Defending Inca

Attachment-1 (44)Feb 28th Year 0. John was eager. The invasion of Mallorca had just started and John was given his first squad. The enemy couldn’t hold against the combined effort of coalition forces and by the end of the year he’d be back home telling war stories of how he led his squad to victory and maybe saved someone’s life or something. Just being here would sell well with the college coeds back home. His squad was well practiced and had just been assigned this really hot medic named Flores. Simons and him had bets on who would be able to woo her first. Theriot called them both stupid lust-blind little boys who couldn’t seduce a horny blind rabbit. John was sure she was just jealous that 3rd squad had gotten the tall Brazilian medic she’d been flirting with all month. Johnson had laughed about the whole thing and made a comment that dead men had a better chance of getting some with Flores than John and Simons did.

-.- -.- -.- o.o -.- -.- -.-

 Dec 9th Year 0. John almost had his first casualty. The squad had been hit by enemy mortar fire when trying to provide over-watch during the retreat. Simons had taken shrapnel to his face and neck. Flores somehow got him up but the damage had rendered him speechless and his silence unnerved the rest of the unit. Flores had taken this casualty pretty hard and started cursing the day John was born and the day she became a medic. Which was pretty scary. Turns out she had grown up the child of some Canadian witch doctor and the squad was certain she could make your nethers rot and turn green. Or make you pee tiny red frogs. Or any number of horrible things.

Orders came down late that evening. The enemy was taking the town. The squad was to hold the railway until relieved to cover the retreat of the main effort. They would find out three days later that they were cut off and there would be no relief.

-.- -.- -.- o.o -.- -.- -.-

June 13th Year 1. The fighting never seemed to stop. Both sides had learned the value of ammo in the yearlong siege of the island so there was no longer an unending roar of guns, just the occasional sharp uptake in frequency for whatever little skirmish was being waged most currently.

John stared sadly at his squad. They had all gotten quieter. No one talked anymore. The only one who even replied to orders anymore was Flores the medic. She still cursed him for this situation, cursed the enemy for their hate, cursed the wounded for their stupidity and cursed herself for lack of skill. Of all of them the last one was the most un-warranted. Even though the rest of the squad were as silent as robots; nothing could keep them down. Flores could fix damn near anything now. Over a year of constant practical experience turned her into a walking expert on everything that could go wrong with a body. Hell, Johnson had taken an artillery shell directly through the torso and somehow Flores had gotten him up and moving a day later. Still that constant damage, constant fear could wear on a body.

He didn’t blame the rest of the squad for their silence. They still fought, they still stood guard, and they still obeyed orders, who could begrudge them anything.

“Simons and Theriot. Get your team and replace alpha. Give them some rest. I want to move down to Edison Street tomorrow first thing.” The two stood up, gestured at their men and smoothly slid into the darkness. Flores swore at him some more.

“Why don’t you just kill us all and get it done with? Edison? What about that machinegun nest that drove us back from there in the first place?”

“I think that our artillery took out their building last week when we were fighting our way back across the grove. Since we found the guys from 3-4 we should have just enough manpower to fight our way back down to that ruin that overlooks the soccer field. From there we could set up makeshift mortars and might get a chance to snipe a few of their supply convoys. Maybe give our side a chance at gaining some ground here for once.”

“Think? Should? Could? Might?…..Damn you, damn them, damn me. We’ll be dead before we get to the train bridge.”

“Hah. If you were right then we’ve been dead for months now.”

“Shutup. Die in a fire. Die in three fires. Die-“

“I would if I could but I can’t so I won’t so don’t bother me anymore.”

Flores flashed a rude gesture his way and wandered off muttering vile premonitions and death threats.

-.- -.- -.- o.o -.- -.- -.-

 October 15th Year 1. Their squad had slowly turned into a company as John gathered stragglers, wounded, and left behinds. Flores fixed up the wounded. The others melted into the mixing pot of a fighting unit that he’d formed. It was all getting a bit surreal. He’d captured two more blocks and although he’d been forced to blow the train bridge to prevent the enemy from completing an encirclement he had found an enemy food stockpile under an apartment building on Cemetery Street.

‘Mouse’ a whiney, thin ex-engineer who had been fleeing on a bicycle in the wrong direction was his new supply officer and somehow made sure enough food was handed out to everyone. Mouse had been a bit of a pain at first but after he lost his foot and Flores patched him up he’d come around and was incredibly productive and efficient. The fact that he was absolutely terrified of Flores probably had something to do with it.

The best thing about this hodgepodge unit was that the new guys weren’t all super silent. A lot of them were certainly but not everyone. It seemed amazing to John that there were still people who weren’t driven voiceless by the endless fighting but the stragglers and left behinds had an odd resiliency. They were grim and full of death humor but it was nice to hear voices again at dinner.

-.- -.- -.- o.o -.- -.- -.-

 April 5th Year 2. His company was a battalion. He held the center of the city and had captured an enemy artillery battery. Several of their wounded had apparently had enough and switched sides. Despite the slow inching victories his men were bitterly grim. So few talked that you might have thought them the walking dead. Mouse still scampered about whining about needing more food or more ammo or more clothes or more of anything that might possibly count as a supply for someone somewhere. Flores glowered darkly from her medic tent and swore about how the weather was cursed, the victories were cursed and that Mouse was trying to poison her. John had run into a scout squad that had been pinned down. They had his first real news in almost a year. The war was starting to shift. The defense of Inca had gone on so long and pinned down so much of the enemies’ resources that gaps had opened elsewhere. Friendlies had liberated Lluc Major and were pushing into Campos. They had been tasked with scouting Inca to find out what had stalled the enemy advance. Apparently no one back at headquarters had any idea that John had been fighting here or that his men had held the ground.

Although the enemy had not been able to fully encircle his position their artillery had held the friendlies out of the city entirely. After the debriefing John and the scouts had agreed that it was too dangerous for them to try and work their way back. Instead they had joined up and were helping him push to an old broadcasting station to the north so he could contact friendlies and let them know of his gains.

Having not been trapped in Inca for two years the squad was friendly and talkative unlike the rest of his troops.

-.- -.- -.- o.o -.- -.- -.-

 September 18th Year 2. Friendly forces had finally broken the enemy’s stranglehold on Inca. Large scale enemy evacuation had begun. And none too soon. Even the new scouts had lost their friendly luster during this last great push. Only their radio operator still talked to anyone. John supervised his brigade as they prepared to meet their first friendly reinforcements in two years. His battalions had been bolstered by large numbers of neutral and enemy casualties who joined up rather than be held prisoner or try and flee back to their own lines. The new troops threw themselves into the fight with enough gusto that John didn’t doubt their resolve. He just wished they would talk more, it was too damn quiet around his base. When the last artillery barrage finished pounding the enemy columns, John gathered his men and women and had them lined up and in neat formation for the relieving commander. As he approached John snapped to attention and saluted.

“Sir! Sgt. John Pickernel of the 3-1, 1st Squad. I give you Inca and stand relieved sir.”

The Colonel stared at John. In a wavering voice he asked, “Sergeant, what the hell happened to your men?”

“My men sir?”

For the first time in ages John looked at his soldiers. Really looked at them. And there, standing in neat trim formation several thousand rotting corpses stared back with red glowing eyes. As he scanned the formation he could make out a few human eyes. In the back near the medic truck Flores was flipping him off, to her right Mouse was shaking his head mournfully, the scout radioman was chattering away on the radio coordinating incoming movements; but everywhere else only the dead stood. Grimly, silently doing their duty; just like Flores had told them to.

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