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."

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 25, Part 3

A pretty young girl named Amy sat at one table in a corner of the bar. An American flier walked up to her. He took off his officer's cap in order to address her.

"Ma'am, I'm Lieutenant Snaro," he said politely, "Are you Amy Stevens?"

"Yes," she replied.

"Major Frost..." began Snaro.

"John? He's not hurt or something, is he?"

"No, ma'am. He told me that you would be here tonight, and that I should make you feel welcome until he got here."

"Thank you, lieutenant. I'll just wait for John alone, though."

"You sure you're all right, ma'am?" asked Snaro genuinely.

Things were still not completely settled in America. Thugs and gangs and criminals were still roaming around, even if things were much better then they had been.

"Yes, thank you."

Snaro turned about face and grinned widely. He walked over to a table of fliers and had a few rounds with them. After a short time, the door to the bar opened and Major Jonathan Frost, U.S. Air Force came in. He walked toward Amy's table. She jumped up to hug him as he sat down. Then he quoted Khayyam.

“A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread – and Thou,
Beside me singing in the Wilderness –
Ah, Wilderness were Paradise enow!”

She wagged a finger at him, pretending to be angry.

"Don’t think you can stop me from being angry by quoting love poetry. You are in a lot of trouble bringing me to this place, major," she said.

"Lt. Colonel," said Frost with a smile.

"What?" she exclaimed, taken completely by surprise.

He smiled lop-sidedly.

"I got word today. That's what I called you here about."

"That's wonderful!"

"There's something else too. Something better."

"What could be better, Johnny?"

Frost got down on one knee and proffered a diamond ring to Amy.

"I can afford the ring you deserve on a colonel's salary. Will you marry me, Amy?"

"Of course!"

She leapt into his arms. Lieutenant Snaro, on the other side of the bar, got up from his table and thrust his mug into the air.

"In honor of Lt. Colonel Frost's upcoming marriage, a round for the house on me!" he yelled.

Everyone in the bar cheered, probably more at the aspect of free booze than the upcoming wedding.

"Oh, John, this is so wonderful. I've got to call my mother. I've got to do things. Oh, my, you don't mind if I go home now?"

"No. I'll come to see you in an hour or two."

"Oh, John, I love you!"

Amy kissed John and ran out of the bar. Snaro and the fliers he'd been sitting with came over to pat Frost on the back and shake hands. Snaro looked at him seriously for a moment.

"Did you tell her about the mission in two days, colonel?"

"I want to marry her before I go off. We're going to elope tomorrow, but she doesn't know yet."

"You ought to tell her now, old man," he really cared about his commander.

Frost shrugged resignedly. It was then that a drunk ground pounder slapped him on the back.

"You know, it's a shame you snapped her up, colonel," said the drunk with a slur, "She was a real hot piece of work."

"What did you say?" yelled Snaro, his cheeks turning red.

"It's all right, Larry," John turned to the drunk, "I think you'd better be more careful about what you say to me about my fiancé, sir."

"Why? No use denying that girl was hot to trot. You know, I would have loved to..."

But the world would never learn what the drunken soldier would have loved to do. John Frost had hit him with perhaps the hardest punch he had ever thrown. The drunk fell to the ground coughing and wheezing, trying to catch his breath.

Shouts came from the army side of the bar. The drunken soldier's friends were coming for retribution.

"Yeah, get my back, will you, Larry?"

"Yeah, sure, colonel," replied the young lieutenant, throwing his fist full into an oncoming corporal.

John sunk a blow into the face of the army ringleader. Things got worse from there.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 25, Part 2

Someone in the bar changed the channel. The bar boasted holonet, but was otherwise a pretty dingy, grimy place. Though most of the denizens of the bar at present were soldiers, none of them really wanted to hear the Battle of Tijuana any more.

