Manuscripts Burn


"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov

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."

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 64, Part 3

Germans were flying all around. Though they were his countrymen, Krauss had long since begun thinking of them as the enemy. Close by him were Claw defenders, led by the man nicknamed "Basilisk" who had a tattoo of a lizard on his arm.

Basilisk was leading his troops in a bomb rush at the German invaders. There were, however, no invaders very close. They would just tire themselves out rushing forward like that.

"Stop, Basilisk!" yelled Krauss.

The soldier turned and stared at the general with cold yellow eyes.

"Don't leap in headlong! Get up that tree there and locate the bikers!"

Krauss pointed at a large tree which had been planted in the middle of the city. Basilisk bobbed his head then leaped onto a great branch in the tree. He scrambled to the top of the tree, and popped out on a top branch. Basilisk scanned the horizon. A German biker looked up and fired an AS gun at him.

The bullets whizzed past the Basilisk head, causing him to lose his balance. He teetered on the edge of the branch for a second, then fell. He plummeted towards earth, or, more accurately, towards General Krauss. Krauss looked up for a second.

"Oh, sh..."

Basilisk slammed headlong into Krauss' chest. The general was flattened instantly, and the Basilisk lay stunned on top of him.

"I've located the bikers," said Basilisk.

Krauss growled and flung Basilisk off his stomach, as an army of motorcycles swarmed around them. They both jumped up to crouching positions.

"We need bikers to take on the Germans," Krauss yelled over the din to Basilisk.

"We'll need bikes, too, general," Basilisk pointed out.

Krauss nodded. He stood up. He pulled from the holster on his side an officer's pistol which fired shells. Fire from the Germans was swirling all around him. He brought the weapon to bear and aimed at one of the Germans.

"Good God, general, get down or you'll be shot!" Basilisk screamed.

"Grow a backbone, colonel," Krauss replied.

He followed the biker's path for a moment and then pulled the trigger. The German tumbled off of his motorcycle, and the bike screeched along the ground, throwing up sparks.

"Eins!" yelled out Krauss.

He brought his gun to bear again. He popped a shell into the head of another cyclist.


Basilisk began firing, too. He was still crouching and was trying to break out of the tightening trap of motorcycles.

"I can't be in the middle of a battle! I'm a logistics officer, for God's sake!" Basilisk yelled.

"Yeah, get back to the gun emplacements around the walls of the city and begin firing inward."

"Inward? Are you out of your mind?"

"Drei! It'll stop the Germans, won't it? Vier!"

Krauss tried to fire again, but he was out of shells. Fortunately the attackers had taken all the damage they were willing to take and were concentrating elsewhere in the city. Krauss reholstered his empty pistol as he began walking towards Basilisk.

"I've secured four motorrads. Now I need four drivers. Can they drive?" he asked, pointing towards four Claw men with their backs turned, "You there! Ihr da!"

"They can't hear you, general. Those four are deaf. Too much punk rock."

Basilisk picked up a pebble and chucked it at one of the four men. All four of them turned around. They were wearing leather jackets covered with spikes, patches, and chains. They were all shaved bald and two of them had nose rings.

"I'll just assume they can ride," Krauss said, rolling his eyes.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Life on Mars: The Complete Series

In a rare (but increasingly less rare) break from the story, I'd like to dedicate the post on this DVDuesday to a very important release. It's no secret that I've always been a big proponent of this show. It ended before it's time, but maybe, in retrospect, it'll be better that it went out before it got crappy. There will still be a big hole in my life on Wednesday nights, but for now there's not a whole lot to do but drive DVD sales into the stratosphere. Tell your friends, and enjoy.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 64, Parts 1 and 2

El Nariz looked unhappily at the flowing water of the Potomac River which lay before him. He touched it with his finger. It was ice cold. He looked back at the American.

"I don't think I want to do this," said the Colombian.

"Fine. We'll just go back and hang you, then."

"Remind what my incentive is again."

"Ten million dollars and amnesty."

El Nariz took a whiff of the air around him and it no longer smelled like cold, polluted water. It smelled like money. He dived in and began to swim with the current, chattering his teeth, towards Washington D.C.


"This is it," said Marianne Totschläger, "No holds barred. We don't stop fighting until Washington D.C. is taken, or every last one of us is dead. Understood?"

In barking unison the Motorrad Gruppe replied, "Jawohl, Frau Hauptmann."

"All right, then, dismissed."

The squad scrambled out of ranks to board their individual bikes. The ramp was slammed into the city walls and the German shock troops began pouring in.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Envelope Please...

And the winners are...

Best Supporting Actor

Harvey Keitel as Gene Hunt, Life on Mars

This was a toughie. Although Sanchez was obviously the dark horse and not even really on a show in the last year, the choice between Michael Imperioli and Harvey Keitel was brutal. In the end, though, Keitel had more range. He could be sympathetic every episode and still be a dick in the next without missing a beat. And who else can take a bullet in the whiskey flask and not be sure which flask was hit?

Best Character

Commander Felix Gaeta, Battlestar Galactica

The last great martyr of the last great revolution. After all the bullshit that Adama got them into, I'm surprised there wasn't a mutiny earlier. Gaeta represented everything that every fan of the show saw and called "bullshit" on. What goes around comes around, Adama. It's just too bad they fumbled in the final quarter.

Best Show on Television

Life on Mars
A foregone conclusion by most standards, Life on Mars was the best show on television during its run, with the finest supporting actors and the best writing at the time, an original plot (sorry, Great Britain) and probably the best science fiction on network television in a long time. This show will be missed and I predict it will become the next Firefly.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 63, Part 2

The patients groaned and reached out to Philip Fraser for help. He no longer cared. He had become a mindless automaton, patching, cutting, injecting, and healing as necessary. The blood, guts, and gore which surrounded him constantly had become just another part of the scenery of his life. It no longer mattered to him.

The man who had been shell shocked and shot himself in the arm for medical leave that lay in the back of the hospital no longer excited sympathy, pity, or contempt from the Canadian physician. Here lay the victims of AS guns, people torn to shreds by trigger-happy Americans. There lay the men who had managed to dive from a sinking ship and had grown sick from the putrescent American waters. On the other side were the knife victims, their garments soaked in blood.

The blackened and charred victims of American flamethrowers who begged for water, even a tiny amount, no longer stirred the fire of Fraser's soul. The American P.O.W.s, brutally handled by his countrymen and in need of medical attention for their broken bones no longer captured Fraser's sorrow.

There lay what was left of a grenade victim. Victims of artillery fire lay looking like ghouls with great chunks of flesh blown from their bodies. Then there were the altogether more disturbing wounded.

The patient he was currently working on was muttering deliriously. He was losing a lot of blood. His whole stomach was caked with the red goo, and it was hiding the wound.

"Damn it," Fraser said.

He scrubbed vigorously at the still drying blood. It was coming off to reveal flesh, but the woud was still nowhere to be found. He rubbed and rubbed at it, desperately trying to find it.

"Dr. Fraser?" came a voice through the haze.

Fraser stopped scrubbing in the little artificial cloud he had created in his mind.

"Yes?" he asked.

A man was walking through the door. It was a lieutenant. Fraser could tell from the man's voice that he was French Canadian. The officer saluted and Fraser returned it.

"Hand me those badages," Fraser commaded as the lieutenant came to the bedside.

The lieutenant obliged and Fraser began to dress the wound, which he had finally uncovered.

"Sorry about that. Can I do something for you?" asked the Canadian doctor.

The lieutenant was smiling.

"Actually, doctor, I'm here to do something for you. I've got your discharge papers."

"Discharge? What? Why? What about my patients?"

"Well, in regards to your patients, they'll be sent to a hospital for proper recovery, not just patching up. Your American patients will be returned to America. As for the reason why, it's because the war is over for us."

"What?" asked Fraser, starkly astonished.

"You honestly haven't heard?"

"I...I sort of work myself into a bubble when I'm treating patients. I don't think I've heard news from the outside world in...months."

"Well, the Americans have taken Mexico City and captured Almacen. It was a brutal battle. They fought for nearly two months, mostly hand-to-hand in the streets. Without Almacen the Mexican army just surrendered. All the land they took in the Antilles and Cuba and Belize has been returned to it's rightful owners. Canada can't fight the full force of the American army. We've always depended on Mexico taking on at least half of their forces. So, we negotiated our own peace with America. All the soldiers at the front are being discharged. I guess your turn is up."

Fraser was truly awestruck. He looked around himself at the dead and the dying.

"They'll all be taken care of, you say?"

"The best care of. They're our valiant fighting men."

