Pack Inspection

“Ma’am, your tea,” Evans held the cup out to Lieutenant Kestel, “And I have some good news Ma’am.”

The Lieutenant grabbed the cup and took a sip, “Thanks, and what is it Evans?”

“I’ve been talking with the other runners Ma’am, and rumor is, Captain Simmons is being promoted up to Battalion, and they’re giving you the company.”

She nodded, “I somewhat expected that. Because otherwise we would have to bring in someone else, and, well, they want to make me happy, because they want to make my father happy.”

“Well congratulations… Future Captain.”

“Thank you… Lance Corporal?” She shrugged, “Well, I guess your rank will now make more sense. Who ever heard of a Lieutenant with a Lance as a runner? Now, on to business.” She picked up a folder, “Surprise Pack inspection. Muster everyone full kit on the parade grounds fifteen minutes.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Evans ran into each Platoon’s tent and rang the bell, “Muster! Full Kit! Ten Minutes!”

He then ran back to the Lieutenant’s tent, “They’re mustering Ma’am.” He picked up his clipboard and his kit. Evans then followed the Lieutenant outside to the parade ground and took her position at the head of the company. Evans stood at attention next to her. The Lieutenant shouted, “Company Atten… Tion!”

The company quickly adjusted to attention.

“Open Order… March!”

Second and Third platoons adjusted to Open Order. First Platoon, with only one Squad of soldiers, stayed in place.

“Right… Dress!”

The Platoons adjusted to their order.

“Alright! If You Have Not Guessed, We Are Having A Pack Inspection!” The Lieutenant grabbed Evans pack and rifled through it. She found his book and flipped through the pages, “Good Evans.”

Evans put down his pack, pulled out his pen, and looked at the clipboard. The Lieutenant started walking towards First Platoon. The inspection got part way through First Platoon with only two alcohol violations. The problem came at the fifth soldier. She pulled a book out of the bag and started to look through it. The private looked nervous, “You don’t need to look through it Ma’am.”

“Write him down, talking out of turn. Private Sau…” Her face went white. She then started yelling, “WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS! DROP RIGHT NOW AND DO NOT FUCKING STOP PUSH UPS UNTIL I FUCKING TELL YOU.”

She walked to the front of the formation, “ALRIGHT! PRIVATE SAUNDERS THERE THINKS IT IS APPROPRIATE TO HAVE…” She flipped through the papers with a look of scorn, “A SERIES OF DRAWINGS OF ME HAVING MARRIED TIMES! IF ANY OTHERS OF YOU HAVE COPIES OF THIS, TURN THEM IN NOW. IF YOU DO NOT, I WILL FIND THEM, AND YOU WILL BE PUNISHED VERY FUCKING SEVERELY.”

The Lieutenant walked back to Private Saunders, “WHERE THE FUCK DID YOU GET THESE?”

The Private paused his push ups for a moment, “I bought it in Strongfield Ma’am. On Leave.”

“Did I Tell You To Stop Doing Push Ups Private?” She walked back out and stared at the company, “Anyone else bought this garbage?”

Three privates stepped forward. The Lieutenant yelled at them, had them start push ups, and ripped through the companies packs. Once she was finished, she let the four privates recover. She assigned a Corporal to them, and ordered them exercise for the next four hours.

The Lieutenant dismissed the company and went back to her tent. Evans picked up his kit and followed. When he got back, the Lieutenant was crying in the corner.

Evans dropped his kit and knelt next to her, “Are you OK Ma’am?”

“I just feel so… Ew… Start the stove for a shower…” She stood up and held out the drawings, “Burn these with it James. Once it’s started… Leave. I want to be alone.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Evans grabbed the drawings and folded them. He turned around and paused for a second, turned back and hugged the Lieutenant, “Sorry if this is against regulations.” He then turned around and walked to the shower’s stove. He built a log cabin and shredded the drawings in his hands. After a moment, he placed them in the center and grabbed the slowmatch. He tended the fire until it had flared up to a reasonable amount. He stacked the extra wood on top of the stove and shut the door. He then tapped the side of the water tank, “It’s pretty full Ma’am. I’d say an hour or two of water.”

Evans walked out the room. The shower started up. He walked to Second Platoon’s tent. After a pause, he walked in and to Team 3’s room. Sergeant Chilcott was doing paperwork with Giuliano and Tiscornia. Chilly looked up, “Hey Evans. How’s the high life?”

“Can I ask a favor?”

Chilly looked at Tiscornia, “No one makes social calls these days. It’s this generation. Too focused on work.”

“I know what you’re talking about Chilly. Ever since telegraphs got cheap, kids just expect everything to be done right away,” Tiscornia looked at Evans, “So, what do you want Evans?”

“It’s about the Lieutenant…” He paused, “She’s… well. Very shaken up about what happened at inspection today. When I got to the tent, she was collapsed in the corner.”

“So you want teach them a lesson?”

Giuliano put down her pen, “I’m in.”

Tiscornia nodded , “Me too. Ustinov, Newey, and Cain will probably agree. Nazarri too. Maybe Hardin. Chilly, can you keep watch? Since you’re a Sergeant, people will do what you say.” Tiscornia looked at Giuliano, “Tell the Corporal in charge of the punishment detail that the Lieutenant ordered you to take over. The rest of us will find a nice empty tent to take them to. Evans will be smoking outside it. It will be a battalion headquarters tent from where the 125th was staying.”

It took about half an hour, but the group was assembled at the empty tent. They cleared out a back room. Evans walked outside and lit a cigarette. Eventually Giuliano jogged into view, with the four soldiers behind her, all exhausted. Evans stepped out in front of the group, “Hey, LT needs this tent cleaned. Congratulations on being the randomly selected detail.” He blew some smoke in one of their faces. Turning to Giuliano, he smiled, “You can take off early Corp.”

