"Manuscripts don't burn"
Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."
Friday, July 31, 2009
Qahira leapt out of his trench along with the rest of The Rhinos. He grabbed a canister from off of his belt, and palmed it in his left hand. He held his tommy gun in his right hand and took off at a run. He and the rest of The Rhinos charged forward towards the Allied trenches.
The air suddenly filled with the staccato burst of machine guns, AS guns, and artillery, punctuated by the occasional grenade. The Rhinos dropped like flies. Qahira gently shook his head at the terrible waste of life, but he knew it was necessary.
Qahira reached he Allied trenches seconds before he had been expecting to. He nearly stumbled and fell into the trench nearest him.
“Drop!” he screamed at the top of his lungs, “Drop now!”
Qahira let fly the canister he was holding while spraying the area with fire from his tommy gun to discourage the Allies. He saw a puff of greenish smoke waft out of the Allied trench where he had thrown the canister. There was a loud scream, and Qahira knew the drop had been successful.
Quickly scanning the surrounding area, while still firing with his Thompson, Ras saw that the others with canisters had completed their drops as well. That was it.
“Pull back! Pull back!” yelled the Egyptian general.
Scrambling like crazed beetles, The Rhinos began to leg it back to their trenches. None of them wanted to get caught in the cross breeze. They knew what was happening to the Allies in the trenches. Knowing that, it was little surprising that the Germans and Britons weren’t still shooting at them.
The gas was code named Bloody Wind. It was a biological weapon, a more potent and deadly variety than had ever been produced before. It was being produced in massive quantities in Zaire. Qahira and The Rhinos had received word from Zaire about how the Bloody Wind was supposed to affect a person.
First it caused human flesh to bubble and boil into almost third-degree burns. If any skin survived, it would probably fall off in patches. Muscles would melt, and bones would become brittle, snapping at the slightest exertion. The inner organs would then begin to disintegrate. The brain would die off last, so a person would be aware of the agony he was going through.
It’s main thrust came from being radioactive. Luckily it had a half life of only a few minutes, so it would be rendered essentially inactive after an hour. An hour was enough.
Ras Qahira peered warily out of his trench. In the mad scramble away from the canisters no one had bothered to check which trench they were diving into. By the luck of the draw Qahira had ended up in the same trench as his communications officer.
“Let me have your binoculars,” said Ras to the comm officer.
He gave them up.
“Certainly, sir,” the commo chief said, but Qahira wasn’t listening.
He was watching the insane spectacle over at the Allied lines. Men and women were leaping out of their trenches, tearing at their clothes and their skin, screaming and begging for help. He watched the Bloody Wind eat away at them gradually, until only blackened skeletons remained, if that much.
“We can cross the lines and occupy those trenches,” said Qahira to his comm officer, “In three hours. Spread the word to all of my unit commanders.”
Qahira handed the binocs back to the man, who nodded and got on the radio and the phone. An hour was all the time it took for Bloody Wind to be useless, but the commander of The Rhinos didn’t intended not to take any chances.
A thin smile crossed his lips. He had a sudden sense of hope. He hadn’t felt hopeful since he had arrived in Morocco, however many months ago. With this new weapon, they might begin to make progress, maybe even push back the Allied lines. The Standstill in Morrocco might start moving sooner than expected.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
The worst part of it was that she was being beaten at both fronts. The military was a fraction of what it once had been. America had hardly been on a war footing since the Rape of Washington, and it had been reduced to shambles trying to deal with the rebellious populace. Even now a lot of troops had to stay behind in the major metropolitan areas to keep the peace. The army, already small, was divided along two fronts. To be simple: there were not enough troops.
There was not enough equipment for the troops that were there. Prices of food, supplies, and equipment had skyrocketed. Serious weapons like planes, tanks, leapers, and artillery were even more scarce. The troops were marching on empty bellies, without support, against enemies that hopelessly outmanned and outgunned them. Even without the support of coalies around the world Canada and Mexico probably could have held off the American army in such a condition.
The condition was awful. It was just as bad across the globe.
Sarah squinted at the words printed in simple English on the map. They didn't seem to be making sense. She willed the map, coaxed it, tried to make it make some sense. It stolidly refused. She realized she hadn't slept in...how long had it been?
Checking a watch Sarah noted it had been several days since her last bout of sleep. Typical commander syndrome. Sarah never would have guessed she would have come down with it. When she had been a mere major general commanding a tiny quarter of American forces, she had seen to it that she got a full three hours every night. Just by quadrupling her workload she had ruined her chances for somnambulic success.
She poured herself more coffee (go-juice, go-juice, go-juice). She went back to the map (keep working, keep working, keep working). She had to concentrate (stay awake, stay awake, stay awake).
The air war in Mexico had been costly, but effective. A few towns had been successfully bombed, and Mexican industry was stalling. The first major push against Juala had been successful, but the whole wing had been wiped out. Could she consider sending bombers to Mexico City? So deep into enemy territory, losses would be dreadful. But the dividends...Was it worth it? Other than the air war, things couldn't have been worse. Tijuana, the first American push into Mexican soil had been pushed back violently. She'd caught the second half of that battle on GRTH the other night.
Steadily, steadily, steadily, the Mexicans were pushing forward. The problem was she didn't have any real generals down there. There had been sparks of hope in Canada because of good leadership. Bad armies led by bad generals were bound to fail. But at least if a bad army was led by a good general they had some hope.
Colonel Paul King was the only one really doing anything down there. She decided to promote him. He'd be a brigadier in a few hours, once the promotion went through. She decided to sack the current commander down there. She didn't care who it was. She needed new blood in command down there. (Subconsciously she was hoping there might be a repeat of her rise to power, and the relative good fortune which had followed that).
As for Canada, things were going better (but still not well). Flamethrower Squads were having some success, as the Canadians didn't have anything even comparably destructive. Sarah decided she would also divert some Flamethrower Squads down to the Mexican Front.
Sarah looked up from her maps and requisition papers. It was her adjutant, Major Hayes. Looped around his hand several times was the handle of a leash. His dog, a small bull terrier named Omar, was standing by his side, looking around in dumbfounded surprise and drooling slightly. A fine dog, that Omar.
"What's up, Dan?" she asked, letting more exhaustion seep into her voice than she wanted.
The junior officer fidgeted a bit.
"Ah, well, ma'am, it's just that...Well, it's three in the morning and you're the only one still awake here. Actually, I might be too, but I'm not really sure."
York gave a small laugh and Hayes smiled. Omar seemed to perk up a bit from his usual ecstatic self.
"The war's gone to sleep for a little while, ma'am," said the major, "And we need to have a rested supreme commander tomorrow when it wakes up."
"I'm too exhausted to sleep, major," she said.
"Would you care to take a walk, then, ma’am, just to get your mind away for a bit?"
Sarah's face narrowed suspiciously.
"You are familiar with the UCMJ, aren't you, Major Hayes?"
"Very familiar, ma'am. Come on, think of it as a friendly walk. A friend wouldn't let another friend run herself ragged."
Sarah shrugged a surrender and got up from her chair with a yawn. She crouched down and patted Hayes' dog.
Scratching behind his ears she asked, "How are you doing, Omar?"
The bull terrier yipped and tapped his paw excitedly.
"Did you put your master up to this? Did you tell him to come bother me?"
Omar nodded vivaciously and then began chasing his tail. She stood back up and stretched a bit.
"Come on, let's go," she said.
Hayes whistled and Omar jumped up and followed the two officers. They began to walk down the halls of Military Headquarters, a secret place in Philadelphia where the government had been relocated.
"What should happen if we're invaded while I am taking this constitutional, Dan?"
"Well," said Hayes thoughtfully, "We should have at least a few hours before the Mexicans reach Philadelphia, and at least a few minutes before the Canadians do. I figure we'll just sort of get away. Dammit, Omar, get away from there!"
Hayes tugged on the leash and his dog choked, abruptly ceasing to treat the door to MI as a fire hydrant.
"No, no, let him do that if he wants. We'll finally have a use for Intelligence," said Sarah, smiling.
They slowly threaded their way up to the roof, passing by doors of commanders and specific forces. They soon passed the door for the commander in chief of naval operations.
"What kind of a name is Omar for a dog, anyway?" asked the general suddenly.
"Well, I might ask you the same thing," countered Hayes, "But I won't. He's named after General Bradley."
"Bradley," Sarah said, "A careful planner. Not much of a doer, but when he did do things they always worked out because he had planned them so well. I wish I could have more generals like that. A lot of them plan, but plan poorly.