Fraser wiped the blood off his hands onto his coat. He knew that he could finally leave this part of his life behind. He knew that without having to face a hundred dying troops every day, he could finally be free to feel things again. Sympathy, happiness. Maybe someday even love.

He walked out of the tent where the wounded troops were. They were someone else's problem now. It was dark out and nearing dawn. He suddenly broke down and cried. The emotions he had suppressed for so long came welling to the surface. The tears that were streaming from his eyes were the expression of everything he had been afraid to express over all this time. The sun began to rise, and bring to light a bright, new day.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 63, Part 1

The airplane attacks had let up. General Chavo Oso was very disturbed by this. He was wondering why the attacks would slow down, let alone stop, when they had been going on non-stop for so long. It was the middle of the night and nearing dawn, but that had never stopped the Americans before.

The colonel whom Oso had grabbed earlier during the bombing run came running towards him.

"I'm very disturbed by this, colonel. Do you think the Americans are ready to attack? Do you think they're about to make that major offensive?"

"I very much doubt it sir."

The colonel produced from his pocket a folded sheet of paper. It was a transcribed set of orders. It was from Almacen himself.

"Oh, my God!" Oso exclaimed, "It's all over. The tides have turned."

Trying to calm his commander, the colonel said, "Well, sir, no iron fist can stay clenched forever. Eventually the fingers will be pryed loose."

Oso looked wildly around.

"You don't understand. They'll lynch me, colonel," he said, his eyes wild like that of an animal's, then, suddenly, they hardened, "Well, they'll never take me alive."

The general pulled a grenade off of his belt. It was more for show than actual use as the general rarely lowered himself to actual battle. He pulled the pin and dropped it, but held the grenade.

Realizing what the man was going to do, the colonel turned and ran as fast as he could away. As he ran he could hear Oso's last words.

"Good bye Mexico. Good bye Coalition. Good bye Fascism."

A moment later the grenade detonated, and small bits of Chavo Oso pattered down on the ground like rain. Almost simultaneously the sun rose and blood red light illuminated the landscape.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 62, Part 6

Brigadier General Paul King was back in the heart of Mexico. This was the second time he invaded, and the first he had been driven out along with the rest of the American army like a dog with his tail between it's legs. This time was different. This time they'd met little resistance. This time, his army had been winning, and was slowly racking up victories and, thusly, morale, which was far more important than any victory.

The Mexican army had committed itself to an invasion of America and thus was unable to defend it's own country. King felt gloriously happy. He felt as though it was possible - just possible - that they might take Mexico City and end this terrible, bloody conflict.

His troops were there. They were a pack of brave men and women. They'd been separated from their families and their friends for years now, and they fought on without complaint. He was proud of them, damn it. They were gathered up now before the greatly fortified Mexico City.

He walked slowly to the forefront of the assemblage. Infantry troops were lined up in ranks. Tank crews had their heads sticking out of their cupolas. The few leaper crews were standing beside their vehicles. He had everyone's attention. He took a deep breath and began to speak.

"The Last War," he said, "Has been going on for four years now, and we've been fighting in it for about three. I know that when we all began we thought it would be easy, that it would be over in a few weeks, and that we could all go home to our families when it was done. Well, things didn't quite work out that way.

"I know you're all exhausted. The reason I know that you're all exhausted is that I'm very tired, and I know that anything I may have faced to tire myself out, every one of you has faced twice."

The troops were all smiling and the weight of too much fighting could indeed be seen on their faces.

"But, I must say that you have all fought like lions. We've been defeated time and time again, and I know that there was not one moment when you didn't give this your all, not one second when, even though our morale was at it's lowest ebb, you didn't keep fighting. Each and every one of you deserves more medals and honors than are in the entire list of medals for American fighting men and women.

"You have all fought for me ten, no, a hundred times longer and harder than you had to. And I need to ask of you just one thing and that is: give me just one more fight. Give me just one more battle, my lions. The key to our deliverance lies in that city just yonder. It's not just the key to our deliverance either. It is the key to the deliverance of the entire American people. So I ask of you, will you continue to fight? Will you make your country and your families proud to call you Americans? Will you give me just one more battle?"

Without hesitation the entire army cheered and charged forward. Tank engines revved, infantry brought AS guns to bear, leapers began to leap. King smiled and joined his troops as the Mexican army began to meet them in the streets of the deadly city.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 62, Part 5

The newly promoted Commodore Carl Leonard ran as fast as he could to the bridge of his new command, a battleship called the Something. He unbuttoned the top button of his uncomfortable new uniform and flung himself into the command chair. When he had been a captain he had been content to walk around and give personal orders, and see things for himself. He felt a certain dignity came with being a commodore, however, and he wanted his sailors to feel the same way.

"Five Canadian frigates are coming this way, sir," said the comm officer.

"Just like them," Carl muttered under his breath, "Packs of small ships rather than one large ship. They're like wolves or...jackals."

Leonard touched the tips of all the fingers of his one hand to the tips of all the fingers of his other. This was his new method of deep thought, as opposed to his old one of scrunching up his face. It brought more dignity (and less stares from the crew).

"Helm, move to intercept them. Don't be to anxious though. Just ease towards them."

The Something slowly moved toward the enemy ships. Carl wondered briefly if they were beginning to catch on that the Mexicans had invaded. The Canadians had been growing more and more rambunctious and aggressive as of late. It was doubtful. The American government was keeping a tight lid on the whole thing. Right now they were on Lake Erie. The Canadians had been trying for quite a while to land on in Pennsylvania, most likely to move southeast from Erie and Pittsburgh to Philadelphia. The ongoing defense by the Americans which had been going on for months now had come to be known as the Battle of Lake Erie.

"They're very near, sir. Only three hundred yards and closing. They are not firing."

Leonard smiled.

"So, they want to play chicken, do they? Ease the throttle forward just a nudge, helm."

The Something sped up just a tiny bit.

"Come on," Carl said to the Canadian ships as though they could hear, "Come on. You're not going to take me on, are you?"

The five frigates indeed scattered as the much larger battleship moved closer and closer. The American Navy had been moved to extreme measures since the beginning of The Last War, including recommissioning all of the obsolete, huge battleships. Every piece of machinery that could have hands laid on it had to be grabbed up.

"Weaps, disarm five torpedoes and fire one apiece at those canucks!"

"Did you say disarm, sir?" the grizzled old weapons officer asked incredulously.

"I did, son, now please do it."

The weapons officer gave Carl a queer look. He was at least twice the commodore's age. With a shrug he carried out the orders. The five frigates began to turn away and take evasive maneuvers as the torpedoes launched towards them. When one of the torpedoes banged into the hull of one of the frigates with a clank, but did not explode, the frigates stopped scattering.

"Weaps, fire another salvo of disarmed ones."

"Yes, sir."

Five metallic bangs that could be heard all the way in the battleship rung out. The frigates were turning to face the Something. Cannon turrets were beginning to swivel.

"Sir, they're aiming guns at us!" yelled out the agitated comm officer.

"Don't move an inch! Weaps, one more salvo of duds!"

The bridge crew was growing fidgety, and they all seemed disappointed when another five bangs rang out, even though they all knew it would happen.

"We're taking damage. They're firing all forward guns at us."

"And," Leonard said with a smile, "They think that none of our torpedoes are working. Weaps, please fire another five torpedoes, but this time make them live."

"With pleasure, sir."

Carl smiled devilishly as the last five torpedoes were born out of the womb of the Something. The Canadian ships were not moving an inch. One torpedo detonated, blowing up the five duds which were already in the area. The frigate in that area was destroyed as it frantically ran into the first dud which had been fired. Realizing their mistake, the remaining four frigates tried to run for it, but the water was a veritable mine field the next instant. Three frigates were sunk instantly. The last had a huge hole in it's side, and began to roll over as it took on water. It slowly sunk.

"That, ladies and gentleman, is how you play chicken," Commodore Leonard said loudly.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 62, Part 4

"Incoming fighters!" Snaro's spotter yelled out.

"Thanks, Bill," Snaro replied.

Snaro hopped into his gunnery chair. He felt weightier than the last time he'd been here. He realized what it was. Medals were hanging heavy on his chest. With a sigh, he grabbed the two triggers and began to fire.

A Mexican fighter was coming towards him. As he shifted his aim wildly, the crosshairs of his gun began to fly all around his field of view. With a satisfying recoil the gun was thumping away at the remnants of the enemy air force.

What had once been awe-inspiring to behold was now pathetic, Snaro reflected. At Juala there had been hundreds of planes. The invading Mexican force had only been given minimal air cover, because it was spread out over so great an amount of invading troops.