The soldiers walked inside. Evans waited a second and followed, “Back room. Supplies are in there.”

When they walked in, Evans picked up a sock filled with soap.

Half an hour later, and the group left. They left the privates inside the tent.

At Evening muster, the Lieutenant gave a long talk about not fighting other soldiers. Afterward, she called Evans back to her tent. She frowned, “If you ever do that again…” Changing her tone, she hugged him, “Thanks. You are a good… person.” She looked down, “A good friend. There. I said it. Now do not tell anyone I said it or else.”

Torture

Evans put the little stove on the counter top and started it. Once he got a suitable flame going, he drew the bayonet Lieutenant Kestel had given him and balanced it on the stove. Next, he turned around and moved the heavy chair to the middle of the room. He dragged a table to it’s feet and started placing the tools: A sharpened piece of rebar, some copper wire, a lighter, a lot of rope, a gag, some cotton swatches, and the bucket of water.

He looked at his watch. Just in time. He walked over and opened the door. Lance Corporal Tiscornia and Private Head were dragging the bruised Sergeant Knowles along. They sat him down in the chair and secured him. Tiscornia waved and left the room.

Evans quickly secured the gag before Lieutenant Kestel walked in. She slowly walked around the chair while staring at the Sergeant. She pointed at Evans, “Wake him up.”

Nodding, Evans picked up the bucket and tossed the water in Sergeant Knowles’ face, startling him into consciousness.

Lieutenant Kestel smiled at him, “Sergeant, we know about you. We talked to Boswell. We read Claybrooks’ journal. The other sergeants. We know everything. You are going to die. Slowly.” She picked up the piece of rebar and slowly poked it into the Sergeant’s shoulder. The Lieutenant then looked to Evans, “See, that’s just boring. Sure he’s in pain, but it’s expected.” She then took the lighter and copper wire, “This way is more fun.” She stuck one end of the wire underneath the Sergeant’s fingernail and put the lighter underneath the other end.

Evans watched the Sergeant’s eyes, which were weeping. They slowly got wider as the pain set in. After thirty seconds, the Lieutenant dropped the lighter, “Still boring. But.” She pointed to Sergeant Knowles’ groin, “Evans, undo his pants and take it out.”

Evans stared at her for a moment, “Ma’am? Do I get gloves?”

“Just do it Evans.”

Cringing, Evans slowly undid the Sergeant’s pants and fished around until he found it. Evans delicately pulled it out and draped it outside of the Sergeant’s pants.

“So now,” The Lieutenant turned around with the knife from the stove. She paused and put the knife back down. She crouched and stared, “That’s it?” She pulled out a pen and poked it, “I thought they were bigger, and less, floppy? How would that even fit?”

“Excuse me?” Evans stared at the Lieutenant, “Do you know how sex works?”

The Lieutenant straightened up, “Of course I do. My mother told me.”

“What did she tell you?”

“That some day, when I was married, my husband would use his staff on my flowered garden to create life, just like in the beginning.”

“Wow,” Evans looked at his feet, “Your wedding night will be full of surprises… Ma’am.”

“Well what makes you the expert Evans?” Her tone got defensive.

“I’m married Ma’am. And my wife is currently pregnant. Ma’am. Which is evidence that… I have experience in the matter,” Evans laughed slightly and gestured at Knowles, “See, that is what a penis normally looks like. When guys are turned on, then it grows bigger and um… more rigid?” Evans bent over laughing.

The Lieutenant blushed, “Why are you laughing? It is not funny. Now, tell me how to make his… staff bigger.”

“It’s a little funny Ma’am. And… As I said he… needs to be turned on. So um… you would need to either play with it or take off some clothes.”

“OK… Evans, can you… touch his staff and make it bigger?”

“Two things Ma’am. One, it only works if a woman does it. Any two, I find it hilarious that you won’t say penis or vagina. Just ‘Staff’ and ‘Flowered Garden’. I’ve seen you kill people and you are acting like an awkward ten year old.”

The Lieutenant covered her face and walked into the corner, “Those words just are not Ladylike OK?” She picked up the heated knife, “Let’s just do this already.”

Evans grabbed and the Lieutenant started sawing through, “How old are you even Lieutenant?”

When the Lieutenant finished cutting through, she held the heated end to the stump to cauterize the wound. She looked at Evans, “I was born on the First of December 1306. So I’m almost twenty.”

“No shit Ma’am!” Evans laughed as he grabbed some of the cotton, “Me to. We’re twins Lieutenant.” He then held up the severed penis between his fingers, “So what do I do with this Ma’am?”

She blushed, “I am not exactly sure.” She shrugged, “Make him eat it or something?” The Lieutenant then slowly undid the gag.

The Sergeant’s teeth were gritted together and sweat was pouring down his face. The Lieutenant needled the rebar around until the Sergeant screamed. She pointed at Evans, who tossed it into his open mouth. The Lieutenant then put all her weight into forcing his mouth closed. Evans quickly put the gag back in place.

The Lieutenant stared at Evans, “I am not really sure what to do now.” She shrugged, picked up the heated knife, and thrust it into the Sergeant’s neck, leaving it there as he slowly gargled and bled out.

“What are we going to tell the Lieutenant Colonel Ma’am?”

“It is my duty to make sure the soldiers under my command are safe, and he was a threat to my soldiers. He had to die.”

“I’m talking about the obvious torture Ma’am.”

“We’ll bury it in the courtyard, with the Vledscans.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Evans then looked at the Lieutenant’s uniform, “You may want to clean up a little Ma’am. Quite a bit of blood.”

