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.

Arrival

The train pulled to a stop. The Major at the front looked at his chart, “2nd BATTALION, 202ND INFANTRY!”

Private Evans grabbed his kit bag and slung it over his left shoulder. On his right shoulder he slung his rifle. Edging past a few soldiers standing in the aisle, he exited the train. Leaping out onto the sandy ground, he looked around the camp. In front of him was a large carved Eagle. A Corporal sat underneath it reading a magazine. Evans approached the Corporal, “Excuse me, Corporal, I’m new here, I’ve been assigned to F Company. Where can I find it?”

The Corporal raised his eyebrow and pointed up, “This Eagle.” He pointed to the right, towards a green flag, with a red fox on it, “That Fox.”

“Thank you Corporal,” Private Evans jogged towards the green flag, where he saw two dozen other Privates with their kit bags. He approached them and waved.

The closest stepped forward, shifted his weight, and offered his hand, “Hi! I’m Eddy Head! You just got in off the train too?

“I’m Jim Evans, This is F Company?”

Private Head nodded, “Yep!”

Head looked like he was going to continue before he was interrupted by an olive skinned Lance Corporal, “Oi, belinoìn! Shut up.” The Lance Corporal pulled out a list from his breast pocket, “Privates Cain, Evans, Geary, Head, Hunt, and… Zak… Something? I can’t pronounce that mèrda. You six need to come with me.”

Evans readjusted his weight and followed the Lance Corporal, along with the five other privates. He looked to the private next to him, “Hi, I’m Jim Evans, you?”

“Anna Zakrzewska. Most people call me Zwev on account of the name,” She smiled at him and looked back ahead of her. The Lance Corporal was weaving between tents and various soldiers working outside.

A larger tent came into view, A small cloth sign read, ‘Second Platoon Headquarters’. The Lance Corporal walked in and saluted, “Lieutenant Simmons, these are the new bagarìlli.”

The Lieutenant, a stocky man, returned the salute, “Thank you Tiscornia. Take Cain, Evans, and Geary for training. I’ll have Chilcott train the rest.”

Lance Corporal Tiscornia raised an eyebrow, “Wouldn’t it make more sense if I trained Zak? I’m guessing she’s going to be in my fire team and I might as well get to know her now.”

Lieutenant Simmons nodded, “Leave Geary then. And grab Chilcott from the main building.”

Tiscornia nodded, “Cain, Evans, and whatever your name is with me.” Tiscornia walked out of the tent. Evans, Zwev, and a female Private who Evans assumed to be Private Cain followed.

The first stop was a building, that had a bustle of activity. Tiscornia pointed to a room with several bunked beds, “Pick a bed, take your hat and ribbons off, put your kit away, grab your helmet and rifle, and meet me out in 5 minutes.”

Evans nodded and went for the closest bed. He dropped off his kit on the bed and unslung his rifle. Feeling a tap on his shoulder, he turned to see Zwev, smiling a bit funny, “Hey, Evans, could you…” She gestured to her kit bag and pointed upwards, to the bed above his. Evans smirked and helped lift her kit bag onto the bed. She smiled at him then hoisted herself onto the bed.

Evans pulled the single ribbon off his jacket and dropped it onto the bed, along with his hat, he rooted through his bag and pulled out his helmet. Putting it on his head, he adjusted it and turned to the other Private, who was putting her things on the bed opposite to his, “Hi, I’m Evans, are you Cain?”

The Private smiled and dropped her hat on the bed, “I’m Hannah Cain.”

“I’m Zwev!” Zwev yelled down from her bed. She swung her legs around and sat up, with the helmet sitting cockeyed on her head, “You from the Medway area? My Uncle Stanislaw went there when he moved to Ethslin. I can tell from the accent.”

Working through her bag for her helmet, Cain replied, “Yes, and how long have you lived in Ethslin, you don’t have much of an accent?”

“Five years ago, but lived near the border growing up,” Zwev bent down to look at Evans, “Where are you from Evans?”

“Halton, it’s a small railway town in the middle of nowhere.”

Lance Corporal Tiscornia walked into the room “And I’m from Liguria, now do you three have you’re things ready? I need to get you down to the range.”

Evans grabbed his rifle as Zwev slid down next to him to grab her rifle leaned up against the wall. Cain put her helmet on flat and picked her rifle off her bed. The three followed the Lance Corporal out of the building. The Lance Corporal started talking to them as he walked them to the rifle range, “Alright, bagarìlli, this is Fox Company Second Platoon. Lieutenant Simmons is our Platoon Leader. Captain Jackson is our Company Commander. I’m Lance Corporal Tiscornia, and I have the distinction of being the most experienced soldier in the Platoon, so you should listen to what I say.”

Cain spoke up in confusion, “If you are the most experienced soldier in the Platoon, why are you only a Lance Corporal?”

“Because Miss Cain,” Lance Corporal Tiscornia turned around and started walking backwards, a suddenly serious face, “I really don’t want that much responsibility. Have you ever been in charge of 13 soldiers? I was, a week after picking up Lance. Bad barrage and ill timed attack left me in command of a company… Well, the thirteen privates still able to fight.. I got transfered to the 202nd because my battalion was wiped out. And there is no way in hell I’m going to command in combat again.” Tiscornia shook his head and turned around, “And Zak, how the fuck do you say your name?”

