I.

December 1st, 1917, France

I breathed in calmingly, and listened to my boots marching through the snowy Parisian streets.

Thu-dump, thu-dump, thu-dump

"Major McCann, sir, all things considered, I don't think the foreword trench is the best place to hold this meeting. It would be much safer if-"

"Was anybody asking you, sergeant? Now, the Jerrys usually raid here, here and here…"

Thu-dump, thu-dump, thu-dump

"Töten sie die Offizieren zuerst! Keine Gefangenen! Für den Kaiser! Feuer, feuer, feuer! "

"Ack! Christ, MEDIC!"

Thu-dump, thu-dump, thu-dump

"Major, stay behind me. Come on, stay awake, it's just a graze, you'll be fine, come on. I've got you, sir. I'll keep you safe.

"Schnell! Schießen sie der Offizier!"

"I'm locked and loaded, Fritz! Come at me, you scheisse sons of bitches!"

Thu-dump, thu-dump, thu-dump

"I… wheeze… I think… I think I got them."

"By Jove. You saved my life-"

"No I don't thi-"

"No, no, you did. You saved my life. I owe you one, trooper. I mean it. Anything that's within my power. You name it."

"Th… Thank you, sir. Say, when do you think that medic is going to get here?

"I don't know, sergeant. I'll be fine though, I think that I can make it back."

"All due respect, sir, but I'm more concerned that I… Well I think that I've been shot too."

"Ah. Let me see- ah! That is ghastly. Er, yes, uh, medic. Medic! MEDIC!"

Thu-dump, thu-dump... thu… dump

I allowed myself the small self indulgence in a brief smug smile as I stood outside the lovely pastel building I came to visit. Years of planning all coming to a head as I stood outside a tall yet cozy five story building. Through the window, I could see a service desk and a conspicuously nearly empty cafe on the bottom floor. From the corner of the building hung a quaint little sign that read Hôtel de Joie.

I know it sounds silly, but as I was going in and out of the snow, it felt less like a meeting with a superior officer, and more like my birthday came a few weeks early. What can I say? I'd spent time prepping for this.

As I waited outside I couldn't help but thinking that I should have been taking this meeting with a man with salt and pepper hair and a goatee. This should have been my father rather than some stranger. It's just that his unceremonious ejection from the officer corps years ago made that impossible.

I still remember him almost tearing up as he told to me that officer candidacy had been rejected in direct connection to his sudden, inexplicable, dishonorable discharge. I couldn't help but feel that the man I was going to meet in that room was part of the reason that my family now had to regain what used to be a given.

Men of my family had been officers in the army since the first one served under George Washington. I couldn't help but feel all officers like him were partially responsible for robbing me of my birthright. It irked me even more that no one would tell me just what the hell it was that my father did to deserve what came down on us.

I tried to put that out of my mind as I mentally prepared for my meeting.

I made my way inside and found a private with a clipboard standing behind the service desk. Which was weird, I'd think someone of much higher rank would be around to staff a general. It wasn't exactly important, though, so out of my mind it went. "Private." I nodded, probably more professional than usual. I mean I was on my best behavior.

"Sergeant." He gave a somewhat casual reply, barely managing to put down the book he seemed engrossed in, which I would be lying if I said did not irk me. Nonetheless, I let it fly. "Can I help you?"

"I'm looking for Major General Garland, I have a meeting set for..." I looked at the clock situated above his head, reading 12:59 p.m. "Right around thirty seconds from now."

The man - barely so, couldn't have been more than nineteen - looked me up and down before contorted his face, "Look, I don't know what joke you're playing, but the General doesn't take meetings with enlisted-"

"No, no! I, er, Major McCann set this up. He owed me a favor." I tried my best to give off a earnest smile. Earnestness and I only had a passing familiarity, but I was a natural born faker, so I went with it.

Private Whipping Boy began flipping through his clipboard while periodically eyeing me. "Major McCann, you said?"

"That I did."

He frowned and gave a short shrug, "Alright I'll tell him." He removed himself from behind the desk and walked over to the lone man sitting in the cafe who was drinking coffee and reading.

The enlisted man clicked his heels to the reply of an older mustached man with white hair in olive drab lazily look up at him with a rather strained smile. "Yes, Walden? Do we have something else planned for this afternoon?"

"Yes, sir. We have a sergeant here for the meeting Major McCann setup." He used a much softer tone with the General than with me. Kissass.