"Or, I wish I had a Patton. A bold, crazy, courageous S.O.B. Someone who would strike again and again, and win again and again. God, major, I need generals. If I had just one general the troops could rally around."
Sarah shook her head gently. She silently plodded forward. Hayes knew better than to press the point. He untangled his dog from a doorknob he had somehow wrapped his leash around and proceeded forward.
They soon reached the roof, the unconscious destination of their venture. It was cold and windy; it was winter. They were actually in a skyscraper. The Military Headquarters occupied the top half of the tower, and some legitimate business occupied the bottom half. It was an excellent means of disguising themselves. And so, being at the top of one of these sprawling buildings was like being at the top of the world.
The blinking lights of Philadelphia filled their view. Some buildings were taller, some were shorter, some the same height. But they all seemed to stretch on for eternity.
"We're going to lose The Last War, major," said York quietly.
Hayes nodded grimly.
"This war is occupying all my time. I don't have a life outside this uniform. It's, it's...consuming me."
"It's consuming all of us, ma'am," the other replied, then perking up, added, "Except for Omar."
Indeed, the bull terrier was completely oblivious to the utter turmoil going on around the world. He looked up at his master smiling and drooling happily.
"I only wish I could be more like that dog," said Sarah York, "But I can't. I wish The Claw had never taken Washington, but they did. I wish we could win a battle somewhere, but we can't, can we? I wish a lot of things. Most of all, I wish this war was over."
Major Hayes saw the weight of leadership bearing down on his commander. He realized he was sharing the weight, only a tiny fraction of what the general had to bear, but still some. Omar was happy and carefree, and he slobbered all over his master's boots.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
"Evacuate the ship," he said in Mongolian, "Hail to the Emperor."
The Mongol Special Forces Commando squad dove out of the ship and all of them swam as far away from the colliding ships as they could.
A moment later, the American frigate crashed full on into the Leviathan. The ship itself gouged a great hole out of the Australian ship. Then the fuel and explosives went off. A towering inferno erupted from the frigate, blowing a gigantic hole into the Leviathan. It blossomed like some great, deadly rose, thorns of flame jabbing into the hull of the Supership.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
The hulks of many Coalition ships were scattered throughout the water. The huge, bulky Leviathan would have to navigate through that?
"I'll tell you something," Waber said, turning to his commander, "With all the damage we do to the blooming coalies, it's a wonder nobody knows we're out here. You'd think every fisherman with a scow would've had to run through at least one coalie wreck."
"Yes, sir," agreed the commander.
Waber had begun to start thinking of his time aboard the Leviathan not as a glorious military adventure anymore, but as more of a cleanup operation. There was no doubt about Allied naval supremacy. But Waber had to keep things that way, otherwise coalie ships would start springing up like weeds. Killing a ship was no longer a cause for celebration, but now just a matter of course. Another day at the grind.
And sailing through the wrecks of those ships was even worse.
"I just wish something could come along to shake things up a little," said Waber suddenly to his commander, "It's starting to get boring."
Waber never would have thought he would have found himself griping about boredom on a ship 8 kms long. There were still kilometers of the ship he hadn't even seen yet. But he was bored.
It was a common lament.
"Here now, what's that?"
Waber looked up. The commander was pointing out away from the Leviathan to port. Waber looked. Where were they? The Pacific? If the ship was coming from that direction...
"Americans," said the commander.
"Allies. Well, I suppose we couldn't keep ourselves secret forever."
Waber ran to the bridge. He turned to the communications officer.
"There's an American ship off to port. A frigate. Try to raise her. We don't want her crashing into us. She probably hasn't noticed us yet."
The comm officer nodded and proceeded with his orders. Waber ran back to the deck with his commander.
"The Yanks sure look like they're aiming right at us," said the commander.
"We're trying to raise them right now," said Waber.
But the frigate was moving towards them rather quickly.
"Shit," muttered Waber under his breath, "Well, hail them. Yell out to them with a bullhorn if you have to."
The comm officer was there on deck, about to say something.
"Keep trying to raise them. I don't care if they don't answer!"
The comm officer shut his mouth and returned to his post.
"Sir, we can't take a hit from them. It would destroy them and probably give us a good knock."
"We'll just keep trying to get in touch with them. Didn't I tell someone to get a bullhorn?"
A junior officer grabbed a bullhorn as the admiral commanded and began trying to hail the frigate.
After a few minutes, the frigate was still steaming towards them, full speed. Waber shook his head.
The commander whispered in Waber's ear, "Sir, we can't move out of the way. We can't hail them. We have to destroy them."
"No!" yelled out the Australian admiral, "They're our allies. It would be a war crime. I won't have that on my head. If they crash, it's an accident. I'd rather we both be hurt than to destroy a ship full of innocent Americans."
The commander knew the futility of trying to argue the point with his leader that the Americans would die anyway, and this would avoid Australian deaths. He just shook his head and both he and Waber prepared for the inevitable.
Monday, July 27, 2009
He vomited again. He moved to find a clean place in the small woods again, and nearly fell on top of John Frost.
"Colonel?" asked Snaro.
The colonel didn't move. Snaro leaned over and put his ear a few inches from Frost's mouth. He was breathing shallowly. Snaro jabbed Frost in the neck and got no pulse.
"His heart's not beating!" exclaimed the young lieutenant.
He looked around, as though looking for someone to take orders from, realized there was no one, and decided to take initiative. He thought back to distant CPR training he'd had. He threw his fist over Frost's heart, put his hand over the fist, and began pushing vivaciously.
The colonel sat up suddenly, his eyes boggled out, and he made a noise like, "Gaaaaagch!"
Snaro pumped feverishly.
The lieutenant jumped away and let the colonel catch his breath.
"First off," said Frost when he was breathing regularly again, "My heart was beating. You were checking my pulse in the wrong place. Second, you were giving CPR wrong, and third, you'd better damn well not have given me mouth-to-mouth."
"Sorry, sir, I'm no medic."
"A good thing for the medical industry. You are, however a scout. So where are we?"
"Somewhere outside Juala, I suppose. I've been out most of the time, anyway."
"Juala! What are we doing in Mexico still?" exclaimed Frost with incredulity.
"You pushed us here, colonel, remember?" said Snaro bitterly.
The time on the plane flashed back to Frost suddenly.
"Good God," gasped Frost.
A thickly accented voice from the shadows said, "God's got no business with you."
A horse carrying the burden of a warrior trotted slowly out of the trees around them. Two other soldiers were with him. While Snaro had never seen the enemy face to face, Frost had seen many.
This was a Mexican of some clear importance, apparent by his rank badges and medals to be a generalissimo or marshal of some sort. He looked huge and wolfish, as though he would at any moment spring on them and tear them to pieces while foaming at the mouth.
"Get up," said the general in Spanish.
Frost jumped to his feet. Snaro looked at him puzzledly.
"What did he say?"
One of the general's guards fired a warning shot towards Snaro with the huge rifle he was holding. Snaro got the gist and leapt to his feet.
"Now come along, you're to be a late birthday present for the commandant of our P.O.W. camp."
Oso pointed them in the right direction and Snaro struggled along, clearly injured in some way. Frost too had a slight limp.
"Are you all right, colonel?" asked Snaro.
"Fine, Larry," replied Frost.
A bullet punctuated Frost's reply. This time it had come from Oso himself.
"No plotting," Oso said.
They continued along, but Frost was quite obviously not fine. He struggled with every step.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Saturday, July 25, 2009
"Buenos dias," said Oso, "I am General Chavo Oso. Whether I'm conquering a small third world country, or battling the fat capitalist American pigs, I work up an appetite. That's why I eat Bueno Boca brand tacos."
Oso took a big bite out of the taco he was holding in his hand.
"Mm, mm, that's a good taco. You see at Bueno Boca, they don't use just any meat for their tacos, they use the best prime cuts of Guatemalan steers, ground into a tender pulp. They use fresh, clean lettuce, and the best cheese available at the time. So, remember, eat Boca Bueno brand tacos, and be just like General Oso."
Oso took another bite of the taco and then smiled at the camera.
"And we're off the air," said the cameraman.
Oso gagged and coughed. He spit out the bit of taco left in his mouth, then took a swig of water from his canteen.
"What the hell was that thing?" he demanded.
"A taco, general."
"What the hell is a taco?"
"I don't know. Something Americans eat."
