The powder keg that was Europe finally blew and plunged the region into chaos. War spread throughout the lands like a plague, bringing death to millions thanks to a new type of warfare. Trench warfare and the machine gun were responsible for the untold deaths, many of whom never got a proper burial, those poor souls were doomed to anonymity beneath the blood soaked mud.
It was no surprise that the abodimations were also drawn to the conflict. The scores of dead attracted ghouls by the hundreds while other menaces lurked in the shadows and preyed on unsuspecting soldiers. What better way to conceal wanton carnage than amongst the casualties of war?
In response to this epidemic hunters were sent out to assist in the war effort. Edith and Clara had joined up as nurses and served at a field hospital near the front. Day after a day, they were faced with a deluge of wounded and dying.
While tending to the living they kept a watchful eye for things that lurked in the shadows. The nurses had to pay particular attention to the wounds; it was not always obvious if shrapnel or fangs had caused the injury.
Clara felt like a bystander in the war that raged on just over the horizon. The flashes of bright light were always accompanied by a thunderous bang. Sometimes the shelling would get so close that the ground shook.
When the war entered one of its rare lulls, Clara often sought out the comfort of men. Even if the offers were plentiful, the services rendered was always poor. The hurried undressing, the awkward positions, heavy breathing and her partner’s quick crescendo meant she rarely got anywhere near the finish line.
Still it temporarily met her needs and distracted her from the horrors she witnessed. For Clara that seemed to be a better way of hiding from the world than restorting to drink or morphine. She needed to keep her reflexes sharp because her opponents would not give her the opportunity for her buzz to wear off.
This evening marked her second Christmas spent near No-man. When the war began, everyone had said that victory would be won by Christmas. This year had dredged up much of the same talk and Clara suspected they would bring up the same tired topic next year.
Despite the horrors witnessed, people still expected a quick end. Their hope spent waiting for that singular break in the enemy lines. The one which would permit them to push deep into their territory.
There were countless others from the Tower, some were even posted to the front lines. Snipers proved effective at culling any strays looking for a fresh meal. That tended to be dangerous work since the enemy liked to shoot back.
From time to time Edith and Clara were called in for a specific mission. They would set aside their blue uniforms adorned with brass and white aprons in favour of male uniforms. A bit of padding to conceal the hips, wrapping for the tits and cigarettes to harshen the voice did wonders to pass off as young officers. As an additional precaution, these missions were always conducted in the cover of night to further avoid detection.
The girls hid their change of clothes in an abandoned farmhouse near their camp. Clara often enjoyed the male uniform, which enabled her carry a pistol while hiding a few surprises under all that padding. As a precaution she opted to bring her derringer, a bayonet and some throwing knives.
They had been given little warning tonight, nor was there much intelligence as to the nature of their mission. Edith put on her uniform adorned with two pips, which was one more than Clara had. The selected ranks were senior enough to allow independent movement without arousing suspicion for their youthful appearance.
Edith examined the map with her compass in hand. She looked so different in an army officer’s uniform, so much so that Clara sometimes forgot who this dashing young officer was.
No matter how dirty or weary Edith was her eyes always shined brightly, a trait that Clara envied.
“Does Edith envy me in any way,” Clara wondered.
“Three miles bearing eleven mills,” Edith said while tracing out a line.
“Anything in the area,” Clara asked.
“Nothing but a bombed out church,” Edith said.
Clara scrutinised the map, stitching together the lay of the land. A week or so ago there had been heavy fighting in that area until the front lines shifted to the east. Clara remember it clearly because there had been a lot of casualties that week.
That meant they would have to traverse treacherous territory. They would be sure to come across networks of trenches, barbed wire, unexploded bombs, and gaping holes in the ground. They would have to move quickly and covertly while watching out for anything that posed a threat. Fortunately, little to no enemy activity was expected this far behind the lines.
Clara’s instincts told her there was something peculiar about that location. She glared at the map for a moment, but the reasons continued to elude her. Then just like photoflash powder going off, an idea popped into her head.
“Isn’t there a gate there,” Clara asked.
Edith furrowed her brow, “Not sure. Should have been deactivated when the fighting broke out.”
As with anything Georgian, there were very few guarantees. The Terminus’ gates provided travel to a single location, which made them safer for human use. Georgians and other less discerning clients used multi-destination gates, alas those were known to cause accidents.
“No matter,” Edith said to break the silence. “That’s our objective and we have no further detail. Full stealth, evade and if we get separated meet back here before sunrise,” she added.
Clara nodded then picked up her greatcoat from a charred chair. It was cold tonight and knew full well that it would get colder before sunrise.
Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!