Happy Birthday

The sun was rising over Urbs. Evans and Lucy were sitting on the top of the Company’s building. Evans opened up his bag and pulled out a something hastily wrapped in newspaper, “So I went to this great boutique and the owner recommended this.”

Lucy ripped open the present, smiled. She picked up the brown scarf and draped it around her neck, “Do I look beautiful Goldfish?” Lucy sat down on Evans lap, put her arm around him, and leaned in close to his face, “Does it make you want to ravish me?”

Pushing her off him, Evans shook his head, “Still no Lucy. I did also get you a bunch of chocolate, some dried fruit, and…” Evans pulled a flask out of his bag, “Some whiskey. All these things I definitely didn’t steal.”

“And we should drink this whiskey fast. If an officer comes up we could be in trouble,” Lucy grabbed the flask and drank for a few seconds. She passed it to Evans who took a quick drink.

After they had finished, Evans gestured towards the back end of the roof. Evans pointed to a plank laid across the roof, “I found a record player, so I set up a semi soundproof room in the next building. So, Miss Chambers, care to dance?”

Lucy smiled and followed Evans across the plank. They made their way down into the building, to a room with mattresses pushed up against the wall. In the center, there was a table with a phonograph. Evans walked up and winded it for half a minute. It started to play a light waltz.

Evans shrugged and grabbed onto Lucy. As they started to dance, Lucy asked something to Evans, “So how did you set this all up? Seems kind of heavy.”

“Yeah, I traded some of the chocolate I’ve found for some help. I also have Head covering my watch,” Evans attempted to dip Lucy, stumbled, and yanked her back up, “So how did you get off duty?”

“Well thanks to my reputation, a bunch of men are glad to do me favors,” Lucy stifled a sneeze, “Plus, the Captain doesn’t really use me as much since we’re all in the same building. So with that guy from 1st Platoon covering for me, I’m free for another two hours.”

“Yeah, I’m good for three hours,” Evans dipped Lucy almost successfully, until he lost grip and dropped her on the floor, “Oh shit, sorry.”

Lucy dusted off her uniform and stood up while Evans wound the phonograph some more. She laughed, “So how about a punishment system. Step on my feet you owe me a kiss. Stumble, we get a little handsy. And so on and so forth until you drop me again, and then we flip down a mattress.”

“Still married,” Evans grabbed Lucy again and they continued dancing.

“Wouldn’t be a punishment if you weren’t,” Lucy jokingly made a sweep at his legs.

“So this is a challenge then, I try and dance well, and you try and trip me,” Evans dipped again, making sure not to drop her, “Fine, I’m going to win,” he spun her around, “And how are you going to know if I step on your toes, I can’t feel anything through my boots.”

“Well for example, you just did it,” Lucy turned her head and looked at Evans, “So you owe me one kiss.”

“Doesn’t count, I didn’t feel it,” Evans attempted to spin her around again, “And I definitely would have felt it, because my foot would…”

There was a loud explosion from outside that shook the room. The phonograph fell onto the floor. Lucy shrugged, “Well I guess you win this argument.”

Evans nodded and the two sprinted out of the room. By the time they got to the roof, two more explosions had gone off. A pitched firefight was developing. And to top it all off, the plank to Fox Company’s building had fallen off.

Taking off first, Evans took a running leap and cleared the two meter gap. He turned around and watched Lucy slam against the side of the building. She flailed wildly against the lip until she managed to just barely grab on to the ledge. Evans ran over and grabbed her forearms.

Bracing his feet against the wall, he leaned back, and slowly dragged her over the wall. She helped him back to his feet, hugged him, and whispered into his ear, “The lengths you’ll go to not have sex with me.” She then stomped on his toe, kissed him, and ran to grab her rifle and kit.

Rolling his eyes, Evans went to his rifle, put on his kit, and ran downstairs to report to Sergeant Campbell. Evans found Corporal Hardin first, “Evans! We need security around back! Drop off your rifle here and go pick up an Auto Gun in the stairwell. There should be extra ammo with it. MOVE!”

Evans nodded, put his rifle down, and ran into the stairwell. Someone had left an Auto Gun with a bandolier of magazines. Evans picked up the bandolier and put it on. He then picked up the Auto Gun and checked the magazine. It felt full. He put it back in, bolted it, and leaned against the wall.

There was an almost constant roar of gunfire from outside. Evans wished he could help. If he was fighting he wouldn’t have to worry. He tried to listen for any orders being yelled back and forth. Someone asking for ammo. Anything.

But the din of gunfire was too loud. Lucy ran upstairs. She nodded at him, and went through the door past him. A few seconds later, she ran back out and went upstairs. She sprinted back downstairs.

That’s the way it went for what seemed like an eternity. The Company and remaining Dragoons fighting and dying, Lucy delivering important messages, and Evans, just standing there. He pulled out a cigarette and was about to light it when Lucy ran up to him. She stood on her toes and yelled into her ear, “LIEUTENANT MOORE! ASK HER FOR HORSE! THEN TALK TO CAPTAIN! I’LL TELL YOUR PLATOON!”

Evans nodded and ran to the dressing station, where Amy was running from patient to patient. She saw him and ran over, “What do you need Jimmy!?”

“Captain wants me to borrow a horse Amy.”

Amy nodded, “Yeah, take Felicity, she’s in the alleyway out back.”

Evans ran downstairs to the Captain’s office. There was a note pinned to the door with the Captain’s handwriting, “Evans, Need you to link up wit 401st. They ar nearest unit. North of our position, unknown distance. Avoid main roads. Heavy enemies.”

Shit. Evans left the office, and went to the bottom floor and ran out back. He looked at the few horses tied up. He recognized Felicity’s coat and went to untie her. Evans slung his Auto Gun, mounted Felicity, and spurred her down the alleyway, away from the firefight.

Medical Duties

A few of the more heroic of the dragoons managed to sneak forward and recover a few casualties. Lieutenant Moore had requested that Evans assist her in the casualty center. Evans ran upstairs and saluted, “Amy, I’m sorry about your company. It sounds like you guys had it pretty rough.”

