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."

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 73, Part 3

Brigadier General Paul King had never been to Germany before. It was a very majestic country even after had been raped by war. He imagined it would be breathtaking in peace time.

Unfortunately he had little time to take in the scenery or speak to the people or see the sites. He was here on business, and his business was war.

The Alliance had an important policy of giving glory where it belonged to avoid friction between the Allies. In America the Allies had stepped aside to let the Americans beat the Canadians and the Mexicans just as the Americans had stood aside to let the Germans retake Washington. Similarly, none of the Allies had entered Germany before Olensheim had retaken it, so that it could be seen that Germany needed no help but the token assistance England gave.

Now that Germany was securely Deutsch again, the allies had entered to prepare an attack on the Eastern Bloc. Many Americans, Australians, Britons, and Frenchmen had been sent to Russia as well to aid the assault from the other direction. (Brazil was still trying to fight off the Colombian invaders with partisan tactics and so was unable to render much foreign assistance.) King, however, had ended up here on the German side of the Eastern border.

Most of his troops had been allowed their discharges after the taking of Mexico City. Some of the old ones were still there, but he had almost an entirely new command. Most of the junior officers didn't even know him.

One day a young lieutenant walked into King's tent. She saw a man with private's stripes sitting in a chair and relaxing. He was smoking a cigarette.

"Is the general in?" she asked

"Sorry, he's having a smoke. Care for one?"

The man held out a pack of cigarettes with one sticking out. The lieutenant suddenly realized it was King. She snapped to attention.

"I'm sorry, General King, I didn't realize..."

"Oh, forget it, forget it," King waved it off, "I'm trying to look unimposing. Why are you here, lieutenant?"

"I was sent to tell the general that the senior officers are assembled for your briefing."

"Oh, good," he said, standing up, then looked at her for a moment, "Is something troubling you, lieutenant?"

"General, your overcoat hasn't got any stars on it."

"Well, it would only have one star to begin with. I'm not wearing any, though. I can't risk Eastern snipers with telescopic lenses popping me in the head because they see I'm a commander. I've got to look like any other man."

"I've learned that troops don't take kindly to orders from men without insignia."

"I know," King said, "My helmet's got a light green star on a dark green background. Snipers won't see it but the troops will know. Do I look like a regular bastard?"

The younger officer looked at the brigadier. He had never believed in the spit and polish techniques of most officers, but he looked particularly filthy today. His red hair was unkempt, his face was unshaved, and he was covered with dirt.

"With all due respect, you look like a mess, general."


King left his tent for the officer's meeting and began speaking before he had even taken a seat.

"I've just received word," he said to his senior officers, "We're moving out today, at 0200."

"That's not enough time to mobilize," one captain pointed out.

"Well, that's what the Easterners think. We've got to prove them wrong. This whole operation has got to be done on a completely different time schedule then we're used to. We've got to synchronize everything with the Polish partisans. No one can sleep until we've reached Athens."

All the officers glared. If they had been of lesser rank they would have groaned, but one did not groan in front of a general.

"The Polish aren't our only concern, either. We've got to keep our Russian friends in mind, too. They can't divert their forces from Mongolia for long before the Imps catch wind of it and push forward, then the Russians will have to go defend from that.

"This has got to be a swift and instantaneous maneuver. We've got to slice through the Eastern Bloc before the Russians have to leave. Speed is of the essence, ladies and gentlemen. I've wasted enough of your time already. Remember, 2:00 on the dot. Dismissed."

King sighed after the others had left.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 73, Part 2

"General Igoumensita..."

"Stop," the Greek said, "I know what you're going to say."

Igoumensita was standing now before a group of governmental leaders. They were representatives of all the nations in the Eastern Bloc. They were all ugly men and women in business suits and they were all scowling. Their spokesman, a Bulgarian, had just addressed Igoumensita before the other cut him off.

"You're going to say," Igoumensita continued, "That I had no right to pull our troops out of Germany. Then you're going to say that I should have held the occupied country at all costs, even unacceptable ones. Then you will slowly realize that our forces are stretched thin on numerous fronts, and that the occupying forces of Germany were too scarce to hold it.

"After that you will decide that the fact we have weakened the German army, shattered it's government, and executed many of it's more prominent citizens is an acceptable retribution for the cost in men the invasion took. Then you will squabble for a long period before coming back and telling me that as the Supreme General of the Eastern Army, it is my prerogative to move troops wherever I like, and that I do not answer to any government leaders. Then you will discuss whether I should answer to government leaders before deciding that things are fine just the way they are now.

"Following that you will tell me that I made the right decision in pulling our forces out of an unnecessarily occupied country, the defense of which would only have been a pyrrhic victory, and that I should disperse the occupying forces amongst the other fronts as I see fit. Some of you will grumble and others will congratulate me. Then you will dismiss me and go back to your own petty little countries."

The governmental leaders looked around at each other. Some of them were scratching their heads.

"Good. Now that that is over, I'll get back to conducting this war against the entire rest of the world, which I have been doing rather competently to date."

Igoumensita left the room.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 73, Part 1

"Berlin," Olensheim said.

He had thought he'd never see the city again when he left it. Now here he was at the gates. He knew the charge through Germany had been far too easy. The Easterners had been retreating purposefully so that they would not be ruined. After the victory Olensheim had taken over one of Igoumensita's second stringers, a Pantermalis, the Eastern Army had fled from the German re-invaders.

"General Olensheim, how can we siege a city without using artillery?" the English commander asked him.

Olensheim wished he had an answer. It was a difficult question.

"I wish I knew," he said, "The Easterners had just retreated up to this point. I assumed they would continue. I had hoped we wouldn't have to kill innocent Germans by using siege equipment, but they're not budging from Berlin."

"If you want my opinion," which Olensheim didn't, but since he felt he owed the Briton for aiding him he listened anyway, "It's a ruse to let the whole army escape to safe territory. They're holding Berlin to distract our attention."

Olensheim nodded.

"I know," he said, "It's true. I want to tell you what the Easterners are doing, but you must understand this is classified information and is not to leave your mind."

"Yes, general."

"The Easterners have begun mass executions of our civilians. As long as they hold Berlin it will continue. If we don't take Berlin back there won't be a living person in the city within two weeks. They're forcing our hand. Of course it's a ploy to distract us, but we can hardly ignore it."

The Englishman sighed.

"We have to take the city then. We must shell it. You can't just send troops in without softening an objective up a bit."

"There would be so many civilian deaths. It would be a war crime - an atrocity. It's our own people we're killing if we shell it."

"Take some of their lives now to save most of their lives by driving the Easterners out."

"I know. It's an impossible problem. We have to send in troops without artillery."

"If that's your order I'll follow it, general, but you have to know it will cost the lives of countless numbers of our soldiers."

Olensheim nodded.

"It's my order."

The Briton saluted and left.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 72, Part 2

Fadla bint Tarriq looked around herself at Cairo.

"It's amazing the way they held out, supreme general," Qajar was saying.

Tarriq nodded. She had been busy herself with other parts of Egypt. She had delegated the task of taking Cairo to al-Xyz and Qajar, since their forces had been closer to the city. Other generals more interested in their own glory than winning would have waited and perhaps missed the window of opportunity. She had been wise in letting the other two take the city when the chance presented itself.

An Egyptian had appeared. He bowed to Fadla Tarriq. She did not return it.

"I want to thank you, madam general, for bringing my men water. We've been dying of dehydration and heatstroke. Less honorable warriors would have let us die."

"Do not thank me," Tarriq said, "I would have let you die, personally. The English, however, paid us a considerable amount to give you the water. You are Ras Qahira, are you not?"

"I am," the head of the Rhinos admitted.

"Moss, they call you. You certainly lived up to that in your defense of this city, as my generals tell me."

"Thank you. Do you have terms of surrender?"

"The English will deal with that. We are only holding the city until they get here to deal with you. We'll take our pay and go."

Qahira nodded.

"Good bye, then, madam general."

Tarriq nodded and walked on. Behind her Mossad al-Xyz strode stonily on, while Abd Qajar scampered around getting under the heels and demanding attention.

