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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."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 20, Part 1

"Hello, this is Aubrey Dansworth here at Bayonne, France. I am here today to find out how the British troops are doing here on the front. Excuse me, captain, could I speak to you for a moment?"

Dansworth pointed at a British captain. He walked over to the reporter.

"Who are you?" the officer asked abruptly.

"Aubrey Dansworth, GRTH. And you, sir?"

"Captain Richard Arrington. They usually call me 'The Animal', though."

"Good morning, captain, and how are you?"

The Animal looked nervously at the holo-camera. He had never been on holonet before, much less GRTH.

"Ah, I am fine."

Dansworth, the veteran newscaster, nodded knowingly. He seemed cool, calm, and collected before the camera. He had a kind of calm, rock-like manner. Dansworth was attractive enough to be in broadcasting, but was hardly an Adonis. He was not soldierly at all, and may as well have worn a sign that said "civilian". He stood starkly out in a battlefield such as this.

"How are things going militarily here in France?"

"Well, that really is the only way they are going, militarily that is," he laughed nervously at his own joke then continued, "Ah, I suppose it is more trying on the French people then it is on the British, but we are all working together here. Spain has been attacking the border for several days now, but they have not been able to break through."

"Would you really consider that a success, captain? I mean, the Spanish Army is hardly powerful. With three large standing armies like France, Britain, and Germany, is holding back Spain a real problem?"

Arrington was sweating. No, suddenly he was angry.

"Look, Mr. Dansworth, you really don't know what it is like out here. Everyone back home says, 'Oh, it’s just Spain'. But it’s not. Spain is getting support from Igoumensita, Mongolia, and most of Africa. Morocco is a key jumping point for Coalition troops to enter Spain. And frankly, the Spanish army is not nearly as weak as we thought it would be. They have got excellent morale and they fight like wolves."

"Well, I could not agree with you more, Captain Arrington."

The Animal nodded.

"Thank you, thank you very much."

Richard Arrington was definitely a soldier. He had a solid disrepect for authority, a defensive nature, and a deep and unfounded aggression towards everything. As a hunter in his earlier years he had killed many small animals and creatures, and it had seemed a logical next step to enter the military. He always looked a bit nervous, more like he was worried about how his plans would work than actually creating a plan. He had kind of dirty blond hair (which complemented his dirty hands, his dirty clothes, and his dirty mouth) and seemed just slightly too small for his uniform.

"Do you think the Spanish are showing any signs of breaking through anytime soon?" asked Dansworth.

"Well, to be honest, I think the coalies are starting to mass just across the border. Bayonne might just turn into a battleground any minute."

Dansworth wasn't listening to Arrington. He was listening to his headset. He nodded.

"Ah, captain, I have just been informed that using the name of the place where we are may be a compromise to security. The network has been editing our usage of this name, but they ask that we could please refrain from it in the future."

"Oh, well, certainly."

"Now, captain, can you tell us anything about the new weapons and vehicles being used here at the Franco-Spanish border?”

Arrington replied, “Well, the biggest advent is the leaper. Do you know what a leaper is, Mr. Dansworth?”

“One of those medieval fellows with the arms falling off and all?”

“No, not a leper, you jackass, a leaper. It’s like a large metal frog. Leapers jump into battle, fire a little, then jump out. I have seen them be very effective. And, of course, we are all using AS guns now. Automatic shotguns, that is.”

Dansworth was nodding, but he was listening to his headset again.

“Our ratings are dropping a little,” he whispered to the Animal, and then, to the camera, “Well, there you have it, straight from the front...”

A mortar dropped down into their midst, and blew up not far from Dansworth and Arrington. They were both flung to the ground, but neither was badly injured.

“Shit! What was that?”

“The coalies are attacking. Way ahead of schedule. I have got to get to my tank, Dansworth.”

“Certainly, certainly. Can we follow you?”

The question hung heavy in the air, like the smoke that was already billowing around. The Animal mulled over the question for a split second, then answered.

“Fine. Don’t get in the way!”

Arrington took off at a run, with no regards whatsoever for Dansworth or the camera crew. They came huffing and puffing after him and finally caught up as he hopped into the cupola of his tank.

“You can not both fit in. It is about as roomy as a sweatbox in here. You come in with the camera, Dansworth.”

