Clean Up

“Atten-Tion!” Evans shouted at the remaining members of Second Platoon. Luckily everyone from his squad were assembled there, unharmed. Other squads were not so lucky. “Hand. Salute!”
The Platoon saluted. Captain Gates slowly walked out to the front of the platoon, returned the salute. Evans shouted out, “Ready – Two!” The Platoon went back to attention.
Captain Gates nodded to Evans, “You may return to your squad.” When Evans got to his squad, Captain Gates smiled, “At Ease everyone.” He took a breath in, exhaled, and said, “So… I did not really expect us to get here. Good job. I have never been prouder of soldiers under my command. Now, I have been in radio contact with Regimental Headquarters. All other platoons, including First and Third of Fox Company were all caught up in the retreat from the front. There were scattered pockets of resistance like ours that held their positions. Some like survived, some were rescued, some fell. But because of units like ours being a thorn in the Vledscan’s sides, they’ve stopped. Within the hour, reserve units will begin their counterattack. In another hour, we will be relieved.
“Now, most of Major Thomas’s Squadron. has set up about ten kilometers down the road as a screen. Just in case, I’ll want First Squad to take up a position on the hill and watch the road. The rest of you, consolidate weapons and ammunition so the Quartermaster corps can retrieve them later. Now, let’s move.” Captain Gates smiled and walked away from the formation.
Evans marched out to the head of the formation, “Atten-Tion! Dismissed!”
The platoon dispersed to go about their tasks. Evans quickly ordered his squad to load their weapons and head up the hill.
It took a while, but they eventually made it over the top of the hill, where they could see the Cavalry’s position.
A shot rang out. Evans shouted, “Hit The Dirt!”
Howe shouted, “Pierre!”
And after a few seconds of nothing else, he whispered to the scattered squad, “Everyone all right?!”
There was no answer but for a faint sobbing from behind a bush. Evans pointed for McGilligan to go check it out. She slowly crawled over, to the bush while Evans did a quick check. It was either Howe or Nivelle. They both were out of his eyesight. McGilligan started up a quiet conversation. With what sounded like a woman. After what seemed like an eternity, McGilligan shouted back, “Nivelle’s Dead! Howe’s pretty shaken up!”
Evans’ face went blank. He drew his pistol, stood up, and started firing towards the general direction of the rifle shot. After a few seconds, another shot went off. Evans collapsed to the ground.
Johnson shouted, “Tiscornia, McGilligan, Ollie Suppressing fire on my mark! Callahan grab the Sergeant and drag him back here on my mark.” Just as Johnson was about to shout ‘mark’ she saw Evans extend a fist downwards and push himself off the ground.
Evans dusted off his pistol and resumed his slow deliberate walk to the rifleman, “YOU THINK YOU CAN KILL ME LIKE YOU KILLED NIVELLE?” Evans squeezed the trigger, “I AM THE ANGEL OF DEATH,” Evans fired another round, “I DECIDE WHO LIVES AND WHO DIES,” Evans dropped the magazine while the rifleman fired a shot wide, “AND I HAVE DECIDED YOU SHALL DIE.” Evans slid another magazine into the pistol and hit the slide release. The rifleman got up to run. Evans quickly aimed his pistol and fired a shot into the rifleman’s leg, sending him to the ground, “YOU DON’T GET OFF THAT EASILY!”
The rifleman raised his hands and shouted, “Surrender! Surrender!”
Evans shot the man’s right hand. The rest of the squad could hear what sounded like a loud Vledscan prayer. “YOU THINK GOD WILL SAVE YOU?” Evans reached the rifleman. The prayer got louder. Holstering his pistol, Evans reached for his knife. With each slash of the knife, the rifleman let out a yelp before continuing his prayer. The squad sat in stunned silence.
Tiscornia stood up after the first dozen slashed and aimed his rifle over Evans’ shoulder and fired a shot, “Sergeant!… Evans… Jim… That’s enough.”
With a fluid motion, Evans drew his pistol with his offhand, aimed it towards Tiscornia, who could see the complete rage in Evans’ eyes, “I DECIDE WHEN IT’S ENOUGH.”
“This isn’t you Jim. Where’s that kid from Halton I met a few years ago? Where’s the man Zwev married?”
“This bastard killed Nivelle,” Evans gestured downwards with tears starting to well up.
Howe stood up, tears still dripping from her face, “Please stop Sergeant. This won’t bring Nivelle back.”
Evans dropped his pistol and knelt to the ground. Tiscornia lowered his rifle slowly to the ground, walked forward, and looked down at the body of the rifleman, “He’s dead.”
Grabbing the pistol off the ground, Tiscornia dropped the magazine and racked the slide, “No one say this to anyone. We came out here, took fire, Nivelle was lost, then we killed the rifleman. That was all. This doesn’t need to come out.”
Tiscornia looked over Evans. The bullet that knocked down Evans seemed to have been deflected by his shovel. Tiscornia whispered, “You alright Jim?”
“We survived all that for just for Nivelle to be killed now? I don’t know how much more I can take.”
“Send McGilligan back to get a stretcher for Nivelle. Casualty Collection can get his body home. Then let’s set up our post. Once we get off the line, we’ll get together the rest of the old people, find a bottle of good brandy and drink.”
Evans nodded, “McGilligan, ask Captain Gates for some stretcher bearers to take Nivelle back so we may lay him to rest. The rest of you, start digging foxholes about five meters downslope with ten meter spacing. We’ll dig with a 10 minute rolling watch. Howe, Callahan, Johnson, Madison, Tiscornia, Ollie, repeat if necessary.”