"Good," Oso laughed, "If the Americans eat crap like that, they'll all die of dysentery before they get to the battlefield."
“Actually, sir, I have some bad news in that regards.”
Oso followed his lieutenant to his war tent. There, the lieutenant handed Oso a report. It made him happy, but not satisfied. Reports indicated that a major allied bombing mission was to destroy an important industrial city in his territory, Juala. Juala had been badly damaged, and the pivotal railroad junction that ran through it was destroyed, and the bombers had been destroyed and all their crews killed.
"I want those pilots!"
Oso swung his fist down in fury, smashing the map table apart and badly hurting one of his lieutenants. Oso was rather like his namesake, with an ursine face and a long, full beard. He was built like a massive bear, with bristling muscles and a huge stature.
"Scour the countryside! I want all of Mexico searched, centimeter by centimeter!"
Oso grabbed one of his lieutenants by his neck.
"Mobilize our cavalry and our tanks. Divert at least a company and two tanks. I'll lead the search myself, on horseback. Ready my beast!"
Oso flung his lieutenant away. His men scrambled off to do his bidding. They had been incompetent to let those two pilots escape, but it was not a bad loss, all in all. He was a commander of The Coalition now, not just the incompetent Mexican army.
Oso laughed out loud, a loud, screeching, lupine laugh. Those pilots wouldn't elude The Coalition for long. The Coalition's reach exceeded all else.
“You two with me," he said, pointing to two of his soldiers, "The rest of you spread out. Find them. Bring them back here alive or dead. Come back. We’re having chicken for dinner,” he thought momentarily, “Maybe wine. Go!”
Friday, July 24, 2009
"Ready to go, old man. Let's go get those coalies! I'll take a couple of squadrons down on this run, just for practice."
Colonel Jonathan Frost laughed. Lieutenant Larry Snaro was a rookie, a young new gunner. He was sure a deadshot, but he was a virgin to the bloody art of war. He thought he was some real hot stuff. He may have been able to hold his own in a bar full of drunken soldiers, but Frost would just have to see how he fared against real Coalition fighters.
"How many marks do you have on the side of your plane? Have you actually taken down any coalies yet?"
"Yeah, just you wait until this bombing run is over. I don't expect any less than five squadrons worth of Mongols and Mexicans for the side of my plane."
Snaro patted his huge flak cannon confidently.
"Well, as long as you can keep them off our tail for long enough for me to deliver this payload to the Mexicans, I'll be happy," replied Frost.
"Yes, sir!" called Snaro.
The fleet of bombers and fighters left the green fields of America in a blast of dust. The airplanes soared higher and higher into the air like majestic metal eagles. Eagles, however, never had such a bloody mission as to firebomb Mexican cities.
When a preset altitude was reached, the group of planes broke into three parts. The first part was going to make a feint to the south of Mexico. The second group would break apart into a wide spread column, confusing the Coalition fighters as to the whereabouts of the main force. The third group of planes, which Frost and Snaro were a part of, was to be the main force. It was a large group of bombers with a few fighters to hold off the Coalition Air Force. There were nine bombers and eighteen fighters. This prong would cut through Mexico from the west coast to the far east, bombing the city of Juala.
Juala was a relatively small city, but it was very important. A major railroad junction went through Juala, and the city was almost nothing but weapons factories and munitions dumps. The destruction of Juala would strike a real blow to Mexico.
John Frost and Larry Snaro were aboard one of the flanking bombers. Their plane was named the Ice Brigade, after a bombing run it had made into the icy north long ago.
The radio crackled to life, "This is bombing leader, we have enemy fighters approaching from the west. All craft prepare to engage. Bombing leader out."
"Copy, bombing leader," said Frost.
The other planes in the squadron reported their understanding. John Frost smiled grimly. He always felt a dark thrill of anticipation before entering a battle.
"You ready to engage back there, hot shot?"
"Sure thing, old man. Try to maneuver around all the wreckage."
Snaro hopped into the gunner's seat. Frost heard the rhythmic staccato sound of shells being fired. He smiled again. Humans had a grim fascination with humor about absurd things like death.
"I just hope I won't have to maneuver around the wreckage of our own planes," he muttered under his breath.
Another salvo of shells went off.
"Don't waste your ammo, Snaro! Only fire when it's a sure shot."
"I'm not stupid, old man. Take a look out that greasy cockpit window of yours."
Frost was about to make a colorful exclamation, but his co-pilot beat him to it.
There were squadrons of them. A Coalition fighter was plummeting towards earth. Frost laughed.
"Good shot, greenhorn!"
The odds were still grim, though.
"We're approaching the target. I can see it. Prepare to drop the payloads," said the bombing leader.
"Acknowledged, bombing leader. We..." began Frost, "Oh my god two of ours are going down!"
Two of the bombers were indeed plunging towards the ground. A few parachutes opened as the crews tried to evacuate the ruined ships. The enemy planes opened fire on the paratroopers, killing them all.
"Oh my god," said Frost's navigator.
The two downed bombers exploded on impact with the ground, sending towers of flame in all directions.
"My fuel tank's been..."
The pilot never finished the sentence. His bomber exploded in midair as the jet fuel ignited while in the fuel tank. Frost saw the fighter that had done it.
"Snaro do you see that fighter?"
"Right, old man, I'm on him."
Shells ripped through the clouds, tearing up the sky in grim testament to the power of warfare. John saw the shells eat through the Coalition fighter's wing. The fighter spiraled out of controlled and smashed into one of his comrades.
"Yee haw! You wanted to know how many marks I'll have on the side of my gun, old man? Try ten so far," yelled Snaro.
"Ten? Good god, how many of those coalies are there?"
"I don't know, but they've already aced all eighteen of our fighters and four of our bombers."
"That's almost half our bombing force!"
"I'd guess there's not less than sixty of them," said Snaro placidly.
Frost gasped. This was very bad.
"We're in range! The city's right below us! Drop bombs at will!" the bombing leader ecstatically howled.
Bombs dropped from three of the remaining five bombers. The other two bombers plummeted out of the sky, laid low by enemy fighter. They caused massive damage when they crashed and the bombs exploded in the middle of the city.
"That's it, let's get out of here," yelled John into the radio.
The burst of a gun went off again.
"Scratch another five of them," said Larry Snaro.
"Good God!" yelped Frost.
An enemy fighter was come straight at him, full throttle. A burst from it's guns shattered the canopy window. Frost dove behind his seat as another blast incinerated his controls.
"We're hit, Larry," yelled the veteran.
"So's Juala!" yelled the young gunner back.
John felt wind whip through the cockpit and glass swirl around near his face. He felt like he was being sucked out of the cockpit. He grabbed the doorway into the rest of the plane and pulled hard. Snaro was still sitting in the gunner's chair, firing like a madman.
"What are you doing? We have to get out of here!"
"And go where? They've shot down everyone who tried to parachute out. Where can we go? The other two bombers have been blown apart!"
Frost smashed his fist against the metal side of the plane. This run was never supposed to turn out like this. Juala was gone, but so was the whole bombing squadron.
The searing white flashes of pain from punching the plane gave Frost a new sense of urgency. He grabbed Snaro and pulled him out of the chair.
"What are you doing? The only thing left for us to do is take down as many of them as we can before we die!"
"No, there's another option. Parachutes will slow us down enough for them to shoot us down. So we'll just jump without parachutes."
John opened the door to the outside. Most of the things in the plane began to fly out through the open window, sucked out by low pressure.
"The ground's not to much farther away!"
"Are you out of your mind?" screamed Larry Snaro.
John pushed Larry out the open door. The kid went swirling towards the desert sands. With a great thrust, John flung himself out of the plane, just before it crashed a few moments later into a smoldering crater.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
"General Igoumensita?" called out Pantermalis.
Igoumensita came into view suddenly holding a bottle of ouzo. He had been bent over at his liquor cabinet searching for just the right vintage. Igoumensita seemed at first annoyed, and then pleased to see that the intruder was in fact his right hand, Pantermalis.
"Ah, Pantermalis. To what do I owe the honor?"
"Sir, I have a package which is to be delivered to your hands only."
The Greek scrunched up his face and scrutinized Pantermalis. He came to some sort of a conclusion and placed the bottle on his desk and held out his arm. Pantermalis held out a specialty scanner used for DNA testing. He confirmed almost instantaneously the identity of the man who was claiming to be Igoumensita. It was Igoumensita.
"Then here you are sir, the package delivered from Egypt. Unopened, as per your orders."
