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."

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 76, Part 8

“Mark! We have our mark! Let us go, chaps!” yelled the British commander, both over the radio and out to his troops.

Captain Richard “The Animal” Arrington dove into the body of the tank.

“That’s our mark. Let’s start to head out. Just follow the rest of the force, Daltrey. Jonesy, keep a lookout for coalies, all right?”

They both gave an abbreviated, “Sir,” in acknowlegement and then the Montgomery III tank began to move out. The rumbling of what Arrington assumed to be just about every tank from every Allied country that could be spared from the front lines.

The Animal popped his head back out of the cupola. The infantrymen and the slower Russian tanks were all behind them.

“Let us make sure we keep those groundpounders covered, Jonesy. We are a shield for the infantry, but we are a shield that can shoot back, and do not forget it. We do not want our dear Russian allies to start getting holes in their nice neat uniforms, now do we?”

Jones laughed and said, “I’m on it, captain. But, God, Daltrey, do you think you could step up the speed a little? The bloody Monty I’s are plowing ahead of us.”

“Shut up, Jones,” said Moon with a typical tank driver’s bitter air.

Arrington bounded down to the drivers seat. He whispered to Daltrey so that Jones couldn't hear.

"Is anything the matter, old boy?"

"It is this bloody outdated piece of crap, if you will excuse me, sir. I never said anything before out of politeness, but I got called away from a Alexander IV that makes this thing seem like a bus!"

The Animal snorted.

"If this is a bus, it is a magic bus, Daltrey. I have seen this tank pull miracles you have never dreamed. She is a steady one, just believe me."

"I will take your word for it, captain. But I still don't think this bucket of bolts is worth spitting on."

He increased the speed anyway. The treads were kicking up hundreds of tons of Russian mud and snow as they blitzed forward towards their destination: Ulan Bator.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Duff Gardens...hurrah!

Braineater Jones is complete! And not a moment too soon! Here's to doing something other than writing in December.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 76, Part 7

Marshal Kirghiz Jagatai clenched the officer's pistol at his side. It was an S-pistol, that fired shells, like the pistol that any officer in any army on the planet carried, in case they needed to defend themselves personally. They wouldn't do much in a pitched battle - they were more for a sense of security. Jagatai was clinging to that sense of security now.

He was at Hangayn Nuruu, a huge stretch of land up against the Russian border. His commandos and scouts had found a huge allied force massing on the other side of the border. The invasion was imminent - and terrifying. Battle on Mongolian soil? It hadn't been seen in centuries. Jagatai had been cold and confident when leading his men into Russia, China, and Kazakhstan. He wasn't certain if he could take seeing Mongolian villages burned, Mongolian civilians killed, and Mongolian land being taken.

They'd already begun the invasion of the empire. They'd formed a great hammer and smashed through the occupied Russian territory and had now reached what had once been the border of Mongolia and Russia, where the civilians were Mongolian citizens but still loyal to Russia.

A figure flittered in front of him. He drew his ornately carved S-pistol and pointed it at the shadow.

"Who goes there?"

"Messenger, sir! Important message from General Dariganga to Marshal Jagatai!"

"Well, let's have it!"

"The marshal's ears only, sir!"

"Look at me, messenger. Do I look nothing like myself?"

"My apologies, marshal. The general says: 'The snakes are leaving their nest'."

Jagatai nodded. Strangely, he was not afraid, though he thought he would be. The Allies were finally moving, eh?

"What else?"

"Only, 'They're poisonous, possibly deadly, and they're coming in your direction.'"

Poisonous? They were measures of the size of the force moving. Fangless was a certain, small size, fanged but not harmful was larger, harmful was larger, and so on. Deadly was the entire Allied force, and poisonous only slightly smaller. He'd have to call for reinforcements immediately.

After doing so, he sat down to work on his maps of the Hangayn Nuruu. He awoke with a start. He’d fallen asleep over the pile of maps and papers. There was shouting and yelling outside his tent. He stood up and walked outside.

“Let me in! Let me in you lousy bastards! I’ve knifed a hundred Ivans to get here, I’ll knife you two too, if I have to!”

A battered, bloody sergeant was there, holding a huge knife in his hands and struggling with Jagatai’s guards. He seemed exhausted and was badly hurt, but was still making the guards struggle as hard as they could to hold him back.

“Let me see the marshal! I have to see Marshal Jagatai! I fought through half the Popov army to get here, and my own men try to stop me?”

Jagatai interceded.

“Let him through,” he demanded.

The two guards happily relinquished their grip on the sergeant and took up their rigid sentry postures again as though nothing had happened. The sergeant stumbled up to Jagatai. He tried to salute but collapsed from exhaustion. Jagatai caught the falling man in his arms and held him up. He was still conscious.

“Sergeant, sergeant!”

“I have to see Marshal Jagatai,” the man whispered.

“I’m here, sergeant. What do you have to tell me?”

Blood was oozing from the man’s mouth as he spoke.

“The Ivans are moving, marshal,” he whispered, “General Dariganga can’t hold them back. God damned Popovs...”

The sergeant trailed off and nearly fell unconscious. Jagatai shook him violently to rouse him again.

“Sergeant, sergeant, what else?”

“The general said that we’ll fight to the last man. The men are going to, too. No surrenders. Sent me to tell you. Ran out of ammo two hours ago. Been fighting the Popovs with nothing but a knife. through their lines. The general says, even with fighting to the last man, we can’t hold the god damned Russkis off for more than an hour or two. You have to be ready, marshal. They’re coming your way.”

“I’ll promote you for this, sergeant,” the marshal said, trying to comfort the man, “Give you some medals. Just have to get you to the infirmary first.”

“Give them to me posthumously, marshal. I’m sorry but I have to die now.”

The sergeant died in Jagatai’s arms. The marshal let the man slip down to the ground. He ran into his tent and grabbed an Imperial Honor Medal and placed it on the dead sergeant. Then he ran down and woke his generals and colonels. They’d have to be ready.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 76, Part 6

Colonel Boris Nemov was still a bit disappointed by the fact he had not been promoted from colonel to brigadier general after the Coup at Sühbaatar. It had been an amazing success. The Mongolian troops had gone under the Russian armor like wheat under a scythe.

He'd met the president, been awarded medal heaped upon medal, but, strangely, no promotion. Annoying. Most likely the Russian government couldn't afford to pay as many general's salaries as they were paying now, let alone if they made more. It made sense but it still stung.

He was, however, still a soldier and he had a job to do. Right now the Iron Man was preparing his troops for the Winter Offensive. At midnight the great movement would begin. Though they'd been sleeping days for the past two weeks or so, his troops were still unused to being up through all the night hours. Groggy men and women were sitting around the campfires trying to keep each other awake. There were two fires: one for officers and a much larger one for the common soldiers. Separation kept detrimental fraternizing to a minimum.