Major Thomas Vignette

“Five Minutes to contact with town, Raise weapons ready.”

“Raising weapons ready Sir.”

Major Dan Thomas racked the bolt on his Machine Gun. Things had been good for him since the rescue at Belaya Valley. He was quickly promoted from Lieutenant to Captain and given his own Troop. And last month, his own Squadron. He now had ninety six vehicles under his command and six hundred and fifty Hussars, Lancers, and Dragoons manning them. And they were all headed to Rogovaya Obmanka. And, as the lead vehicle in the column, he’d get to test out the new plow he’d gotten a party to weld on.

“Raise Clear City Flag with Flying Wedge. Send radio message, ‘Ride through city at full gallop. At edge of city, Wedge. Dragoons form wall at edge of city, dismount, and clean. Unhorsed report to ranking Infantry Officer present. Out.”

The Signals sergeant responded in affirmative. Major Thomas then leaned to his driver, “Driver, if you see a vehicle, hit it with the plow.”

“Looking forward to it Major.”

They hit the town, moving fast. Some shells were falling in the area, heavier to the front. But, that’s where cavalry does best. Riding through gunfire, saving the beleaguered Infantry, smashing into the enemy line. Major Thomas loved the cavalry.

Once they got to the edge of town, Major Thomas knelt down and started firing at the targets he could see through the slit. There was a vehicle ahead. His Sergeant adjusted course slightly. The armored vehicle collided with the truck, uprooting them both. The armored vehicle tumbled to his side. Reaching back, Major Thomas grabbed the radio handset from the unconscious Signals Sergeant, “Shirl, you have command.” Major Thomas took a deep breath, swung open the bottom escape hatch and jumped out, pistol in his left hand. He fired a shot into a Vledscan soldier. He grabbed the Cavalry Saber he kept on the outside of the vehicle. A soldier came at him with a bayonet. Major Thomas deflected the bayonet upwards, fired a round into the soldier’s chest, and took a swipe out of his neck with the sword.

His driver tumbled out the escape hatch, “I’m right sorry Sir. I hit that a bit wrong. Next time.” He pulled up his carbine and fired at a soldier from the truck.

“Next time.” Major Thomas rallied the rest of his unhorsed Lancers and made their way back to the front line, heading to the Infantry Officer who looked to be in charge.

