This Fan Fiction is dedicated to the brave men - living and dead - of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, whose sacrifices in World War II made our enjoyment of freedom possible. Nothing in this work is intended to dishonor their memory.
Bastogne, Belgium - December 27, 1944
Easy Company stood in a circle beneath some snow-laden pines. A bitter wind caused them to huddle closer than they would have normally. Some were smoking, other were slapping their bodies to keep warm.
They were waiting for the Battalion Executive Officer (XO) Captain (CPT) Richard Winters to “give them the word” on how they should handle questions about the visitors from the future. More than a few of them were very familiar with the routine.
Corporal Liebgott spoke up, “Captain, why the hell are the old hands signing these forms? We’ve already promised to keep our yaps shut.”
“OK,” Winters began, “Some of you already signed these forms in Normandy about these same individuals.” He paused for effect, “It doesn’t matter. You have to sign these as well.”
“Friggin paper pushers,” Sergeant Guarnere said with some heat.
A wry smile flitted across Winters’ face, “I couldn’t agree more, Bill…but orders are orders.”
First Sergeant (1SGT) Carwood Lipton stepped forward, “I’ll get ‘em all signed, Sir.”
He took the sheaf of papers from CPT Winter’s hand, turned to face the men and began to hand them out. “It’s a simple process, boys. Let’s get it done so we can get back on the line. You don’t want Fox Company leaving you a present in your foxhole.”
“Babe” Heffron almost shouted, “Those bastards!”
Laughter rippled through the assembled company. Even Winters and Lipton joined in.
When the merriment subsided, Lipton resumed handing the paperwork out, “This is a standard non-disclosure statement, boys. Open your mouth and it’s 25 years minimum in Leavenworth.”
Several men pushed forward, eager to get things over. The crowding made him think of his mother at a Macy’s sale. Lipton smiled, “One to a customer, boys.”
Apartment 5-I - 18 December 3004, 2200 (10 p.m.)
Leela stood for a moment in the doorway to Sally’s room. Silently, she watched as Sally slept, hugging her Q.T. McWhiskers doll close to her chest. A smile crossed Leela’s face as she thought, “I’m glad that her nightmares have finally ceased. She looks so peaceful, so serene as she sleeps.”
Leela stepped back, turned slightly and activated the door. It slid shut noiselessly. Once it was shut, Leela breathed a silent prayer, “Please let Sally sleep through the night.”
Fry was watching a Blernsball game from the West Coast. Leela slid silently onto the couch next to him. She placed her hand on his shoulder, “Fry, do you think Sally will sleep through the night?”
Although he was surprised by the question, he had been thinking about it quite a bit. As a result, he didn’t stumble over his words, “Leela, I think she will. She’s a kid…and kids can bounce back from almost anything.”
Leela nodded, “I agree, but it was pretty awful seeing J.B. get shot and die in front of her eyes.”
“That’s true.” He paused before continuing, “I know this sounds weird, but at least she was able to make sure that Zapp will never kill anyone else.”
“I’m not sure Sally thought of that, Fry.”
“Maybe not, but I’ll bet she will when she gets older.”
“Do you think Sally spending the night on weekends with Flora has helped?”
“Hmmm,” Fry considered for a moment, “Yeah, I think so. She has really gotten close to Flora over the past few months. It certainly has given Flora something to look forward to.”
“I believe you are right.” She smiled, “My, my…you have gotten so wise since I married you.” Her smile broadened and a twinkle entered her eye, “You haven’t been eating bathroom egg salad sandwiches on the sly, have you?”
Fry shook his head while adopting a tone of mock injury, “No. No. I think it’s all the loving I’ve been getting.” He grinned and tapped his forehead with his right index finger, “It clears the mind.”
Leela laughed, “You dog!” Then she gently wrapped her arms around him and kissed him affectionately on the cheek, “You always make it seem like I’m the best thing in your life.”
“That’s because you are!”
They sat silently for a moment before Leela spoke, “Fry, did you dig out our uniforms from Normandy?”
He nodded, “Yes, Leela. I have them in the closet by the front door…just like you asked.”
“Good.” She replied, “The Professor promised us a thousand dollars each if he could run some tests on them.”
“That’s a lot of money.”
Leela suddenly felt vaguely uneasy, “Do we even know why he’s so hot to test these uniforms?”
“No. But who cares?”
“I don’t know Fry. He may be your nephew, but his crazy experiments almost always have bad repercussions for you and me.”
“True that.” Fry sighed, “Well, I’m ready for bed.” He gave Leela his best grin, “How about you?”
Leela leaned forward and took Fry’s earlobe gently between her teeth. She breathed huskily, “I thought you’d never ask.”
Archon 4 - 19 December 3004, 1200 Hours (noon)
The delivery of electrical receptacle protectors to the Imperial Palace on Archon 4 had gone pretty well, right up to the time Bender had tried to steal one of the crown jewels. Then all hell had broken loose. The Archonians took violent exception to thieves, especially those from off-world.
Fry and Bender sprinted back to the Planet Express Ship, multi-colored laser blasts sizzling past their heads. Leela saw the light show dancing around her two companions running for their lives and prepared to lift off. Using thrusters, she brought the ship to a hover while leaving the cargo lift down.
Several laser blasts struck the ship, leaving scorch marks on the hull. Bender dove onto the platform, followed a microsecond later by Fry. They had barely slid to a halt on the deck plating when Leela stomped her big boot down on the accelerator.
The ship cleared the atmosphere in near record time. Leela’s voice boomed over the intercom, “Man your turret, Fry. Bender, lay forward and load both torpedo tubes. We are in deep dog doo. The Archonians are launching fighters in pursuit. When we get out of this somebody owes me an explanation. Now move, move!”
Fry scrambled for the turret, slipping and sliding as Leela threw the ship around in violent evasive maneuvers to dodge fire from the planetary defense grid. The drain on the engines was so great that the gravity plating wasn’t quite up to snuff. He finally buckled in to his turret and hit the intercom, “I’m in the turret Leela.”
“Keep your eyes peeled for fighters,” Leela replied. “When we clear the system we’ll lose them.”
Fry smiled in spite of his tension. He twisted around, scanning for fighters. Sure enough, he saw two breaking out of the atmosphere. They had both obviously seen the ship and were boring in to attack. He powered up the gun, setting it for rapid fire. That would shorten the range, but allow him to fire multiple shots in succession.
“The torpedo tubes are loaded Big Boots,” Bender’s voice came over the intercom. “What now?”
“Head for the engine room, we may need to pile on the dark matter.”
“Yeah, yeah…I’ze on my way Miss Leela.”
“Cram a squirrel in it, Bender.”
Although Fry heard the exchange, it didn’t distract him from the approaching fighters. They opened up at extreme range…and missed by a mile. Fry smiled, “Looks like amateur night.”
Waiting patiently for the pair of fighters to close the range, Fry kept his sights on the trailing fighter. The fighters fired again. This time, one shot hit the upper stabilizer causing minor damage.
“What are you waiting for skin sack, an invitation?”
Fry was startled. He looked down and saw Bender at the base of the turret ladder. “What the hell are you doing there? Leela told you to go to the engine room.”
“I got lonely.”
The ship rocked from two hits from the fighters. That got Fry’s attention. He drew a bead, opened fire and disintegrated the trail fighter. The survivor pulled a tight turn away and hit his afterburners. Fry nailed him right up the spout, knocking out his engine.
“Good shooting Fry!” The pride in Leela’s voice was evident. “We’ll be out of the system in a few minutes.”
Several moments later, Fry could feel the ship shift to FTL.
“All clear, Fry.” Leela’s voice came over the intercom, “Come on down. Would you find Bender and bring him with you?”
Fry slid down the ladder, “Come on Bender. Let’s go face the music.”
“Screw that.” Bender shook his head, “I’m going to my cabin.”
“Come on Bender. You don’t want Leela to have to come to your cabin.”
“Crap!” Bender threw his hands up, “But I’m not taking all the blame.”
“Whatever.” Fry headed toward the bridge, “Come on.”
Bender got a pretty standard butt chewing from Leela. He tried his standard dodges…admit nothing, deny everything and make counter accusations. They didn’t work.
Bender was still in the dog house when the ship settled into the hanger. He was the first down the ladder and left the building with a, “See you losers later!”
Fry took the delivery paperwork to Hermes while Leela performed shut down checks. Hermes looked up when Fry came in, “Hey mon! Da’ Professor’s been askin’ about those clothes he wanted to run checks on.”
“Oh right,” Fry slapped his forehead, “I left them in my locker. I’ll go get them.”
“He’s in da’ underground lab.”
Fry went and got the uniforms. The extra money would come in handy for Xmas. No stink lizards or parrots this year!
Leela joined him as he was emerging from the locker room. “Fry, are you about ready to go home? Varney and Taz are waiting for us. We all head for Charleston tomorrow for Xmas.”
“Just as soon as we deliver these uniforms to the Professor,” Fry laughed. “I always seem to be delivering something.
She put her arm through his, “You certainly deliver as a father and a husband.”
Fry blushed, “Thanks. You are the best.”
Arm in arm, they went down the hallway to the lab.
Bastogne, Belgium – December 19, 1944, 1200 Hours (Noon)
Thick fog drifted through the eaves of the dense forest into which a file of olive-drab clad paratroopers of Easy Company were moving, their shoulders hunched against the cold, damp air. Captain Lewis Nixon, Captain (CPT) Dick Winters and Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Strayer, the commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion were clustered around a map spread out on the hood of a jeep parked at the edge of the trees.
Winters watched the men as they passed. Even though he had moved up to be the Battalion Executive Officer (XO), he still felt closer to the soldiers of Easy Company than the rest of the battalion. After all, he had commanded them from D-Day through the fighting in Holland.
LTC Strayer cleared his throat, “Dick, I want you to run the Forward Command Post. Pick your own location.” He looked Winters in the eyes, “I have absolute confidence in your abilities.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“I’ll occupy the rear command post. I have to be able to talk to Regiment.” Strayer paused and rubbed the stubble on his chin, “The hell of it is, we don’t have enough damned telephone wire to reach our forward positions. You’ll have to use runners. I’ll set up as far forward as I can.”
“I understand, sir.”
“CPT Nixon,” Strayer nodded, “give us an intelligence update.”
“Yes sir.” He pointed at the map, “We are here, just off the Bastogne – Noville Road. Ahead of us,” he pointed to the forest, “is a portion of the Bois Jaques which we are to occupy. 3rd Battalion is holding the ground on our left north of the Bastogne – Foy Road. To the immediate front of our position is the town of Foy. The 1st Battalion is occupying it. North of Foy is Noville, which is held by a team of armor and infantry from the 10th Armored Division.”
“Any sign of Krauts yet?” Winters asked?
“Not yet, but survivors from the 106th and 28th Divisions drifting through our lines say there is a crap load of armor and infantry headed our way.”
Strayer looked dubious, “Do you believe them?”
Nixon shrugged, “I don’t know for sure, sir. But I wouldn’t take any chances.”
“At any rate, sir we have the 501st on our right flank and our Sky Train friends from the 502nd to our left. With the rest of the Division here plus the Combat Command from the 10th Armored and whatever else we can scrape up, hell…we’ll be okay.”
Strayer nodded, “Dick, how do you plan to deploy the battalion?”
Winters straightened up, “We will occupy the battalion line from left to right with Easy on the left Fox on the right and Dog in reserve. Easy will tie in with the 1st Battalion and Fox will link up with the 501st on our right at the railway line to our south. We just don’t have enough men to hold the line but we have got to have a reserve.”
“I guess we’ll just have to accept the risk.” Strayer stood up, “I’ll be back once I see how far the friggin’ wire will stretch.”
Strayer climbed into the jeep, “What a way to fight a war.” He cranked up the engine and drove off without a further word.
Winters turned to Nixon, “Well, Nix…let’s go get the troops settled in.”
Nixon nodded and they walked into the forest side-by-side.
Planet Express Building, Underground Lab – December 19, 3004, 1700 Hours (5 p.m.)
Leela and Fry stepped into the elevator for the ride down to the underground lab, carrying their paratrooper uniforms. Bender should have been with them, but he had gone off in a snit.
“Bender is such a baby lately,” Leela said quietly as the doors slid shut with a sibilant hiss.
Fry shrugged, “He’s been kind of one edge since Rebecca stopped seeing him.”
“That’s no excuse.”
“Maybe not,” Fry said slowly, “but I know I’d be pretty hard to live with if you stopped seeing me.”
“I wouldn’t even if I could,” she smiled broadly, “we’re married. Remember?”
Fry grinned and nodded as the elevator bumped to a halt. The door opened to reveal the underground lab. The cloning tank was in it’s usual spot and the magma pit was still giving off an incredible amount of heat. Off to the left of the cloning tank was a new apparatus. Fry blinked in recognition…it looked like a set of transporter pads from Star Trek.
Behind the control station stood the Professor in his usual lab coat, trousers and fuzzy blue slippers. He was busily screwing a panel shut and muttering to himself. Fry and Leela heard the end of his monologue, “…and that should do it. Now for the test subjects.”
“Test subjects?” Leela’s eye narrowed, “Is this another of those near death experiences you pass off as an experiment?”
“Uh…why no!” The Professor sputtered, “I’m sure my Chronoton Alignment Device will work…I mean is working fine.”
“I don’t know…” Fry rubbed his chin, “Do you have the money?”
“Why yes.” The Professor slapped two bundles of cash onto the top of the control console, “A thousand dollars for each of you. All you have to do is allow me to get some measurements and calibrate the machine.”
“Okay.” Fry held up his uniform, “Do you want me to put this on one of the pads?”
Fry carried the uniform up onto the platform before depositing it on one of the pads. He noticed that one of the pads held what looked like a small airplane. “Hey Professor! What is this thing?”
“Oh, it’s just a temporal probe.”
“It’s a data collecting machine that I can send back in time.”
The Professor turned to Leela, “Put your uniform on the platform, too. I haven’t got all day.”
Leela complied without comment. As she left the platform she walked over and picked up the two bundles of cash, “Come on Fry. Let’s go.”
“Not yet.” The Professor waved his hand, “I still need to take some readings.”
“How’s that?” Fry looked puzzled.
The Professor ignored the question, concentrating on operating the console. After a few moments, he looked up at Fry, “Now you and Leela go stand on the pads.”
“Whoa!” Leela held out her hand, “I want an explanation before we go another step. What exactly is going to happen when Fry and I get on that platform?”
“I told you,” the Professor sounded irritated. “I’m calibrating the machine.”
“I got that Professor, but what does the machine do?”
“I should have thought that was obvious.” The Professor adopted his best professorial tone, “As you probably know, Chronotons are quantum particles which exist in three spatial dimensions and move along a single temporal axis. They permeate all matter in existence…dark matter…regular matter and anti-matter. Well, if you could adjust the spatial alignment and temporal movement of the particles within a given piece of matter, in theory you could temporarily travel anywhere in time.”
“Temporarily?” Leela found herself interested.
“Yes, yes…it’s all a matter of quantum mechanics.” His tone became dismissive, “Chronotons naturally move in one temporal direction. Any reversal would be temporary. It would be like diving under water. Eventually, you would bob to the surface.”
Fry scratched his head, “So why do you need us?”
“To get your baseline readings.” The Professor sounded a bit annoyed, “But for now I need you to stop pestering me with stupid questions. Just get on the damned pads or give me my money back.” He grumbled, “It’s easier to work with lab rats…they don’t ask inane questions.”
Fry look at Leela, who shrugged fatalistically before taking her place on the pad. Fry followed suit.
After what seemed an eternity, the Professor looked up, “I need you and Leela to put on those body suits.” He waved at a pair of dark garments hanging from pegs on the wall. “Then put on your uniforms and stand on the pads.”
Both Fry and Leela stripped to their underwear, hung their clothes on the pegs and donned the body suits. “Uh…Professor…These suits are awfully warm.” Fry commented.
“Just shut up and get on the pads. We’re almost done.”
Leela frowned, “Professor…don’t talk to Fry like that.”
In response he waved dismissively, “Oh fuff!”
Grinding her teeth together, Leela pulled on her uniform.
“The body suits allow me to discriminate between the temporal signatures of your bodies, the uniforms and the residual DNA of the original owners. As I’m sure you know, some of your Chronotons bear the quantum signature of any time period you have passed through. DNA is particularly important because it retains a quantum link with all of it’s previous states.”
Leela brow furrowed in thought, “So that means you could use the signature present in the DNA to travel back in time and space to the original DNA source?”
By now both Fry and Leela were on the pad. Several minutes later the Professor smiled, “Good news! I’ve gotten a lock on the original DNA one thousand sixty years ago. Now I can align the probe and send it back.”
Fry looked puzzled, “So how will you do that?”
The Professor smile broadened, “Like this.” Then he pressed a large red button on the console. There was a brief humming sound, a flash of light, and the probe, Fry and Leela vanished from the platform.
Bastogne, Belgium – December 19, 1944, 1700 Hours (5 p.m.)
Sergeant “Wild Bill” Guarnere stood next to a tree, relieving himself. He had just buttoned up his fly when he was dazzled by a flash of light. For a moment, he thought that a shell had exploded. The lack of noise or a blast wave confused him. What he saw next confused him even further. Emerging from the swirling fog were two figures in uniform that he never thought he would see again.
He blinked twice – hard. Then he shook his head, “I must be dreamin’.”
“No Bill, I’m afraid not,” Leela replied quietly.
“Dorothy!...Red!...What the hell are you two doin’ here?” He laughed, “I thought you guys were back in the future.” He peered past them into the fog, “Ain’t the Tin Man with you?”
“No…we kind of came here by accident,” Fry looked around. “Where and when are we?”
“It’s December 19th 1944 and you are just outside a little town called Bastogne. It’s in Belgium, I think.” Bill added quickly, “You picked a wonderful time to visit. There’s a whole lot of Krauts headed this way. Listen.”
From off in the distance came the rumbling of artillery fire and the low growl of many vehicle engines. Leela and Fry looked at each other in alarm.
Bill caught the look, “Yeah. It’s gonna get plenty hot around here.” He motioned to them, “Come on, I’ll take you back to the Battalion CP
They followed him through the darkening forest. Leela couldn’t help noticing that most of the trees were planted in straight lines, spaced at regular intervals of about six feet apart, and had little undergrowth. Besides, most of the trees were from 8 inches to 12 inched in diameter. Then she realized this was a commercial logging forest.
They arrived at the Battalion CP where CPT Winters and CPT Nixon were huddled around a map. To call the large foxhole a command post was a bit of a stretch. For a roof they had propped a tarp up with some sticks. Not that CPT Winters worried about rain or snow, but he needed to keep maps and other paperwork dry. As a desk he had dragged an ammunition crate into the foxhole where they now had the map stretched out.
Bill spoke up, “Excuse me, Captain Winters but I have a couple of visitors that need to see you.”
CPT Winters looked up. A smile flitted across his face, “Good evening. What brings you here?”
“Our employer, Professor Farnsworth was conducting a time travel experiment and…well…here we are,” Leela sounded embarrassed.
“You picked a fine time to visit,” CPT Nixon laughed. “The Krauts broke through our lines and we’re going to stop them here.”
“We’re only here for a short while,” Fry said with shrug, “we just don’t know for exactly how long.”
“Bill, thanks for bringing them in.” Winters thought for a moment, “Did anyone else see them?”
“Okay. You can let the old hands know…quietly.” He paused for a moment, “I’ll let Colonel Sink and Lieutenant Colonel Strayer know…and send me a runner. Either Moe Alley or Joe Liebgott will do.”
“Got it.” Bill turned to head back to his foxhole, “See you later Red…Dorothy.”
“See you, Bill.” Fry replied. Leela simply waved.
Nixon spoke for the first time, “Well Dick, what do you plan to do with them?”
Winters thought for a moment, “For the moment, they’ll both stay here in the CP with us. We’re shorthanded, so Red can be a runner from here to battalion. I don’t see Dorothy going anywhere much unless it’s dark. Still, we’ll need to get the word from higher headquarters.”
Fry held up his hand like a school boy, “Uh…sir?”
“Leela and I are married now…so is there anything we can do as a team?”
Winters grinned, “Well congratulations!” He shrugged, “I doubt there’s much you can do together but carry a stretcher. Still if there’s anything that comes to mind, I’ll let you know.”
Nixon picked up his M-1 carbine, “Dick, I think I’ll go back to the battalion main CP and see what accommodations we want to make for our guests. Okay?”
Without further ado, CPT Nixon stepped out of the CP and within a few steps vanished in the fog.
While Nixon was gone, Winters explained the situation for Leela and Fry.
The Germans had struck the US Eighth Corps in the Ardennes Forest three days ago, on the 16th. The Corps had fought ferociously but had been overwhelmed by the weight of the German assault. By the 17th, the 101st and lots of other units had been rushed to the Ardennes to stop the Krauts. By the morning of the 19th, the 101st had arrived in Bastogne – a strategic crossroads town without which the Kraut offensive would fail.
