On The Road To Belleau

“A Taste of Things to Come”

Who: Hannaken, George Luz, Mancuso, Alex, Pagliaccio, Jacob and Pete
When: June, 1918
Where: A wheat field en route to the village of Lucy-de-Bocage

What: The Marines of the American Expeditionary Force, fresh from the
peaceful shores of the USA, march toward Lucy-de-Bocage, and into the
Great
War. The countryside seems peaceful, but ominous signs of the
bloodshed to
come greet them on the road. Mere hours before the Battle of Belleau
Woods
begins.

Wheatfield
=========================================================
[The Grid]-----> > > > > THE LOST GENERATION <
< <


A hardpacked road winds its way off in the distance. It's large enough
to
allow two vehicles to pass each other on it as long as there's nobody
turning a corner sharply. Mostly used by horses and wagons, it has
lately
seen much other traffic in the form of trucks and the road is beginning
to
show signs of wear and tear.

It is currently night time.

Contents
Mancuso
Pagliaccio
Alex
Jacob
Hannaken
George Luz

South to Wheatfield North to Wheatfield
East to Wheatfield

Hannaken's palms were sweaty beneath the polished oak of his
Springfield.
Sweat has already darkened his uniform and his legs pump beneath the
weight
of his helmet, canteens, gas mask and various other essential gear. He
swallows dryly as his feet pound the dirt road.

George Luz grumbles slightly as he slogs on, marching to the beat with
the
rest of the motley crew. He's marching pretty fast, light pack and all.
He
has his gun hitched over his right shoulder, sort of behind him as he
marches on. The Cpl. in charge begins to call out a cadence, and Luz
calls
out repetitively, "Momma and poppa were layin' in bed!"

Mancuso slogs on next to George. The big man moves at a pretty good
clip,
especially with their equipment load relatively light. "Momma rolled
over
and this is what she said!" he barks out in song, along with the other
Marine. He's trying not to stare too much as he marches, but he can't
help
but take a gander at the scenery. The boy from the Bronx is in France.

Hannaken doesn't feel much like singing. He was a little older than
average and knew what was ahead would be a whole new world of pain for
all
of them. IF they made it. He focuses on a point on the horizon at which
he
stares as his feet continue pounding the roadway.

Alex glowers at the backs of the Marines up front who deem this a
situation
to be singing about. Alex mutters idly, reaching up to unbutton the top
two
buttons of his tunic, shifting the weight of his pack slightly as he
steps
across a pothole on the road, the sounds of hobnailed boots and
web-gear
rubbing together barely heard above the joyous Marines.

George Luz moans a bit in between lines as the rifle strap over his
shoulder
begins to irritate him. He notices the next line in the song is up, and
quickly hollars out, "Momma rolled over this is what she said!" he
fixes the
strap, then places his hands on his straps and holds on tight as he
walks
down the road.

Pagliaccio walks coldly in line, Springfield slung, his BAR missing,
but
still wearing the bulky BAR gear that he was assigned, his e-tool
clinking
against his butt as he walks in a slow methodical fashion behind the
singing
marines. He was never much of a talker to begin with, quite possibly a
criminal to begin with before this war began, he'll be hopefully adding
murder to the list soon. Least…in the biblical sense.

Jacob marches along with the other men, in about the middle of the
formation. Gripping his rifle strap with one hand to keep it from
killing
his shoulder, he sighs. "God damn France, why's it gotta be so hot?" He
resisted drinking from his canteen, but it was an effort. He wiped
sweat off
his forehead, for all the good it did him. It appeared again almost
immedeatly.

George Luz glances around slightly as he continues to march on. He
spots a
few men on the side of the road handing out ammo and grenades. He calls
out,
"Stock up guys!"

"One, two, three, four!" Mancuso barks out in time with the song, with
a
brutish sort of enthusiasm. "I love the Marine Corps!" The thuggish New
Yorker never talked much about his past in training, but the knife scar
on
his face and the signs of former scars and breaks on the rest of him
speak
volumes.

Hannaken hears Jacob's comment as they continue to slog in he long
green
columns down the road toward the sound of the front and its rumbling.
"At
least its not winter," he says over the sound of the New Yorker's
bravado.
His own country twang evident in his words.