“Major Dan Thomas. Seahaven Regiment of Horse. I heard y’all were in trouble, so I stopped by for help.”

Captain Gates replied, “Captain Gates, 202nd Infantry. You ruined my glorious last stand, but I guess thank yous are in order. I would shake your hand, but they have got a spot of blood on them, I have been helping with the wounded.”

“Captain Gates, You led 100 rifles and 10 guns into battle against what looked like a Regiment of Infantry with an Armored detachment.” Major Thomas extended his hand, “I will shake your hand.” Captain Gates accepted and the two shook before Major Thomas continued, “Now, I’ve been unhorsed and passed command of the squadron over to my XO, need any help here?”

“Any help with wounded would be best. Your trucks seem to be making quick work of everything.”

Final Approach

Evans climbed back up the tour as the cease fire was ending. He smiled at Johnson, “Well we’re fucked.”

“Quite Sergeant.”

“And if you see a Vledscan Colonel, blow his fucking brains out.”

Johnson fiddled with her scope, “Good meeting then?”

“The things he said about the young Private who carried our flag. She just reminds me of my daughter.”

“Sergeant?” Johnson peered an eye out towards Evans.

“Yes Corp?”

“Every young woman reminds you of your daughter. And every young man reminds you of your sons. Am I going to act like this when I have children?”

The Artillery Observer climbed back up, “Just so you know, the artillery only has enough for three more volleys.”

Evans smiled, “Ah, good, extra fucked then.”

“So we’re going to die?” The observer looked worried.

Evans nodded to the Artillery Observer, “Almost definitely… What do I call you anyways?” He gestured at the rankless shoulders of the Observer.

“Oh right, I’m a Warrant Officer. So Mister Branagan,” He paused, patted himself down, swore, then looked back up, “How are you two so calm?

Evans smiled, took a cigarette out of his pocket and offered it to Branagan, “We’re Infantry Mister, so we’re used to certain death. Personally, my wife has been informed of my death on at least four occasions.”

There was a crack as Johnson squeezed off a shot, “Yes, it’s a frightful bore really.”

Branagan grabbed the cigarette and lit it, “I can’t stomach it. I’m just a University student.”

“And I’m just a farmer.”

“I’m a hunter, so jobs basically the same,” Johnson took another shot, “Except instead of killing deer, I’m killing men who’d rather see me barefoot and pregnant.”

 

The massed enemy infantry started to approach, behind the cover of a few vehicles. Major Sutcliffe fired the last few volleys, but there was no stopping them, The rifle fire could hold them for some time. But Captain Gates was already sending non essentials back to the church to prepare for the final stand. The soldiers downstairs were clearing the broken chunks of stained glass out of the broken windows. Private Madison had been one of the ‘non-essentials’ sent back, and he had taken to the pulpit and started to give an impromptu sermon.

A rumbling started up to the rear. Evans and the Artillery Observer turned around just in time to see a column or Armored Vehicles rush into the town from the West. The lead vehicle had an Ethslin Flag waving from one of its flagpoles and a plow on the front. The column quickly started to whip past the church. Evans couldn’t count how many vehicles were streaming through the town.

Enemy Colonel

Captain Gates adjusted his uniform. He had borrowed an officer’s sword from Lieutenant Welch, which hung uncomfortably at his side. Evans stood at his left and Gibson stood at his right. The three started their way to the hill where the Vledscan soldier was waving a flag. They picked their way through the moaning bodies and burning vehicle. And, after a ten minute walk, they made it to the soldier. He put down the flag, saluted Captain Gates and waved for the trio to follow. Gibson slung the rifle over her shoulder.

A Vledscan officer strolled out from behind the hill, “Colonel Sokoloff of the 16th Guards, at your service.”

“Captain Peter Gates of the 202nd Infantry,” He pointed to Evans, “And this is my Acting Sergeant Major James Evans.”

“And your lovely flag bearer?”

“My escort Private Gibson of the 127th.”