Away from the tents and the fire there were rows and rows of T-1K3s and other tanks. Sitting by itself like a wolf kicked out of it's pack was the brigade's singular leaper. A sprinkling of snow was beginning to come down, and it made the metal war machines stand out brightly. Nemov was the only Russian in the camp not sitting at one of the fires. He was sitting on a log looking at the snow falling.

"Colonel, sir?"

Nemov looked up briefly to see Yuri Marchenko.

"The officers were wondering about where you were."

"I'm right here. I don't plan on sitting with the troops tonight."

The major sat down next to his commander.

"You've been spending less and less time with the men lately, sir. I don't think the non-coms have really noticed, but the officers are starting to worry."

"What do you think of the snowfall, major? It looks like the stars have lost their course and fallen to earth, don't you think."

Without looking up, Marchenko said, "Yes, sir."

With a sigh the Iron Man realized Marchenko wasn't going to swallow a change of subject. He produced from his overcoat a crumpled, filthy piece of paper and handed it to his second in command.

Marchenko read it loudly, but not loud enough to be overheard, saying, "'To: Colonel Boris Nemov. Colonel, we regret to inform you that in the series of nuclear weapons detonated by the Mongolians your wife, children, and parents became casualties of...' My God, colonel!"

"My entire immediate family lived in St. Petersburg. I had a few distant cousins and relatives in Tomsk and Kemerovo. I am currently," he paused for a moment, "The last living Nemov."

The snow continued to fall, but without a single change in weather the climate now seemed depressing. Marchenko slowly folded the letter as though he wanted to give it back to the colonel, but couldn't out of courtesy. Nemov realized this and outstretched his hand so that the major could place the paper in it.

"My boy Aleksandr was about to graduate. My baby Marina had only just started walking. Ivan, Sergey, all gone in an instant. My mother, my father, my brothers, even my beautiful wife."

"You've continued working and doing your duties just as if..."

Marchenko almost said, "as if nothing had happened to them", but didn't. Even the oblivious Marchenko could clearly see that Nemov felt as though his heart had been ripped from his body and his life was over. But he didn't complain. He didn't cry. Marchenko realized how fitting the name "Iron Man" was. He was as sure as iron, even in the face of utter catastrophe.

The Russian major had just about worked up the nerve to say something else to his commander when the leaper exploded. Simultaneously tents, tanks, and key points all around the camp detonated, and sent the surviving troops into an utter frenzy.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gargle gargle

Anybody remember these things? I got in trouble one year for making a turkey with a guillotine. Well, fuck you, childhood. They're going to die at some point anyway.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 76, Part 5

Beshu spread mud all over his face and wiped it over his hands. When it dried it would become an itchy annoyance, but for now it made excellent natural camouflage. He crawled forward on his elbows, then rolled down the hill as slowly as he could, trying to intentionally muddy himself. Upon reaching the bottom he made a quiet, sheep-like noise. It was answered immediately by a similar noise. Beshu and his new special forces commando squad had been harrowing the Allies for weeks, going behind lines and wreaking destruction that the army regulars could only dream about. He had completed only one other covert mission before the Alliance invasion of Mongolia, when he was ordered to the battlefields around Ulan Bator, and that was the setting of the atomic bomb in St. Petersburg.

They were now behind Russian lines. He’d been informed this was the camp of the Russian bastard that had taken Sühbaatar. Knowing no one could see him he broke his habit of being dour and smiled widely. It would feel very good to get back at the Russian which every Mongolian alive felt a personal hatred for. Beshu had set a nuclear bomb in Russia, but that hardly mattered to him. That had been cold and impersonal. That had been Mongolia's revenge on Russia. This was Beshu's personal revenge on Nemov.

He slunk forward like a snake to the second commando, Yesugei. Yesugei was a young boy, a new addition to the Mongolian special forces. Yesugei was looking in almost every direction but the correct one for Beshu. The more experienced commando snuck up on his younger mate, stuck a knife to his neck, and slapped his hand over his mouth.

“If I were a Russian,” Beshu whispered, “You’d be dead already.”

The younger commando nodded carefully, so as not to inadvertently slit his own throat. Beshu gently released his hand and sheathed his knife.

“What news do you have, Yesugei?”

Without even breathing heavily, Yesugei pointed toward the Russian camp.

“It’s the Iron Man’s camp, all right,” the commando said, “The point man has penetrated and is requesting permission to put a bullet in Nemov’s head.”


Yesugei tapped a small device on his side repeatedly. It was a tactile communicator. When a transmitter was tapped, a receiver vibrated, so it would be felt by a person rather than received. The Mongolians had developed a system for communicating which was not unlike the Morse code. Yesugei had tapped out the equivalent of D-E-N-I-E-D, which, if you look at it, is the word "denied". The point man then tapped back a terse reply of recognition.

"Yesugei," Beshu said patiently, "I'm very glad that you have memorized the tactile communication system. You do not need to be so lengthy in your use of it, however. Simply telling the point man 'no' would have been enough. There's very little time to waste. Be short in your messages."

Yesugei nodded.

"Now move forward," the commando leader said, and Yesugei was off like a shot.

Beshu now began to tap in his own concise message: S-E-T B-O-M-B-S A-T K-E-Y P-L-A-C-E-S. There came an abrupt acknowledgment from each member of the special forces squad. No doubt if Yesugei had given the command it would have gone something like "Place explosives at each of the important positions in the Russian camp". He cracked into a smile once again. Today was an unusual day.

He began to slither forward again. He passed Yesugei, who nodded to indicate where he had set his bomb. Beshu passed several more of his commandos, each of whom showed him where they had set their bombs. When he had seen each and every one of them, he took his communicator off his skin. He tapped in a special command code which, when he activated it, would detonate all of the bombs simultaneously.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 76, Part 4

“Is our leaper all right?” asked Major Jacques de Ris.

With a tired, fatigued sigh, the Russian mechanic nodded.

“Are you sure?” prompted the leaper gunner once more.

“Yes,” he said gruffly in French.

“Are you really sure?”

“Absolutely, positively, one hundred percent sure,” said the mechanic with finality.

Jacques paused and nodded.

“Are you sure?” he asked.

“Just get in the damn leaper,” he snapped.

“All right, all right, just asking, that’s all. Come on, Pierre, let’s move!”

The two Frenchmen bounded into their vehicle gracelessly. It wasn’t the same Adder II leaper they had driven at Perpignan. That Adder had been damaged beyond repair by the Spanish leaper, which they had finally found out to be a Cobra VIII (better known as a King Cobra).

Their old Adder had been damaged so badly it had to be scrapped. They’d been given a new Hussar IV, a real state of the art leaper, which, though they had been reluctant at first, they found to handle even better than their Adder.

In the distance there came the rumblings of hundreds of tanks, guns, and troops moving into position.

“We’re moving soon,” Jacques said quietly.

“Obviously,” said Pierre testily, “Now don’t bother me, I’m going to get some sleep before this invasion begins.”