Ever since Mexico had begun invading America, things had been going wrong. True, the mass terror and hysteria brought on by the Rape of Washington had petered out. People were beginning to act like people again, because a war was going on, and they finally had a real, functional, provisional government.

The coalies had won victory after victory against the Americans. To the north, Canada was waging a sea war on the great lakes, and had already begun landing Coalition marines in Detroit and other northern cities. To the south, the Mexicans had been winning battle after battle, on both Mexican and American soil. The American army was free from having to monitor crime, but it was still not at full capacity, even with a tenuous peace established with The Claw. No one wanted to hear about Paul King being beaten by Chavo Oso. Something else bleated away on the holonet receiver.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Journalists and Mercenaries



This is it. There are a few minor characters outstanding, but this completes our three-part series of The Last War dramatis personae.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 25, Part 1

CAL
Hello and welcome to "The Battle of Tijuana". This is Cal Jameson, your color-commentator for today's battle, broadcasting live for Global Radio, Television, and Holonet. With me is Paco Ramirez, our play-by-play man today. It looks like a great day for a battle down here, Paco. Can we get a shot of that? Thank you.

PACO
Yes, Cal, it's very overcast and rainy. This will be very helpful to the Americans, who are working with scanners.

CAL
That's right, Paco. Let's take a look at our interviews earlier today with the opposing commanders.

PRE-RECORDED.

PACO

I'm talking right now with General Chavo Oso of the Mexican Army. How are you doing today, general?

OSO
(halting English)
Fine, very fine.

PACO
How do you think the battle will go today?

OSO
I'm hoping to overcome the Americans with sheer numbers. We have quite a lot more troops than them, and that is no intimidating tactic, in case the Americans may be watching this.

PACO
Have you ever met with this particular American commander on the battlefield before?

OSO
I'm not sure. Who is he?

PACO
Colonel Paul King.

OSO
Ah, yes, our troops have clashed before. Skirmishes. Nothing on a grand scale.

PACO
I see. What do you think about your troop's morale?

OSO
Well, the rain is the killer. No one wants to fight in the mud. Plus it can only hurt our view of the battlefield.

PACO
You aren't working with scanners?

OSO: Only a few. Not nearly as many as I'm sure the Americans have. I and a few of my colonels and majors have scanners.

PACO
Well, wishing you best of luck in today's battle.

OSO
Thank you.

LIVE.

CAL
And here's my interview earlier with the American commander, Paul King.

PRE-RECORDED.

CAL
Colonel King, what do you think the outcome of today's battle will be?

KING
Is this being broadcast?

CAL
Live around the world on GRTH and over 3 dozen affiliates.

KING
GRTH? Wow. Well, I have to say that I feel confident, and my men feel confident. We really want to get out there and wail on the Mexicans.

CAL
What do you think about the numbers?

KING
The numbers? Well, I know the Mexicans have more troops than us. And the point is that I know that. I'm not really worried about the daunting odds because we have better intelligence on them then they have on us. Every sergeant in my force has a scanner, and we'll be able to know where the Mexicans are every minute.

CAL
Well, lots of luck.

KING
Thanks, thanks, you too.

LIVE.

PACO
There you have it, confidence on both sides. It's going to be a real flip of the coin today. For those of you just joining us, we're live at Tijuana with the latest battle in The Last War.

CAL
Now, are you aware of the spread today, Paco?

PACO
Ah, yes, I believe the Mexicans are favored by two brigades.

CAL
Bad news for those gambling fans out there, because I've seen King's earlier battles and he has a real tendency to beat superior numbers.

PACO: Hush up, now, Cal, I think I can hear the first gunshots. Yes, there you go, the Americans are attacking. It looks like a good start for the Battle of Tijuana. Two squads are going out, AS-guns firing and...ooh, looks like a real zinger. The Mexicans took down both squads with some big guns.

CAL
It may not be good for the Mexicans to open up with artillery so early on. However, if Oso is trying for a quick battle, either way, that could be the way.