"Fine." He took in a deep sigh, "Fine, fine. send him in." The General sent off his subordinate, and Pvt. Walden walked back to his post and waved me in.

The cafe itself was a quaint little affair. It had a counter that seemingly doubled as a bar, a lovely little atmosphere, pastel mauve walls, and seating room for about twenty. That being said, only one somewhat irked looking general mumbling about how this was supposed to be his weekend off and one bored server were actually occupying the space.

I marched to over to the General's table and stood at crisp attention with a rigid salute occupying my right arm. Perhaps I came off as too eager, because Major General Douglas Garland seemed to assess me with some disdain.

After ten uninterrupted seconds of silent assessment, Garland finally said, "At ease. Sit down."

"Thank you, sir." I sat down quickly and began to pull a chart from my bag.

"So," The General leaned back in his chair and took a long sip of his drink, "Just what is it you're here for?" I mean, that's what he said, but his general - forgive the pun - disposition said something more along the lines of, Dear fuck, why are you bothering me?

"Sir," I placed the chart from my bag in front of him. It was made in exquisite detail, if I do say so myself. It was a planned offensive that contained every scrap of information from any officer, official dispatch, and prisoner I'd been able to get my hands on. I had to revise it roughly thirty times, and made a new chart for each time. It was something of a masterpiece, if I do say so myself. And I do, naturally. It was where all my free time and most of my pay had gone for the last few months. It was perfect, and it would work. "How'd you like to end the war by Christmas?"

At first Garland's only reaction was cocking his eyebrow. His mouth slowly began contorting as he began to suppress a laugh, his eyes furtively glancing between the chart I'd so confidently offered up and me. Finally the entire composure of his face collapsed and a man at least thirty years my senior broke down laughing like a giddy school child.

I'd like to say I took this well, but thankfully my superior was too busy laughing to see my lip curl in silent indignation. Asshole. I thought, still in said silent indignation. Read the damn chart!

"Ho… Hee… Wow. I'm sorry, but generals don't take strategic advice from NCO's. Quite some spunk you got there, though." Funny, I didn't realize patronizing was a course at West Point.

I did my best to contain myself and force a composed smile. "I realize that is normally the case, but if you read the map I think you'll find much of this very useful to you-"

"Stop." Most of the amusement had drained from the General's face as he raised his open right hand. "Now I took this meeting as a courtesy to Major McCann, and I've humored you long enough." Something of a shadow fell over his face, "You're excused, soldier." With that he looked down and resumed reading whatever book he had in his hands. To him, I probably ceased to exist as soon as he looked away.

"S-Sir." I weakly managed. "If you'll just look at the plans I think you'll find them quite capable of creating a breakthr-"

"Sergeant!" He spoke coldly and without compassion. "You are excused. Stop insulting me with your presence."

"H-honestly, General," I couldn't believe everything was falling apart so quickly. "Look at the state of things, you need a damn good plan to break through and this is it!"

"I said that you were excused, trooper!" He voice boomed as he shouted, thrusting his finger toward the door. The server seemingly took cover behind the bar counter. "I'm not interested in your color commentary on my war!" On the last sentence the General stood to his feet. I couldn't tell before just how tall he was when he was sitting down, but now I could tell he cleared six feet and then some. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little intimidated, but at this point I was fighting for my birthright. Who was this sanctimonious general to piss on that?

"Well 'your war' isn't exactly going stellar, General! You could use some competence in this building for a change!" I could have sworn I saw a line somewhere back a ways.

I was just trying to get his attention. Maybe it was impressive that I managed to get his condemnation in the process.

Garland was positively fuming at this point ."Why, I never have seen such insubordinate, petty, and all together childish behavior! Get out, or you'll be-" I should have let it stop there. I really don't know why I didn't let it stop there.

"You know you don't have to be angry that my plan is more inspired than anything you've thought of in your entire career, you just have to have the balls to see you're not cut out for the job, and recognize competence when you see it!" Remember when we were talking about a line of sorts earlier?

The room went dead silent as what was just said hung in the air. A small eternity passed before anyone opened their mouth again.

"I will see you stripped of rank, sergeant. What is your… PRIVATE WALDEN! What is this man's name?!" Garland stared down the private, who had been watching from the sideline until now, as Walden began tearing through the papers on his clipboard trying to figure it out.