“It is always strange to see women in your army. She looks in similar age to my own daughter, but my daughter is doing her womanly duties and taking care of her husband’s home.”

“And Private Gibson is doing her duty for her nation, which we believe transcends things as simple as gender.”

“Well surely you can see that she would be good for… other activities.”

Evans could see Gibson’s hands clench. Captain Gates responded with some attempted tact, “You have the wrong men to ask. I’m… otherwise interested, and Evans here is quite happily married.”

“Well she is most beautiful,” The Colonel gave Gibson a nod, “Well, on to more pressing matters, such as surrender.”

“I do not think it would be befitting of a Colonel to surrender to a mere Captain.”

Colonel Sokoloff chuckled, “You have fought well Mister Gates. It would bring no shame upon your Regiment if you were to surrender.”

“I have been ordered to make sure there are no enemy soldiers in Rogovaya Obmanka, and I sworn an oath to follow all legal orders. I am afraid that I am duty bound to hold or die.”

“You are a brave man Mister Gates. I will send a post through the proper channels to make sure you get a medal for this.”

“Thank you Colonel, but I plan on turning in a report of the battle myself.”

“Now, I cannot let you simply walk back, may I offer my driver to drop you off.”

“I would not want your driver to see any of my defense Colonel.”

“Of Course Mister Gates, Can your man drive?”

“Yes Sir, Evans is a fine driver.”

“Very well, I shall loan you my staff car. I will pick it up when I get into town.”

“And when you don’t Colonel?”

“You may keep the car, as a gift.”

“Thank you very much Colonel.”

The Colonel led the trio to his staff car. Evans got in the driver’s seat, Gibson in the passenger seat, and Captain Gates in the rear. The Colonel smiled, “Well, once you return, how about half an hour more of casualty collection.” The Colonel and Captain Gates looked at their watches, “It is 13 past the hour on my mark… Mark. See you at 43 Mister Gates.”

Evans started the car and drove his way down the hill. Once they were out of earshot, Captain Gates leaned in, “Well he is a bit of an ass isn’t he?”

“Permission to speak freely Captain?” Gibson spoke up.

“Granted Private.”

“I would rather die than surrender to him.”

“And he has made it very clear. I would be failing every woman in this outfit if I surrender.”

White Flag

“They’re pulling back? The observer pulled down his binoculars, “The Hell?”

Johnson swept over the battlefield with her scope, “Lot’s of bodies, Destroyed vehicles, Everyone who isn’t is pulling behind the hill… There’s someone coming back over with a white flag.”

Shouts of “Hold your Fire” came up from the front line.

Evans could see a few runners sprinting back from Captain Gates’ house. One runner went to the church and shouted up, “Sergeant Evans! Captain Gates Requests Your Presence!”

Evans quickly climbed down the ladder and walked to the runner. She was an unfamiliar Private from the 127th who looked kind of young. He said, “I am Sergeant Evans.”

The Private blushed, “Oh wow, I can’t believe I’m meeting The Sergeant Evans. Is it true you’ve killed 20 Vledscan soldiers with your bare hands?”

Ignoring the question, Evans said, “Let’s go kid. What’s your name?”

“Private Bessie Gibson of Red Sands. I’ve read about all your adventures.”

He started to walk to Captain Gates’ house, “A lot of those stories are wrong kid. I’m not some mythic hero. I’m just a guy from Halton.”

“But some of them are true?” Gibson took off after Evans, “Did you really escape from a Vledscan Prison Camp? Did you really save the Duchess Medway from an exploding ship?”

“It was just sinking, not exploding. It was sinking because of explosions though.”

“So you still swam her to safety?”

“Swam not so much. I can’t swim and, in fact, am terrified of water. But she had a broken leg, so I grabbed her and flailed as much as I could.”

“So you faced your worst fears to save the divine beauty of Her Grace?”

Evans rolled his eyes, “Sure. Divine Beauty.”

Gibson whispered, “So are the rumors of you and Her Grace true?”