Pantermalis handed Igoumensita the wooden box. Igoumensita quickly ripped it open like a child opening a birthday present. He carefully, almost reverently lifted the sword out of the box. It was golden and encrusted with jewels of all sorts.
"The Sword of the Sun," he whispered under his breath, then turned to Pantermalis, "Or, for a more literal translation, The Sword of Rah. Rah could be considered both the god of the sun, and the sun itself. It's all very complicated. In the end it's actually the Sword of Apollo."
"Apollo? The...ancient Greek sun god?"
"That's right," confirmed the Greek commander-in-chief, "Forged by Athenians a few, hmmm, millennia ago. Stolen by the Carthaginians - well, at least, they think it was the Carthaginians, it could have been some other North African tribe - and given to the Egyptians by them as a gift. 'See how we beat the Greeks', you know, that sort of thing. And it's finally fallen back into the hands of it's rightful owner."
Pantermalis didn't think that being a Greek qualified Igoumensita to own a sword worth that much. If that was true, wouldn't being a Greek entitle Pantermalis to that sort of thing?
"It was just a treasure to the Egyptians, but to a Greek it is supposed to hold great powers. It is supposed to bring the luck of battle to a Greek with true fighting spirit. And many great, divine rewards."
"Are you a very superstitious man, general?"
Igoumensita glared at his underling.
"I'm the most superstitious man you will ever meet, Pantermalis. And don't forget it."
Michaelis Pantermalis just couldn't resist it.
"Look, sir, it's the boogey man!"
Igoumensita nearly clobbered Pantermalis with the butt of the sword. He regained his dignity a moment later.
"This sword will probably be the greatest weapon at my disposal throughout The Omega War, Panteramlis. Now, as for business," said Igoumensita.
"Ah, yes, business. Szczecin."
"How many troops have you diverted there?"
"A hell of a lot. At least five infantry divisions. Two armored divisions. One of Spartan IIs, one of Ares IVs."
Igoumensita nodded. Both the Spartan and the Ares were good tanks. He'd served in an Athena I back in his groundpounding days. The junkpiles weren't even considered fit for battle these days, but somehow they had always gotten along.
"Good. I'm going to fly there when I'm certain proper air support is in place. I'm going to lead this attack in person."
"Of course, sir."
"Leapers? What about leapers?"
"We have seventeen leapers, sir. It's all we could spare."
The Greek wondered at this. Of course, leapers were very sparse and very high in demand, but less than twenty?
"Ah, it'll do. I doubt the Germans have enough leapers to do us serious damage anyway."
Igoumensita hooked a belt around his waist and placed the Sword of the Sun into a specially crafted scabbard. He picked up the bottle again.
"Join me in a drink, Pantermalis?"
"Of course, sir."
Igoumensita poured two glasses.
"To the Eastern Bloc, and her victory in The Omega War" said Igoumensita.
"To the Eastern Bloc, and victory" concurred the other.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
"Dammit, Pierre, you're late again," griped de Ris, "War is not a time to be constantly truant."
"Truant, truant, truant my ass," grumbled Pierre, "The war can proceed for at least a few minutes without me. I have all the work to do in this..." his expletives were deleted by the revving of the engine as he turned it on, "leaper."
Jacques snorted a snort of contempt.
"May we proceed now, your Highness?" he said with mock bitterness.
Pierre made a quick calculation and made the leaper jump in such a manner that de Ris flew out of his seat and onto the floor.
"Oh ho, maybe you should buckle up next time, dead shot."
Pierre laughed as de Ris cursed him out and returned to his seat.
"Here we come for a landing, coalies everywhere."
They were near Perpignan, a town close to the Franco-Spanish border. Coalies were crawling all over the place, and though the British had been helping to stem the tide, the French army was still being overstretched.
De Ris smiled queerly as he began putting large holes into Spanish tanks. Once again he thanked God that he was in a leaper and no where else. Others might not be able to handle such an assignment, but he loved it.
Suddenly de Ris' reverie was interrupted as the entire leaper shook.
"What was that?" yelled Pierre in the spare second or two he had between calculating a jump and then actually conducting a jump.
"I'll check," said Jacques, as he relinquished his weapon.
Checking the battle status he saw that they had suffered major damage. Systems were blinking out all over the screen. Minor systems failures. One turret out. The leaper began to jump again, very slowly now because of all it’s damage. What could have...
The world exploded. The leaper's jump was brought to a premature end and it plummeted from the sky on top of some Coalition troops.
"It's another leaper!" Pierre realized belatedly.
Indeed, a Spanish leaper was making broad, arrogant bounds toward them, firing with each drop to the ground. Jacques and Pierre's leaper was being pummeled.
"Let's try to get moving, Pierre!" demanded Jacques, firing wildly at the enemy leaper.
Unbuckling himself, the driver ran to a series of panels and began trying to fix the badly damaged leaper. If he worked his damnedest, he might be able to get in one more leap.
De Ris' fire flickered off the enemy leaper without causing almost any damage. What was it, a Python VII or VIII leaper? Surely far more advanced in armor, weapons, and movement than Jacques'. In fact, it made Jacques' leaper look like a primitive medieval catapult or something. His guns just...bounced off the other leaper.
"Either something is severely damaged with my guns, or that leaper is a real monster."
"Both," said Pierre, flinging a monkey wrench down, "That thing's frontal armor is impenetrable, although you might be able to puncture it's belly plate. And our weapons are all screwed up. Try to compensate about thirty degrees west constantly."
"I can't hit that thing!" Jacques exclaimed, "It's hard enough with working guns and no chaos all around us. Everything's too confused and furious."
"Then take a fucking breath!" Pierre exclaimed in exasperation, "At least slow it down, so I can try to get us one last jump out of here."
Jacques stopped firing momentarily. Now he had the chance to watch the enemy leaper very carefully, without his line of sight being blocked by his shells and bullets. The other leaper seemed to be following some kind of pattern. It made two low, short jumps and then one long, high jump. Hop, hop, leap. And then it began the pattern again.
Jacques tensely wiped the sweat away from his face. He noticed the stubble beginning to come in. He should've shaved today.
“It’s not firing at us in the air,” he whispered, suddenly realizing the key to defeating that bastard.
He carefully lined up his sights. There it went again. Hop, hop...
Bam! Direct hit! Jacques blasted the underbelly of the enemy leaper as it made it's high leap. The leaper came crashing to the ground billowing fire from it's underside. It was not yet defeated, however. Tenacious bastard driving that thing. And the gunner was no slouch either.
The leaper seemed to be alive. It seemed angry, buckling in rage, and the fire coming from it only heightened this impression in Jacques. It seemed like it was about to open a mouth full of long, pointed teeth and chomp down on Jacques' leaper.
It drew closer and closer. Jacques was not firing. The enemies would think his guns had been damaged. Here it came. Hop, hop, leap. That leap was the last the Spanish leaper would ever make. It crashed to the ground with a sickening thud.
"Huzzah! I got it!"
Jacques cheered. Dourly, Pierre got back into his seat and buckled up.
"I may be able to pull off one more leap."
"Why bother? We've crippled the..."
Another salvo of fire from the Spanish leaper punctuated Jacques' sentence.
"We may have crippled it, but we've not killed it. Let the armor move in and finish it off. We've got to get out of here and get some repairs."
"But the battle..." protested Jacques.
But the leaper was already in the air. Jacques was still feeling a bit annoyed, but overall he was happy. He'd managed to take out a far superior leaper, and probably turned the course of this battle, at least slightly. Yes, a leaper gunner's was a good life.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
"I'm trying to teach you to be a general, a soldier, a warrior, Krauss. Yet you're always late when I want to lecture to you. Just tell me: what were you doing?"
Krauss shrugged sheepishly.
"I was reading, sir."
"A foolish preoccupation. Don't let silly things disrupt your training, Krauss. You'll be a worthy heir someday if you show up."
"I'm sorry, sir. I wasn’t paying attention to the clock. Well, you know how it is when you get engrossed in a book, sir."
"I don't read," said Metzger.
"Oh, I didn't mean like the sort of propaganda reading, or escapist things. I meant classics."
"Even the classics, as you call them, general, are nothing but propaganda. Propaganda for goodness and wellness and everything-will-turn-out-all-rightness. I don't read."
"Well, why not sir?" he said, feeling bold, then added, "If I may be so bold as to ask."