Amy shrugged, “I didn’t know any of them that well. I was thrown into the company at the last minute.”

Evans shrugged. After a few seconds, he stood to attention and gave a mocking salute, “Well what do you need me to do Lieutenant Moore?”

“Get a few beds ready for the incoming wounded,” Amy went to check on a few of the soldiers, “How many unwounded from my company?”

“About twenty. Your Captain was killed, and Lieutenant Lansbury took charge,” Evans looked sadly at Amy, “As I said, you guys had it very rough. Straight into an ambush.”

Her face went pale, Amy sat down on an unoccupied bed, “When you said rough, I didn’t think it was that bad.”

Evans sat down next to her and tried to console her. They sat there in silence for a few minutes before the first casualties came in. It was hard work for hours getting all the patients stabilized. Evans slumped down against the wall. He didn’t bother wipe the blood off. He watched Amy move from patient to patient.

Someone slid down next to him, “Hey Goldfish.”

“Hey Lucy,” Evans pulled a cigarette out of his jacket and lit it. He offered one to Lucy, who refused, “The dragoons really caught hell.”

“Really ruins my whole happy, just had sex feeling,” Lucy stared at the cots, “I think your uniform might have more blood than dye now. I should get back to the Captain.” Lucy stood up and left the room.

Evans sat for a few minutes before he put out his cigarette and stood up. He walked over to Amy and saluted, “Permission to join the hunt for wounded Ma’am?”

Amy hugged Evans, “Be safe. It’s bad enough with all these people I don’t know.” She then went back to tending to the wounded soldiers.

Evans leaned his rifle against the wall of the medical room and went downstairs. He drew his pistol and loaded a magazine. It was dark outside. There was a candle light flickering under a makeshift tarp. He ducked underneath and saluted Lieutenant Lansbury, “Sir, I’ve been released from my evening duties and would like to join the search Sir.”

The Lieutenant nodded, “Thank you Private. We have another patrol going out now. Go to the overturned cart, Lance Corporal Booth and Private Hindley are getting ready now.”

Evans saluted and left the tent. He slowly worked his way to the overturned cart that he had seen earlier. He whispered out at the two silhouettes, “Hey, I’m from Fox Company, I’m here to help. I’m Evans.”

The taller silhouette whispered with a masculine voice, “I’m Lance Corp Booth.” Evans could make out the taller silhouette pointing to the shorter one, “She’s Private Hindley. What gear do you have with you?”

Thinking for a moment, Evans responded, “Benett Pistol, Bayonet, and flashlight. I used up all my dressing at the aid station.”

“Sounds Good. You’ll take the rear. Hindley has a rifle and Flare Pistol, so she’ll take center. I’ll take point with my Benett Pistol. Stay low, and if a flare goes up, close one eye and freeze in place. Then wait until the flare goes down. When we get there, we will move to the East side of the square. Don’t make any noises,” Booth pumped his flashlight for a moment and used it to look at his watch, “We should move out now.”

Booth shuttered the flashlight and clipped it back to his jacket. The three took off in the moonless night towards the square. Every few minutes, a flare went up. Occasionally a machine gun burst would follow. When the flares were down, Evans could barely make out Hindley, who was only two meters ahead of him.

It was half an hour before they had managed to slowly snake their way to the square. Evans could make out Hindley’s shadow lowering to the ground. Following her lead, he started crawling behind her. They slowly crawled from body to body, checking to see if anyone was alive. Evans got into the habit of aiming his watch towards himself when he heard a flare. The hour passed quickly with only dead soldiers.

They were by a dead horse when a flare went up. The flare was followed by a burst of machine gun fire that thudded close by. Evans took cover behind the dead horse. Booth and Hindley joined him behind the horse. A few more rounds thudded into the horse. Booth, figuring stealth wasn’t that important anymore, yelled over the gunfire, “When This Flare Goes Down, We Run!”

Evans nodded and fired a few shots from his pistol wildly towards the machine gun. The flare slowly dipped. Without waiting for the flare to go out completely, the three took off sprinting.

The bullets were whizzing past Evans head. He wasn’t paying attention to the two dragoons. He just kept running. He stumbled over something. It might have been a body. Another flare went up. Evans closed his left eye and dived behind a dead horse. He waited. The flare went down. Just as Evans started to run, there was a short flash of light followed by a loud roar. Fuck.

He ran behind a low wall and slumped down to try and catch his breath. A shadow came around the wall. Evans pounced on it’s source, knocked the rifle away, and started to beat it with his pistol. Evans dropped the pistol and grabbed for his bayonet. The shadow kneed Evans in the groin and forced him over. Cringing in pain, Evans froze. The shadow applied more pressure to his groin. He heard a knife being drawn.

Another flare went up.

Evans stared into the bloody and beaten face of Hindley, poised over him with her knife. There was a flash of recognition on her face before she dropped onto him to hide behind the wall. Evans yelled into her ear, “Sorry! I thought you were Vledscan!”

Hindley spat some blood out, “You didn’t notice the tits and the bun!? At least I was fighting someone who could be an enemy!”

“So what happened to Booth!”

“I have no fucking clue!” She rolled off Evans and grabbed her rifle. Evans grabbed his pistol. Hindley pointed to a nearby storefront, “When it goes down, grab my hand, and we’ll run over there.”

The flare finally went down. Evans grabbed onto Hindley and she sprinted to the store. They reached it just in time for another flare to go up. A few machine gun bullets conveniently smashed the window, so Hindley and Evans jumped through, careful of the shards of glass. The pair slowly crawled their way to the back of the store. There was a washroom in the back with no windows.

Evans unclipped his flashlight and pumped it a little. He looked over Hindley’s bloody face, “Shit, I really fucked you up. I’ll clean you off a bit.” Hindley sat down in a chair while Evans grabbed a washcloth. He slowly dabbed the blood off Hindley’s face. The machine gun fire that chattered outside was slowly petering out.

