Author's Note
A few years ago some friends and I created a fictitious country each and then wrote a timeline for those nations. We then wrote stories about significant events within that timeline. This was one I had written.

Foreword
In 2002 B'Geeria was invaded by an alliance of hostile nations to the north of its border. Eventually the invaders were turned back and B'Geeria, along with its allies, followed them back across the border into Thomistan and Vycatta.


South Thomistan
13th April 2004
1644hrs

Ryan peered through the hole in the roof of the old house at a grey and menacing sky that rolled overhead warning of a fresh batch of rain. Fusilier Ryan Llewellyn leaned against the shrapnel infested wall in what he assumed was once the main living room for some Thomistani house. Nestled in his arms like he was holding his sweetheart was his L1A1 rifle the butt of which sat in between his legs on the ash laden floor.

It seemed he had lived in this house for years when in fact he had been here for the span of three weeks. It was three weeks ago that his unit; 3 Company of the 1st Battalion, the Royal B'Geerian Fusiliers, had entered the village of Jolay in South Thomistan. Ryan had arrived in the back of a BTR-80 that seemed to trundle into the town that had seen heavy fighting over the past week as the B'Geerian and Jhonran armies continued their offensive northwards into the heart of the Facist Alliance. The war hadn't seemed real to him until the hatch opened and he stepped outside into the ravaged township that had been taken by the B'Geerian Army just three days earlier. The buildings still had the fresh smell of burning flesh lingering in the rubble. Many civilians had opted to remain behind in the town rather than become refugees and as such had been caught in the crossfire as the Facist forces retreated. It was the first time he had really known war having only finished basic training a few days earlier.

Since arriving in the village the B'Geerian Army had tried several times to punch through the newly established enemy defences in the adjacent valley but to no avail. On all fronts the Allied advance seemed to be grinding to a rain and blood soaked halt. When entering Jolay, Ryan and his comrades were told they would be out within three days. That was eighteen days ago. He had gone on the attacks that were intended to break down the defensive line. He had fired his rifle at spots in distant tree lines but he didn't know if he had hit anything. Silently, he was fine with that. He didn't know how he would feel if he ever saw a body laying on the ground knowing he had been the one to kill that person.

His eyelids were feeling heavier all the time and as he sat there he could feel them closing slowly until he nodded off before he would snap back awake. He was trying to get some rest while he had this free time but his mind wouldn't let him. Everytime his eyelids closed the image of a Goromanian or Thomistani soldier bursting into the room and bayoneting him in the stomach flashed in his mind's eye.

He had been in and out of sleep so long now that he had lost track of time and so it came as a surprise to him when L/Corporal Gwyndalow walked into the room. Gwyndalow looked around at the group of junior soldiers huddled into the room. Each one of them peered back at him wondering who he was going to chose.

"Beaumont and Llewellyn," he grumbled to the subdued sighs of relief from the others. Ryan lifted himself up off the ground before checking his chest webbing was still in order from being slumped on the floor so long. "Come on!"

Gwyndalow turned and walked back out of the room leaving Ryan and Fusilier Eric Beaumont, another 'newbie' who had gone through basic with Ryan, to follow behind him. They walked outside into the street before stepping aside to allow three Land Rovers grumble past, their wheels bouncing up and down on the rubble that still lay across the street. Each one of the Land Rovers were LWCs or Light Weapons Carriers which was a rather fancy name for saying they were pick up trucks each with a trailer packed to the rim with boxes of 7.62mm ammunition and grenades. The arrival of these vehicles was always an indication that another attack was due very soon.

Gwyndalow didn't say anything to Ryan and Beaumont as they followed him through the streets. Walking through the village that had been ravaged by heavy weapons fire Ryan once again tried to imagine what it must have looked like here before the war but try as he might he couldn't picture it as anything more than a battleground.

It was a short walk before they arrived at one of the few buildings left that still had a roof. It was Jolays local butcher shop and as Ryan followed Beaumont and Gwyndalow inside he saw that it had been taken over by the logistics guys known as 'Loggies'. There were two Corporals inside the shop and they had prepared two cardboard boxes which had been filled with tinned foods and bottled water.

"Pick up one each," instructed Gwyndalow and the two Fusiliers did as they were told. Once they had the boxes in their hands they looked at Gwyndalow waiting for their next set of instructions. "Gents, you are going to participate in an operation to win the hearts and minds of the local community." There was a distinct air of sarcasm in Gwyndalow's voice. "On the eastern side of the village there are still a few locals who have elected to stay here rather than be moved to a refugee camp and so rather than let them starve you're going to hand out some food and water for them. Remember to be polite and for God's sake smile. At least try and pretend like you're having fun. Looks good on the front of the newspapers."

The afternoon air seemed to rumble with what sounded like thunder as Ryan and Beaumont walked over to the eastern side of the occupied village. Gwyndalow had left them to it and without his shadow enveloping them their tongues had loosened.

"Hearts and minds," said Beaumont. "That sounds fucking sweet doesn't it? They're kidding themselves if they think that giving a food basket out to these people is going to win them over. Don't forget we're the ones who have probably shot their husbands and fathers or something."

"They invaded us first," argued Ryan.

"Do you think they give a shit? We're still the enemy and we're the ones driving tanks through what's left of this place."