She looked down, “I believe you may want to clean up a little. When we get back behind the lines, you will need to clean off my uniform.”

“You would make my life much easier if you never ever took part in anything violent or dangerous Ma’am.”

“Well then I wouldn’t be doing my job,” She played with one of the buttons on her jacket, “Also, this button is falling off. You need to fix it Evans.”

Duel

The Two Lance Corporals had taken as long as they could to cook the food so they avoided doing any real work. They finished just in time for the Lieutenant to call for them. They picked up the trays of food they walked into the courtyard, where someone had set up a dinner table with two chairs Evans and Tiscornia started setting the table. A few minutes later the Lieutenant emerged from the building, surprisingly, freshly bathed. Evans was unsure how she had found enough water or soap to take a bath, but it apparently had been done. He shrugged and finished setting the table.

Lieutenant Kestel walked past him towards the Vledscan’s main building and knocked on the door. A disheveled looking enlisted man opened the door, paused a moment, and then yelled back to someone behind him. In a few moments, the Baron came out and offered his arm to the Lieutenant. She took it and the two walked towards the table. Evans and Tiscornia pulled seats out as they approached. The officers sat and ate their meal.

Taking their leave, Evans and Tiscornia ran back to the kitchen and ate the dinner they made for themselves. Much better than the usual food they had. Once they finished, they ran back out to the officers, in time for them to clear the table. When they did, Lieutenant Kestel kissed the Baron on the cheek and walked back to the Ethslin side to prepare herself for the duel. She grabbed Evans, quickly ordered a Private to clear the table with Tiscornia. She sat down, took off her helmet, undid her hair, and pulled a letter out of her jacket, “Evans, if I die, I want you to deliver this letter to my father. Do not let it go through the censors.”

Nodding, Evans responded, “Yes Ma’am. Do you want me to tie back your hair so he doesn’t grab it?”

“Don’t worry, the Baron is an honorable man. He won’t try anything like that,” The Lieutenant retied her boots, “When the duel happens, I will take off my jacket and scabbard and hand them to you. You will walk back to the unit and stand with the rest. If I die, place them back on me. Now let us go. I think they are mustering.”

The Lieutenant stood up and walked outside, leaving her helmet. Evans followed her to the center of the courtyard. The soldiers were standing at their respective sides. The Baron was standing in the center, jacket off, sword drawn, talking to the younger Vledscan officer.

The Lieutenant took off her jacket and handed her scabbard to Evans. She walked up to the Baron, grabbed his collar, pulled him down, roughly kissed his mouth and walked back. She whispered to Evans as she drew her sword, “That should confuse him a bit.”

Evans turned around and walked back to the unit, next to Tiscornia. When he turned back around, the Lieutenant was standing about 5 meters from the Baron, facing him, sword in front of her face. The Baron bowed and the Lieutenant gave a quick curtsy. They started to circle, looking for each others weakness.

The Baron was the first to strike. He leapt forward and thrust towards the Lieutenant’s stomach. She stepped back and parried the blow, rode the blade forward and attempted to strike the Baron’s shoulder. He took a step backwards, pushed her blade up, and swiped downward. She lightly stepped backwards to avoid the blow. The Lieutenant then leapt forward and stabbed the Baron in the left shoulder. He winced and attempted to grab the Lieutenant’s blade, but she quickly stepped back. The Baron smiled, “You like to play rough don’t you?” He slapped her blade to the side and lunged forward, but she dodged. “Don’t worry, I’ll be in there before too long.”

Looking for an opening, the Lieutenant pointed her blade and said, “Sorry, but I am waiting until marriage to do that.”

Laughing, the Baron whipped his blade in a showy manner, “I think I can convince you otherwise, but your insistence on purity is to be admired.”

Evans looked at Tiscornia and whispered, “Is he hitting on her?”

“It’s part of the whole dueling ritual. When dueling was just between men, it was often over a woman. So, usually they would talk about their sexual prowess. Then, when woman started dueling, they had to be pure or something. And now it’s just part of the ritual.”

Evans shrugged and went back to watching the fight. The Baron lunged, and half a second later the Lieutenant jumped forward. The blade sunk deep into Lieutenant Kestel’s shoulder. The Vledscans cheered as the Baron smirked, “That feels nice, doesn’t it? Want me…”

He hadn’t pulled the blade out fast enough. The Lieutenant buried her sword into the Baron’s stomach, “A bit premature there. Don’t worry, it happens to a lot of men.” She pulled her blade up while she drew it out, cutting open his stomach.

The Baron attempted to respond, but all that came out was blood. He collapsed to the ground and gurgled for a few moments. The Lieutenant curtsied, did an about face, walked towards Evans, handed him the sword, and said, “I need this cleaned and sharpened Evans.” She then stumbled a few steps and collapsed. Tiscornia stepped out and caught her. He walked her to a nearby bench as the stunned Vledscan soldiers stared. Three of them were collecting the Baron’s body.

The younger Vledscan officer yelled a few words to his soldiers. Evans looked at Ustinov, who translated, “Let’s go home.”

Evans walked indoors to the Lieutenant’s office, put the Lieutenant’s gear on his desk. A few seconds later, four soldiers, including Boswell, carried the Lieutenant in. Evans quickly cleared off the desk, giving space to lie her down. Newey came in immediately after and pulled out his medical kit. He pulled the shoulder of her shirts down and started to apply dressing. Evans opened her mouth and started giving her small amounts of water from his canteen.

Once the dressing was on, Newey reached for a syrette, but the Lieutenant waved her arm. Evans stopped pouring to allow for her to speak, “Don’t put any of those drugs in me. I’ll be good.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Newey packed up his kit and pulled the Lieutenant’s shirts back up.