As it became increasingly abundant that Private Walden had no fucking clue, he turned to me. "What. Is. Your. Name?!"

Perfect. All I had to do was lie. Tommy Atkins, sir! That's all I needed to say. Then I could just walk out. Not like there was an over abundance of military personnel to stop me. Hell, Major McCann might have even backed me up. I could leave, climb in my trench, tear up the chart and forget all about everything. I didn't have to risk a discharge, I didn't have to risk this guy knowing my family, I could just… go. Pride be damned.

"Edward Griffith." My face seemingly contorted itself into a defiant scowl all on it's own.

Rage gave way to confusion on the Garland's face as he looked at me confused, though completely lacking in bemusement. Huh. So he did know Dear Old Dad. Shit. "I haven't heard that na-… Are you his…"

"The Colonel's my father." I continued to stare him dead in the eye. The Rubicon was miles back, now. There was nothing to do.

Curiously, his onslaught didn't focus on me, but instead was fired full force at the third military man in the room.

"Private Walden, just what the hell are you thinking?!" Garland marched over to Walden's position and struck fear into the young man's eyes. "Not only did you let through a meeting with a waste of space sergeant," hurtful, but I understand his position, "But apparently you're brain-dead enough to put me in a room with a FUCKING GRIFFITH?!"

For the sake of the young Private, I really wished it'd stopped there, but the Red-tab son of a bitch was really pushing for it.

"You just let in the son of the biggest shit-stain of a former Army officer in history after Benedict-fucking-Arnold! The biggest waste of taxpayer resources since that God-damn ice box Seward calls Alaska just had his disgusting spawn walk in, and you did nothing!" What followed Garland's onslaught was a most curious sight, and one that if I hadn't seen, I'd likely have walked over and started to beat the ever loving shit out of Garland. So, you know, silver linings.

It's just that, after Garland's ranting, Private Walden didn't appear, how should I say, intimidated by his superior officer. He looked, I don't know, hurt, almost. Like a wounded puppy really. I guess it's hard to explain. He didn't look like he was being berated, he looked like he was being slapped.

After a period of silence, something equally peculiar happened. Garland seemingly calmed down enough to manage, "It's just… You can't… There's a way you have to… Don't look at me like… Ok, I'm sorry. Just be more… attentive next time." He then proceeded to pat the enlisted man on the shoulder. Wait, no. Not the shoulder. It was lower, closer to the elbow.

Now I have to say, on that day, more than three years in the army, I think that was the first time I'd ever seen an officer apologize to an enlisted man. It was certainly the first time I'd seen an officer give affection to an enlisted man, especially one so far below his station.

Could he have been… No… Could they be… I mean…

"And YOU!" The good General's shouting managed to snap me out of my slack jawed stupor over a hunch as his finger found itself jammed in my explicit direction. "You'll find your discharge papers when you get back to the front!"

"Yes, sir." I calmly replied somewhat in a daze, much to Garland's and Walden's surprise. I began to walk out of the inn. I heard some less-than-discrete whispering upon my departure, but it ceased is they presumably went back to the their positions.

I sat for hours in something of a limbo-like state on a bench on the far opposite of the hotel. I sat and I thought on what I just witnessed and what I wanted to do about it. Did I have a problem of what I suspected? Not really. It wasn't much different from the classical heroes of old, I guess. Not really all that different from what some of the guys at college did. But that wasn't really the question, was it?

The question was whether or not a Court Martial have a problem with it. Whether or not I was willing to threaten that was the question. And I really didn't know. That was a big one. Courts Martial were stange affairs, anything could happen, maybe nothing, maybe a hanging. Not to mention just the accusation alone was enough to sink careers and lives. Was I willing to threaten to do that to someone just for military honor? Right then, I didn't know, I just knew that I needed proof.

I watched from afar as all the business of the day passed as normal until around four, when General Garland and Walden made their way out of the building. I took that as my signal to move back in.

I walked back in the doors and sought out the still visibly shaken server. "Hi, uh, hello, do you speak English?"

The server nodded wearily and with apparent reservation. Jeez, you'd think he'd never seen a shouting match between two professional soldiers before.

"I'd like to leave an apology letter for the General," I gave off my most convincing fake smile, "I realize I overstepped my bounds and I wanted to leave him something. What room is he in?"

The server eyed me for what felt like a long time. Finally he cocked his eyebrow and opened his mouth like he was about to tell me off, but instead he told me through a thick French accent, "Room 12b."