Ras Qahira marched bravely into history like a desert fox.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 72, Part 1

Ras Qahira's parched tongue sizzled like frying meat as he licked his lips. He didn't succeed in wetting them, only scratching them. His tongue felt like sandpaper.

"Sir," one of his colonels choked out, "We have to surrender. It's been days..."

It was closing on weeks now. A day in the desert without water was usually enough to kill a man. The Rhinos had had untainted reserves of the precious liquid, but it was all gone now. They'd gone three days without a drop. Many were dead.

"No orders," Qahira whispered through a chalky tongue.

He wasn't feeling quite so bad anymore. In his last state of delirium he had imagined he was moss on a rock. It wasn't really so bad. He found he didn't mind the nickname much anymore. He only wished he would be able to hear it again.

Some of the soldiers in their heat induced hysteria were filling their mouths with sand, dreaming it to be water. Qahira hadn't sunk quite that low yet.

"We've really held it, haven't we?" he said to no one in particular.

It didn't matter. He'd be dead soon.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 71, Part 4

"Battle positions!" a gruff Welsh sergeant called out.

Aubrey Dansworth set himself lying half in and half out of his trench, pointing his AS gun forward. He looked next to himself at the Irish veteran who had taken a shine to him. He tried to imitate the Irishman's experienced stance as best as he could.

"Bit different from driving a tank or racing lice, eh, Dansworth?" the veteran asked laughing.

"It is," Aubrey said, starting to sweat a little.

It was his first time in a regular ground battle. The Easterners were somewhere just outside of eyesight. It was very disturbing, and Aubrey could feel his nerves beginning to fray. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, Easterners came charging at the British defenses.

"Ambush!" the sergeant yelled.

Dansworth opened fire. The ground stank of mud, guts, and decay. The sky was filling with acrid fumes. It was a far cry from his glory days now long behind him with Richard Arrington.

The Welsh sergeant shook suddenly as though struck by palsied convulsions. He tumbled backwards into the trench as a mess of mangled and intertwined limbs.

"Bloody hell!" Aubrey exclaimed.

"We can't hold on for much longer. Move to one of the further trenches," the Irish veteran said.

Dansworth and the veteran risked their lives by showing their backs to the enemy to leap into an auxiliary trench. The Easterners were like voracious maggots swarming over a carcass. The bold English lines couldn't hold. Aubrey felt like he was trying to hang onto a tree branch but gravity was prying his fingers away from it. He kept falling further and further back.

"We can't go on like this," he said finally to the Irishman.

"What do you suggest we do?" the veteran, who had received a serious head wound, asked.

Perhaps he was foolhardy, or perhaps he was very courageous, but whatever the case was, Aubrey Dansworth leapt out of the trench and charged forward, firing his AS gun repeatedly. His comrades began swarming all around him, bolstering his spirits.

“Come on!” Dansworth yelled, “We can beat them back!”

The Britons were cheering and firing. Grenades flung from the fists of those who had them. The Eastern Army ground to a halt.

"Don't let up!" Dansworth yelled.

Instantly a single shell grazed his side. As though they had caught the scent of blood, a dozen more shells ripped through the Briton. He tried to take a step forward, but realized most of his leg was gone. He stared forward, then his eyes crossed of their own accord and he fell to his knees. He felt his side and drew his fingers painstakingly back up to his face to look at them.

“Blood,” he said weakly, his strength draining out with the vital red goo, “I’m bleeding. Medic!”

He yelled out the last as loud as he could with his last ounce of strength, then collapsed dead. Soon afterwards the Eastern invaders evacuated the island nation.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Close to a year ago, in mid-January, I made the decision to get published in 2009. At this point, that probably won't happen, but that's another story, and I don't regret it. But at that time I started canvassing everyone I knew, looking for an "in" with the publishing industry. One of my old high school classmates actually had a book published (there's a link to his website on the right - Leveraged Sellout.) Anyway he recommended building a platform, i.e. this blog.

I didn't think much of that advice at the time - in fact, I thought it was a shitty cop-out. Time, though, has made me realize it was the best advice I ever got, even if this blog never becomes a major platform. A funny thing happened while I was putting together my blog. I started to read other people's blogs. Turns out there's this whole community of writers, agents, publishers, all that jazz online. There's so much free, good advice out there it's almost hard not to become a better writer.

And just last week (and with incredible luck in timing, as it turns out) I stumbled across this little gem:

So, get this. You join this group and you write an entire (short) novel in November. 50,000 words between 12:01 am November 1st and 11:59 pm November 30. The onus is on you of course to do the work, but the motivation and the community of thousands rooting for you is out there.

So, I'm going to do it this year. That's right, 50,000 words in 30 days. I'm announcing this now for two reasons. First, because anyone that hasn't come across this contest yet has about a week to get their shit together if they want to participate. Second, because if you tell people about it, there's a lot more pressure to complete it.

So, since, as you know, The Last War is a completed manuscript that I am burning, updates will continue through November. However, I will be working my ass off on a new novel during that time, so Sunday updates may be a little lacking, or may consist of updates on the National Novel Writing Month contest. Wish me luck, and let me know if you, too are joining. My handle is Redleg over on that site, too.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 71, Part 3

"They're fanatics! Utter fanaticism!"

Igoumensita said nothing. He merely glared at his underling and put his overcoat on.

"We couldn't hold them. There was furious fighting. The air was filled with smoke and fire. The ground was covered with bodies."

The older Greek took out a cigar and lit it, placing it in his mouth. Pantermalis was turning red in the eyes. His excuses were coming out like water from a broken dam.

"The English were supporting them. I could have taken on the German army. It's the Limeys that turned the tide. Give me one more chance. Give me two or three more divisions and I'll plow them over."

"Can't spare anything," Igoumensita said finally, "All of our troops are engaged elsewhere. Polish partisans, the Ivans, the Africans. We're at war with two super powers now, Pantermalis. I haven't got a company to spare. Gremlins have gotten to the Eastern Army."

"Well, well, what can we do?"

"What can we do? We? We can demote you to lieutenant general. We can order the invasion of England to end. We will order all the troops in England to sail directly to the Baltic states. After that, we can take our box of cigars to our personal helicopter and head back to the Eastern Bloc.

“You, on the other hand, you can stay here and order the army back from all of Germany, going through Berlin. You can keep one half of a division and defend Berlin until the rest of the army escapes to safety. Then you can come to Eastern territory, if you are still alive. You are dismissed."

Igoumensita turned without saluting or receiving Pantermalis' salute, and left.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 71, Part 2

"Fantastic. We're off the beaches for two seconds and the Easterners are everywhere," Bruno Olensheim complained.

He looked at his scanner. He was surprised it was still working. The Easterners probably didn't bother to set up a large jamming system in occupied countries after they were taken. He tapped in orders for the British division to wheel from it's current position and support a line of Germans that was cracking. Suddenly his scanner began to blink with the message "NO SIGNAL".

"Damn. They've brought jammers here. I'll have to give orders the old fashioned way."

The scream of a rocket pierced the air. Olensheim dove from where he was standing to the ground. The flak exploded after contact with the point Olensheim had just left.

"Pure luck!" the German commander exclaimed, excited and surprised.

He got back to his feet and dusted himself off. The chancellor and so many other civilians had paid the harshest sacrifices for Germany. He was hell bent and determined to see that their deaths were not in vain, and that Germany would be free again.

Olensheim whispered, "Fatherland, we have returned."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 71, Part 1

“General Igoumensita?”

“Ah, good evening, Michaelis. How are you doing today?”

“I’m quite all right, sir. There is an important message.”

Igoumensita waved the other man off as though nothing was of any importance.

“The message can wait. Come, sit down. Have some pheasant. Have some pierogies. Wursts? Bread? Wine? Water?”

A sumptuous banquet that would have fed a small village for a week was laid out before Dimitri Igoumensita. There was a motley assortment of foods from all over the Eastern Bloc and Germany. Igoumensita was gorging himself as he tended to do, even in the heat of battle, when it was time for a meal.

“There are very few things that a general should be decadent about,” the Greek said, “But food is not one of them. We’re occupying a large country here, Michaelis. We should eat well.”

