Manuscripts Burn


MANUSCRIPTS BURN

"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Wednesday, 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 S├╝hbaatar, 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.

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