Execution

Who: Pierre, Morgenstern
What: Execution

A Legionaire officer is on the hunt for some of his men for an unpleasant mission and he knows just who to ask. So, he's sent a message to Morgenstern and Pierre to come to the headquarter in Arras.

Morgenstern tries not to think too much on what this could be about. No point worrying in advance. He's smoking as he marches down the streets towards the headquarters,

Pierre jogs up behind Morgenstern, having caught sight of the man on his way over. He spins around and jogs backwards a step in front and to the side of Morgenstern, moving easily around without dragging along all the combat gear. "Any idea what this might be about" he asks, grinning at the man. "They need a few men to clean up the bars in Paris maybe?"

Morgenstern flicks ash off his cigarette, glancing at Pierre. He wasn't smiling, but now he grins, the younger legionnaire having this way of drawing out the smiles from Morgenstern. "Very likely," he agrees, mock-seriously. "We're to be sent there and clean up, bring order and then report back." He snorts, moving around a large craterhole filled with water. "Guess we'll soon find out." He gestures at the building they're heading for and jumps over some debris on the street before reaching the door and entering.

Pierre of course trips over some debris, but catches his balance before he falls over, "I was more thinking about bringing disorder" he mumbles as he straightens out his uniform, "Or bring back some ladies here" he is mostly talking to himself as he enters the building.

The building is rather barren and not especially large either. It's holding the Legionnaire part of the French army, which basically means they get to use the leftovers. Nevertheless, it's a whole lot nicer than anything most soldiers see. Morgenstern looks around and nods at the guard, giving his name and
errand. The guard points towards a door.

"I fancied that doctor," Morgenstern murmurs to Pierre. "But she's no longer in Arras and I never heard from her again." He frowns darkly. "Women. Can't trust them."

"What doctor?" Pierre mumbles back, "What does women have to do with doctors?" His brain clicks into gear and he takes a step back to give his name and errand to the guard too, not waiting to be pointed in the right direction he joins up with Morgenstern again, "Maybe the woman doesn't know how to write?" he finally suggests.

"Usually nothing, but that woman was a doctor. Don't ask me how that happened," Morgenstern says, marching towards the door and knocking firmly on it. "And she could write, I saw her write on several occasions. Anyway, no real point talking about it." From behind the door a voice speaking French loudly calls for the two Legionnaires to enter, and Morgenstern opens the door to step inside.

It's a small room with a window overlooking a backyard. An old desk is covered with papers in some kind of order. A shelf holds various maps and documents. An old rug on the floor gives the room some life, together with a sorry looking plant on the windowsill. Behind the desk sits a Legion officer, a captain. He looks up with a neutral expression. His name, as written on the messages given to Morgenstern and Pierre, is Beauchamp. Morgenstern salutes and stands in attention. "Corporal Morgenstern reporting, Sir."

Pierre straightens up and salutes too, while not a perfect one, it is at least good enough. "Travere, sir" his voice is a little bit held back like he was about to say something completly different.

You'd almost think that Beauchamp finds the two tiresome right after their salutes. He looks down into some of his papers and lifts them up to tap them against the desk, making a neat pile of them which he then puts aside. After that, he slowly reaches for another paper and pulls it up in front of himself, before looking back at the two Legionnaires. "I've been asked to put together an execution squad. You two are the squad." He doesn't waste time, dear old Beauchamp. His face is cleanshaved, his dark hair is speckled with grey and cut very short. Steely grey eyes reveal no emotions. "The guilty has been tried and judged for murder, desertion and…" He looks down into the papers. "Cowardice."

Morgenstern's reaction is to straighten up, get a more grim expression and to respond: "Yes, Sir."

No sound is coming from Pierre at first, his shoulders slump a bit and it takes a while before he gets out a 'Yes, sir". Whatever he guessed his errand here would be, it doesn't sound like this was one of his guesses.

Beauchamp signs something on the paper and holds it out. "He's being brought to west of Arras, near the graveyard right now. So you two better hurry up. Here are your orders to show when you get there." He smiles thinly. "They thought it'd look better if the Legion handles the execution of a French poilus." Beuachamp studies the two men for a moment as if gauging their reactions. But he's got orders and now he's passed them on.

Morgenstern doesn't immediately move to reach out for the paper, but snaps out of it and steps up to accept it, looking it over quickly before stepping back. "We're on our way, Sir," he rasps.

