The Greek boy looked over the railing of the ship as it fled from the port in Athens. There were still hordes of civilians waiting at the docks. Some men were dressed in suits and hats, just like his father. All of the women looked the same to him, it would take him many years for him to understand. His father had told him why most men in the city looked dirty and ragged. "There are people in this world not as fortunate as you or I," he had once said.
On this day, Nikolas was still grateful for his life. Even though the Communia had overrun his home, he still held hope. The British Empire had saved him and his father, Stauros.
His brother, Anthony, was still somewhere in Greece, fighting off the invaders. He enlisted in the infantry after the Second World War had ended, much to Father's anger. "I'm working for your future! Don't waste it, you idiot!" Nikolas could easily remember the night his older brother had stormed out of the house. Anthony got a cheap apartment in the city years before that, but their father lost his temper after he heard the news he had joined the army.
"Don't leave yet! You can change your mind about this. Be an officer, I have the connections! You can... you can work in administration. Please, Anthony."
"My mind is set, Father. Look around you. Everyone is scared. We're surrounded by enemies. The Soviets will come for us, one of these days."
He had been staring at the Aegean Sea long enough for his home city to now be a speckle on the distant horizon. He hadn't even noticed the British officer speaking with his father. "Stauros Milos is my name," he said in English. Nikolas had been learning English in school, but he was still unable to understand most of what they were both saying.
"This is my boy. Nikolas." Stauros laid his hand out towards the boy and smiled at him. "Say hello," he said in Greek. "This is Robert Hulsey. He's a military man, like your brother."
Nikolas looked up at the blonde man in an officer's uniform. He was too amazed by the medals pinned to his left breast to speak.
"Hey there, chap." The Brit laughed. "Have you ever been to Italy?"
Father quietly chuckled and put his hand on his son's shoulder. "He does not speak English, sir. Very little English."
"Well, he's a handsome boy." Second Lieutenant Hulsey noticed Stauros was much too old for Nikolas to be his only child. "Do you have any family in Italy, Mister Milos?"
"No, no. My family, eh... they are all Greek. My wife passed eleven years ago. I have a son. Older son."
"I don't know. He is a soldier. He left home when the Soviets came."
"I'm sure he's still fighting. You Greeks..!" He smiled. "You Greeks are descended from warriors! If he's not fighting, he's on a boat somewhere around here." He pointed around to the sea.
Anthony Milos swiveled the Lewis machine gun to the restaurant across the river. He kept shooting small bursts at anywhere a Communia could pop his head out and fire. Even in the midst of dozens of rifles shooting off, he could hear every noise his gun was making. Every jam, every bullet, every casing dropping to the floor.
The gunshots in the building echoed and rang in all the soldiers' ears. This same kind of urban combat reminded them of the Nazis.
The soldiers across the river were Yugoslavians, or so the rumors said. They hadn't been able to check — none had gotten close enough. The Greek armies had not gained any inch of ground. From the moment of invasion, they remembered nothing but defeat.
Even though western countries lended aid, it was not enough to stop the full might of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Most aid items were auxiliary or outdated by 1946. Anti-tank weapons weren't able to pierce modern IS-2s and rusty Sherman tanks from French depots were no contender against Russian tank designs.
Across the river, on the Yugoslavian side, a building collapsed. Dust clouded up from the rubble pile and Anthony felt a small burst of hope. There were Soviets in that building, which meant less ammo and time had to be spent shooting at them.
A Sherman tank rumbled past the front line and advanced twenty feet ahead. It stopped and all machine guns besides the commander's began firing. His machine gun was the only one that had to be manned outside of the tank, and in this kind of heavy fire, that would be an immediate death sentence.
Anthony looked down from the third story while his assistant reloaded the gun.
The turret traversed to another building, and fired again. A chunk was blown out of the corner and brick pieces fell to the ground. The tank might have turned the tide of battle and achieved the first victory in the Greek Offensive if it weren't for a Yugoslavian assault gun. An ISU-122 rolled into view in the city square across the street.
The soldiers yelled at the tank to back up back into Patras, but before it knew the assault gun was even there, the gun fired. The Sherman blew apart before it began spouting flames. The hull was ripped open and metal was flung in all directions. Some pieces landed in the river. The ammo rack must have been hit, because the turret blew off as if it were meant to.
The machine gun was loaded again, and Anthony stood up in the window again. This time, the self-propelled gun was pointing its barrel at his building. It fired again, and he felt the floor collapse from under him.