Suddenly Snaro's eyes began to cloud over with rage.

"You Mexican bastards," he screamed.

He was beginning to have flashbacks of his time in the Juala P.O.W. camp. The terrible treatment, the scorching heat, the lack of food and sleep. He and Colonel Frost having to drag buckets of gravel through the desert for no real reason. Their rescue by the American army had hardly been a pleasure for that matter.

The troops had been retreating. They had been part of the small force of Americans trying to invade Mexico with little or no success. Some of them had been at Tijuana, including their commander, Brigadier General Paul King.

"You're heroes," King had said when he learned that they had been at Juala, "You'll be treated like them once we get back to America. We'd all thought no one had survived Juala. The people will be so overjoyed."

There had been a reason why King said they'd be treated well only once they were back in America. Most of the invasionary forces had been forced to retreat because their supply lines had been cut off. They had no food and no water.

Frost and Snaro, not to mention most of the army, were half dead by the time the reached America. Snaro had developed a deep and unwavering hatred of all Mexicans by that time. They had continued to harrow the retreating Americans every chance they got. Snaro had been grazed by a bullet during one of these periodic attacks.

Snaro had been given medal heaped upon medal (without a promotion) as did Frost at a public ceremony upon their "triumphant" return to America proper. Now he took out all his hatred on the Mexican planes which had the utter arrogant audacity to invade his home country. They fell and fell like swatted flies before Snaro's wrath.

A string of bullets grazed the window from which Snaro was firing, shattering the glass in several places. More bullets whizzed by, but no more came so close to the mark.

"Who was that?" he yelled.

Swiveling wildly, he brought the crosshairs to bear on a ferocious looking fighter painted like a tiger with gaping mouth and all. It was clearly meant to intimidate, but Snaro was too overcome by rage.

"You think you can hurt me with your gun?"

Snaro fired off a whole magazine at the fighter. Holes began to appear in the metal and finally the fuel tank was hit and the plane exploded in midair. Snaro turned his attentions back to the swirling chaos around him.

"Who else?" he yelled, "Who else?"

He continued to bring down enemy plane after enemy plane. He felt his own plane rise suddenly several yards higher as the bomber delivered it's payload and lightened. They began to turn around to return to base.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 62, Part 3

"Bombing raid!"

The hundredth such scream in only a few days had made the sentry's voice hoarse and chalky. The Mexican army began to scramble to cover what vehicles they could with camouflage while disguising themselves. The American plane roared in low, dropping it's deadly payload all along the line of soldiers who were covering their ears and praying for deliverance.

Chavo Oso ran forward, hunched over like an old man to avoid standing out as a target. He grabbed the colonel he was looking for as he passed him, and threw himself and the unfortunate man hard to the ground.

"They've been bombing us non stop since we blew the scanner station. But we haven't seen a single infantryman. Why?"

"Maybe they've got their hands tied with Canada," suggested the colonel.

"Canada can't be half the threat we are right now, no matter what they're doing. We're on a direct collision course with their capital. So why aren't they coming to engage us?"

"Maybe they're massing they're troops for one big attack on us, and they're trying to whittle us down with the constant bombing raids."

Oso snorted.

"They must be on a constant shift. One pilot sleeps for eight hours while another bombs for eight hours then they switch. They've damn near ruined our whole air force. It was a hell of a thing to behold earlier in the war. Our forces at Juala were monumental."

The colonel nodded, not so much out of knowledge but it hopes of satiating his superior with agreement. Bombs began to drop nearby them, so they both rolled into a foxhole.

"Strafing run!" someone yelled.

The fighters in the attack groups came especially low, trying to root out and shoot down any soldiers on the ground.

"Swift and deadly," Oso said, "They've been hounding us this whole time. You know, colonel, I think you're right. They must be mounting their troops for one huge offensive. I'm going to have all our forces tighten up, and be prepared for a huge battle."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

First Annual King of Battle Awards

Since the Emmys have proven their intense suck, I am declaring my own awards: The King of Battle Awards. Who will win the first KOBies? I don't know. But since they will be declared by fiat, I will eventually know. However, if you would care to make a case for your preferred candidate (or even a well-argued write-in candidate) please make your opinion known in the comments section.

Best Supporting Actor:

Harvey Keitel as Gene Hunt, Life on Mars
Michael Imperioli as Ray Carling, Life on Mars
Larry Murphy as Don Sanchez, Assy McGee

Best Character:

Commander Gaeta, Battlestar Galactica
Michael Westin, Burn Notice
Godric, True Blood

Best Show on Television:

Life on Mars
True Blood
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 62, Part 2

Major Dan Hayes came running into Sarah York's office. He was even outrunning Omar, who usually pulled him through the streets during walks but was now panting far behind his master. Hayes' eyes were broad with terror.

"It's happened," he said, "The Mexicans are coming."

The commander of American forces rose from her desk.


"Oso's forces have blown our scanner station."

"Shut down all our scanner factories immediately," she said.

"What about the riots if we do that, ma'am?"

"Transfer all the workers at the scanner factories to our weapons factories. Maybe something good will come out of this. Go on, major."

"The Mexicans have also taken our largest supply train. The troops've been calling it The Train War."

He threw a map down on her desk. It showed the scanner station and the point where the train had been boarded as red X's. There was a hazy area of light red that sharpened into a single broad line only at certain points.

"Without scanners we can't be certain where they are, but they're definitely moving north. They're moving for Philadelphia. Our reconnaissance planes have determined that the coalies are somewhere in this red area."

"You mean this sea of red that stretches halfway from New Mexico to West Virginia?"

"That's it. The lines are where we're certain they've been, because that's where our troops have met them. By all estimates, Oso's called for major reinforcements, as many as he can get."

"What about the Canadians?"

"The canucks haven't done a thing differently. They've already practically given up the ground war. They've been sending their fleets to the Great Lakes in the hopes of getting a foothold. We've been able to hold them so far."

York's eyes suddenly glimmered with hope.

"That's it," she whispered.

"What is it, ma'am?"

"The Mexicans haven't told the canucks about it, otherwise they'd be moving, doing some serious attacking to try to join up with the Mexican force. If Oso haven't told Canada, it means they want to hog the glory, so he probably hasn't told any of the rest of the Coalition. That means all of their reinforcements will be coming from Mexico."

"Probably," Hayes admitted.

"So Mexico will be left relatively unprotected. We can attack them! Push right into Mexico city and make Almacen feel the brunt of this war himself."

"You're proposing an attack now? We need to defend ourselves!"

"We'll have the Air Force plague their ground troops from the sky like locusts! We won't let up for a moment. They're going to think it's the fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse. We'll bomb them day and night. It'll slow them down enough to buy the army time for a push into Mexico. Our defense will consist of a counter attack."

"And if Canada tries to capitalize on the situation?"

"Like you said, they're waging a naval war. We can spare ships for the Great Lakes."

"Ma'am, I think you're deluding yourself," Hayes whispered, "We can't spread ourselves out like this. It'll never work."

"Dan, don't you see? This is our chance! If we don't snatch it, the Mexicans will take Philadelphia, and we'll be completely ruined. It'll be like the Rape of Washington all over again, and America can't take that blow while we're still reeling from the first. We have to take desperate measures."

"I agree with that," Hayes said, his grip on Omar's leash tightening, "And I think it's time we seriously consider using nuclear weapons against the advancing Mexican army."

General York's countenance turned icy cold.

"I will not," she said slowly, "Violate the laws of war. 'Atomic weapons will not be used against an enemy unless it is in retaliation for war crimes against an enemy that can not be stopped otherwise.'"

She had quoted the Laws of War exactly.

"Mexico's committed war crimes. You know how they treat their prisoners - our troops!"

"It's illegal, Dan!" she said, "And I will not make America a monster. You saw what happened the last time we went off the deep end."

"I would rather be damned a million times by historians than let our nation be condemned to obliteration by the enemy."

"We will proceed with my plan," Sarah replied.

"Yes, ma'am," her adjutant replied.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 62, Part 1

"Senor Presidente, we've done it!" Chavo Oso exclaimed into his radio transmitter.

"You have all the secrets then?" Almacen asked.

"Yes, sir. Our technicians have stripped the station from head to foot. They've taken some of the more important parts for further study, but they've made an extensive and detailed analysis."

"Excellent," said the dictator of the tiny Mexican fascist empire.

Mexico's Coalition Allies had been rather less than willing to share the secrets of scanner technology with them. Mexico was considered a bit of a black sheep, being far more dictatorial than even Mongolia. Still, it was a necessary evil. Being the only military power worth mentioning in North America aside from the far weaker Canada, Mexico was the key to keeping America in a constant state of turmoil, and out of the way of the other Coalition countries.

