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Cherry
By Georgi Chukov

It really all started on one bright sunny day at Pensic XXII, I was kneeling on the grassy ground of the open field, waiting, (and waiting and waiting) for the time for the field battle. My armour weighed more than it does now. I had a $50.00 12 gauge spun top with a butted chainmail for the neck protection that was so tall it made me look like a conehead, a coat of plastic plates riveted to leather really did not fit me, a beautiful pair of street sign aluminum thighs with ratty, rusty old set of floater knees attached to the bottom of the thigh piece with one strap of leather, ( I feel very fortunate that I got past the marshal wearing these, but now I know better and would NEVER let anyone go out with such substandard knee protection), a three foot sword that I was deadly with even at this tender age of my fighting career, and last but definitely least (no I am not bitter) a huge double one inch plywood war shield (2 inches thick for the math delinquent) that weighed too much for my own good. Needles to say, my first memory of this moment was the discomfort of sitting and waiting in the sun while sweating in my armour.

While we were waiting for this battle I took this time to reflect on where I had just come from and what I might expect. The once heated feeling I had in this armour left me and a cold chill settled down my spine. I had not the faintest clue about what I was going to do or what to expect! I had never EVER been in a melee, not even a 2 on 2. The last event that I could authorize at was in Toledo OH the week before Simple Day. As I had drilled religiously, every day for months, using the sword was no problem, however; I had never picked up a shield before and it was pretty obvious so, I failed my first attempt at authorizing. I was shocked because I beat my auth partner into the ground and all he could do was leg me. After watching the melee’s all afternoon I got a second chance and passed. As I was a gung ho florentine wanna-be with a weak shoulder from past dislocations, the next practice a couple of days after I dislocated it again. This eliminated doing melees at practice or simple day. My bad luck followed me to Pensic when I attempted to start a 2 on 2 pickup melee to get the feel of team fighting and Low and Behold: POP! crunch!?! Out came the shoulder. Any experience I would get melee wise was going to trial by fire.

So, I figured I would ask my "leaders". Without exception I got the feeling they did not know what to do either. The official order was that we (Indiana) was to engage the army of Atlantia head on. It was imperative we survive for at least 2 minutes. We were expected to not survive , to a man, as we were told we would be engaging an army that was more trained, experienced, and outnumbered us radically. We would die like heroes while another unit attempts to sweep the field. That cool spot that had settled down the middle of my back now migrated to my stomach as a form of nausea or "butterflies". I had talked to other fighter s that had fought at the last Pensic. They told me about the Indiana speed bump. This was not to terribly encouraging as this same group got munched in about 30 seconds out here because of a tactical miscalculation the year before. After I was told my assignment in the unit I knew it was going to be one of those days. Someone got the bright idea that the newer the fighter the closer to the front of the column they stand. No reason to waste the experienced fighters when there is plenty of fresh meat to feed to the Atlantian machine. My unit was new and I was one of the newest in my unit. I was in the front line of the front unit of a suicide army group. At this point I start to feel a little ill.

Now the various armies were lining up on opposing sides of the open field. This field is enormous! These armies are so………..huge!! They are wider than us and it looks like they are twice as deep as us overall. We have to take on their biggest and best trained formation! I felt like a mouse lining up in front of a steamroller. At this point my mouth went dry and I obviously had the slight look of fear that no cherry can hide. Everyone got real intense and then there was this hush of silence as the marshals started screaming. Then there was the sound of stick hitting shield, soft at first then thunderous, drowning out all other sounds and inciting us to frenzy. crack, Crack,CRACK!CRACK! and then the THWOOOOOOOOOOOOM! of the starting cannon. (I am not an english major so my description of the battle comes out only like I perceive it, in bits and flashes.) RUN! Run, run, got to follow my lead, to the right to the right, faster, FASTER!!! HURRY! HURRY! REFORM NOW! GET READY ! HERE IT COMES!!!!! …at this point in time I am the extreme right of the front of the suicide column. I am our flank. Any flank protection we may have had is behind our army group. We were on our own. My helmet also had poor peripheral vision so I really cannot see any of my buddies and, even though I can feel them on one side of me I fell very alone. About 20 yards away, directly in front of me was the lead elements of the Atlantian army. Something in the deep recesses of my mind told me that the hundreds of people out there where out to get me alone. I felt like a hunted animal and realized what the armed forces called "pucker factor" was.

All of the waiting had come down to this point. "GET READY, GET READY, HERE THEY COME! The soldiers grunted in unison on contact with a RRRAAAAAAAARGRRRRRRRGH!!! Then the KLA-CRUNCH!! As the shields contacted, hard. BLOCK, BLOCK, BLOCK, OH SHIT, IM SURROUNDED BY BLUE TAPE FALL BACK,BLOCK BLOCK BODIES PILING MOSTLY FRIENDS THROW THE SHOT, KILL. GOTTA RECOCK SWORD TO BLOCK!! OH SHIT! IS THAT A GLAI….THU-WHAMMMMMMM!! and 45 seconds (15 more seconds than all of the veterans told me I would survive) a crushing blow to the head from a glaiveman neatly compressed my neck vertebrae. It was all over for me as I was a corpse with a split down the middle of my head to my jawbone. The fight was turning into a tidybowl of death. The dust from swinging rattan could be seen forming around the fighting areas even though the ground was damp. I had gotten through my first melee. That was the most incredible experience (with clothing on) up to that point I had ever had. An almost evil smile creased my lips. It would not be the last time. Now I was not a cherry.
 

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