Jacques nodded. All around him he could hear the sounds of hundreds and hundreds of paratroopers loading into nearby airplanes. Each transport plane could only carry a few hundred paratroopers. How many hundred transport planes were there, though? And how many thousands of fighters to defend the transports?

He was too excited to sleep. Here it came, the biggest thrust in the whole Last War. The Allied invasion of Mongolia. The largest single strike force in the history of warfare. The Winter Offensive! And he was going to be a part of it. He shivered in anticipation.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Well, if Ernie Hudson loved this town...

Sorry, kids. Hiatus for a few days. Not only is it NaNoWriMo, but now I'm going on some misbegotten trip to Broadway. Back on Tuesday (probably.)

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 76, Part 3

As a rule, officers did not fight like regular troops, but Colonel Bura Karakoram was in a difficult position. Ulan Bator was being nearly over run with Allies. She had already been forced into emptying the contents of her officer's pistol into the enemies. Now she drew her sword.

Devilish forces made for bizarre circumstances. She never expected she would ever have to use her ceremonial sword for anything. Now she was using it to defend her home country's capital city from invasion, another event she never would have imagined.

"Keep moving forward!" she called to her troops, "Don't lose momentum!"

If the Allies were able to get even a short distance away from the Mongols, they would have had an inestimable advantage. The main Mongolian armory had been destroyed by saboteurs, leaving the Home Army with only the weapons and ammunition it's soldiers were carrying at the time. The Alliance paratroopers and saboteurs had plenty of ammunition. That meant they could shoot at the Mongols if they were even a short distance away, while the Mongols could not shoot back.

It was turning into a terrible debacle.

"Attack them! Slit their throats!"

Karakoram charged forward herself, leading by example. She began to hack away at the surprised Allies who were trying to shoot at her. Her troops reluctantly followed her into the attack.

She wished Darbet Kazakh had not been killed at Sühbaatar. He would have been an invaluable resource here. He wouldn't have hesitated to strangle the Allies with his bare hands if the need had arisen. Kazakh had always been an inspiration to Karakoram's troops and a great help. He was, unfortunately, dead, and so she was on her own, to fall back on her own leadership qualities.

"If they ambush our armory, we'll ambush them! Come on, it's hand to hand now!"

The Mongols had an exceptional numerical advantage, but a terrible technological disadvantage. Bura began weighing the possibilities. She supposed the battle could go either way.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 76, Part 2

"Shit, look at that!" said Lake, pointing downwards, "Their armory's been blown away!"

Sergeant Dave Trevor looked to where the kid was pointing.

"Looks like someone's on the ground already," the sergeant said, "And they're giving us a hand."

Lake nodded. Trevor checked his watch, and saw that it was midnight.

"All right, you beasts, let's move! You're a bunch of hulking monsters, you know that? Isn't a Mongol in the world that could stand up to some beasts like you! Let's go! Let's go!"

The flamethrower squadron threw themselves out the door of the place one by one, into the swirling snowstorm that was beginning to form. Trevor leapt out last, to make sure that the whole rest of his squad was already on their way to the ground.

As snowflakes danced around his face, the sergeant wondered briefly if his hands would be too numb to pull the rip cord. He knew it was just a typical parachutist's habitual complaining, combined with a typical flamethrower handler's habitual complaining.

Far below him, the first members of his squad were hitting the ground and firing. The night was being lit by flames, and the snowflakes were making the light of the fire twinkle and dance as it reflected. He felt his stomach lurch as the ground drew nearer and nearer, then, with a sudden thump, his parachute opened.

He didn’t release his rip cord until he had hit the ground painfully feet first. The parachute, designed not to be a hindrance for combat, disintegrated immediately. Only then did Trevor drop the rip cord and pull the nozzle of his flamethrower from behind his back. Screaming, he ran into battle, trying to push back the advancing Mongols with walls of flame.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 76, Part 1

Lt. Colonel John Frost stood next to Larry Snaro. They were both very jittery about their assigned job of guarding the inside of this door to the Mongolian armory. Two Mongol guards were outside the door (the Americans were inside), completely oblivious to what was going on inside the building they were supposed to be guarding.

In nervousness Snaro had already almost fired his AS gun and given away the whole operation. It was a lucky thing that Frost had caught him before he did. If the Mongol guards or anyone else came in, they would have to shoot, but unless it was necessary they couldn't give away their position.

"They said we would have two jobs in this operation," griped the Air Force lieutenant, "Fly the mad bombers in, then fly 'em back out. That's it. The big shots never told us anything about guard duty."

"The only reason they chose us for this project is because we have groundpounding experience, Larry!" Frost exclaimed, "Besides, we can't do anything about it unless we want to be court martialled for insubordination. The bombing leader ranks me."

"He ranks you! Ah ha ha!"

The younger man laughed raucously at his older counterpart.

"Shut up," Frost said grumpily.

"It wouldn't even be so bad if it wasn't so damn cold out. We go from the hottest Mexican desert to the coldest Mongolian city."

Frost smiled and searched his memory for a moment.

"And now there came both mist and snow,
And it grew wondrous cold:
And ice, mast-high, came floating by,
As green as emerald.

"And through the drifts the snowy clifts
Did send a dismal sheen:
Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken-
The ice was all between.

"The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around:
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound!"

Larry Snaro looked at his commander in a very peculiar manner.

"What?" he demanded.

"Coleridge," said Frost simply, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."

"Oh, now I see, so we're quoting poetry about the cold. Here's one for you:

"The blizzard and the avalanche may duel,
And drop twice as much their single ice,
And to the soldiers they are cruel,
As fickle as the chance of dice.

"No, my ire, though frozen, will not abate.
Though the snow may whip and blow,
The ice shall melt by the fire of my hate
For it is the seeds of war I sow."

Frost thought for a moment.

"Keats?" he suggested trepidaciously.

"No. Snaro."

The lieutenant turned smugly back to his guard duty.

Meanwhile, the demolitionists were pouring through the armory and setting charges. The idea was to destroy the defending Mongolian's munitions dump before the Alliance invasion force actually entered Mongolia. Since the taking of Sühbaatar, this armory in Ulan Bator was the largest in the country.

The sappers were also making heavy use of the contents of the armory, using the Mongols' own weapons against them. The grenades and Executioner drums stored there were being used to supplement the plastic explosives and charges the demolitionists had brought with them.

Finally, after an excruciating hour, one of the bombing experts came to Frost and Snaro. He was holding a Mongolian grenade in his hand.

"We're ready to blow this thing," the man said.

With that, he pulled the pin of the grenade and brought his arm back to throw it.

"Ah, shouldn't we get everyone out first?" asked Frost.

"Oh, right. Good idea. Here, hold this, please."

The demolitionist handed the live grenade to Snaro, who turned as pale as a ghost. He plugged the empty pin hole with his fingers, preventing the grenade from blowing. He dropped his AS gun, which the colonel retrieved, and slowly, deliberately made his way to the side entrance of the armory.