Evans pointed to Boswell and another female soldier, “You two, the Lieutenant needs to switch to a clean undershirt.” He went through her gear, pulled one out, and tossed it to the two, “I’ll stand guard outside of the room.”

Evans led Newey out of the room and shut the door behind him. Newey looked longingly at the door and put on a mocking voice, “Evans, you are the worst friend. My one hope to feel up a noble woman, dashed. I would have been the hero of all men in this army.”

Evans kicked him, “Oh shut up, you could have done it when you were bandaging her.”

“Don’t you dare tell anyone that. I don’t want to ruin my playboy image.”

“Oh, a playboy image? You’re a Lance Corporal. And once you leave the army, you’ll be some farmer in the middle of… Where again?” Evans pretended to think, “Oh, yeah, forty miles from Strongfield. You will be wading through women.”

Newey winked at a passing soldier from 3rd, “Bitches love farms.”

“What the Hell does that even mean?” Evans slowly shook his head.

Boswell opened the door, “The Lady wants you Evans.” She then left the room with the other soldier.

Evans shrugged and walked in. The Lieutenant was sitting up, “Fire the Green flare. Tell the Sergeant Major to send Third Platoon to hold the buildings across the courtyard. And, I’m going to rest. Tomorrow, we torture Sergeant Knowles to death.”

Challenge

“Evans. Come here.”
Standing up, Evans crouch walked over to Lieutenant Kestel, who was kneeling behind a window, scanning into a periscope across the courtyard. He came alongside her and whispered, “Yes Ma’am?”
The Lieutenant quickly drew a diagram on some paper. It was a crude map of the courtyard. There were X’s and O’s on various parts of the map, “Here is our position, and here are the Boxers. Knnecappers are spread out all along the sides, so we can’t flank. Our ammunition is low and so is theirs. The only solution is a direct assault with knives and bayonets. In which case we would be butchered by their remaining machine gun. The same is true for the Boxers.”
“Should I get the Sergeants for orders?”
Shaking her head, Lieutenant Kestel put her hand on her sword, “I’m going to make sure we have only one casualty at most.” She gestured to one of the bedrooms, “Get a white sheet and tie it to the end of your rifle. Meet me at the entrance in a few minutes.”
Nodding, Evans moved to the bedroom and got to work. He felt a tinge of guilt ripping apart the nice sheets, knowing that someone had paid quite a bit of money for these. He fixed his bayonet and tied a small rectangular piece to it. He then went downstairs to the entrance.
The Lieutenant was talking with Sergeant Campbell. She finished up and walked over to Evans. Her 80 centimeter officer’s sword was in it’s scabbard on her left hip. She looked up at him, “Poke the flag out the door and prepare to move out on my command. When we leave, stay on my left, keep you’re rifle aimed vertically, and stay silent.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Evans approached the door and leaned the flag out. He waved it for several seconds to try and get the attention of the Vledscan’s. He half expected a rifle grenade land right next to him any moment now.

Instead, he heard a voice shout, “Come! We meet at the fountain!”

Lieutenant Kestel tapped him on the shoulder and started to march out. Evans matched her step, when he cleared the door, he leaned the rifle on his left shoulder and rested it on his hand. She stopped him at the fountain. In a few moments, a bookish looking officer wearing an eighty five centimeter small sword approached. He was accompanied by a younger officer carrying a white flag on a rifle. Evans wished he knew the Vledscan officer ranks. Lieutenant Kestel spoke to him, “Stand easy.”

Evans quickly slung his rifle. The elder Vledscan officer seemed to issue a similar order, because the younger officer slung his rifle and nervously scratched his face. Lieutenant Kestel stretched out her hand, “Lady Demetria of Medway, whom do I have the pleasure of acquainting myself with?”

The officer took her hand, “The pleasure is all mine. I am Baron Semyon of Kalach. Now I must say Lady Demetria, I had heard stories of your great beauty, and they did not give you nearly enough credit.”

She gave a quick curtsy, “Thank you Baron. And I believe I have met your sister, the Lady Maria. Another specimen of beauty.”

The Baron nodded, “Now, on to business. Why have you arranged this meeting with me here Lady Demetria?”

She gestured to the two buildings, “I think you will agree Baron, that we are in a bit of a stalemate here. The only way for my soldiers to take your position, is by a bloody bayonet charge. And from what I’ve observed, you share the option. We are both soldiers of honor, and cannot back down from a fight, but we should not needlessly throw away the lives of our young soldiers.” She rested her left hand on the hilt of her sword, “So I propose a duel. Tonight, at sundown, we shall fight here, in the courtyard. Whoever loses, their unit will fall back, reporting the death of their officer, allowing the advance of the others unit.”

The Baron shook his head, “I would, but it is against my ethics to strike a Lady.”

Nodding, the Lieutenant looked to Evans, “Lance Corporal, hit me.”

“Ma’am?”

“Hit me Lance Corporal, on the face.”

Evans hesitantly held out his hand towards the Lieutenant. At her nodding, he lightly hit her face. She then turned back to the Baron, “My honor has been affronted. Is it not your duty to fight the Lance Corporal?” Before the Baron had a chance to answer, she continued, “I suppose tonight, about sundown. I shall be his second,” She pulled out her knife, grabbed Evans’ hand, cut his palm, and slid it back into it’s sheath, “Oh well, it looks like Evans has injured himself and can’t fight. I suppose I will have to fight in his stead.”

The Baron nodded, “I see you have forced my hand. It will be a shame to kill someone as beautiful as you.” He knelt and kissed her hand. He straightened himself up, “I will order my men to stand down for the night. We can recover the dead and wounded. And perhaps, Lady Demetria, you will give me the honor of dining with you before our duel?”