As soon as they arrived, Easy Company and the rest of the battalion dug in less than 50 yards to the east of the CP. While the 506th had no contact yet with the Germans, the 501st on their right flank had beaten off several attacks by German armor and infantry. Unfortunately, the entire division field hospital had been captured in a surprise attack. If the Division wasn’t cut off from the rest of the allied armies, it would be soon.
Because of their hasty departure from France, the Division was short of ammunition, warm clothing and medical supplies. Winters smiled, “But we’re paratroopers. We expect to fight behind enemy lines and surrounded.”
As Winters was wrapping up, CPT Nixon returned. He smiled, “Colonel Sink was at the battalion main CP talking to Strayer when I got there. He was…surprised…about our guests.” Nixon rubbed his neck, “Since there is no way out of here, he said that the why and the wherefore are at your discretion Dick. But he did add to keep exposure for Dorothy to a minimum.”
“Okay.” Winters nodded, “It’s going to get cold tonight. Nix, see if we can round up some blankets or a couple of overcoats to keep everyone warm.”
Winters looked first at Fry, then at Leela, “You two should settle in for the night. I’m going up to check the lines.”
One thousand and sixty years in the future, the Professor stood in his underground lab watching everything transpire. He was elated that the probe was working perfectly. Still…it was time for bed. He checked the video recording machine to make certain it had plenty of tape. Satisfied that it did, the Professor shuffled off to the elevator on his way to bed.
Bastogne, Belgium – December 20, 1944, 0800 Hours (8 a.m.)
The fog had persisted all night and into the morning. The temperature had dropped by at least ten degrees. Nixon was dozing in a hole Fry had helped him dig big enough that four people could take shelter in artillery or mortar fire. Once it became dark, Nixon had stretched a tarp over the top of the hole and crawled in.
Leela and Fry shared the hole with him. Thanks to a borrowed blanket and the body suits beneath their uniforms, Fry and Leela had been warm, if not comfortable. Nixon and Winters had come and gone during the night. By first light, Winters was in the CP. Fry and Leela joined him, leaving Nixon to snore away. Joe Liebgott and Moe Alley were there as well, acting as runners for CPT Winters back to battalion main CP.
Breakfast was K-Rations, cooked over the waxed paper wrapper. Thanks to a quick burst of Leela’s Wristamajiggy neutron laser, they had all shared a canteen cup full of hot coffee. Leela had offered to heat Winter’s shaving water for him but he declined, “I have to set the example for these men. That means I shave every day but I couldn’t shave in hot water when they have to break ice. It wouldn’t be right.”
Doc Roe came over to visit. He squatted next to Leela and Fry and accepted their offer of some coffee. Like any good medic, he was curious as to how well Fry’s wounds had healed, “So did you have any problem after you left?”
Fry paused for a second. He didn’t want to lie but he didn’t want to upset Doc Roe either. Instead, he chose to be noncommittal. Fry shrugged, “Nothing I couldn’t handle.”
“That’s good.” He scratched his chin where some stubble was beginning to form, “Mind if I have a look?”
“Sure.” Fry shrugged and took off his jacket and dropped the top of his pullover. “Don’t take too long…it’s cold.”
“Okay,” Doc Roe laughed, “I’ll make it quick.” True to his word, Doc Roe checked each of the wounds, “You have healed up for sure. Go ahead and put on your clothes.”
“Th…th…thanks.” Fry’s teeth were chattering. Liebgott and Alley laughed at the sight of the freezing Fry. Liebgott shook his head, “You better watch Doc, Red.…soon he’ll be wanting to spoon with you.” Alley laughed at Liebgott’s attempt at humor.
Winters began to lather his face up. He was halfway through the process when he froze. He motioned to the group to be quiet. Then he raised his M-1 rifle to his shoulder, pointing it into the fog. He growled in German, “"Kommen sie hier." (Come here) After a few seconds pause he said somewhat louder, "Kommen sie hier, schnell!" (Come here, quickly)
Leela, Fry and Doc could see a tall, dark haired young man in German uniform coming toward them with his hands up.
Winters barked again, "Schnell!"
The young soldier’s eyes widened and he sped up. When the young soldier reached their position, Winters lowered his rifle. He turned his head slightly, “Liebgott…Alley…get over here. Cover him, while I search him.”
Liebgott and Alley did as they were told.
Winters searched him thoroughly, keeping his identity booklet and a bandage from the young soldier’s pocket. Looking over at Doc Roe he held it up “Doc, bandage” and tossed it.
Doc caught it without comment, examined it briefly and stuck it into his pocket.
Winters handed the identity booklet to Liebgott, “Give me a quick translation, Joe.”
“Yes sir,” Liebgott scanned the document, leafing through the pages. “His name is Peter Muller, he’s 17 years old…just came into the Army less than six months ago. He was processed into the Replacement Battalion last month. He’s a private in the 26th Volksgrenadier Division, 77th Grenadier Regiment, 2nd Company…want to know his shoe size?”
“No thanks, Joe.” Winters took the identity book back, “Take him back to Regiment.” His voice became hard, “Alive Joe…got that?”
“Yes sir.” Joe shook his head.
“Moe,” Winters nodded, “go with him. On the way, stop by battalion to let them know who we’ve got out in front of us.”
“Can do, sir.”
No sooner had Liebgott and Alley left than the sound of a jeep coming up the trail from battalion main CP. Winters looked at Leela, “Dorothy, get out of sight in the foxhole…we don’t know who’s coming.”
Leela darted under the cover without a word.
When the jeep rolled up, Winters could see that it held Lieutenant Colonel Strayer, Colonel Sink and the acting Division Commander, General McAuliffe. None of the men were smiling. When the jeep stopped, Strayer dismounted. Following protocol in a combat zone, Winters and Roe didn’t salute. Fry didn’t know how.
Sink spoke first, “Gents, you all know Gen. McAuliffe, acting division commander.”
McAuliffe’s face took on a determined look, “Give it to me straight.”
Strayer replied “We've been taking ground in one position, general, losing it in another.” He shook his head, “Now it looks like a stand-off, we're digging in on the edge of the forest.”
Winters chimed in, “We're under sporadic artillery fire, general. We're taking a lot of hits and we have no aid station. We've run out of food, we have no winter clothes and we have little or no ammo. The line's spread so thin, the enemy wanders into our CP to use our slit trenches, sir. We just can't cover the line.”
At that moment, CPT Nixon – roused by Leela – crawled out from beneath the tarp. Sink noticed him first, “Morning, Capt. Nixon. You got anything to add for General McAuliffe?”
“General... Uh, yes, sir.” He took a moment to think and then launched into his response, “General, I took a walk on our line about 0300 last night. I couldn't find the 501st on our right flank. I tied it in with a squad from our 2nd Platoon, but sir, we've got some considerable gaps in our perimeter.”
Strayer stepped in, “I don't have enough people, sir. We're spread too damned thin.”
“Hold the line, colonel.” McAuliffe’s voice was hard, “Close the gaps.” He looked up for a moment, “This goddamn fog won't lift anytime soon, so you can forget about air cover.” McAuliffe sat down and tapped his driver on the shoulder, who gunned his engine. Before they pulled off, McAuliffe called out over the roar of the engine, “Your 1st Battalion just pulled out of Noville, with Krauts on their tail. Tanks, artillery. Got no backup. There's a lot of shit headed this way.” With that, his jeep roared off to inspect the 3rd Battalion.
“That was encouraging,” Fry said while scratching his head.
“Yeah.” Winters shrugged, “Well, we just have to hang tough.”
Bastogne, Belgium – December 20, 1944, 1000 Hours (10 a.m.)
Doc Roe watched General McAuliffe’s jeep vanish from sight down the narrow forest trail. He decided he’s been away from his job too long. He walked up to CPT Winters, “Sir?”
"Can I scrounge a bandage from your aid kit, sir?"
“How are you fixed?”
Roe shook his head, “No plasma, couple of bandages, practically no morphine.” He grimaced, “In fact, I tried to find my way up to 3rd Battalion looking for supplies, but I lost my way.”
“If you can't get over to 3rd, hook up with Doc Ryan. He'll fix you up what he has to spare.”
"Eugene? Get everything you can; you're gonna need it." Winters paused for a moment. The battalion lines were stretched to the limit. He needed to use every man. “Take Red with you. He might come in handy.”
Winters thought, “Fix him up with a red cross brassard or something…OK?”
Fry was a bit surprised. He gave Leela a hug, “Don’t worry Leela…I won’t do anything dangerous.”
“You’d better not. If you die…I’ll kill you.”
With a nervous laugh, Fry stood up and joined Doc Roe. They moved off through the trees until they lost sight of the CP.
Fry looked around in an attempt to maintain his bearings. The forest was laid out in such a regular checkerboard pattern that he could see how Roe could lose his way. Even with the fog nearly gone, Fry thought it would be easy to get lost. He looked up at the sky. Heavy lead-grey clouds were scudding overhead, so low that they seemed to touch the tops of the pine trees of the Bois Jacques.
As cold as it was getting, Fry wondered if it was going to snow. He cleared his throat, “So Eugene…do you think it’s going to snow?”
“I guess.” Roe shrugged, “I’m from Louisiana myself. We don’t get much snow down on the bayou.”
They approached the edge of the forest. Fry could see that men were still digging a line of foxholes just a few yards inside the first rows of trees. He could hear the sound of their shovels as they bit into the earth. As they drew closer, he recognized a few faces, Smokey Gordon, Bill Guarnere…and a few others. Memories of Normandy flooded through his mind…memories which triggered a feeling of camaraderie which in spite of all the danger he knew was out there, made Fry smile.
Back at the CP, Lieutenant Staplefield of Fox Company came up in a hurry. He hailed Winters, “Hey sir! We got a problem!”
“How so, Lieutenant?”
“The Krauts have got some troops behind my lines in the woods near the railway station.” He looked grim, “I guess they have at least a company…maybe two digging in.”
The thought that up to 200 enemy troops could be behind his right flank gave him a nasty shock. He turned to CPT Nixon who was seated on the edge of the CP, “Well Nix, this is what happens when your neighbor doesn’t maintain control of their part of the line. Go tell Captain McMillan to take Dog Company and hustle those Krauts out of the woods.”
Nixon picked up his carbine and stood up, “Aren’t you glad you kept a reserve?”
“Yeah,” Winters smiled, “I’m just a military genius. Tell Joe to use his own discretion but make sure he hustles those Krauts out quickly.”
“Sure.” Cradling his carbine under his arm, Nixon headed off to find CPT McMillan.
Bastogne, Belgium – December 20, 1944, 1100 Hours (11 a.m.)
Fry and Doc Roe approached a partially finished foxhole where a lone soldier was taking a break from digging. Roe recognized the soldier as Ralph Spina, his fellow medic.
As they got closer, Fry could see that from the edge of the forest stretched a large open field that sloped gradually down towards a town, then rose beyond the town in a patchwork of open fields and tree stands until it reached a wooded ridgeline about 400 yards beyond the town.
Spina looked up at the sound of their approach, "Doc..." A look of recognition came over his face, “Hey Red! I thought we’d seen the last of you.”
Fry grinned as he shrugged, “I just couldn’t stay away.”
Spina laughed, “Didn’t your last visit teach you anything?”
Roe brought them back to the present, "What's happening?"
"We're digging in right along the line." Spina held up his entrenching tool, “At least I’m learning a trade.”
Roe chuckled, "Yeah?"
"Yeah.” Spina gestured grandly, “This is it.” His focused his attention on Roe, “So, what'd you get?"
Roe sat down and began to rummage through his pockets, "I got-- uh, I got this,” he held up a roll of gauze and handed it to Spina “and I got myself a Kraut bandage.”
“What?” Spina’s eyebrows almost came level with his helmet, “This is it?”
“Yeah, that's it.” Roe shook his head, “That's all we got.” Roe looked grim, “You know, 1st Battalion pulled out of Noville and then Foy.” He shook his head, “Heavy casualties.”
"So if they're pulling back, what the hell are we doing sitting here?" Spina asked.
Roe ignored what was – to him – an irrelevant question. Let the officers worry about that kind of stuff. He liked Ralph. But felt that sometimes he worried about the wrong things. "We need morphine.” He held up a single ampoule, “This is all I got.”
Spina shook his head, “Crap.”
Roe asked hopefully, “You got extra scissors?”
Spina shook his head, “Just the one.”
“Damn...” Roe said with some heat.
Fry looked puzzled, “What kind of scissors do you need?”
“Anything that will cut gauze…bandages…clothing…just regular old scissors.”
As Fry stood thinking about where you could find scissors the Easy Company Commander, Lieutenant “Foxhole Norman” Dike came puffing up, trailed by First Sergeant Carwood ‘Lip’ Lipton. Dike was clearly agitated, “First Sergeant Lipton?”
“What's this?” Dike’s voice rose, “Two medics in one hole?”
Spina answered quietly with a simple, “Yes, sir.”
“Well what's gonna happen to us, if you take a hit, huh?” Dike’s jaw stuck out in pugnacious display.
Lip decided to play on Dike’s nervousness about enemy fire, “Sir?”
Dike turned to face Lip, “First Sergeant, where's my foxhole?”
“It's back here, sir.” He pointed to some barely visible shrubs nearly fifty yards away. “Maybe you missed it, huh? I'll walk you back, sir.” Lip sounded spoke in low tones, “You're a bit close the line here.”
Dike swore vehemently, “Goddamn it.”
Back at the CP, Captain Winters was sitting on the lip of the CP foxhole across from Leela. He was curious about Leela’s seemingly easy acceptance of hardship. “You know Dorothy, I don’t mean to pry but what does a Spaceship Captain do exactly?”
“I’m really just a cargo pilot,” Leela said modestly. “But I do get to go to a lot of neat places. To tell the truth, Fry…Red and I have been from one end of the Universe to the other.”
Winters smiled, “When did you two tie the knot?”
“Not long after we got back.” She hugged her knees close to her chest for warmth, “We adopted a little girl named Sally, so we already have a family going.”
“That’s fine,” Winters nodded, “really fine.” He rubbed his neck, “I’m glad you didn’t object to my sending Red off with Doc Roe. We’re shorthanded, so everybody needs to pitch in and do something.”
“I see.” Leela chewed her lower lip reflectively, “What can I do to help?”
“Well…” Winters though long and hard before continuing, “What can you do besides pilot a cargo ship? I don’t imagine you’ve ever seen ground combat other than your short stint with us back in June.”
“That’s where you are mistaken,” Leela grinned, “I served in the DOOP Ground Forces during the Spheron One Campaign.”
“Oh, that’s the Democratic Order Of Planets…that’s kind of like the United Nations.” When she saw the look of puzzlement on Winters’ face, she added, “It’s kind of a galactic alliance.”
“Oh.” Winters came back to the subject, “So what did you do in the ground forces?”
“I carried a ray rifle alongside Red.”
“They have women in the ground forces?”
“Actually…no.” Leela looked embarrassed, “I impersonated a man to get in. Up until Normandy, Red wasn’t much of a soldier. Even though I didn’t realize how much I loved him…I knew I didn’t want him to get killed.”
“I find it hard to believe that you managed to masquerade as a man.”
To remove any doubt Leela bellowed in her best man voice, “Private Lee Lemon sir!”
Winters gave a short bark of laughter. Then his face lit up, “Say…I have an idea! Do you know how to work a radio?”
“Ummm…I can operate just about anything electronic.”
“If you can use you ‘man voice’ over the radio, then I won’t have to keep one of the guys here on the radio every shift.” He smiled, “Would you mind taking a shift on the radio to help out?”
“I’d be glad to.”
“That’s swell.” Winters gave Leela a ‘thumbs up’, “I’ll get George Lutz to give you a class on radio procedure.”
As if on cue, the radio crackled to life, “Checkmate…Checkmate…this is King Six…King Six…Over.”
Winters snatched up the radio, “King Six this is Checkmate Five…over.”
“Roger Checkmate Five, the last Castle elements have left Point Foxtrot. Expect company soon. Over.”
“Roger King Six. Over.”
“Checkmate Five…hold the line. Over.”
“Wilco King Six. Over.
“This is King Six. Out.”
He put down the handset, “Come on Dorothy. We need to go up on the line. The last of our 1st Battalion has finally left Foy. That means the Krauts could hit us real soon.” Without bothering to see if Leela was following, Winters took off in the same direction Fry and Roe had taken.
Leela stood up quickly and followed Winters into the forest.
Bastogne, Belgium – December 20, 1944, 1200 Hours (Noon)
The sound of gunfire finally ceased to issue from Foy. The last elements of 1st Battalion had just withdrawn across the fields and down the Noville – Bastogne road. When the Germans tried to pursue, 3rd Battalion had called in an artillery barrage that stopped the Krauts in their tracks.
Roe looked out over the now quiet fields which were partially obscured by smoke from burning buildings and wrecked vehicles. No matter how much combat he saw, he still couldn’t get used to the waste and destruction. The sight of the wounded paratroopers being carried by the retreating 1St Battalion and the sight of the Kraut dead and wounded in the open field focused his mind on his present problem. If the Krauts attacked in force, there would be lots of casualties and he was short of everything…particularly morphine.
He rubbed his chin as he pondered. Everyone had been issued a morphine syrette in Holland. The logical thing to do was to gather them all up…at least the ones that were left. He turned to Fry, “Red, how about coming with me to scrounge some medical supplies?”
Fry stood up, “Sure.”
“Ralph,” Roe said quietly, “mind the shop.”
“No problem, Eugene.” He looked thoughtful, “Stay out of trouble.”
“I will.” He paused for a moment, “Let’s go Red.”
They didn’t have far to walk before they ran into Sergeant Guarnere. Roe hailed him, “Sgt. Guarnere. Did you keep any morphine from Holland?”
“No.” Guarnere lowered his voice, “Hey, doc, I gotta talk to you.”
“How's that leg?”
“The hell with the leg,” Guarnere almost shouted, “I'm pissing needles!”
Roe shook his head and continued down the line of foxholes. He looked over his shoulder and said apologetically, “Later.”
As they approached Smokey Gordon’s position Fry found himself wondering what could cause someone to piss needles. It sounded almost as bad as having an Omicronian harvest your lower horn. Well…almost as bad.
When Fry came out of his thoughts, Roe and he were at Corporal Gordon’s foxhole. Fry could see that Smokey had a can of rations cooking atop the spirits stove he had lugged all the way from Normandy. In his left hand he held a canteen cup of steaming dark liquid.
Gordon’s well maintained Browning M1919A4 .30 caliber machine gun was perched on the lip of the foxhole, it’s barrel pointed toward the town of Foy. The feed tray cover was up, exposing the belt of ammunition snaking out of the ammo can hung from the side. Fry had helped with a machine gun enough in Normandy to realize that with it set up like that, Smokey could fire without the aid of his assistant gunner. It marked Smokey as a professional.
Smokey raised his cup in salute, “Hey boys!”
Fry raised his right hand, “Hey Smokey.”
Without any fanfare, Roe gestured toward Foy, “You seen them?”
“No,” Smokey’s said in his soft Mississippi drawl, “I ain’t seen any Krauts for about an hour.” He shook his head, “But they're out there.” He paused for emphasis, “Depend on it.”
Smokey smiled and then drawled, “Well, I’m being unneighborly,” He held up a canteen cup in his left hand, “Cup of Joe, Doc? Red?”
Fry considered accepting but was stopped short when Roe got down to business, "No. Thanks.” He knelt down, “Gordon, I need scissors. You got scissors? Sharp scissors.”
Smokey’s drawl became even more pronounced, “Scissors? Well, let's see, I'll have to check the sewing room. Might be upstairs in the study, the skinny old drawer of the desk.”
“All right.” Roe smiled as he shook his head. Why couldn’t people stay on the subject? “What about an extra syrette in your aid kit, huh?"
Smokey laughed, “Hide your morphine, guys…” Before he could say anything further a sound like ripping canvas shattered the quiet.
Someone down the line shouted, “INCOMING!”
Artillery rounds began to impact. Some rounds exploded on contact with the ground sending up fountains of earth and dirty grey smoke. Others burst when they hit tree limbs, shattering the limbs and sending shrapnel and wood splinters showering down.
Even though Fry had flung himself flat on the ground as soon as he heard the shout of ‘incoming’, concussion wave after concussion wave tossed him about like a rag doll. To his surprise, Smokey Gordon reached out of the foxhole and dragged Fry in.
Throughout the Bois Jacques everyone was scrambling to get into a foxhole or under some sort of cover. Winters and Leela were no exception. There was a slight depression in the ground where they both huddled. Winters did his best to shield Leela with his body.
A shell exploded directly overhead with a roar like a dozen thunderclaps. With ears that were still ringing Fry could hear the voice of Don Malarkey from the adjacent foxhole, “Muck, you all right?”
Muck shouted in reply, “I'm good.”
Roe came to his feet in a crouch, shouting above the din, “Muck! Malarkey! Penkala!"
Malarkey yelled back, “We're okay!”
“Will you look at this shit?” Muck sounded outraged as he held his helmet up, “They peppered my helmet!" Fry could see that the helmet was indeed the worse for wear and that two of Muck’s fingers were poking through.
