And here is the fifth installment of the Home Guard Project!
Episode Five – Behind Enemy Lines
Date: March 21, 1941
The Man in the Moon pub was quiet; the only sounds within its plain shell coming from two seated Home Guard soldiers drinking the local malted ales. They acted as if there was no war on, but no one in the country could blame them for wanting to escape.
Samurai tapped the bottom of his empty pint glass on the counter and then waggled it at the barmaid as a hint. He beamed as she took it from him and pulled another pint into it. ‘Thanks, sweetheart,’ he smiled. He rested his head onto his hand, elbow on the counter, and looked at his drinking companion. ‘How many you had now, Ollie?’
Ollie slurred something from within his arms and tilted his head to one side to look at Samurai. ‘I… think not enough.’ He glanced up at the barmaid. ‘Could you pour… me… one too?’
Ollie belched. ‘Please…’
They were both handed a pint of dark ale with a strained smile.
‘Thanks, love,’ said Samurai before sipping the top half of his pint away. ‘Good stuff.’ He looked at Ollie expectantly, half laughing.
Ollie stared at the drink and then laughed loudly. ‘I can do this.’ With that, he picked up the pint glass and drank the dark brown liquid until it was all gone.
Samurai looked at his watch. ‘About five seconds… new record for you.’
‘Yes, damn right. For Mother Russia!’
‘But you’re not Russian…’
‘I know, but… I felt like saying it.’ Ollie slid his glass to one side and held his chin in his hands. ‘I’m fed up.’
‘Aren’t we all?’ said Samurai, shuffling around on his stool. ‘I hate this war.’
A sharp breeze whipped their backs as the door to the pub was opened, the sound of heavy boots stepping onto the wooden flooring.
Shay tousled his hair with his hand and marched over to where Samurai and Ollie were hunched over the bar. ‘Guys?’
‘Hi, Shay,’ they both said in a drunken unison.
‘Can we talk in private?’ Shay nodded at the barmaid who took the hint with a dejected look. ‘Sam, we have a problem.’
Samurai felt his stomach churn, whether or not from the alcohol or potential bad news he didn’t know. He groaned, rubbing his beard. ‘What is it?’
‘Wapz is gone.’
Ollie lifted his head. ‘What you mean he’s gone?’ There was a sudden panic creeping into his voice and face.
Shay hung his head and scuffed his feet. ‘MIA.’
‘What was his last location?’ asked Samurai, standing up.
‘Somewhere outside… Banbury, is it?’
‘That’ll take us a couple of hours to get there,’ Ollie mumbled.
Samurai lifted Ollie up to his feet and ushered him and Shay towards the door. He shouted thanks to the barmaid who was polishing some glasses up. ‘Give us the lowdown on the way to Banbury.’
Date: March 21, 1941, Later That Day
Location: Outside Banbury
It had taken them about two hours in the truck to get to Banbury and Wapz’s last known location. Finding him in this literal wasteland was going to prove to be a harder job than they would have liked.
Shay jumped out of the driver’s seat and grabbed his rifle from behind the seat, checking its magazine and grabbing a pouch of extra clips.
Ollie slid from the back of the truck, staggering as he landed. ‘Oh man.’ He turned to lean on the back of the truck. ‘Too many.’
‘I know what you mean,’ Samurai remarked as he appeared from the passenger side. ‘Luckily it’s kind of worn off a bit… but I still feel sick.’ He clutched his stomach and belched loudly. ‘I hate feeling like this.’ He closed his eyes for a moment.
‘Wakey wakey,’ Shay chimed from the front of the vehicle.
‘OK, OK,’ Ollie called. ‘Hey Sam? You think I got enough?’
Samurai opened his eyes and looked Ollie up and down. ‘Are you serious? How many grenades you taking with you?’
‘You can never be too careful.’
‘Don’t go blowing yourself up, for the love of God.’
Ollie shook his head and smiled.
‘Come on,’ Shay beckoned. ‘Wapz’s last known location was in a church just a few hundred yards from here. It’s in the north side of the town.’