Pantermalis reluctantly sat down at the table, but did not lift a fork. He had a dour and urgent expression on his face. Igoumensita continued stuffing food in his mouth. He finally noticed the younger Greek was not eating.

"Eat, eat. Demons take those with empty bellies."

"We all know the way evil spirits turn the course of the war."

“Don't rule out the occult, but at the very least you know scientifically eating keeps your strength up. Oh, dammit, you can ruin anything, even a meal, can’t you, Pantermalis? All right, what is your urgent message?”

“The Germans have landed.”


“Almost their entire army survived the voyage here. We’ve gotten no word from Joniec’s fleet.”

“That idiot!” Igoumensita exclaimed, bringing his fist down to shatter his plate, “I should have known better than to trust that fool, let alone make him first admiral of the navy! Have him hung!”

“He was killed and most of the fleet was sunk.”

“Then dredge the floor of the sea and find his body. I want it hanging upside down in Athens so people can stone the corpse. Bastard!”

“Yes, sir,” said Pantermalis reluctantly, “But shouldn’t we be concentrating on beating back the invaders?”

“Invaders? Pantermalis, you forget, we’re the invaders. They can have Germany back if they want. I’ve got no sentimental attachment to this chunk of land. As long as their army and navy pay dearly for it, they can have it.”

“We’re not even going to fight?”

“Of course we’re going to fight! But we’re not going to be reluctant to retreat. Don’t mistake my words, though, Pantermalis, I’m not afraid of anyone. I don’t care if the Eastern Bloc has to take on the Boches, the Frogs, the Yankees, the Ivans, the Ozzies, and the Limeys all at once. I don’t care if we have to take on the Imps, the Spicks, the Canucks, the Chinks, or anyone else. I don’t fear Pollack saboteurs or Raghead mercenaries. The Eastern Bloc will take everyone on the planet down.

"Germany is not an important position to be held. It's only important to weaken the German army. If they attack us and we crush them instantly, fine, but if they attack us and we start losing more troops then it's worth, we're going to run the hell out of this country."

Pantermalis nodded.

"Send the army to meet them. You can handle command without me for a bit, can't you?"

"Yes, General Igoumensita."

"Good. Dismissed."

Pantermalis left. Dimitri Igoumensita took a bite of some roasted bird.

"Rather good. I'll have to find out it's name."

He continued to eat unperturbed.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 70, Parts 5 and 6

"Next grid!" Qahira called out impatiently.

After 8A, 6B, and 3F none of the Rhinos had called out another grid. He had to detonate something else before the mercenaries reached the governmental buildings.

"They're not moving!" someone called out.

"Not moving?" Qahira asked no one in particular, "What kind of a plan is that?"

Qahira had thought that mining the city he was defending was a rather ingenius plan. Attackers sitting around on their asses sounded like a stupid plan.

"All right, then start shooting at them. Don't engage the mercenaries directly, but start sniping at them."

The orders went down the chain of command.


"I've pulled all of our troops out, al-Xyz. If they move, more explosives go off and they die. If they sit there, they'll all get shot. I think this may call for a more Roman type of siege. Our engineers are poisoning the Nile and all their other water sources now. We've surrounded the city completely. They'll have to surrender sooner or later."

Al-Xyz nodded.

"Eventually. Their leader must be brilliant."

Qajar snorted.

"Egyptians are idiots. They might force us to keep out for a while, but they'll never hold us back."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 70, Part 3 and 4

"They're coming! All quiet in the streets!"

The buzz of chatter throughout the Egyptian city stopped almost instantly. Qahira was glad most of the populace had evacuated. It would have been trying on the nerves for vendors to be hawking in the middle of an invasion. Still, the Egyptian government ran out of Cairo. Important leaders were there despite the evacuation, making it key on the mercenaries' targets.

The governmental buildings were the only ones which were not gridded on Qahira's map. All the remaining citizens of Cairo were crowded into the governmental buildings. Only soldiers were in the streets. There was a very important reason for that.

"They're coming from the east!" someone whispered.


Qahira looked in that direction. It was insane for the mercenaries to come from the east. The sun was setting. Military convention held it that you always attacked with the sun at your back, so the enemy would be blinded looking at you. All of Qahira's defenders had been instructed to look out for them to come from the west.

"Damnation!" Qahira said.

He pulled his shaded goggles away from his eyes and let them rest above the brim of his hat. He wouldn't be needing them. It was very unsettling to be attacked from the east.

"Grid 8A!" someone yelled.

The yell was repeated several times. Ras judged his timing just right. If he was too early, he would catch some of his own men. If he was too late he wouldn't catch enough of the mercs. He went by intuition ans pushed the button marked 8A on his control panel at just the right instant.

A mushroom cloud of dust erupted into the sky.


"What the hell was that! A good bit of our force was taken out!"

Mossad al-Xyz looked through his field lenses at the smoldering crater in the ground.

"They blew up a block of Cairo."

Qajar looked through his own lenses.

"Bismillah, why? They've rigged their own city to detonate? They wait for us to enter a part of it and then blow it up? Won't that kill their own people?"

Al-Xyz didn't answer a single one of Qajar's questions. As he was speaking, the mercenaries entered another block of Cairo. It exploded into oblivion.

"We should wait in the blocks they've already blown up. They won't blow us up again if we don't move."

"Are you insane, al-Xyz? You can't conduct a siege without moving. Sure, they won't blow us up, but how will we kill any of them? They won't come to us."

"We'll wait."

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 70, Parts 1 & 2

The newly demoted Brigadier General Ras Qahira growled under his breath. Not only had he been demoted to brigadier but he was also back in defensive warfare. He knew that if he was ever just given the chance, he would be a monster on the offensive battlefield.

He had to deal with the defense of Cairo. The Rhinos were spread through the streets in good positions for guerilla urban warfare, as per his orders. At least they were on even terms with the mercenaries. The mercs had no greater weaponry than any of the Africans did.

"General Qahira, I've rigged the city as you ordered."

"Thank you, lieutenant," Qahira said.

He turned to Yutas. She handed him a panel which was similar to a keyboard, and a map. Each key was clearly marked with a grid coordinate, and the coordinates corresponded to the coordinates on the map. The map was the city of Cairo.

"You're a lifesaver, Yutas. I've already put you through for a promotion."

"Thank you, sir," she said, wiping the soot off her hands and onto her overalls.

Qahira decided not to shake hands. He saluted, and the younger officer returned it. She left. Ras crouched down and looked out toward where the mercenaries would be coming from.


"We have to determine where they expect us to be coming from, then come from a completely different direction. Don't you agree?"

Mossad al-Xyz said nothing.

"Dammit, al-Xyz," Abd Qajar said angrily, "Are you even listening to me?"

"I am," he grumbled.

"Then what do you think?"

"I think that you think too much. Or maybe you act without thinking enough that it looks like you think a lot."

"I'm talking about the invasion of Cairo, al-Xyz! What direction should we attack from? And frankly, I'm getting tired of your stony, deaf, dumb, and blind attitude in the middle of a campaign."

Al-Xyz looked down at the map. He pointed with one of his sausage-like fingers at a point on the map.

"There," he said simply.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Hobo With a Shotgun

Lacking anything original to show you this week, I thought you all might enjoy this. And if you don't enjoy, wow, what the hell is wrong with you?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 69, Parts 19-24

"Shall we break off, sir?"

"No, I won't even give that Norwegian the satisfaction. Let him duck out of the way like a little child. I'll stay respectable looking to the end."

The submarine continued forward.

"He's not flinching sir."

Joniec nodded.

"We've got to break off!"

Joniec clenched and loosened his fist a few times. Lauritz was showing no signs of slowing down.

"First Admiral, give the order to break off!"

The man suddenly realized Lauritz had no intention of breaking off the attack.

"He's suicidal," Joniec whispered, then yelling, "Move out of the way! Break off the attack run! Move out of the way!"

But it was too late. As the Eastern sub began slowly to turn, the Norwegian sub slammed into it full force. If Joniec hadn't chickened out at the last moment both submarines would have been destroyed by a head on collision. As it was Lauritz managed to cut a huge hole in Joniec's hole and slid over top of the sub, sustaining little damage to the Olaf V.