So, the rest of the Coalition countries had been less than enthusiastic in providing Mexico with a means to grow very strong militarily. With scanners it could most likely have taken over America, and then begun to cause trouble almost immediately for it's allies. So, the fascists were kept on a tight leash by their stronger friends. That was all about to change.

"Blow it up, then," said Almacen, "And send the technicians back to Mexico City with the technical plans. Proceed to Washington, and draw on any troops you may need. Once we have completed construction on a scanner station I will need you to take California so we can have Silicone Valley for supplies."

This was it, Almacen thought after disconnecting his line with Oso. America's final death blow. Without scanners America would be at a disadvantage. He almost reached for the telephone to inform the Canadians, but he stopped himself. This would be Mexico's victory, not the Coalition's.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 61

Major General Ras Qahira was squatting in a disgusting trench. It wasn't worrying him, though. He had more important concerns. He looked to his right. There was a nod from the man directly next to him. He looked to his left. The woman there also nodded. That was the signal that everything was ready all the way down the line. The Egyptian general smiled and checked his watch, the one with the ankh on it. Slowly he lifted his flare gun into the air, and, when the time was right, fired.

The flare gave off a large explosion, but it was instantly dwarfed by a hundred other explosions going off immediately afterward in a long chain reaction. All down the lines of trenches, artillery gun after artillery gun was going off. Even with advanced ear plugs they still hurt the major general's ears.

The sounds were actually that of the artillery recoiling. The shells were not actually exploding. That was because each shell was filled with a few liters of liquid Bloody Wind. The shells were fragile enough to shatter on impact with the ground, releasing their deadly payload, but strong enough to survive being fired from a cannon.

The shells streaked through the air, leaving criss crossing streams of smoke all throughout the sky. They began to fall behind the Alliance lines, and the screams of Germans, Frenchmen, and Englishmen soon added to the din.

"Ready yourselves!" Qahira screamed.

There was an almost simultaneous metallic click as thousands of rifles and machine guns, and even the occasional captured AS gun, were brought to bear. They were all pointing up, towards the top of the trenches. Then it began.

As though the gates of hell had opened and furious demons were screaming out, enemy troops came flying into the African trenches. They were all crazed madmen, their eyes wild with fear of the deadly gas which had fallen into the trenches behind them. They were the troops which had been in the foremost trenches.

Terrified, most of them had left their weapons behind in their trenches. Their mass exodus was halted immediately by the prickly porcupine whose spines were the Rhino's conventional guns. Hands flew into the air. They all felt blessed to be captured rather than face the chemical atrocities behind them.

"Surrender or die, Boche dogs!" one of the Rhinos who spoke German screamed, at Qahira's prompting.

Similar demands were made in French and English moments later. Many of them lay down in the mud, to show that they weren't trying anything. Qahira pointed at one of his captains.

"You," he said, "Lead them back behind the lines to the prisoner transports. Take enough men and women to guard them."

The African captain did as he was ordered, and slowly the Alliance troops were herded behind the Coalition lines like cattle. The major general gestured with a wave of his hand.

"Let's continue to move forward!" he ordered.

The newer batches of Bloody Wind were growing more potent and the effects were not as lasting. After a few minutes the chemical, nuclear, and biological poisons would be rendered neutral. Troops could almost instantly occupy territory hit by Bloody Wind. The Rhinos marched forward into the enemy trenches.

Green skeletons and less inviting sights awaited them there. Many of the younger Rhinos purged themselves. Qahira could understand. He had done the same thing the first time he had occupied a trench which had been ravaged by the terrible weapon. They continued to press forward through the charnel house.

"I wonder if the Spanish are having the same...luck?" an Algerian colonel asked, hesitating to use such a positive word for such a deadly event.

"I'm sure they're doing as well, if not better, than we are," Qahira replied.

The Spanish troops had followed the Alliance troops into Morocco from the north in order to cut off their supply lines. In this way the far superior Alliance force was being plagued from both the north by the Spanish and the south by the Africans. It had hardly hastened an end to the Standstill in Morocco.

"Look!" exclaimed a private who was taking the point.

Qahira looked in the direction where the private was pointing. Specks of troops could be barely seen off in the distance. They were moving forward.

"More Allies," the colonel said glumly, "It looks like we have more fighting to do. Well, at least we gained some ground."

Qahira squinted, fighting the sun to see just who was coming. Suddenly his face broke into surprise and pleasure.

"No," he said, "Not Allies. Those are Spaniards. We've finally met up with them. We've cut through the entire Alliance force! The Standstill is over! We've won!"

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 60, Part 3

"We're pushing them back into Cairo," Qajar said, "It won't be long now! No, it certainly won't be long. With al-Xyz's discipline and my daring strides forward, we're an unbeatable combination! Madame general, this campaign is successfully won already, I think."

Qajar anxiously rubbed his hands together and began speaking to himself in excitement. Supreme General Fadla bint Tarriq turned from the more brash general to her rock, Mossad al-Xyz.

"And you, general? What do you think?"

Slowly, laboriously, al-Xyz thought. He finally produced an answer.

"My comrade Qajar is correct. I have heard disturbing tales of desertion and suicide, but all seems well."

"And you think Cairo will be taken within, say, the week?"

Al-Xyz nodded.

"So be it. Imshallah, our troops shall be victorious."

None of the three said it, but Allah was not the only encouragement for their troops. The thought of barrels of money to swim in was also quite inspirational.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 60, Part 2

Private Akim Makarakesh rocked gently back and forth as mortars fell down around him. He was sobbing lightly. His sergeant leapt down nearly on top of him and bowled him over.

"Makarakesh, get up! You don't fight, you don't get your pay! Pick up your gun, you lousy Saudi!"

Still sniffing, but trying not to look quite as pathetic as he felt, he picked up his AS gun and held it in the prescribed manner.

"Now get out there and start shooting!"

Akim's face turned white with fear. He was petrified.

"I can't," he stammered out, "I'm too scared."

"Scared? Scared? What kind of a mercenary gets scared? Little children and women get scared, Makarakesh. Men do not get scared. But perhaps you are no man. Perhaps you are a swine. Fine, sit here and cry, swine!"

Despite the fact he willed his eyes with all his force not to, he began crying again.

"I can't," he choked out, "I thought when a man went onto the battlefield, he would automatically know what to do, and not be scared. But now I'm here and I'm...terrified."

The sergeant almost broke from his rugged and stony facade.

"Every man gets scared, private," he whispered so that no one but Makarakesh could hear, "But you must ignore it. Prove yourself a man. Come on. Tell no one I did so and I will stand by your side through the whole thing."

Makarakesh nodded slowly, and, wiping the mucus from his nose, followed his sergeant into battle. The Egyptians were all around.

"I can't," he whispered so that not even he could hear it, "They're going to kill me."

"Easy men!" yelled out the sergeant, "We'll be paid well for this easy work!"

Yelling in an indecipherable mish mash of Middle Eastern languages, the mercenary forces pushed forward, slowly wading deeper into Egyptian territory. Akim Makarakesh watched them, but could not follow.

"Mother," he whimpered, "Mother."

The private couldn't take it any more. He'd been with the mercenaries for months now, training and doing menial jobs. He'd never yet come under fire. There had been no idea in his mind he would break under the pressure like this. It was no harder physically than carrying water or pulling a load of ammunition to the front. It was different, somehow.

He suddenly no longer cared about his life, except to hope that no Egyptian would take it. He'd heard about being shell-shocked, how you lost all sensibility, but had never understood it, and, even now, while he was experiencing it, he still didn't understand it. The desperation to save his own life had driven him to want to take it himself.

In a split second when the sergeant had turned away from Makarakesh, who looked to be growing accustomed to the battle, he put his AS gun into his own mouth. The sergeant had run a few meters away to engage a single Egyptian. He turned around again.

"Bismillah, why? Bismillah, why?" sobbed Makarakesh.

The tears left marks on his sand covered face.

Running toward him, the sergeant screamed, "Makarakesh, don't! Don't do it, you bastard!"

But Akim couldnt hear him. He had already pulled the trigger.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 60, Part 1

Abd Qajar came running up the dune as fast as he could. He tripped once, sliding a considerable distance back down the dune to the delight of al-Xyz's men. When he finally reached the top of the dune, Mossad al-Xyz was staring at him.

"General al-Xyz," he puffed out between panting breaths, "I need support. My left flank is beginning to crumble. The rest of my men are fighting as they should, but the left is failing. You must spare me some troops."

Qajar grabbed the larger man and began to shake him.

