Appalachi Corps – “Cattle Car”

The train rumbled through the night in the Shenandoah Valley. Just after the engine was the officers’ car, a rusted streamlined section of fancy rooms and furnishings. There were two of these followed by the standard NCO cars, eight in total to account for the whole company. Those cars were made for livestock before the engineers fitted them with enough wall-bunks to carry half a platoon of Green Coats. The soldiers’ luggage and weapons were piled down the middle of the cars.

Sergeant First Class Dianna Manning was a team leader for her squad. She laid on the very top bunk beside the sliding door on the right of the car. It was a cool night and she had her boots and pants off to let her legs breath. She laid on top the sheets with her eyes closed, her hand resting on the mended hand-guard of her AK-74.

Trains were not her thing as it proved difficult to sleep. She rolled over numerous times, trying to find a comfortable position that would will her body into rest. The irritation and constant noise was not helping and all she could do was imagine herself in a proper bunk back at Ft. Pickett.

Facing the wall there came a white light that pierced through the thin cracks between the planks. She watched the light, assuming it was from lamps along the tracks. But the light did not move, fixed upon the single car that held her friends.

Dianna survived twelve engagements in her thirty-two years. She killed scores of Vaticanos in the infantry as she built herself a ladder of corpses to her current station. The experience paid off as she knew what was happening just by the sound of the guns.

Bullets tore through the walls and broke the chains that held her bunk up. She rolled off onto the pile of luggage, feeling the sharp pain of someone’s weapon barrel sticking into her back. More of the platoon leapt to the floor for cover, some vaporized in their beds by the giant rounds.

Groaning and wincing Dianna saw a twitching arm pinned between her bunk and the one beneath it. She grabbed the wrist and yanked the man out. She could feel his blood splatter her legs when the two of them tumbled to the other side of the car, landing on top of the others.

‘Yer okay, man,’ she repeated into his ear as he cried aloud.

Back on the other side, the sliding door rattled open as it was shot apart. When it fell from the train, the white light made the soldiers scatter away to the safety of darkness. Dianna peaked out from the luggage and saw the space before the opening smeared with bits and pieces of her friends. Outside she could see a staggered convoy of Casspir APCs driving parallel to the train like a pack of wolves. It did not take her long to dig out a rifle from the luggage and move into position.

With the man on top by her stomach she had her arms and head around the luggage, pointing the rifle out. The weapon was a Springfield, a bolt-action rifle. Her target was hard to see with the light, but she could make out the shape of a front end and a tire. Dianna steadied her nerves over the loud noises and took her shot.

The gun clicked empty in reply.

She blindly dug her hand back into the luggage, feeling for a stripper clip of rounds. Nothing came of it until one soldier nudged her from behind. He showed her a grenade and the another behind him handed her an M16.

She nodded and the man with the grenade crawled away into the dark. Dianna gently turned the wounded man over onto his back and came into a kneeling position. The wait seemed like hours as more rounds punched through the car. At the side she noticed two more soldiers join her with weapons in hand. She leaned close to them.

‘On my go,’ she yelled into their ears.

A hand touched her from between the luggage and her body jumped into action, the other soldiers following.

With the rounds sailing past her, Dianna charged towards the opening of the car and slid to the prone position. Nearly blinded by the light she trained her weapon on the Casspir and squeezed the trigger, the others coming on line. As soon as the shooting started, the rounds from the vehicle paused and the man with the grenade pulled the pin. He waited three seconds before lobbing it out.

It arced towards the vehicle and hit the hood with a bounce. The blast collapsed the whole front end and the Casspir flipped end over end. The vehicle behind it swerved away and collided with another, causing a pile up.

When Dianna started on the next vehicle alongside the forward car, the rest of the platoon joined in the shoot out. All the while, the Sergeant hoped a Hind would not creep out of the night to finish them off.

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