"Yeah bu-"

Their conversation came to a dramatic halt as the sound of a jet engine screeched loudly over head causing them to rush to the sides of the road in a vain attempt to find cover in a doorway. As the aircraft passed over they saw the distinctive shape of a BF-8 Scimitar with bombs hanging from under its wings. It was one of their own.

"We're also blasting jets over their houses," added Beaumont.

The two of them continued onwards until they found a row of relatively intact houses. They walked passed them looking in through broken windows for any signs of life.

"Hello!" called out Ryan trying to get their attention. "We got some food for you." With no responses forthcoming he turned to Beaumont and asked, "Do you think they can even understand us?"

"Try it English!" suggested Beaumont. Ryan called out again in English but still no response. It wasn't until they passed the fifth house in the row that Beaumont looked through a window and saw an old man slumped in a chair by a quickly dieing fire. "In here."

"Hello sir!" called out Ryan in English. The man just sat there staring at the fire. "We have some rations for you; some water and a couple of tins." The old man continued to ignore them.

Ryan stepped back a few feet and saw that the front door was hanging off the bottom hinge and so as unintrusively as he could he pushed it aside and walked in. The man continued to sit there as unresponsive as he had been when they were outside. It was as if he didn't see or here them.

"He's not interested," said Beaumont. "Come on let's go."

"Look!" said Ryan as he spotted something behind the man's chair amongst the broken furniture and shattered glass. A blanket had been placed over a body of what appeared to be a woman. A pair of feet protruded out from the bottom of the blanket with one slipper on the right foot, the other remaining bare.

"Oh fuck," said Beaumont in disgust. "Let's get out of here!"

Beaumont wasn't going to stick around and immediately walked back out through the broken door. Ryan almost followed him but felt he couldn't leave the man like this. If only as a gesture of his sympathy he put down the box and took out two bottles of water and a few tins before placing them infront of the man so he could see them.

He then picked the box back up and silently walked out wondering if the old man would eat the food and drink the water. He doubted it. The look on the man's face was of someone who was waiting to die. Perhaps it would have been more merciful if Ryan had just shot the old man? He couldn't be sure but the thought did cross his mind if only as a feeling of sympathy.

For the next hour they searched the empty houses looking for civilians but there weren't any or if there were they were well hidden. It was well known that Thomistani propaganda had labeled the B'Geerian Army as thieves, murderers and rapists in an effort to ensure that none of their citizens cooperate with the 'invaders'.

They were about to give up and head back when they saw a young woman appear from inside a house at the far end emptying a bucket of what looked like urine.

"Hello!" called out Ryan, again in English.

The young woman jumped at the sight of them walking towards her and slowly stepped backwards towards her house before quickly disappearing inside.

"Must be your aftershave," joked Beaumont.

Undeterred, they continued onwards calling out for her and trying to explain they had brought food and water. They reached her house and there was still no reply. For some reason that neither could explain they felt it was ok to simply walk in. Perhaps it was the fact that to them these weren't people's homes anymore but simply rubble.

"Hello!" called out Ryan again who was suddenly hushed to silence by Beaumont. Voices could be heard from the living room. They were panicked, almost hysterical. Instinctively, they both put down their boxes and pulled their rifles from over their shoulders. Ryan cocked the slide back and disengaged the safety but as a precaution he kept his trigger finger on the trigger guard.

They advanced slowly and quietly until Ryan could see inside the room. The young woman was there wrapping up a large jacket over a man in his early twenties with quite a sickly looking face. Ryan and Beaumont stepped inside and the frightened woman turned to face them, her eyes wide open in fear. She looked only a few years older than the man and had long blonde hair while his was quite well shaven.

"Everything ok here?" asked Ryan somewhat mundanely.

The girl nodded.

"You live here?" he asked and again she nodded. "We've brought you some food and water if you want it?"

The girl's eyes raced back and fore between the two 'enemy' soldiers who were in her home as she stood defensively in front of the man who refused to look up at them. The jacket she had placed on him covered the length of his body down to his ankles which was something Beaumont picked up on.

"Boots!" he said to Ryan in B'Geerian.

"What?"

"His boots!" repeated Beaumont. "He's Army."

Suddenly the girl started shrieking frenziedly in English. "He's a deserter! He just wanted to come home!"

At this revelation both Ryan and Beaumont trained their rifles firmly on the pair of them, their fingers now edging around their triggers.

"Get down on the fucking ground!" ordered Ryan.

"Do it now!" added Beaumont.

The terrified pair started screaming and scrambling amongst one another until suddenly the jacket fell off to reveal the battle dress of a Thomistani infantry man. At the sight of his enemy Ryan found his finger squeezing the trigger of his rifle. A short burst of bullets spat from the end of his rifle. Beaumont followed suit.

Less than three rounds later they had stopped but it felt like they had unloaded their entire clip each. The man now lay on the ground with five rounds buried into his chest. The woman lay next to him crying as she clutched her left side, blood dripping through her fingers.

The firing had attracted other B'Geerian soldiers passing by outside including a medic who quickly came to the girl's assistance. Now that it was over Ryan looked for a weapon on the boy's body. There wasn't one. He had shot an unarmed man.

"Don't worry about it," said Gwyndalow when he arrived at the scene. "He was the enemy after all."