"Do you hear me, al-Xyz? I must have some of your men! You must help me! Answer me!"

Slowly, like a rock ambling along a slight incline slowly but surely, Mossad al-Xyz pushed Abd Qajar. The smaller man flew a few feet back and landed on his ass in the sand. This seemed to sober him up fast. Al-Xyz slowly trudged forward and pointed one chubby finger down at the battlefield.

"Look," was all he said.

Qajar bobbed his head like a bird and scrambled around to look where al-Xyz was pointing. It was quite obvious on the battlefield which troops belonged to one general and which belonged to the other. To the right of the battlefield the troops were grimly going about their business, pushing forward slowly and making certain all enemies were wiped out before pressing onward in a slow, inexorable advance. To the left the troops were jittery, uncertain, striking this way and that, seemingly unorganized, but fighting savagely and making brief jumps forward only to be pushed back and then push forward again. Both sides were having equal successes and equal losses.

Al-Xyz's troops on the right were slowly moving left towards Qajar's crumbling left flank. The troops met and, from the height of the dune, seemed to be battling each other, they were both so different in strategy. They struck a balance and then began to push forward again.

"At this rate we'll take Cairo by tomorrow! Oh, al-Xyz, you're a brilliant, brilliant man! My Allah keep and bless you! I must return to my troops! Farewell! Farewell, and thank you!"

Qajar was about to run off but found he could not move because of a steely grip on his shoulder.

"Qajar," al-Xyz said, carefully enunciating each word, "You'll return the favor to my forward troops?"

It was more a demand than a question, but Abd Qajar took it as a question. Looking out at the battlefield he could see that, just as his left flank had begun to disintegrate, al-Xyz's forward troops were beginning to also lose.

"Yes, yes, of course! I'll get to it right away!"

He ran down off the sand dune which was Mossad al-Xyz's headquarters, muttering questions and answers about stratagem to himself. General al-Xyz general had begun to slowly give terse orders as the other left.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Redleg's Top Ten Novels

Flexing our muscles a little bit on a Sunday, this is a writing blog of sorts and as such I'm bound once in a while to talk a little bit about writing and reading and so on. Occasionally famous authors and pundits and such like to put together their top ten lists, with the understanding that such lists are more to generate discussion than anything else, and not to be taken as any kind of gospel. So, with the hope that my oft empty comment section will come alive, here's a list of my Top Ten Novels of All Time.

10. Dune by Frank Herbert

The seminal science fiction work. Often imitated, never replicated. Basically abrogated wholesale for Star Wars. Never before has poetry, history, ecology, science, and literature been so brilliantly blended. Would probably be much higher on a list that is strictly science fiction.

9. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Keeping it in the family, I had to include a Conrad work. It was a bit of a toss-up between this and Lord Jim, although, in the end, I think this was a little better. An important glimpse into the human soul, and what makes men treat other men cruelly.

8. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

An agnostic's prayer. What can I say? It's better than Slaughterhouse-Five (Slaughterhouse-5 is more for poseurs than actual Vonnegut fans, anyway.) Probably the best of all Vonnegut's books. Nihilistic and hopeful at the same time.

7. The Last Battle by Cornelius Ryan

This was a tricky one to add, but in the end, I feel comfortable putting it on a list of novels. I couldn't put this book down, some 500 pages or so and all gripping. A point of view of World War II that is virtually never explored, the final days of Berlin from both the Soviet and German viewpoints.

6. The Increasingly Inaccurately Named Hitchhiker’s Trilogy by Douglas Adams

I'll probably catch some flak for putting this higher than Dune, and a little more flak for shoehorning five (soon to be six!) books into one slot. But aside from the general consensus that So Long and Thanks For All the Fish is the worst book, how can you separate and analyze these except as a series? I have always thought that this is essentially a thesis on what a book can do that a movie never can. The wordplay of the narrator, the brilliantly pointless asides and incredible segues, the inner thoughts of the characters, and the outlandish outer space milieu can't be recreated for the screen. When it was, it lost 90% of what makes it great.

5. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

Makes Jossph Conrad look like Dan Brown. Dark? Check. Dense? Check. Full of a little o' the ol' ultraviolence? Check. Establishes a virtually brand new breed of philosophy? Check.

4. Poland by James A. Michener

What a novel. Michener is almost shamefully underappreciated. This basically tells the story of a single family from the first millennium through the 1980s in Poland and all the shared strife, pain, love, and joy. Every Pole owes it to himself to read this.

3. The Master and the Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

I love Russian literature. Dosteovsky, Turgenev, I can even tolerate Tolstoy. I came to Bulgakov a little later on, and had come to have some expectations about what Russian lit is. For instance, everyone inexplicably speaks French, and there are four or five names for every character. The Master and Margarita blew my every expectation out of the water. It was modern, almost post-modern, almost science fiction. It was about the devil without being trite, it was about Jesus without being preachy. It's kind of about the whole human condition.

2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

It's probably easier to explain why it's not Number 1, rather than why it's so high. I mean, does anybody that went through high school English really not get it? Has nostalgia ever been portrayed better? Has anyone ever not felt exactly the way Gatsby did, and wanted to spend the whole world just to go back to the halcyon days of youth? It's not Number 1 though, because in spite of everything else, in spite of near perfection, there is one better novel written by man.

1. The Brother Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The. Perfect. Novel. I could leave it at that, but I probably shouldn't. I'll put it to you this way: I have never gotten so much out of a book. Literally changed the way I view the world. Fixed my adult philosophy in a way few other ideas have. Inspired the modern science of psychology. The penultimate masterpiece of Russian lit (yeah, sorry about that, War and Peace.) What else can I say? Except to ask, what would happen to an axe in space?

Honorable mention: Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein, The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis, The Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sajer

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 59

"I'm bored," Private Aubrey Dansworth sighed heavily.

The PFC next to him laughed loudly.

"Would you rather be dead or bored?" the second soldier demanded.

"Look, I fought in a battle once, and I survived."

"What battle?"


"Ooh, that was a crippler. You have any scars or anything? What did you do at Bayonne?"

"Drove a tank. It was rather boring, actually, but I came under fire."

The PFC grunted. They were stationed at Brighton. They'd come from Soho down to Brighton, way down in Southern England. After Germany had been taken, there was fear of a British invasion by the Eastern Bloc. Free Germany, the displaced German government, was located in Norway, and was trying to regroup for long enough to retake their native soil, but until then England was in peril.

Unfortunately, it was impending peril. Well, not so much peril as danger. Not even danger, really. There was a chance - well, a probability, anyway - well, more of a possibility of an invasion attempt. The truth was if an invasion was going to happen, it would not be for a very long time. And, until then, Dansworth and his whole battalion was stationed here, and bored.

"Drove a tank? How'd you get bumped down to the infantry?"

"Well, I wasn't technically part of the military at the time. You see I was a reporter."

"You're that Aubrey Dansworth?" his friend exclaimed, "I thought your names were just the same."

"No, that's me. Well, was, anyway."

"Bloody hell, it's an honor to meet you, sir!"

The PFC bowed slightly to Dansworth.

"Dammit, we've known each other all through boot camp."

"Well, yeah, but I didn't actually know you until just now."

"Oh, sod it. We've got to find something to do. I'm going absolutely nutty here."

The PFC scratched her head thoughtfully.

"Some of the fellows gamble."

"Have you cards?"


"Have you dice?"


"Then how the hell are we supposed to gamble?" Dansworth yelled out.

The other soldier looked around herself, as though something to gamble with would appear out of nowhere. She picked up a metal mess dish.

"We could use this dish."

There was a brief pause.

"How?" prompted Dansworth.

"Well, we could sort of...throw it. Or, rather...that is to say, uh...I don't know. I'm shooting coalies in the dark here."

"I've got it!" exclaimed the former newscaster, snapping his fingers, "We'll have a race."

"Of what?"

"Of, er, something that comes readily to hand, that is, um, lice! That's it, head lice!"

"Head lice? That's not really a bad idea."

"Of course not. When was the last time you took a shower?"

The PFC pondered thoughtfully.

"A few months. Shame about the living conditions."

"I've not had a shower in an even longer time! We're sure to colonies in our scalps."

Dansworth plucked a louse from his filthy head and placed it on the metal dish. The other soldier did likewise. Dansworth pulled out a book of matches and lit one, then drew a small line on the plate in the charcoal of the burnt match. This was the finish line. The two warriors then watched the dish for a moment, but neither louse seemed very intent on doing anything.

"We can light a match under the tin to get them going," Private Dansworth said, handing his opponent a match, "I'll wager £10 my louse can beat your louse any day of the week."