PACO
They seem to be settling down into the trenches, but there is small arms fire from both sides. It looks like the Mexicans are starting to get the upper hand. But not for long because here come the American tanks!

CAL
I had no idea the Americans had such a large armored division here at Tijuana. I see Schwarzkopfs, Bradleys, MacArthurs...

PACO
The Americans are advancing. They seem to be holding ground. What's the death rate now, Cal?

CAL
Ah...217 American, 384 Mexican. We're really off to a hell of a start.

PACO
Oh, and the Mexicans are sending out their tanks to meet the Americans.

CAL
The death toll is mounting!

PACO
Looks like the infantry is moving in on the position. A few grenade-in-the-cupola and shooting-the-commander tricks, that sort of thing. The infantry is clashing with each other now, leaving the tanks free to keep firing.

CAL
Looks like whichever side wins today is going to have a pyrrhic victory on their hands. Let's take a look at the stats today. And we see Colonel Paul King has had eleven victories and six losses in his relatively short career. Chavo Oso, on the other hand has had 23 victories and 16 losses. Looks like Oso is definitely the commander with more experience here.

PACO
Two or...no three battalions of Mexicans are entering the battle. This looks to be a looooong one!

CAL
I don't think I can remember seeing a battle on such an epic scale in rather a while. Can you, Paco?

PACO
No, I surely can't. Several feints from the Americans. It's a real pressure cooker out there.

CAL
They seem to be making the most of their major advantage: the scanners. They really seem to know where all the Mexicans are and when they'll get there.

PACO
Oso is opening up his batteries. Yup, a lot of cannons and artillery weapons are firing now.

CAL
A few American regiments are taking tactical retreats. I don't think King should be backing off. He should really be moving in to take out those batteries.

PACO
Yes, the Americans have made a small break through the Mexican lines.

CAL
I honestly have no idea what King is trying to do. His tactics just don't seem to be making any sense.

PACO
Oso is sending troops after the Americans. Oh, yes, the Americans are down. The break in the lines has been sealed.

CAL
Now, if you look at it, King could easily have avoided that by cracking that hole wide open. If he'd just sent a whole lot of troops to that spot, they'd be getting through. Let's take a look at the instant replay. And you can see these troops, right here, just sitting there looking for something to do. Those are the troops that should have been sent to widen the hole.
PACO
Ooh, and in what could be a crucial error for the Mexicans, Oso is moving his troops away from the battle. The Americans are mopping up!

CAL
And now let's break for a word from our sponsor.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 24

Global Radio, Television, and Holonet was the single largest broadcasting network on the planet. It broadcasted breaking news from every corner of the globe, and a few entertainment shows each night. Legions of reporters were spread around the planet praying for the chance to be broadcast when something important happened in whatever country they were in. Every actor prayed for the chance to have a show on GRTH.

They were the only holonet station on the planet, except for certain piffling national holonet stations. Of course, only rich weirdos actually had holoscreens, so holonet stations had to broadcast for standard television as well. Most televisions around the world were equipped with translators to translate whatever was being said on the screen since, nine times out of ten it was a completely different language than your own and even more often it was a different language than the language the last program had been broadcast in. It made for some very expensive equipment costs.

Lately GRTH had been growing very bold, and, some would say, reckless. What at first had been called the Russo-Mongolian War and was now being called World War III was a mother lode for GRTH. Ratings had been soaring, and the people wanted more and more live-from-the-front style broadcasts. Tricia Marsden, a British GRTH reporter in Mongolia, had found something she thought would be huge. She had managed to get a one-on-one interview with Mabus Bleda Khan.
The network had already told her they would break into whatever show they were airing to play it. She was excited beyond belief, because this was the big night. She had to be frisked for weapons (and the guard had seemed to enjoy it a bit too much) and a Mongolian had to handle the camera in case there was some hidden weapon in it or something, but Tricia didn't mind all the restrictions.

