja… James. How is the wea… weather up there?”

He smiled, “I just checked my watch Cap. It’s midnight. Happy Birthday.”

She laughed as a shell burst overhead, shaking the dugout, “Ha… Happy birthday to you too James.”

Evans grabbed a blanket and tossed it to her. She caught it and wrapped it around herself, “You know what I did for my birthday last year?”

“I don’t really follow the tabloids Cap.”

Standing up, the Captain acted as if her blanket was a dress, “Huge party. I wore the most beautiful dress. I should show it to you sometime. I danced most of the night. The feast was amazing, and the cake was exquisite. When the time for presents came, I revealed to my parents that I intended to join the army.”

“What kind of presents did you get Cap?”

“Well, my favorite one was a new horse. My older horse I had gotten when I was twelve, and she was way to small for me. Next… Ooh, I got this most beautiful golden necklace that went amazingly with my dress. Then of course a few new dresses, a few books for my collection. You know normal stuff. And, two of the gentlemen I danced with proposed to me,” The Captain smiled, “I turned them down of course, but you know how that is.”

“I must say Cap, I do not think that is normal gifts, and I have never experienced multiple people proposing to me on the same night,” Evans laughed, “Last year for my birthday I got a book.” He sighed, “Also, that list of gifts make my present look really bad.” Pulling an envelope out of his pocket, he extended it to the Captain, “Happy Birthday?”

Laughing, she accepted the envelope and opened it up. Inside there were several folded paper animals, “You probably put more effort into these than most of my gifts last year, and at least I can carry these with me. You know how hard it is to wear a frilly red dress into combat?”

The Captain then reached into her desk and pulled out a gift wrapped in brown paper, “Now, I did not really know what kind of things poor people would buy each other, but I did notice the Bernard Sharpe book in your kit during inspection last month.”

She handed the gift to Evans and he opened it up. Captain Kestel smiled, “He’s a family friend, so I sent a telegram to him, and he sent me one of his manuscripts.”

“Wait,” Evans looked through it, “Holy Shit Ma’am. I’m pretty sure this is worth more than everything I own. Um… Wow… Thank you.” Evans carefully wrapped some paper around the gift and placed it into his kit underneath the Officer’s Assistant cot. He worked on a letter while the Captain went back to her paperwork.

After about half an hour, Captain Simmons walked down the steps, “Good Night Lady.” He paused, “It still feels weird using that as a greeting.” He took off his helmet and greatcoat, then walked to Captain Kestel’s desk. She walked up to him and extended her hand. Captain Simmons accepted the handshake and sat down. Captain Kestel followed suit. “Plus, it’s weird that your promotion to Captain went through before mine to Major. Ah well.”

“What do I owe the pleasure of this visit Captain Simmons?”

Captain Simmons pulled a stylus out of his pocket and tapped it on the map, “Boxer’s have set up a bunker here. Don’t ask me how we missed it, but it happened. The machine gun there enfilades a large part of the line over by the 127th. We’ve tried shelling the area, but we can’t seem to get accurate fire on it. Thanks to your actions at Urbs, Fox has been re-designated as Shock troops in the official books, and as such, when the General was told he needed someone to take it out, he specifically asked for you. The horrors of competence Eh?”

He sat back in his chair while Captain Kestel circled the bunker. “It goes down tomorrow morning at One. The team should meet at Regimental HQ an hour beforehand. Arty is going to fire a quick barrage of smoke shells, so, every single Vledscan Machine gun will be firing on that position. You’ll be given a pack of explosives, fifty meters of wire, and a blasting machine. Since this is your first time in charge a raid, I could give you some advice.”

“Yes Captain. That would be very much appreciated.”

“Well, I’d recommend sending one rifle team, along with an officer, and a runner. No rifles, a pistol for the officer, Sergeant, Corporal, and Runner. These should only be used as a last resort, because the Vledscan’s will open up on you. Everyone should have shovels, clubs, and bayonets. Politically, I’d recommend going yourself, since there are a lot of officers who think that Urbs was a pushover, and trench raids are where real officers are born. Speaking of officers, if you can take one prisoner, do it. Try not to disembowel them this time,” He laughed, “And stay low. If a flare goes up, close one eye and freeze. Try darkening your face with mud before hand.” He tapped his hand, “Right, and sense the smoke shells are a beacon to gunfire, move fast. Once it goes up though, it might be wise to stay in cover for a while to give the fire some time to cool off. Unless the Boxers fire rifle grenades at you, then run like Hell. Most importantly, get some good sleep today. Got it?”

“Yes Captain. Thank you.”

“Righto,” Captain Simmons looked at his watch, “Well, I’ll be off now.” He stood up, put on his helmet and greatcoat, and left the dugout.

Captain Kestel looked at Evans, “So, want to have a bit of fun tomorrow night?”

“I’m always looking for an opportunity to give Anna one of those lifetime dead spouse pensions Cap.”

“Good lad,” She paused, “Privates Lewis and Riley have experience with explosives right?”

“Yes Cap. And they are in Sergeant Chilcott’s team.”

“Very well, wake Boswell and have her inform Lieutenant Windsor and Sergeant Chilcott of the raid. Windsor might have to rework the watch schedules to allow the team some sleep. Then have her go down to the 127th and sketch the bunker.”

“I can do it Cap.”

“Alright James, we can let Boswell have some sleep for a little longer.”