Pierre salutes as soon as Morgenstern has reached for the papers, without waiting for anything more he quickly spins around after to get out of the house, covering the distance between the captains office and the front door in three large steps and he doesn't stop until he's out on the street.

Morgenstern is on Pierre's heels after his own salute and tucks the paper away safely like it's a murderweapon he needs to hide quickly. He's staring straight ahead and is, initially, very quiet. "I guess we better hurry," he grunts finally, glancing carefully at Pierre.

"Right" Pierre agrees, spinning around twice before he remembers in what direction he should go. "I must go and get my rifle too" he mumbles, sounding a little absent as he starts to slowly walk down the street.

Morgenstern catches up to Pierre, reaching a hand out to put on the young man's shoulder. "I'll do it," he grunts. "You just have to shoot but not hit." If someone asks him, he wouldn't be able to say why he's offering to spare Pierre this. It's not like Pierre hasn't killed before. But this is different.

Pierre shakes his head, "That would not be right. This is not like war, this is murder." He gestures towards the sky, "I don't know what He will say about this, but protecting myself would not be right."

Morgenstern actually looks up at the sky, at that. As if expecting a lightning to strike him down on the spot. "Well…." he says, lighting up another cigarette as he walks through the shell-torn town, "the one to be executed is apparently a murderer. I'll think of that when I shoot." He tries to be blase about it, to not care. "I've done it before, to murderers. It was… justified."

Pierre shakes his head and then shrugs. He pulls out his small flask, drinking more than a mouthful of the liquid, which smells quite a lot like regular hard liquor. "I don't know" he mumbles finally. "Is that our thing to decide? War is different. Even the bible says so."

"What difference does it make? We've got orders," Morgenstern replies, some frustration showing through, his voice sharp. He immediately regrets it, taking a deep drag on his cigarette. "We are soldiers and we follow orders and if we start thinking too much on what we're doing we'll go mad."

Pierre drinks up the last of his liquor, pausing a moment to stop a rebillion inside him. "Yes, orders" he finally mumbles, not sounding too convinced though. "Would have been more honour in just sending them against the Germans in a suicide mission." But he just slumps a little more as he walks on.

"Just focus on the orders," Morgenstern suggests. The sharpness and frustration is now gone, exchanged for tired resignment. "I'll meet you there, you go get your rifle," he suggests and speeds up a bit.

Cemetery

On the very outskirts of the town, is an enormous war cemetery where the dead of the Great War have been laid to rest. A small quiet chapel is off to one side in a leafy glade, but most of the field is taken up by rows and rows of white crosses, which gleam brightly in the sun, and with a more sombre shade in the light of the moon at night.
Canadian and British war graves dominate the collection, but there are also plenty of French, and even a small plot for the German soldier here.
It is currently dawn.

A short while later…

A group of French soldiers are waiting near some trees at the side of the cemetary. One of them, the prisoner, has his hands tied behind his back and is sitting on an old log. He is young, no older than twenty, with a pale and gaunt face and dead eyes that just stare at nothing.

Morgenstern is approaching, perhaps not as fast as he could, smoking a cigarette and taking a sip from a bottle to steady his nerves. Some liquid calm won't hurt.

Pierre looks a lot more relaxed now, the liquor doing its best to make life easier, or harder, for the young volunteer. He's smoking a cigarette on his way into the graveyard, a closer study of his face shows quite easily that while the liqour has relaxed his body, it wasn't enough to blank out his mind.

Morgenstern turns to wait for Pierre, so the two can walk together up towards the site of the execution. He studies the other legionnaire intently for a moment, as if searching for signs of calm or panic. "We best get it over with quick," he grunts, hiding behind a mask of machismo. He drops the cigarette and brings his rifle up to check it over.

The group of poilus which are guarding the convicted soldier turn to stare at the two Legionnaires. There's some hostility from a few. Pity from a few others. War-tired resignment from the rest. The only one who doesn't even react to their presence is the man to be executed. He just stares dully at something on the ground.

Pierre isn't even looking towards the French soldiers, his eyes finding other things to look in at a steady pace. He quickly glances at Morgenstern, taking a few steps in silence, "Oui" he finally grunts, looking down on the rifle while trying to find his way to where he is supposed to stand.

Morgenstern nods to the poilus and walks over to show the orders so they know it's the right people doing the deed. Another corporal checks the paper and nods back at Morgenstern, without a word. Then he barks out commands and the man to be executed is brought to his feet and moved over to have his hands tied behind a tree. He is asked if he wants a blindfold, but he doesn't answer; he could be dead already the way he's acting. A walking dead. So, the other soldiers step back to let the two Legionnaires take over.