“I’m currently married to the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, who is the only woman I have ever been with, and the only woman I will ever be with,” Evans pointed to the building, “We’re here Gibson.”

“Oh, wow.”

The two walked in, Captain Gates was finishing up a meeting with Major Sutcliffe and Lieutenant Welch. The Captain finished up with the two officers before coming over to Evans, “Good to see you’re still with us Sergeant. Sergeant Major Gabriel took a bad hit, so you are going to act as my temporary Sergeant Major. Gibson, you’re going to carry the white flag and act as escort.”

“Major Sutcliffe isn’t going to go Sir?”

“No, Major Sutcliffe, Lieutenant Welch, and I agreed that since I have been acting as officer in charge and have the most full knowledge of the tactical situation, that I should be the one to negotiate,” Captain Gates pointed to Gibson, “Get a rifle, fix the bayonet, and tie some white cloth to it.”

“So what are you going to negotiate Captain?”

“Hopefully a ceasefire to deal with the wounded.”

McGilligan’s Vignette

“McGilligan, You’re Up!” Evans shouted down from the bell tower, “Building Three!”

McGilligan checked her scarf, grabbed her rifle, turned to Nivelle and Howe, and said, “Stay low, ten meter spacing, follow me, and don’t die.”

She ran out the south door of the building. Shells were falling all around her.  And she was in the open. Just like Second Tsiv. Smithie. No. She can’t think of that now. Just on the battle.

She got to Building Three. It was one of the 127th’s buildings. She ran in through the back door, “Reinforcements!”

A Soldier poked his head down, “Sending down the ladder!”

The team then scrambled up the ladder.

After… who knows long of fighting, someone shouted over, “Armored Vehicle Broke Through Artillery Screen!”

McGilligan turned to the Sergeant, “I’ll get rid of it. Just give me a bucket of grenades and covering fire.”

“Alright… What’s your name?”

“Catherine McGilligan.”

“Good Luck.”

McGilligan smiled, nodded, pulled out the cloth bucket tucked in her belt, and went from soldier to soldier collecting grenades. Once she got a nice bucket full, she dropped her whole kit. She grabbed her shovel and the bucket and jumped out a back window to the ground floor and waited for the covering fire to start.

Once the fire started, McGilligan ran out. Only 30 meters to the vehicle. That’s like a 5 second sprint. The machine guns on the vehicle were attached to the sides, so if she ran to the center, the guns shouldn’t be able to hit her. With the bucket in her left hand, her shovel held in her right like a sword, she charged towards the vehicle, screaming, “FOR ETHSLIN!”

The bullets danced around her. Shrapnel was whizzing past her head. With a leap, she landed on the front of the vehicle. She took her shovel and pried open the hatch. A Vledscan cavalryman climbed out and clubbed her with the butt of his pistol. As she fell backwards, she dropped the bucket of grenades and hugged the cavalryman. The two tumbled off the armored vehicle. When they hit the ground, the impact forced the cavalryman to release the pistol. She looked at his face. Even through the rage, she could tell he was a handsome man. He was strong, muscular. In the midst of her fantasy, she kneed the cavalryman in the groin. While he winced, she opened her mouth, chomped down on the cavalryman’s nose, that beautiful nose, and ripped it off. The rage turned to horror. The cavalryman was paralyzed with fear, so she let go with her left hand, reached for her pocket knife, and drove it through the back of the cavalryman’s neck.

She dumped the lifeless body off of her and quickly collected the grenades. Hopefully no one else would come out of the vehicle. She clambered back up, pulled the pin on one, dropped the bucket in and ran.

When she got the the building, she ducked in and climbed the ladder dropped down for her. The Sergeant smiled at her, “Good Fucking Job kid.”

She nodded, moved to speak, realized she still had the nose in her mouth, and spat it on the floor. “Thanks Sergeant.”

Battle Commences

Evans crawled back and got in the truck, “Let’s get the hell out of here.”

“Language,” Tiscornia put the truck in drive and started towards the town.

“What?”