Doc punched Fry in the arm to get his attention, “Come on. Let’s go.”
His mouth dry from fear, Fry mimicked Roe’s crouch. Although he was frightened, Fry realized he would rather die than be thought a coward by his friends.
“Hey, doc!” Muck shouted, “Doc! Morphine! Here, take it.” He tossed Roe the syrette.
Explosions still crashed throughout the woods. The Krauts hadn’t gotten tired of the game yet.
Roe got face to face with Malarkey, “Where's Penkala?!”
Off toward 3rd Battalion they could hear someone shouting over the explosions, “Medic! Doc! Medic!”
Roe ran toward the shouting with Fry close behind. When they reached the next foxhole which was occupied by ‘Babe’ Heffron and a soldier Fry didn’t know PFC John Julian. Roe asked, “You guys hit?”
Babe was astounded that Roe was out in the steel thunderstorm being rained down on them by the enemy, “Jesus, doc, what are you doing?”
Julian echoed Babe’s sentiment, “You crazy?”
Babe elbowed Julian and said with all of the contempt a veteran could muster for a newbie, “What are you looking at him for? Watch the goddamn line!”
“You got a syrette?” Roe asked Babe.
“What?” Babe was incredulous. With artillery raining down on them Doc was still focused on his job. It was what made every man in Easy Company admire Doc Roe and, indeed, all of the medics.
There was a momentary pause in the crashing explosions. Penkala’s voice sounded loudly and clearly, “Medic!”
Babe slapped Roe’s arm, “Go.”
The explosions resumed again…filling the air with red-hot, screaming shards of metal. Fry and Roe ran in a crouching zigzag toward where they had heard Penkala’s voice. It only took a few seconds and they were at the foxhole held by Penkala and Sergeant “Bull” Randleman.
As soon as he saw Roe and Fry approaching Bull bellowed, “Doc!” Fry saw that Penkala was gripping his forearm which was bloody and studded with wooden splinters.
Roe leaped into the foxhole. He shook Penkala to try to get his attention. That didn’t work. He roared into his ear, “Penkala!”
“It's the artery!” Penkala was clearly panicked, “I can feel it!”
Making a quick assessment, Roe was sure that the injury…although bloody…was minor. “Penkala, let go!”
“It's the goddamn artery!”
“Penkala,” Roe shouted, “loosen your fingers, goddamn it! Loosen them now!”
“I'll bleed to dead.”
Bull weighed in, “Relax your arm, Penk! Come on!”
The roar of a round exploding close by caused them all to flinch for a moment. In that moment, Roe and Bull managed to pull Penkala’s arm free.
“It's not the artery.” Roe said firmly.
Reassured, Penkala visibly calmed down. Doc began to pick out the bloody wood splinters out of Penkala’s forearm. He watched carefully as he pulled each splinter out to make sure that none of the splinters had severed an artery.
Once Doc was over halfway done, Penkala said firmly, “I ain't going back, Doc.”
“What?” Doc paused a moment in his picking.
“I ain't going nowhere,” Penkala gestured at the woods where explosions were still blossoming like deadly grey mushrooms, “not in this shit!”
“You don't wanna go out in this shit and you're yelling ‘medic’?” Roe shook his head as he sprinkled the wound with sulfa powder and wrapped it tightly in a field dressing.
“I don't need to go back to no aid station!”
“Well you're in luck, Penkala.” Doc finished tying the dressing in place, “We don't got no aid station.”
Just then, the shelling stopped. Everyone waited a few moments before speaking. As usual, it was Roe who got back down to business, “Penkala, scissors. I need scissors. You got scissors?”
“What the hell I need scissors for?”
“Got your aid kit?”
Penkala held out his aid kit. Roe took it and removed the morphine syrette, holding it up for him to see, “Right, well you don't need this. Not yet. I do.” He turned to Fry, “Come on Red let’s go.”
Together, they ran back to the medic’s foxhole.
Spina greeted them with, “Who got hit?”
Roe dropped into the hole followed by Fry, “Penkala.”
Fry added, “It wasn’t too bad though.”
“All right, here, this is what I want you to do. I want you to take Red and Heffron and work your way over to 3rd Battalion, all right? You know what we need.” His lowered his voice to emphasize his point, “Bandages, plasma, what ever you can beg, you beg, all right?”
Spina and Fry nodded.
“And get me some goddamn scissors. I can't get any. And go into Bastogne and you get yourself a hot meal too, huh?” He slapped Spina on the shoulder, “Go.”
Without any further ado, Fry and Spina set out for the next foxhole to find Heffron.
Bastogne, Belgium – December 20, 1944, 1300 Hours (1 p.m.)
As soon as he was certain that the German barrage had ceased, Winters stood up and looked around. Leela stood as well, her ears still ringing slightly from a near miss. She craned her neck as she looked around, hoping to see Fry. She spotted him right away because his uniform was slightly different than those worn by the others…his was a weather stained khaki as opposed to the olive drab worn by the rest of the men. She made a mental note to ask Captain Winters about that later.
“Dorothy, I think you should be back at the CP.”
“No!” Leela barked. She bridled at the thought of being treated differently because of being a woman. “If Fry can be up on the front lines, so can I.” Leela moderated her tone when she realized how childishly stubborn her words sounded, “I mean…it’s really no safer here at the CP when the shells are falling…is it?”
“No.” Winters shook his head, “but at least you’d be out of the direct line of fire.”
“I dodged plenty of fire on Spheron One,” she said with a bravado she didn’t feel.
“Okay.” Winters made up his mind, “Stay close to me and follow my lead. It’s probably best that you learn the Battalion layout anyway. We’ll go south to where Dog Company pushed those Krauts out from behind our lines. I want to see where the heck our brethren from the 501st have their left flank. Then we’ll move north across our Battalion front to where we join up with 3rd Battalion.”
“Okay.” Leela nodded. After a glance over her shoulder at Fry, she set off in Winter’s wake into the dark eaves of the forest.
As Leela was heading south with Captain Winters, Fry, Spina and Heffron were trudging north through the Bois Jaques looking for 3rd Battalion aid station. At first they moved through the dark, damp, chilly forest in silence. It was almost as if the dank air of the Bois Jacques sucked the cheer out of all of them.
Finally, Babe spoke up, “You know, he told me he's a goddamn virgin.”
Spina’s head jerked up, “Who?”
“The replacement in my foxhole, Julian.”
Fry chimed in, “Really?”
Babe nodded vigorously, “Goddamn virgin.” He exhaled loudly, “Just a kid.”
Spina chuckled, “The only virgin I know is the Virgin Mary.”
They both joined in Spina’s quiet laughter. When the laughter died, the forest seemed as quiet as a cathedral…a quiet it would be almost blasphemy to break.
After a hundred meters or so of silent walking, Spina became alarmed. He had been to 3rd Battalion a couple of times and none of the surroundings looked familiar, “Hey, Babe? Where the hell are we?”
Babe pointed ahead, “This way.”
Spina was uncertain, “I don't like it...”
Affected by Spina’s doubt, Babe slowed down and began to look around, “Where the hell is 3rd Battalion?” He took two more steps before suddenly disappearing into a hole up to his waist, “Shit!”
Spina gestured, “Come on.”
Almost frantically, Babe said, “Give me a hand!”
Fry and Spina stepped up to help. The each took an arm and pulled Babe free. A voice came from the hole, “Hinkle? Ist das du?”
Without a word Fry, Spina and Babe tore off into the forest heading back the way they came.
“Hinkle?” A German soldier rose from the foxhole and shouted, “Scheisse!” Then he brought his rifle to his shoulder and began to fire.
When the first round cracked by their heads, Babe broke into a sprint while shouting, “Come on Spina, move Red!”
Spina replied, “I'm moving! I'm moving!”
Fry would have said something, but he needed his breath to keep up with Babe and Spina as they zig zagged away. Several more shots rang through the forest, lending urgency to their flight. They ran for at least three minutes after the sound of the last shot died.
“I think we’re out of range,” Babe panted as he slowed to a walk.
“Christ!” Spina started to laugh, “That was close.”
Out of breath, Fry could only nod in agreement.
“Hey!”Babe straightened up, “I know where we are! Come on guys, it’s this way!”
It was a five minute walk to 3rd Battalion. When they got there, the Germans began to rain artillery on the battalion’s positions to pave the way for an attack.
Spina pointed at a large, well dug in position, “That’s the aid station. Let’s go!”
They sprinted to the position and leaped in, landing in a pile. Babe grinned at Fry, “You know Red…I feel like a fugitive from the friggin’ law of averages.”
A surprised soldier with a red cross brassard on his right arm stared at them and said, “Holy shit! You scared the bejeezus out of me! What the f…”
“Don’t say it,” Spina held up his hand reprovingly. “What would your mother say if she knew you’d taken to cussing?”
“You’re right.” He laughed and shook his head, “What can I do for you fine gentlemen?”
“We need medical supplies,” Spina looked hopeful. “Got any you can spare?”
“We can spare a few bandages, but that's it. No morphine. Gonna have to go back to Bastogne for plasma.”
“Bastogne?” Spina protested, “It took us an hour to find you!”
“Doesn't your surgeon have plasma?”
“We don't have one. No surgeon, no aid station, no nothing. Just me and my buddy.”
The 3rd Battalion medic shrugged his shoulders, “Sorry, guys, but we just can't help you.”
The tell-tale sound of incoming rounds rent the air. Several voices sounded in unison, “Take cover!” A series of explosions followed a split second later. As soon as the blast waves rolled over them, debris began to rain down. The 3rd Battalion medic shouted, “Get your butts out of here! We're pulling the aid station back!”
Babe, Spina and Fry waited for a lull in the shelling before vaulting out of the position. They ran almost the entire three miles into Bastogne where they found an aid station that would share some supplies. It wasn’t much, but it was a lot more than they had started with.
Even better, they managed to find the 506th Regimental Kitchen. Even though the meat in the stew tasted…well…different, Fry ate an entire mess kit full and slipped back into line for seconds. Then he felt guilty. Leela! He had forgotten Leela!
After pleading with the cook, Fry managed to get a #5 can full of the stew to take up to Leela. He found a bit of newspaper and wrapped the can to try to keep it at least half way warm. Then, his belly full and his conscience salved, Fry trudged back through the gathering darkness to the 2nd Battalion CP accompanied by Babe and Spina.
Bastogne, Belgium – December 20, 1944, 1600 Hours (4 p.m.)
Safely back at the CP, Leela was learning how to operate an SCR 300 Radio. George Lutz was her teacher. Leela liked him both for his easy manner and his obvious devotion to his equipment.
Still, he had a habit of slipping into a formal mode when reciting facts about the radio, “Dorothy, this is the Radio Set SCR-300. It is a modern marvel of communications. It consists of an 18-vacuum tube, quartz crystal controlled portable FM receiver and transmitter, designated the BC-1000.”
“It operates on with batteries. All of the accessories are in this bag here…including the handset and two lengths of whip antenna.” George emptied the bag to show Leela everything. Then he continued, “You tune it with this knob here. It sets both receive and transmit frequency at the same time…and you don’t have to calibrate it separately.”
Leela nodded. She didn’t want to crush George’s obvious pride in the radio by appearing uninterested in what – to her – was a museum piece.
George continued, This radio even has a squelch circuit to minimize roar in the high-gain circuits when there is no signal. You have no idea how useful that is when on patrol. It keeps things quiet.”
“That is so interesting.”
“If you think that’s interesting, this baby can work all across the frequency band from 40.0 to 48.0 Mega Hertz divided into 41 channels! It pushes 0.3 watts and has a range of 3 miles with the long antenna.”
“Wow. Three miles?”
“Yep.” George smiled proudly. “Now let’s get down to really operating this baby.”
For the next hour George went over the basics of radio procedure and operating the radio itself. Much of the radio procedure was familiar from her days with the DOOP. Leela was amused that things really hadn’t changed that much.
With a flourish, George gave her a little booklet that had all of the radio call signs and frequencies for communicating within the Regiment. “This is classified stuff, Dorothy. You can’t share it with anybody except another radio operator or an officer.” He thought for a second, “And Lip...I mean First Sergeant Lipton...you can share it with him. Okay?”
“Sure, George, I’ll keep it close to my chest.”
“You don’t have to do that.” He blushed, “Just put it in your right breast pocket. That’s where all radio operators keep it. It’s kind of a rule.”
Leela smiled as she slipped the thin volume into the proper pocket.
George reached into his pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. He held it out to Leela, “Smoke?”
“Only when I’m on fire,” Leela laughed at the confused look on George’s face. “Seriously George, no thank you. I don’t smoke.”
“Better for your wind,” George commented as he lit one up. “I didn’t smoke until I joined the Army.” He blew a puff of smoke into the air. “Sure is getting colder.”
Leela nodded in agreement, “Think it’ll snow?”
George paused for a moment, sniffing the air before replying, “Oh yeah. And it’s going to get really cold.”
“Are you a weather man?”
“No, just a handyman. But I grew up in Rhode Island, so I know a little bit about snow.”
“Oh yeah.” His nodded his head, “I miss it a lot. How about you, where are you from?”
She thought before answering. How much did she want to tell about the future? Couldn’t that cause paradoxes? She decided to play it safe and said casually, “I’m from New York.”
“Really, is Times Square still there?”
“Sure is...and they still party there every New Years eve.”
“I went there for New Years in ’39 and ’40.” Luz grinned, “Man that was a blast! We went to the Brown Derby for dinner in ’40. I had a huge steak with all the trimmings.”
“Sounds wonderful,” Leela’s stomach growled. “When’s dinner?”
Luz looked at his watch, “Heck...we can probably go over to see if old Joe Dominguez has anything worth eating.” George began to laugh, “They say the French can take garbage and turn it into good food. Army cooks take good food and turn it into garbage.”
“As long as it isn’t actually poisonous, I’ll manage.” It was Leela’s turn to laugh, “Remember Tin Man?”
“He once tried to get Red and me to eat capers and baking soda as dinner.”
“You’re crapping me!”
“No. And that was one of his more palatable meals.”
“Man! You never know it when you got it good, do you?” He gestured toward the field kitchen location, “Well...ladies first.”
“Sounds good,” Leela stood. Together they walked over to the clearing where the field kitchen was parked. Much to her surprise, Fry, Ralph Spina and Babe Heffron walked up just as she and George got in line.
“Fry!” Leela called out, “I thought you’d gotten lost or something.”
Fry came up and gave her a hug, “We kind of did get a little lost but it all got straightened out.” He held up the newspaper wrapped #5 can, “I brought you some stew from Bastogne.”
“Thank you, Fry!” Leela kissed him on the cheek, which prompted a few chuckles from the men rapidly assembling into a chow line.
Leela was first in line. George Luz had been second, but he switched places with Fry. Behind Luz were Babe Heffron, Skip Muck, Don Malarkey, John Julian and Alex Penkala. Others were joining the line, but the gathering darkness and the trees hid them from view.
As they stood in line waiting for the food, Babe Heffron told the story about how he had ‘dropped in’ on the Kraut who mistook him for Hinkle. His description of “running off like a striped-assed ape” brought howls of laughter.
Joe Dominguez the cook stood on the chow line, laughing as well. He was wearing a grimy apron over his fatigues. The cook’s hat he wore had probably been white at some time...but it was a smeared, dingy grey color now. A stickler for routine, Joe would not serve until it was time. As he told people who tied to wheedle him into serving early, “It ain’t fair to them guys what got to wait.”
Nothing could budge him...not even the knowledge that the food in the mermite cans was slowly freezing.
Glancing at his watch, Joe decided it was time to dish out the chow. “Okay. Come and get it.”
Joe was a master of improvisation. In spite of Luz’s jokes, Dominguez could make palatable food out of just about anything. This was good for the men of Second Battalion because food was scarce in Bastogne.
As Leela walked up, she handed Dominguez the #5 can full of stew. “Could you warm this up for me please?”
“Yeah. No problem.”
“Oh,” Joe remembered his manners as he dropped three large waffles on Leela’s mess kit. “Here you go Ma’am.”
He ladled some syrup onto her waffles, “Enjoy!”
It only took a few moments for Leela, Fry, Luz, Heffron, Muck, Malarkey, Penkala and Julian to gather in a rough circle and begin assaulting the food.
Malarkey elbowed Heffron, “You should have shot Hinkle in the ass!”
Muck laughed, “Hinkle nearly shot him in the ass!”
Babe made a dismissive gesture, “Hey, God bless you.”
“These smell like my armpit!” Malarkey protested.
“At least your armpit's warm.” Muck added.
Joe Dominguez came out with the # 5 can and gave it to Leela. “Here you go Ma’am.” He also had another can and a ladle. He looked Malarkey in the face, “You want syrup with that?”
“Be honest Joe,” Malarkey asked, “what's in these things anyway, huh?”
“Nothing you won't eat, Malarkey.”
“I won't eat Malarkey.” Muck said with a laugh.
Leela held up the #5 can, “Anybody want some of this stew?”
Everyone except Fry and Babe answered yes in unison. Leela gave everyone a share and asked Babe, “Are you sure you don’t want any?”
“No thanks Dorothy.”
“Hey!” Julian observed brightly, “Hey, maybe Hinkle would like your share, huh?”
“I should have shot him when I had the chance.” Babe frowned.
Penkala asked with mock seriousness, “You were running backwards, Babe?”
Before Babe could respond, Lieutenant Peacock approached the group. Although he was well-liked personally by the men, his lack of military skill led the men to refer to him as a ‘feather merchant.’ Walter Gordon had observed, “That boy could get lost in a broom closet.”
Peacock asked, “Anybody seen Lt. Dike?”
Malarkey offered, “Try Battalion CP, sir.”
“Try Paris.” Muck said with a smirk.
Lieutenant Peacock nodded and wandered off. As he was walking away Malarkey said in a low voice, “Try Hinkle.”
Penkala laughed loudly. In a loud falsetto he warbled, “Hinkle, sweety, I'm home.”
While everyone was laughing, Doc Roe joined the group. As he sat down, Babe spoke up, “Hey, Eugene. Lt. Dike' got a full aid kit. Try him.”
“Yeah,” Malarkey chimed in. “I'm sure he's not using his.”
Julian added, “Maybe Hinkle's got a syrette for you.”
Penkala punched Julian in the shoulder, “Eat your strudel.”
Malarkey affected a German accent, “Hinkle Vinkle, eat ze armpit, huh?”
Everyone laughed hard. Don Malarkey could almost always bring down the house. As the laughter died away, Malarkey rose and said, “Let’s clean our mess gear, boys. We don’t want diarrhea as well as frostbite.”
As they stood in line to wash their mess kits, the first flakes of snow began to fall. Doc Roe walked up to Fry, “Hey Red, would you mind walking the line with me tonight?”
“Sure.” Fry nodded, “No problem. When?”
“I’ll come around the CP around 1900.”
“Okay. See you then.”
Bastogne, Belgium – December 20, 1944, 1900 Hours (7 p.m.)
Fry and Leela sat in the CP foxhole, hugging each other tightly for warmth. In less than an hour the temperature had plummeted into the 20’s. A strong wind from the east drove the rapidly falling snow into the ground at a 45 degree angle while causing the trees to sway slightly. The ground in the Bois Jacques rapidly froze solid as well.
“So tell me Fry, what else did you do while you were out beside get shot at and dodge artillery?”
“Not much.” Fry fought to keep his teeth from chattering, “We ran all the way to the town back there.” He pointed to the west, “It’s called Bastogne. We went around to a couple of aid stations and gathered a few medical supplies. Then we stopped at the Regimental kitchen and got a meal. Then we came back here.” He looked into her eyes, “How about you?”
“Well…I walked the battalion line with Captain Winters.” She paused before continuing. Conscious of Fry’s feelings, she didn’t want to sound too fond of Winters. She wasn’t fond of him but she did admire him tremendously. “That was interesting. Oh…George Luz taught me how to operate a museum piece of a radio.”
“C…c…cool.” Fry wasn’t able to keep his teeth from chattering.
Leela laughed. She couldn’t help it. Fry’s response was so spontaneous yet so predictable. She hugged him tighter, “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Captain Winters slid into the foxhole. He flashed a quick smile before asking, “Any radio traffic?”
“No sir.” Leela had fallen into the habit of calling him ‘sir.’ What it would have been like if Zapp Brannigan had been half the man and leader Winters was flashed through her mind. She dismissed it instantly with a shudder of pure revulsion.
Fry noticed the look that crossed Leela’s face, “Are you OK Leela?”
“Just a bad memory from the past,” she said quietly. “I guess it had to show up so I can let it go.”
“I don’t know why, but I rarely think about the past.”
“That is one of the reasons that I love you so much,” Leela kissed his half-frozen cheek softly.
“It’s nice to be reminded that love still exists.” Winters said suddenly, “Maybe I ought to keep you both here at the CP or send you back to Regiment. It’s a darned sight safer.”