Morgenstern waits with deceptive patience and calm, lingering near Pierre. "No regrets, Travere," he murmurs quietly to his comrade. "No regrets. We do what we have to do."

Pierre finally looks up at the man about to die. "I wonder what…" he starts to mutter, but cuts himself off before he has asked the question. "Heart or head?" he remembers to ask in a low voice all of a sudden, he grips the rifle with both hands to be a little more ready. "Heart?"

Morgenstern glances at Pierre. He has questions haunting him as well, but he grits his teeth and sets his jaw, holding questions back. He doesn't want to know anything about the man he is about to kill. "Heart," he agrees coarsely, raising the rifle up to his shoulder. He's going to take careful aim.
The area turns quiet. Not even birds are singing. A soft breeze dances across leaves and grass, bringing some coolness to the hot air. This place is beautiful, untouched by the war, an oasis. The watching soldiers are practically holding their breaths; a few look away.

Pierre slows his breathing down before he brings up the rifle, the effect of the alchohol seems to be gone with the wind and he has to stop halfway to wipe some sweat off his forehead before he finally has the rifle up. He starts mumbling to himself in a very low voice as the rifle is finally pointed towards the man who he is about to shoot.

Now, finally, the man awakens and he jerks his head up to look right at Pierre and Morgenstern, with clear, intelligent eyes. It's as if he just realized he's about to die and he doesn't want to miss it. He wets dry lips as if preparing to say something, but then he changes his mind and he just smiles a lopsided little smile as he studies his executioners.

It unnerves Morgenstern more than it would had the man been afraid. He shifts his grip on his rifle nervously and there's a prolongued, uneasy pause before the legion corporal speaks. "Ready…. aim…. fire!" He squeezes the trigger.

"..lyckan far", Pierre's voice goes up a little towards the end of his mumbling, a moment later he hears the word 'fire', a command already part of his lizard brain and he squeezes the trigger almost at the same time. If he was aiming for the heart, he isn't the best shot in the world as his bullet catches the man in the throat, shutting off the French soldier's electrical system as it goes through the spine on the way out. Deadly enough, just a lot more messy then what he planned on.

Morgenstern shoots at the same instance as Pierre and the two shots ring out loudly in the area. It makes the onlooking soldiers twitch. It makes the target's eyes widen before he slumps against the ropes holding him up at the tree. Morgenstern's bullet is a lethal one as well, his careful aim making him hit the heart as he intended. A rose of blood spreads out over the dead man's shirt before it mingles with the blood pouring out from his throat, soaking the fabric entirely. Once more, there is total silence and Morgenstern lowers the rifle down and turns his gaze to somewhere in front of his feet, suddenly drained.

Pierre just lowers his rifle a few centimeters at first, his eyes locked on the body until the blood flow slows down, it isn't until then he gets ouf of his trance so he can bring down the rifle and turn his face a little towards the sky.

The other soldiers take awhile to react. But finally they too are brought out of it and the corporal barks a few commands about taking care of the body. The poilus corporal looks over at Morgenstern and Pierre and nods at them again.

Morgenstern takes that as a cue to leave. He slings the rifle up on his back and lets out a deep sigh, not realizing he's held his breath for awhile. "Well, that was that," he says quietly, and lights up a cigarette with somewhat shaking hands. "Did you have more of that liquor?"

Pierre returns the nod to the corporal a bit absent minded, slowly puttting the rifle over his shoulder. He stands like that for a couple of seconds before he turns his back to the scene and replies. "No. Nothing more, I emptied my reserve when I fetched the rifle."

Morgenstern nods his understanding to that, beginning a slow walk down the path towards the cemetary. Behind the two the dead man is put onto a cart to be brought to his grave. A priest lingers further away, prepared to perform the burial ceremony. Everything is prepared in advance, with military efficiency. "Next time, they're sending us to Paris. You'll see." Morgenstern likes to cling to that thought at the moment.

"I wonder what he really did", Pierre can't help to ask the question, although the the tone of his voice it is clear enough he isn't expecting an answer, for once not jumping on the chance of. "He smiled. I wonder if he knew something we did not?"

"Merde, Travere," Morgenstern curses quietly, shooting his friend a somewhat frustrated look. "You think too much on things like that. Maybe he smiled because he wasn't afraid to die? I don't know… I don't want to think about it." The corporal flicks his cigarette away and speeds up, marching off towards town. He could use some sensitivity training.

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