“Zakrzewska Lance Corporal. You can call me Zwev.”

Tiscornia nodded, “Yeah, I think I’ll go with Zwev.” He looked up ahead at the empty rifle range. Sergeant Major Laurie was sitting next to the ammunition crates. Tiscornia yelled out, “Sergeant Major, permission to bring three Privates in for initial?”

“Granted Dom. New kids or Transfers?”

“Bagarìlli. Sounds fancier that way.” Tiscornia paused for a bit, and then turned to Evans, Zwev, and Cain, “Alright, you three play with Sergeant Major Laurie. He’ll do your Rifle tests.”

The three privates nodded. Evans took the lead onto the Rifle range and presented his rifle to the Sergeant Major. The Sergeant Major grabbed and inspected it, “Alright kid, looks ready to go, take Lane One.” He paused and looked to Tiscornia, “Dom, give get thirty rounds, ten for each.”

Evans took his rifle back and walked to the lane labeled One and checked the sights on his rifle. He then pulled the bolt back and waited for the test to begin. He smiled and looked up at the blue sky. It was peaceful, a few birds lazily soaring overhead.

Tiscornia walked up and held out ten rifle rounds, “Here, load your rifle, lie down and get ready to fire. Wait until the Sergeant Major tells you to fire. Fire all ten rounds at the target.”

Evans took the rounds and nodded. He clicked them in one by one, until the internal magazine held all ten rounds. He slid the bolt forward and knelt down on the ground, aiming the rifle carefully downrange. He looked to his right at the other two lanes. Zwev was kneeling on the ground, still loading her rifle, and Cain was still receiving ammunition from Tiscornia. Sergeant Major Laurie was sitting down looking at a clipboard.

Grinning, Evans looked down his sight at the target, flicked his safety off, and waited for the command. Evans had been one of the best shots at his company in basic training. Now to just shoot a max, impress Tiscornia and Zwev, and he’ll be set.

“Alright kids! Aim your rifles downrange. On my mark, fire all ten rounds at the target, you will be judged for accuracy and time, so when you are done shooting, raise your right hand and I’ll note it. Only fire at your own target, and remain in place until everyone is finished,” Sergeant Major Laurie took a breath in and shouted, “FIRE!”

Evans opened fire. In what only seemed like a moment, Evans had fired all ten rounds downrange. He drew the bolt back one more time while flicking his safety on and threw up his hand. A few seconds after him, the last rifle fell silent, as Cain fired her last round.

The Sergeant Major yelled out again, “Tiscornia has placed ten more rounds near you, Load them and prepare for the standing fire test.” He turned to Tiscornia, “Dom, go run and switch the targets out. And score everyone when your done with that.”

Evans propped himself up and picked up the ten rounds, this time they came in two stripper clips. He clicked one in and pushed the five rounds into the magazine. Pocketing the first clip, he grabbed the second and loaded it in. He slid the bolt forward and stood up. He looked downrange at Tiscornia, who was fumbling with the targets. He looked over at Zwev, who had slung her rifle over her right shoulder, “How do you think you did?”

Her eyes looked up over his left shoulder and shrugged, “I dunno. OK I guess. You?”

“I think it did well.”

Sergeant Major Laurie shouted out at the three, “Ready your rifles!”

Evans turned to face the target, checked his bolt, and flicked the safety off.

“Aim!”

Evans aimed downrange.

“FIRE!”

Evans opened fire at the target. Twenty seconds later he had expended all his ammunition. He raised his left hand while he flicked the safety on with his right hand. After the last rifle fell silent he slung his rifle and turned to look at Sergeant Major Laurie

“Alright kids. Lance Corporal Tiscornia will collect your targets, I need to go over a few more things.” The Sergeant Major then turned to speak to Tiscornia, “And score them when you’re done Dom”

Evans walked over to Sergeant Major Laurie and knelt down next to Zwev and Cain.

“So, this is my range. And, if I understand correctly, your company will be here for the next week before you head to the front, and in a month when your rotation brings you back here, you’ll be at my range again. I am the range master and will be here from dawn until dusk on most days,” the Sergeant Major paused, looking for the right words, “You should probably practice at least two or three hours outside of your normal training, after all, you three are riflemen, so you should be good with rifles. Unless there is an official training going on, you can come here at any time it’s open. That’s about it for that.”

The Sergeant Major the looked over at Tiscornia, who was still collecting the targets, “You kids are lucky to have Lance Corporal Tiscornia in your company. We were in the same Battalion at the Battle of Tsiv River. He was one of the six soldiers to survive Charles Company unscathed. So listen to what he says.”

Tiscornia had finished grabbing the targets and jogged back to the four. He picked up the clipboard and tallied the scores. He looked up at the three, “Which one of you was lane two?” Zwev raised her hand. “Well really good job Zwev. Some of the best scores I’ve seen for someone just from basic. Lane One and Three, average scores overall, Lane One, you might want to adjust your sights, all your shots were a bit low. And if you are done with Sergeant Major Laurie, we have a few more things to do before you are assigned to your Rifle Teams.”