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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 76, Part 10

"No, no!" General Sarah York exclaimed, "Throw the 3rd against Jagatai, and the 18th against Dariganga!"

"Yes, SAC," the commander said, scuttling off.

York was nearly floating with joy. Every moment there was another crisis. Another line had been broken through. Another senseless slaughter had occured. Another devastating air raid. It all felt savory in her mouth. She loved it.

It was her brainchild: The Winter Offensive. She was freezing standing in the snow and ice, commanding the entire operation as it progressed. She would have had it no other way. She'd sat out too many campaigns already.

"Get me AA guns at every thousand yards circling out from this point! Jagatai's going to try to whittle us down with the Golden Sky Force!"

Behind her she heard yelping, a thump, and then a curse. She turned around out of curiosity, but smiled quickly.

"God damn it, Omar, stop running around my legs!"

Dan Hayes and his dog were tangled up by the leash. Hayes was stuck trying to break the bonds on the ground, but Omar seemed unfettered and happy. The dog was stupid in so many ways, but brilliant in entangling his master.

"You need a hand there, major?"

"No, thank you, I'm fine, ma'am," Hayes managed to say while struggling out of the death hold of the leash.

Sarah shook her head. When she had told Hayes that they would be going to Mongolia, he had insisted on bringing his dog. He had a million reasons: no one could take care of him while he was gone, he only felt safe with his master, the army would have to pay for a new dog if he died, etc. Secretly Sarah believed that Hayes thought of Omar as a good luck charm. Why else would he bother with the thing?

“General, the Mongols are sending a bombing force out this way,” Hayes began,

"Damn," said Sarah York, wiping her brow, "This is turning out to be a tough day. I could really go for a cold one right about now."

"You're in luck, general," said Hayes, pointing, "Here comes the vendor."

"Peanuts here, get your peanuts! I got cold beer, I got hot dogs, I got..." the vendor was yelling out as he walked by.

"I'll take a beer!" said York, holding up one finger.

"A beer for the general, there you go, ma'am," said the vendor, handing her a beer from his ice chest, "And anything for you today, major?"

"Yeah, let me have a hot dog," said Hayes, "Dogs are always the best on the battlefield."

"There you go, sir, that'll be seventeen dollars total for the dog and hte beer."

Hayes coughed and gagged and fumed and walked in an impotent little circle.

"They always gouge me out here. Don't you have any respect for the American fighting man, you rat?"

"If you don't like my prices, go to Mongolia."

“We’re in Mongolia, dammit!” Hayes said.

“Then I guess you’re stuck, eh?” the vendor said.

Muttering under his breath, Hayes handed the vendor a twenty.

"And your change, sir," the man said, handing back a three-dollar bill.

Hayes took a bite out of his hot dog. He looked up to see that York had already finished her drink.

"General, you have to get back behind the lines to a bunker. Scanners have been picking up a Golden Sky Force squadron moving this way," Hayes said, explaining why he was there.

"But I just ordered ack-ack gun emplacements up..." York began to protest, but a deafening explosion cut her off.

The sky was darkening as the moon and the stars were blotted out by dozens of planes and helicopters. Flak was ponderously pounding at the enemy air force. Allied fighters began to rise into the air to attempt to beat them back.

Sarah York leapt to the ground as her battle instinct kicked in. The devastating effects of the air battle were racaging the ground all around. Covering her ears she looked up to see a Mongol helicopter diving down at her. It was chruning out bullets in a lethal path along the snowy ground.

Sarah pulled herself into a semi-upright position and ran along the ground in a sort of crouch. The deadly missiles licked the ground behind her, coming threateningly close to the heels of her feet. They were coming closer and closer, and she knew she would soon be dead.

She felt a forceful shove and lost balance, tumbling to the ground. She looked up to see Major Dan Hayes, who had pushed her out of the way just as the Mongol helicopter was about to overtake her in fiery death. His chest seemed to be exploding with hundreds of little blossoms of blood. He collapsed to the ground, and the helicopter began to pull away as it was harried from behind by an Alliance fighter.

Stunned almost too much to move, Sarah York just stared at Haye's prostrate body. She slowly got to her feet and went to kneel by him in the blody snow. Omar was looking mournfully at his master and nudging him.

"Dan?" she asked.

"Ma'am," he whispered through his death rattle, "Take Omar. Win the war."

"Thank you, Dan. Thank you for saving my life."

He didn't hear her. He was already dead. She reverently closed his eyes, and took the handle of Omar's leash from his hand into her own. Standing up, but still in a haze, she began to conduct The Winter Offensive again, not being able to stop thinking about her fallen friend.

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