"You're on."

They each lit a match under their respective lice, and watched the small parasites take off. Dansworth's louse turned out to be the feistier one, and he took ten pounds from the other soldier. A small crowd of British soldiers began to gather around Dansworth and his friend, and money began to change hands in the audience as well.

Boldly, Dansworth declared, "My head lice can beat the head lice of any soldier on the planet at any time, and I'll take on anyone who thinks they can beat me."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 58, Part 2

Sarah York checked herself one last time in the mirror. She still felt very nervous about going in front of a camera, especially one that would be broadcast worldwide in holo, visual, and audio. She had to look, sound, and feel perfect tonight.

She drew strength from her conviction. Something had to be done. She nodded to herself in the mirror.

"You'll do great kid," she said whispered under her breath.

They were in an old military surplus storage building, known simply as "The Warehouse." The drab old storage house made her stand out brightly. It seemed an odd place to be broadcasting from, but the setting was as important as the speech.

"We're on," said the GRTH camera man.

"Good evening," she said, breathing shallowly, "I am General Sarah York, commander of the American military. I have a message to deliver.

"I have been receiving reports from many fronts where American troops are fighting. I'm referring to the treatment of prisoners and civilians.

"A lot of prisoners have been taken on both sides. That happens in war. But I'm receiving reports and pictures and evidence of brutal treatment of prisoners. Starving, torture, stealing, savage and inhuman things."

Some of the tamer photos and footage were playing on the split screen next to her. The cameraman gave her the thumbs up to indicate the images were flashing by now.

"And, in a total war such as this one, we all know that civilians are affected greatly. But they should not be killed. They should not have their villages and towns and homes burnt to the ground. No country should be pillaging another country. I would hope and pray that the world has become more civilized, even in a time of war, than to go looting and pillaging.

"But most importantly, I have just been informed that atomic bombs have been detonated in Russia by parties unknown.

"This will stop. The rules of war have not been enforced. From now on, the United States will enforce these rules. I know my word does not hold a lot of sway in the Coalition, but my actions will affect you as well as any of the Allies.

"This is Firejack."

York gestured and the camera panned to her left to reveal a large atomic bomb. The camera returned to York.

"If I receive word that any country has been violating the laws of war, I will drop Firejack on that country's capital city. In the Revised Laws of War, atomic bombs were declared illegal, except in retaliation to a country committing war crimes, and only in extreme circumstances. I call these extreme circumstances, and so I will answer illegal nuclear weapons with legal ones as punishment. Believe me, no one wants to avoid nuclear war more than I, but I will not hesitate to drop the first bomb if these war crimes continues. And if Firejack doesn't convince you, then maybe the Deathblow will."

York pointed out another bomb.

"And if you're still not convinced, well..."

York made a sweeping gesture, and the camera showed that the whole storage warehouse was lined with hundreds of nuclear weapons.

"Though almost every country has gone through with complete disarmament of nuclear weapons, apparently at least one has not. And so, the United States will not complete it's disarmament until after The Last War is over. I'm not going to allow this war to get out of control. Soldiers killing each other is awful, but it must happen. Civilian and prisoner deaths are not necessary, nor are illegal nuclear weapons, and they will not continue.

"And we're clear," said the cameraman.

York let out a breath she had been holding. She had been bluffing. America really had only about a dozen functional nukes. The warehouse was stocked with fakes that looked very real. If she had to go through with her promise, she would, but she just prayed the threat would be enough.

The cameraman noticed how tired she looked. When he had been filming, she had seemed vibrant and full of energy. Now she looked burnt out.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 58, Part 1

Major Dan Hayes stood in the doorway of General Sarah York's office. Wrapped around his hand was the red leash of Omar the bull terrier.

"Ma'am..." he began to say.

But after a brief glance up from her work, Sarah interrupted him.

"I don't mind you bringing your dog in here after hours, major," she said in a very professional tone, "But I can't allow that while we're working. There's a war going on."

Hayes seemed crestfallen.

"General," he said trepidaciously, "My house was destroyed in the last coalie bombing run. They gave me lodging in the guest quarters here, but they said I couldn't leave him alone in the guest quarters. I, uh, I..."

York felt like a real ass suddenly.

"You take Omar wherever you want around here," she said.

Hayes nodded mournfully, but he seemed to be more perked up than earlier.

"What did you need, Dan?"

"Well, ma'am, we have some reports that I was supposed to pass along to you."

"Reports on what?"

"It's a list of war crimes which I was ordered to bring to your attention."

Hayes handed her a manila folder full of printed reports. The first was on brutalities in a Mexican prisoner of war camp. Two Air Force officers had managed to escape and had reported dozens of violations of the Geneva Convention. A few corollary reports were from other escapees and survivors who had their own stories to tell of Mexican savagery.

The second report was of Russian war crimes. Sarah was briefly curious about why their Allies were being presented here. She realized that the laws of war applied to everyone - not just enemies. It told of looting, raping, and pillaging by the Russian army in Mongolian occupied villages.

The next was very interesting. An American ship had been taken over and it's crew killed. Then it had been set up as a fireship to destroy...

"Dan," she said, "Is this report true? The Australians have a superweapon?"

"It's the reason there've been so few naval battles with the Mongols. You were the first person in the world to be informed. Well, outside of the captain who found the Australian ship. And the dead coalies, I suppose."

"And you?"

"Well, naturally I have to screen your reports."

"Has this Captain..." she checked the report, "Leonard been rewarded at all? It says here he gave up his ship so that the Australians could make enough repairs to return to Australia for a refitting."

"I typed up a promotion to commodore for him, which I was ready to send, if you gave the word, on a moment's notice."

"Good man. You're always one step ahead of me. Send it."

Hayes left the room. She checked the next report. It said, as all the others did, that she was the first person to be informed who was not directly related with the incident. It said that five Russian cities had had...atomic bombs detonated in them!

She stood up from her desk.

"My God," she said, then pressed the intercom button to Hayes' office, "Dan, get me a cameraman from GRTH and a helicopter to meet me on the roof. Tell the pilot that we're going to the warehouse."

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 57, Part 2

One of the Mongolian special forces commandos came swiftly over to Beshu's position. The commando nodded to his leader, and Beshu acknowledged the nod. He made the silent hand gestures that only a Mongolian commando would have recognized in such deep cover. Slowly, in small groups and alone, the rest of the commando force began to return to Beshu's position.

Beshu had just barely managed to escape after the attack on the Leviathan. All of his force except for himself and two others had been captured by the Americans and Australians. He and his two men had managed by some amazing feat to reach the shores of the Mongolian-friendly Pitcairn Island, from which they were transported to Mongolia proper for treatment and recovery.

In a group of gold-clad Mongolian soldiers Beshu would have stood out starkly, being the only one in drab camouflage colors and utterly without badges. He was wearing a gray uniform which was militaristic but excellent camouflage, and a gray helmet, both of which were spattered with mud and grime. He'd not taken it off since he had put it on, and would not take it off until many years later.

They were now on the outskirts of St. Petersburg. Four other commando units were spread throughout Russia, many deep in the heart of the motherland. The other four squads were at Yakutsk, Tomsk, Nakhodka, and Kemerovo. They were very spread out and at very large urban centers. It would be important as a demonstration.

Beshu had a vague idea of what they were unleashing. He'd been told only as much as he needed to know. He had guessed at the rest. What he had guessed was thrilling, though terrifying.

"Let's move out to the pickup point," he whispered when the last of his people arrived.

They stealthily began to navigate their way from the woodland surrounding the city to the Onega River. They made it by dawn, just in time to meet the tiny submarine which was waiting for them. It poked downstream until the commandos were safely in Eastern Bloc territory to wait to be sent home.

The next day, when it had been confirmed that each of the five items had been set, a master transmission was sent. Five pillars of flame rose for kilometers in the air over Holy Russia.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 57, Part 1

"We must strike back against the Russians!" Igoumensita said, slamming his fist down onto the table, "If only to show them that they shall never be victorious."

"How would you propose we strike back against Russia, Dimitri?" asked Bleda Khan who was brooding and laconic.

The Greek stopped for the first time in his rage to think. They were all seated around a lavish table, far different from what Igoumensita was used to in the field of battle. Jagatai and Bleda Khan were there. Jagatai seemed to be interested only to know what the plans would be so that he could implement them, rather than to actually take part in the decision making process. Bleda Khan was being very thoughtful. Metzger was not seated, he was walking around the room looking at various pieces of art and sculpture. He had said nothing so far, and it was beginning to grate on Igoumensita’s nerves.