"Are you insane, Lauritz? Or just suicidal?"

Joniec sounded distressed to say the least. Yost drew his lips up into a malevolent smile.

"Probably both, but what do you care? You want me dead. At least you did seven years ago," then he turned away from the radio and yelled to his crew, "Turn around for another ramming pass at him. Would you care to do it again, Joniec? Maybe if you don't move you won't look like a coward this time."

"Lauritz, you are pathetic little man. You're seeking revenge on me and I don't even remember who you are. What do you think you're proving?"

"Proving? I'm proving nothing. I'm just going to kill you. I told you that already."


"Sir, we've had a sighting."

"A sighting? What do you mean?"

"The men have all heard rumors about a ghost ship, an impossibly big carrier that's been winning the war for us. One of the men thinks he saw it, and all the scanners and radar are going insane."

Bruno Olensheim took a pair of binoculars from around his neck and looked out.

"I don't see anything."

"That's why they call it the ghost ship."


Olensheim was cut off by a huge explosion in the water. Pieces of submarine were churning upward.

"One of ours?"

"No, that was Eastern."

"Where did the shot come from?"

"I don't know. Nowhere, apparently."

"The ghost ship," Olensheim whispered.


"The bastard," Joniec said, wiping away tears.

"We're taking on water, First Admiral. We've suffered heavy damage. The Norwegians are coming around to ram us again."

"Bastards," Joniec said again, weeping pathetically.

"First Admiral, what are your orders?"

"Get out of the way! Run away from them! Do you want to die?"

With animosity mounting towards mutiny the crew turned the tail of the submarine and ran.


"They're running, Captain Lauritz."

The crew let up a cheer. Lauritz was all smiles, but he was not satiated.

"I'm not letting that craven monster get away. Try another salvo of torpedoes, and aim at the damaged parts of his sub."

"Yes, sir," the gunner said.

Yost looked out of a porthole and saw the missiles streaking toward the Eastern submarine which was speeding hastily away. The torpedoes struck again and again, and in a few moments the enemy sub was a large underwater inferno.

"That's it," Yost breathed, "My quest is over."

The Olaf V shook suddenly.

"Not quite over. I almost forgot there's still a fleet out there."


"Where is it all coming from?"

Olensheim was looking around the sky in utter puzzlement. Missiles, depth charges, and mines were raining down upon the Eastern fleet, but Olensheim had no idea where it was all coming from.

"General," a yeoman called out, "The captain thinks you should hear this."

Olensheim footed it to the bridge. The captain of the ship was standing by the radio receiver listening in joy to a message.

"The ghost ship?" Olensheim asked.

The captain was nodding gleefully. The radio message had already begun.

"...Vice Admiral Gus Waber of the Australian ship Leviathan. This message is to inform our German allies that we are here to aid you, though you can not see us right now. We are a very powerful ship and we want all the German ships that can to break away from this battle and head to the German shores. We can hold back the Eastern fleet from here. Take back your country!"

The Germans were cheering at their salvation, though they didn't understand it or know where it was. The fleet began to move towards the shores of Germany, leaving the exploding Eastern ships behind.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 69, Parts 10-18

"You bastard," Lauritz whispered under his breath, "Fire another salvo!"

A fusillade of torpedoes streaked through the water in a predatory arc towards Joniec's ship. Only a few hit the mark. Others veered into other Eastern ships, causing damage that Lauritz did not care about.

"Turn off the heat seekers on all torpedoes!" Yost demanded.

"But sir, without a tracking system they'll never hit."

"With a tracking system they'll keep hitting other ships. Take off the heat seekers and aim right at Joniec. Ram a few down right down his throat."


"We need help. Send out a distress signal to every friendly navy ship you can reach," said General Bruno Olensheim.

"It's already been done sir. Unless we can hold off the Easterners for quite a while it shouldn't do any good."

"Scheisse," the German said.


"One transport sunk."

"Only one?" screamed Joniec.

"They're big suckers, sir," the Bulgarian said as though Joniec should have known that, which he should have, "Thirteen destroyers sunk, seven battleships sunk, eight frigates..."

Joniec wasn't listening. They were sinking all the defenders, but none of what was being defended. What good was it to have sunk armed ships if the troops still got through?


Captain Yost Lauritz tapped his fingers anxiously against his side. He was growing very agitated.

“I can’t take this any more. Get me a line to Joniec’s sub.”

The communications officer handed Yost the radio transmitter. He clicked it on and spoke into it.

“This is the Norwegian submarine Olaf V to First Admiral Johann Joniec. Do you hear me Joniec? I’ve come here to face you, and I’m tired of sitting here. Answer me!”

The radio crackled slightly.

“Who is this?” came the Ukrainian’s voice in poor Norwegian.


"You have to evacuate, sir."

"There's still time," Olensheim said, "I'll wait for the last troops."

"We can't save any more, sir. Once this ship goes under it's going to make a tiny little whirlpool that's going to suck every lifeboat within a kilometer down with it. You've got no more time."


Olensheim stepped reluctantly onto the lifeboat and it rowed away just as the transport ship was sucked under the waves with many hundreds of troops still trapped inside.


“Captain Yost Lauritz!” the Norwegian said.

Joniec looked around at his crew. Most of them shrugged. Some didn’t do anything at all.

“I’ve never heard of you before, Lauritz. You’ve got a vendetta against me? Why?”

“Do you remember a ship called the Hakon from your days as a lowly captain?”

Joniec smiled as the memory dawned on him.

“You fished up quite a haul of gold, as I recall.”

“It was taken illegally. I’ve got nothing against a fair fight, but you...”

“Oh, spare me, captain!” Joniec cut off the Norwegian sharply, “We had a slight gold shortage in the Eastern Bloc at the time. We were on the road to war. When you are preparing to take over the world certain unsavory things have to be done.”

“Like killing innocents?”


“I’m going to kill you, Joniec.”

“Fine,” the Ukrainian replied, “Then come and kill me. I’ll be ready for you.”

Joniec made a slicing motion across his neck with his finger, and the transmission was immediately stopped by one of the crewmen.

“Turn the sub. Point us toward that Norwegian one. Full speed ahead.”


“They’re coming towards us, captain,” the young sailor said anxiously, “What should we do?”

“Match them knot for knot. Head straight towards them.”

“That’s insane! Or foolhardy."

"Do it. Leave if you want. Only an old fool like me deserves to be foolhardy."

The sailor nodded. He laid in a course for Joniec's submarine.


With a resounding plunk and a splash, another German frigate went to Davy Jones' locker. Olensheim was dismayed.

"I hope the admirals can handle this. An old grunt like me shouldn't even be out on the water."

A chill wind was blowing through the air. Olensheim's lifeboat was continuing to rock and buck towards a safer troop transport.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 69, Part 4-9

"Subs. Lots of them."


"Almost doubtlessly."

"Finally!" Yost Lauritz exclaimed, "A chance to get my revenge! Tell everyone who doesn't absolutely need to be here to get off the ship. I want nothing but a skeleton crew."

"Is that wise going into battle, sir?"

"No, but I'd rather not have their blood on my hands."

"You think we're going to be defeated that badly, sir?"

"No, as a matter of fact I think we will have an astounding victory, but I'm not going to give up today, so either Joniec or myself are going to die in this battle, and I don't want people to die who don't have to if Joniec blows up the Olaf V."


"There's a troop transport in my sights, first admiral."

"Excellent. Fire the first torpedo," replied Joniec.


"We've been hit!"

"Verdammnis," whispered Olensheim, "We're ruined."


"I've got Joniec! The flagship always fires first in the Eastern navy!"

"A damn stupid thing to do on their part, but I'm quite happy about it. Are all the nonessential crew gone?"

"Yes, sir,"

"Good. Close in on the bastard," spat Yost Lauritz.


"We're being attacked," said the scanning officer in contemptuous disbelief.

"What kind of an idiot would attack the flagship first? It's always the best in the fleet, and least likely to be damaged," wondered Joniec loudly.

"An idiot who is out for blood."


"You heard me! Get every soldier off this ship and onto another one," Olensheim yelled.

"Sir, that's insane! We can't move troops around in the middle of a naval conflict!"