"Simple: books are unrealistic. Authors always tend to slant their writings. They make the hero invincible and the villain stupid. Consider, general, how the hero always manages to triumph. Writers always slant their stories - they pop in their own personal morals and reflections. Fables and allegories are the worst.
"Authors can make historical villains into fictional heroes. They color the truth, or make up a truth that's colored. In any given hundred page book, eighty pages will be about the hero, fifteen about the hero's relationship with the villain, and maybe five about the villain."
"Well, you can see why authors tend to make the heroes win, then. You know them more intimately than the villain. You can't feel for someone you've only spent five pages with."
"Precisely, general. But if an author were to let you spend time with the villains, truly learn about their personalities, who they are, you might almost believe for a time they would win."
"If you went to that kind of trouble," said Krauss, "You may as well let the villain win out."
"That's what I've always said. Suppose some fool author were writing about our exploits."
"Us?" asked Krauss, suddenly looking about the room.
"Yes. Supposing they wrote about us."
"Then we're in a book."
"It's possible. Now, the author would have written quite a bit about our lives. I'd be the villain..."
"Don't say that sir, you're no more villainous than anyone."
"That's the slant I'm putting on it, Krauss. Supposing that were the situation, the author might be given to allowing us to win out over the heroes. The readers would know us well, even feel for us, though they would feel animosity towards us. So, it would be possible that we could win out."
"I suppose the author would be sowing discord, to try to make his story more suspenseful, by introducing us as 'villains'. Perhaps we are just puppets to some omnipotent scribe."
"You may be a puppet, general," said Metzger, tiring of this conversation, "But I blaze the path of my own destiny. And I will always triumph."
Metzger walked over to his desk and pulled out a book.
"I do, however, read non-fiction from time to time, Krauss. I think it's important to study history and philosophy. Tell me, Krauss, have you ever considered Nostradamus?" asked Metzger.
Krauss looked about stupidly.
"Yes. Take a look at this."
Metzger indicated a passage in the book. Krauss read it. It was written in French. It read:
L'an mil neuf cens nonante neuf sept mois,
Du ciel viendra un grand Roi deffraieur.
Resusciter le grand Roi d'Angolmois.
Avant que Mars regner par bonheur.
"My French is not that good, sir."
"Roughly translated it reads," said Metzger surprisingly amiably, "'Seven months into 1999 A.D., there will come from the sky the great King of Terror. He will bring back to life, or bring new life to, the great king of the Mongols. Before and after these events, war reigns happily.'"
"Bleda Khan would be king of the Mongols."
"It's interesting isn't it? Who is the 'great King of Terror' who fell from the sky and rejuvenated Bleda Khan?"
Krauss allowed the statement to stand and kept his thoughts to himself. He considered Metzger to be rather terrifying though. And he was certainly the "king", so to speak, of the Claw. He had brought the Coalition together in Ulan Bator - perhaps, in a way, bringing new life to Bleda Khan and his cause.
"You know, I was born in July of 1999. Perhaps I am the King of Terror," said Metzger finally, "I rather like that. Lars Metzger - The King of Terror!"
Krauss smiled oddly, gave a quick salute, and left.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Perpignan. That was the name of the town. It was where the Allies had begun pushing into Spain. There were two leapers in the Battle of Perpignan, one on either side. He was most interested in the less advanced leaper. He shook his head in awe.
“Amazing,” he said.
He tapped a few more buttons on the scanner. A list of names came up. There it was. The gunner’s name was Jacques de Ris, French, major.
“This is the one,” Basilisk said, “I’ve got to find this man.”
Suddenly, a blur of a German ran by Basilisk, snapping his attention away from the scanner. He flicked it off and thrust it in his coat pocket.
“General Krauss?” Basilisk called after the man.
“Can’t talk now, colonel, I’m late for Metzger again!” Krauss called over his shoulder.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Here were his latest patients. They were all badly burned by American Flamethrower Squads. No doubt Canada had won that battle. What a victory. The Canadian people couldn't stand many more victories like this. Fraser found that victories were often more ruinous than defeats. At least when you were defeated you could run away and avoid injury. Not when you won, though.
"You're going to be all right," said the doctor to a badly hurt woman in his quiet, calm bedside manner, "You'll be just fine."
The sad truth was the woman would be dead in a couple of hours. An AS gun had just missed her heart. The rest of her was torn to bloody ribbons, though. Some artificial organs were hooked into her. Soon those artificial organs would be hooked into another badly wounded patient.
Fraser proceeded down the line of battle wounded. Here lie a man who had been mown down by a fighter's strafing run. Here lie an officer who had taken a grenade. Rows and rows of men and women had been lacerated by AS gun fire.
Here was a woman who had lost both her arms and both her legs. If she survived, she would be a wheelchair bound quadriplegic for the rest of her natural life.
Over here was a man who had been breathing in mustard gas. The gas was contraband because it was so painful, but that didn't stop less scrupulous soldiers from using it on occasions when their officers weren't looking. The man's skin was a livid yellow, covered with boils and blisters and festering sores. He groaned in agony from his outward wounds. Fraser shuddered at the thought that the same thing that had been done to this man's skin had also been done to his lungs and his throat when he had breathed it in. It would have been like swallowing acid or lye.
Here was a woman who'd been run over by a motorcycle. She didn't have a comical tread mark down her stomach like in a cartoon. Every bone in her chest had been crushed almost to a fine powder, and no doubt splintered bones and bits of bone were jabbing into her internal organs and being pushed further in with each breath she took.
Here lie the burn victims. Flamethrower Squads. Fraser shook his head at the horror of it. Suppose you doused yourself in kerosene, then lit a match and stood there, calmly letting the flames singe your flesh and lick your eyeballs. Then, slowly, you let the flames die down, never moving an inch. By the end you would have been roasted like a chicken on Boxing Day. These people had had it worse.
Here lie the battlefield diseases. The squalor in the trenches was too much for Fraser to even consider. Did other doctors have to deal with cholera, tuberculosis, diphtheria, malaria, rheumatic fever, STDs (yes, soldiers were sexually active), influenza, and however many other dozen diseases Fraser had thought had gone out with the Dark Ages?
If there was a terrible way to die, Fraser had seen it. If there was a crippling, life ruining disease or wound that could be inflicted, Fraser had seen it. Every man and woman, whether consciously or subconsciously, knows of a death which they consider so unspeakably horrible, they would never wish it on their worst enemies. Things so painful, so gut wrenchingly gruesome that to contemplate them is to be driven mad. These things, and many worse, Fraser had seen.
The worst part was that Fraser had stopped caring about it. He'd become desensitized to it.
Friday, July 17, 2009
When I was still at the age when I was learning vocabulary in school, I recall every time a teacher or librarian would describe an encyclopedia as a “book or set of books” she would inevitably look up over her glasses and add, “Almost always a set.” This issue came up rather often, I think at least partly because the Encyclopedia Brown series of mysteries was popular at the time, and so the teachers were always trying to “relate” to us children with things we enjoyed. For me, though, every time a teacher said that, I always shook my head, because an encyclopedia was just one book.
It was a black tome six inches thick with gold lettering and it dwarfed every other book in the house. It was published not a lot later than 1969. The article on World War II was about a page, the article on aardvarks was considerably shorter. It was the only reference of my young life, more knowledgeable than my parents, and more accessible than the Bible. This was at a time, you see, before the internet made every piece of knowledge accessible at the touch of a button. For me growing up, if it wasn’t in our antiquated single volume encyclopedia it didn’t exist.
The time came when I had to start writing reports for school. These were handwritten, double-spaced, on looseleaf paper, occasionally with accompanying illustrations (also on looseleaf paper.) Fifty or a hundred words was standard. (200 words was punishment.) Naturally when it came time to do a report I turned to my family encyclopedia and started copying diligently.
That is, until my sister told me about plagiarism.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“It means that every seventh word has to be different,” she replied.
“Why?” I asked.
I never really got a satisfactory answer to that question. (We’ll get to that later.) But, dutifully, I would go back over my reports and make sure that no seventh word was exactly the same on my sheet of looseleaf as it was in the Kennedy-era encyclopedia. As a child this meant a lot of changing “the” to “a” or adding unnecessary synonyms and adjectives. (Hitler wasn’t just bad, he was very very bad. We also did a lot of that “very very” stuff to get our word counts up.) I’m sure in the end it didn’t matter because no teacher in their right mind would have had access to our encyclopedia. But I guess it was the principle of the thing for me.