After he was done, he drew his pistol and opened the back door. It was an empty alleyway. Evans and Hindley worked their way back to Fox Company’s building. Booth wasn’t there.

Advance

Evans dismounted Felicity tied it’s reigns. He then started helping Blake off the horse. Four soldiers from First Platoon exited with a stretcher and pulled Blake inside. Amy and Evans followed. Captain Simmons was waiting for them. The two saluted. Returning the salute, Captain Simmons extended his hand to Amy, “I’m Captain Simmons, CO of Fox Company, 202nd Infantry.”

“Lieutenant Moore, Medical Officer of Apple Company, 3rd Dragoons,” Amy shook the Captain’s hand, “The rest of the Company will be a bit behind us, Jimmy… Private Evans and I took off ahead to pick up the Corporal. Captain Czerski will want to talk to you.”

“Very well,” The Captain turned to Evans, “Evans, can you take the Lieutenant to our casualty station?”

“Yes sir,” Evans turned to Amy, “If you’ll come with me Ma’am.” He went to the stairs and climbed to the casualty station. When they entered, Amy immediately got to work on the wounded soldiers. Evans waved goodbye and walked back up to his platoon.

Tiscornia saw him coming in and waved, “Evans. Whats going on out there?”

“Blake got hit, we contacted the Dragoons, oddly enough their medical officer is a girl from my hometown. I took her to Blake while Chambers went to a meeting with their Captain. Amy says Blake is going to make it,” Evans paused for a moment, unslung the scoped rifle, and stared at it, “Shit I left my shotgun out there.”

Shrugging, Tiscornia gestured at the rifle, “I think that will be more useful anyways, we’ll probably stay here for a while.”

“I just had this whole cool ‘Adventurer’ look going, See, I’ve got this whole Ammunition sling that’s useless now. And when we go into combat, I’ll have to do things,” Evans shrugged and slung the rifle over his shoulder and moved over to where Newey, Ustinov, and Hoste were on watch, “Hey guys, I’m back.

Ustinov handed the binoculars to Hoste and left, “Fucking finally Evans.”

“I’ve got Blake’s rifle now,” Evans looked through the sight at the Dragoons, who were making there way slowly down the road, “You know, I would have thought the horses were to make them move faster, but they seem to be going at walking speed.”

“Yeah, but they’re almost here. Another, ten minutes maybe,” Newey lowered the binoculars and handed them to Hoste, “So, is that Blake’s blood all over you?”

Evans looked down at his jacket and pants, seeing that he had not done the best job at cleaning himself off, “Yeah. She was shot twice by a machine gun. I cut clothes off, put the bandages on, and felt sort of bad leaving her topless in the middle of the road, so I covered her up with my jacket. So I’m going to smell like blood for a while.”

Newey laughed, “You can still smell things? I stopped doing that months ago. Is there anything good to smell out here? I’ve always hated cities, the country is where real life is.”

“Real life is in the country? I’m from a small town and it’s shitty,” Evans elbowed Newey, “Cities are great. If you do something stupid, no one cares. If I did something stupid in Halton, everyone would know and constantly give you shit about it.”

Hoste spoke up for the first time in their conversation, “Like marrying someone you’ve known for a month?”

Nodding approvingly, Newey patted Hoste on the back, “I’m so proud of you Hoste. Insulting Evans like that.”

The three stood around quietly for a while, waiting for the dragoons to move in. Hoste eventually spoke up again, “So Lance Corporal, you always give Evans shit about his wife, does that mean you’ve got some girl your to scared to fuck?”

Newey didn’t respond for a thirty seconds. He unslung his rifle and leaned it against the wall. With a quick blow, Hoste was on the ground. Newey turned to face Evans, shook his fist, and said, “I need to go make an excuse to leave for a bit.” Newey grabbed his rifle and left the room.

Evans helped Hoste up, “Newey’s best friend was a Lance Corporal in our platoon. She got killed at White Beach.”

The two stood in silence for a while. Newey eventually came back, but refused to talk to either of them. It was clear that he had been crying. Evans looked down at the company of Dragoons that were gathered outside. Their Captain walked inside for a few minutes. After a few minutes he came out again. The company moved out, leaving a few carts behind.

Another few minutes passed and Lucy came up and tapped Evans on the shoulder, “Hey Goldfish, how goes watch? Anything more exciting going on?”

Turning to Lucy, Evans raised an eyebrow, “Don’t you have a job to do?”

“Yeah, I’m supposed to be helping Lieutenant Moore settle in. She said that she didn’t need me, so I decided I’d chill with you to shirk my job. Captain doesn’t usually do anything important this time of day.”

Hoste turned around, “Are you the Captain’s runner? I’m Private Hoste.”

Lucy looked Hoste over, “Hey, when do you get off watch? And do you want to fuck?” Lucy turned back to Evans, “So your friends with that dragoons Lieutenant? Fancy.”

“Yeah, she’s from my hometown. I used it to have a crush on her as a kid,” Evans glanced out the window and looked outside, “So whats up with the dragoons? Why are they leaving?”

Butting in, Hoste tapped on Lucy’s shoulder, “What did you say?”

“Yeah, your kind of attractive, and I want to fuck you, but the adults are talking now,” Lucy turned back to Evans, “Apparently their Captain has orders to move up a few blocks after they resupplied us. He left Lieutenant Moore here so they could send back the casualties.”

“Well they’re all going to get killed. Glad Amy doesn’t have to do it,” Evans gestured to Hoste, “And he’s really old, like 26.”

Lucy looked at Hoste, “Wow, so you’re almost twice my age.”

Hoste squinted at Lucy, “That would make you thirteen years old. And I watch ends in about,” he looked at his watch, “Forty Three minutes.”

“Wait… Shit, I guess that would be thirty eight. I’m not really good at math,” Lucy turned back to Evans, “And back to you, my birthdays coming up, you should do something special for me.”