To her surprise Leela spoke up, “Sir, that may be true, but if we go back to Regiment…especially me…more people will know about us. Didn’t Colonel Sink want our exposure…particularly mine…kept to a minimum?”
Winters smiled, “You are certainly right. Oh well, I just hate the thought of risking a loving couple. I know it happens but I hate being the one who causes it.”
“You didn’t cause it.” Fry observed, “My stupid nephew caused it.”
“And I’ll take care of him when we get back,” Leela added menacingly.
The radio crackled to life, “Checkmate this is King Six, Over.”
Winters grabbed the handset, “King Six this is Checkmate Five, Over.”
“Roger Checkmate, King Two thinks that you may receive harassing fire and infiltration attempts this evening. The bad boys are trying the lines elsewhere thanks to the fight that Castle put up in Town Foxtrot. BREAK. Weather is going to deteriorate so keep your eye out for infiltrators. BREAK Temperature may reach below zero over the next few days. BREAK Keep a tight rein on your troops, conserve ammo and keep improving your positions, Over.”
“WILCO King Six.”
“King Six out.”
Winters turned to Leela and Fry as he put down the handset, “Looks like it’s going to get really cold tonight, I’m going to scrounge a couple of blankets and maybe an overcoat. Dorothy, keep a watch on the radio. Captain Nixon should be here soon. I sent him back to Division to find out what’s going on. I should be back in under an hour. Do you know how to answer the radio?
“Yes sir,” She said in her best ‘man voice’, “I’m Checkmate Five Able…right?”
“Absolutely.” He stood up, “I’ll check up on Easy Company first.” With a wave of his hand, Winters disappeared into the darkness and swirling snow.
“He’s a good man,” Fry said quietly.
“Yes he is.”
Fry looked at his watch, “Doc Roe will be here in a little bit.”
“Fry!” Leela was surprised. “You never had a watch before! Where did you get it?”
“Perconte gave it to me.”
“He gave it to you?” Leela looked suspicious, “Fry…what did you give him in return?”
“Fry,” Leela’s eye narrowed. “What did you give him?”
“I gave him a nickel.”
“What?” Leela began to laugh, “A nickel? Where did you get one of those? They don’t even exist in our time!”
“It’s been up my nose for as long as I can remember.” Fry shrugged, “But while I was in Bastogne I sneezed and it popped out!”
“Fry…what year was it?”
“What year was on the face of the nickel?”
“Oh it was a 1917 Buffalo nickel.” Fry looked embarrassed, “It was part of my Dad’s coin collection. He said it was really rare. Yancy dared me to put it up my nose so I did.” He paused, “I tried to get it out but I couldn’t. I was afraid to tell anyone so it just stayed there…until now.”
“Oh Lord,” Leela gave Fry a hug, “Don’t ever stop being you.”
“Ok.” He returned the hug, “Don’t you ever change either.”
In the distance a burst of machine gun fire cut through the wind. “German MG 42,” Fry remarked. “Did you ever notice how fast they cycle? They sound like a buzz saw! Smokey said they shoot 1200 rounds per minute!”
“You’re learning a lot, Fry.”
“All part of staying alive.”
Their conversation was interrupted by Doc Roe’s arrival. He squatted down next to them, “So Red, can I tear you away from your home life to help me gather some supplies?”
“Sure,” Fry gave Leela a kiss and a hug, “I’ll be back soon.”
“Okay.” She touched his face gently, “You be careful.”
“I’ll keep him out of anything,” Roe responded.
Fry and Roe trudged silently through the rapidly falling snow toward the Easy Company sector. “Where are we headed, Doc?”
“I figure to try the holes I haven’t been to yet for morphine plus look for some scissors.”
The first hole they arrived at was that of Lieutenant Dike. Miracle of miracles, he was in it! Roe called out, “Lieutenant Dike. Lieutenant.”
Dike looked at him but did not speak.
“Can you spare something from your aid kit, sir? I'm real short. I need syrettes.”
“What, morphine?” Dike seemed surprised.
Dike rummaged around in his pack and pulled out his aid kit. His eyes narrowed suspiciously, “What happens if I get hit?”
“I'll be there, sir.”
Dike waved the kit, “Syrette's in here, right?”
“Yes, it is.”
“Here, “Dike handed the kit over,” I don't plan on getting hit.”
“Thank you, sir.”
They hadn’t gone twenty feet before Heffron walked by coughing loudly.
“Heffron!” Roe ran to his side, “Hey, Heffron, you okay?”
“Gene, what is with the Heffron bullsh**t, huh? You know my name. Why don't you use it?”
“Uh, it's Edward, right?”
“Edward?” Babe’s voice rose, “Are you serious?! Only the goddamn nuns call me ‘Edward’.”
“Hey, listen.” Roe came back to his mission, “I need to know if you kept your morphine from Holland?"
“No, you asked me already!” Babe was obviously pissed, “Remember?”
“No.” Roe said softly, “I don't recall.”
With a shrug, Babe headed off for his foxhole.
The next foxhole they arrived at belonged to Alton More and Smokey Gordon. They almost passed it because it was concealed by a snow covered tarp.
Gordon called out, “Hey...”
“Hey Gordon, you got anything for me?”
“Oh yeah, morphine.” Smokey grinned triumphantly, “3rd Platoon ponied up the contraband.”
“You still looking for scissors?”
“Yes, I am.”
Smokey lowered his voice conspiratorially, “Perconte.”
Roe repeated "Perconte..."
Smokey held out his canteen cup which was filled with hot coffee, “Doc...Red?”
Roe took it gratefully, “Thank you.” After a few sips he passed it to Fry, who took a long draught before handing it back to Smokey with a mumbled, “Thanks.” While the coffee had been great it burnt his tongue.
“Oh,” Smokey called out, “and you better check on Joe Toye out on the OP. He's missing something.”
Roe nodded, “Thanks.” He turned to Fry, “It’s off that way. We’ll have to crawl most of the way. The krauts tend to shoot at you if you’re standing up.”
“Okay.” Fry gulped, “You lead the way.”
They crawled for about 20 meters to the OP. The sound of their approach caused McClung to turn around and point his Thompson submachine gun at them. Roe hissed, “It’s me. Doc Roe. And Red is right behind me.”
McClung motioned them forward. Together Fry and Roe scooted up through the snow to the position and Roe asked, “You guys okay?”
“They got hot food.” McClung’s voice dripped with envy, “Can you smell it?”
Fry was surprised but he could smell hot food drifting over from the German lines. Damn!
As usual Roe got right down to business, “Toye, you missing something?”
McClung laughed, “Ask him to dance, doc.”
“Toye, show me your feet.”
Toye said with some heat, “You watch the goddamn line, McClung.”
Toye lifted his right foot. It was wrapped in strips from a brown woolen army blanket.
“Where are your boots?”
“In Washington, up in Gen. Taylor's ass.” Toye lowered his foot.
Rowe shook his head, “I don't believe this...”
Toye shrugged, “I can move better in bare feet, doc.”
Fry couldn’t help asking, “W-what happened?”
“Took them off to dry my goddamn socks and they got blown to hell, okay?”
Ever practical, Roe asked, “Well, what's your size?”
“Nine,” Toye paused, “just like everybody else.”
He got face-to-face with Fry, “Let’s go see Frank Perconte.”
In only a few minutes they arrived at their destination. Even before they arrived, Fry could recognize the voices of Frank Perconte, “Skinny” Sisk and Johnny Martin.
Martin was laughing as he hectored Perconte, “Frank, you keep cleaning those teeth, the Germans will see you a mile away. Shoot you dead.”
Perconte stopped brushing for a moment, “That's right, Pee Wee. You keep laughing.”
Sisk noticed their approach, “Hey, Doc…Red.”
Without any fanfare Doc began to rifle through Perconte’s haversack.
“Doc, that's my stuff. Perconte whined, “Aww, come on, doc...”
“What, you got a drug store in here?” Roe sounded annoyed.
“No, I own my stuff.” He looked over Doc’s shoulder, “Well, what are you looking for?”
“Scissors.” Roe flourished the scissors triumphantly, “Thank you, Perconte.” Without even looking at anyone, Roe took off, leaving a protesting Perconte in his wake, “He took my goddamn scissors!”
Fry couldn’t help to stifle a laugh as he followed Roe into the snow filled darkness. The sound of Perconte’s sputtering protests continued for a moment, then died out.
Almost immediately Roe reached Sergeant Guarnere’s position and called out, “Sergeant Guarnere.”
Guarnere was startled form his half-doze. He called out sleepily, “Marlene, is that you?” When he saw Doc he jumped up and followed Doc, “Hey doc! Doc, come here.”
Roe stopped at Moe Alley and Joe Liebgott’s position, “Hey boys! It’s the USO picking up syrettes. Alley, Liebgott, you got any?”
Liebgott shook his head, “No, got used in Holland, doc.”
“You ain't using this stuff are you, doc?” Alley laughed, “I mean personal, like.”
Doc merely shook his head and moved on. Guarnere caught up to them, “Hey doc. Doc, I still got the itching. Every time I pee, it's murder.”
“I know,” Roe sounded embarrassed, “I'm sorry, but I just don't have penicillin for your pirogue.”
Guarnere’s voice rose an octave, “What?!”
Roe stopped at Lieutenant Peacock’s position where the Lieutenant sat hunched over. He was the picture of a dispirited man, “Lieutenant. Make sure you move around a little, get your blood flowing.”
“I can't feel my feet.” Peacock sounded like a little boy with a boo-boo.
“Yeah, well, that's why you gotta move around. You know, so you don't get trench foot.”
“Should I take my boots off?”
Roe shook his head, “All you gotta do is just loosen them up and keep moving.”
Guarnere came up and hovered expectantly. Roe turned in exasperation, “Sergeant, I'm sorry. Look I know it must be hell, but I can't help you, all right?” He raised his hand helplessly, “Just drink lots of water.”
“Water?! It's pissing that hurts!”
Roe walked away with Fry at his side. He turned to Fry when they had gone a few steps, “I’m going to take you back to the CP. I’m pretty tired. I appreciate your help.”
“Sure.” Fry nodded. “Thanks Doc. I really didn’t do anything.”
“Sometimes a silent companion is the best of all.” Doc gave one of his rare smiles, “Let’s get you back to your loving wife.”
Later that night, as a star shell popped overhead and drifted lazily downward, Doc huddled in his foxhole. He had a rosary in his hand, “Lord, grant that I shall never seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, or to be loved as to love with all my heart. With all my heart.”
Bastogne, Belgium – December 21, 1944, 0725 Hours (7:45 a.m.)
Dick Winters looked at his watch. It’s luminous dial informed him that it was 7:45 a.m. He peered out into the grey darkness. It should already be BMNT (beginning of morning nautical twilight), but the low grey clouds and the heavy snowfall smothered all but the vaguest hint of the coming dawn.
At least he could make out the dim outline of his friend, Louis Nixon sitting across from him in the CP. Nixon’s body was wrapped in a brown wool army blanket, but he was turned enough that Winters could see the profile of his face. “Nix,” he said softly, “You awake?”
“Yeah.” Nix cleared his throat roughly, “Who the hell could sleep? I’m just turning into a human popsicle bit by bit.” He stirred slightly, “I think I’ll take a walk along the line and warm up.”
“I’d rather you go back to the main CP, then hit Regiment to get the latest SITREP.” Dick paused, “There must be six inches of snow out there. I’d like to know the weather forecast. If we don’t get a resupply soon we’ll be in trouble.”
“How bad is it?”
“Well,” Nix could sense rather than see Winters shrug, “we have about three days of rations left. Our mortars are down to six rounds apiece and most of the men have just enough ammunition for one attack. But that is about it. You know that artillery piece set up along the Noville Road?”
“I helped the crew sight it in. They have three rounds…that is it!” Winters made a raspberry sound, “They’ve been told to only use direct fire against attacking armor. The artillery back in Bastogne has less than a unit of fire. I don’t know why the Krauts haven’t tried to roll over us with their armor.”
“Now that… Nix chuckled, “I can help you with. I’ve read some interrogation reports from prisoners. The fight the tanks and our First Battalion put up in Noville and Foy convinced the Germans to encircle us and try to crush us slowly.”
“They don’t know us very well, do they?”
The snow had slackened a bit so the grey light of the coming dawn allowed both men to see the snow covered mound beneath which Fry and Leela were lying close together. In addition to the blanket of snow, they were wrapped in a tarp, two blankets and an overcoat.
“Have you asked them about the future?” Nix asked.
“No.” Winters rubbed his chin and made a mental note to shave, “Why?”
“I don’t know,” Nix shrugged his shoulders, “They’re visitors from the future...our future…aren’t you curious about it?”
“Oh, I’m curious.” He paused, searching for the right words, “But I wonder that if by knowing the future, I might somehow change it for the worse.”
“Yeah,” Nix nodded slowly, “I guess you’re right, Dick.”
“Why don’t you wake our married couple up.” Winters grinned, “Then go get the scoop from Regiment. I’ll put Dorothy on the radio and take Red up on the line.”
Nixon looked at his watch. It was already 8:05 a.m. Sunrise was in less than 40 minutes. He went over to the mound and spoke softly, “Hey Dorothy, Hey Red…it’s time to get up. Rise and shine.”
The tarp flipped up abruptly, sending it’s covering of snow flying. Leela emerged first, her hair was in bad need of combing and her face was smudged with dirt. The baleful look in her eye caused Nix to take an involuntary step backwards. She noticed and gave a short laugh, “Don’t worry Nix, I’m not looking for a fight. I just need my morning coffee.”
He fumbled in his pockets and pulled out several tan packets, “Here’s some Nescafe™. Knock yourself out.”
“Thanks.” Leela took the packets, “I’ll save you some.”
“That’s okay…you and Red can finish it up.”
Hearing his name Fry stood up, his hair looking like a disorderly orange hayrick. His voice cracked as he asked, “Finish what up?”
“Coffee, Fry.” Leela took his arm, “Come on…let’s get to the CP and make it.”
Together they went to the CP foxhole where Leela fished a canteen cup from her haversack. It only took a few moments for her to pack the cup with snow. Then a micro-burst from her Wristamajiggy neutron laser brought the water to a boil. Adding the Nescafe™ and sugar produced a dark liquid that at least delivered a caffeine jolt and tasted like coffee.
As Leela and Fry shared their coffee, Winters explained the plan for the day. Leela would monitor the radio, while Fry would work with Doc Roe and Spina. It pleased both Fry and Leela that Doc Roe had actually asked for Fry as a helper. Winters said, “I’m going to shave and then we’ll get going.”
While Winters shaved, Leela used her helmet hold some snow that she heated up to wash her face. That done she emptied out the water, combed out her hair, and put her helmet on.
Fry simply wiped his face with a small hand towel Leela gave him. His beard grew so slowly, he only shaved once a week back in New-New York.
“Let’s go Red,” Winters said quietly, “Or would you rather I call you Fry?”
“Ummm…no sir.” Fry smiled, “Red is okay.”
“Dorothy, keep an eye on the shop.” Winters said lightly. “Nix went back to Regiment. When he gets back, let him know that I’ll be back by 0900,”
Winters waited while Fry gave Leela a hug and a kiss. Then he headed out into the white curtain of the falling snow. They were close to Perconte’s foxhole when they heard the tell-tale ‘thonk’ of mortars firing in the distance. Winters grabbed Fry’s arm and dove for the dirt as he shouted, “Incoming!”
Seconds later the rounds began to impact. Some stuck the ground, sending up fountains of dirty grey into the air. Others hit limbs and detonated, showering the ground below them with red hot shrapnel and sharp wood splinters. Explosion after explosion rocked the ground. Inevitably, a voice began to shout, “Medic!”
Fry recognized the voice as that of Corporal Gordon Carson, a tall New Yorker who hung out with Perconte. In between the roar of the explosions and the succeeding shock waves Fry shouted to Winters, “It’s Carson!”
They waited until the shelling stopped. Then Winters shouted, “Let’s go!”
Both men rose as one and raced to the foxhole. Doc Roe had beaten them there. Carson’s right leg was bleeding heavily. Not only did it have wood splinters protruding but it was also stitched with metal shrapnel as well.
Roe was busy pulling bloody wood splinters from Carson’s calf. He paused briefly to ask, “Perconte, you getting a jeep?”
Perconte replied, “I'm on it.” Then he picked up an SCR-536 Handie-Talkie and pulled the antenna up to switch it on.
Carson groaned, “Those Krauts nailed my leg! Look at my leg!”
Perconte shouted into the mouthpiece, “Easy CP. Easy CP, this is Perconte.”
Roe knew that if Carson panicked, he could go into shock. So he spoke reassuringly, “Bear with me, bear with me.”
“Carson has been hit.” Perconte said forcefully, “I need a jeep. I repeat: I need a jeep now.” Apparently not certain that the person on the other end understood the gravity of the situation, Frank began to swear, “Get it moving goddamn it! We need it now!”
Satisfied with the reply Perconte said soothingly, “You'll be all right, Carson.”
“Okay, Carson.” Roe adopted a reassuring tone as well, “It ain't that bad, ain't that bad.”
“Ain't that bad?” Carson sounded incredulous.
Roe sprinkled sulfanilamide powder liberally over the wound before taking a Carlisle bandage and wrapping the wound with the long gauze tails. He looked at Carson, “Okay, one pull”. Roe tightened and tied the bandage in place, causing Carson to grunt. Roe reached into his aid bag and pulled out a morphine syrette.
Carson held up his hand and said forcefully, “No! Doc, save the morphine. I can make it. I can make it. Save it.”
Roe looked at Fry, “Hey Red.” He paused for a second, “All right, let's get him out of here.”
In a rare demonstration of emotion Roe spat, “Where's the goddamn jeep?”
Carson lifted his head from the snow covered ground, “I don't know, but I hear it.”
The growl of the jeep’s engine cut through the still falling snow with increasing volume. It hove into view and spun around about 50 yards away. Fry took Carson’s left arm, Perconte took his right arm and Roe grabbed his legs. They ran toward the jeep, whose driver was waving them on. Perconte slipped and fell.
Carson grunted through clenched teeth, “Jesus Christ!”
Perconte protested, “Carson, you got blood all over my trousers!”
In a voice dripping with sarcasm Carson shot back, “I'm real sorry, Frank!”
“Get him up.” Roe was becoming exasperated.
“Damn it, Carson...” Perconte wouldn’t let it go.
They loaded Carson onto the stretcher across the hood of the jeep. “Come on Red.” Roe took Fry by the arm, “I could use your help.”
As he climbed into the jeep Roe turned to Perconte, “Tell Spina Red and I went in for plasma.”
The jeep roared down the firebreak and hit the road leading back to Bastogne leaving a plume of whirling snow in their wake. Fry turned his back to their direction of travel. The snow that was dusting his jacket making it look like a sugar donut also stung when it struck his near-frozen face. In the time it took to cover the three miles town, no one spoke.
Once they hit the town, the driver started shouting like a tour guide, “All the tanks, artillery, all pulled back to here. We got no backup beyond Bastogne. This is it.”
They pulled up in front of a stone church. The set the brake and said, “The Krauts captured the 326th Medical. They took everybody: Doctors, medics, the whole shebang. We got nothing. That’s why we’re using other unit’s aid stations.”
Roe piled out of the front seat and Fry scrambled out of the rear seat to heft a half-frozen Carson into the aid station. Fry noticed a sign by the entrance which said, “20th Armored Infantry Battalion Aid Station”.
Just before they entered the driver said, “They're giving the boys hooch for the pain.”
As they entered, two other soldiers came up with a stretcher and transferred Carson to it. As they did so, Roe spoke up, “He took a mortar hit. Watch the leg.”
Carson murmured through half-frozen lips, “Yeah, watch the leg.”
Roe handed the stretcher back to the driver, who left without saying anything further. The two stretcher bearers were moving deeper into the semi-darkness of the church. “Let’s follow him in,” Roe said to Fry before pushing though the crowded interior after Carson.”
Fry followed Roe through, “Coming through. Move it, fellas.”
Fry saw a lovely chestnut haired, dark eyed nurse next to Carson’s stretcher. She was giving orders in lightly accented English, “No, no. Here. Put him here.”
The lead stretcher bearer replied, “Yes, ma'am.”
The nurse turned to Roe, “Is he bad?”
“No,” Roe shook his head, “lower-leg wound. No morphine.”
The nurse bent over to check the wound. Roe could see that she had an expert touch. When she straightened up, Roe spoke, “Nurse. Have you got plasma I can—“
She held up her hand as she went over to another patient, “Wait. Please.”
“Hey,” Roe sounded puzzled, “what's going on here? Why ain't these men evacuated?”
A medic looked up from the patient he was checking, “We can't evacuate. We're cut off. This is as far as it goes.”
Carson grabbed Roe’s sleeve, grinned and looked at the nurse, “I'm in heaven, doc.”
The nurse began to move toward the rear of the church. Roe called out, “Nurse.” She turned and motioned, “This way.”
Roe and Fry followed her to a room at the back of the church where a variety of medical supplies were piled or stacked on shelves. When they entered, Roe got right to the point, “I need morphine. I need bandages. Whatever you got. We got nothing.”