I’ve come a long way since then (and, no, I no longer copy books and change every seventh word and call it my own.) The seven letter rule that I took as gospel as an elementary school student is obviously the letter of the law and not the spirit. Standing before a judge, could I have held up one of my hastily scrawled reports where no more than six consecutive words were the same and still claim I wasn’t guilty of plagiarism? No, clearly not. But why not? What is the answer to that all important question I once posed to my sister?
Plagiarism is stealing, essentially, but rather than stealing something physical it is stealing intellectual property. Woah. Heavy stuff, I know. What exactly constitutes intellectual property? Well, I’m no lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but it seems to me that intellectual property consists of the ideas which you are entitled to be recognized for having. In academia, it’s all about recognition. No one expects you to recreate the wheel. You can’t go back and interview the survivors of Vesuvius, but you can damn well say that you got your information from Juvenal or somebody.
In commerce it’s a bit different. It’s about…well, money. Recognition is nice, but if you go to the trouble to create a commercially viable product, you deserve some money for it. If you went to the trouble to write a song, and somebody else makes a million dollars playing your song, it’s kind of like they stole a million dollars from you. The same really goes for characters and stories. That’s why Darth Vader isn’t hawking urinal cakes, or if he is, George Lucas is getting some of that sweet, sweet urinal cake dough.
I can’t tell you what it’s like to be plagiarized. No one has ever seen fit to steal Adrian Cain from me, or Bleda Khan, or Zorbon and Zandar. Hell, no one’s ever seen fit to pay me for them in the first place. But I can tell you how I’d feel if someone did steal them from me. I’d feel like I just became the first guy in the world to squeeze a baby through my urethra only to have some asshole doctor steal the kid and claim credit. Is that a bit too graphic for you? Well, that’s all right, because I’ve got another story from my childhood to illustrate the point.
This story is, if anything, dumber than the one about the encyclopedia, but, hey, it’s Intergalactic Plagiarism Awareness Day, and this is all I’ve got. I was eight (probably) and for whatever reason we were learning about Mount Rushmore. Like an asshole, I posed a question to the teacher (yeah, I was that kid in class.)
“Are all the presidents on Mount Rushmore, or just a few?” I asked.
In retrospect I can just imagine the mountain range where they blasted 44 faces into the rock, a new one every 4-8 years. But, you know, you’re a kid and you get ideas.
The teacher, who was obviously patronizing me, or else a complete moron, replied, “I don’t know. Why don’t you find out and do a report on it for the class?”
I was excited. (Yeah, I was that kid in class.) I was smart enough to suggest a topic that even the teacher didn’t know about? In retrospect, I’m sure it was a complete load and it was one of those plans that teachers get in their heads to get kids excited about education, but nevertheless, I felt like a genius. So I went to the library and found me a little purple square-shaped book about Mount Rushmore.
Then, inexplicably, teacher saddled me with a partner. A girl. Ugh. I didn’t understand why. I’m pretty sure we were getting extra credit, because I can’t imagine a girl at that age (or any age, really) requesting to work with me. So we started to do the research together, by which I mean I did all of the research and she just sat there.
Then Girl A invited Girl B, who I gather was her friend, to be involved in the project. What had started out as my project was now a three person project all essentially to find out that there were only four fucking presidents on Mount Rushmore. But, I guess extra credit was like crystal meth in those days so Girl A found a way to shoehorn her friend in. I just kept plugging along on the project.
Then the other shoe dropped.
“Redleg,” she said to me, only, not actually, because that’s not actually my name but a pseudonym I came up with later, “We’ve decided that you haven’t done enough with the project so we’re letting you go.”
This is a true story. My point in bringing all this up is that these girls stole my idea. They stole it and they profited from it. I remember sitting in class and seething as they gave “their” report on Mount Rushmore. I mean, who gives a shit if Teddy Roosevelt personally blasted the rock out with dynamite on the back of a brilliant black Arabian charger? That was supposed to be me up there before a group of 20 elementary school students. Instead, two strangers were usurping my extra credit.
Hey, what can I say, I didn’t say it was going to be a great story, just that it was going to be a story. The moral of the story, kids, is that plagiarism hurts people. It might seem like a victimless crime, but when you steal someone else’s ideas they sit in their metaphorical elementary school chairs angrily not getting their metaphorical extra credit. Maybe that wasn’t a very good metaphor, but, you know what, just don’t do it. Give credit where credit is due.
© Manuscripts Burn 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
"Come on, troops! Let's go!"
Trevor waved his Flamethrower Squad forward. Yelling in glee, they charged forward. The younger ones certainly seemed to be enjoying it. It was probably their first taste of battle.
The sergeant had been disappointed that the Siege of Washington had ended before the American capital was taken back. The American troops had been dispersed. Most of them had been sent to the Canadian Front, although a few, he supposed, had to have been sent to the Mexican Front.
It had been a sad time for his troops. They'd built close friendships with the German troops there, and saying goodbye was painful. The Germans were all staying at Washington D.C., as their government had ordered. Trevor and Marianne Totschläger had grown very close. (He had even had designs on her, but they never really worked out).
In much the same manner as things were proceeding through the rest of the world, the Americans had not yet won an important battle. All the troops had been told about the Battle on the Garonne, at the Franco-Spanish front, where an army of mostly British and a few French and Germans had taken a resounding victory away from the Spanish coalies. It had given the Allies a good morale boost for a while, but it didn't last long when they were still being defeat so often.
Ulan-Ude, Bayonne, Lake Baikal, Tijuana, Irkutsk, Morocco. Each name was a pointed barb jabbed into Ally troopers. And those were just the more famous battles. The Alliance had not won anything, with the exception of Garonne. There were also rumors of Australian victories on the sea, but few believed it. It seemed a futile, stupid war.
But, then, what war isn't futile?
So, here they were on the Canadian Front. The Americans were trying to cheat the Reaper long enough to take some defensive positions. And then, from there...
Trevor had no idea what went from there. He was just a sergeant. Generals were paid to think of the "from theres". Sergeants were paid to lead their squads into battle.
"Come on, you grunts! We're not pansy-assing around Washington anymore!"
They were in a small speck of a town which, on the map, would have appeared to be an extraordinarily small sample of fly feces. The Canadians were defending it like it was Montreal.
The largest building in the tiny town was the town hall, from which hung a Canadian flag, billowing in the wind and smoke of battle. Trevor's squad was trying to crest that town hall.
They flamed the door and then kicked in the smoldering ashes. The squad was now standing in a large tiled room, presumably a point for dealing with problems the townsfolk had about cow subsidies and rootmarm manufacture.
A group of Canadians were standing in various poses around the room. Perhaps they were defenders, perhaps they were not. They were all armed, however, and that made them hostile in Trevor's view. As the Flamethrower Squad hustled into the room, the banging of their boots against the tile must have snapped the Canadians into a more alert level of concentration.
Many of them turned and fired at the Americans. With a muffled scream, Pierce fell and died from an AS gun shot.
"Fire! Fire!" yelled the sergeant.
The American Flamethrower Squad opened up their nozzles to full spray and fired greedily at the Canadians. Trevor picked up his dead comrade, Pierce, and led the charge up the rickety wooden stairs.
With his dead friend slung over one shoulder it was difficult, but Trevor managed to break down the door and open fire on the squad of Canadians inside at once. They were all in defensive positions, hiding behind tables and desks and such. Quickly, the Americans rooted them out like a bunch of pesky vermin in a house being fumigated. With minimal losses, Trevor's squad continued on up to the roof.
A conventional bullet whizzed past Trevor's ear as he burst onto the roof. Luckily it banged off his helmet and ricocheted away. Trevor was about to return fire (literally) when the man who had fired leapt off the roof.
"Oh, shit!" exclaimed Trevor, and he ran to the side of the roof and looked down.
The man was lying face down in the mud below, but Trevor could still see that he had been wearing a suit. He had had a regular gun, not an AS gun, so he must have been a civilian. The mayor of this town, perhaps, defending his hallowed town hall to the last.
Trevor's squad mates gradually surrounded him, and looked down at the dead mayor.
"We've reached the roof," said one of them incredulously.
It was hardly a difficult accomplishment, but they were incredulous because they had been beaten time and time again by Canadian troops with their Coalition allies, that even cresting a two story building seemed a Herculean feat. First Garonne, now this...
"Our own personal little Garonne!" said another one.
They all laughed.
"Yeah, a battle of epic proportions," said Trevor, "For this great and sprawling metropolis of, uh, Hicksville."