"I would suggest an invasion of Russia from two fronts. I can correlate an attack with Marshal Jagatai. Mongolia from the south and the Eastern Bloc from the west. Is it possible, marshal?"

Jagatai looked up and said, "Certainly it's possible. I can begin work on the plans instantly."

The Mongolian marshal began to scrawl on a map of Russia immediately.

"We'll complete the invasion of Russia once and for all. We'll throw everything we've got into it. I'll stop concentrating on Western Europe and start pouring all of my troops into the Russian front. We can ask the Africans for help. We'll slaughter Russia, and show them not to toy with the Coalition. The invasion will be spectacular."

"Do not assume something will occur when it has not yet."

Igoumensita looked up at Metzger, who had spoken for the first time.

"You have something to say, marshal?" he asked testily.

"Yes," said Metzger turning to face his rival, "And I just said it."

"Are you suggesting that we can't invade Russia?"

"I'm suggesting nothing. I'm stating the simple, incontrovertible truth that in war nothing is certain and all things are a gamble. Unless you've heard some brilliant prediction from an oracle."

Igoumensita waved off Metzger's words as though they had no basis in anything, and completely ignored his final insult.

"We've been dividing our forces thus far. If we all concentrate on Russia suddenly and swiftly, we can take the country by storm."

"The same thing has been said many times before by many generals greater than you, Igoumensita. And Russia has yet to be taken."

The Greek leapt up and flung Metzger against the wall. Then, drawing the Sword of the Sun, he held it's blade to the German's neck.

"You little Boche shit!" he exclaimed, "You've done nothing in this war! Not a god damned thing! And you propose to preach to me about military strategy? I've taken Germany, harrowed Russia, I rule the European seas, and I've sent troops to my allies all around the world. You? You've done nothing but sit in Washington and act pompous!"

"Perhaps you'd rather have the Americans down your throat and up your ass," hissed the Butcher of Bavaria with calm, cold, malevolence.

Igoumensita began to raise his sword slightly as though he were about to try something.

"Stop it, both of you," said Bleda Khan silently but forcefully, "You're acting like children. Dimitri, don't forget that Lars has almost single handedly toppled the American government and kept them out of both of our hair, not to mention the fact that he forged the Coalition. And Lars, it's true that you really have done little to support your allies, and it's natural that they'd be sore when you begin acting arrogant. Now both of you sit down!"

The two generals, as though mesmerized, sat down at the elaborately carved table. With a gesture from his emperor, Marshal Jagatai stopped his preliminary planning for an assault into Russia.

"I've been considering carefully, and I've developed a plan on how to deal with these precocious Russians. After invading China and parts of Russia, my troops discovered something interesting. Five interesting things, actually."

"Sir," began Jagatai, quite startled, "You can't mean..."

"Yes, marshal," said the emperor of Mongolia, "That is precisely what I mean."

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 56, Part 2

"That's your proposition?" the Colombian asked.

The American nodded. He was huge and imposing, and right now El Nariz felt very very small and terrified. El Nariz had always been very paranoid. It was just the way you had to be if you were a spy. Now that he had been discovered that paranoia was beginning to affect him. He felt as though he spent only about half the time in reality, and the other half walking around and scaring himself with figments of his own imagination. He had a lurking and terrifying fear that he was beginning to go insane. He'd lost it ever since he'd been found out.

"You want me to turn on my own people?"

The American snorted.

"The Claw is hardly your own people, Nariz."

The Americans had still not managed to find out El Nariz's real name. He'd been very staunch in not revealing it, and there were no records that contained it which the Americans had access to. He wondered if, with the way his mind was beginning to slip away from him, he might forget it himself. That, he knew, would be the sign that he was finally and totally mad.

"You want me to infiltrate Washington, take an AS gun in my hand, and kill Lars Metzger?"

"It's hardly worthy of the name subterfuge, Nariz. All you have to do is walk in there. The Claw is admitting anyone who can get through the sieging Germans. Just swim up the Potomac, and ask to join The Claw. They can check your records and see you're a loyal coalie. Once they do, put a bullet in the Butcher's brain."

El Nariz screwed his face up into a scowl. His backbone was beginning to return.

"If it's as easy as you say, why do you need me? Why not send one of your own men?"

"Because The Claw is very thorough. They'll know anyone we send is a fake. We've lost dozens of agents that way. With a known coalie spy such as yourself, their background check will, excuse the pun, check out."

"And it's this or the firing squad?"

The American nodded.

"Of course, you could just go native once you get there. That's why we're willing to offer you ten million dollars and amnesty, as an incentive for actually completing the task."

"I guess I hardly have a choice then, do I?"

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 56, Part 1

El Nariz walked into the American's headquarters, a large tent which had been erected for the occasion. He snapped to attention, and laughed inwardly at how stupid the Americans looked in their uniforms with all of their military pomp and circumstance.

King was sitting at a desk, and El Nariz was standing just slightly in front of him.

"Have you forgotten how to report, captain?" demanded the new brigadier general.

"Captain Joseph Hecht, reporting as ordered, sir!" he spat out in the best English he could muster, which was actually very convincing, even to natives.

"I need to speak to you, Captain Hecht," said King.

The American looked fatigued. El Nariz had never seen a soldier who looked quite that bad. Of course, being almost completely personally responsible for the loss of an important and expensive scanner station would ruin any man or woman.

He'd been thinking so hard he missed the last thing King had said.

"Excuse me, general?"

"I said, 'Or should I say El Nariz'."

Suddenly icy cold fear gripped El Nariz. He willed his face not to grow pale or green, but he knew it would. His eyes were no doubt gaping as well. The Colombian put as much willpower as he could into stifling the physical response to this terrifying piece of news. King knew who he was. If he didn't act guilty, perhaps he could convince the man otherwise, and then disappear at the next opportunity, and return back to Colombia. He had a lot of money coming to him.

"Pardon me, sir?" he said as calmly as he could.

King was standing by now, and slowly rounding the desk.

"It seemed impossible to me," King said, "That the coalies could possibly have known about our train shipment or our scanning station. They were both very closely guarded, and completely secured. So, I thought about how many people actually knew about it, and how there could have been a security leak.

"There were very few people who knew. The train crew and engineer had been paid well so that they would not speak, and in fact none of them knew where their cargo was going. Some of our highest generals knew, but I would trust in their honesty because that's my job. So, who else knew?

"I did. I had to guard the shipment. Of course, I couldn't let every soldier in my brigade know, but I did tell my staff."

The general had fully rounded the desk and now suddenly shoved El Nariz backwards into a chair. He closed in on the Colombian man, and pulled his pistol. El Nariz actually had been considering making a dash for it, but now he was pinned down.

"That's when it occurred to me that I didn't know my staff very well. I graduated from West Point with Lt. Colonel Baker, I trust him implicitly. I've fought with Major Waxler since the beginning of The Last War, I trust him too. I checked the backgrounds of Webster, Packard, Mannheim, and Page. A dozen generals I know and don't know gave me shining character studies on each of them. Then I came to you, 'Hecht'.

"No background. Faked computer records - and rather poorly faked, I might add. Forged signatures, a whole past that leads nowhere. I called your mother, Hecht, since your poor father died fighting bravely for his country back during the Cuban War. Seems your mother is actually the manager of a motor lodge, way up in Vermont. Certainly not a kindly old lady living in New Mexico."

El Nariz was sweating bullets. He looked around the tent as if something there would be able to help him. Suddenly King grabbed his chin and turned his face toward him. The general's face was turning red with rage. El Nariz felt the man's grip tighten around his chin as he grew angrier, nearly crushing his jaw.

"You lousy Colombian son of a bitch. There's not a corporal or a chief of staff in this army that's heard of a 'Joe Hecht'. But there are a lot of records for a weaselly little pint of shit spy called The Nose. Guess what? He looks dead on like you. You know what the penalty for being a spy is in America? Being set before a firing squad. Maybe you'll be hung if it's a lenient judge.


King fairly screamed the last. Two burly corporals came inside the tent.

"The captain is actually a coalition spy. Take him to the brig and keep him there until we can get word from on high as to what to do with this little prick. Now get him out of my sight."

King turned away from El Nariz in disgust, flinging his head away so that the man fell out of his chair. The two corporals grabbed him up and led him off.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 55

Mr. and Mrs. Kazakh,

It is my regretful duty to report to you that your son, Lieutenant Darbet Kazakh, has been killed serving Mongolia. He died valiantly in battle. A charge of Russian leapers killed him, along with many of his mates.

I’ve served with your son for a very long time, since the beginning of the Russian campaign. I was with him at Ulan-Ude, Irkutsk, and Lake Baikal. Your son fought like a true Manchurian at all of them. He was a brave and adept soldier. In fact, he had finally served his term. You may know that if he sent you a letter to that effect.