Frost carefully looked around the corner of the alleyway. Seeing that it was clear, he motioned to Snaro, who was holding the grenade like a delicate egg. The two fliers stepped outside, knocking the dead Mongol guards out of the way. (It had been safer to enter from the side, where missing guards wouldn't be readily noticed, than from the front, where everyone in the street could see the armory was unguarded.)

The pack of demolition experts instantly poured out after the two Air Force men. The alleyway was covered with ice and snow, and the Americans held their coats tightly around themselves to ward off the biting cold wind.

"We haven't set the timer yet, colonel," said the demolition leader, "How long will it take us to get out of here."

Frost looked up to the building where they had brought the tiny, unmarked plane down. He suddenly turned paler than Snaro with fear.

"It would only take two minutes, if our plane hadn't been overrun with Mongol troops."

The group all looked up to where Frost was pointing, and, indeed, a squad of Mongolians was on the roof, literally tearing the plane apart into it's component parts.

"They'll know we're here," hissed Snaro urgently.

"Well, we can't escape by air now. We'd better just blow the building and try to fight our way out of Ulan Bator in the confusion after the explosion," said the leader of the demolitionists, "Czapor, Roth, you two go back and get us some AS guns and as many Executioner drums as you can find. Do it fast."

Two of the bombers ran back into the building and came out a few moments later with bulging satchels full of weapons and ammo. They were distributed evenly among the group.

"All right, Lieutenant Snaro, fling that grenade into the building. Let's move fast, people!"

When the whole gang of munitions experts had run out into the street, Larry flung his live grenade into the armory and ran like his ass was on fire. He nearly ran into Colonel John Frost who was gaping at something. Larry walked to the side of his leader and his jaw dropped. Three seconds later the armory went up in a mushroom cloud of fire, flinging shards of stone and metal in all directions. The group of Americans were illuminated by the hellish blossoming fireball behind them.

"Colonel, they've got..."

"Swords, Larry. I know."

Rushing towards the small group of Allies were hundreds of Mongolian troops, who, knowing that their armory had been destroyed and the only ammunition they had was the small amount still in their AS guns, had pulled out their ceremonial swords for weapons. Larry Snaro's neck went clammy and cold, and he, for the first time, dreaded fighting.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 75, Part 1

Otto Krauss looked at the pack of matches he had been given. He didn't smoke, so it wasn't much good to him. He pocketed it anyway. Scratching the fleas which had begun to roost on him, he walked into the courtyard. Roll had already begun. He snuck into his position just as his name was called.


"Hier!" he called out.

The German sergeant continued on down the line. Krauss breathed a silent sigh of relief. Men and women had been killed for not reporting to roll on time, because the dogs were released anytime a prisoner was found to be absent. It was a maximum security P.O.W. camp for important commanders on the order of generals and admirals. A single lost prisoner was of inestimable value and concern. No one had yet gotten out of the Stalag alive.

"We have a new friend for you today," the commandant was saying when Krauss suddenly began paying attention again, "A man who will probably soon be leaving you. Usually war criminals are not put in ordinary prison camps, but everything is a little odd these days. This is former General Dimitri Igoumensita."

The famed Greek joined the ranks of the other officers there. He happened to be standing right next to Krauss. The commandant went on with his daily tirade, then left. The guards dispersed the ranks. Krauss found himself walking alongside Igoumensita.

"You're Krauss, aren't you?" Igoumensita asked, displaying his polyglot once again in German.

"Yes, general."

They had probably seen each other from across a room, and heard about each other in reputation, but never actually met.

"No need to call me that. You know, I disagreed often with your commander."

"It's understandable, sir."

Igoumensita laughed.

"You don't seem like too bad of a man though, Krauss," he said, patting the other on the back, "Tell me, when did they hold Metzger's funeral? I would have liked to have attended, if only out of respect for the man bringing together the Coalition."

"It hasn't been held yet," Krauss said, "It's being put off until a less tumutuous time. In other words, they're going to wait until the war's over when every Ally will be so busy celebrating they won't be offended by Metzger being buried in Germany."

"Ah, yes, I had heard about that. A very interesting request."

"It was his last."

"I see. You'll be spending the duration of the war here, then?"

"Yes, sir."

"I probably won't. I'll have to answer for my atrocities rather soon, I'm afraid. I'm surprised they're not charging you at all, considering your close association with Metzger."

"I'm surprised myself. It seems the American's tied their own hands legally by declaring The Claw and Washington D.C. a legitimate country. Most of the Claws could be charged with something from a prior criminal record. I was the pinnacle of righteousness before joining The Claw, though."

"I see. I'd offer you a cigar, but it's my last."

"Thank you. I don't smoke."

"Tell me, do you have a light by any accident, anyway?"

Krauss struck a match on the sole of his shoe and lit the fine cigar which Igoumensita had placed into his mouth. So, they had come in handy. Apparently useless things tended to do that on occasion.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 74, Part 4

Pierre pounded on the door.

"Come on, de Ris! I know you're in there! I've been waiting for ten minutes! Get your ass out here!"

The doorknob slowly turned. The door gently eased back to reveal Jacques de Ris. He was dishevelled, sweaty, and unkempt. His uniform was hanging at all odd angles. His face and arms were covered with creases as though he had been lying down on a bed for a while. He was shaking with rage.

"Oh, God, de Ris, you were right in the middle of it, weren't you?"

The major slowly nodded his head.

"I'll give you another ten minutes. Extended leave is what this is."

De Ris' face broke into a smile. He closed the door. A short period later he came skipping down the steps whistling a juanty tune.

"Enjoy yourself?" Pierre asked gloomily.

"I enjoyed myself several times," de Ris answered.

The other Frenchman grunted.

"You ought to be shot, so you can't reproduce any further."

"Don't be sore."

"Come on. We've got to get ready for a trip."



"Mongolia? Why?"

"The Winter Offensive."

"What's that?"

"I'll tell you along the way."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Braineater Jones Glossary

Here's a little something just for fun. Braineater Jones had a much shorter worldbuilding process than some of my other works, but I still stopped to make a glossary.


– a derogatory term for all zombies, but used more specifically in the zombie community to mean a zombie nearing the five year mark where their minds collapse and they become mindless creatures; compare “dim” or “bub”

bring across
– the process by which a zombie comes back from the dead; see also “turn”

– thinking zombies, of the type most of the characters are, prior to brain collapse brought on by insufficient alcohol use or the passage of time; compare “braineater;” see also “dim”

– most common term for zombies, as “zombie” was not in common usage until the 1960s, sometimes considered derogatory and less commonly used in the zombie community; compare “our kind”

– alternate term for “bub”

double dog dead
– term used mostly by Braineater Jones to refer to a zombie’s destruction; compare “put down”

morgue mates
– zombies killed or resurrected at the same time, sometimes considered to have fraternal or sexual relationships

put down
– more common parlance for destroying a zombie; compare “double dog dead”

– alternate term for “bring across”

our kind
, our community, and variations – euphemism used within the zombie community akin to “cosa nostra” in the mafia; compare “deadhead”

unbirth – the process of being turned, sometimes treated as a holiday in the zombie community, as in “Unbirthday”

– collective term for zombies, relatively rare in the actual zombie community; see also “deadhead,” “our kind”

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 74, Part 3

“Hey, captain, come take a look at this!”