“Three things. One, we are in a war zone, I don’t think it’s appropriate. Two, What the fuck would I give you, the only personal items I have are pictures of Anna and my letters. Three, isn’t there anyone else… Oh God you’re my best friend,” Evans shouldered Blake’s rifle and pulled out a notepad, “This is going to be the worst party ever, and when is your birthday?”

“I’m expecting something in two days. If it’s not there, I’ll be angry. Bye!” Lucy turned around and left.

A few seconds later, Newey laughed, “Seriously Evans, what is up with you and hot chicks? You’ve got your own personal harem going.”

Unslinging Blake’s rifle, Evans responded, “You realize I’ve only ever slept with one woman. The one I’m married to. And Lucy just asked to fuck Hoste later. So not really personal.”

“Yeah yeah, I know about Chambers. Just sort of suspicious that your self admitted best friend is the,” Newey made air quotes, “Fox Company Bicycle.”

“Will you shut up Newey. I’ve always hated you,” Evans hit Newey on the shoulder.

“Aww, I hate you too Evans. And for what its worth, I didn’t come up with that nickname. I’m pretty sure Smithy from First Platoon came up with it,” Newey grabbed the binoculars from Hoste and leaned out the window, “I’m trying to see where the Dragoon’s are going. I hope Captain Simmons won’t make us go help them when they get killed.”

About fifteen minutes passed before heavy gunfire opened up. Fifteen more minutes and the dragoons came galloping into view. A few of them firing over their shoulders. Evans could only see about twenty soldiers of the original hundred soldiers in the company. They quickly dismounted and set up positions, ready to fire.

Lucy shouted into the room, “DUTY SOLDIERS MOVE OUTSIDE! NEXT WATCH MOVE OUT AS WELL. EVERYONE ELSE, READY FOR FIGHT!”

Shit. Evans ran down the stairs, followed by Hoste and Newey. Giuliano, Nazzari, and Hunt followed down the stairs as well. They meet up with soldiers in the other platoons outside the building. The dragoons were already starting to fire downrange. Captain Simmons came outside at the head of the Machine Gun Team, “Set up positions by the Dragoons. MOVE!”

Lance Corporal Giuliano took charge of the Second Platoon contingent, “Let’s go, set up by that overturned cart!” The six ran forward and started firing.

After what seemed like an hour, the Vledscan forces were repulsed. Evans stood up and looked around. Lucy looked at him and smiled. Evans looked confused, “When did you get here?”

“Right after the Captain,” Lucy looked at her wristwatch, “Your watch has been over by like… Ten minutes. So I’m going to grab Hoste and have some fun. Catch you later Goldfish.” Lucy grabbed Hoste and pulled him to a nearby storefront. Evans moved with the rest of the company and dragoons back into the building. Luckily, in the firefight, they had managed to take no further casualties.

Dragoons

Evans pumped his shotgun as he followed Lucy and Corporal Blake downstairs. He was not looking forward to this, at best, they’d be out for at least three hours. Exposed. In the open, “I fucking hate you Lucy.”

“You said that already Goldfish. Try something new,” Lucy started to list off suggestions.

Corporal Blake looked back at them, “Is this High School? Seriously. We’re in a fucking war zone. You’re like fucking teenagers.”

Lucy spoke up, “I am a teenager Corporal. I’m nineteen.”

“Yeah, me too.”

“Goddammit. You two better not get me killed,” Blake opened the front door of the building and held it open. Evans went through the door and was followed by Lucy. A burst of gunfire went off in the distance. Some Shells burst to the North.

The party turned West onto the road and started walking. Blake took a quick look behind them for a moment then ordered the group forward. Evans whispered to Lucy, “I hadn’t realized how straight this road was when we moving in. If there wasn’t all this rubble, you could probably close your eyes and walk for hours.”

“Why would you want to close your eyes and walk for hours?” Lucy cocked her head at Evans, “That just sounds stupid.”

Evans shrugged. Blake rolled her eyes. Lucy unshouldered her rifle and checked the bolt. Blake scanned around. The three moved in silence for a while. About three quarters of an hour in, a burst of fire raked across their path. Evans dove behind cover.

He looked around him. Lucy was hiding behind a parked truck. He couldn’t find Corporal Blake. Evans poked his head around the corner of his cover to scan the area.

He saw a body on the ground about four meters towards the machine gun. A burst hit in front of him and Evans ducked back behind the cover. He waved over at Lucy, “Cover me!”

Evans sprinted out of cover just as Lucy popped up and started firing at the Machine Gun. He grabbed Corporal Blake’s shoulders and started dragging her to cover. When he finally got behind cover, Evans flipped Blake onto her Back. Her torso was covered with blood. Blake groaned.

Pulling his bayonet out of the frog, Evans cut open Blake’s jacket, blouse, and undershirt. Evans then felt around her torso for bullet rounds. When he found one, he pulled some gauze out of his webbing and pressed down on the wound.

Blake opened her eyes and looked at Evans, “Hey Evans, buy a girl dinner first.” She coughed up some blood, “I’m good. You should take out the gunner. Then fix me.”

“Yes Corporal,” Evans strapped the bandage into place and leaned out of his cover and find Blake’s scoped rifle. He saw it. No time to yell to Lucy. He just started sprinting, picked up the rifle mid-sprint, and dove behind a low wall. “Lucy, distraction!”

Evans waited for the machine gun to fire towards Lucy, then popped out. He aimed the scope at the Machine gunner. He slowly squeezed the trigger. The rifle kicked, Evans lowered the scope back down. The machine gunner was slumped over the sandbags. His loader was trying to move the body. Evans bolted the rifle and fired again. The loader was down. Evans shouldered the rifle and ran back to Blake. Lucy followed suit.

“Lucy, can you check her webbing for gauze. I think theres another gunshot wound,” Evans knelt next to Blake and started the slow process of feeling around Blake’s torso. He found it. Lucy put the gauze onto Blake and wrapped it tight. He looked at Lucy, “Her best bet is if we get to the Dragoons and see if they have a Medical Officer.”