Dansworth followed the Animal’s instructions and squeezed into the tank. The cameraman waved after the tank as a pulled away with a screech. There were four people inside, Arrington, Dansworth, a driver, and a gunner. It was very cramped, but all four of the crewmen got to their positions instantly. Arrington was standing up in the cupola, looking out. If he started getting shot at personally he’d use the periscope, but until then he needed a full view of the battle.


“Sir?” asked the gunner, Jones

“African tanks off to the right!” Arrington said.

“Sir!” replied the gunner in that peculiar British manner of leaving off “yes” when addressing a superior officer.

Jones then began firing.

“So, um...,” began Dansworth trepidaciously.

“Moon, steer twenty degrees right, give Jonesy a better chance!”

Dansworth hadn’t had much experience behind the camera in years. He was more used to looking good in front of it. He knew he was sending out shaky images of the interior of a tank, but his rating were boosting very high.

“So, uh, why do they call you “The Animal”, captain?”

Arrington looked down from his perch at him as though he were an idiot.

“Because I am an animal,” he said simply.

“Uh, how does all this equipment work, captain?”

Jones and Moon groaned. Arrington came down from his perch in the cupola.

"Guns, controls, motors, scanning equipment," he said, pointing at each in turn, "They work by a bunch of buttons and dials and levers that are so complicated they take years of training to learn, so I can not explain right this instant. Why do you not come up in the cupola with me and get a good shot of the battlefield?"

Dansworth followed Arrington up and out of what he had always thought of as a big manhole cover. He looked around with the camera, and saw tanks and men embroiled in combat.

"You get the best view up here," the Animal said, "On a clear day I can see for miles."

"Yes, it is very nice," Dansworth said absently, then, quietly to his camera, "Spaniards are all around us. You can see but a small fraction of the enemy troops from my limited view up here in this tank."

Some automatic shotgun fire exploded around them.

"Shit!" yelled Dansworth, and tried to dive back into the tank.

Arrington grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and pulled him back out, laughing.

"So we see how much of a backbone you have, Mr. Dansworth. It is just a little small arms fire. Not going to kill us up here."

Aubrey Dansworth nodded and shakingly put the camera back on his shoulder where he could broadcast the Battle of Bayonne live to the world. He circled the battlefield, and noticed a squad of Spaniards, charging at them and firing.

"Captain Arrington, look!"

The Animal looked in the direction Dansworth was pointing.

"Damn, they are going to try to board the tank. Get back in there. I will watch with the periscope from here on out."

Arrington forcibly shoved Dansworth back into the tank, then climbed in himself, closing the cupola lid behind himself. He pulled down a periscope from the ceiling of the tank and looked out. It was showing him a very limited view of the fighting.

"Jonesy, on the left. You see it? Load the seeker and hit it."

Jones hit a button that loaded a special heat seeking missile into the main turret. They were very high in demand, and so every tank only had about three at any given time.

"We got it!" yelled Jones.

Arrington, Moon, and Jones gave up a loud cheer. Dansworth tentatively chimed in a few seconds after the soldiers were finished.

"Well, there you have it," he began to say to the camera, but, realizing he was holding the camera, immediately stopped.

He set the camera down on it's tripod in the tiny speck of spare room left in the tank. He looked into the camera and began speaking.

"There you have it folks, our brave fighting men have just won a small victory here in the countryside of western France. One less tank to plague our soldiers, one less tank to..."

But before Dansworth had even begun his speech, there came a shout from the gunnery chair.

"Moon is down!"

Dansworth looked at the steering wheel. The soldier who had been there a moment ago was lying dead on the floor, still bleeding even as rigor mortis set in. Dansworth had suddenly noticed that the tank had stopped moving. Arrington leapt immediately on the problem.

"We are sitting ducks if we just stand here all day. Dansworth, you take the driver's seat. I've still got to command."

"What? I, I don't know how to drive a tank," he protested.

"Know how to drive a car? Just about the same thing."

Arrington thrust Dansworth into the driver's seat.

"But," he said weakly, "What about the camera?"

"It is on a tripod. It will capture all of your glory. Now do exactly what I say. Turn left."

Arrington popped the hatch open again, and began calling orders down from his vantage point of the battle. Dansworth followed his orders to the letter, knowing everything he was doing was being broadcast world wide.

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