Alex mutters, reaching into his pockets for some cotton swabbing from
his
aid kit. The country boy stuffs his ears with the white padding,
glaring at
the city yolkels up front as they raise all that annoying racket.

George Luz quickly checks over his ammo loadout before quickly walking
over
to the side. He grabs a few bandoleers of ammo as he throws them over
his
shoulder and walks back to his place in the march. He nudges the guy
next to
him, Mancuso, and mutters something quietly, not really that audibly,
about
checking the ammo.

Pagliaccio gets to the end of the line, the grenades gone, the ammo
distributed, the big italian thug sneers slightly. "Ey, what the fuck
you
looking at?" He asks one of the french civilians watching the march
with a
genuine awe. The civilian being a mere 9 year old child. Still, what
the
fuck was he looking at, eh?

Jacob grunts to the man speaking of French winter. "God damn Europe.
Hot as
Hell summers, cold as shit winters." He shakes his head and spits.
"Damnit,
ain't nothin' like good ol' USA. Where it's all normal."

Hannaken hears the Whop yelling at the child and casts a glance his
way,
he'd have to remember that guy. They continue up the road and over a
broken
culvert. A ruined wagon lies on its side next to some decaying horses.
The
stench is overpowering…probably killed from the air by the looks of
it.

Above them two planes begin circleing each other. Hannaken glances
up…."Hey look at that," he says loudly.

Mancuso lets out a bellow of a laugh when he catches Alex's plugging
out of
the corner of his eyes. He pivots around, so he's jogging backwards,
barking
more chuckles at the country boy. "What's the matter, pal? Not your
kinda
tune?" So he pivots back around, right-side marching, and starts
singing
again. In Italian this time. It sounds like a Sunday hymn, but belted
in
full tavern drinking style.

Alex groans at Mancuso. Bending down on the move, he snatches up a clod
of
earth, hurling it at the New Yorker, "Better watch out for the sand
snakes
there, they'll eat your pecker off while you sleep iffin yer not
careful" he
retorts.

Mancuso is slammed in the back by the clod. He rotates back around to
glare
at Alex, but it's not too dangerous a glare. He worked most of his
murderousness for his fellow recruits out on the island. He does idle
briefly to pick up a rock and throw it back at the country boy in kind,
though. He laughs, giving his head a shake. That's around the time the
stench of the horses, and the sound of the planes, reaches his ears.
"Holy
fucking shit…" he swears to himself, under his breath. He doesn't
laugh so
much anymore.

Above the marching column the British and German planes begin a dance
of
death..circling diving and chasing one another….

Above the drone of their engines revving the sound of machine guns
popping
can be heard.

Hannaken looks up at the fight as he keeps walking. It was his first
taste
of the front. Those men were trying to kill each other. It was all
becoming
more real to him now…

Pagliaccio stops as people slow to gawk up at the planes overhead, and
reaches into his pocket to remove a pack of fine american tabacco. His
routine of chainsmoking is seriously hampered by the fact his favorite
brand
is now thousands of miles away - still, he's rationing what he's got
left.

Jacob grunts and wrinkles is nose as the stench creeps towards him.
"God
damn, if that ain't one of the worst smells…" He looks up as he hears
the
small buzz, and sees the others looking up as well. He gaped as he
watched
the machines duel. "Doesn't seem right, them stayin' up like that…"

George Luz groans audibly now as he reaches the stench. He hears the
guy
behind him and as he plugs his nose up with his fingers, he looks up at
the
sky and watches the battle silently.

Alex ducks his head, the incoming rock bouncing off the steel of his
helmet.
With the cotton in his ears, he can't hear the planes above the column,
but
he does see everyone else looking upwards. And so, not wanting to be
the
ugly duckling per se, he peers skywards, raising a hand to shield his
eyes
from the sun as he watches the planes floating about, shooting at one
another.

Mancuso actually looks somber at the sight of those dead horses. His
big
face gets very hard as he looks up into the sky, glaring at the
dogfighting
planes. "Fuckin' cowardly way to fight," he growls. "Next damn fly-boy
I
see, I'm gonna punch his fuckin' lip in." Despite his bravado, though,
he's
not nearly as loud as he was a moment ago. Those were probably the
first
enemy guns he heard.

Oddly enough, neither of the planes are hit…the German chases the
British plane Westward until the two craft disappear into the blue sky.
The
smell of death increases in intensity until Hannaken passes the dead
animals. "A taste of things to come indeed," he mutters as they
continue
down the road.