“Okay, I can give you a little, but not a lot.” She went to work and quickly filled up an ammo box with supplies. She stood with her hands on her hips, surveying the shelves and thinking for a moment before turning to Roe, “You can have this today.”
Roe said hopefully, “You got plasma?”
“A little.” She sounded surprised, “Are you a surgeon?”
“No.” Roe shook his head, “We don't got no surgeon.”
Fry, who was holding the box, had been standing silently looking at the supplies being piled up. There were strips of blue and white striped cloth that looked out of place. He held one up and asked, “What's this?”
“From the bed.”
“What,” Fry was surprised, “sheets?”
She nodded, “Yes, for bandages.”
The entire time they had been talking, they had been walking to the front entrance of the church. When they arrived, Roe decided to switch to French, “Merci. Comment t'appelles-tu?” (What is your name?)
She replied in English, “My name is Renée.”
“I'm Gene.” He smiled one of his rare but winning smiles, “Eugene Roe.”
Renée returned his smile, “Where are you from?”
“Louisiana. Half-Cajun.” He pointed at Fry, “My buddy is from New York.” Then he switched back to French, “Et toi, tu viens d'où?” (Where are you from?)
Fry noticed that the driver who had brought them in was still parked outside the church. He called out, “Hey buddy! Can you get us back to the line?”
Fry went to the jeep and put the box of supplies in it. As he climbed into the back seat, he could see that Roe had torn himself away from Renée and was almost in the front seat. The jeep’s engine roared to life. In the split second before pulling away, Renée called out, “Eugene!”
Roe looked over and she tossed him a small bar of something. She smiled at the quizzical look on his face, calling out, “Chocolat. Pour vous.” (Chocolate. For you.) He waved a thank you as the jeep headed down the street. She watched it until it was lost from her sight in a curtain of falling, swirling snow.
Bastogne, Belgium – December 21, 1944, 1000 Hours (10:00 a.m.)
Leela winced as the sound of explosions rolled through the forest. She slid down into the CP foxhole, knowing that even though the Germans probably intended to hit the front line, mortar rounds didn’t always land where intended. As if to reinforce ‘that discretion is the better part of valor’, several rounds landed near the CP. The air was full of whizzing red-hot iron and Leela found herself wishing that she could crawl, turtle-like, into her helmet.
Then, just as suddenly as it began it ended. Raising her head above the lip of the foxhole, Leela listened intently. She could hear someone calling for a medic, but she knew instantly the voice wasn’t Fry’s. She wondered anxiously who might have been hit, and then the answer hit her…the radio!
In a flash, she was back in the foxhole, turning dials to listen in on the Easy Company radio traffic. Sure enough, she was able to listen to the entire exchange of traffic between Perconte and the Easy CP. She was relieved to know that Fry wasn’t wounded. After listening for a bit, Leela satisfied herself that there was no further radio traffic. So she switched back to the Regimental frequency.
The wind picked up a bit and blew some snow in her face. She shivered and drew the overcoat Fry had somehow found closer around her body. “Thank God for these suits the Professor made us put on or we’d freeze to death.” The Professor…ooh! He was going to pay for sending them into the past of that she was certain.
A figure approached the CP out of the swirling snow. As it drew closer, Leela recognized him. It was the Easy Company commander…what was his name? “Oh yeah, it’s Dike…Lieutenant Dike,” Leela breathed to herself. She had already heard a lot of unflattering stories about him from the men. He sounded like a washed out version of Zapp Brannigan, conceited, cowardly, and self-centered but without any of Zapp’s panache.
“Well,” Dike said, “it seems the stories are true! A purple haired Cyclops!” He grinned, “So is Captain Winters keeping you for himself?”
The insinuation caused Leela’s temper to begin to rise rapidly to dangerous levels. She said through her teeth, “Whatever do you mean Lieutenant?”
“Oh…I think you know.” He tried what he felt was a winning smile, “I’d sure like to have someone to keep me warm.”
“Really?” Leela ground her teeth as she climbed out of the foxhole. She was going to so enjoy the idea kicking his behind.
“I can take you into Bastogne to Division Headquarters.” Dike’s wheedled, “You could get a bath, and we could share a hot meal and a nice soft bed.”
“Well, they say a slice off a cut loaf is never missed.”
Dike never saw the roundhouse kick that connected with the left side of his face. Totally unprepared, he spun like a top before slamming into the ground. Before Leela could close in and really ‘commence the butt kicking’, she heard Captain Nixon’s voice say, “Whoa there Dorothy! One kick in self-defense is enough.”
She stopped short, “What?”
Nixon held his hands up defensively, “I was coming through the woods and heard every word he said.” He laughed, “I emerged just in time to see you put a boot to his head. He is out like a light, isn’t he?”
“It looks that way.”
“I’ll fill Dick in on all of this.” Nixon chuckled again, “I don’t think that old ‘Foxhole Norman’ will say a word anyway. He’d never live it down if the men knew a woman kicked his butt.”
At that moment, Dike emitted a low groan. Leela’s lip curled in disgust, “If he ever bothers me again that will be the least of his worries.”
“Checkmate CP this is King CP, Over.” The radio crackled to life. Leela slid into position next to it, took up the handset and growled into it, “King CP his is Checkmate Five Able, Over.”
“Roger Checkmate Five Able, advise Checkmate 5 that King 6 wants him at King CP ASAP, Over.”
“Wilco King CP, Over.”
“This is King CP, Out.”
In the short time it had taken Leela to answer the radio call, Nixon got Dike to his feet and dispatched him with a stern warning against harassing Leela. Concentrating on her task, Leela had missed it, “So where did Dike go?”
“Back to his foxhole to nurse a headache,” Nixon laughed. “What was the call about?”
“Colonel Sink wants Captain Winters back at Regimental Headquarters as soon as possible.”
“I’ll go get him,” Nixon headed for the battalion front lines, “Keep up the good work, Dorothy.” He vanished into the woods amid the falling snow.
While Winters was gone, Fry showed up at the CP. He held up a scarf and a pair of gloves he had scrounged in Bastogne, “I hope these fit.”
“Where did you find these?” Leela asked as she took them.
“Back in Bastogne.” He didn’t want to tell her that he had gotten them a pile of clothes taken from the dead.
“The gloves fit perfectly!” She looked him over, “Didn’t you find anything to fit you?”
“No,” he shook his head. “They were all out of my size.”
“Oh,” Fry rummaged through his haversack, “I got you a K-Ration, too.”
“Oh Fry!” Leela smiled, “You are the best!” She patted the snow covered lip of the foxhole invitingly, “Take a load off your feet.”
With a mumbled “thanks” Fry eased himself onto the ground. Leela picked up a blanket, scooted next to Fry and wrapped it around their shoulders, “How does that feel?”
“Better than cuddling next to Doc Roe…that’s for sure.” He trembled from the cold, “I don’t want to sound like a whiner but it sure is cold out here!”
“Cuddling…that sounds like a great idea!” Leela drew even closer to Fry in such a way that even unused half-frozen body parts began to warm up.
“Ummm…Leela…what if someone should come by the CP?”
“We’re not going to go too far,” she giggled. Then her voice became husky, “Besides if we did, we’re man and wife.” Fry’s reply was a strangled cross between a gasp and a yelp. Leela burst out laughing…then she had an idea, “Fry…aren’t there houses still standing in Bastogne where we could sleep together in a nice soft feather bed?”
“Yeah.” Fry brightened up, “Doc and I saw a little place about a mile and a half down the road. There is a family living there but what could we give them as rent?”
Leela thought for a moment, “If you can get a couple more blankets and come K Rations, maybe that would work.”
Fry nodded, Okay, next time I’m in town I’ll see what I can find.” He scratched his head, “But how will we get permission?”
Leela winked, “You leave that up to me.”
Bastogne, Belgium – December 21, 1944, 1200 Hours (12:00 p.m.)
The snow had slowed considerably but had not stopped. As a result, Leela could see Lieutenant Dike from some distance as he trudged through the snow toward the CP. The twin jets of steam coming from his nose made her think of one of those crazy cartoons where a bull breathed steam out of its nose. Fry was with him, having been sent out as a runner by Captain Winters.
Dike detoured wide of Leela and reported to Winters, “You wanted to see me sir?”
“Yes,” Winters pointed to a map laid out on an ammunition box, “Easy Company has been selected to conduct a platoon sized combat patrol forward of our lines. They want us to find the Kraut outpost line and their main line of resistance.”
“Here,” Winters pointed at the map with the end of a pencil, “is the railway line which is divides our battalion from the 501st. Let the patrol use this rail line as a sort of guide rail from and to our positions.” He paused to look Dike in the eyes, “Got it?”
“Got it, sir.”
“Who do you have in mind to handle the mission?”
Dike thought for a moment, “Lieutenant Peacock’s platoon, sir.”
“When will you move out?”
“Make it 13:30.” Winters looked at the sky, “It will be dark by a little after 16:30. We don’t want the boys trying to re enter friendly lines after dark.”
“I understand, sir.”
Winters turned to Leela, “What’s the call sign for an Easy Company Patrol?”
“Let me check, sir.” Leela checked the booklet in her pocket, “For today sir it is ‘Lightning’.”
“Got that Lieutenant?”
Winters turned to Fry, “Red, go get Liebgott and the two of you alert the battalion that we will have a patrol out there. We don’t anyone getting trigger happy if the snow picks up again.”
“Sure, sir.” Fry gave Leela’s hand a squeeze before he stood up. “I’ll be back soon.”
“Stay safe,” Leela waved as Fry walked off through the woods.
Less than an hour later, Fry had joined Doc Roe at the edge of a small clearing only a few yards behind the front line. Captain Maloney, the highly popular Regimental Chaplain was concluding a Catholic service for a group of men from the battalion, “Fight well for you God and your country. God bless you all. Stay safe.”
Standing in a small knot were Muck, Heffron, Spina, Luz, Hoobler and the new guy Julian. As usual, Muck was wisecracking, “That's it, guys. Nothing more to worry about. We gonna die now, we gonna die in a state of grace. Isn't that right, Babe?”
Spina broke the bad news as Roe and Fry came up, “Battalion want a reconnaissance patrol. Kraut-hunting."
“All right, I'll go.” Roe handed him a set of boots, “Take these. Give the boots to Joe Toye. Tell him they're a nine.”
Spina took them wordlessly and headed over to Toye’s foxhole.
“Peacock's leading,” Luz asked softly, “right?"
“Right.” Hoobler nodded his head.
“Great.” Luz shook his head, “That asshole couldn't find a snowball in a blizzard.”
It only took a few minutes for them to the get the platoon assembly area. When they arrived Julian spoke up, “Sarge.”
Sergeant Johnny Martin said tiredly, “Yeah, Julian?”
“Let me be the lead scout.”
Martin shook his head, “Back in line, private.”
Lieutenant Peacock announced in a nervous voice, “That's it. Let's move out!”
Martin: "Tactical columns, gentlemen." Martin spoke up with quiet authority. As Doc and Fry began to fall in, Martin spoke up, “Doc, Red, it's a combat patrol. Why don't you two stay back and keep your asses out of trouble?”
Both Fry and Roe responded in unison, "Yes, sergeant."
Martin: "Yeah." Martin nodded. Then he turned to his lead scout of choice, Don Hoobler, “Come on, Hoobler. Pick it up.”
Quietly, they platoon spread out and headed into the forest. Soon Roe and Fry lost sight of them in the gently falling snow. Roe squatted down on his heels leaning against a tree. Fry stood opposite him, shifting from foot to foot. The wind had picked up, dropping the temperature and driving the snow almost sideways.
“How do you stand the waiting?” Fry asked.
“I dunno.” Roe shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t see any point in worrying about something I can’t control.”
“Doesn’t it get to you…treating all the wounded guys…all your buddies?”
“Sometimes it does.” He nodded, “But I have to keep going because I can’t let my buddies down, you know that.”
Conversation flagged as the wind continued to whistle through the trees, chilling both men to the bone. After almost twenty minutes of waiting, Fry spoke up, “I hope they’re ok.”
“No news is good news.”
“BRRRRRRRPPP!” The unmistakable sound of a German MG-42 Machine Gun echoed through the forest. The first burst triggered a cacophony as US and German weapons barked and growled at each other for what seemed like an eternity. Then the US weapons fire sputtered out followed shortly after by that of the Germans. Soon all was silence.
“What happened?” Fry asked softly.
“Sounds like our patrol ran into some Krauts.”
The firing had just died out when Lieutenant Peacock hurried by head down and heading for the rear…alone.
Roe leaped to his feet and asked anxiously, “What's happening, sir?”
“We're pulling back.” Peacock replied without slowing down or looking at Roe or Fry, “We made contact. I gotta get to the CP.”
Within a few minutes the patrol came hot footing into the company lines. Roe and Fry heard them coming before they saw them through the swirling snow.
A voice sounded from the woods, “On me! Move!” Another voice shouted, “Where the hell are we?” Someone else yelled, “Straight ahead! Straight ahead!”
Several shots rang out, felling one of the men. Fry recognized him, a young kid named Jim Welling.
Hoobler was at Welling’s side in an instant. He bellowed, “Doc! Doc!”
Doc and Fry rushed past Walter Gordon and another man as they deployed a machine gun to answer the German fire, “Set it up on the rock!” Bull Randleman yelled. It was obvious that the Germans had sent a patrol out to follow them. Gordon opened fire, sending a series of well aimed bursts in the Kraut’s direction. Soon, the Kraut fire ceased.
Doc checked Welling over and could see that he had been hit in the abdomen. The bullet hadn’t hit an artery or anything vital as far as Roe could tell.
George Luz crouched nearby, shouting into the radio handset to be heard over the shouting and firing, “Easy CP. Easy CP. Lightning, over.”
Back at the 2nd Battalion CP, Leela sat bolt upright on hearing Luz’s voice. She snatched up the handset to listen…praying that Fry was unharmed.
“This is Easy CP. Go ahead Lightning, over.”
“I need a jeep at the CP.” Luz shouted, “We have a wounded man, Private Welling. Immediate evacuation, over.”
“Roger Lightning, there’s a jeep on the way!” Leela broke in on the net in violation of protocol. She recovered, “Easy CP this is Checkmate Five Able, I’m switching to Regimental frequency to get you that jeep, out.”
Without waiting for a response, Leela turned the dial and called out, “King Six, King Six, this is Checkmate Five Able, over.”
The response was almost instantaneous, “This is King Six Able, over.”
“Roger, King Six Able, this is Checkmate Five Able. We need a jeep to Easy CP to evacuate a WIA immediately, over.”
“Wilco Checkmate, over.”
“Thanks King, this is Checkmate Six Able, out.”
Back at the patrol position Bull Randleman shouted at the soldiers lying on the ground facing the German positions, “Eyes sharp! Eyes sharp!”
“Okay, I got you a jeep, Doc.” Luz patted Roe on the shoulder as he spoke. He crouched beside Welling and said encouragingly, “Hang on, we'll get you out.”
Captain Nixon had been inspecting the front line positions when the first firing had broken out. He reached the patrol and called out, “Martin? Martin!”
“Sir?” Martin turned his attention to Captain Nixon.
“What's going on?” Nixon asked.
Martin shrugged helplessly, then sagged, “They got Julian!”
“He's still alive!” Babe Heffron exclaimed excitedly.
Martin growled, “We don't know that!”
“We gotta go get him, sir!” Babe pleaded with Captain Nixon, going over Martin’s head.
Nixon ignored the overwrought Babe to focus his attention on Martin, “Did you hit their OP or their line?”
“Their line, sir!” Martin was emphatic.
Babe was becoming frantic, “We gotta go back to get Julian out of there!”
“No.” Nixon shook his head. “Fall back!”
Bull Randleman asked, “We lost Peacock?”
Martin answered in a disgusted voice, “No, he's back at the CP.”
“You okay, Doc?” Luz asked.
After a moment’s thought Nixon made up his mind, “Come on, Martin! Fall back!” He pointed at Welling, “Get him outta here!”
“We gotta go back, Doc.” Luz voice was laced with urgency.
In response Doc Roe jammed a morphine syrette into Welling’s neck.
Luz’s voice climbed an octave, “Doc, we gotta move now, Doc! Come on!” He shouted, “Let's go!”
Doc seemed frozen in place. Fry shook his shoulder, “Doc, now! Let's go!” Roe rose to his feet and picked up his aid bag. Hoobler and Fry grabbed Welling by his clothing and lifted him from the ground. Fry could feel the warmth of Welling’s blood oozing on his hands. He resisted the urge to release his grip. Instead, he gripped even tighter.
“Move!” Martin shouted, “Let's go! Back, fall back!”
They made it back to the Easy CP in only a few moments. Welling was loaded onto a waiting jeep which roared off to Bastogne as soon as he was secured in the litter. Ralph Spina rode with the jeep to tend Welling’s wound.
The entire platoon flung itself on the ground utterly spent now that the adrenaline rush of the patrol was gone. No one spoke. They were tired, disgusted and dejected. They had lost one man dead and another wounded…and for what? So they could tell the battalion that the Krauts were out there?
Fry knelt down and began to clean Welling’s blood from his hands. He looked up and – for a brief instant – his eyes met those of Doc Roe who was sitting on the ground propped up against a tree. The dull hopelessness Fry saw shocked him. Had Doc seen one too many men killed or wounded?
Captain Winters came up, took a quick look and realized that the patrol had not gone well. Sergeant Martin said quietly, “We couldn't get to him, Captain” He paused before continuing, “We tried. Babe tried. We couldn't get to him.”
Winters nodded without speaking, aware that at a time like this, words were useless. The silence of the men called for his attention. He went over to the circle, “Hey, Bull. Let me sit in here with you guys.”
The men moved aside to make room. Winters sat down without speaking to share in their silence. Fry noticed Doc Roe take a bar of something out of his aid bag, sniff it, and then put it carefully back.
Bastogne, Belgium – December 22, 1944, 0720 Hours (7:20 a.m.)
Light powdery snow was still falling when Fry opened his eyes. He couldn’t believe how cold it was…it was even colder than the Ice Fields of Hyperion. It was the biting cold that had awakened him, even though he was cuddled with Leela and wrapped in two blankets and an overcoat. He marveled at the fact that Leela was still asleep. Of course, she was the toughest person he knew.
The second toughest had to be Eugene Roe. How Roe managed to keep doing his job amid all the blood and death was beyond Fry. Maybe he really was a natural healer like his grandmother. Just that past evening, Fry had been sitting with Spina and Roe in their foxhole. Ralph Spina had brought the subject up, “Hey, what do you call those people again? Those Cajun healers?”
Roe had smiled, “Traiteurs.” He paused for a moment before continuing, “You know, my grandma was a traiteuse.”
“Your grandmother?” Spina was genuinely surprised, “No s**t?”
“No, she was.” Roe shook his head, “Laid her hands on people and cured them. Took away sickness, cancer, you name it.”
“Your grandma did that?” Fry asked. “Are you kidding me?”
“I remember she used to pray a lot.” Roe mused.
“Yeah,” Spina remarked, “I guess she had to.”
Roe continued, “Talked to God about the pain she pulled out. Asked him to carry it away.” Seeing the incredulous look on Fry and Spina’s faces, he said quietly, “That's what she did.”
Spina waxed philosophical, “I'm still trying to figure why they picked me for a medic. God knows.” He paused, “Snap of a finger and just like that, you're a medic.” He exhaled, “I've had enough playing doctor. Hey, how about you?”
Roe nodded in reply.
Fry came back to the present and craned his neck slightly to look around at his surroundings. Captain Winters was sitting up in the CP, hugging himself tightly for warmth. The sun had not yet risen, but in the grey light of early dawn Fry noticed that Captain Nixon was in the CP as well. He could hear Winters and Nixon conversing, but he could not quite make out their words.
Leela stirred. Without opening her eye she murmured, “Come back and hug me, I’m getting cold.”
“Oh, sorry!” Fry lowered the tarp and embraced Leela tightly enough to feel the warmth return. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“You didn’t wake me, the cold woke me.”
“What time is it?”
Leela fumbled in the darkness, dug her Wristamajiggy out of her haversack and checked the time, “It’s seven thirty…why?”
“Captain Winters said he wanted me to walk the line with him around eight.”
“He did?’ Leela sounded skeptical, “Or did you volunteer?”
“Um…no…no I didn’t volunteer.”
“I’m a little jealous that you get to do something other than sit.” Leela snuggled closer, “It’s boring and cold when I’m by myself at the CP.”
“Do you want me to stay here with you?”
“No.” She laughed, “No sense in us both being miserable.”
“I’d love to be miserable together.”
“No, I want you to be with the guys.” She paused, trying to think of the right way to put it. Normandy had showed her how much she loved Fry. Associating with the men of Easy Company had been good for him, it had drawn out characteristics she didn’t know he had. “It’s the right thing to do.”
“Okay.” Fry gave her his best boyish grin, “I’ll keep out of trouble.”
“Stop it with the grin!” Leela kissed him fiercely, “It’s too damned cold to snu-snu.”