"Well, we're going to! I don't want a single German soldier to die before we reach the German mainland."

"And the sailors?"

"That's up to them."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 69, Parts 2 and 3

The commander of the Eastern Navy was currently in his flagship, a submarine which he had commanded since he had been a captain. The fleet, which was composed mostly of subs, was spread out all around him. They were waiting and hungering voraciously like sharks.

"First Admiral Joniec?"

He turned around.

"We've declared our independence from the Coalition. General Igoumensita just sent this."

The aide handed Joniec a communiqué. Joniec read it and threw it down to the deck of the sub furiously.

"Am I the last to know everything? I'm supposed to be sitting on Igoumensita's left side. I am the commander of the Eastern navy, may he contract cholera!

"Oh," he said more slyly, "I know what it is. It's because of Poland, isn't it? This damn rabble I’m supposed to suppress have brought down my reputation. Damnation!"

His diatribe was interrupted by a scanning officer.

"Admiral, we have a large number of ships approaching!"

Joniec came over and slapped the woman with his swagger stick.

"It's first admiral. This had better not be another damned fishing fleet."

"No, sir," she said, "They are definitely military. I'm trying to figure out now whether they are Coalition or Alliance."

"It doesn't matter. I've got orders now to fire on either side. You! Prepare the torpedoes, and order the fleet to stand by to intercept the enemies!"

"They're Allies, first admiral," the scanner said.

"Good. I hate them a lot more then I'll ever hate the Coalition. Battle stations!"


A lieutenant of the ship came down a tiny flight of stairs and addressed Olensheim.

"General Olensheim, sir, the captain sent me to tell you that we're meeting up with the other prongs of the fleet."

"Toll," Olensheim said, "Find out if they have cajoled any reinforcements from the Britons or anyone else."

"Yes, sir."

Olensheim waited for a tense moment while the lieutenant returned to the bridge to check.

"Yes, sir, the English have provided us with a division."

"A division? Well, it's better than nothing. I suppose they've got their own problems, too."

"Yes, sir. The captain also wanted me to inform you that at this point we are at our most vulnerable. The fleet is rearranging, and not many ships can go to battle readiness soon. We're all here and if we're attacked now it could all be over."

Olensheim nodded.

"Get on the radio and inform the rest of the fleet that the top priority is to protect the troop transports. It's hard to take back land without soldiers. and we can't sail these ships to Berlin after all."

"Yes, sir."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 69, Part 1

"General Olensheim, sir?"

The German turned around. A tall, thin, skeletal Norwegian man was standing there. He didn't look so much old as ages prematurely. His skin hung loosely and was wrinkled, and his face was like a hatchet. He did not look so much ugly as handsome but broken after being wronged.


"I have heard about your chancellor. I wish to express my sorrow to you."

"Thank you," Olensheim said, and turned to go.

Katarina von Baden had been killed during the taking of Berlin. The invading Eastern Army had brutally murdered her along with hundreds of other loyal Germans. They had done it as an example to remaining Germans not to start trouble. The Easterners were brutal and were not interested in justice, but they definitely kept the peace when they were not making war.


Olensheim turned back around.

"At the very beginning of the war, before the Coalition had been formed, I was aboard a ship disguised as a fishing ship. An Eastern Bloc submarine attacked my ship. It was commanded by the leader of the Eastern navy, First Admiral Johann Joniec, who at the time was only a captain."

"Yes, I've heard of Joniec. An opportunist," Olensheim said, "He betrayed Poland to the Easterners so he could take a place of power."

"And he has indeed taken it," continued the Norwegian, "When Joniec attacked my ship he killed many of the crew and officers, including the captain, and left me for dead. I managed to right myself before I could drown and floated for a long time unconscious on a piece of wood from my ship.

"When I finally woke up I began to swim with the plank of wood. I had no idea what direction I was going in, I just swam. Finally, when I thought I could go no further and that I would die right there, I saw a great white vision come sailing towards me. I thought it was a specter or ghost that had come for me, so I started paddling away. It turned out to be a German ship. The German navy saved my life."

"What's your name?"

"I am Captain Yost Lauritz of the submarine Olaf V. Sir, I want to know when the German army is planning to retake Germany."


"Because I want to go with it."

Olensheim shook his head.

"No, no, captain. Norway hasn't gotten involved in this war, and with good reason. Germany has to deal with her own problems."

"I'm not talking about Norway. I'm talking about the Olaf V. I've hand picked my entire crew. They're all Germanophiles for one reason or another, and they are all the finest officers in the Norwegian navy. I want to come with you, general, and so do the men on my submarine. I want to repay my debt to Germany. I want to get revenge on Johann Joniec, the dirty traitor, may he rot in Hell."

Olensheim could see the glitter in Lauritz's eyes that came only from a man seeking one thing: vengeance. It was a thirst that could be slaked in only one way and could not be denied. General Bruno Olensheim took the man's offer.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 68

"Major General Qahira, are you aware that for striking a superior officer you could be court martialed and then shot?"

Ras Qahira nodded.

"What was that, major general, I didn't quite hear you?"

"Yes, sir, I am aware of that!" Qahira barked out.

"Good. And what do you think of that?"

"Sir, I think that if the Egyptian military thinks the best place for it's generals in war time is under the ground, that is it's decision."

"Very good answer. Since you are aware of what was wrong with your actions, and since you are quite right that we need generals at the moment, I do not think it is necessary to court martial you."

"What?" exclaimed Mubarak who was standing nearby and glaring at Qahira with his black eye.

"You heard me, General Mubarak," the African Coalition Forces Commander, a Kenyan, said, "There will be no court martial."

"Thank you, sir," said Qahira with a smile of relief.

"This can not be left unpunished. For that reason I am demoting you from major general to brigadier general. That may seem like a small penalty, and it is, but let me warn you," the ACFC said with a threatening tone in his voice, "If you step so much as a sand's breadth out of line ever again you will go to trial and this will be remembered, and you will be damned. Is that clear?"

"Very clear, sir."

"Good. As you know, we are locked in a death embrace with Middle Eastern mercenaries."

"Mercenaries," breathed Mubarak, "Is there any lower form of life?"

"I think not, General Mubarak, but that is hardly important. We are still under siege by them, and they are quite competent. Their leader is Fadla bint Tarriq, an able and brilliant general. Tarriq's troops are most definitely moving towards Cairo. I think all three of us know that Cairo is the center of the Coalition forces in Africa. If it is taken, we are all doomed.

"Brigadier General Qahira, I have seen your record. You are an excellent defensive commander. There are those who say you stick to a position like moss. I need you and the Rhinos in Cairo, Moss. We're going to need your expertise there. Go immediately."

"Yes, sir," said Qahira, saluting the ACFC.


"They've got no chance, ma'am. It's taken longer than expected, but we'll still inevitably take Cairo. My forces are closing on the outskirts of the city as we speak."

Tarriq was doubtful about the overly vivacious Qajar's appraisal, but she could hardly deny the mercenaries were doing excellent work. The African forces all seemed to be spread out and uncoordinated. It came from so many countries that had so many differences trying to work together. She turned to Mossad al-Xyz.

"What do you think, General al-Xyz?"

"The Africans fight well."

"Will Cairo be an easy fruit to pluck?"

"Not unless Allah takes a hand in it."

"You're far too pessimistic, al-Xyz," said Qajar, waving off the other's comment with his hand, "He's always underestimated our forces, supreme general. Cairo will be in our hands the end of the week."

"General Qajar, considering all of your pompous posing and preening, I hope for your sake that you are right. Gentlemen, proceed on to Cairo. Remember that our money lies there."

Qajar and al-Xyz paid their respect to their mutual leader and left.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 67

Padre Jose Nicolás Rodriguez Juarez stood up on the podium. If they planned on defrocking him, so be it. He refused to play the part of a supporter for this wicked war any longer.

He had served his time as a chaplain. He was back in his home town now. The church was beautiful and gothic, with towering stained glass windows, arches, statues, and paintings. It was something Juarez was very proud of. The congregation was sitting in their pews, anxiously awaiting his sermon.