Lucy nodded. Evans pulled off his jacket and laid it over Blake’s chest, “Let’s go.”

The two started running West. It was about half an hour before they encountered the forward guard of the dragoons. Evans jumped held Blake’s rifle up in the air and waved it back and forth, “Hey! Over here!”

The leading soldier spurred his horse and moved closer. Evans saw the rank of Lieutenant on the shoulder boards. The Lieutenant dismounted in a few meters from Lucy and Evans and spoke to them with an aristocratic voice, “Hello Privates, I’m Lieutenant Trafford Lansbury, Apple Company, 3rd Dragoons. How may I be of service?”

Lucy spoke up first, “We’re with the 202nd Infantry. Fox Company. We’re a few miles down the road, holed up in a building.”

Evans broke into the conversation, “Sir, We took a casualty while moving here. We bandaged her up, but shes still on the road back there. Do you have a medic?”

Lieutenant Lansbury nodded, “Lieutenant Moore is our Nurse.” The Lieutenant shouted to one of the soldiers on horseback, “Lance Corporal Marion, get Lieutenant Moore!”

The Lance Corporal took off on his horse down the line. Lucy looked at Lieutenant Lansbury, “I’m here acting as the representative of Captain Simmons. He’ll want me to meet with your Commanding Officer before you keep moving.”

“Alright, I’ll take you to Captain Czerski,” Lieutenant Lansbury then turned to Evans, “And you Private, wait here for Lieutenant Moore.” The Lieutenant mounted his horse and reached his hand down to Lucy. Lucy grabbed his hand and the Lieutenant hoisted her onto the horse behind him. The pair took off down the line.

After a few minutes, Evans saw a women ride towards him, with two horses. She looked somehow majestic in the drab army uniform. She pulled the horse along side him and looked down, “You must be the Private from the Infantry. Want to show me to the casualty?” The Lieutenant reached down and helped Evans onto her horse.

Evans hugged his arms around the Lieutenant’s waist. He was tall enough that he could see over the top of the Lieutenant’s Helmet, “Lieutenant, I’m Private Evans. You need to keep moving down this same road. We’ll get there eventually.”

“Good Private, hold on tight,” The Lieutenant spurred her horse and took off at a canter. The Lieutenant quickly glanced back at Evans face, “I’m Lieutenant Moore. You can call me Amy though.”

Evans let out a laugh, “Wait, Amy Moore? I’m Jimmy Evans!”

Amy spurred the horse to jump over a cart, “Jimmy? My word! Wait, is Jack in your company?”

“No, he’s in the 351st. It turns out that was the worst plan ever,” Evans shrugged, “Can you go any faster? We bandaged Corporal Blake up, but she still is in the middle of the road.”

“They don’t give us the best horses. Traveler is a bit old,” Amy spurred her horse again, “So I bet this must be awkward for you.”

“Why Amy? Is having people get shot awkward?”

“Well, Jimmy, I remember you had the biggest crush on me in school. It was embarrassing. And now I’m an Officer. The government says I’m better than you.”

“I’ll have you know that I’m married Amy,” Evans squeezed Amy’s torso tighter with his right arm so he could release his left, “See, wedding ring.” After a few seconds he squeezed his arm back on Amy, “So is this your first show?”

“Yeah, I actually haven’t had much training. They just needed more officers with medical training,” Amy sat up for a moment and scanned around, “You?”

“I was at White Beach. And Jack sad he was at Dry Forest.” The two then sat in silence until Evans saw Blake, who had dragged herself into a seated position, Evans jacket loosely hanging off her shoulders. Amy pulled to a stop and the two dismounted. Handing the reins to Evans, Amy went and tended to Blake. Evans tied the horses to the truck and patted both of them on the muzzle. He then went over to Amy, who was changing the bandages on Corporal Blake.

Evans picked up his jacket and cleaned off the blood and put it back on, “Is she going to be alright?”

“Yeah, but we should get her back to wherever your company is based,” Amy looked at Evans and raised her eyebrow, “You’re just putting that jacket back on?” She knelt and started walking to the horses, “Pick up the Corporal and put her on the back of Traveler. You can ride my other horse, Felicity. If I had known it was you, I would have had you ride Felicity from the outset.”

Kneeling down, Evans picked up Corporal Blake. He stood up and walked her over to Traveler. Amy helped Blake onto the back of the horse. Evans then walked over and mounted Felicity. When Amy got onto Traveler, the two took off towards Fox Company. Evans led the way.

On Watch

The Company had pushed forward. They were at the street corner they had been ordered to by Lieutenant Colonel Strummer. That had been three days ago, and there hadn’t been any news from Battalion since. Only light enemy fire though, so nothing much to complain about. The sun was about to go down. Evans was waiting to take the next watch. He was sitting by his pack on the fifth floor of Second Platoon’s building.

Evans had his own little corner put together. He had pried a piece of wood off a bed to use as a writing desk, and, with his bayonet, he had carved a little notch to set up the two pictures Anna had given him. His pack was pushed all the way against the wall to form a pillow. The shotgun was leaned against the wall, with a makeshift bandolier draped over it.

He had just finished writing his fourth unsent letter to Anna when Newey walked up and leaned over to see what Evans was doing. “Our watch starts soon,” Newey glanced at the two pictures, laughed, then quickly snatched one of them, “So this is what Zwev looks like naked eh?”

Blushing, Evans dived and tried to grab the photograph, but Newey jumped back. Newey called down the hallway, “Ustinov! Come see the tits on Zwev! Evans has a picture!”

Evans kicked at the back of Newey’s leg, who tumbled over and quickly passed the photograph to Ustinov, who had run over from another room. Ustinov smiled, “Man, if only I had a nice secluded ar…”

“What the Hell is going on here?” Sergeant Gabriel whispered at the three of them angrily, “Did you forget that we are in a fucking war zone?” Sergeant Gabriel walked over to Ustinov and grabbed the photograph, “Really? A Fucking Picture? Haven’t you all seen a woman naked before?”