"The Battle for North Bumblefuck," said one of the flamethrower handlers.
They all laughed.
"The Battle for the Middle of Nowhere," said Private Lake.
"Well, here we are," said Trevor reverently, "At our own tiny little Gettysburg."
He looked out over the tiny little town. None of the others knew it, but the day was lost. Apparently, theirs had been the only victory. The coalies were pushing the Americans all the way out of here.
"Well, we haven't quite finished the task yet," said Lake.
The private pointed his flamethrower at the Canadian maple leaf which was still blowing in the wind. He turned it on and ignited the flag. This was what was called the Middle Finger of War. Burning an enemy's flag and raising it up for them to see was essentially the same as flipping someone off.
The Americans all cheered. No doubt the coalies would soon be coming up to seek vengeance. They'd fight them back, though. For now, the Americans all shot the maple leaf with a little bit of flame, and warmed themselves by the fire. They'd won, even if it was completely and utterly meaningless.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Qahira ruffled Yutas' hair vigorously.
"Sir," she said, blushing and rearranging her hair.
"It's working brilliantly, lieutenant. There's a promotion in this for you. I can foresee it."
"Oh, uh, thank you, sir."
The Allied troops were running away. Not even staying to see how many tanks there were. For once their technology was a hindrance to them, not an advantage. Wily. Just like the Desert Fox. Who else would have thought to fool a scanner but he or Erwin Rommel? Who else?
"Just like Rommel, sir," said Yutas.
Qahira looked at her suddenly.
"What did you say?"
She blushed again.
"Well, sir, it's just like Erwin Rommel, an old German commander. He's sort of a hero of mine."
Qahira nodded and smiled. He looked up and saw three Allied tanks retreating from just one of his. Turning away to show their weak back armor to the single African tank, which they thought was a group of ten. Qahira’s tank fired twice, and blew one to hell. The other two soon followed.
“I came here to know what the Carthaginians felt when they were here, what the English felt, what the Germans felt. I came to see the sands stained with blood, and know victory. Now I do.”
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
"Yutas!" he called out.
A young Egyptian lieutenant came running as soon as the general had called.
Qahira fished into his pocket and pulled out a scanner. A few meters away an Algerian came charging forward and yelling, and was cut down instantly by a spray of AS gun fire. Qahira looked disinterestedly in that direction, then turned back to his junior officer.
"Lieutenant Yutas, I have here a captured scanner. A lot of the Allies use these."
"Yes, general, they do," agreed the lieutenant.
"I understand you were an electrical engineer when you were a civilian, and that you are now a mechanic."
In embarrassment Yutas suddenly clenched her fists to hide the oil stains on them.
"That's true, sir."
"How does a scanner determine what is a tank and what is not?"
Yutas thought for a moment. A round of Executioners sprayed by her head. She turned suddenly, but they were not intended for her. An explosion rocked the ground momentarily.
"Well, sir," she said, turning back to her commander, "It measures radiation. The fusion engine that a tank runs on isn't like the engine of any other machine, be it a plane, or a car, or a ship. In a way, every vehicle has it's own signature in the radiation it gives off. It's not dangerous to troops but it's detectable by scanner."
"Yes. Would there be any way to mask that radioactivity?"
"No, sir. But if you didn't want to be detected, you could always use tanks with internal combustion engines."
They both laughed heartily at that. A combustion engine that used up hundreds of gallons of fuel, as opposed to a fusion engine which ran for a month on a half liter of water. Nearby, a charging Allied tank exploded in flames. It was a Montgomery.
"Now supposing, lieutenant," Qahira continued, "A scanner picked up that Montgomery. Would it still consider it a tank, or would it know it was dead?"
"Well, sir, the radiation signature would be different. The scanner would consider it out of action and not show it at all."
Qahira nodded and looked at the scanner he held. As always, things were just about dead even. Neither side was gaining anything of consequence, but casualties were high.
"Is there any way to fake a tank's radiation signature?"
"Not really, sir, unless..."
"Unless what?" demanded Qahira.
"Well, sir, if you had a functional tank and you boosted it's radiation output, suppose by adjusting the type or amount of material fused, with a few modifications you could make a single tank look like a lot more."
"Like how many more?"
A grenade made a crater in the sand nearby.
"Ten, fifteen, maybe. Depends on the adjustments you make."
"Has it ever been done before?"
"Well, sir," said Yutas reluctantly, "It would be a very dangerous procedure, and no one's ever really done it. You don't know if you'll set off a chain reaction or..."
Qahira interrupted her saying, "Well, lieutenant, imshallah, we're going to be the first to do it. We've got to be playing mind games with the Alliance. They'll shrink from a battle with ten tanks when they'd go in blazing against one."
"Yes, sir," said Yutas glumly, and a leaper exploded into chunks of metal far above.
Monday, July 13, 2009
It is my pleasure to let you know that I have been promoted once again. I am now an officer. I was promoted to lieutenant for bravery during the Battle of Lake Baikal. Baikal is the second important battle I've been in, after Ulan-Ude.
The Battle of Lake Baikal was not near any Russian town in particular, it was just on the banks of the lake after which it was named. Many of us feared that the Russians might try to attack us with ships from the lake while we were dealing with their forces on the ground. No such attack came, though.
The reason we feared naval attack is this: there was a Russian shipyard on the banks of Lake Baikal where we were fighting. At the time when we were planning the battle (and I was still a sergeant) we knew the Ivans were producing ships and putting them right into Lake Baikal. We believed it to be a relatively new shipyard. It must have been built since The Last War started.
Our commanders had decided that the shipyard was an important place to attack. Since the Golden Navy has suffered major losses from something unknown, they are relatively low on ships. There are rumors going around camp that an invasion of Australia is being planned. I don't really know for sure. I wouldn't be surprised, though, considering how successful the invasion of China was. Of course, that was not by sea.
We began our march at dusk. We reached the city of Irkutsk, which was occupied by another division, later that night. Our commanders discussed strategies with the commanders of the occupying force at Irkutsk throughout the night while we got some sleep. At dawn, our combined forces marched off towards where we believed the shipyard to be.
There were many, many Russian troops at Lake Baikal. Most of them were naval engineers and workers, inexperienced in battle, although a portion of them were true warriors. There were also several armored divisions, including a few leapers.
Those leapers were our main problem. I don't know where the Popovs got them from. By all accounts, they should have been almost devoid of leapers. I wonder if their Allies may have sent them the vehicles? I suppose it no longer matters.
We did have an advantage that the Russians did not have. We had air support. I think the airplanes did more to stop the Russian tanks and leapers than anything else. The price was high, though. The wreckage of many of our planes lie strewn on the ground alongside the armored vehicles they had bombed into destruction.
Our forces ground forward like the unstoppable machine they are. I was convinced once again of the superiority of Mongolian forces over any others in the world. Our men and women fought like ferocious animals. We were like shepherds, and the Russkis but sheep brought before us.
I pulled the trigger of my AS gun again and again, barely aiming, for the Ivans were packed so tightly almost any shot would hit a soldier. They tried valiantly to bring their armored forces into the fracas, but our tanks and leapers held them back off in the distance.
We pressed forward in great loping strides, the batteries behind us going off, "plunk, plunk, plunk" in a staccato and resonating monotone chatter of death. Gaping holes appeared in the blocks of Ivans, which they quickly ran to fill in, only to be blown apart again. I suppose it was mid afternoon before they finally broke. They are stalwart, but we are unwavering and God-like.
We captured the shipyard, and destroyed nothing in it. In fact, we began to produce with it. The engineers who had been specially air dropped from home were delighted to see the shipyard intact. We began by feeding the destroyed Russian war vehicles and weapons into the furnaces to build our own ships.
Most of the occupiers from Irkutsk stayed behind at the sight of the Battle of Lake Baikal to protect the shipyard from Russian retaliation. The rest of us, however, are now proceeding on to a small town called Angarsk. I just pray that things will be quiet there. May the imperial and the divine keep you.
Lieutenant Darbet Kazakh, 76th Mongolian Heavy Infantry
Sunday, July 12, 2009
I'm going to be honest with you here. I had an idea for a multimedia event this week. A pretty good one, in fact. Pretty complicated, though. However, I've spent the whole weekend filling out an eleven page form for a federal background check. It involved such compelling questions as "Have you had a security check before?" (in my case yes) and "Name every place you've lived in the last seven years and give contact information for someone who knew you at each one." So unfortunately all you get this week is a comic. But, you can always go back and enjoy The Mustard Shark from last week, which I have to point out had a plot, a character, and special effects.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
He sighed. He'd been conscripted because most men didn't like to kill unless they thought God (or the Gods in the case of some of the different religions Juarez had come into contact with) was on their side. He really didn't think God was on their side. He didn't think God was on the Alliance side, either.