"I served a tour with the army," the Padre began, "As a chaplain. It was my job to put the souls of soldiers at ease. Men and women who were wounded asked for me to say their last rites. Scared men and women asked me to comfort them. Men and women with blood on their hands came to me asking for redemption. I did all these things, but the whole time I felt ill at ease.

"I comforted myself by the belief it was a holy war. I see now it is not. It is a war of greed. It is a war with malicious intents, and evil consequences. Spain entered this war for the chance to be great, as it once was. We had no religious intents in entering The Last War.

"I saw brutally hurt people in the field hospitals that were beyond count, and they were the lucky ones. What of the men we killed? What was the point of it all?

"There is nothing being produced by this war but wanton destruction. We must stop now. Spain must leave the war now. If our churches are burned down by invading armies, where will our souls be?

"We must stop the killing. I can not condone this war any longer. Every time a soldier kills a man he breaks a commandment. I can not rationalize this for the soldiers any more. I say we must leave. What will happen to the church if we don't? What will happen to Spain if we don't? What will happen to us if we don't?

An earshattering explosion sounded outside. Shells tore through the air followed shortly by the screams of the wounded. The Last War had entered their humble town.

"You see!" Juarez exclaimed, "The war enters even our own town. Do you see how wicked it is? On the holiest of days, the Sabbath, they defy everything which is holy. The soldiers murder each other on the day when we should be living in peace the most.

"The Last War has ruined everything. Nothing is holy any more. Not life, not love..."

Suddenly the stained glass window of the churdh exploded into shards of glass. A piece of metal flak came hutling through the air. It was stopped by the Padre's outstretched hand.

He looked in horror at his ruined hand. The chunk of metal was impaled through his palm. He held it high aloft for the whole congregation to see.

"You see? This war sullies even the church with evil."

He collapsed from shock. The parishoners rushed up to the altar to help him. He could not complete the sermon, and had to be taken to the hospital. He was hurt badly, but did not die. The incident as well as Juarez's plea reached the ears of The Pope shortly afterward. He pleaded with Spain to leave the war. Shortly afterward they did.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Memento Mori

Please forgive me for yet another moment of navel-gazing. October 9th fell on a Thursday last year, as is wont to happen every 7 years. I was unemployed for the first time, although this was not due to the recession or anything like that. I had actually been coasting along on terminal leave in the army until October 1. October 9th was one week into a whole new world for me: no army, no job, no longer living in Shitsville, Oklahoma. And nothing but time.

I made more while I was unemployed than I did at my first job out of the gate, so I can't say that it was really to my benefit financially to get a job. I would have had to have gotten one eventually, although, in reality, the length of unemployment would have been extended to 18 months during the six months I could have been unemployed for, so I could still be coasting today. So honestly, money was not a motivation for me to get a job. I did need a job to get a house, so that was one motivation. But my main motivation at that point was loss of purpose.

It's strange to go from a job where you're called a hero on the news by both parties every day to sitting around drinking lukewarm blackberry brandy straight from the bottle. For the longest time I had all my energy and thoughts dedicated totally towards getting out of the army. When it finally came I realized I didn't have anything else to devote myself to.

Anyway, fast forward back to October 9, 2008. I watched a lot of TV in those days. I mean, A LOT. I was watching Grey's Anatomy with my wife that night and planned to go play with the computer or whatever else I might do at that time of night. ABC was clever, though, because there was no commercial break between the preview for the next week's Grey's Anatomy and the next show.

The next show was Life on Mars.

I had, of course, seen a few commercials for this show, and felt absolutely no desire to watch it. I had come across the Wikipedia article on the old British series, and found it interesting, but not compelling enough to seek it out and watch it.

The first few minutes was kind of standard, boilerplate detective fare like any other Law and Order or CSI clone. (In retrospect, that was no doubt the point of the first five minutes.) Then David Bowie started playing on the soundtrack and my interest stirred. Then the "big event" that all the commercials had touted occurred - Sam Tyler went back int time to 1973. And things were oddly off. A policeman has no idea what a cell phone or a jeep is, because, of course, at that time there was no such thing as a cell phone and a jeep was a military vehicle. Ho-hum. High concept, but is there anything underneath the surface?

Then Sam looks out at the skyline of New York City and the World Trade Centers are standing there in all it's magnificent glory.

Immediately I was amazed. For any modern American it instantly linked the past and the present. And, sorry, Great Britain, but in the first five minutes this had proven itself to be a fundamentally American show and not just a knockoff. Here was a show willing to take risks, explore strange new places. Places that had rarely been seen in cable or film, let alone network TV.

C'est la vie.

Here we are a year later, and my life is completely different, for what it's worth. Sam is, well, he's on Mars in the year 2035 as it turns out. And you're here reminiscing with me. And I'm switching between second person and first. But that's fine. Everything's fine.

Remembering Life on Mars one last time, and what it's meant to me, and recommending that if you haven't seen it, go buy the DVD and treat yourself. And raise a glass to Sam and Annie and everybody else, wherever they are. Blow up the fucking moon, guys.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 66, Part 2

Igoumesita screamed, “I’ll kill the bastard! I’ll wrap my hands around that Boche moron’s neck and throttle the life out of him! I’ll kill him!”

“He’s already dead,” Bleda Khan pointed out.

“Oh, yeah,” Igoumensita said, remembering.

They were referring to Lars Metzger, of course. It had just been revealed that in the process of drawing up treaties for entrance into The Coalition, Metzger had promised the same territories to both Spain and The Eastern Bloc. Neither of the European Coalition powers had been willing to settle for what Metzger could afford them, so he had fudged the documents. An anonymous holorecording of the Spanish fleet heading towards England had brought this to light. Bleda Khan had come all the way from Mongolia to mediate between the Spanish ambassador and Igoumensita, who would have almost certainly torn each other apart.

Igoumensita stood up.

“Bleda Khan,” he said, “You know how much I respect you?”

The Mongol nodded.

“Then I hope you won’t take this as a sign of disrepect. I can not fight when I will not receive what I was promised. I must, as of this moment, resign the Eastern Bloc from the Coalition.”

“I can understand,” said Bleda.

“The fight will go on. The Eastern Bloc will stand alone against the Alliance and the Coalition. I hope that though we will be enemies on the battlefield, we can be friends in the parlor.”

Bleda nodded again.

“I can understand perfectly why you must do this. You have been deceived. I will not hold it against you.”

Igoumensita bowed slightly to Bleda. He left. The Spanish ambassador stood up.

“I do not think we will quit the Coalition as easily as he did,” the ambassador said, “But we will see you with different eyes from now on.”

Bleda nodded to him again

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 66, Part 1

“Outside is an armada of ships. The ships are Spanish. Ergo, by the transitive property of congruence, it is a Spanish Armada. We can see by an exhaustive study of history that all Spanish armadas are invincible. Therefore, it is my officerial position that we should not attack.”

Vice Admiral Gus Waber stopped and looked at his commander expectantly. The commander sighed. Waber was in one of his moods again. Every once in a while he started acting stupid and playing head games.

In the same halting cadence which Waber used, his commander said, “In other aspects of psychopolitical analysis, we can see that Spanish armadas, are not, per se, in all cases, as such, undefeatable. It is, therefore, my officerial position that you stop acting like a jackass and order the attack.”

Waber laughed. He started acting like his old, competent, boastful self again.

“Not just yet, commander. I want you to take one of our holocameras and record that armada, including it’s heading, size, and position. Then have it sent anonymously to a certain Supreme General Dimitri Igoumensita. When that has been done, we can punch some holes in the fleet.”

The commander was puzzled.

“Why, sir?”

“The Eastern Bloc has already conducted an invasion of England. Unless I’m mistaken, this Spanish fleet is heading toward the British Isles. It would probably sow some seeds of dischord amongst the Coalition to see them stepping on each other’s toes.”

The commander nodded. It was brilliant.

“I’ll see to it right away,” he said, turning to leave.

“And, commander?”

“Yes, sir?” he said, turning back to the admiral.

“When you open fire on the Spaniards, show some mercy. Mercy should always tint the letting of blood.”

The commander nodded and left.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 65


"Oh, god," muttered Ras Qahira, burying his head in his hands.

"Is that really you, Moss?"