The Lieutenant nodded, “I will Baron Semyon. I will meet you here one hour before sundown. My man will cook. When the meal is done, we shall bring out our soldiers, and one of us will leave. And I do agree about the parties.” She then pulled to attention, “Detail. Atten Shun!”

Evans snapped to attention.

“About…” Evans drew the semicircle with his right foot, “Turn!” On the command, Evans turned around, while switching the rifle to the other shoulder.

“Forward March.” Evans stepped off with his left foot.

After a few paces they neared the door, “Ready… Halt.”

Evans obliged.

“Fall Out And Wait For Me With Sergeant Campbell.”

Evans took a step backwards, “Yes Ma’am!” He about faced, then walked through the open door. Sergeant Campbell was standing in the corner with an eyebrow raised, “So how’d it go Evans?”

Looking around to make sure the Lieutenant was out of earshot, he whispered to the Sergeant, “She is insane. But at least she cares about us.”

“Yes. At least she does,” Sergeant Campbell nodded, “I just wish she would show us in ways that didn’t involve her attempting to get herself killed.”

“Do not worry lads,” the Lieutenant seemed to appear out of nowhere, “I am a better swordsman than the Baron by far.” She then waved the other Sergeants in, “Alright soldiers, we have a momentary truce with the Vledscan unit. So I want each team to collect bodies and wounded. Since Sergeant Campbell is the Senior Sergeant, he will organize the parties. Evans, I need you to prepare a meal for the Vledscan officer and me. You may have one other soldier to assist you. Everyone, at Sundown, I will be engaging in a duel to the death with the Vledscan officer, so I want our entire unit mustered in the courtyard ten minutes before. If I win said duel, the Vledscan unit will back down. If I lose the duel, you are to collect your belongings and pull back. All Good?”

The Sergeants and Evans nodded. Evans raised his hand, “Might I have Lance Corporal Tiscornia Ma’am?”

Courtyard Push

The Company was getting ready to push for the courtyard. Evans looked at Sergeant Knowles gathering his rifle team. He then looked at the Lieutenant, “So what is going to happen to the Sergeant Ma’am?”

“Do not worry Evans. Once we take the Courtyard, he will die. I just need him for now. I’m reassigning Boswell under you as one of my runners. And for Lance Corporal Drummond…” She gestured to Evans’ rifle, “In the heat of battle, sometimes soldiers are accidental shot by their own side. I fear that in the chaos, poor Drummond might be killed. I accidentally dented his helmet while inspecting his platoon earlier. So…”

“Yes Ma’am,” Evans checked his rifle and got ready.

The Lieutenant pursed her lips, pulled up her whistle, and blew. The Company started to move out.

Evans walked alongside the Lieutenant, who was acting if this was an afternoon walk. She made idle conversation with Evans. It was obvious that she missed the more ‘refined’ company she was used to.

After about an hour, the Vledscan’s opened fire. Evans first moved the Lieutenant into cover. She seemed a bit annoyed that Evans pushed her down, and no doubt she would remove herself almost immediately. He then moved and looked for Drummond.

It was hard to find in the firefight, but eventually he saw the helmet that the Lieutenant had dented. He was unsure how exactly a dent that large could have been played off as an accident, but, that wasn’t the matter. Evans took aim with his rifle, pretending to aim for a window downrange, and pulled the trigger. Lance Corporal Drummond was knocked forward and collapsed. Evans yelled out, “Drummond’s been hit!” He then ran back to where he had put the Lieutenant. She was not there. Evans looked around the battlefield.

The Lieutenant was near the front, directing the fire of a few riflemen. A grenade landed near the group. One of the privates dived down it and closed his eyes. Nothing happened. He stood up, tossed the grenade away, and smiled. Evans ran forward and waved for the private to get down. The private was knocked over. Evans dove and crawled to the Private.

The Private stared at him and yelled, “I think I’m lucky today!”

Evans looked at the soldiers helmet, it was slightly too large, and a bullet had passed through the extra space.

Slowly the fire petered out. Evans ran forward to the Lieutenant, “Are you alright Ma’am?”

“I am fine Evans,” She looked over towards Third Platoon, “Anything happen?”

Evans nodded, “I saw a Lance Corporal get hit.”

She smiled, “Damn. Now, quickly check for casualties and then send a runner back to report our losses.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Evans ran from Sergeant to Sergeant, getting each count. Light casualties. Good. He then tracked down Boswell, “Private!” He wrote the casualty numbers on a piece of paper and handed them to her, “Run this back to the Lieutenant Colonel.”

“Yes Lance Corporal,” Boswell grabbed the note and ran.

Tiscornia walked up to Evans, “You’re growing up so fast. When I first met you, you were a little kid. Now, you’re a Lance, with people who do errands for him, and you’re married and expecting a child.” Tiscornia extended his arms to hug him.

Evans cocked his eyebrows and laughed, “That was… like… four months ago.”

“Me and Mom are so proud of you.”

“Wait, is Giuliano Mom?” Evans looked at the Company, starting to get together.

Tiscornia shook his head, “Ew, no, Chilly is the Mom. Why would Giuliano be the Mom?”

“Because you two are inseparable, and obviously dating.”

“Shh… I she doesn’t know I’m into her,” Tiscornia jokingly looked back and forth.

“Right. So you were just platonically kissing her while on watch the other day.”

Nodding, Tiscornia responded, “I was um… helping her… She had something stuck in her teeth, so I was finding it… with my tongue. Because I’m helpful. That sounds like a real thing. I’ll go with that.”

“Great. That definitely sounds real.”