The Animal crossed himself and walked away from Moon’s grave. Hep ut his cap bak on and walked to the grave where Jones was standing.

“What is it, chap?”


Jones pointed at the grave he was standing before. It read: AUBREY DANSWORTH. Arrington took his cap off again.

“Who is this fellow?” Daltrey asked a bit reluctanlty.

“He used to be our driver. Took over for Moon after he died in Bayonne.”

“Yes,” Jones said, “And afterward the captain and I made a bet that the next time we saw our friend he would be a civilian. It seems that I’ve won.”

Jones held out his hand. Arrington reverently placed a large wad of cash into it.

“I can’t believe you two!” Daltrey nearly screamed, “A man is dead and you are passing money around! Even worse, this means that I am the third in a line of drivers of your god damned tank, and the first two died!”

“Well, statistically that gives you better odds of survival,” The Animal said.

“What, and break the streak? Not likely.”

“Were you friends of Aubrey’s?”

The three of them turned around. A woman was standing there in a black dress and holding a few flowers. The two crewmen took off their hats. Arrington reached to remove his, but realized it was already in his hand. The lady bent down and placed the flowers on Dansworth’s grave. She was quite beautiful and the three of them were staring at her.

“Were you?” she asked again.

“Oh, uh, yes, ma’am, we were. We fought with Dans...Aubrey at Bayonne. He was a hell of a man.”

The woman’s face hardened.

“So you’re the famous Arrington who got him so keen on joining the army?”

“I am Richard Arrington, ma’am, but he seemed to want to enter the army very much on his own. We rather tried to discourage it.”

She nodded.

“I know. I shouldn’t blame you, but I still do a little bit.”

“I understand perfectly. And I would like to apologize. He would still be alive today, and famous and rich and so forth, but I suppose there is no use bothering with ifs.”

“My name is Tricia Marsden. Aubrey and I were very close.”

Arrington nodded.

“Man, that dead fellow was a lucky bastard,” said Daltrey when they had parted company with Tricia.

“Don’t speak like that of the dead,” Arrington said, “Let’s get some coffee."

A few minutes later The Animal upended his mug. The coffee grounds fell to the dirt. He licked the inside of his mouth, trying to get rid of the terrible taste.

"You would think they could get some real coffee for tired soldiers on leave," Jones complained.

"Leave? Why haven’t we been discharged yet? Christ, what more do we have to do? Spain has surrendered, and the Eastern Bloc has been beaten. What more is there to do?" Daltrey exclaimed.

"Don’t forget Mongolia," Arrington said, drinking some water from his canteen and then spitting it out.

"Oh, yeah, I forgot about the damned Imps. They’re in Asia Minor, for God's sake! How far must the British Empire stretch it's battered army?"

"Don’t tell anyone, because officially I am not supposed to tell you," The Animal said, "But there have been rumors going around about something big called the Winter Offensive. Big Mongolian campaign or something. We might get caught up in it soon."

Daltrey buried his head in his hands.

"There is no rest for the weary," Jones pointed out starkly.

"Well, while you two fellows are not altogether unpleasant company, after a few years of seeing your filthy faces I would like to be with another, more female one. So, if you will excuse me."

"Captain, you dog," Daltrey said, looking up roguishly, "You have been holding out on us. What's her name?"

"Jean Marie."

"What does she look like?"

"Kind of like you, but not as ugly."

"How many..."

"Would you idiots shut up and let me see my lady in peace?"

"We are just interested, that is all," Jones said.

"Well, you can leave your interest at the door, Jonesy. As of this moment, I no longer have to put up with you two. Why don’t you discuss your own little strumpets and call girls? Afternoon, gentlemen."

Arrington left. Daltrey sighed.

"You are married, are you not, Jones?"

"Yes. I haven’t told her I’m back in England yet, though."

"What is her name?"


"That is a lovely name. What color are her..."

"How about you, Daltrey?"

"I had a girl back in the day. Her name was Sally Joy."

Jones grunted. Daltrey grunted back. It was going to be a long leave.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 74, Part 2

Major Yurii Marchenko took a few tentative steps and then let fly with a large femur. It hurtled through the air and struck a structure of horse bones, toppling them all perfectly. He cheered loudly for himself and took a bottle of vodka into his hand.

Boris Nemov shook his head half in disapproval and half in amusement. He had been watching his troops bunnock through a window for several minutes. He had been trying to compose himself enough to write a letter home. He sighed. He couldn't think of much to say.

He walked over and sat down at the writing desk. A pen, paper, and envelope, a stamp, and a bottle of vodka were sitting there on the desk. The villagers didn't have much, but they were very generous with what they had.

The Iron Man's troops had holed up in this small village for several weeks. The townspeople were loyal Russians and hard workers, and so they treated every last soldier like a prince. It was the local holiday known as "Tuesday" and so the villagers had cooked up a feast of horse meat, pig meat, and all kinds of produce, milk, and libations.

Because he was bored (and probably very drunk) Marchenko had begun a game of bunnocking with the bones left over from the roasted horses. Nemov was too respectable (or too sober) to participate in such silly occupations. Instead, he was staring at a sheet of paper trying desperately to write.

He wanted desperately to finish the letter tonight. He had put it off for a long time. Tomorrow they would be leaving the little hamlet. He had received a very cryptic set of instructions. He had been hearing shadowy rumors about something called the Winter Offensive. He didn't want to get caught up in another offensive when he hadn't written his wife in so long.

It was a shame he had not heard the terrible news yet. Unfortunately the Russian government was slow in it's mail service. He'd not yet heard, but he would soon.

There came a knock at his door. He was happy for any interruption, mostly because it gave him a real excuse to keep procrastinating. He opened the door.

"Magda," Nemov said, "Oh, come in. Have a seat."

"Spasebo," the girl thanked him.

Magda sat down on Nemov's bed. He raised an eyebrow at this, because there were many chairs in the room.

"How can I help you, my dear?" the Iron Man asked.

Magda was the youngest daughter of the household at thirteen or fourteen. Her family had insisted that Nemov take their master bedroom, though he only asked for a small living space. Nemov could see from the first day he had arrived that Magda had a crush on him. She blushed every time he talked to her.

"Do you think I'm pretty?"

Nemov was taken completely by surprise by the question. She was certainly a beautiful young girl, but the question had seemed to appear out of nowhere.