Evans stood to attention and whispered towards Sergeant Gabriel, “It’s my wife Sergeant.”

“Well congratulations on marrying a fuckable woman,” Sergeant Gabriel flung the photograph at Evans, “Now Goddammit all of you shut the fuck up. I don’t want to be fucking killed because you two want to jack off to a picture of Evans’ wife.”

Newey stood at attention, “In our defense sir,” Ustinov started to elbow Newey, “We both now Anna and she is really hot, so this way next time we see her-”

“How is that better? In any way? That’s just creepier,” Sergeant Gabriel looked at his watch, “Newey and Evans, don’t you have watch right now with Hoste?”

The three of them apologized. Evans got his gear together and followed Newey to relieve Webb, Wood, and Hawke. Hoste grabbed the binoculars while Evans and Newey scanned the streets. They stood silently for a few minutes before Newey whispered at Evans, “If you die, can I have that picture? Maybe I can go and console Zwev. Repeatedly. While naked.” Newey leaned over to Evans, “I’m talking about fucking her.”

“I got that,” Evans turned and glared at Newey, “It was not that subtle.”

Hoste pulled down his binoculars, “Uh guys… Theres movement down the road to the West.”

Evans grabbed the binoculars and scanned down the long road. He saw something strange a dozen kilometers away, slowly working down the road passed the roadblock Fox Company had set up, “It appears to be a company of… our guys on horseback?” Evans handed the binoculars to Newey.

“They appear to be Dragoons. You know, mounted infantry,” Newey turned to Evans, “Evans, run down to Captain Simmons and report.”

“Yes Lance Corporal,” Evans ran down to the second floor, where the company headquarters was. He knocked on the door with ‘Captain’ carved into it. After a few seconds, the door opened. Evans saluted, “Sir, Second Platoon has a report sir.”

Captain Simmons returned the salute, “Come on in Evans.” Evans walked past Lucy, who was holding the door open, to the map on Captain Simmons’ desk.

Gesturing to the large ‘x’ that demarcated the roadblock, Evans spoke, “My fire team was on watch, and we noticed what appears to be a company of Dragoons moving in across the roadblock here on horseback. They seem to be coming towards our location.”

Nodding, the Captain wrote a note on a piece of paper and handed it to Lucy, “Chambers, bring this to Lieutenant Stoddart. Evans, you can return to your post.”

Lucy and Evans left the room, “So Goldfish, where is Lieutenant Stoddart? It seems like every time I carry a message to him, he is off wandering.”

“Yeah, I think he’s on the top floor with Calepino and Blake. Probably boring them to death by talking about rocks,” Evans opened the door to the center stairwell then followed Lucy in.

“So how are things at Second Platoon?” Lucy obviously didn’t want to get back to work so she was stalling the delivery as long as possible.

Evans agreed with Lucy’s sentiments, so he played along, “Eh, I guess I should have hidden it better, but some of the guys found one of the pictures of my wife, so I’ll have to keep one eye open so they don’t steal it.”

“Aww, I thought she looked pretty in that picture, the one with that sundress right? I guess they just want to feel normal though. Just want to see someone not wearing a tunic.”

Blushing a bit, Evans responded, “It’s um… A different picture then the one I showed you. It’s um… One that Anna wouldn’t want to be floating around out there.”

“Ah… I could keep it for you, that way someone won’t run off with it,” Lucy held out her hand. Evans smiled in thanks and pulled the photo out of his pocket and handed it to Lucy. Lucy looked at the photo before putting it in her pocket, “Damn. So when we’re on leave, if you need any help in the bedroom, I’d be happy to join in. Now I’d best be going to the roof now.”

Evans shook his head and walked back to his watch post, “I reported it to the Captain. I think he wants to send out a patrol from our Platoon.”

Newey nodded, “I’m fucking glad we are on watch right now and don’t have to do that shit.” He looked out over the cityscape, “Speaking of fucking… glad… Um… I had one for this.”

Hoste looked over at the two of them, “You were going to say about how glad you’d be to fuck his wife. Seriously. How could you forget one as easy as that.”

“You had a plan for this Newey?” Evans looked incredulously at the Lance Corporal.

“Well I had to tell Hoste about Zwev. It’s my moral imperative as an upstanding citizen,” Newey adopted a somewhat heroic looking pose for a moment.

Private Clark ran into the room, “Evans, the Lieutenant wants you to find Delage and have him replace you on watch. You are then to report to the roof.”

“Oh thank God,” Evans grabbed all his gear and turned for the door, “Watch your back tonight Newey, I’m probably going to kill you in your sleep.” Running out, Evans quickly found Ustinov and got to the roof. The Lieutenant was talking to a very bored looking Private Calepino. Lucy, Clark, and Blake were all standing near the stairwell talking to each other.

When Lieutenant Stoddart finally noticed Evans, he started talking to the group, “Alright, Captain Simmons wants us to send a team out to meet the company of Dragoons. He wants Private Chambers here to go as his representative. Blake and Evans, you two will provide cover. They are about 13 kilometers away, so you’ll be out a while. Bring water. Dismissed.”

Evans walked over to Lucy and whispered, “Dammit. Why would the Lieutenant pick me for this. Usually being on watch makes you ineligible for this BS.”

“Um…” Lucy looked at her toes, “I sort of picked you. Captain Simmons asked for Corporal Blake and one infantryman. So I may have lied a little bit and said the Captain asked for Blake and you.”

Corporal Blake looked at the two, shouldered her scoped rifle, and gestured to the two, “Let’s go.”

Surrounded

Evans burst into the room where the Lieutenant and Ustinov were interrogating the civilians as the platoon started to fire, “Sir, we have an armored car with a company of Infantry to the West. Unknown fire has started up to the North and East. We need orders Sir.”

Lieutenant Stoddart cursed, “Go run down, get Calepino to take out the Armored car, and then go find Captain Simmons to reinforce us.”