“Those newspaper serials don’t have swearing. You were disciplining some soldiers once and used the word ‘goofuses.’”

“So I can sleep my way through the entire officer corps, but no swearing?”

“Well we can’t possibly have children reading words like ‘fuck’ when their reading about some good wholesome sex and violence.”

There was the report of several artillery guns firing.

“Well this should be fun.”

The shells screeched overhead and impacted on the hill, ripping into the head of the Vledscan column. By this time the guns were firing their second salvo. A few Vledscan infantrymen had started firing at Evans and Tiscornia’s truck.

“Anna’s gonna fucking kill me if we get killed.”

“Well I’ll try not to crash too hard,” Tiscornia twisted the wheel, flipping the truck on its side, sliding it across the road, ending at a stop in line with the buildings perpendicular to the road.

A few seconds passed before Evans could climb out of the truck. He stumbled and vomited. Tiscornia followed momentarily. Evans looked at him, “I can’t believe that fucking worked.”

“I think I broke a rib.”

“Well we can check back at the church.”

Tiscornia nodded and the two started jogging back to the church, hopefully getting there before the Vledscan shells started coming in. There was already plenty of outgoing fire, and hopefully Corporal Johnson and Ollie were going to take out any observers on the hill.

It felt like an eternity, but Evans and Tiscornia made it back to the church. Evans pulled a cigarette out from his jacket, lit it, and took a puff. He looked at his squad, “Ready for some fun?”

The first Vledscan shells started to hit the town. Evans grabbed the rifle he had leaned up against the wall, slung it over his shoulder, and walked to the ladder for the church tower, and shouted up, “Good To Come Up?”

Ollie shouted down, “Go Ahead Sergeant.”

Evans climbed up the ladder and looked around. The Vledscan forces were arraying themselves on the hill. Johnson was firing shots off at the officers to slow down the organization.

If all went well, Evans would only have to observe the battle from above.

Hostile Contact

There was a hill on the Southeast side of town. Evans had parked the truck just behind it and set himself up with binoculars in a bush. Captain Gates ordered him to set up there and wait for contact. Tiscornia was sitting in the truck, ready to make a fast getaway. They were to wait until the Vledscan column started going up the hill and drive as fast as they could back to town. Major Sutcliffe’s observer would then call down a fire mission to the artillery, shelling the oncoming Vledscan column. There was a partially completed barricade in the main road to town. Driving the truck at high speeds, Evans and Tiscornia would complete the barricade, report to Captain Gates about the strength of the Vledscans, then run to the church.

“Evans!” Tiscornia shouted from the truck, “See anything fun?”

“Nothing yet. Some smoke on the horizon so probably soon.”

“So, is this the end of the unkillable Sergeant Evans. Will the Vledscan foe finally defeat our intrepid hero?”

“What?” Evans took a quick glance back.

“I got a package from Zwev right before we left. It’s a surprise for you. It’s a newspaper serial about the adventures of you from a Medway paper. She clipped all of them up to two weeks ago. I read ‘em on the way out.”

“Huh. So that explains why she didn’t want me to read any newspapers when I was home.”

“She isn’t the hugest fan of them. It’s that standard schlock, and happily married man doesn’t make for good schlock. She isn’t mentioned, but you’ve got some new lover every week, mostly officers, and of course, the reason for Major Kestel’s disappearance is that you put her in the family way. You’ve been the cause of about six confirmed illegitimate pregnancies, and possibly many more. I think the leading cause of female officers being taken out of the fight is your inability to keep it in your pants.”

Evans put down his field glasses, “I wonder if I can get any money from that.”

“That’s your first thought? Being accused of putting half the officers you encounter in the family way and all you can think of is money. How will the Lord feel when you enter his house with Mammon on your heart?”

“Mammon?”

“Personification of wealth and greed. One of the Princes of Hell. There was a semi popular cult about six hundred years back. Worshipped Mammon. There was even a duke that declared his territory the domain of Mammon. Rejected God and the like.”

“What happened?”