"Hello, Mubarak," said Qahira, reluctantly looking up.

"Hey, that's General Mubarak now," said the other with mock severity.

He threw a few fake punches which Qahira stalwartly refused to fake evade. With a smile Mubarak grabbed Qahira's shoulder fraternally.

"How are you doing, you Christian bastard?" Mubarak asked.

"Oh, just wonderful, Mubarak. General, sorry."

"Hey, forget it, I'm not pulling rank here, Moss."

Looking around, Mubarak grabbed one of the Rhinos who was passing by. It happened to be Lieutenant Yutas. They were back in Cairo now. The Standstill in Morocco was still going on, but with the Bloody Wind the Africans now had an advantage and needed fewer troops. The Rhinos had been recalled to their home (well, for most of them their home) to defend against an attack by Middle Eastern mercenaries who'd been hired by the English.

"Did the major general here ever tell you fellows about the Libyan War?" asked Mubarak.

"No," admitted Yutas.

"Well, that's where your fearless leader got his nickname, Moss."


"Oh, yeah."

By this time a large group of Rhinos had begun to gather around Mubarak as he boisterously began to rip Ras to shreds.

"Well, back during the Libyan War, Moss here was just a little baby captain. I was a captain too, but I was a bit older and more experienced..."

"Even though I had seniority," chimed in Qahira.

"Yeah, yeah," continued on Qahira's old friend, "He had seniority. So, one day the general tells us, 'Boys, we're fighting a defensive war here. Those Libyans are trying to invade us, not the other way around. I want you two to hold this mountain pass, no matter what the cost.' Well, this pass was like an open doorway, solid rock on either side. So we plunked our companies down at the opening to the pass and waited. And, sure enough, not much later a whole lot of Libyans come rushing at us. And we held the pass.

"But see, the Libyans, (they're clever bastards, by the way, if any of you here are Libyan, you're a damn clever people, I'll tell you that) they'd just gone around behind the mountain. So they started coming at us from the other side, too!" he was laughing hysterically by now, "Do you see? There was no point to us holding that pass, they'd found a way around! And so, with Libyans jammed up our asses and down our gullets, we were stuck in the middle. And you know what? We kept on holding that pass.

"By the end of it, we'd routed out every last Libyan there. Two companies! Can you imagine? Finally we got out of this foul-smelling pass and we kiss the sweet ground at our feet. I'm kneeling down, praying to Allah, this son of a bitch is crossing himself and thanking Jesus. And the general comes up to us, and you know what he says?" Mubarak could barely contain himself by this time, "He says, 'Captain Qahira, I've never seen a defensive commander like you ever before. You stuck to those rocks like you were moss, never moved a centimeter.'"

Mubarak lost control and burst out laughing, along with most of the rest of the Rhinos, except for some of the Libyans who'd taken offense and Qahira himself.

"And the name stuck, they all know," said Qahira testily.

"And I'll tell you something else," Mubarak broke in, "He's never fought an offensive battle in his life! He was raring to go off to Morocco and hash it out, but it turns out he was just defending trenches again like he always did. I wish I could have seen the look on your face when you found out it was a stalemate in Morocco, Moss!"

The other Egyptian slapped the leader of the Rhinos on his back hard, and nearly bent double laughing.

"You knew?" Qahira coughed out, growing angry.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Moss, I didn't know you would get so angry about it. But you know you could never take the offensive for your life."

Ras suddenly punched Mubarak, and sent him sprawling to the sand.

"How's that for an offensive, old friend? And don't ever call me Moss again."

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 64, Part 9

"The Germans have left the city and are waiting for our formal surrender," said the Basilisk with icy contempt for Krauss.

"Good," said Krauss, who was still wearing Metzger's cap and holding his baton, "We still have one or two things to deal with before then."

Krauss turned to face the spy. He was in manacles and guarded by two burly Claw troops. He looked like a little ferret. The spy was trying hard to hide his emotions, but Krauss could see the little man was terrified.

"Name?" asked Krauss.

"El Nariz," answered the spy.

"The Nose? Give me your real name now."

El Nariz now showed his emotions. He was bewildered and scared.

"I...I don't know," he said finally.

"Understandable enough," said Krauss, "Spies are in the business of trickery. Sometimes they end up tricking themselves."

Some of The Claw men around him laughed. He walked over to them and stared them down.

"This is not a joke. This is a very grave matter. Do you understand me?"

The Claw men nodded, seeming as scared as El Nariz.

"Good," he said, then, turning back to El Nariz, "You don't look Brazilian. I assume, then, that you are Coalition since Brazil is the only major non-Coalition South American country."

"Yes. Colombia."

"A turncoat coalie," said Krauss, contemptuously using the derogatory Alliance term for his own side, "A traitor. A spy and a traitor."

The congregation of Claw troops around him booed and hissed.

"The Alliance won't have you. I suppose they promised you freedom to return to Colombia in exchange for killing our leader. I'm certain they didn't promise you sanctuary."

"No," confirmed El Nariz, in his madness forgetting that the Americans had promised him such things.

"Well, the Alliance won't have you. But don't worry. We will have you. On a pike!"

The Claw troops cheered macabrely.

"Take him away and have him hung," said Krauss, turning from the spy in distaste, "And bury him in a shallow, unmarked grave in front of Congress."

The Claw quickly and efficiently carried out his orders. As the troops were leaving, Basilisk approached Krauss.

"Excuse me, general," he said, his military politeness almost boiling away with hatred, "But I request permission to leave Washington D.C."

"Explain, colonel," said Krauss, folding his arms over his chest.

"Some of the troops - not many, but some - are not willing to admit defeat yet. They want to escape down the Potomac, the same way that Colombian spy and most of the other joiners came in. I am among them."

"Well, Basilisk," Krauss said, sighing, "I won't order you to stay, but I will tell you it's suicide to try to go. There are Americans waiting all along the rivers for just such an attempt. They weren't going to go in and steal the glory from the Germans, no matter how much they wanted to, but they will be waiting to kill any of our men who try to escape."

Basilisk nodded.

"I understand. I still want to go."

"Then take your cowardly friends and go."

Basilisk's yellow eyes seethed with rage. He left, and a small number of other Claw men followed him.

"Now we must officially surrender," said the new Master of The Claw.

An invisible dark cloud hung in the air as the entire Claw assembled into ranks and files. At the very head of the parade stood two Claw men in carefully made and polished Nazi uniforms. Between them they carry the burden of Lars Metzger's body, prettied up somewhat by a coroner. Over Metzger's body lay folded a flag of both The Claw and Germany. Directly behind the pallbearers stood Krauss in a dour, gloomy pose. He gestured to begin to move out.

Slowly and morbidly The Claw filed out of the gates of Washington D.C. They soon reached the assembled German troops. They were all clean, happy, and uniform. The two forces strikingly contrasted each other.

Krauss approached their commander, a Motorradkorps captain.

"I have but one term for our otherwise unconditional surrender," he said in German, "That we be allowed to bury Marshal Lars Metzger in his native soil."

Marianne Totschläger contemplated this very deeply for a moment. Finally she outstretched her hand and Krauss took it.

"He was a worthy foe," she said, "I can't deny him that. In death, at least."

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Finished Spider Riders

Here's a little follow up to this post (as if you were all sitting on the edges of your seats waiting for it.)

Yes, the Forest Goblin Spider Riders are complete. And yes, it is difficult to capture models this size in detail. Got me, I'm not sure what you've got to do to make it work. I tried close up, far away, in bright light, in dim light, with the flash. These are the best pictures. Yeah, I know.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 64, Parts 6, 7, and 8

"What's that?" Totschläger yelled into her radio, "You've have? Good work. Try to push through to meet us here."

She turned abruptly and drove her bike into the few feet of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. Claw troops were splashing through it firing weapons at her. She dropped them hastily.

Things were going well.


Krauss rose from the marshal's prostrate body, which was already beginning to go into rigor mortis. He heard the beating of war drums in his head, and suddenly it all clicked. Everything Metzger had ever said, everything he had ever done, it all made sense now. Krauss finally understood what the Master of The Claw had been trying to pound into him all these years.