He was in the field hospital which the 38th had hastily erected after the Battle on the Garonne. Whatever his feelings about war were, he felt obligated by God and Spain and his own conscience to comfort dying men. The field medic grimly showed him to the section where all the fatally wounded were lying. He passed through the less gruesome part of the hospital, where men lie in pain and discomfort, but knowing they would soon be better, and quite possibly sent home. A few men and women reached out their arms to Juarez. He took each in turn and gave a blessing of good will and a smile. Prayer, he thought, would do more to aid these men in recovery than any amount of pharmacopoeia.
And then he entered the realm where battle had taken it's greatest toll. Men and women lay hooked to respirators, their own lungs long since given up functioning. People lie with great rents in them, gangrene and other nefarious diseases eating away at them. Those with battlefield diseases sat in a poorly quarantined quarter of the room, away from those hurt by mere bombs and bullets and knives.
A multitude of voices cried out in varying intensities and languages, "Padre". Padre Juarez looked helplessly at the medic. The medic pointed at one man who was horribly mangled, so as barely to be recognizable as a man. When the Padre reached him, he saw that the man was in fact a boy, a young Spanish boy.
He looked quite urgent in his eyes, but no words escaped his lips. Only a faint, low whistle like some far off wind could be heard from him.
"His vocal cords have been slashed," the medic whispered in the Padre's ear, "He's still conscious, but he doesn't have long. And he knows. He wants to go to Heaven."
"What's his name?" asked Juarez.
"Víctor," said the medic.
The Padre kneeled down to the floor and took what was left of Víctor's burned and scarred hand. The boy winced in pain, but did not try to retract his hand.
"You've been fighting a holy war, Víctor," the Padre lied, "You won the battle, you know," that was not a lie, "You should take great comfort in that fact. God is with you Víctor. He has been with you from the start. He has decided now you're to go to Him. You do want to go to Him, don't you Víctor?"
The boy struggled to nod.
"I know you'll go to Heaven. You know why, Víctor? Because, you have done what few other people have. You have given your life up for righteousness. God will look more favorably upon you than on any other. May God keep you, my son."
The boy seemed to be struggling. The whisping air from his throat almost sounded like "Padre". The Padre crossed Víctor very carefully, taking the boy's hand with him as he did it. Víctor smiled when Padre Juarez said, "the Holy Ghost", completing the cross. His eyes closed. The Padre rose.
The medic clapped Juarez on the back.
"Thank you, Padre. You probably made his last few moments joyful. He'd been fighting to stay alive, just so he could be blessed by you."
The Padre nodded absently. He was still looking at the latest casualty of a horrible war. He continued making his rounds, trying to give some comfort to the depressingly large amount of fatally wounded men and women.
Friday, July 10, 2009
He picked up his AS gun and clicked a drum of Executioners into it. He slowly climbed up the great mound of carcasses which had accumulated around and in his trench. He hopped down when he finally reached the top, and he was on level ground. A group of tanks stood in formation very close by.
“All right, I’m ready to fight!” he yelled out to the tanks.
The cupola of one of the tanks opened and a familiar face came out.
“Glad you’re ready,” said Jones, “The battle is over. We won.”
Thursday, July 9, 2009
With a huge explosion the coalie tank blew into a million little pieces. Daltrey and Jones cheered. They’d been out here for a while, but they’d only just killed their first tank. It was hard without a commander. Jones had taken on two hats: gunner and commander. It was hard.
“We are getting along okay without the captain,” said Daltrey hopefully.
“The hell we are! We are not doing to bloody well if you ask me!”
The tank suddenly shook as numerous shells from batteries and AS guns rained down upon it. The armor held, luckily. Another Ally tank not far off was not so lucky. It blew up in a great flowering blossom of fire and the burnt skeletons of it’s crew.
“It’s okay. We will get through this,” said Daltrey.
“I know,” said Jones, and he ground his teeth.
They continued on.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Arrington took another bite of his fried egg. He fired at another Spaniard who was trying to crest the rather sizable pile of bodies which had been piled up around Arrington’s trench. As the shell turned his insides into a slimy, bloody goo, he tripped and landed on top of the pile.
How many hundred coalies had already tried to interrupt the Animal’s breakfast? He didn’t know. But the great pillar of corpses stood as a mute testament to his adamant ideals about the sanctity of breakfast.
Suddenly a friendly lieutenant stumbled into his trench. Arrington pointed his AS gun at the man. The Animal knew he was an Englishman, which was why he hadn’t squeezed the trigger. Yet.
"What are you doing?" the lieutenant asked
"Eating," Arrington replied with perfect repose.
"Aren't you a soldier?" the junior officer said, glancing at his badge of rank.
"No," Arrington said, allowing not a drop of sarcasm to seep into his voice, "Now I'm a farmer."
"Sir, we’re in the middle of battle!” the lieutenant screamed in exasperation.
“I know. I’m in the middle of breakfast.”
“Sir, it can wait.”
“No, it can not,” said Arrington harshly, and he removed the safety from his gun.
The lieutenant slowly and surely backed away. Arrington resumed eating. He took a sip of tea.
“Needs more sugar,” he astutely observed.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
"I don't know. Somewhere along the Garonne."
"You know, if you could read a map..." began Jones testily.
The tank rocked under an explosion.
"Jesus Christ! What was that?" yelled Jones.
"We are under attack! The coalies are invading again!"
"Where is the captain?"
"There is not enough time to go back and get him," said Daltrey.
"We will have to fight on our own," realized Jones, but he quickly snapped to the occasion, "All right, head 140º to the west."
"140 west!" repeated Daltrey.
And they took off.
Monday, July 6, 2009
He hadn’t realized the kind of crappy food they got at the front. One almost never got hot food, and cold food was a rare occasion. Mostly they got rations that made granite seem a delicacy.
But he’d called in favors. He knew a few people from logistics. He had some back pay. He’d managed to procure for himself ten strips of bacon, six eggs, some biscuits, and a small, precious amount of tea. He carefully bore these items to a trench where he was staying in lieu of his tank. Jonesy and the new gunner, Daltrey, were both there.
“Today is the day, gentlemen,” said Arrington, holding up the food.
The crew clapped Arrington on the back and exclaimed their thankfulness, but not too loudly in case others may have been listening.
“Did you two get the water boiling?”
“Indeed,” said Daltrey, pointing to a pot which they were using in the absence of a proper kettle.
“Good. Now, as for cost. Who's the man with money?”
Jones and Daltrey both groaned, but they were willing to forfeit their pay for a chance for a real breakfast. They both handed over a few pounds to Arrington, and they set to work cooking it. They had considered soft boiling the eggs but in the end Jones fried them with the drippings from the bacon. (Butter was a laughably rare luxury.)
When all was finished cooking, all three of them sat down with their tin plates and their thermoses partially full of the carefully rationed tea. Each of the three soldiers savored the moment before ravenously digging into their food.
Arrington slowed down quickly, and by the time Jones and Daltrey were done, his plate was still three quarters of the way full. They both drooled, watching him eat. He stopped, finally, and waved his fork as though it were some great weapon.
"Neither of you are getting any of mine, so you may as well snap your tongues back into your mouths and go away. Why don't you fellows start getting the lay of the land? You'll need practice driving a tank with only a crew of two anyway.
"What?" Daltrey said angrily, "Why do we have to do that?"
"Military insurance or something. It's a legal matter, I think. All I know is that word has come from on high that all crews need at least two dozen hours of practice without their commanders. Now get out of here! Run, run, run!"
Arrington waved them out of the trench. Grumbling, the driver and the gunner left. The Animal leaned back to savor his breakfast and was about to take a bite when an explosion went off not far above him. The distinctive shrapnel of a coalie mortar rained down around him.
"Oh, bloody hell," he said, "Now I will not get a chance to finish my breakfast. Ah, forget them. I'm eating anyway. And nothing's going to stop me."
There came a long string of cursing and yelling in Spanish, and suddenly a Spanish soldier in armor jumped down into Arrington's fox hole. Arrington swiftly grabbed up an AS-gun and put a huge, blood soaked hole in the Spaniard. He set about eating his breakfast.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.