“Well, it turns out that wasn’t a good idea. Pretty much all of Velia came down with fire and sword. Nothing gets everyone cooperating like a good old fashioned Holy War. About 40 towns were wiped off the face of the Earth. It was one of the most-”

“Contact.” Evans saw some Vledscan troop transports drive over the horizon. Driving three abreast along the road packed rather tightly. They were confident. The vehicles were driving at a pace to get to the hill in about half an hour, “Well, shelling is gonna rip the front of the column to shreds. So we’ll only be vastly ridiculously outnumbered. Turner could probably give me some fancier words.”

“Yeah, well, we’ll have to ask her once this is all over.”

“If your massive libido doesn’t spontaneously cause her to give birth.”

“I only defile officers, remember. One has to have some standards.”

Speech Before Battle

Standing in the back of a truck, Captain Gates looked over his motley group of soldiers. Besides Second Platoon, be had a platoon of infantry from the 127th, two machine guns from them, and about 40 riflemen from various units. Most everyone else had been too caught up in the retreat. Well. Now, Everyone knows a good battle has to start with an heroic speech. So, here it went.

“Men and Women of the Ethslin Army, Last Stands have a nice bit of romanticism. A few hardy soldiers fight back the onslaught of evil. Our modern army that treats men and women as equals was founded on a last stand. Our armies great moments in this war have been fierce stands against the foe. The famed Belaya Valley was three dozen soldiers against a regiment. And to those from units that are not my own, fear not, for you are in good company. For the 202nd is used to a final desperate stand. Just in my time with the Regiment, I’ve been part of several last stands. I commanded a company as a mere Lieutenant at the Battle of the Crate after Northern Gate. All of my Sergeant’s and many of my Corporal’s fought in Urbs, where their company was surrounded and cut off on two separate occasions.

“And guess what? Each time we held. And that’s what I want you to do here. Hold the line. I’ll be officer in charge at the front line. Lieutenant Welch will be in charge of the second line of defense, so you can fall back there if you’re overrun. Worst comes to worst, we fall back to the church. Sergeant Evans, his squad, and Corporal Bryant’s rifle team will be stationed there with the two Marksmen in the bell tower. If you need some relief forces, wave a green flag towards the church, and he will send three soldiers to you. If no one comes that means he’s fresh out of troops. Now, Good luck everyone. Enemy troops about two hours out by latest report.”

Captain Gates smiled. He jumped down from the truck. Before he was able to go to Lieutenant Welch to go over the final details, he noticed someone.

There was a line of trucks parked along the road, and there was a good looking, blond, tall major leaning on the side of one. He wore the well cut uniform of an artillery officer. He shouted over, “Peter! What brings you to this podunk little town?”

“Rog? I’ve been ordered to make sure the town is free from enemy soldiers,” Captain Gates’ smile grew as he walked over.

“You don’t have very good chances Peter.”

“I’d have better chances with some artillery support.”

The Major gave Captain Gates a quick semi-discrete hug, “The Duchess Medway’s insanity really rubbed off on you Peter.”

“Someone has to bear the torch Rog,” Captain Gates leaned to the Major’s ear and whispered, “Plus, there’s something romantic about two lovers going into battle facing impossible odds.”

The Major whispered back, “That’s hardly my idea of a romantic time.”

Stepping back and speaking louder, Captain Gates responded, “Ahh, you’re thinking of the wrong definition Major Sutcliffe. Romantic as in a lone sailor feeling the spray on his face as he sails towards a storm.”

“I have to discuss it with my officers and artillerymen.”

“I’ll be in the Southeast planning the defense.”

“Sounds good Peter, If I am too stay, I’ll set up the artillery in the square and put an observer in the belltower. And I trust you’ll be putting range markers along the road?”

“Yes, We actually plan on putting two marksmen in the tower.”

“Very Well. And if we make it out of this, you owe me.”

“Owe you what?”

Smirking, the Major responded, “You know what.”