"I think you're absolutely lovely," Nemov confirmed, still sightly surprised.

"They call you the Iron Man," she said with a certain dreamy air.

Nemov's jaw dropped. Was this really happening?

"I've never..that is, would you like too...I mean..."

"Oh, Magda," he said, trying to let her down easily, "I can't let you go any farther. You have to understand that I'm married. I think you are a wonerful young girl, but I'm just a soldier called away from home. I can't..."

He stopped. She was looking at him with even more lust in her eyes.

"A warrior, loyal to his true love. It's so romantic."

"I hope you're not disappointed."

"Nichevo," she said with a shrug, "I'm sorry, colonel. I wouldn't have suggested it if I'd known you were married. I suppose I had a crush on you. Good night."

She stood up and walked out of the room. Nemov smiled slightly and shook his head. He sat down and began writing.

My Dearest Wife,

I miss you terribly, and though I think of you every day I am so harshly employed on the front that I have had few chances to write you. Recently we've taken refuge in a small village, so I've had more free time to write this letter.

I have read and cherished the letters you have sent me, and keep all of them in a small bundle by my heart. I am certain many of your letters I still have not received, as the mail is often difficult in reaching the front.

I find myself feeling so alone and so cold without you with me. I keep dreaming of you and the children. I can not seem to make myself believe that Marina is already walking. I can only remember her or think of her as a helpless baby in a crib, whom we both had to care for and love. Aleksandr has graduated by now, and Ivan and Surgey are no doubt twice the size they were when I last saw them. In my dreams and wishes all time is frozen, yet I know just because I am not there the children do not slow in their growth one bit.

What I find myself longing for most in the long, gray days here on the front is you, my love. The only thought which bears me forward is the thought of bringing this war to a conclusion so that I can see you again. So that we might again embrace, I would gladly take on the entire Monk army and call myself lucky.

But I ramble on about things which can not be changed. The men and women have taken to calling me “The Iron Man”. I dislike the title. I am no more made of iron than any man who sits and actually faces the Imps every day. It is the common fighting troops who are made of iron, not the overbearing officers such as myself.

No doubt you’ve heard about Sühbaatar by now. It’s been our first and greatest victory. I suppose I am a national hero, but I thank God that I am stuck on the lonely front so that I am not thronged. All I had ever hoped for was a quiet life with you, most beautiful one, and the children. I had hardly imagined I would ever be called into active service after so many years in the peace time army. Well, no things can be expected or predicted. So, with that in mind, I can not hope to predict when I will next receive leave, but I shall savor the hope of it every day, and pray for the deeper hope that this harsh war will end and we will be reunited permanently. I shall have to begin living up to the title “Iron Man” if I am to face so much longer without you.

Your Most Loving Husband,

Boris Nemov

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 74, Part 1

"There. Finished."

General Sarah York rubbed the sleep out of her eyes. She had woken up in the middle of the night with a flash of inspiration. It had come to her in a dream. She had jumped out of bed and begun typing on her computer as fast as she could, so that not a word of the plan would escape her.

It was perfect timing. December was beginning to descend. It would be difficult, but it had to be done now. Otherwise the whole plan was useless.

There were advantages to the cold which could be capitalized upon. Defenders didn't always have the advantage with winter. The cold could just as easily be an advantage to the attacker.

She picked up her secure phone line. She called Berlin, London, Paris, Moscow, and Canberra, and spoke to the heads of military. Even in all of their different time zones, all the military commanders were still awake. Sarah was glad to know it was not just her who had so many sleepless nights.

She shivered in excitement when she finally put down the phone. It was feasible. It was really going to happen. This time she would be there. She wouldn't be waiting and watching from the shadows. General Sarah York would be right there when the whole thing went down.

She printed out the document and placed it in a manila envelope. She took a large black marker and scribbled three words onto the front of the envelope: THE WINTER OFFENSIVE.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month the guns fell silent.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 73, Part 10

Brigadier General Paul King came out onto the steps of the Parthenon. Dimitri Igoumensita stood next to him, looking sullen. After the other two came Bruno Olensheim, who looked and felt somewhat out of place.

"The Eastern Bloc has surrendered!" said King epically, "The Last War is over in Europe!"

Throughout all of Athens, and, indeed, all around the world, people cheered. Parades and parties were thrown together on the split second, impromptu and amazing affairs. But the American brigadier had something else to say.

"We shall be having a large victory celebration..."

"Peace celebration!" Igoumensita interjected.

"Peace celebration," King admitted, "At which we will be having beer. The beer, however, will be served in champagne glasses."

"More concessions were made for the Eastern Bloc than for America!" yelled out Igoumensita, "And the Union will not be dissolved."

"There will be severe limitations on the military, however," said the Olensheim.

"And I, Dimitri Igoumensita, will not be serving as supreme general of the Eastern military any more. I must face judgement for the crimes I've committed during The Omega War. I wish to say now, before the world, that I accept responsibility for my war crimes, including the executions of civilians, but that I am not remorseful for them. In the doctrine of total war, terrible things must happen. There has been no more total war than The Omega War.

"Generals," said Igoumensita in English, turning to King and Olensheim but acting for the audience, "You are both fine soldiers and I would never surrender to men of less than your caliber. You have defeated me, and so the glory of accepting this surrender is yours."

That certainly explained why the Greek had insisted on surrendering to King, rather than the commander of Allied forces in Europe.

In Greek, King replied, "I have been an instrument of war for so long, I am only happy I could be a small instrument of peace. You are a finer soldier than I, general."

"General," said Olensheim, "It is no small feat to take on an entire world opposing you. You are no mere soldier, you are a true warrior, a man of legend."

"Thank you both. The Omega War is over, here, at least. Let us celebrate peace, then," said Igoumensita, taking a snifter of beer into his hand.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 73, Part 9

"Hello, this is Tricia Marsden, reporting live from Athens where the final touches are being put on the surrender of the Eastern Bloc to the Alliance. Discussions are still in progress between the Eastern commander, Supreme General Dimitri Igoumensita, and American Brigadier General Paul King who you will recall was instrumental in routing Eastern forces through the Eastern Bloc countries. Also present is General Bruno Olensheim, who led the retaking of Germany. General Igoumensita specially requested to surrender to these two gentlemen for as yet unknown reasons. Now let's take a look at where the negotiations are going on."

Tricia wiped away the sweat from her forehead as she turned to watch the holomonitor. It was hot in Greece, damn hot. There was the Greek Igoumensita now. She couldn't understand what he was yelling, but he was turning red and seemed about ready to explode. It must have been about something exceptionally important, like the breakup of the Eastern Bloc or the disarmament of all the armed forces. Then the translation appeared at the bottom of the screen.


"Oh, god," muttered Tricia and placed her right palm on her forehead.

"I said, we will have beer. Beer is the drink of America, damn it!" yelled out King.

"I believe Germany had something to do with beer as well, general," Olensheim said.