“Heck, it’s almost too cold to pee.”
“You think you have a problem!” Leela snorted, “Now go on to the CP. I’ll join you in a minute.”
“Okay.” Fry hugged her tightly and then wiggled out from under the tarp. He shivered as the cold breeze cut through his uniform like a knife. Clapping his arms around his body, Fry strode rapidly to the CP. When Captain Winters looked his way Fry said cheerfully, “Good morning, sir.”
“Good Morning.” Winters smiled, “Is Dorothy up?”
“Yes sir.” He glanced back at the tarp beneath which Leela was stirring. “She should be here soon.”
“She’s a fine radio operator,” Winters said in his usual calm tone. “And you’ve turned out to be a good battalion handyman. I’ll miss you both.”
Fry blinked in surprise. A complement from Captain Winters was a complement indeed. “Thanks, sir.”
“Don’t mention it.”
Later when Leela joined them in the CP, Captain Nixon had already left to go to Regiment for the latest Operations and Intelligence briefing. Winters stood when Leela climbed into the foxhole, “Good morning, are you ready to assume radio watch?”
“Yes sir.” She held up her steaming canteen cup, “Would you like some fresh brewed coffee?”
“No thanks, I just shared a cup with the lovely Captain Nixon.”
She turned to Fry, “Want some?”
“Sure,” he grinned, “but I’ll settle for the coffee.”
Surprised, Leela actually blushed. When Fry came over with his empty cup outstretched, Leela said very quietly as she dumped dark steaming hot liquid into it, “One more crack like that mister and a cup of coffee will be the only thing that will warm you up for a long time.” She smiled, “Got it?”
Now it was Fry’s turn to blush, “Um…yes Leela…I…uh…I understand.”
“Good,” she almost purred in reply, “Now drink your coffee before it gets cold.”
Fry slugged his coffee down with lightning speed. The last gulp went down the wrong way causing Fry to gasp, hack and snort coffee out his nose. Fry’s performance had caught Winter’s attention who watched it silently and at the conclusion simply said, “Nice.”
A few minutes later Captain Nixon returned with the Operations and Intelligence update. They spread the one map they had out on the ammunition crate they used as a table. Nixon began to narrate, “Great news! The weather is going to clear by no later than nine. We should be seeing C-47 resupply planes this morning or early afternoon. Also, Patton’s Third Army is pushing up from the south to relieve us from encirclement. So were 100% better off than we were yesterday.”
“Excellent!” Winters eyes gleamed, “How many days of clear weather?”
“Dick, we’ll have at least a week.”
Winters slammed his right fist into his open left palm, “We’ve made it.” He leaned over the map, “Where are the enemy? Where will they likely attack?”
“Regiment thinks that we have the 26th Volksgrenadier Division in front of us, with reinforcements from the Panzer Lehr Division. Both are good outfits, but the Krauts are experiencing supply problems, just like us.”
“So when do you think they will attack?”
Nixon rubbed his chin, “Two days…maybe three at the most.”
“Thanks Lou,” Winters clapped him on the shoulder, “Well done.” Turning to Fry Winters said, “Time to go visit the front line. Stay low and stay close to me. Nix, stay with Dorothy and keep the CP manned.”
“Okay then.” Winters motioned to Fry, “Let’s move out.” Then he stepped off into the trees.
Fry turned and waved goodbye to Leela before he followed Winters through the maze of trees toward the front line. The first foxhole they arrived at was occupied by Guarnere and Heffron.
Winters was shivering slightly as he squatted down and asked, “How’s it going?”
“Just peachy sir,” Guarnere grinned, “Except we’re all freezing our asses off.”
“Join the club,” Winters replied. “Don’t you wish you were back in Philadelphia?”
“You bet. It’s a hell of a lot warmer there, I’ll bet.” He paused for a moment, “It’s probably a whole lot warmer in Lancaster.”
“Have you seen anything out there?” Winters jerked his thumb at the distant tree line.
“No sir. The Krauts have been real quiet just the way we like it. They’re probably as cold as we are.” Guarnere shook his head, “Any news?”
“Nope.” Winters grinned, “They don’t tell me jack…you know that, Bill. All I know is that they expect us to hold the line until the fly-fly boys can win the war.”
Guarnere’s voice mirrored the look on his face, “What a load of crap.” Everyone laughed at Guarnere’s expression, partly because it was how they all felt.
Winters looked at Heffron, “Heffron, are you okay?”
“My feet are freakin’ frozen, sir.”
Winters shrugged, “Wiggle your toes…and keep wiggling them. Keep dry socks on and don’t let your toes freeze up. We’re losing more men to frostbite and trench foot than to bullets.” He stood up, “Stay alert, guys.”
They walked over to the Easy Company CP. First Sergeant Carwood Lipton was there in command with George Luz as his radio operator. Doc Roe was there, discussing his worries about the creeping epidemic of frostbite with Lipton. Of First Lieutenant Dike there was no sign.
Lipton noticed them first, “Morning, sir…Red.”
“Morning Lip…what’s the word?” Winters assumed the normal relaxed manner he took with Lipton. “I just wanted to spread a little good word.”
“Oh? How’s that?”
“The word is that the weather is going to clear beginning today. Keep an eye out for supply parachutes. Hopefully, they’ll drop most of the stuff on the Drop Zones near town, but we can’t be sure.”
“Right sir, that is good news.” Lip smiled, I’d sure like to see some red canopies.”
Fry whispered to Roe, “Red canopies?”
“The parachute canopies are different colors for different kinds of supplies, red for ammunition; yellow for medical supplies; green for food; and white for just about everything else.”
“Anyway,” Winters continued, “Keep an eye out. As soon as the sky clears I believe we’ll have plenty to do.”
An hour later after Winters had trooped the line, Fry found himself sharing Ralph Spina and Doc Roe’s foxhole. Doc was lecturing Spina and Fry on the dangers of frostbite and trench foot. He stopped in mid sentence, “Listen!”
In the distance a low humming growl grew from barely audible to filling the air. Everyone got to their feet. A column of dozens of C-47’s flew overhead, heading toward Bastogne. Several men threw red smoke grenades to mark their position. Others ran into the open and began to wave their arms wildly.
Their capering around drew the attention of two escorting P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft, who nosed over and began to spray the open field with machine gun fire.
Lipton roared out, “Take cover! Come on, doc!”
Most men complied, running back into the woods. Several men began to take potshots at the departing fighter planes.
“Cease fire!” Lipton shouted until he was almost hoarse, “Cease fire, goddamn it!”
“Sergeant,” Roe sounded bewildered, “I don't understand! It was our own planes!”
Lipton held his index finger to his lips, “Shhh.” He pointed in the direction of Bastogne, where parachutes were blossoming. Some were clearly going to drift down into the Bois Jacques. “C-47s. They're bringing supplies. It's a drop. It's a drop. Come on!”
Lipton slapped Fry on the shoulder, “All right, Red you help the Doc. The rest of you, come with me.”
Helping Doc turned out to involve a ride with him in to Bastogne. During the drive they had to dodge supply containers falling from the sky. Parachutes of all colors were draped over buildings, lying across the roads, and festooning the bare branches of the snow covered trees. They signaled that ammunition, food, and other supplies were now flowing into Bastogne in ever increasing amounts.
They pulled up in front of the 20th Armored Infantry Battalion’s Aid Station. Doc dismounted and Fry hopped out of the rear seat and followed him. They were looking to pick up medical supplies, particularly plasma, penicillin and morphine. However, when they came through the door a soldier shouted at Roe, “Medic! Someone give us a hand here! Help!”
There was a badly wounded soldier lying on a table, bleeding severely from a stomach wound. Renée was already at the wounded soldier’s side, “This one through here. Now!” Working with her was a black nurse…one that Fry had seen around the aid station before. Roe joined them and began to literally reach inside the wound as blood sprayed everywhere, “The artery. We gotta find the artery.”
“Anna!” Renée called out, “Anna!” Before the other nurse could arrive, the soldier gasped, quivered and became still. The bleeding stopped. The soldier was dead. Roe threw some bloody bandages which had been packing the wound, wiped his hands on his trousers, and walked out of the aid station, followed by Renée, Fry and the black nurse.
Fry asked, “What’s your name? My name’s Phil.”
“My name is Augusta.” She smiled, “Are you a medic?”
“I’m learning.” He thought for a moment, “I kind of handle supplies. Do you have any plasma, penicillin or morphine syrettes?”
“Oui…I mean yes. A lot of supplies fell this morning. Come inside and I will get it for you.”
“Great.” He smiled, “Thanks.”
Roe watched Fry and Augusta go back into the aid station, “Where does she come from?” He paused, “The black girl.”
“Augusta?” Renée asked. “She is from the Congo.”
“How'd she get here?”
“Just like me.” Renée smiled, “She came to help.” She could see that Roe was shaken by the soldier’s death, so she held out a chocolate bar, “Chocolat?”
Roe didn’t answer. Instead he stared at her hands as if mesmerized.
“What?” Renée was puzzled.
Renée stared at her bloody, chapped hands as if they belonged to someone else, “My hands?”
“You're a good nurse.”
Renée shook her head violently, “No. I never want to treat another wounded man again.” Her voice became passionate, “I'd rather work in a butcher's shop.”
“But your touch calms people.” Roe sounded reverent, “That's a gift from God.”
Renée shook her head again, “No, it's not a gift. God would never give such a painful thing.”
A jeep pulled up in front of the aid station. The driver hopped out and shouted in Renée’s direction, “Nurse! Nurse! We need some help over here!”
Renée hopped to her feet and hurried over. The soldier pointed at the man on the litter, “Got shrapnel through the stomach.”
“How bad is it?” Renée assessed the soldier with an expert eye, “Okay, get this one in first.”
Fry emerged from the aid station with a box full of supplies. Augusta had another box in her arms, which Roe took. Augusta smiled, “I hope to see you late Philip. “Je te verrais plus tard!” Then she hurried back into the aid station.
“What did she just say?” Fry asked Roe.
“She said, ‘I’ll see you later’ in French.”
“Oh.” Fry set his box of supplies in the jeep. “I hope she knows I’m married.”
Roe gave one of his rare laughs, “Your wife will tell her if it ever comes up. Let’s go.”
They both climbed into the jeep and roared away to the 2nd Battalion area. As they picked up speed and the wind cut through his clothes, Roe reflected that things were looking up…yes…things were definitely looking up.
Bastogne, Belgium – December 23, 1944, 0800 Hours (8 a.m.)
Early morning brought brilliantly blue clear skies, a chilly breeze and a sky full of C-47s and C-46s over Bastogne. From beneath their wings and from their cargo doors bundles of supplies rained down on the men of the 101st Airborne Division beneath red, yellow, green and white parachutes. Most of the bundles landed in the fields around the town where work parties gathered them up, sorted the contents and took them to various dumps.
Fry and Leela sat outside the Battalion Command Post, watching the procession of lumbering transport aircraft and nimble escort fighters as they passed overhead. Few German anti-aircraft guns dared to fire at such tempting targets because the escort fighters were just waiting for such an opportunity. Fry and Leela watched one German battery near Noville try it’s luck anyway. The Germans managed to hit one of the transports, causing a thin plume of smoke to trail from the port engine.
The battery paid a steep price for its success. Fry and Leela watched as Two P-47 “Thunderbolt” aircraft banked sharply, tearing into the German battery with their .50 caliber machine guns. Sixteen in number, the guns ripped through the battery position turning most of the Germans into mangled corpses. The Thunderbolts made a second pass and this time there were secondary explosions as their fire touched off the ready ammunition.
“Damn!” Fry exclaimed as the flames and smoke shot into the air. The sound of the explosions rolled through the trees a few seconds later.
The stricken C-47 was losing altitude rapidly but it still headed toward Bastogne. Realizing they wouldn’t make the resupply drop zones, the pilot ordered the cargo master to begin kicking out the door bundles. At the same time he issued those orders to the cargo master, the pilot yanked the releases for the bundles beneath the wing. All four bundles fell away, their chutes blossoming like mushrooms in a sodden field – two white, one yellow, one red.
“Look,” Leela shouted, “Those parachutes are going to land right near us!”
Captain Winters stepped out of the CP followed by Captain Nixon. They both looked up. “They sure are,” Winters smiled at Leela. “Get on the radio to Easy and Dog Companies. Have them send out work parties to bring in the bundles…and the parachutes. The white ones will make good camouflage.”
Leela nodded, “Yes Sir.” Before she could tune the radio, Fry gave an excited shout, “Hey look! The bundles look like they’re going to land right on top of us!”
Both Winters and Leela looked up. It was obvious that a gust of wind had caught the parachutes and was bringing them directly toward the CP.
“May as well wait on the radio call,” Winters said quietly to Leela. “We’ll go have a look at the bundles as they land.” Then he turned to Fry, “Run over to Easy Company and have Dyke send a work party of five men. You can help them bring the bundles and chutes in.” He smiled, “Got it?”
Before Fry could answer, there was a loud explosion at the port wing root of the C-47. The wing separated, causing the aircraft to nose over abruptly. No one managed to bail out. In the blink of an eye the aircraft crashed into a stand of trees, it’s fuel sending up a fireball which was followed a few seconds later by the low roll of the explosion.
“Poor Bastards.” Captain Nixon shook his head.
“Well, we can’t waste the supplies they gave their lives to deliver.” Winters clapped Fry on the back, “Go.”
“Yes sir.” Fry jogged off toward the Easy Company CP without even looking back. When he arrived, Carwood Lipton was there along with Bill Guarnere, brewing coffee. A bit winded, Fry took a moment before panting, “Captain Winters wants a detail of five men to get some parachutes and bundles that fell near the CP.”
“Is that right?” Lipton offered the steaming canteen cup to Fry, “I think we can get a few helpers. Have a quick sip of coffee.” He nodded to Bill Guarnere, “Bill, go get four of our boys and take ‘em over to the CP.” His eyes twinkled, “Maybe you’ll get first crack at something good.”
“I could stand a little good luck,” Bill said as he stood up. “Tell the Captain I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
“Sure Bill,” Fry nodded as he took the canteen cup full of coffee from Lipton. After a couple of quick sips, Fry handed it back. “Thank, Lip. I think I’ll head back now.”
“Don’t get lost,” Lip said with a grin. “You’re wife wouldn’t like it.”
“Snap!” Fry shook his head, “It took me too long to get her to marry me. I’m not about to let her off the hook now.” With a cheerful wave, Fry set off for the CP. When he arrived, Captain Nixon had left. Captain Winters was poring over the one map they had of the area while Leela was copying out a message. “Honey, I’m home!” Fry called cheerfully.
Leela smiled but continued copying the message. “Roger that King Six Able,” she said into the microphone, “This is Checkmate Five Able, Out.” She took of the headset and called out, Captain Winters, I’ve got a message from King Six.”
Winters looked up, “Anything good?”
“Yes sir, they want us to send a working party back to get an ammunition resupply, some food and some bed sheets for camouflage.”
Winters gave a rare bark of laughter, “They say it never rains but it pours!”
Bill Guarnere came up with Skip Muck, Joe Liebgott, Moe Alley and Babe Heffron following close behind. Each had their weapons slung over their shoulder. Fry knew he would catch some grief for it, but he gave Leela a quick kiss. Liebgott and Muck grinned the most at the sight.
Winters pointed in the direction the bundles had landed, “It looks like four bundles landed about fifty yards that way, Sergeant Guarnere. Take your work party and retrieve them. Bring them back to the CP. We’ll take a cut off the top for the battalion and send the rest back to Regiment.”
“Regiment?” Bill’s eyebrow rose, “Why would we share with them clowns?”
“Come on. You know why.”
“Yes sir.” Bill motioned to the men, “Come on guys. Those friggin’ bundles won’t come in by themselves.”
Without any further ado, the work party set off into the forest. It was a short walk to the first bundle. It was draped in a white parachute with only a corner of the container showing. Bill knelt in the snow beside it, pulling the parachute away to read the packing list.
“Damn! We got a whole load of blankets here.” Bill began to pull the bundle out from under the parachute, “Skip…you and Red take that bundle over there. The one with the yellow chute. Moe, you and Babe take the one over there with the red chute. Liebgott, give me a hand. We’ll get that other bundle later.”
Fry was first at the bundle. Skip came up, knelt down and looked for the packing list. He straightened up, “Hey Bill, this one’s missing it’s packin’ list. What should I do?”
“What do you think?” Bill shot back, “Open the freakin’ thing up and have a peek.” To
“Gim’me a hand Red,” Skip grunted as he tugged at the cargo straps. Fry came over and the two of them managed to loosen the straps. Together they unfolded the canvas bag inventory the contents. Skip surprised Fry by bursting into laughter, “Holy crap! Hey Bill, check this out.” Muck held up a small box, “Can you believe this?”
Guarnere roared with laughter, “Jesus! What do they think we’re doin’ here?”
The other men began to laugh as well. Fry was puzzled, “What’s so funny?”
“This!” Skip waved the box in front of Fry, “This!”
“I don’t get it.”
“It’s a pro kit.”
“It’s prophylactics…you know…rubbers.”
“What?” Fry was genuinely surprised.
“Yeah, it’s a cover for your Coney Island Whitefish.” Skip shook his head, “There must be a hundred of ‘em in here.”
“They must think we’re busy with something other than fighting,” Moe Alley chuckled.
Skip held the box out, “Red, do you want any of these? You’re the only one I know of with any need for them.”
Fry stuttered, “I…uh…that is…I don’t think…No…No thanks.”
“You sound like porky pig,” Liebgott slapped his leg as he laughed.
“You ain’t a Catholic are you Fry?” Guarnere asked.
“Catholic?” Fry shook his head, “Um…no…I’m not a Catholic.”
“Then he must be a sex maniac,” Skip weighed in.
While the men were hectoring Fry, Captain Nixon walked up. He cleared his throat, “Are you going to get these supplies in any time soon?”
“Yes sir,” Sergeant Guarnere, “Come on guys let’s quit skylarking.”
Without any further ado, the work party dragged the bundles back to the CP. As they did so, another wave of heavily laden transport aircraft flew over head. Captain Nixon turned to Captain Winters, “Well Dick, unless I miss my guess, the Krauts will hit us soon. They gotta know we’re just going to get stronger from here on out. The weather has cleared so our air support and supplies are going to reach us.”
“You’re right Lou.” Winters nodded, “They’ll probably hit us early tomorrow. I’m going to go out and see each of the company commanders and let ‘em know.”
“Roger,” Nixon replied, “I’ll head back to Regiment and let them know.”
As both men moved out, Leela called out, “Fry…will you stay with me for a while?”
“Sure,” Fry replied. Then he realized he was still on the work party, “Um…if it’s okay with Bill.”
“Yeah,” Bill smiled, “We been keepin’ you married folks apart too much. Come on you guys, let’s go get that other bundle.”
As they moved off Leela hugged Fry, “They are keeping us apart too much.” She kissed him, “I can’t wait until we get home.”
“Me too,” Fry hugged her back, “Me too.”
Bastogne, Belgium – December 23, 1944, 1000 Hours (10 a.m.)
Eugene Roe walked up to the CP, both hands stuffed in his pockets. Bill Guarnere was beside him, with his arms wrapped around his chest for warmth. The plumes of white vapor they emitted as they trudged through the foot-deep snow made Fry think of a steam engine. Leela had dozed off in Fry’s arms beneath two brand-new blankets delivered courtesy of the US Army Air Corps. Fry looked inquiringly at Roe, figuring that Roe needed him for something. Roe pulled his right hand from his pocket and waved to Fry to stay where he was.
Once Roe got within a few feet he asked softly, “Where’s the medical bundle? Liebgott told me the Captain wants me to look it over…see if there’s anything we can use.” He held up an empty aid bag, “We could sure use it.”
Fry replied quietly, “It’s just on the other side of the CP, near Captain Nixon’s foxhole.”
Bill Guarnere squatted down next to Fry as Roe walked over to the bundle. “So Red, would you like a chance to use one of those Coney Island Whitefish covers?”
In spite of the cold, Fry could feel his cheeks beginning to heat up, “Well I don’t know Bill…I’m not sure it wouldn’t just freeze and fall off in this weather.” He shook his head slowly, “You can be such a jerkwad sometimes…”
“You got me all wrong, buddy.” Guarnere sounded offended, “Moe Alley found a little cabin behind our position. It’s just a woodshed really but it’s in good condition. You might not be able to do much, but at least you two could get out of the wind and get halfway warm.”
“Thanks Bill.” Fry thought for a moment. His buddies were offering him some time out of the cold…or at least the worst of the cold. But they couldn’t get out of the cold at all. He thought about Leela and said, “I’ll ask Leela. If she wants to do it, then OK.”
While Fry and Bill were chatting, Roe checked out the bundle. In addition to the prophylactic kits, there were bandages, first aid kits (complete), several boxes of morphine syrettes, sulfa powder and – wonder of wonders – penicillin.
Captain Winters came up as Doc was gloating over his haul, “So Eugene, what do you think we should do with all these medical supplies?”