Bleda's men had made it abundantly clear she was not to ask any really hard-hitting questions, such as "what are your feelings on chocolate cake" but Bleda himself had told her to be perfectly blunt and honest. She just hoped she'd be able to leave Mongolia alive no matter what happened.

The lights dimmed then rose again as the camera began rolling. The room was furnished quite comfortably and extravagantly, in a manner Tricia might have assumed an Emperor would furnish his rooms. But, more likely, it was just a front to look intelligent and rich in front of the whole world, no matter what he really may have been.

"Hello, I'm Tricia Marsden," she said in her best Mongolian, giddy with the thrill that everyone in the world now knew her name, "Broadcasting live from somewhere in Mongolia. I have a very rare opportunity before me tonight, a chance to actually interview in person Emperor Bleda Khan of the Mongolian Empire."

"You need not butcher my tongue, Miss Marsden, I speak English," said Bleda, who seemed to have been holding his ears earlier.

"Ah, yes," she continued more smoothly in her own tongue, "Well, Emperor, where to start? There are so many things that really should be brought to light. Let me ask you, first, what are your feelings about the way certain people are now comparing you to Hitler?"

The Mongolian seemed to have been struck a blow.

"World War II," he began, "Was a war of attrition and greed. People like Hitler, Tojo, and Churchill, wanted only money and personal glory, and to see their nations called best. It was a childish race against one another.

"Hitler took power in order to hurt people. He wanted very much to hurt the Jewish people. I, however, have taken the reigns of power not because I wanted to, but because no one else would, not because I wanted to hurt people, but because I wanted to help people, not because I wanted death, but because I wanted life. I wanted the people of Mongolia to thrive, as they were meant to."

"What about the Russian people?"

"Russia is of no concern to me, miss. Leaders should consider all things in this order: their own people, their family and friends, and themselves. Nowhere do the people of other nations fall under those categories."

"Then you don't think that the leaders of a nation should consider humanity as a whole, but rather only their own little speck of it?"

"Miss Marsden," said the emperor with a peculiar smile, "I am considering humanity as a whole. I consider them as future Mongolians. When I have made the people of other nations the people of my nation, I shall consider them above all other things. Look at the Chinese migrants who have come to me looking for help. Have I not helped them and treated them as equals as best I can? I want to help the world this way, the same way I help my own people."

Tricia broke off for a moment to gather her thoughts and let the drama of the moment sink in.

"Do you have no moral objections to World War III at all?"

"What you're asking me is do I consider this war honorable. Yes, is the answer, and the reason for that answer is that this is not the third world war, nor the second, nor the first. Before now, wars were counted and named and catalogued. But this, this is not the first war nor the eighteenth. This is the last war.

"This is the end of it all. Whether for good or bad, this world's going to be changed utterly and completely after this war. To have my way, we'd all be citizens of the Mongolian empire, and live in peace with one another, and thrive and advance. Or, to have it my enemy's way, we'd all stay individual countries and continue bickering with each other and never be able to advance. But we would realize the need for a lasting peace.

"The army, the navy, the air force, they've seen their heyday. They're going extinct. There's no doubt in my mind that this is the last war, there will never be another war again like this. There are too many other ways to solve problems. But, for now, until The Last War is over, this is our problem solver. This war is going to change the world. It's going to be harsh and terrible while it's going on, but it's after effects will be so glorious, I can't possibly help but feel not only morally justified but morally obligated to continue with it."

Tricia blinked and nodded. The man was forceful, commanding people to hear him, a true statesman. She knew this man would never back down, not even at the bitter end of The Last War.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 23, Part 3

Qahira entered Morocco not far from Er Rachidia. There was still no sign of the 16th, and Cairo hadn't tried to contact him since Igoumensita's message. Many of the African troops already in Morocco cheered when they came within eyesight. In the distance, guns were going off. This agitated Qahira greatly. He found a gaunt, terrible looking Nigerian officer and began speaking to him.