"I'll die before I drink wine at a party!"

"Americans," muttered Tricia.

She was still in pain over Aubrey's death. She had barely been able to move for a day after she received the news. Gradually she returned to work. Reporting was a means to leave the sorrow behind, for a short time, at least. Burying the grief that attempted to well up in her during the brief pause, she turned back to the camera with a smile, and indicated to the cameraman to begin filming again

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Braineater Jones

So, in honor of National Novel Writing Month, commonly shortened to the saccharine and incomprehensible "NaNo," I thought I'd talk a little bit about the history of my novel.

Braineater Jones has been with me as a name for a long time, but that's about it. A name. Not a character. Not a story. Not even an idea for a while. Just a name. I suspect, though I'm not 100% sure that it came to me in a dream one night after watching "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." (You may already see where I'm going with this.)

You'll probably recall a scene from this movie where the interchangeable Nazi warmonger is in his tank, chasing Indy through the desert, and suddenly, inexplicably, yells out "Wo ist Joooooones?" I'll use my four-year baccalaureate degree in German to translate this for you: "Where is Joooooones?" Anyway, forever after that night some guy yelling out, "Braineater Jooooones!" has stuck in my mind.

The name had only one logical character type, and after a while I knew he was a zombie. But why name a zombie? Why nickname a zombie for that matter? Well, he'd have to be intelligent to have a name, for one thing. And I wondered what an intelligent zombie might do for a living, and it occurred to me that unless he was a criminal he would probably be a P.I. I toyed with a subtitle of Zomb-I P.I. or something along those lines, but as of yet I haven't been able to make it work.

The only problem is I'm not a mystery reader, I don't watch film noir, I really have no idea how to construct a detective book. So for a long time Braineater Jones just sat on my hard drive with I think these exact words:

"An exercise in zombie noir."

"Also: humans spread through the galaxy, alien life is mostly parasitic resulting in vampires, zombies."

Not sure where that second part came from. I think a SciFi Channel movie of the week. (Ooh, sorry, I meant "SyFy" of course.)

Anyway, after a while poor Jonesy was relegated to my pile of neat but useless ideas. I thought it might make a neat video game, that is, until they released Stubbs the Zombie which had evidently the exact same plot. I despaired. Poor Braineater Jones was all but double dog dead. I made an obscure reference to him as being the star of a video game in another one of my books. It wouldn't make sense to anybody who wasn't me, but it was one of those Vonnegut-type throwaway ideas that I decided to just throw away and I decided that would be about the closest poor Jones ever got to the light of day.

Then a funny thing happened. I was sitting at work daydreaming about my work-in-progress at the time, a little story about the Second American Revolution. (No, not the secret one.) I was brainstorming, working on some worldbuilding, when all of a sudden Braineater Jones reared his ugly-ass head. A new list of zombie rules rolled past my eyes like the opening scroll of "Return of the Jedi."

He wasn't an alcoholic. He needed alcohol to preserve his brain. (The cigarettes were just to be cool.) But was this just a mini-Bender here? No, there was more. It wasn't as easy as all that to just get booze, because of Prohibition. Prohibition, in fact, was a cudgel the administration used to clamp down on zombie activity. In fact, that was the whole reason the zombie subculture needed someone like Jones. The cops wouldn't help them, but Braineater Jones would.

It was like it was all clicking into place. I guess that name and that abandoned idea had sat somewhere down in the reptilian depths of my subconscious simmering in a little stew of gestalts. All of a sudden it just came screaming to the surface. I didn't write any of the Braineater Jones story, just a little bit of the worldbuilding, and vowed that would be my next novel. Then I heard about NaNoWriMo, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 73, Part 8

"So Pantermalis' curse has come true. You know, for a while I honestly believed I could take on the whole world and come out a winner. But I've known defeat. The Omega War is over for the Eastern Bloc."

Dimitri Igoumensita nodded to himself. The Czech captain scratched his neck nervously. He didn't understand Greek, although Igoumensita spoke Czech and many other languages.

"Who was it? Who captured Athens?" the Greek asked in Czech.

Igoumensita had been conducting the war on every front at once from his command center. As a result he hadn't been in Athens for the invasion. At the moment he was flying to Athens to conduct his surrender. He had been busy beating off every other force he could, so didn't know who had beaten his troops there.

"The Yankee, King, and the Boche, Olensheim," the Czech captain replied.

Igoumensita nodded again.

"The Polish partisans have used this opportunity to push our occupying forces out. General Pantermalis was wounded in an assassination attempt, although one of his seconds was killed. He's convalescing now in Belarus."

Igoumensita said, "He's grown up now. He's not quite so naive or weak. He'll recover fast."

The plane's intercom buzzed into life suddenly, saying, "We're making a landing in Athens now, general."

"Good," Igoumensita said.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 73, Part 7

The sky was streaked with the trails of artillery shells and rockets. Howitzers, mortars, and other big guns were steadily thumping on either side. Lying on the ground and locked in the embrace of death were hundreds of men and women who had met their end from the artillery and other less desirable ways.

Guns and other weapons were being dropped and lost by both sides so much it seemed like no two troops had the same weapon in their hand. As Easterners died, weaponless Allies took up the dead men's arms, and vice versa. That's how one American corporal sitting in a shallow hole ended up with an unfamiliar Lithuanian AS gun.

"What the hell does this say?" the corporal asked the PFC sitting next to him, pointing at the unfamiliar writing on the AS gun.

The PFC gave an answer that sounded like, "Muh."

"Ah, it doesn't matter. I just wish I had some Executioners."

As if out of nowhere a man came running towards their erstwhile foxhole yelling, "Shit!" at the top of his lungs. He was helmetless, and his wild red hair was flying in the wind. He had probably lost it while running, because only a hundred yards behind him were Easterners chasing him and firing. He was firing occasionally back with shells from a single-shot pistol.

He leapt into their already cramped semi-trench and began shooting immediately with the S-pistol he was holding in his hand. It was an officer's weapon, and this man looked clearly like a private by the stripe on his overcoat. The corporal and the PFC immediately began shooting with their own weapons, the corporal unconcerned about reading the Lithuanian any more.

"How did you get that pistol? Did you take it from a dead officer?"

"No," the man puffed out, "I lost my helmet back there, I've got to go get it!"

The private jumped up to rush back to where he had lost his helmet. Unfortunately that area was crawling with Easterners wearing the flag of Latvia prominently on their uniforms. The corporal grabbed the private and pulled him back.

"Don't! There are Latvians all over! Your helmet's probably ruined anyway!"

A string of Eastern shells churned up the mud where the private had just tried to dive to retrieve his helmet.

"You saved my life," he whispered incredulously.

"Just return the favor and keep shooting, pal!"

The private got off a few more shots with the S-pistol (which were only ornamental anyway) before running out of shells. He grabbed an AS gun from a Ukrainian that had collapsed a few feet in front of his nose and kept shooting.