Pagliaccio opens the pack, and begins to pack the sweet smelling
tabacco
into his pipe, and lets the smoke waft up over his nostrils as he moves
past
the dead horses in the rear of the line, puffing on his alabaster pipe,
pausing to nudge the horse's flank with the toe of his boot.

Mancuso is more succinct with his take on the scene they just
witnessed. He
just mutters, "Fuck" under his breath again and presses on, nudging his
rifle on his shoulder. As if just reminding himself it's there. The
smell of
Pagliaccio's smoke gives him ideas. He fishes into his jacket to pull
out
his own pack of Lucky Strikes, and a lighter to get one going with.
"Hey!"
he growls back at Pagliaccio when he sees him nudge the horse. "Leave
him
alone. Poor bastard's had enough."

As the column moves along the road, the Marines are forced to the
shoulders by the rumbling of several transports and horse-drawn wagons.
All
are driven by haggard-faced Frenchmen who appear to have little or no
sleep
in the last few weeks. They barely look at the U.S. Marines as they
pass by.
They pay no heed of the horse corpses either, having seen much worse in
their days.

Hannaken looks over his shoulder at Mancuso as he yells at the
Italian.

Pagliaccio shrugs his big shoulders, and continues to amble down the
road
behind the column, moving to the shoulder as the carts travel by,
giving a
side glance at the old men, women, and children who now make up the
majority
of french civilians.

Mancuso levels a last glare at Pagliaccio as he moves to the side of
the
road with the other men. For awhile he watches the haggard-faced people
pass. But the sight of a little boy with a sunken face and haunted eyes
finally makes him look away. The boy's eyes are the same shade of brown
as
Mancuso's, and there's a dead look in them that makes the child seem
100
years old. Mancuso glares down at his boots, shrugging his shoulders to
get
the feel of his gun again.

George Luz continues to march along, ignoring the guys around him. He's
just
staring straight ahead, hands on his straps. He begins to speed up
slightly,
as though he wants to move up towards the front of the line.

Hannaken notices the child with the sunken-expression as well. The
war was
an odd one. The last French town could have been any other town in the
world
(with the exception of the lack of menfolk). The people looked normal
there.
Here, war had left its mark. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a
package of chocolate, somewhat melted, but he tosses it to the little
boy,
who looks blankly at it first. Then he picks it up…Hannaken can't
watch
him discover it as they navigate a curve in the road and the family is
hidden behind a grove of trees.

Alex hardly pays attention to much anymore as he trudges along under
the
burden of his pack. He raises his head slightly, just enough to catch a
glimpse of what appears to be their final destination, a pair of
Sergeants
gesturing for the column to head off the road and into a field to
prepare
for their advance.

Mancuso marches on, without the loud enthusiasm he'd showed before. His
face
has taken on a grim set. He soldiers on, in the direction the sergeants
indicate. An almost eager light has come into his eyes.

George Luz marches near Mancuso, his face falling slightly. Finally
there.
He begins to head off the road, his feet still clomping down loudly on
the
dirt road.

Hannaken is relieved to have a break from the constant trodding of the
march. He moves off the road and into a field with the others and forms
up
on-line with the rest of his platoon and squad. He looks over his
shoulder
for his squad leader and takes a knee in the field when allowed to do
so.
"Damn my feet hurt," he says as the sound of battle can be heard in the
distance along with the thudding of artillery.

Alex wanders into the field. Finding a nice little spot, he flops down
on
the soft earth, shucking his pack, leaning his rifle against it, and
tipping
his helmet off as he stretches out on the grass, sighing with content.

Mancuso hunkers down to take some rest in the field. He ends up not far
from
Alex. His head turns toward the sound of artillery. He waits quietly,
listening to the far-off battle.

Hannaken gets into a sitting position as the unit is ordered to wait
and
removes his cleaning kit. He begins cleaning his Springfield gingerly.
"Hey
Mancuso, who'z that other Whop who was kicken at the dead horse,"
Hannaken
asks loudly.

"Don't call me a Whop, you fuckin' pissant," Mancuso growls at Hannaken
as
he cleans his own rifle. He can fieldstrip it easy as pie now, after
all
that time basic. "And his name's Pagliaccio. Fucker's from New York,
too. I
feel almost insulted." He chuckles roughly as he says it, though.