"Is there a battle going on now?" asked Qahira hurriedly.

A wane ghost of a smile flitted across the Nigerian's lips.

"Sure, I suppose there is."

"Where? Where is it going on?" the Egyptian demanded.

The Nigerian waved his arms in an all encompassing gesture.

"Everywhere," he said simply.

"Well, we've got to go somewhere and fight!" said Qahira.

Now the Nigerian seemed urgent.

"Oh no, you can't do that! You'll be killed. We can't have any real battles around here."

"What? Why not?"

"We tried a long time ago. The Germans and the French, we can't hurt them. They've got some kind of, I don't know, armor. When we first got here, we tried assaulting their position every day. Too many of our men have died. We can't hurt them with our guns.

"It's just...a standstill. Our orders are to keep the Alliance from moving north or east, or well, at all. The big chiefs don't want Allies striking all the way into their territory. They want the fighting to stay here. So we can't let the Allies move. And we can't beat them back."

Qahira took his hat from his head and threw it to the desert sand in disgust.

"Then what the hell did they tell us to come here for?" he screamed, his usually excellent Egyptian diction quavering.

"Well, we need more men to build trenches and, well, sit in them. We were expecting a lot more of you, though."

"Yes, well, some of my men had to go back to Egypt for no real reason."

The Nigerian smiled wanly again, "We also needed you here for supplies. How much food and water did you bring?"

Qahira waved toward his tanks and crates in withdrawn disgust.

"Take all you want," he spat out.

This seemed to ignite a spark in the extant army. Could it really be food? And water, too, no less? Qahira noticed how skeletally thin they all were, as they began to gorge themselves on the meager supplies The Rhinos had brought with them. It dawned on him that it wouldn't be long until his own men were starving and dying. There would be no pitched battles in Morocco. The war in North Africa had ground to a standstill.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 23, Part 2

"Sir, sir!"

The young Algerian sounded very excited. The commander of the 16th Brigade turned around slowly.

"Here it is."

The Algerian handed the colonel a plate. He looked at it, but it was written in hieroglyphics. The colonel turned it around and upside down, as if that would somehow change the language of the plate.

"What's it say?" he asked.

"It mentions the Sword of the Sun, just like the Greek said it would, and right where he said it would be, too."

The Algerian sounded excited, but the colonel could hardly get excited over the find. Finding it only left a bitter taste in his mouth. This phantom sword was costing him a chance to distinguish himself on the front, actually to fight, maybe earn a generalship.

"Where does it say the weapon is?"

"It's directions sir. It says 'enter the pyramid, turn right, continue past the first turn, turn left at the next'...it goes on. It also says it was the Pharaoh's sword, whoever the pharaoh was who was buried here. The mummy and most of the worthwhile artifacts were stolen long ago by grave robbers, so we don't know."

The colonel nodded. Well, that ended that. He grudgingly admitted that it had taken his whole brigade to accomplish the task, but he still couldn't abide it.

"Find it and pack it up. Ship it to the Greek, since he seems to think it's so important. We're going to try to make haste back to Morocco. The war's starting without us."

The 16th began to gather for the journey across all of North Africa that they would have to make once again to be reunited with their comrades.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 23, Part 1

The Egyptian general Ras Qahira commanded the "Rhino" Division of the African Coalition Forces. The Rhinos were heading towards Morocco now, to face off with Allied forces.

Qahira didn't have any particular feelings about being in the Coalition, or fighting the Alliance. He was just a soldier. The politicians were paid to have feelings one way or another. He never particularly cared about politics (except when some politician was screwing him over). He was paid to fight - and win.

So far he'd been doing rather well at both. Of course, so far he hadn't faced much opposition. Most of Africa was neutral or Coalition, which meant he was basically free to go where he pleased. But Morocco, ah, Morocco was a battleground.