Grabbing Evans’ shoulders, Tiscornia shouted at him, “Wait! I remember why I’m talking to you!” Tiscornia took a step back, “Chilly wants you to tell Lieutenant Kestel that our team is running low on ammunition. About twenty rounds per person.”

“Right,” Evans nodded, waved goodbye, and ran back to the Lieutenant. She was talking with the Sergeant Major, so he stood at parade rest and stared at her.

Eventually, the Sergeant Major left, and Evans approached the Lieutenant, “Ma’am, Sergeant Chilcott’s team is running low on ammunition.”

She nodded, “I’ve been getting news from the other Sergeant’s to that effect. I need you to run back to the Lieutenant Colonel and request more ammunition.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Evans turned about and sprinted back towards Battalion headquarters. He tried to remember which streets Battalion Headquarters was on today. A horseman rode by, Evans flagged him down.

The man, a Corporal, rode over and pulled up next to Evans, “What do ya need Lance?”

“I’m looking for the 2nd Battalion Headquarters of the 202nd.”

“No shit!” The man dismounted, “Are you with Fox?”

“Yes Corp.”

“Right, I was sent in advance of your runner Boswell. You need to advance fast, Intel reports that a Vledscan unit is advancing to the courtyard you are pushing to.”

“We need Ammunition.”

The Corporal shook his head, “You’ll get resupplied once you take the Courtyard.” He handed Evans a bag, “Green Flare when you take it. Red Flare if you fail.”

Evans looked in the bag. Two green and two red. He ran back to the Lieutenant, “Ma’am! No ammo until we take the courtyard.”

“Well, I guess we will have to take it fast then,” She drew her sword and pointed towards the courtyard, “Tell the Sergeant’s to pool their ammunition, and get ready to push forward.”

“Yes Ma’am.”

Boswell

It was the First of November. Two days since the Lieutenant Kestel had taken over command of the company. They had pushed forward with little resistance to their present position and set up in two buildings. They then stayed in position awaiting orders.

Evans was sitting in the makeshift company headquarters with his feet on the desk. The Lieutenant was sleeping quietly in the corner on a mattress Evans had moved in. She looked weird in sleep. Instead of her normal, slightly crazy, war enthused self, she looked peaceful and happy. Evans would have called it cute if that wasn’t a completely inappropriate thing to call someone of her stature.

He shook his head. He was way too tired. One more hour and he could sleep. Just one more…

There was a loud knock on the door. Evans snapped awake and opened the door. An unfamiliar Private was standing at the door, smiling holding out a letter. Evans grabbed the letter, “Is this for Lieutenant Kestel?”

Nodding, the Private pushed past Evans, “Yes, is she in here?” She looked at the Lieutenant, smiled, and bounced up and down, “She is so pretty! Can I have like a little bit of her hair?”

Evans shook his head, “No, that’s weird. Why would you want that.”

“Can I touch her?” The Private stepped closer to the Lieutenant, and Evans stepped in between the two.

“No. Don’t touch her. Seriously, go away.”

The Lieutenant sat up, “Evans, is that you?”

“Yes Lieutenant,” Evans opened up the letter, “We have orders from Lieutenant Colonel Strummer.”

The Private bounced up some more, “And I’m Private Harper!” She pulled a piece of paper out of her pocket, “Can I have your autograph Lady Demetria?”

The Lieutenant ignored Private Harper and grabbed the letter from Evans. She quickly scanned the letter, “Evans, assemble the Sergeants.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Evans left the room and shook his head. He quickly roused the four Sergeants in the current building and went to the exit door to rouse the next three and the Sergeant Major. Evans hooked his helmet onto his rifle and slowly pushed it out of the door. Nothing. He put his helmet back on and sprinted across. He slammed against the wall and knocked on the door, “Lance Evans Open Up.”

The door opened and Evans rolled in, looked at the Private, “Nice to see you again Wesley, Can you tell Sergeant’s Howard and Stark to report to the Lieutenant?”

She nodded and ran upstairs. Evans then walked to the Sergeant Major’s office and knocked on the door. In a few moments a private answered the door, “What do you need?”

“The Sergeant Major needs to meet with the Lieutenant as soon as possible,” Evans waited until the Private turned to wake the Sergeant Major before he ran to the stairwell. Fifth floor was Sergeant… something Damn. Evans should really know his name.

Evans got out onto the second floor and looked around. A Lance Corporal was drumming on his legs.

“Hey, where’s your Sergeant?”

The Lance Corporal nervously looked around, “He’s ah… Giving specialized instruction to one of the privates.”

“I didn’t ask what he was doing, where is he?”

“I’ll get him,” The Lance Corporal walked to the stairs. Evans followed a few steps behind. They went up to the sixth floor, then the Lance Corporal knocked in an odd pattern. There was some clattering in the room, and Evans thought he heard a woman crying.

The door opened a crack and a Sergeant slid out, glistening with sweat. He swore and quickly did his belt and fly. When he saw Evans, he quickly snapped at the Lance Corporal, “What the Hell is he doing here?”

“Se… Sergeant…” Evans stuttered, “The uh… Lieutenant wants all Sergeants to meet at her office.”

The Sergeant muttered, “I hate that bitch.” He then looked back at Evans, “Now, what the hell are you still doing here?”

Evans nodded, “I’ll, uh… go wake the other Sergeants.” Evans ran to the stairwell. He paused a moment. Why had he said that? Evans ran part way up to the seventh floor and laid himself as flat as he could in the shadows. It was uncomfortable. This was really dumb.

After about a minute, the Sergeant and Lance Corporal walked down the stairs. The Lance exited on floor five, but Evans had to wait while the Sergeant plodded all the way to the ground floor. Once the stairwell was silent, Evans snuck back onto the sixth floor. He slowly approached the door and put his hand on the doorknob, twisted it, and slowly pushed it open. He heard someone softly cry “No.”