I nodded to him, "Thank you, I'll deliver it later." I proceeded to make a bee-line out of there. He looked like he wanted to stop me, and honestly, I kind of wished he did.

After leaving the hotel I walked the same snowy Parisian streets that I came in on. I passed the same landmarks, the squares, the arches, the statues, until I came to the Eiffel Tower. It's quite the sight, you know. I mean, obviously, yes, but it doesn't really strike you how large it is until you stand right in front of it. It's a grand, proud structure. It's breathtaking.

Flash!

Apparently I wasn't the only one to think so. Lo and behold when I looked to my right to I saw a young man in a scarf with one of those new handheld cameras. Then a thought occurred.

Don't do it.

Please god don't do it.

I stepped up beside the amateur photographer and before he had a chance to say anything I shot out, "I'll give you forty dollars if you go to room 12b at the Hôtel de Joie and photograph everything you see." There was a moment of silence in the air. He just kind of looked at me, dumbfounded. He began to open his mouth, but I knew that if he said anything to me it would persuade me not to go through with it, so I preemptively cut him off, "And I'll throw in another twenty if you go right now, and don't say anything to anyone about this, including me right now. Payment on delivery, here, tomorrow, same time as now. You'll know what it is I'm looking for." Thank God for back-pay.

Without another word he was gone.

I'd like to say I was nervous that entire night after I payed some poor Frenchman to do my dirty work. That I was tossing and turning, or jittery. Maybe even that I threw up my breakfast or lunch and couldn't eat anything else. At least that I was shaking at the knees at the rendezvous, or that I was incredibly early or perhaps late. Something, anything to show a modicum of guilt.

The reality was less flattering. I slept more serenely than I had in the last three trench cycles. When I woke up I experienced something of an eerie calm. That feeling pervading my morning well into my hearty breakfast that seemingly had no qualms about staying in my stomach. I walked to the meeting point over the snowy roads in a steady fashion, though a evening rain picked up and turned the snow mushy, and persisted throughout the day. And at the rendezvous? I was neither late nor early. I was right on time. And calm, too. The die was already cast. There was nothing to be nervous about.

A couple minutes after I arrived an out of breath Frenchman appeared to my right, handing over an envelope.

"There's only one, monsieur." He managed between pants, "The flash gave me away, but it's a good one."

I opened the envelope and peeked at the photo, "Oh my. That is just-"

"What you wanted?" The man suggested hopefully.

"Graphic." I made short work of closing up the envelope before sending three twenty dollar bills to the once and future contractor. He nodded in thanks, then took off before I could potentially change my mind. Smart guy, not that it was necessary. I was committed by now.

With that sorted I slowly made my way to the Hôtel de Joie one final time.

It was getting dark by the time I got there. The bottom floor was lit up with light and sound. I appeared as though everyone was having a good time. Well, we couldn't have that, could we?

I weaseled my way in past the drunks and the patrons, their number having far exceeded their seating capacity, to see one Major General Garland smack dab in the center of the room. He was sitting at a table chalk full of senior officers, from single star generals down. It was quite the sight. Or perhaps I should say I was quite the sight. Afterall, General Garland did seem to have a keen eye, because he'd already seen me, and without even opening my mouth his was already seething.

I made my way up to his table to the call of, "What the hell are you still doing here, Griffith?" There was a certain venom to his voice that would have bothered me at any other point in my life.

The venom, though, was apparently less of a concern than the name to the other senior officers at the table. All of them looked to each other and back to me, shooting sidelong glances between themselves and I, all the while whispering hostile variations upon, "Griffith?!" Hell, looked like pop's famous. I guess I was on a mission after the whole officer corps.

"General Garland." I spoke up, clearly to everyone at the table. "I'd like to talk about Private Walden."

Garland was clearly irked, but I don't think he quite got my message. "What about him? And what the hell are you still doing in a soldier's uniform?!" If it was possible for everyone at a table to cock an eyebrow at once, I swear it happened there.

"Allow me to rephrase, General." I slipped the photograph out of the envelope and openly presented it. Doubtless some of the officers at the table got a look, but at this point I didn't care. "I'd like to talk about Private Walden."

I slipped the photo back into the envelope as Garland sat silent for a solid minute before anyone at the table spoke up. To my surprise, it was a colonel to my left who stood up and placed his hands behind his back before haughtily telling me off, "I don't know who you think you are, but I can assure-"

"Get out." A low rumble came from the man with two stars on his hat.