British, French, and German troops were coming into Morocco from the north by sea. The Moroccan army wasn't really much of a threat, and there was already an informal sort of armistice between Morocco and the Alliance, though Morocco still pledged it's allegiance to the Coalition.

This left the Allied troops open to fight with Spanish troops, who were entering Morocco from the North across the Strait of Gibraltar. In order to stretch the Ally lines even further, Qahira had been ordered to take The Rhinos and attack the Alliance from the south.

Qahira had studied Rommel's tactics in Morocco. Qahira had found that Rommel had used a variety of cunning tricks to outwit his British opponents. It was more difficult to pull such things off in the age of scanners and leapers, but Qahira imagined there were a few things he could do.

The Rhinos had been traveling through northern Africa for weeks now. The Libyans and Algerians, who were Coalition aligned, had been giving him reinforcements, fuel, and supplies as they passed through their territory. His army was still small, but it was quite respectable.

One day, one of Qahira’s aides came up to him. He was holding a typed piece of paper in one hand.

“Sir, I have an official communiqué from General Igoumensita for you.”

“What does the Greek want?” asked Qahira incredulously.

Qahira took the piece of paper and unfolded it.

“‘Qahira - new orders. Return to Egypt. Leave Morocco to the Spanish. I will aid the Spaniards. Go to pyramids. Specific location top secret but will be given to you when you reach Egypt. Orders: find ancient Egyptian weapon called “Sword of the Sun” (rough translation). Sword of the Sun could be turning point of war. Good luck. General Dimitri Igoumensita, commander of Eastern Army.’ What the hell is this? That Greek wants me to go back to Egypt on some wild goose hunt?”

“I spoke with Cairo, sir, when I received the communiqué. They want a brigade at least to return to Egypt as per the general’s request. You’re supposed to lead the rest of us on to Morocco.”

Qahira growled angrily. His army wasn't exactly bursting with reinforcements. Orders were, however, orders.

"Send the 16th. Tell them to pare down their forces as much as possible and attach their best and brightest to the other brigades. But keep it quiet. I don't want them walking in there with a skeleton crew."

"Yes, sir."

The aide ran off. Qahira sat down to gather his thoughts. A single brigade would move a lot faster than the division would. If the 16th really hustled, they could reach Egypt, do whatever crazy shit the Greek wanted done, and then be back by the time the rest of The Rhinos reached Morocco. Of course, it would never work. He was trying to delude himself.

That damn Greek! Battalions may have seemed unimportant to another general, but Qahira was too smart for that. He knew every brigade counted, hell, every platoon counted. He'd have to do without the 16th's support.

He checked his watch. It was a watch that had been given to him for twenty-five years in the service. It had an ankh on it's face. The ankh was the ancient symbol of life, but now was just a sort of good luck charm. Qahira wished at that moment he was more religious. He could use divine help.

He checked the skies, perhaps for a sign. None came.

"All right, let's move!" he yelled out.

Almost instantaneously, every soldier was in a rank or a tank, preparing to march or ride onward. The camp was packed up and put away, perhaps to be used on some later date. Slowly, laboriously, they ground forward, while one brigade fell behind. The 16th fell further and further behind until it was gone.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 22, Part 3

“I thought the U.S. didn’t deal with terrorists,” said Metzger when they had sat down.

“That’s what I’m here about,” said York, “The American government can’t afford to keep sending troops here to try to siege you. The president has drawn up a treaty to recognize Washington D.C. as an independent nation.”

“Well, this is highly irregular.”

“These are highly irregular times,” said York.

She placed the hand-written treaty on the tabletop. Metzger scanned it briefly. It was mostly legal jargon.

“Now this says,” said Metzger, “That the United States recognizes the independent nation of the Claw. As such, diplomatic relations have been created. The Claw consists of all the land within the gates and trenches which we have built, not to be extended unless such an agreement is reached. America and the Claw are no longer in a formal state of war, although you do reserve the right to declare war at any time. Your army leaves the gates, and anyone who wants to join the Claw only needs to come to the gates. You won’t stop anyone. That’s it?”