Rogovaya Obmanka

The trucks were parked at the lawn of Rogovaya Obmanka town square. Sergeant Major Gabriel was leading a team setting up the wireless. Captain Gates waved Evans to follow him to the side of the road.

Captain Gates waved down a passing truck which pulled to a stop next to him. The Corporal leaned out, “What you want Sir?”

“Why’s everyone driving away from the front?”

“General chaos I reckon Sir. Vledscans broke through. We’re getting the heck outta here Sir. You should too Sir. They’re tailing. Could be here in a few hours Sir. Whole front’s collapsed Sir. My Colonel told me to run Sir. Before her truck went up Sir. Now if we could get going Sir?”

“Right Corporal, carry on then,” Captain Gates walked back to Sergeant Major Gabriel, “Any word from Regiment?”

“Your discretion Captain. They’ll try to get back when they have word from Newacre, but it sounds like we’re the first to hear about this.”

“Alright Sergeant Major, thank you. Tell the platoon to start getting battle ready. Evans, I want you to find an officer who has just come from the front to talk to me. I’ll be touring the town looking for good defensive positions,” Captain Gates waved at Turner, “Sergeant Turner, find somewhere to set up an MG nest on the Southeast road. Alida Canina can inspect First and Sergeant Hardin can inspect Second. Let’s move people.”

The Sergeants all responded with a, “Yes Sir,” and left to do their tasks.

Sergeant Evans jogged back over to the road and started looking for officers. Not many had made it back from the front. Evans finally saw a truck with a Lieutenant in the cab. Evans stepped in front of it and waved, pointing to the square. The Lieutenant nodded and waved to some trucks behind hers. The Private driving turned the truck and parked it in the square. The Lieutenant hopped out after two more trucks pulled in. Evans Saluted, “Sergeant Evans, 202nd Infantry Ma’am.”

The Lieutenant returned the salute. She looked out of sorts. She was wearing her skirt, but had her helmet on. She had a headset on tucked in underneath her helmet with an unplugged cable running behind. Her pistol belt was missing and Evans could see the matching pistol stuffed into the waistband of her skirt. She lowered her hand and responded, “Lieutenant Welch, 127th Infantry. You need something?”

“My Captain wants to speak with you Lieutenant.”

“Fine Sergeant. Make it quick. My platoon needs to find the rest of the 127th.”

“Righto Ma’am,” Evans then led the Lieutenant to where the Captain was inspecting the town, “CAPTAIN! I found a Lieutenant coming off the front!”

“Thank you Sergeant,” Captain Gates turned to Lieutenant Welch, “Captain Gates, and you?”

Snapping to attention and saluting, the Lieutenant responded, “Lieutenant Welch, 127th Infantry.”

Gates ignored the salute and continued, “What’s the situation at the front Lieutenant?”

“Chaos Captain. We barely even reached the front by the time we started running. With shells raining down, my Colonel told us to pull out. Since then, I have only managed to keep my eyes on my platoons trucks and my Company’s Machine Gun squad. I am just keeping us going until we find someone else from the 127th.”

“And the Vledscans?”

“Nipping at our heals Captain. Three or four hours at most.”

Captain Gates nodded for a few seconds, “Want to make a stand here?”

“I need to find my Regiment Captain.”

“Well, if you make a stand, they’ll find you in the history books.”

“I cannot just order my soldiers to their deaths. We would be facing the brunt of their army. And all we would do is slow them down for a few hours.”

“Miss Welch, our army is in shambles. If the Vledscans catch up while we’re in this state, they could break the whole thing. Punch even further through our lines. Lose us the war,” Captain Gates smiled, “But, we can buy our army an extra hour of two to recover. So what do you say? Want to be a hero?”

“I guess I could wait for my regiment here. I technically have no orders right now Captain,” Lieutenant Welch smiled, “I have with me a full platoon of infantry and my Company’s machine gun team with two medium machine guns.”

“Good, and I’m about done with my survey, let’s head back to our little staging area and plan things out. Maybe get some more soldiers to join us.”