Everyone at the table went dead quiet as they all looked to him, the noise of the room still pounding all around. "Sir," The Colonel from before spoke up, "Perhaps we can-"

"I said get out!" The whole room went silent as Garland started to scream at the top of his lungs, "GET OUT! GET OUT, GET OUT, GET OUT! ALL OF YOU GET OUT NOW!" The room obliged the General, much to the chagrin of the proprietor, who shot me a dirty look before disappearing into a back room. The place was completely empty within thirty seconds.

"What do you want?" The voice of a defeated man came from the husk that sat before me.

"General Garland," I said, finally breaking into a smile, "I just want you to look over my chart."

The good General spent no less than two agonizing hours pouring over the map in complete silence. I don't know whether or not he was trying to wait me out, but I'd be damned if I was going to break first.

Garland finally looked up from the map to stare at me for a period, which I met with a steady, calm, and all together aggressively polite smile. His lip curled before he finally broke. "What's your projected casualty estimate on this…" His hand circled in the air as he looked for the right word, "Offensive."

I looked at him without blinking, "Twenty thousand. About half wounded, half dead."

His eyes went wide. "Twenty thousand men." He looked over the map one more time, "Is the slow frontal assault really that critical? Do we have to commit that many divisions to it?"

"We want them to think that our entire force is dedicated to the assault." I calmly stated as plainly as though I was explaining a recipe or bit of arithmetic. "That way they won't expect a flanking force coming from the cover of this bit of wood, to be running along through their own trench, causing chaos." I gave a brief pause, "A flanking force which I expect to be assigned to, to be clear."

He cocked his eyebrow at that, but didn't reply to directly. Reading the map once again he piped up, "And the shelling for the forerunning six days will be focused six miles to the north?" I nodded in reply, "Won't that mean virtually none of the barbed wire in no man's land will be destroyed?"

"Wire cutters will be sent out the night before, but the main focus is to draw manpower up the trench line. The main assault is going to be held up in front of their machine gun nests, and there's going to be a lot of casualties, but there are going to be less of those nests, so that's something." I took to leaning back in my chair with look of self congratulation plastered over my face. "With any luck, this will provide a point weak enough for 'the breakthrough' allied command has been talking about for years so we can march straight on to Berlin." I clapped my hands once. "Boom. Done. War over by Christmas."

Garland thought on this a long time. I didn't rush him. These were unusual circumstances. You know, blackmail and meeting in the dead of night and all.

"And all you want from me," His eyes leveled with mine with the man's brow furrowed, looking on me with disbelief and shock, "Is to recall your discharge papers, submit this to high command, get approval, and send you on your merry way?"

I tried to suppress a chortle to little avail. "No. No, no no. That's all I wanted yesterday, General." I began taking out a cigarette lighting it, "And, seeing how's that would be a day late and a dollar short, you have your work cut out for you. Cigarette?" I offered with more sardonic politeness.

A deep scowl betrayed the General's response.

"Now today, I have some additional requests. Now first," I began my list, "You'll leak out in casual conversation with whatever officers you see fit that I brought you the base of this plan, and we hammered out the details together. Second, yes, see to it that you that you submit and gain approval for this plan via whatever wiley means you have at your disposal. I trust that won't be an issue, from what I'm told you hold Pershing's ear. A third," I couldn't help but but look down as a smile invaded my face. I managed to look back up after a moment to that beaten bulldog sitting opposite. "Thirdly, you will personally sponsor my receiving a battlefield commission to the rank of captain. Oh, and fourth, upgrade the discharge of one Colonel Edward Griffith I to honorable, from dishonorable. Should be simple enough for a man of your caliber."

There was a long pause as I sat, grinning like a bastard, and Garland sat dumbfounded opposite me. It was, probably, the best moment of my life.

Garland managed to recompose himself. "Oh! Is that all I can do for you? Are you sure you wouldn't like a foot rub? Or perhaps a sit down with President Wilson while you're at it?" It was good to know he could do sardonic too. "Just how the hell am I supposed to justify any of that?!"