"Pag…Pagli…Pistachio….," Hannaken says loudly. "Hey Pistachio,
how
come you yelled at that Frenchie kid. That was mean." He looks the
Italians
over and says, "Better to be fucken Irish then a FUCKEN Eye-Talian," he
says
to Mancuso.

Pagliaccio looks over at Hannaken. "Hey, you better watch your fucking
mouth, or one of those EYE-TAlians gonna get upset and think you're the
enemy and shoot you in the back of the skull." He slurs in his thick
new
york italian accent. "I'll be crying a fucking river when you go down,
shorty."

"Yeah, that's what your mother calls me too," Hannaken says. At least
the
good-natured verbal tussle has taken his mind off what lies ahead.
"Pistachio, you Eye-Talians like to say Fuck a lot don't ya..eh? EH?"
He
kicks some dirt up in the air making a small cloud.

"You want this fuckin' Italian to fuckin' punch your damn Mick face
in?"
Mancuso growls to Hannaken as he finishes putting his rifle back
together.
The sucker's clean. Better to kill Germans with. "And shut the fuck."
That
exchange seems to have made him more kindly disposed to Pagliaccio.

Jacob grunts and drops to the ground, sighing in relief as he leans
back
against a downed wagon. He hears two men arguing down the line. "Both
of you
damned ladies shut up. Cain't have this sort of thing on the line 'less
you
wanna get yourselves killed."

Alex smirks wryly at the two city slickers, not saying a word, leaning
back
into his pack, closing his eyes as he basks in the suns rays.

Pagliaccio looks at Hannaken for a moment, and spits some scummy brown
tabacco goo from his lips onto the ground, tapping his pipe against the
side
of his BAR belt's recoil cup. "Eh, let me tell you something, Strano,
you
and I end up next to each other on the line, I'm going to keep on
moving,
cause you're just a grenade waiting to happen. That's all I'm saying."
He
says with the cool, unfeeling void of a criminal.

Mancuso grunts right back at Jacob. "And you can fuckin' piss off,
too," he
says. But he doesn't trade anymore insults with Han.

Hannaken chuckles and then says, "Luz, tell them to leave me
alone…LUZ!"
He kicks up some dust again and then removes the rounds from his
Springfield, oils them and then oils the magazine before wiping them
all
down. He turns more serious now as the shooting seems to intensify.

George Luz glances over his shoulder at the guy yelling out his name.
He
quickly barks out, "Back off!" to the men around him.

Pete has fallen out from the recent march, and has found a place off to
the
side, away from his fellow marines. One might have seen him at Parris
Island, an incredibly talkitive person. He'd not talking now, sitting
quietly off to the side, hugging his rifle, and staring off into space.

Hannaken spots Pete sitting alone and gets to his feet. He walks over
and
sits down beside him. "Hey Pete…you doing alright?" he says in a
fatherly
tone. The man is older than most of the Marines around him.

Pete the man looks up to Hannaken with a start. "Oh, f-f-fine. J-just
f-f-fine. I-I-I-" He stops talking for a moment, and simply breathes.
One
doesn't need to have a conversation to know the man is scared out of
his
wits.

Hannaken puts a hand on the fellows shoulder. "Take it easy," he says
calmly. "Everyone's scared, so you're not alone. When the shooting
starts,
just do what you were trained to do. It'll come back to you, everything
you
learned on the Island." He grins and says, "Besides, the girls back in
town
love a combat veteran."

George Luz stands up and begins to inspect his rifle. He works the bolt
a
few times, checking to make sure the dust has been cleared out. He then
props the rifle down on the ground up at his legs, and checks his
bandoleers
to make sure he has a full stock of ammo.

Pete looks almost hostility at Hannaken, and almost comes to his feet.
"E-everything I learned!? W-what! How to-" He suddenly realizes that
that
his voice is a bit too loud, and lowers it. "How to stab a dummy, or
shoot
at a piece of paper, huh!? Throw grenades behind nice, protective
walls?" He
geatures to his rifle. "I ain't even good with this weapon! I did all
my
practice with a scattergun and they stick me with a rifle!" His eyes go
fearful. "I'm gonna die out there. We're /all/ gonna die out there!"

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