“Well sir,” he rubbed his chin reflectively, “I think we ought to take what we need for now and take the rest back to the 20th Armored Infantry aid station. They are closest to us and almost all of our guys have been treated there.”
“Okay.” Winters nodded, “Make it happen.”
“Yes sir.” Doc Roe methodically stuffed his aid bag. Once finished, he rose. “I’ll ride with the supplies when we send them back…just to make sure they get there.”
Doc Roe walked over to Bill, Fry and the still sleeping Leela with a few small items in his hand. His aid bag looked pregnant. “Sergeant Guarnere,” He said happily, “You are one lucky man. I got something for you pirogue.”
“My what?” Then it dawned on Guarnere, “Oh…my pirogue!...when can I have it?”
“As soon as we get somewhere where you can drop your trousers for a shot.”
“Does it have to be in the behind?”
“Well….if you’d rather keep pissing needles.”
“No damn it.” Bill said vehemently, “Let’s go.”
Initially, Fry was puzzled by the exchange. But based on what Guarnere had told him in an earlier conversation, he figured out that Guarnere was getting a shot for the venereal disease he had picked up just before the Division left Mourmelon. He laughed quietly to himself as he watched the two men troop off toward the Easy Company positions.
Captain Winters came over and said softly, “Let me have the handset, Red. I’m going to call up a jeep to move these medical supplies back to Bastogne.”
Fry handed it over wordlessly. He didn’t want to disturb Leela who continued to breathe slowly and softly into his chest. His nose was getting cold, but in order to cover it up, Fry would have to disturb the covers. To take his mind off what he was sure was an icicle forming on the end of his nose, Fry listened to Captain Winters calling for a jeep.
Five minutes later, the distant growl of the jeep’s motor sounded through the woods. Leela’s eyelid fluttered open, “What’s going on Fry?”
“Just a jeep coming to haul the medical supplies to the rear.”
“Oh.” She looked around, “How long have I been asleep?”
“About two hours, I think.”
“Fry!” Leela sounded surprised, “The end of your nose is so red!” She reached up and touched it, “My Lord it’s frozen.” She sat up, “Cover it up or you’ll look like Lrrr had another shot at you.”
“Ugh!” Fry grimaced remembering the time Lrrr had harvested his ‘human horn’. “Okay.”
Winters heard the exchange and could make no sense of it. He called out, “Red, go get Doc Roe. The jeep will be here soon.”
“Okay, sir.” Fry disentangled himself from the blankets while making sure Leela remained wrapped in them. Then he headed off to get Doc Roe.
They returned just as the jeep pulled up. Fry helped Roe load the supplies. “Do you want me to go with you, Doc?” Fry asked.
“No.” Roe shook his head, “Stay here and get some rest. Spend some time with Dorothy. I get the feeling we’re going to be real busy tomorrow.”
Roe climbed into the jeep and it roared off into the forest, spraying snow as it accelerated.
Back with Leela, Fry remembered what Guarnere had offered. He cleared his throat, “Leela…Bill Guarnere said they found a little shed not far behind Easy Company.”
“Well, he thought we might want to stay the night there. He said it was in pretty good shape and it should at least keep the worst of the cold out.”
“We can’t tonight Fry, I have radio watch from midnight until four.”
“Snap.” Fry looked disappointed, “I’ll stay here with you tonight anyway. Everybody seems to think it’s really going to hit the fan tomorrow.”
“Thanks Fry.” She kissed him gently on his half-frozen cheek. “I want you to keep your head down if it does get crazy.”
“Oh don’t worry.” Fry nodded his head, “I will.”
Bastogne, Belgium – December 24, 1944, 0800 Hours (8 a.m.)
In the woods across the open field that lay to the east of where Easy Company had dug in, the Germans were stirring. The roar of engines and the squeal of treads echoed through the trees. Even the foot-deep snow couldn’t dampen the sound.
Captain Winters crouched near the Easy Company CP monitoring the Kraut activity. When he first arrived, Dike had made a report that made no sense whatsoever. First Sergeant Lipton had pointed out the area where the Krauts were assembling. Winters could make out at least one assault gun and several armored personnel carriers. It was going to be rough. He mused aloud to Lipton, “Wouldn’t you know it? The only ammunition we’re short of is bazooka rockets. Well, we’ll just have to make every shot count.”
Lipton nodded, “That’s the truth.”
Leela was kneeling next to Winters, carrying the radio. Winters had planned to carry it himself but Leela had insisted on coming. “You can’t command and operate this radio,” was all she would say. Seeing the sense in what she said, he replied, “Glad to have you along. Stay low and stay near me.”
The rumbling grew louder, so Winters decided to get the artillery ready. He motioned to Leela, who passed him the handset. “Put me on the Artillery Net.”
Leela expertly dialed in the frequency, then gave Winters the ‘thumbs up’.
“Griffin Two One, Griffin Two One, this is Checkmate Five, Over.”
“Roger Checkmate Five, this is Griffin Two One.”
“This is Checkmate Five, we have some traffic building up near Target Reference Point Baker Three. I say again Baker Three. Over.”
“This is Griffin Two One, I copy Baker Three. Over.”
“Roger, Griffin Two One, target is troops and armored vehicles in the open, Over.”
“Roger Checkmate Five, will mix point detonating and vertical timed. Have dialed the information into the guns. Give us a call when you need us. Over.”
Wilco Griffin Two One, Checkmate Five Out.”
Winters looked around, “Where is Dike?”
“I have no idea, sir.” Lipton looked chagrined, “I’ll go find him.”
“No.” He shook his head, “Get up there and get the men ready. I’ll sort Dike out later.”
Lipton ran forward in a low crouch. The first foxhole he passed was Doc Roe’s. He and Spina were peering over the edge of the foxhole. “Hey, doc. It's gonna get busy, pal.”
He charged down the line, calling out, “Hold your fire, boys. Don't let them draw you out.”
Fry was crouched in Walter Gordon and Moe Alley’s foxhole. He had stopped by for a sip of coffee. He looked toward the far edge of the field where smoke from the Kraut engines was rising. Someone shouted, “Hold your fire!”
Lipton came even with Gordon’s foxhole, “Stay ready, boys.”
Fry could see the two assault guns advancing slowly across the field. He called out, “What the hell are we gonna hit those things with, Lip?!”
“Hold your fire.” Lipton ignored him, “Get ready, Walter!”
Someone shouted, “Stay in your holes, guys!”
“All you 3rd Platoon, stay ready!” Lipton called out.
Just then Fry heard a sickening thud next to him. He was startled to see Walter Gordon topple over. Moe Alley grasped the reality first, “Smokey's hit! He began to shout, “Medic!”
“Hey, Gene!” Spina shook Doc Roe by the shoulder, “Let's go! Come on, let's go!”
Fry added his voice to the chorus, “Medic!”
Unfortunately for the German sniper who had shot Smokey, Shifty Powers caught a glint from his telescopic sight. Covered by SGT Buck Taylor and Earl McClung, Shifty shouldered his M-1 Rifle and fired. The German toppled from his tree over 500 meters away.
A scattering of fire came from the German lines in response. Roe piled into the foxhole and after a quick examination began to treat Smokey. He pulled a large pressure bandage from his aid bag, ripped it from the package and wound it around Smokey’s entry wound. He repeated the process for the exit wound.
The fire began to increase from the Germans, with bullets zipping by over their heads. Roe looked at Fry and Moe Alley who had already grabbed an arm and a leg each.
Roe shouted, “Okay. Go!”
They got a few yards behind the foxhole and stopped behind one of the larger trees. Roe could see from the rate that Smokey’s blood was soaking the bandage that he would need plasma.
Conscious that he should keep his friend’s morale up, Alley smiled, “Smokey.”
Smokey replied weakly, “Hi, Moe.”
Alley realized that the rear-echelon types would steal Smokey’s .45 pistol. He pulled it from Gordon’s holster and held it up so Smokey could see it, “I got it. I'm keeping it for you.”
Roe wanted to assess Gordon’s condition and had no patience with worries about a pistol. He shook him slightly, “Smoke!”
“I can't feel my legs, Gene.’ Smokey replied weakly.
“Take it easy.” Roe turned to Fry, “My foxhole! Get the plasma, now!”
Fry ran as fast as he could to the foxhole. He snatched the plasma and ran back to Roe’s side amid a growing volume of the noise of battle. Roe grabbed the bottle and deftly began to insert the IV needle into Gordon’s arm.
“Here they come!” Someone shouted.
“Yeah, I got it.” Roe shouted, “Go!”
First Sergeant Lipton ran up shouting, “Machine guns, open fire!” In response, Moe Alley ran back to the machine gun. In seconds he had it spitting .30 caliber death at the advancing Germans.
Roe realized he couldn’t help Fry carry and control the plasma, “Sergeant Lipton!”
Lipton understood. He grabbed Smokey by the left side while Fry took the right, “Doc, we gotta get the hell outta here.”
They took off to the casualty evacuation point where a jeep was normally stationed. All three men were exhaling jets of white vapor, their lungs burning as they ran. They ran about twenty yards and stopped so Fry could get a better grip. Lipton kept encouraging Gordon, “Hey, hey, come on. Stay with us, Smokey. Stay with us!” He knew how easy it was to lose consciousness when wounded.
Lipton shouted again, “Doc, we gotta get the hell outta here!” He looked at Fry, “You ready?” Fry nodded, “All right, go!”
They ran another fifty yards through the foot-deep snow before Doc Roe called out, “Stop. We gotta stop.”
Lipton gasped, “All right.”
Roe held out the plasma bottle to Fry, “Take the plasma.”
“Hey.” Lipton tried to keep Gordon awake, “Hey, come on, Walter.” Gordon was silent, so Lipton kept up, “Come on, buddy.” He turned to Doc Roe, “Hurry, doc. Come on, doc. I gotta get back to the line.”
Showing his impatience, Roe snapped “Okay, okay.”
Smokey spoke up softly, “Lip.”
“You're standing on my hand.”
Lipton smiled at Gordon, “Look, I'll get you another Purple Heart for it.”
They could all hear the sound of an approaching jeep over the rising noise of battle. Lipton ran toward the jeep, waving his arms. “Hey! Hey! Hey, give us a hand!” He said jubilantly, “I got you a ride, doc.”
Fry and he loaded Smokey onto the jeep as Doc Roe climbed into the passenger side. As it roared off to Bastogne, Lipton slapped Fry’s arm and shouted, “Let’s go! Moe needs an assistant gunner!” They both dashed back to the fight.
While Doc, Lipton and Fry were evacuating Gordon, Winters was calling in the artillery. He could see that a total of two assault guns – they were STUG-IV’s – three armored personnel carriers and around one hundred dismounted infantry were advancing in a wedge, with the assault guns in the lead.
Winters took the handset from Leela, “Griffin Two One, this is Checkmate Five. Fire concentration Alpha, grid reference Baker Three, left one hundred, drop one hundred, fire for effect.”
“Checkmate Five, this is Griffin Two One, Roger. Shot, Over.”
The rounds impacted on the advancing German formation, sending up geysers of dirty grey flame tinged smoke. Before the sound wave rolled over Easy Company, Winters shouted, “Splash, Out.”
A total of eighteen rounds slammed into the earth, spewing red-hot metal everywhere. When the smoke cleared, all three of the armored personnel carriers were burning furiously. Their on-board ammunition was detonating like so much deadly popcorn. Around them at least two dozen enemy infantry lay motionless.
“Griffin Two One, this is Checkmate Five. Repeat, Over.”
“Checkmate Five, this is Griffin Two One, negative. Rounds complete. Over.”
Winters ground his teeth. The artillery was out of rounds. They wouldn’t fire again unless the situation was really desperate. He almost grunted into the handset, “Roger, Out.” Then he turned to Leela, “Follow me and stay low.”
Together they ran to the position where Skip Muck and Alex Penkala were crouched. They had the company’s only bazooka with any ammunition – two whole rounds. Skip saw them coming and yelled out, “Guess it’s time to earn my pay!”
With Skip in the lead the two friends slithered out to take a shot at the assault guns. They crawled forward about fifty feet, then took up a position behind a slight mound. Alex loaded the rocket and connected the firing wire. He tapped Skip on the helmet to let him know the bazooka was loaded. Skip moved the safety switch to fire, drew a bead on the lead assault gun and squeezed the firing lever.
The rocket flew straight and true, striking the side near the ammunition storage in the rear. The shaped charge warhead detonated and shot a stream of superheated metal into the vehicle’s interior. Unfortunately for the crew, the jet detonated the 75 millimeter main gun ammunition. The resulting explosion killed them all instantly as it ripped the vehicle apart.
The blast wave lifted both Muck and Penkala slightly from the ground. “Jesus!” was all that Skip could say.
The second assault gun rolled up, so Skip and Alex went to work to knock it out as well. Unfortunately, when he squeezed the firing lever – nothing! “Damn it!” Muck shouted, “Is the wire connected Penkala?”
“Of course it is you dumb mick!”
Skip tried again. Nothing. “It’s a dud or the batteries are dead.”
“Holy crap Skip!” Penkala bellowed, “That Kraut knows we’re here!”
It was true. The assault gun was turning slowly in their direction. “Let’s get the hell out of here!” Skip turned and did a world speed record low crawl back into the woods followed closely by Penkala. The Kraut did his best to speed them on their way with a shower of rounds.
“Darn it!” Winters raged, “We have nothing to stop that Kraut tank with!”
Leela had an inspiration and began to rummage in her haversack. She brought out her Wristamajiggy, putting it on quickly. She tapped out a set of instructions, pointed it at the assault gun and pushed a button. A full-power neutron laser sliced invisibly through the armor like a knife through hot butter. Although the ammunition didn’t cook off, the laser knocked out the engine.
As smoke filled the interior, the crew bailed out. All four crewmen died before they made it fifty feet.
The loss of both assault guns was sufficient to convince the Germans to fall back. In less time than it takes to tell, the firing died down. Soon, only the soft moans of the wounded and the roar of the burning vehicles could be heard. Much of the carnage was concealed by the black, oily smoke which covered the battlefield. When the smoke cleared, Easy Company would count thirty eight bodies. Three of the attackers wound up as prisoners.
During the fight Fry had acted as assistant gunner for Moe Alley. He had been so busy feeding the hungry .30 caliber machine gun that he had not noticed anything other than his small slice of the battlefield. His ears were ringing and his throat was as dry as cotton. “Hey Moe, you got some water?”
“Yeah, Red.” He held out a canteen, “Knock yourself out.”
Fry took a long drink, handed the canteen back and cleared his throat, “Looks like the Krauts have had enough.
“I freakin’ hope so!”
“I’m going to find Leela…I mean Dorothy…okay?”
“Sure,” Moe laughed, “they ain’t comin’ back today.”
Fry went over toward the Easy Company CP. He found Leela there, “Hey! I’m so glad to see you’re OK.”
“Me too.” Leela looked uneasy, “I’ll be glad when we get home.”
“I heard that.” Fry put his arm around her shoulders. “Let me carry that radio for you.”
Leela surprised herself when she answered, “I got it, Fry.”
“Yes.” She reached out, “But you can hold my hand on the way back.”
“You’ve got a deal!”
Bastogne, Belgium – December 24, 1944, 1600 Hours (4 p.m.)
The day passed quietly. Leela told Fry about knocking out the assault gun. Her voice trembled as she said, “You know…I just thought of it as a big metal thing until the crew bailed out. Our guys picked them off, one by one. Four men. They never had a chance.”
“Leela they would have killed all of us if you hadn’t knocked their assault gun out.” He hugged her closer, “It was us or them.”
“I guess.” She sounded doubtful. “But I can’t wait to get home.”
“Did the Professor say how long this might last?”
“No.” She thought for a moment, “But I’m pretty sure it can’t last more than a few weeks.”
“God.” Fry shivered, “I don’t ever remember being warm.”
As they sat together quietly, Joe Liebgott came up. “Red, Dorothy, it’s dinner time!”
“Dinner?” Fry looked surprised, “Is it that late?”
“Nah.” Liebgott shook his head, “But the cook wanted to feed us before we couldn’t see what we were eating.”
Both Leela and Fry laughed. Fry stood and offered his hand to Leela. Smiling, she took it and stood up. Together with Liebgott, they headed toward the mess area.
Sally, Taz Kershaw and the Professor stood watching Fry, Leela and Liebgott walking through the snow covered woods. The Professor’s temporal probe was working…for a change.
Sally exclaimed, “Look Uncle Taz…there’s Mommy and Daddy!”
“I do believe you are right darlin’” Taz turned to the Professor, “So you say they should be back soon?”
“Oh my yes.” The Professor nodded vigorously, “My readings indicate that they should return to our temporal coordinates within the next twenty four hours.”
“You can’t be a little more precise?”
“I’m a scientist damn it, not a magician!” He replied angrily.
“Professor,” Taz admonished, “Little ears…”
“Wha???” The Professor looked befuddled, “Well, off we go! I’ll set the alarm to go off when they return.” So saying, the Professor shuffled toward the elevator.
Taz turned to Sally, “Keep your fingers crossed, pumpkin. Maybe Mommy and Daddy will be home for Xmas.”
Sally smiled, “Will it help if I cross my toes too?”
Taz threw back his head and laughed, “Maybe Sally dear…maybe.”
Unconscious of being watched by the cloaked temporal probe, Fry and Leela got into chow line behind Babe Heffron. They noticed that Babe was carrying two mess kits. Joe Dominguez, the company cook ladled what looked like bean soup into one of them, “Here you go, man.”
Babe held the other one out, “One for the doc.”
Leela watched as Babe walked over to Doc Roe who was slumped next to a tree. Doc had a vacant expression on his face. Babe held the mess kit under Doc’s nose, “Doc...”
Leela’s concentration on Doc was broken by Colonel Sink’s arrival. As his jeep rolled to a halt, he stood up and announced in stentorian tones, “They’re all sitting down to a Christmas eve dinner of turkey and hooch back at the Division CP.” He dismounted and walked over to the chow line where he took a plate of beans. After a spoonful he said, “Damned if I don't like old Joe Dominguez' rancid-ass beans better.”
Downing the beans in a few quick gulps, Colonel Sink called out, “Hello, Easy Company.”
Easy Company replied as one man, “Hello, sir.”
Captain Winters came up, having just been the last man through the chow line, “Hello, sir.”
“General McAuliffe sent a message to the entire division.” Colonel Sink held a message form out to Winters, “Thought maybe your people'd like to hear it.”
“That should be your prerogative, sir.”
Sink cleared his throat, “Men... General McAuliffe wishes us all a 'Merry Christmas'. What's Merry about all this, you ask? We're fighting - it's cold - we aren't home. All true but what has the proud Eagle Division accomplished with its worthy comrades of the 10th Armored Division, the 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion and all the rest? just this: We have stopped cold everything that has been thrown at us from the North, East, South and West. We have identifications from four German Panzer Divisions, two German Infantry Divisions and one German Parachute Division. These units, spearheading the last desperate German lunge, were headed straight west for key points when the Eagle Division was hurriedly ordered to stem the advance. How effectively this was done will be written in history; not alone in our Division's glorious history but in World history. The Germans actually did surround us. Their radios blared our doom. Their Commander demanded our surrender in the following impudent arrogance.
December 22nd 1944
To the U. S. A. Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne.
The fortune of war is changing. This time the U. S. A. forces in and near Bastogne have been encircled by strong German armored units. More German armored units have crossed the river Ourthe near Ortheuville, have taken Marche and reached St. Hubert by passing through Hombres Sibret-Tillet. Libramont is in German hands.
There is only one possibility to save the encircled U. S. A. Troops from total annihilation: that is the honorable surrender of the encircled town. In order to think it over a term of two hours will be granted beginning with the presentation of this note.
If this proposal should be rejected one German Artillery Corps and six heavy A. A. Battalions are ready to annihilate the U. S. A. Troops in and near Bastogne. The order for firing will be given immediately after this two hours term.
All the serious civilian losses caused by this Artillery fire would not correspond with the well known American humanity.
The German Commander
The German Commander received the following reply:
22 December 1944
To the German Commander:
The American Commander
Allied Troops are counterattacking in force. We continue to hold Bastogne. By holding Bastogne we assure the success of the Allied Armies. We know that our Division Commander, General Taylor, will say: Well Done!
We are giving our country and our loved ones at home a worthy Christmas present and being privileged to take part in this gallant feat of arms are truly making for ourselves a Merry Christmas.”
Col. Sink paused dramatically before bellowing, “Merry Christmas to you all and God bless you.”
The men of Easy Company replied with a laughter laced mixture of “Merry Christmas” and “Nuts, sir! Nuts! Nuts!"
Colonel Sink approached Winters, “Dick, I need to speak to you for a moment.”
“Allied Headquarters has found out about our visitors. They are going to send in a light plane to pick them up. It seems like they feel that we can’t risk the Krauts getting them.”
“Sir, isn’t that risky?” Winters shifted uncomfortably. “We’ll be relieved in less than a week. Why not just let them stay in place?”