But, after all this time, Darbet was finally leaving the army. He, along with I and many others from the front, had to be sent back to Sühbaatar for our discharge papers and back pay. Darbet’s paperwork was being processed when the treacherous Russians crossed the border and attacked us at Sühbaatar.

Though Darbet was no longer technically in the Golden Army, he took up an AS gun and fought courageously with the rest of us. Sühbaatar is, as you know, a waystation, where military personnel are dispatched to the front. Machinery and weapons are dispatched from another point. (I apologize, security precludes me from saying where.) So, there were many men and women at Sühbaatar, on their way elsewhere, but very few weapons of war.

The Russians, on the other hand, attacked us with an almost entirely armored force. Tanks, leapers, motorcycle squads, and everything else they had. The Golden Army’s infantry can stand up to any other infantry, but I must say that against armor, even we are not effective.

I remember your son’s death very clearly. I was not merely his commander, we were close friends. I do not know whether I should tell you this, but I think it is my obligation to do so.

Russian tanks were pouring through the streets, attacking us from all sides. Many men tried to take positions in buildings, and fire down upon the tanks with heavy weaponry from above. They did little to the tanks, but a lot of motorcyclists were killed in that way. The motorcycle squads were swarming around behind the tanks in order to attack troops who had not been killed in the initial assault.

Many of us, like Darbet and I, still stayed in the streets to try to at least slow the Russian troops down. Many of us had grenade launchers (we found AS guns did little against the armor of the tanks). So often Darbet was charging forward to attack the tanks, I had to pull him back. Your son was nearly suicidal in his patriotism. I wouldn’t have him die on me though.

Bloodily, we were forced back inch by inch through the streets of Sühbaatar. We finally found a large group of reinforcements on the outskirts of the city, veterans returning from war and new recruits just leaving. We were ordered not to be pushed back any farther, to make a stand right there. We managed to hold the Russian tanks at bay, but suddenly leapers were falling into our midsts. The giant frog tanks came down, fired, then leapt away again. One of the leapers fell down on top of Darbet. When the retreat was finally ordered, I made certain to carry your son’s remains with me, so he could be buried properly. I’m very sorry, but it was the best I could do.

You have my deepest condolences, and I wish I could offer some words of cheer. I can not, except to say that your son was a true warrior, and fought for our cause like few other men have. I will see to it that Darbet is awarded the Emperor’s Medal posthumously. He certainly deserved it.

In Deepest Sorrow,
Colonel Bura Karakoram, 76th Mongolian Heavy Infantry

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 54, Part 2

Frost awoke quite suddenly. He was battered, bleeding, badly hurt. He tested himself to see the limits of his movement, and he found it was unlimited, aside from the sore aching pain.

The colonel looked to his right, where he saw Snaro in a bed, resting uncomfortably. He wondered suddenly about that. The Mexicans had only ever given the prisoners wooden slats with minimal cushioning before. Then his eyes fell to rest on a red cross on a background of white. They were in a hospital.

He was in his underwear, but his uniform was sitting on a chair nearby. He slowly sunk out of the bed and put the uniform on. It had long since grown tattered and threadbare.

No one else was in the room. He and Snaro were completely alone. He looked out the window. His heart began to pound furiously in excitement. There were no fences and only one guard. Only prisoners who were too badly wounded to escape were sent to the hospital - or so the Mexicans thought. Frost could make it. And Snaro could if he was conscious, Frost reluctantly thought.

He ran over and began furiously shaking his comrade.

"Snaro! Snaro, wake up!" he hissed.

The lieutenant woke blearily up and looked at Frost.


"Yes! Come on, this is our only chance to escape!"

"Where will we go?"

"It doesn't matter. We've just got to get out of here. Can you walk?"

"Yeah, I think so."

Larry got out of bed and groaned in pain. He slowly, deliberately began to put on his uniform.

"Come on, hurry!" Frost insisted.

Snaro soon finished and they were headed toward the door, when the younger man stopped himself and his superior.


"What is it?"

Snaro grabbed up a syringe and a bottle of liquid.

"Anesthesia. We may need it to knock out any Mexicans."

"Good thinking. Come on!"

They both snuck carefully out into the corridor, but seeing that no one was there, they made a dash for the nearest door. In the Juala Prison Camp Hospital, there was only one floor, and so no stairs to go down.

Outside, Snaro nearly ran over a Mexican doctor, who nearly let out a scream before Frost put his hand over the man's mouth. Snaro injected him, and then let him slip to the ground.

"Let's go," whispered the lieutenant.

They stealthily walked up behind the guard. Snaro jammed the syringe into the man's neck, and he fell to the ground almost instantly, but his gun went off as he fell. A stream of shotgun shells went off into nowhere.

"They're bound to have heard that. They'll be coming. We've got to head out now, and quickly," said the lieutenant colonel.

They both ran off as fast as they possibly could, into the desert. They got only two or three miles before Snaro collapsed of dehydration and sunstroke again.

Frost got down on his haunches and turned Snaro's head.

"Larry, can you hear me?"

The second lieutenant nodded.

"You're not going to die. Do you hear me? You won't die."

Snaro nodded.

"I know," he coughed out, "I've never been worried about dying from the heat. I know I won't. I've never been worried about being killed by a bullet. That's why I've never been afraid around bullets. Guns are the bane of other men, not me. I know exactly how I will die, I just don't know when it'll happen."

Snaro pointed at his jugular vein on his neck.

"Right there. My neck. When I die, it'll be because my neck is sliced open, right there. I've felt it, all clammy like the pallor of death. That's how I'll die. The only man I fear is one with a knife coming at me."

With that, he fell unconscious again. Frost stood up. He felt about ready to go out cold himself. The sun was making the air seem hazy from the heat. Off in the distance...was it metal, glinting in the sun?

He turned his eyes away. There was something out there. He could almost hear the sound of engines revving and troops marching. The metal of the tanks were burning his eyes. He waved his arms wildly, in a perversion of semaphore, just to get their attention, if they were there. Maybe it was just a mirage. Just a mirage...

He collapsed on top of Snaro's body. Two minutes later the American army came onto their position.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 54, Part 1

The sun beat down on the desert sand, making the sand unbearable even to lay a shod foot on, let alone a shoeless one. Water could not be seen for miles, and the cool refreshment of night was hours off. All around were big rocks. The big rocks were to be smashed into small rocks, which were to be ground into gravel, which was to be fed into a cement mixer to make concrete. That was the task of the prisoners.

John Frost and Larry Snaro were assigned to haul buckets of gravel and dump them into the cement mixers. They were chained together, as per the buddy system which the P.O.W. camp used.

General Oso had been just about ready to kill them when he captured them outside Juala. They were the only Americans to survive the bombing run. Eventually he calmed down, and sent them off to the Juala P.O.W. Camp. Once there they were poorly fed, given almost no time to sleep, and worked almost to death.

They had plotted escape on more than one occasion. Each time, though, someone beat them to it. And that someone was captured and tortured. It was enough to deter the colonel and the lieutenant from actually trying anything.

The men and women assigned to grind small rocks into gravel dumped their labor into four buckets amongst many. Those four buckets were the only ones that mattered to Snaro and Frost, though. They each grabbed two and headed off toward the cement mixer.

"It's too damn hot," complained Snaro.

"Stop whining," snapped Frost, "I know it's hot. We all know how hot it is!"

"Oh, screw you," said Snaro.

"Bite me."

They trudged on. Suddenly, Snaro fell to the sand, spilling both of his buckets. He nearly pulled Frost down, too, with his chain. Frost struggled to pull Snaro back to his feet with the chain.

"Get up you lazy shit! Get up!"

Frost finally managed to pull Snaro to his feet.

"I can't go any further," Snaro coughed out.

He was bright red like an apple. He clearly had sunstroke.

"I don't care! We have to keep moving!"

Frost dropped his buckets of sand and pulled Snaro a few paces further along.

"Don't make me kill you, Snaro," warned the colonel.

"Same way you killed everyone else?"

Frost slugged Snaro right across the jaw. The junior officer fell to the ground. Frost tugged him back up with the chain and then hit him to the ground again. He leapt on top of him and began to beat him across the face. Snaro reached up and grabbed his commander around the throat, trying to choke him to death.

The colonel slapped the lieutenant's hands away. He continued to pummel him. Snaro's hands groped for something. They reached a rock and grabbed it full on. He dealt Frost a blow right in the temple as hard as he could. He fell off of him, bleeding from the head. They both fell unconscious.
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