Evans pulled out his lighter and lit his candle to illuminate the dark room, “Whose there?” His eyes slowly adjusted and he saw.

All the windows in the room had been blocked out. Most of the furniture had been moved to the walls, and, in the center, was a cot. A Private was sitting there, who had been in the midst of dressing herself when Evans came in. Evans quickly averted his eyes and whispered, “Sorry… Private. Are you alright?”

More crying. “No.”

“What’s the Sergeant been up to?”

There was a long pause.

“They’ll kill me if I tell.”

Evans didn’t know what to do. He shrugged, “I’ll protect you. Give me their names.”

“S… Sergeant Knowles. And… And… Lance Corporal Drummond.”

“Are you decent yet?”

“I am, Lance… What’s your name?”

“Jim Evans,” he slowly turned around, transfered the candle to his left hand and extended his right, “And you?”

“Madelyn Boswell,” She grabbed his hand and pulled herself up. She seemed cold and clammy. Evans then waved her to follow him downstairs, to the first floor.

Wesley was standing at the entrance, and she waved at him, “I sent the Sergeants through, Sergeant Knowles passed me, and the Sergeant Major’s office is empty except for Joe.”

Evans nodded, “Good. Now,” He gestured back at Boswell, “This is Boswell from Third. I want her to join you on guard duty for the moment… Do you know Lance Corporal Drummond?”

Wesley thought to herself, “Tall, blond, little mustache” She smiled a bit, “Kind of cute?”

Evans looked back towards the stairs, “If He or Sergeant Knowles come by, find a place for Boswell to hide. And you didn’t see her if they ask. Once Knowles does go back upstairs, bring her across the street to the Lieutenant’s office.” Before Wesley could respond, Evans opened the door and sprinted across the street. He slipped into the door and walked to the back of the crowd of Sergeants. The Lieutenant saw him and gestured for him to head back to the office. He nodded, walked past the group, and entered the office.

Evans sat impatiently and waited for the Lieutenant to come in. She threw a notepad onto his desk, “Evans, I need you to copy this down and get it run down to the Lieutenant Colonel.” She started back to her bed, “We move out at dawn.”

“Ma’am… Wait…”

The Lieutenant turned around and raised her eyebrow, “Yes Evans?”

“There is an issue with Sergeant Knowles,” Evans heard a knock on the door, “I think that might be about this.”

Evans opened the door, Boswell was standing there, shrouded in a blanket, and Wesley was standing next to her. Evans ushered Boswell in. He stepped outside, leaned in, and looked at the Lieutenant, “I’ll leave you two to discuss.” He then shut the door.

“So what is going on with her, Knowles, and Drummond?” Wesley cocked her head at Evans.

He pointed across the street, “Shouldn’t you be getting back to your post Private?”

“Nah,” She shook her head, “I got off duty a few minutes ago.”

The Lady in Charge

The ground in front of Evans exploded and Evans was thrown to the ground. He saw Captain Simmons waving his arms, yelling something inaudibly. Evans felt someone grab his shoulders and start dragging him. It was Clark, the Lieutenant’s runner. She started to smile at him when a bullet ripped through her neck and the blood started pouring out. She dropped Evans and grabbed at her neck, before a bullet ripped through her skull, ending her life.

The body fell quickly. Evans got up, grabbed Clark’s rifle, and ran to the side of the road, behind cover. Sergeant Gabriel pointed towards a destroyed car about a hundred meters down the road and patted Evans’ rifle grenade pouch.

Nodding, Evans loaded a rifle grenade and waited for the Sergeant to lay down suppressing fire. Then Evans took to a kneel, adjusted his aim, and fired the grenade right behind the car. Evans then ducked back down and looked to the Sergeant, who signaled for him to keep firing his rifle downrange.

Eventually, a smoke grenade was thrown between the Ethslin and Vledscan positions, and the billowing smoke obscured the view. The Captain ran down the line holding up his pointer finger and gesturing to a side alleyway. Taking the signal, First Platoon quickly moved up towards the alleyway. Running back, Captain Simmons pointed his fist at the Vledscan position with one hand, and switching between a two and a three with the other.

Captain Simmons attempted to take cover again while Second and Third platoons opened fire, but a stray Vledscan bullet slammed into his shoulder, turning him around like a top. Evans shouldered his rifle and ran to get the Captain into cover. Once the smoke cleared, the Vledscans would take the chance to kill a wounded officer.

Evans knelt behind the Captain and started to drag him to the side of the road. He saw Lieutenant Claybrooks from Third Platoon run out to take command and focus fire as the smoke started to dissipate. Evans then looked down at the Captain once they got behind cover. The Captain looked up, “Thanks Evans.” He then passed out.

Nodding, Evans reached into the Captain’s jacket, pulled out some dressing, and applied it to the wound. When he was finished started firing downrange. He saw a rifle grenade soar over, collide with Lieutenant Claybrooks’ haversack, and she ceased to exist. Evans then heard a machine gun open up to the right.

Lieutenant Kestel took over. She grabbed the rifle off of a dead soldier and one of his rifle grenades. Then, with careful aim, she fired it into an abandoned grain truck, partially obscuring the enemy position. She then ordered a salvo of rifle grenades, drew her sword, and gave the command to charge. Evans drew his bayonet, fixed it, and started running forward.

As the dust settled, a surviving Vledscan officer started to rally his men to resist the attack. They didn’t have time to set up a machine gun before Fox Company struck.