“Sir,” Evans nodded and ran downstairs, nervously fiddling with the safety on his shotgun. When he got to the front door, he peered outside at the Armored Car.

WHOOSH!

A shell from the armored car flew past and impacted near Sergeant Campbell’s team. Evans sprinted behind the lines and nearly ran into Calepino, “Armored car, West Road.”

Calepino nodded, “I fucking know already, I figured by the explosion.”

“Sorry, it’s just that the LT told me to tell you, and you know how he gets kind of ehhh… sometimes?”

“Yeah, sorry to snap at you,” Calepino unslung his Charles Rifle and shrugged, “I just made the…” Another shell impacted a few meters away, “Right, I should probably go deal with that.” Calepino scurried away.

Evans then looked around for Private Clark. Nowhere nearby. He then sprinted down the southbound road towards the rest of Fox Company. As he got closer he heard rifle and machine gun fire. Shit. Evans reached to his belt and yanked his bayonet out of the frog and fixed it to his shotgun. He turned the corner to where Fox Company had set up a temporary firebase earlier and was now engaged in a pitched battle. Evans ran up to Captain Simmons and waited for him to finish giving a fresh set of orders, “Sir! Update from Second Platoon. We have encountered at least a company of enemy infantry as well as an armored car after our previous engagement.”

“Right, And where is Private Clark? Shouldn’t she deliver this news?”

Evans looked around the battle line, “She isn’t here, I thought she had gotten caught up here.”

“Shit,” Simmons yelled over the fire towards a soldier, “CHAMBERS, OVER HERE NOW!” The soldier turned around, it was Lucy. She quickly jogged over and shouldered her rifle, “Privates Chambers and Evans, Get to Second Platoon, tell them to fall back to our position. Then search for Private Clark along the path. MOVE!”

Lucy nodded to Evans, “Still think you’re not my sidekick Goldfish?”

The two sprinted off back towards Second Platoon. The fire hadn’t died down since they had last come by. Evans ran right to the Lieutenant, “Sir! Captain Simmons orders you to fall back to his position immediately. Private Clark is missing, and the Captain ordered Chambers and I to find her.”

“Alright, do it,” The Lieutenant turned and started yelling orders.

Evans shrugged to Lucy, “So where shall we look first?”

“Move along the road until we see an open door? You take right side I take left side?”

Nodding, Evans started jogging down the road, scanning each building. About halfway back to Fox Company, Evans yelled over to Lucy, “Hold up! Broken window. We should check it out.”

Lucy nodded and moved over to the window. Evans came up beside her and peered inside. There was a wadded up army jacket covered in glass. It appeared to have the rank of a Private on the shoulder boards. Evans aimed his shotgun. Lucy shouldered her rifle and drew a revolver from under her jacket. She vaulted into the window, and rooted through the wadded up jacket. Lucy produced a pay book from the breast pocket, “It says Kristin Clark.”

Evans stepped through the window, “Much more graceful than at the restaurant.” Evans raked his shotgun over the room and moved towards the door, “Clark? You in there?” He carefully opened the door.

The cylindrical barrel of a rifle was pointed in his face, “I’m not going back there. You can’t make me go back there.”

Putting his hands up, Evans backed away slowly. Lucy poked her head in and saw the rifle, “Really, the bolt flange is locked in the larboard position. You expect to shoot us like that? The Bolt will probably fly back and hit you in the face.” Clark turned her rifle to look at the bolt. Lucy quickly kicked the rifle to the side and knocked Clark to the ground, “Really Miss Clark? Larboard? Didn’t that sound a little made up?”

Shouldering his Shotgun, Evans walked back and picked up Clark’s jacket. He handed it back to her, “Might want to look for bits of glass.”

“You’ll have to drag me back there. I’m not going,” Clark sat up and crossed her arms.

Evans squatted down across from Clark, “You know, everyone feels this way. Hell, If I could, I’d be back in Seahaven with Anna right now. But if you run away, what’s going to happen? Either you get shot by the enemy because you’re a soldier, or you get shot by our army because you’re a deserter. If you stay around, there’s the chance you could survive this whole show.”

Lucy stroked her revolver, “Yeah, and we’ve already found you, and we need to report back to the Captain, so either you come with us and we say you got lost, or we drag you, the Captain borrows my revolver and puts one between your eyes. So put your jacket on, pick up your rifle, and let’s go back to the Company.”

Clark reluctantly put on her jacket and picked up the rifle. Lucy waved the revolver to tell Clark to take the lead out the door. Evans whispered to Lucy, “This is why Runners are usually combat vets.”

Nodding, Lucy ran outside and joined the fray.

Contact Front

“CONTACT FRONT!”

“FUCK!”

Evans dived to the side of the road and tried to track the tracer bullets back to the machine gun. He noticed something out of the corner of his eye. Lieutenant Stoddart was standing, frozen in fear, in the middle of the road. Without thinking, he dropped his shotgun and sprinted for the Lieutenant, watching the tracers slowly work there way towards the Lieutenant.

With a dive tackle, he knocked the Lieutenant behind an overturned cart. Evans patted down the Lieutenant and looked for wounds, “You’re OK sir.”

Sergeant Giardot ran up to the two of them behind the cart and ducked down, “Lieutenant, what are your orders? We’ve got wounded and we are pinned down.”

“Um… I…” Lieutenant Stoddart started to cry.

“Well Shit,” Sergeant Giardot poked her head up and looked around. She ducked back down and looked at Evans, “Evans, find Corporal Blake. If she’s dead or wounded, take her rifle and take out the machine guns. If she isn’t, ask her why the fuck she isn’t doing that already.”

“Yes Sergeant,” Evans looked around and tried to remember where Corporals Calepino and Blake had been. Usually they were in the back of the platoon right? He saw what looked like the Charles Rifle near a destroyed car. He took a deep breath in. As he exhaled he sprinted back to his shotgun and dived to the ground. Privates Delage and Hawke were hiding behind a pile of rubble nearby. He crawled closer to them and yelled towards them, “HEY! GUYS! I NEED RAPID FIRE COVER!”

