Author : Michael Varian Daly

Tzisoc knew they were about fifteen miles south of Zhytomir, but until they saw the rail line and the village just to the east – Vertokyivka she believed – they had no map fix.

Artillery ‘crumped’ to the north, fellow Black Guard units fighting their way into Zhytomir itself.

She brought the troop to a halt in the village’s abandoned fields, letting the horses graze upon whatever they could find. In the dry heat of mid-August, that wasn’t much. She was still amazed at the stunning primitiveness of Russia during this time, even this far west.

She sighed, checked out her little command; twenty six Sisters, their horses, three extra mounts.

“Too many First Timers in this Wave”, she thought. She had gone from private to sergeant in five months because of that. That was also why they didn’t spot the Maxim gun until it opened up, a languorous ‘tat-tat-tat-tat’.

They had learned enough to pull back rapidly instead of gazing about open mouthed. The Germans missed completely.

“Green,” Tzisoc hissed, as she dismounted several yards back.

“Corporal Kaminel, take Second and Third Sections around to the right! Pin them down!” she told her second in command. “First Section come with me!”

As Tzisoc and seven troopers moved around to the left, the sharp crack of Mosin-Nagant carbines could be heard, answered by the Maxim gun…and the flatter crack of Mausers.

“They’ve got infantry,” Tzisoc said. The others nodded.

They found a low rise on the German’s left flank. Tzisoc spread her troopers along it and kept moving left.

She could see the Germans now, their coal scuttle helmets moving around in a trench line. She brought her rifle up, fired.

One of the helmets flipped back with a satisfying spray of blood and meat.

She hugged the earth as slugs zipped over head, thumped in the dirt. Then First Section opened up and the bullets stopped. She took a quick look; no Germans.

She was up and running in an instant. “This is going to get me killed,” she thought. But she had signed up knowing The Black Guard’s motto; Mors Amatricum Nostrum…“Death is Our Lover”

Halfway to the trench a German appeared. She shot him in the chest.

Then she was in the trench. Another German. She shot him in the face. A third German came at her with a shovel, knocked her rifle away.

She screamed a war cry, leaped upon him, dagger out. She could feel the bone and gristle through the hilt, feel his death rattle, smell his bowels voiding.

She heard a ‘thunk’ to her left. The chest-shot German had just pounded a potato masher against the dirt.

“Oh, shi…” The blast set her hair and uniform on fire. Metal tore into her face, eyes… PAIN!


Her body was still spasming violently when the Mandroid Medtechs cracked the Sim Tank. A Pneumodermic injector shot her full of hormones and supplements. She went limp.

She awoke in a deceptively simple hospital room, bright, sunny, no medgear visible, but it monitored her to the subatomic level.

A Sister came in wearing a white coat, her hair in a Service Pageboy. Tzisoc noticed the silver outlined black star insignia of The Black Guard pinned to her coat.

“I’m Nesrood, your counselor,” she smiled. “I hear you bought the farm.”

Tzisoc laughed. “Only five months in.”

“You’ll do better next time,” Nesrood said. She pointed to her insignia; the black star had a red III and a white V. “I died the first two times.”

She pulled a clear package out of her pocket, handed it to Tzisoc. “Welcome.”

It was a Black Guard pin. When Tzisoc’s skin touched it, a red I appeared. She grinned with sheer joy. “Yes, I’ll do better next time.”

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