2. Dempsey

My clothes were wet when I woke up. My clothes? No – my uniform. I'm a soldier.

My memory came back fast.

I'm a soldier. I do what soldiers do, when faced with a new circumstance: collect Intel. I tried opening my eyes. No luck. Apparently I'd got the gravity wrong – I was lying on my front, face down. I rolled over and the floor squelched. Mud. I was lying in mud, so before I opened my eyes I had to wipe them.

I opened my eyes. I was in no-man's land. Mud, everywhere, as far as the horizon. Which wasn't far, because of the thick mist, making it impossible to see anything further than 40 yards. On the very edge of where the world became invisible, the outline of a plane, one wing stuck in the thick mud at a strange angle, the other balanced precariously in the air, like a dog that had damaged its paw.

All of it was on fire.

My memory. I thought it was back, but I was only remembering the basics: how to move, how to breathe, how to open my eyes; but my self was tugging painfully at the back of my eyes.

Staring at the wrecked plane, still sat on the muddy field, things that I had known was trying desperately to tear its way into the present, but I couldn't work it out. I was here and I was now.

That was all that mattered here and now.

Maybe I had been on that plane, it seemed probable, that I was unconscious because I had been in the crash, but that wasn't particularly going to keep me alive. I know what keeps me alive. I know their shapes, have the muscle memory.

I looked down, I had two: a M1911 .45 and a Thompson sub.

I checked the .45, full ammo, plus 20 clips on my belt. The thing had a bit of mud damage, but switching the catch a few times got it out. Noisily.

The Tommy was unusable. Completely jammed on mud and dust. There were another 20 magazines on my belt. Pretty useless, but if I found another soldier I could clean it. Not that I didn't know how to disassemble pretty much any firearm, but doing it in this field would only serve to jam It further.

Another soldier?

I thought I could hear squelching footsteps, coming from the direction of the plane.

I looked up, and there they were, about ten other soldiers. They were in a daze, stumbling around in different directions, not even talking to each other – probably shell-shocked. I could see their injuries from here: broken arms held out in front (I assumed) to give them balance as they dragged broken legs behind them. They shuffled along in a ridiculously stilted way, like skeletons in pop movies.

"Hey!" I called out "Hey, over here! It's…" Shit. I didn't know my name rank or intention. I checked my shoulder. Dempsey, Captain. A name I didn't recognize. Hopefully they would.

But as I looked up again, they weren't wandering aimlessly. They were all walking towards me. In the space of 10 seconds, they had all come about, even with their terrible injuries.

"Hey! This is… uh… Captain Dempsey! I could use intel on our current location!"

I blinked. Was one of them running? Yes he was. No, a cheap imitation of running, legs flying forwards as if not of his own will, arms flailing to compensate. He looked like a pinwheel.

The running would have been humorous, if he hadn't been running, full pelt, straight at me. I'll admit I panicked. I mean, I've never been in a situation like this, not that I could remember, anyway, and I was still groggy from waking up. I did what I guess was instinct.

The M19' was in my hands before I even thought about it. I slid the clip in autonomously, pulled back the catch, released the safety. In the relative silence, the click of the safety going off rang for miles: I'm not playing.

"Private," I had to assume, "I'm commanding you to approach slower. Announce yourself, boy. Don't make my use this."

No reply. He kept running.

"That's right, boy. I have a gun. And if you don't stop running like that pretty soon, I'ma give you a reason to be flailing your arms."

The formality of engagement wavered further as he got closer.

"Seriously, kid" I shouted, "You're starting to scare me. Now, if I were you I'd stop right there and let me come to you."

He was close enough for me to see the whites of his eyes. Yellows? Yeah, I wasn't seeing things, his eyes were yellow. In fact, they were giving out light, making thin beams in the mist.


Then I saw it, emblazoned on his right shoulder. A red banner. A white circle in the middle. And a black swastika.

"Motherfucker!" I shouted.

And let loose a hail of bullets.

My finger pumped the trigger 8 times, until the clip was completely empty. 8 bullets to the chest, the Nazi was blown back by the force and slid back meters in the mud.

I was seeing things – he hadn't moved. He was still running.

He was almost right on me.

"What are you?!"

A massive whole appeared in the Nazi's left shoulder, then to the right of his abdomen. Then his head exploded, and he hit the dirt, sliding forward with the momentum of running, till the wound on his arm rested against my leg. He had reached me, but not in one piece.

A few seconds later, I heard the shots. One, space, two, space. More space… three. Blot action I guessed. The gunman had fired a shot, moved the bolt, then shot again assuming he was aimed in the right area. He had moved the bolt again for the next shot – he was trained – and watched his mark. Seeing that his last shot had missed, he had lined up carefully the next one, making a longer gap. The things I can tell from a shooting pattern.

That the first shot had hit the shoulder… he was probably a bit drunk, probably as unprepared as I was. But wait, he had known that the shot to the head would work, that's why he had aimed so specifically. Whoever the drunken assailant had been, it would be the best bet for my survival to find him and question him.

I set off in the direction of the gunshot, directly behind me, and saw it as soon as I turned around. A black smudge on the horizon, hazy because it was about 50 yards away. The sniper had either had a powerful scope or had been working solely on silhouettes – there was no way he could have seen us from that distance in this fog – which I counted as further evidence that he knew what he was fighting. I couldn't see him and he could see me.

It was a two-story building, probably part of an airfield. It was almost perfectly rectangular. The roof had been blown off the whole of one corner, and the windows were just square holes, which had all been boarded off. There was a low wall on one side, sandbags, smoking cars, like someone had put up a defense in a hurry. I walked up to an opening in the wall, topped with a wooden plank, from which hung a single light-bulb, and then through it, to try and work a way into the base. Even with only a pistol, so long as the place wasn't full of those dead Nazis, I could probably secure it myself. Use it as my holdout until I figured a way out.

I stopped when I head grumbling coming from inside. The sniper. A slurping sound, followed by a bottle smashing on a wall, followed by a belch.

Definitely drunk then.

I came to a hole in the side of the building and looked in. The man, whose back was facing me, wore the uniform of the red army. Shit.

I eased my way through the whole and loaded in another clip into the M1911. I came up behind him quietly and he didn't notice me – until I rested the barrel against his temple. He hiccupped slightly then drew his breath in. From the view over his shoulder I could see the that he had a rifle in his hand, a (^). Bolt-action. Man I'm a genius.

"All right, Asshole," I hissed "Put that gun down. You might have just saved my life, but you're still a red firing in my direction." His gun twitched, as if he was considering making a move, "Believe me, asshole, you even think about out and I'll send you off to meet Hitler and Lenin"

The Russian began lowering the rifle – then brought it back sharply into my groin. The gun in my hand fell as I hit the floor. The impact made it go off, and the bullet ricocheted around the room, incredibly noisily.

"No, you listen to me, 'asshole'," the Russian spat as I cradled the insides of my thighs, "You might think you're the big boy American coming to save the day, but with all the noise you just made, you'll get to find out what's worse than Hitler and Lenin put together," and then, after taking a swig of a fresh bottle and a harsh chuckle, "Believe me, this is going to be fun."