Samurai reached into the back of the truck and pulled out a sub machinegun from a satchel.
Shay raised an eyebrow. ‘What kind of gun is that? Never seen one of them before.’
‘It was designed last year after the Dunkirk incident.’
‘You mean “tactical withdrawal”?’ Ollie asked.
Samurai shook his head. ‘No, I mean the cock up. Anyway, this is a… Lanchester, I think, and they’ve given us a few to test out.’
‘You think this is the right time for a test?’ exclaimed Shay with a worried look. ‘We’re here to save one of our own.’
‘We’ll find out soon enough. Let’s make our way to the church.’
‘Ollie? You go check the church tower out… me and Shay will scout the ground floor. OK?’ Samurai looked stern faced, his eyes scanning the extent of the well-kept walls, pews and flooring.
With a firm nod, Ollie wandered toward a room behind the altar, looking around intently; curiously. He peered inside and observed the bookcase, desk and holy depictions hanging on the wall – a stereotypical vestry. He noticed the wooden staircase in the corner and hurried over to it, clutching his assault rifle. A quick glance around the corner and he crept up the stairs, his heart remaining surprisingly calm. Everyone told him that he was fearless, hence his carelessness with grenades.
As soon as he reached the top of the stairs he found himself tumbling back down them, the butt of a rifle smacking into his shoulder with surprising force. He landed at the bottom of the top flight of steps, clutching his shoulder and wincing with pain. ‘Ack… God damn it!’ he cried, trying to refocus on the figure standing at the top of the stairs, gun poised.
‘Who are you?’ the figure asked.
‘We’re here to rescue you.’
‘Ollie… of course! You’re the nutter with the grenades, right?’
He scrunched his mouth and puffed through his nose. ‘I suppose I am,’ he replied blankly.
‘Can’t be too careful at the moment, my friend. Who’re you here with?’
‘Samurai and Shay.’
‘Oh so Sam got off his arse at last did he?’ Wapz chuckled.
Ollie eased himself up and breathed slowly. ‘We gave up our drinks to come get you.’
‘He drinks too much anyway… he’s a beast.’
‘Well… that’s what Brak calls him anyway.’
‘Oh… right.’ Ollie shook his head. ‘We need to get you out of here.’
‘Can’t at the moment… place is crawling with Nazis.’
‘We saw no one here.’
Wapz raised a knowing eyebrow. ‘Oh trust me, they’re here alright. They know I’ll snipe them if they come out the buildings – one shot, one kill.’
‘So… we’re actually surrounded in here?’ Ollie felt his stomach churn.
‘We sure are. German reinforcements inbound no doubt. I’m expecting a tank as I can’t kill that with a bullet.’
‘Wait here.’ Ollie found himself racing down the stairwell to the ground floor. ‘Sam? Shay?’ he shouted.
They both emerged through the vestry door, their faces awash with anxiety.
‘What is it?’ Shay asked.
‘Wapz is up in the tower.’
‘Is he OK?’ Samurai could feel his heart smashing against his chest.
Ollie nodded. ‘Yeah he’s fine, but he says there’re Germans all over the place.’
Shay raised a finger. ‘Where are they then?’
‘Wapz thinks they’re awaiting reinforcements. I’ve heard Wapz is a crack shot with a sniper rifle so they’re probably afraid to poke their heads out.’
It was then that all three of their chests tightened. A voice echoed from the stairwell. ‘Company!’
In the distance, a set of crystal eyes peered through the scope of a rifle. Behind the elevated gun was a scarf covered face, a black bandana wrapped around locks of golden hair, and vows of revenge. The figure – a mercenary – edged the gun sideways.
‘The Nazi bastards are assaulting the church,’ a female voice said, muffled behind the scarf. ‘We should move in. I spotted a tank on its way… a Panzer.’
The burly looking man next to her nodded his approval. He then adjusted his army uniform and trotted back to his portable radio. He frantically turned the handle on it and brought the receiver up to his ear. ‘We are a go,’ he mumbled.