“That’s it,” confirmed York.

“I want reparations,” said Metzger simply.

“Reparations? Are you joking? If anything, you should be paying us!”

Metzger just smiled.

“Remember, you can’t spell “negotiation” without G-A-I-N.”

Sarah smashed her fist into the table impotently. She looked around as if pleading for someone to make sense of things. Finally her gaze returned to Metzger.

"You know, you make me sick. I don't know what kind of a psychopath you are, but to collect an army of impressionable, weak-minded fools, and then use them to commit mass homicide and throw an entire country into turmoil for your own personal gain is beyond me."

"What, you think I collected this army? You think I made the Claw, General? I didn't make the Claw. They made me."

"What?"

Metzger hastily signed the document and handed it to York before she could say anything else.

"Call off your dogs, general. We're willing to settle for peace."

Friday, June 19, 2009

At the shore...

For the first time ever Manuscripts Burn is going on sabbatical! I know, I know, over the past six months you've come to admire, perhaps even worship my ability to post daily without fail. But, hey, even God needed a vacation after making the universe, am I right? Am I right? No good on the Sabbath joke? Too soon? Anyway, no new posts until Monday. In the meantime you can take this opportunity to light up the comments sections with all kinds of sophomoric and mean-spirited comments. I certainly won't be able to stop you.

The Last War: Chapter 22, Part 2

Metzger’s lackeys had woken him up from a pleasant sleep. Being awakened in the middle of the night was enough to get him very angry. He changed into his uniform and walked outside, punching in the air, hoping to catch one of his lieutenants in the chin.

Instead his lieutenant approached him from in front. It was Basilisk. He was holding a pair of binoculars.

“We thought you should see this, sir,” the colonel said.

Metzger took the binocs with a scowl and a growl. He scanned the area outside of the gates and trenches. The Americans were still there, but like any normal people they were sleeping. There was something different. Sarah York was approaching the gates of Washington with a white flag. Metzger understood she was a rather important American general.

“Metzger!” she yelled when she reached the gates, “Metzger, I’m here to negotiate!”

Metzger turned to Basilisk. The colonel shrugged.

“Let her in,” said the Butcher of Bavaria.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 22, Part 1

The arguing rose to a fever pitch. It began to grate on General Sarah York's nerves. She covered her ears, but it didn't seem to drown out the childish fighting. Suddenly she leapt to her feet.

"God dammit, shut up!"

The whole delegation stared at York. She had to compose herself before continuing, but she tore into it.

She was here as a political obligation. She'd found that often the higher in the ranks of the army you go, the more you become a politician rather than a soldier.

General York was in command of the military in the northeastern states. She'd been working herself to death, ever since the Rape of Washington, when she was given her post. The governors of all the states were making their monthly meeting, and General Johnson, the chairman of what was left of the Joint Chiefs, had asked her to come to brief the governors on how things were going in the major metropolitan areas.

Things were not going well at all. And York could see why things were not getting better. All the governors seemed interested in doing was yelling at each other.

She took a deep breath.

"This petty bickering is not getting a thing done! Ladies and gentlemen, you are destroying America every second you spend here arguing with each other. Washington is still not taken back, and Canada and Mexico are trying to invade us with their Coalition allies."

There was some murmuring amongst the governors, but they all listened intently to York.

"Uh...The state governments are just as important as the federal government to the people right now, which is why none of you should leave your posts. I think you should all appoint officials whom you think would best serve as a congress, from your respective states. The federal government can relocate to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - it's ancestral home. And I also think that the general here should be the new provisional president."

General Johnson blustered at the remark.

"I can't leave my post! America needs me!" he exclaimed.

"With all due respect, sir, you're not a brilliant enough military mind to lead America in a state of war. You're a fine politician, and an excellent military officer, but not for this war time. The president needs to be someone who has an intimate knowledge of the workings of the military, so that he doesn't screw the military over at every turn. And he also has to be a politician who can quell the people. You'd be the perfect choice for that, sir."