Leaping over a machine gun nest, Lieutenant Kestel hacked down with her sword into the neck of a soldier. Evans jumped next to her and skewered a soldier in the stomach. The Lieutenant chopped into another man, looked at Evans, and grinned. The firefight was over, and the surviving Vledscan soldiers surrendered.

Evans looked towards the alleyway where First Platoon had gone. A machine gun had been set up facing straight down the alleyway. A few survivors from First Platoon came out of the alleyway, stunned.

The Lieutenant was looking around, and, not seeing Clark, pointed at Evans, “Go to find Lieutenant Woodward. He needs to take command of the company.”

Evans nodded and jogged to the survivors of First Platoon, “Is Lieutenant Woodward alive?”

The Sergeant wiped the blood from his face and looked past Evans, “Maybe… It was charnel house back there. Evans nodded and walked into the alleyway, looking for the Lieutenant.

Most of First Platoon lay dead and dying in the alleyway. Evans picked his way through the bodies, looking for Lieutenant Woodward.

Eventually, he saw the officer’s body lying face down on top of a private. Evans rolled the body over, and half his face was missing. There was a whimper from the private. Evans knelt down and helped the soldier up. She was covered in blood, but otherwise, unharmed.

The Private looked at him and started bawling. Evans tried to comfort her, “It’s alright Private. We beat them. Now what’s your name?”

Trying to compose herself, the soldier responded, “I’m… I’m… Private Emily Wesley,” She looked down at the Lieutenant, “He fell on me… Knocked me to… And I just stayed there. I didn’t try and fight I just hid.”

Evans gave her an awkward hug, “Wesley, your not in the army to die. Look around you. If you had gotten up, you would have been cut down. All that you could have accomplished would be providing a fleshy place for a few bullets to rest… Is this your first show Wesley?”

She nodded.

“Just stay down, keep your rifle loaded, follow your orders, and you might get out of this. Now, if in a week, you still want to go home, talk to me. I might be able to give you some advice… And I’m Evans,” He let go, bent down, picked up a rifle, and handed it to her, “You should report to your… Someone in your chain of command. Or a Sergeant in your platoon.” He turned around and jogged out of the blood soaked alleyway.

Stopping for a moment, Evans wiped some of the blood off of his clothes and walked to the Lieutenant, “Ma’am, Lieutenant Woodward was killed in the alleyway, along with most of First.”

Lieutenant Kestel nodded, “Evans, Clark is dead, and I need a new runner. You are it. First things first, find out how many members of First Platoon are still active.”

Evans nodded and ran back to the Sergeant he had seen earlier, “Sergeant! The Lieutenant wants to know how many soldiers are in your platoon.”

The Sergeant nodded slowly and then shouted, “First Platoon, on me!”

A half dozen soldiers worked their way over. One Lance Corporal and Five privates. Wesley had wiped some of the blood off of herself. The Sergeant shrugged, “This is it Lance.”

Evans nodded and went back to the Lieutenant, “Seven Ma’am, a Sergeant, two Lance Corporals and five Privates.”

“Right,” She drummed her leg, “Run back to Colonel Strummer, Request a company to recover our wounded, and tell her we will be moving forward with two full strength platoons. Take a Private with you just in case.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Evans walked towards the survivors of First. Maybe a few minutes off the line would help Wesley. He waved to the Private, “Wesley!”

She looked over, “Yes Lance Corporal?”

“I need you with me to deliver a message. Lieutenant’s orders.”

“Yes Lance Corporal,” She looked towards First Platoon’s Sergeant, “Sergeant Howard… The Lady needs me.”

“Don’t die.”

“Alright, let’s move,” Evans pointed to the rear of the unit, “We need to update Colonel Strummer.” He started to jog back towards the rest of the battalion.

“Yes Lance Corporal,” She started to jog after him.

“So Private, did you call Lieutenant Kestel, ‘The Lady’?”

“That’s what everyone calls her… She is a Lady.”

“No one in Second says that. We just call her Lieutenant Kestel.”

Evans saw Wesley smile for the first time, “I like calling her the Lady. It makes me feel like someone important. Plus she’s so fabulous. I saw her in normal clothes when my train arrived. Her dress was so beautiful.”

The Battalion came into view, Evans pointed, “Let’s find the Lieutenant Colonel.”

The pair worked their way through the crowd until they found an officer. Evans saluted, “Sir! We have been ordered to report to the Lieutenant Colonel.”

The officer looked at Wesley’s bloody uniform, “She is over there.” The officer pointed behind him.

Evans and Wesley walked to the Lieutenant Colonel. She was holding a mug of coffee in her left hand, sipping it. Evans and Wesley Saluted. Lieutenant Colonel Strummer returned the salute, “News from Fox Company?”

Nodding, Evans responded, “Lieutenant Kestel is requesting a company to deal with the wounded. She also reports that she will continue moving forward with two full platoons.”

There was a crash as Colonel Strummer dropped her mug, “The Hell? What the Fucking Hell happened to Fox Company. Why is the junior Lieutenant in charge, and why are there only two platoons.”

“We were ambushed Colonel. Captain Simmons ordered First Platoon on a flanking maneuver. The Captain got hit. Lieutenant Claybrooks took command, and was immediately killed by a rifle grenade. First Platoon was then hit with a machine gun…”

Wesley spoke up, “Several Grenades as well Ma’am.”

“Lieutenant Kestel then took command. She ordered a charge across the ground and we took the Vledscan position.” Evans paused, “This is when we found out about first platoon. Seven of them uninjured. Lieutenant Woodward was killed by the machine gun.”

“Shit,” Colonel Strummer punched a wall, “Tell her that we will mobilize Eagle, and to push forward. She has the company.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Evans and Wesley saluted, did an about turn, and ran back to the company.