With a quick swish of the wrist he felt the swagger stick snap into it's perfect position. He checked his cap to see that it was at the perfect angle to his head. He about faced and looked at The Claw troops standing there.

"Inform the Germans we're surrendering," he said coolly.

The Claw men seemed taken aback.

"General Krauss, we can't surrender now..." began Basilisk.

"Dammit, I didn't ask your opinion," screamed Krauss, bringing the baton down on the desk with a loud crack, "I am giving you an order. I am the Master of The Claw now."

The Claw men looked sheepishly about and at their feet.

"Now inform the Germans we're surrendering,” Krauss said more calmly, “I want all hostilities to cease immediately. Now go! And send two men back up here with a stretcher!"

The Claw men scrambled out of the room. Krauss looked at the body of his former mentor with a sigh.



Looking away from her radio, the German captain looked around her. The Claw troops were laying down their weapons in the streets. They'd won.

"Mein lieber Gott in Himmel," she whispered, "We've won!"

She turned back to her radio and pressed the transmit.

"Back out of the city for the formal surrender? Well it doesn't seem wise, but if those are the terms, we'll follow them."

A moment later she gave the order to all her troops to leave the city, change into dress uniforms, and fall into parade formation for a formal surrender ceremony.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 64, Part 5

El Nariz plunged up the steps of the White House. The AS gun rested heavily in his hands. Metzger was not in the building proper. El Nariz dashed out and into the buildings outside the White house where the Oval Office was.

Here he was, actually doing it. He had managed to survive his swim in the icy Potomac and had run immediately into Claw troops.

"Who are you?" they demanded.

"Nariz, Coalition spy. Escaped from American clutches to get here..." he managed to cough out before collapsing of hypothermia.

They had, as the American had told him they would, checked him out thoroughly. By the time he had regained consciousness Claw doctors were catering to him gently. He was considered a hero. He made up a cock and bull story on the spot about being found out by the Americans, captured, and then made a daring escape up the Potomac river to Washington and safety.

When he had been told the Germans were invading, he demanded an AS gun to go fight. They went through the full rigamarole of demanding that he had to stay and get well, but no, he was too bold and heroic to sit and be healed while others were dying. He left a step higher in the doctors' minds. And now, here he was, betraying them.

He battered the door down and burst in. Metzger was sitting at his desk, engrossed in yelling over a phone at someone. He was trying to conduct the defense from his office, where he could contact all of his commanders at once. A scanner was on his desk. He looked up and rose when he saw El Nariz. He carelessly dropped the telephone into the waste basket, aiming for it's cradle.

"Who the hell are you?" demanded Metzger in English.

El Nariz swallowed his fear and tapped the trigger of the AS gun, just enough to fire a single shell. It tore through the flesh of the Master of The Claw's chest, not far from his heart. A stain of true blood began to spread over his crimson colored uniform, and with a gasp he dropped to the ground.

The German was still alive, for the moment at least. El Nariz knew he'd be dead any minute. He considered his task fulfilled. He turned to leave the office but walked right into a group of Claw men.

Otto Krauss grabbed the Colombian by the scruff of his neck. El Nariz turned limp suddenly. He had given up. He had given up on his life. The spy had let loose the tenuous hold he had on his mind and his body. He descended into the pit of madness.

Krauss thrust the spy into the hands of one of The Claw men behind him.

"Get him out of here," the general choked out.

Krauss went over and knelt down where Metzger was lying. His wound was gaping, as though someone had taken a double fistful of flesh and torn it straight out of him. He was, by some mistake of luck or aim, alive.

"Krauss?" the Butcher of Bavaria wheezed.

"Yes, marshal, I'm here."

"Krauss," said Metzger in a relieved manner.

Suddenly, the Master of The Claw looked urgent.

"Krauss," he said, "Was it a spy?"

Otto Krauss felt a burst of emotion for this man like he had never felt before. The man had two terrible nicknames: "The Butcher of Bavaria", "The Master of The Claw". They both described him perfectly. He was subject to vicious mood swings: one minute he'd be subdued, clever, calm, and the next he'd be angry and sadistic, full of wrath and hatred. He had killed more people than Krauss could count. For that matter, he had basically kidnapped Krauss. He was a madman. And yet, suddenly, Krauss felt very close to the man, and very sorry for him.

"No, no," the German general lied, "It wasn't a spy. It was the German soldiers. They've come into Washington. Your own men. The ones you trained. Only they could've killed a man like you, sir. It's like you always said: when a student outdoes his teacher, it's a time of great joy."

"Yes," Metzger nodded, seeming to believe Krauss' lie, "My own men. The ones I trained."

Metzger strained to hand Krauss his marshal's baton, which he had been lying on. He placed the crimson officer's cap he was wearing on Krauss' head and adjusted it to a jaunty angle. With his last ounce of strength he stretched himself up and whispered into Krauss' ear.

"Surrender the city, Krauss. These...rabble don't fight...real soldiers. My soldiers."

Metzger fell back into the puddle of his own blood. He touched Krauss' cheek affectionately.

"The best thing I ever did was make me."

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 64, Part 4

A burst of fire exploded on Marianne Totschläger's left side. She turned her head slightly. Four Claw men were pursuing her. It was most infortuitous to be pursued by motorcycles with mounted weapons. It meant you couldn't fire back unless you turned to face them head on.

Turning back to the front she pressed down on the gas and wondered briefly where the Claws had gotten the motorcycles from. All intelligence had shown that the Claw didn't have any motorcycles handy. They must have stolen them from downed Motorradkorps members.

She leaned hard to implement a turn into a small copse of trees. She reached up and grabbed a branch with one of her gloved hands. It snapped off instantly due to the speed she was traveling at. She held it across her handlebars so she wouldn't have to let go of them.

Turning to and fro she began executing complicated twists and maneuvers which in most cases were for nothing but parades. She did a full 360 around one tree. That was what caught one of the bikers. He caromed into the tree while attempting to follow her and was flung out of his seat to his death.

"Toll!" she exclaimed.

Fear struck her as she realized she had run out of woods. She ducked her head down somewhat as she came out of the woods at full throttle, so that she would avoid any crossfire. She flicked on her radio. Her plan was to ask the infantry for help with the bikers on her tail. The groundpounders were much closer than any of her own people.

"This is Hauptmann Totschläger to Major Wüden," she said.

She received no answer. She repeated it, but still got nothing. The major must have been killed.

"Scheisse," she muttered, then to her radio, "Hauptmann Totschläger to Brigadegeneral Lensback? Herr General?"

A voice came on through the static. She recognized it as an infantry captain, though his name escaped her.

"Captain, the major and the general have both been killed. You're in command of the fighting force now."

That was what happened to her for fighting with a skeleton crew of officers. There was a great responsibility now on her shoulders, and she could very well get herself killed soon.

More shells ripped through the air. She looked back to see that the three Claws were gaining on her. She hefted the stick she had grabbed, judging it's weight. Then she flung it backwards as hard as she could towards the Claws. It struck the foremost one right in the neck. He ran into it at a devastating speed.

The man let out a loud gurgle of either loss of breath or death, and then sagged in his seat. His vehicle upturned and screeched to a halt. Another Claw man, who was directly behind him, ran over the tumbled machine and man. That Claw tried to swerve out of the way of the motorcycle, and so hit it full force on his side. He too flipped over, and landed in a mangled pile of flesh and metal with his comrade. The last biker, who looked like the toughest, easily dodged the mess that had once been his fellows and continued the pursuit of Marianne Totschläger.

She began to curve to her right. She made a full U-turn and was now facing the last Claw man. The skinhead had a crazed look in his eyes, and was firing his gun at her like a madman. They were now zooming toward each other at top speed. If Marianne had waited another few seconds there would have been a head-on collision, but she chose that moment to open fire.

With deadly accuracy the bullets streaked towards the last Claw man. He fell backwards, mortally wounded across his whole body by bullet holes. Somehow he was managing to keep his balance and his foot on the gas pedal as he struggled to right himself. It was a vain attempt. A moment later he glanced the side of the Lincoln Memorial building, and the fuel tank on his motorcycle exploded into a fireball. The memorial was scorched, but otherwise unharmed.
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