There was friendly fire from some nearby Allied foxholes. The enemy infantry was not having much luck, but their artillery was still pumping the area full of shells. A lethal rain of flak was falling. It reminded the private bizarrely of a light snowfall, aside from the dying part.

"They must have the devil on their side! No matter how much they fall back those damned guns never stop firing!" the corporal yelled.

"Typical Eastern strategy," the private said matter-of-factly.

"Well thank you for that, general," the corporal said sarcastically, giving a sharp mock salute, "But I don't give a shit about their tactics. I just wish the bastard in command here would do something instead of making us sit and get shot up."

The private gave the corporal a strange look.

"I'm sure the general's doing the best he can," the private said.

"Well, his best must not be all that good, huh? Let him go back and fight the Mexicans. Easterners are a lot tougher slugs to take down."

A chunk of metal suddenly rolled into the foxhole. When it didn't explode the private picked it up and examined it.

"This is my helmet!" he exclaimed happily, "What are the odds of that?"

"A billion to one."

The private put it on backwards by accident. It was dented, but could still function. He turned it around so that the front was facing forward. There was a single light green star painted on the helmet. The corporal and the PFC both gasped.

"General King?"

"Yeah. I got caught behind their lines accidentally. I didn't have a real weapon so I had to use my S-pistol to escape back here. I'd better be heading back to command."

The corporal's eyes were as big as baseballs.

"Sir, I'm sorry..."

"Thanks for saving my life," King cut him off, then whispering, "And don't talk shit about your officers."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 73, Part 6

General Bruno Olensheim punched the table. It was enraging the way the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe was pushing him around.

"You seem angry, General Olensheim," the SAC said, "I would think you would be happy with Germany back in the hands of it's owners. Or should I say Hans of it's owners."

The SAC laughed maniacally. Olensheim gave a tepid, forced chuckle.

"What an original and amusing joke," he muttered bitterly in German.

"What did you say?" the English SAC asked.

"I said it was an amusing joke," Olensheim said more brightly in English.

"Oh, well, thank you. Now look, we've organized our plans with the Polish partisans, and for some reason, they've just asked us to move up the timetable. It makes no sense to me. The Mongols have forced the Russians out of the battle. It's all rather annoying, but it puts you and the American, what's his name, King, in the forward positions to take out Athens. We think Igoumensita will admit defeat once home city is taken. So take Athens at all costs."

"There will be many casualties," Olensheim said, carefully pronouncing the last word.

"Right you are. Well, look on the positive side of things. It's a cracking good day for a battle, at least."

"Dummscheisse," Olensheim whispered.

"What'd you say, chap?"

"I said it's very nice out."

"Oh, jolly good. Well, off you are then.""

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 73, Part 5

"There he is," Ewa whispered, pointing excitedly.

"That isn't him," Isaac answered, "That's his second man. And he looks greatly annoyed."

Michaelis Pantermalis looked like he was pissed the hell off. He was angrily stomping down the street in Szcezcin. Polish was, however, a rather tame and polite language, which often made for understatements like Isaac's. Ewa turned to him.

"Should we still...?" she asked, leaving the question uncompleted.

Isaac was moving and suddenly lost his grip on the tree. Ewa grabbed him before he fell. Fear had struck him suddenly and he was breathing heavily.

"Thank you, Ewa," he whispered, "I think we still have to."

Isaac brought the sight of his conventional rifle to his eye. The Polish partisans were poorly equipped, and had almost no AS guns. When Pantermalis was in the crosshairs he stopped breathing and squeezed the trigger.

The silenced shot whistled quietly through the air but only struck one of Pantermalis' lieutenants. He swiveled around and saw the dead man, then he leapt to the ground to avoid further sniper bullets.

Isaac and Ewa were not stupid enough to try to shoot again. The bullets would be traced to their tree soon, even in the darkness of the night. They both slid down the tree and ran through the small patch of woods. They stopped behind a bush.

"I didn't get him," Isaac said.

"I know. I saw," the girl replied, "We'll have to blow up the base now, before the Easterners start sending out Partisan hunters."

"We have to tell the Allies that the timetable is moved up."

"You go. I can detonate their base."

Isaac nodded and took off like a shot through the woods. Ewa put her binoculars to her eyes. Pantermalis was pointing and yelling something. Eastern troops with the badge of the Partisan hunters on their uniforms were pouring onto the streets. She thanked the Lord that she had set the explosives earlier in the day so she wouldn't have to now.

She stalked through the woods, forfeiting speed for stealth. She saw the white apple blossom and stopped. Getting down on her knees she dug for a moment before hitting metal and pulling out the primitive plunger device from the soft earth. The wire stretched underground from the tree to the Eastern base. She pressed the plunger in. The still night was broken by an earth shattering explosion.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 73, Part 4

Dimitri Igoumensita sleepily pulled his overcoat on. He looked at the man next to him. When the sleep cleared out of his eyes he recognized the man.

"Pantermalis. So you survived. I understand a terrible hand to hand battle went on for Berlin. You held out well. The gods were looking kindly on you."

The other Greek nodded dourly, hating the man for clinging to his superstition. Igoumensita smiled broadly and clapped the other man on the back.

"I knew you would," he said, "I'm sorry I had to act so harshly. I know it really wasn't your fault you lost. I had been intending to leave you in Berlin to let the army escape anyway."

Pantermalis nodded.

"And make me kill the civilians?"

He sounded sick and quiet.

"Well...we had to give the Boches a good reason to want their capital back more than chopping us up as we ran away, didn't we?"

Pantermalis nodded.

"You're never going to trust me again, are you?"

Pantermalis shook his head.

"A shame. I've lost a friend, but I've gained a far better general. You should have a real stomach for battle now. Join me in a drink, will you?"

"Thank you, no," Pantermalis whispered dryly.

Igoumensita nodded.

"Well then, general, please leave for Poland immediately. I had a dream last night that the Eastern Bloc was attacked by the Allies through Poland. I couldn't speak or move, only watch. I've got a terrible feeling that it will come true."

Pantermalis was staring with subdued hatred at his commander.

"Omens, portents, talismans, you believe in all of them, you idiot! Since you believe, I curse you. You will know defeat."

All his spirit within him raging Michaelis Pantermalis turned and left the room.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

And they're off!

So, now that it’s November 1, you can officially go to my NaNo page. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Check out last week's announcement.

As I mentioned Sunday multimedia events will be lighter than usual (not that they were ever particularly heavy before) at least for the month of November. I'll probably just plan on keeping you updated on the NaNo novel, Braineater Jones. There is an excerpt up now, just a short one that doesn't really tell you anything the summary didn't, but at least it gets you inside the protagonist's head.

Here's to a proflific month. Incidentally, if any of you artistic types out there are interested in designing a dust jacket for Braineater Jones, let me know. I'm not much good at that sort of thing.
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