“Dick, this comes from SHAEF.” He thought for a moment, “Still, I think I can stall them. But we should move them back to at least Battalion Headquarters Main…okay?”
“Get it done, Dick.” He turned toward his jeep, “I need to get over to Third Battalion.”
As Sink’s jeep pulled away, Winters sought out Fry and Leela. He explained that they would need to move back to Battalion Headquarters for safety. He decided to withhold the information about the light plane until Sink had a chance to argue against it.
As they walked back toward the CP to gather their gear, the sound of singing drifted through the trees. They paused and listened for a moment. Fry couldn’t understand the words, but he recognized the tune.
“Stille Nacht! Heil'ge Nacht!” (Silent Night! Holy night!)
“Alles schläft; einsam wacht,” (All's asleep, one sole light,)
“Nur das traute heilige Paar,” (Just the faitful and holy pair,)
“Holder Knab' im lockigten Haar,” (Lovely boy-child with curly hair,)
“Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh!” (Sleep in heavenly peace!)
“Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh!”
“That’s my favorite Christmas Carol,” Fry smiled, “It’s called Silent Night.”
“It’s pretty.” Leela replied.
“It makes you wonder why men kill each other,” Winters said quietly. “Well, let’s get your gear and get you back to the safety of the Rear CP.”
Bastogne, Belgium – December 24, 1944, 1900 Hours (7 p.m.)
As Winters, Fry, and Leela approached the Rear CP, Winters noticed a dim glow. When he got closer, he could see that Harry Welsh, Lieutenant Peacock and Corporal Gil Shaw were huddled around the low, flickering flame. He didn’t know whether to chew them out or join them. He had been cold for so long that the fire’s warmth was irresistible.
“Are you guys nuts?” Winters said while stretching his frozen fingers over the fire. “The Krauts are going to throw an 88 in here and really cook your goose.”
“It okay.” Welsh said quietly, “We’re in a dell. They can’t see us.”
“A dell?” Winters laughed, “Like where fairies and gnomes live?” The warmth overwhelmed his tactical sense, “I’ll take your word for it.”
As their hands warmed, everyone began to cheer up. Welsh nudged Winters, “Dick, did I ever tell you how I passed the eye exam to get into the paratroops?”
“Come to think of it, No.” Winters could remember seeing Welsh examining maps for long periods, but had never though anything of it.
“Well, I wanted to pass so badly that I cheated. When I was in line, I’d wait until the guy in front of me read the 20/20 line. Then I’d slip back in line and listen to another guy and then another guy. Eventually I memorized it.”
At that point the battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Strayer pushed his way through the circle around the fire, “Let me in there.”
He pushed his rear end over the fire, so close that Leela could smell singeing wool from his trousers. Then he turned around and leaned over the fire. His body created a sort of flue which drew the smoke into his face. He coughed, sputtered and cursed, “Damn it!”
Leela put her hand up to her mouth to keep from laughing.
Strayer changed position and leaned forward again. Same result. “Jesus,” he swore as he backed away from the fire.
Lou Nixon came up, “I swear I thought I could smell a fire.” He looked around and saw everyone huddled around the fire, “I did smell a fire. Are you out of your mind?”
"No,” Winters said in an amused tone, “We're in a dell.”
Everyone was smiling by now. However, their merriment was cut short by a sound like rapidly ripping canvas.
Winters shouted, “Down!”
In response Fry grabbed Leela and lay on top of her, shielding her with his body.
A series of three explosions shattered the night. Harry Welsh was a bit too close to one of the roaring geysers of dirt, flame, smoke and hissing hot metal. He fell into the fire, screaming in pain.
Nixon pulled him out and together with Winters began to beat out the flames on Welsh’s clothing. Nixon shouted, “Put out the fire!” Winters bellowed, “Medic!” He was alarmed to see that Welsh’s crotch was a welter of blood. Deftly, Winters ripped the cloth of Welsh’s pants and was relieved to see that his friend could still be a father.
Fry, Leela and Corporal Shaw began kicking dirt over the embers, darkening the woods once again. Only the fitful light of the moon illuminated the scene.
Seeing that Leela was still carrying the radio, he snatched the handset and ignored radio procedure by simply shouting into the mouthpiece, “This is Capt. Nixon. I need an A-jeep to 2nd Battalion CP.”
Crouched over his friend, Winters said urgently as he attempted to stanch the bleeding, “Stay still, Harry!”
The fire flared up suddenly, threatening to draw more fire. Nixon shouted, “Peacock, put that out!” Peacock complied instantly.
“Repeat: A-jeep to 2nd Battalion CP.” Nixon’s voice conveyed his irritation. A voice on the other end responded, “Aid Jeep on the way.”
Winters began to shout, “Medic! Roe! Doc!”
After what seemed like an eternity Doc Roe came stumbling through the woods. Fry thought he looked dazed…out of it.
Winters saw him and waved to him, “Roe!”
“Oh, Jesus!” Welsh moaned.
At first Winters was impatient when Roe just stood there staring. Then he realized the man was showing signs of combat fatigue. He changed his tone to one of urgency, “Roe.”
In response to Welsh writhing in pain, Winters said calmly, “Stay still, Harry.”
Nixon tried to be helpful, “It's just a scratch, Harry.”
The sound of a rapidly approaching jeep resounded through the woods. “Jeep's on its way.” Winters said, “Hang tough.”
Roe knelt next to Harry. Seemingly in possession of his senses again, he turned to Nixon, “Towel.”
Nixon retrieved a towel from his pack and gave it to Roe. Without hesitating, Roe applied the towel to the wound to stanch the bleeding. He looked at Winters, “I got morphine in my pocket. Give it to him.”
“Where do you want it?” Winters asked.
“Okay.” Winters jabbed the syrette into Welsh’s leg.
The A-Jeep arrived. They put Harry onto a stretcher. Roe barked out “Elevate his head.” Satisfied that Welsh was in as good a shape for the ride as they could get him Roe ordered, “Get him up.”
Fry and Nixon lifted Welsh onto the hood of the jeep.
Winters clapped Roe on the back, “Eugene, get yourself into town. Get a hot meal”
Roe nodded silently in reply as the jeep sped off into the dark woods.
“Red,” Winters called out, “Dorothy and you are going to stay here. Lou, get them settled in, will you? I’m heading back to the forward CP. It’s about time for me to take a tour of the lines.”
Winters came over and shook both Fry and Leela’s hand, “Hang tough.” He thought about telling them of the possibility they would be flying out in the morning. Deciding against it, he smiled, “Oh…and Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas,” Fry replied. It took Leela a moment to reply, she wasn’t used to the archaic pronunciation, “Merry Christmas Captain.”
With a wave, Winters strode off into the darkness. Lou Nixon spoke up, “Let me show you where to throw down your gear.”
After they had settled in, it hit Leela. They were missing Sally’s first Xmas! A wave of crushing sadness swept over her and she began to weep quietly. When Fry realized Leela was crying, he said, “What’s wrong Leela?”
“We’re missing Sally’s first Xmas!” Saying the words only caused her to weep harder. “Oh Fry! She must be so lonely!”
“Your Mom and Dad, Grandma Flora, Taz, and Varney will all be with her…so will Pompey and Prometheus.” Fry searched for words, “I know she’ll miss us but I know everyone will do their best to cheer her up.”
“But who’s going to cheer us up?”
He kissed her gently, “We can do that. Who knows? Maybe we will get home in time. I’ve been feeling pretty weird for the past few hours…kind of out of it.”
“I know what you mean, I feel the same way.”
Fry blinked, “Leela…I can see through you!”
“Fry! You’re right. We’re going home.”
Planet Express Building, Underground Lab – December 24, 3004, 2000 Hours (8 p.m.)
The darkness of the underground lab was suddenly illuminated by a flash of light. Fry and Leela…cold, filthy and smelly…popped into view on the temporal transporter platform. They were both disoriented for a split second, but Leela recovered first.
“Fry! We’re back!” Leela shouted joyfully. “We’re back…but when is it? Did we miss Xmas?”
“I don’t know, Leela.” He grinned widely, “but I sure am glad to be back.”
They hugged each other tightly and kissed passionately. It didn’t take long until the heat from the magma chamber hit them in two ways. First they began to sweat and second they became conscious of each other’s pungent odor.
“I’m sweating like a sow,” Leela said as they drew apart. Her nose wrinkled, “Plus I think we could both use a long shower.”
Fry nodded, “We could use the chemical burn shower.”
“We?” Leela laughed, “If we get in that shower, it could last for several hours. For some reason I’m in the mood for love.” She shook her head, “We need to finish up and go find Sally. So I think we should shower separately.”
“Aw,” Fry whined, “I’ll be good.” He gave his best grin, “Please?”
“Oh all right.” Leela smiled as she walked the shower while stripping off her uniform, “But no playing around.
Up in the lounge, an alarm began to chirp. Sally asked, “Are my Mommy and Daddy back now?”
“Oh my yes.” The Professor said in a quavering voice.
“Yay!” Sally leaped from the couch where she had been watching the Q.T McWhiskers Xmas Special on Box Network. “Can we go down and see them…please?”
“Oh my no.” The Professor replied, “They might be radioactive or something.”
“Why would they be radioactive?” Taz asked
“Who said they are radioactive?” The Professor shook his head as he began to shuffle out of the room, “They’re just time travelers, not Atomic Monsters!”
Everyone exchanged ‘what the heck’ glances before they followed the Professor to the elevator.
The hot water felt so good! Fry let Leela under the shower head for a good soak. With quick, practiced moves, Leela washed her hair and then thoroughly soaped her body. Fry closed his eyes and thought about Blernsball. Even with his eyes closed, he could still sense her presence. Fortunately, as the steam filled the shower stall, Fry could feel his muscles relaxing. Leela stepped out from under shower head, “Your turn.”
The warm needles of water washing through his hair and across his skin made Fry groan with pleasure. “Hold still,” Leela said. “I need to soap you up.” Even with the warning, Fry almost leaped from the shower when her fingers began to soap his hair, then his body up. Her touch stimulated him visibly.
At the sight of Fry’s obvious arousal, Leela gave a deep throated laugh that made his toes curl. Then she said in a husky voice, “Oh my…I thought you promised to be a good boy.”
“I…I…I di..di…did!” Fry sounded panicky, “B..but you’re not playing fair.”
“Woman’s prerogative,” Leela said as she pressed her body against his, “we can always change our minds.” Before Fry could say a word, she pushed him down on the shower stall seat, “And I’ve changed mine.”
The Professor was the first to step from the elevator, followed by Taz, Varney, Morris, Munda and Sally. Obviously annoyed the Professor whined, “Where are they? I’m sure I set that alarm to detect their return.”
Sally pointed to the shower, “Maybe they’re taking a shower.”
An amused Varney asked, “Now why would you say that Miss Sally?”
“They take showers together at home.”
“Really,” Munda asked, “Why do they do that?”
“Daddy told me when I asked him,” Sally said. “It saves water.”
“Very Eco-Friendly.” Morris said with a grin.
Munda shot him a withering glance, “We’ll just go upstairs until they finish…okay?”
“Awww” Sally’s shoulders drooped, “I want to see them.”
Oblivious to all around him, The Professor shuffled over to the control console, muttering to himself while fiddling with various controls.
At that moment, the door to the shower popped open and Leela stepped out, followed by Fry. Fortunately both were wrapped in towels.
Sally shot across the room like a rocket, “Mommy…Daddy…you’re home…you’re home. Tears ran down her face as she threw her arms around Leela. “I’m so glad you are home,” she sobbed.
Leela knelt down, careful to keep her towels in place. “Don’t cry sweetie,” She hugged her hugged her closely, “We’re home.” Leela kissed her gently, “Is it still Xmas?”
“Uhhuh,” Sally nodded, “Robot Santa hasn’t hit New-New York yet.”
“Oh good.” Leela kissed her again. “Mom, why don’t you and Dad take Sally upstairs while Fry and I get dressed.” She looked at the Professor, “We might be a few minutes.”
“Okay,” Munda could sense that it wasn’t just out of modesty that Leela wanted Sally out of the way. “Come on Morris, let’s get upstairs.”
Taz cleared his throat, “Leela, do you need us to…”
“Stay?” Leela smiled a feral smile, “No. What Fry and I have to discuss with the Professor is a private matter.”
“Then we will leave you to it.” Varney said with a smile. As the elevator door closed, he shot a glance at the Professor, who was still puttering around at the console. He didn’t envy him the next few minutes.
Leela and Fry dressed themselves leisurely in the clothes they had left behind almost a week ago. Leela even went over to the magma chamber to dry her hair. Once her hair was properly done up in a ponytail, she asked Fry, “So how do I look?”
“Good.” She smiled, “Now we need to settle with our employer.”
“What do you mean?”
“Watch and learn.”
Fry did indeed watch and learn. Leela walked quietly over to her haversack and put on her Wristamajiggy. A glance at the touchscreen display told her that the battery was almost dead. Well, no neutron laser show. Instead she drew the Walther P-38 pistol Bill Guarnere gave her in Normandy. “This will do for a start.” Leela said quietly as she tucked the pistol in her waistband.ve her
“Oh Professor!” Leela crooned sweetly.
“Wha?” He looked up from the controls, “I’m calibrating my invention for your next trip into the past.”
“Let me help you with that,” Leela said in the same sweet tone. Fry’s eyes widened in alarm as Leela pulled the pistol from her waistband. Before he could speak, Leela coolly emptied the magazine into the control console stitching it with eight 9mm rounds in a neat, evenly spaced row.
“Ahhh!” the Professor shouted as he was showered with sparks form the short-circuiting console. Leela laughed as the Professor capered around, his jacket smoking where the electrical sparks had ignited some loose hanging threads. “My invention! My invention!”
“Oh…poor Professor,” Leela said in mock sympathy. “Did your widdle invention go boom?”
“That’s coming out of your pay!” The Professor shouted in a remarkable lapse of judgment.
“Really?” Leela’s mask of sympathy vanished, replaced by a feral gleam in her eye, “You senile old bastard…how dare you? You damned near killed Fry and me with your invention and you have the gall to suggest we pay for it?”
Fortunately, when faced with an obviously enraged Leela the Professor experienced a lucid moment, “Oh my no.” He backed away, hands held up in a mollifying stance, “I was planning to scrap this old thing anyway.”
“Fry,” Leela said sweetly, “would you get the two anti-grav units out of the locker?”
“Um…sure Leela…no problem.” He hurried over to the tool locker, pulled the anti-grav units out and brought them to Leela.
“Thank you Fry.” She clamped the anti-grav units into place on the console, adjusted the settings and activated them. The console rose about three feet from the floor. “Give me a hand Fry.” Fry stepped to her side and together they pushed the console toward the magma chamber.
The Professor made some inarticulate noises when he realized what was happening. Still, he knew that discretion was the better part of valor.
The console sank beneath the magma with what Leela felt was a very satisfying hiss. Once it was entirely gone from sight, she turned her attention back to the Professor, “Now before you forget…you owe Fry and me one thousand bucks each.”
“Oh my, yes.” He reached into the pockets of his lab coat. “Here you go.”
“This should come in handy for our post Xmas shopping spree.” Leela said evident satisfaction. “Come on Fry, let’s go upstairs with the rest of our family.” She paused, “You come too Professor…no one should spend Xmas alone.”
Together, they took the elevator up to the lab. When they entered the lounge, Leela called out, “Taz, Varney…can we all head down to Charleston tomorrow?”
Taz and Varney exchanged glances. “Why it would be our pleasure,” Varney replied. He gestured to all those in the lounge, “We’d like you all to come. It will be an old fashioned Xmas day.”
Sally hopped up and down while clapping her hands, “Yay! We’re going to see the boys!”
Everyone laughed at her antics. Then they settled in to enjoying the company of family and friends on Xmas Eve. Both Leela and Fry found that they couldn’t stop thinking of their Easy Company friends who they had left behind in Bastogne. What had happened to them?
“Fry,” Leela said, “Rabbi Liebgott told us there was a Stupid Ages television series about Easy Company. Let’s find it and watch it together.”
“Sure Leela. You bet.”
The Oaks, Charleston, South Carolina – December 25, 3004, 1000 Hours (10 a.m.)
The trip to Charleston had been uneventful. When they arrived at the Oaks, Pompey and Prometheus – the two huge Irish Wolfhounds Sally affectionately called ‘the boys’ – were obviously beside themselves with joy. They barked and ran in circles until Sally clapped her hands together and said sharply, “Boys! Stop being silly!”
Instantly penitent, both dogs crawled up on their bellies to lick her hands. Sally hugged them both, “Good boy! Good boy!”
Fry knelt beside Sally, “How do you get them to listen?”
“I don’t know,” Sally shrugged. “They just do.”
Fry hugged her, “That’s my girl.”
“Daddy, can we go upstairs and look at the picture of Yellowbeard?”
“Maybe later…after Uncle Taz shows us the surprise he was talking about.”
“Okay.” She smiled, “I just love being here.”
“Let’s go inside and get settled in,” Varney said. “Then we’ll meet in the entertainment room.”
Once everyone settled into their rooms, they all gathered in the entertainment room. Seating themselves around the 401” TV, everyone waited for Taz to explain his ‘big surprise.’
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Taz paused dramatically, “I won’t keep you in suspense any more. In honor of Fry and Leela’s recent time travel adventures, I managed to get a copy of an ancient miniseries called “Band of Brothers. It’s about the men of Easy Company…the same men that Leela and Fry shared foxholes with over a thousand years ago.” He picked up the remote and clicked it, “We’ll be here for about ten hours or so…but I’ve been assured that it is worth it.”
Both Fry and Leela found themselves on an emotional roller coaster as they watched the show. During the first episode, Leela kept saying, “They really look good.” Fry would invariably respond, “They sure do.”
Both Leela and Fry wept at various times during the series. “Day of Days” really hit home, especially the storming of Brecourt Manor. The memory of killing a German with a hand grenade hit Fry especially hard. At the end of “Crossroads” Zeeves the robobutler served them an early dinner.
“Bastogne” made both Fry and Leela remember the terrible, constant cold. Fry shivered as he said to Leela, “I’m sure glad we’re not in Bastogne.” Leela wept uncontrollably when Bill Guarnere lost his leg in “Breaking Point.” The rest of the episodes were – in a sense – anticlimactic.
After Varney ejected the last tape he asked, “So, was it authentic?”
Fry nodded, “You bet.” Leela chimed in, “Sometimes I felt like I was watching the action. They did a great job.”
Leela was curious, “Where did you find it?”
Varney smiled, “Rabbi Liebgott gave it to me. He also gave me a note to be given to you after you watched the show.” Reaching into his coat pocket, Varney withdrew an envelope. “Here you go.”
Leela took the envelope, opened it and withdrew two notes. One was obviously ancient, as it was yellowed and brittle. The other was much more recent. Leela decided to read the newer one first. As Fry looked on, she scanned the few lines of script which flowed evenly across the paper,
“Dear Leela and Phillip,
This envelope was passed on to me much as the first one was, through the line of my ancestors. The instructions with this were clear, it had to be delivered after your second visit with Easy Company.
I have to say it was tough not to let you all know the ride you were in for, but I didn’t want to risk disrupting the past. I knew you’d both come through okay.
I hope you enjoyed the tapes. They came out almost ten years after the Joe Liebgott that you knew passed away. Next time you see me, you can tell me if the portrayal was accurate.
“How about that?” Fry said quietly.
Leela carefully unfolded the second piece of paper. She could barely read the spiky, faded letters,
“Dear Red and Dorothy,
By now you are home safe. I just wanted you to know that I made it through the war. Bastogne was a nightmare for me but afterwards I went up to Division G2 where I interrogated Krauts for a living.
After the war I lived a quiet life and raised lots of little Liebgotts. I hope that you two raise a lot of little Frys.
Please accept my apology for not letting you know about your second visit earlier. It could have screwed a lot of things up.
Please say hello to Tin Man for me. Live long and prosper!
Leela folded both sheets of paper carefully and tucked them away in the envelope. “Well, everyone, I think it’s time we went to bed.”
Taking Leela’s cue, everyone exchanged good night hugs and headed off for bed.
Leela awoke with a start. Fry was muttering and twitching in his sleep. In the moonlight that flooded the room she could see the scars on his back where the grenade fragments he took in Normandy.
She reached out and caressed his cheek softly. It seemed to calm him and a smile flitted across his face. Even deep in slumber he murmured, “I love you Leela.”
“I love you, too.” She whispered back.
With Fry resting calmly beside her, Leela looked out the window. The live oaks from which the Kershaw plantation got it’s name were swaying in a warm breeze. The leaves glinted silver as they danced in the moonlight. She spoke softly to the night, “I’m sure glad we made it out of Bastogne.”
She sat there quietly for almost a half hour, thinking about the horror and the bravery she had witnessed both at Normandy and Bastogne. Viewing the entire Band of Brothers series had given her a perspective that she had lacked before. Everything fit into a logical sequence now.
With a silent prayer for her friends in Easy Company who were now long gone, Leela lay back on her pillow. Soon she was fast asleep.