The two nodded and poked their rifles out from cover and started firing. Evans waited for the gunfire to be attracted to what seemed to be a machine gun opening up. He then sprinted low towards the destroyed car.

He stumbled over himself on the way there. A sharp pain shot through his leg. He managed to make a recovery and limped behind the destroyed car. Calepino and Blake were hiding behind the car as he had expected.

“Corporal Blake, Sergeant Giardot wants you to take out those Machine Guns,” Evans patted down his leg, there was gash through his pants, and little blood. Just a skim.

Corporal Blake called back to him, “I need a distraction. Marksman has us pinned down.”

Evans nodded as the bullets pinged around him. He looked across the street at a pile of rubble. He gestured for Corporal Blake to get in position. He took a deep breath in. As he exhaled he sprinted across to the pile of rubble. He heard the crack of the Corporal’s rifle. He dived for the rubble. A brick hit his chest. Rolling over, he managed to see Corporal Blake fire off two more shots in quick succession. The machine guns fell silent.

“FUCK YEAH! I AM A MOTHERFUCKING BEAST!” Corporal Blake slowly walked over to Evans, ignoring the waning rifle fire. She knelt down and offered a hand, “Nice doing business with you Jim.”

He accepted her hand, got back on his feet, and dusted off his uniform, “Thanks Corporal. Glad to be done with that pitter patter.” Evans looked around at the scattered platoon. Only three soldiers seemed to be badly injured. Privates Penney, Ullman, and Maczek.

Lieutenant Stoddart had pulled himself together and started giving orders, “Sergeants Giardot, Campbell, and Parker, set up a defensive perimeter. Calepino and Turner, hold here, and run to any fire. Blake, go scout out the surrounding area. Sergeant Gabriel, deal with the casualties. Private Clark, run down to Captain Simmons and report our situation.” He nodded, pulled out his map and compass, and started marking down where the fire had come from.

Evans ran towards Sergeant Campbell, who was organizing the team. Corporal Hardin looked at Evans, “Shit Evans, are you do the Vledscan’s just really like you? Like did they have a meeting agreeing not to shoot you.”

“Really, Corp? We only got three bad, and they’re green.”

Hardin patted him on the back, “We weren’t the ones running around. We were all hiding…” Hardin gestured to Morgan and Evans, “Help me move this cart,” The three started pushing the cart into the middle of the road, “And if we include your whole show at White Beach.” The team took up positions behind the cart, “You ran into the middle of No Man’s Land during an attack, survived untouched, were hit by an artillery shell, and were perfectly fine. I’m pretty sure that’s impossible.”

“Ah…” Evans pointed to the little red stain on his pant leg, “I did get hit. Right there.”

Sergeant Campbell looked at the two, “Knock it off, keep your eyes on the line.” Sergeant Campbell drummed his fingers and pointed at a nearby door, “I’m a bit nervous about that building. Evans and Hoste, clear it and take a position on the third floor window.”

Evans nodded and moved to the door with Hoste. He raised his shotgun and waved to Hoste. Hoste kicked turned the handle and threw open the door. Evans ran in and swept the shotgun around the room. Nothing.

They cleared the bottom floor. Nothing. Same with second floor. The two reached a locked door on the third floor. Evans kicked the door. It didn’t budge. He raised the shotgun to his shoulder and fired two shots into the lock. He kicked again.

The door flung open.

He saw a man. Evans brought the barrel around, almost fired when he froze, “Shit. Hoste. Run down and get Sergeant Campbell. Tell him we have civilians.”

Evans looked around the room. A man, a woman, and two little girls. He put his shotgun on the ground and knelt next to the two girls. Reaching into his webbing, Evans pulled out a chocolate bar and offered it to the girls, “Shokolad?”

The girls grabbed the chocolate. The older looked up, “Spasibo. Spasibo.” Evans then offered cigarettes to who he presumed were the parents, they declined.

Lieutenant Stoddart came upstairs with Private Ustinov. The Lieutenant waved Evans out of the room. Evans picked up his shotgun and looked around the remaining rooms. He went to the room that Sergeant Campbell had pointed out and went to the window. He looked around the street and sat down on a chair in the room. Private Hoste entered the room, knelt by the window, and aimed his rifle. Evans shrugged and knelt next to Hoste.

“So how long do we wait Evans?” Hoste fiddled with his rifle sights to dial in on the end of the road.

“Until either some guy tries to kill us or the Lieutenant yells at Sergeant Cambell to yell at Hardin to yell at us to leave,” Evans pulled a cigarette out of his breast pocket and lit it, “You know, I really don’t have much more experience than you. Also, it just feels weird giving advice to someone older than me.”

“Really? How old are you? I would of thought of you as like… late twenties. You were making me feel better because I thought you were the oldest Private in the company instead of me.”

Evans laughed, “I’m nineteen. Is there a reason why you thought I’m so old?”

Hoste shrugged, “You look kind of haggard, and you always talk about your wife and how she’s pregnant or something.”

“Well as I said, I’m nineteen, and so is Anna. And our kid is about seven months from being born,” Evans put the cigarette pack back in his pocket and then removed the envelope with the pictures Anna gave him. He pulled out the first picture and handed it to Hoste, “She gave me this picture before we left for Urbs.”

“Wow, real looker there. Did she take the picture herself?” Hoste handed it back to Evans.

“No, she had this one done at some shop,” Evans slid the picture back into the envelope, “She got her own camera took one on her own, but it’s not nearly as good looking… Though I do think she’s more good looking in that pict-”

Gunfire opened to the west. A few seconds later Evans heard more fire from the North. Evans could hear Sergeant Campbell cursing. The Sergeant looked up at Hoste and Evans in the window, “GET THE LIEUTENANT DOWN HERE!”

Evans was about to run when Hoste yelled down at the platoon, “CONTACT BY THE WEST ROAD! ENEMY INFANTRY AND ARMORED TRUCK.”

The platoon opened fire.