I thought for a moment, "Let's see. Upgrading the discharge in down to your, I presume robust, influence. Taking a meeting with an NCO is unusual, but your prerogative, so you won't really have to 'justify' discussing anything with me. Submitting plans is kind of your job, so that's covered. The third is supported both by your dissemination of knowledge regarding my strategic prowess and my soon to be show of battlefield bravery." I shook my head, "I'm not making myself risk free in all of this. This plan puts me at the front. Plus, think about it this way; if I die, the photograph goes away. Even if my body's recovered, people will probably think I'm just some weirdo into sodomite pornography." I put my hands up, "No offence."

The General thought about this for a moment, a long moment, then leaned back in his chair, and gave a response I really wasn't prepared for. "No dice." He proclaimed.

"Excuse me, General?" A nervous grin replaced my self-assured one that occupied my face not thirty seconds prior.

"No. Dice." He restated. "It's a good try, don't get me wrong, but I doubt very much that anybody is going to put much stock into the…" He spread out his hands, "Accusations of an enlisted man. Plus," His hand went to his shoulder strap to point to his insignia, "I'm a major general, lad. You think a little photograph is going to take down me? I'd like to see you try."

I'd be far more pleased to report this story as though I had a come back ready off the cuff, but the truth was I was rather taken aback. I thought I won. I had evidence. I had him on the ropes. This was something of a catastrophic misstep. I was stunned in silence.

Garland let a small smile through as he began to stand up, "Good try, ya cocky prick. You almost had me. You'd have made your father proud."

Bastard never learns.

"Humor me, General." The man stopped in his tracks and shot me dirty look. I did my best to give off a vibe of pure confidence. "You've been doing it for hours, what's a couple more minutes."

He grunted, but complied as he sat in his seat, ready for one more bout.

"Let's say I do release this here photograph to the higher ups." I made a furthering motion with my right hand, "Your rank isn't going to stop a Court Martial." I looked him in the eye, "Sodomy is strictly against military code, as are relationships with other personnel. This photo graphically suggests both of those things."

Garland shook his head vigorously, "No Court Martial is going to convict me on that blurry mess."

"I disagree. I think the photo is quite crisp, and that military tribunals tend to be more trigger happy on sodomites than you might think." I put my hands up and leaned back, "But still, let's assume you're right. No conviction would be possible. Fine." I proceeded to slowly lean in, "You and I both know that a conviction isn't necessary to turn your name into poison. Even if this doesn't end your career on paper, you can kiss goodbye to any and all rapport you had with anyone wearing a uniform. I really couldn't give a damn what you do with whatever private you want, but it's my understanding that the majority of the AEF isn't so understanding. But I'm sorry, you were leaving, right?"

Garland cursed under his breath before returning one final volley. "I've worked with these…" He was getting choked up. "I've worked with these men for decades." He said, more to himself then to me. "They wouldn't abandon me now. Not over a rumor." He seemed to steel himself, "Not over a rumor. Not men I've fought with for decades."

Now is the time to grow a conscience. I thought to myself, Last chance. Leave. Just go.

But it's like I said. The die was cast.

My voice got a lot softer, and a bit lower as I spoke this time, "How many decades has Private Walden fought with these men, General?"

His face looked at me with a level of hurt and pure concern that I thought was out of his reach. He looked to me without anger of self-concern, but instead looked like what I can only assume a husband looks like when someone threatens to shoot his wife. I think there was some self hatred that he didn't think of this sooner. I think he actually really cared for Private Walden. I think he was more frightened then than at any other point in his life.

I think I'm a special kind of monster.

I kept my tone soft and low, making him listen and hang on every word. "Leaking this photo might not destroy you, or your career, but Private Walden can forget about it. And, well," A bit of contained panic flashed into Garland's eye. "Enlisted men do terrible things to men they think don't take a biblical position on sex." I held the photo in front of him for emphasis. Emphasis I far and away didn't need. "If I release this photo, and Walden doesn't make it through the war, it won't be because of a mortar, or a sniper, or razor wire, or gangrene. It will be because misguided, uninformed men killed him very slowly and very painfully, all the while thinking it God's work."

You've never seen a man so broken and despondent. I guarantee it.

"Just take the damn plans to Allied HQ, Garland." I commanded, both vindicated and sickened with myself.

"Yes." Was all he could manage.

I made my way to the door, fully intent on leaving and throwing up in some back alley or inn room. But I stopped, less by choice than my brain making the move for me.

"Oh, and if you ever even think about getting clever with the name 'Griffith' again, I'll release that faster than you can blink."

I made my way back to the trenches after that.