A few minutes passed.
The British Crusader tank roared through a hedgerow, followed by a squad of British infantry wielding an assortment of rifles and sub machineguns. Some more plain clothed figures flanked across to the right, along with the mysterious female sniper who seemed to be leading them.
She crouched down and scoped again, watching gunfire coming from the church’s main entrance, quickly followed by a series of grenade blasts. ‘They’re not going to last long in there,’ she growled. ‘We need the British to make a move now.’ She glanced back at her group. ‘When the Crusader moves in we’ll secure the church from the right; I’ll keep you all covered as much as I can.’ Her team all nodded and mumbled their acknowledgement.
‘Ready?’ She bounced on her feet, loosening her knees up, ready for what was about to occur.
The tank fired its mighty turret, the shell pounding into the side of the German Panzer. There was a commotion as German troops realised they were being flanked, repositioning to fight on two fronts all of a sudden. The Panzer had no time to react as another shell hit it on its turret, disabling its capability to fire.
‘Brilliant!’ the tank commander shouted with a laugh stifling his breath.
The team moved along to the right while the British engaged the Nazi forces. The female mercenary moved fast with the others, rapidly advancing on the church. She pinned her back to the wall and dared to look around the corner.
‘They’ve got a sniper up in the church tower and he’s pretty good at what he does.’
One of her team nudged her in the side. ‘But you’re better, right?’
She laughed softly. ‘We’ll see.’ She waved them through, six of them. They were armed with a wide variety of guns from different countries, ranging from Russian PPD-40 sub machineguns, French MAS rifles, and an assortment of Czechoslovakian weaponry.
All she could hear from her corner was the deafening sound of gunfire, screams, explosions and orders. She steadied her breath and whipped from her place, unleashing bullet after bullet from her rifle, each of them hitting its mark. ‘One by one they go down,’ she sang to herself from beneath her scarf.
She suddenly froze as she spotted a British soldier powering his way from the church, grenades in hand. She watched him through her scope and swore to herself. ‘They’re primed! Is he mad?’ she exclaimed loudly, knowing nobody would hear her. ‘For God’s sake throw them already! Have you got a death wish?’
A grenade was tossed through the air, one to the right, and then the second went to the left. The soldier dived to the dirt floor and rolled up behind a wall as massive, eardrum bursting explosions engulfed the other side of the wall in a sea of shrapnel and flames. They had not been ordinary grenades by the looks of things, but they had done the job of ridding the front line of German troops from the assault.
The mercenary heard the distance cry of victory, followed by fervent shouting from the church – curses and scornful reprimands. Two men hurried from the entrance over to the kamikaze soldier, picking him up and leaning him against the wall. The one with the beard was red-faced and angry, shouting every name under the sun.
She checked her gun and proceeded toward them, watching as the British secured the rest of the town and shot after the retreating Nazi troops. Her squad had reformed and were giving each other reports, one cracking some bad joke about his ex-wife and her new lover. She pulled the scarf from her face as she walked up to the British soldiers she had just helped save.
Ollie grunted and stared at her. ‘I… It’s a… woman,’ he stammered.
She smiled, nodding at each of them in turn. ‘Lucky we came along isn’t it?’
Samurai shuffled his feet. ‘Erm… yeah, thanks darling.’
Shay dropped his rifle.
‘Pick it up, Shay, she’s only a woman, not a bloody goddess.’ Samurai rolled his eyes.
He scrambled for his gun and steadied himself. ‘Nice to meet you,’ he blurted. ‘Don’t see many women wielding the guns on the front lines.’
The mercenary chuckled. ‘Well life as a mercenary is full of surprises.’
‘Ah, I’d heard about us hiring people from all over,’ remarked Ollie as he rubbed his chest, soothing it.
‘I’m Samurai, this here is Shay, the one up in the tower is Wapz… and the crazy man sitting here is Ollie, who will be getting disciplined for his actions.’
She smiled at each one of them and rested her rifle on her shoulder. ‘Good to meet you all. My name’s Lolita.’
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