Johnson was staring at York, half-heartedly trying to give her the evil eye. The idea was beginning to click in his mind.

"And who will be the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs?"

"Promote me, sir," she said simply.

"Do you realize there are at least a dozen officers ahead of you in line for that promotion, General York?"

Johnson had been trying to crush York's confidence by pulling rank, but he had only bolstered it. She was proud to be a major general.

It was then that the governor of California stood up. Morgan, she thought the governor's name was.

"All right, General York. We've decided you're right in that we need decisive action. We'll try your plan. If it doesn't work in two months, the whole idea gets scrapped. We'll form the provisional government a completely different way."

"Ladies and gentlemen," she said, "I promise you that in only one month this war will be turned upside-down."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 21, Part 2

General Dimitri Igoumensita looked over the maps and reports he had been provided with. Germany would have to face the Eastern Bloc from the east. They obviously knew this, and were fortifying the border. Poland was the natural place to attack from.

Unless of course the Germans attacked them first. Would they do that? How much sense did it make? Igoumensita scowled. Which was the superior force? He had very few MI reports on the German army.

Where should he concentrate his forces? Poland was the natural place for considering an attack on West Europe, which was his major target. Now that the rebel army had been driven out of Poland and into Germany, Igoumensita felt reasonably secure about moving forces into Poland. There was still a major Polish underground movement, of course. He also had the rather onerous task of protecting all of the Eastern Bloc from attack. Russia had shown no signs of starting something, but they certainly could at any time.

With a sweep of his arm, Igoumensita knocked all of his papers off of his desk. He lit a cigarette and leaned back in his chair. He found that he was his best when he was not burdened with numbers, and could just think without considering the facts. He was a natural born warrior, who knew things instinctually, not by crunching numbers and statistics.

Now then. Poland. Poland was a pain in Igoumensita’s hind side. It had always refused to join the Eastern Bloc. They were too proud of their independence. Eastern forces had then occupied Poland, forcing the country into Eastern servitude. Yet he couldn’t squeeze a single collaborator out of the whole rotten population. The closest he had gotten was a Ukrainian with a Polish name: Johann Joniec. He had put Joniec in charge of running the Eastern fleet off the Polish border, and he had done admirable work, but the fleet was in constant danger of sabotage from the locals.

The Poles were always blowing up Eastern installations. They couldn’t stand toe to toe with the Eastern army so they went the route of subterfuge. He had been very surprised by the appearance of Lewandowski’s ragtag army. But now that the overt rebels had been chased out of the country, there was only the underground to deal with. They certainly would not allow Igoumensita to launch an attack unless they didn’t know there was an installation. Not unless there was some very good propaganda which would convince the Poles the Eastern army was elsewhere.

He picked up the phone and dialed the number.

"This is Igoumensita," he said in Greek, "I have a problem with Poland. I need them to think that aside from the garrison, the Eastern army is nowhere near Poland. Can you handle it? I don't care how difficult it is! I have a pretty god damned difficult job, too, you know! Yes, yes. I want a whole propaganda campaign. No, I really don't care about any other country. Well," he consulted one of the maps that had been thrown to the floor, "I may try to launch some attacks from the Czech Republic as well, so you may want to begin a minor campaign there to rouse support for the Union. Yes, thank you."

He hung up the phone on the Minister of Propaganda. Now, then, what were important German targets? Berlin, obviously, but that would be their most fortified area. Münich? No, that was too much of a southward push. Maybe he should just concentrate on border towns. If he took enough land, he could take Berlin and Münich eventually. How about Görlitz? From there he could proceed to Bautzen, Dresden, Chemnitz. Or maybe he should try Frankfurt an der Oder. That was a short push to Berlin.

Yes, Görlitz was the place. He should make a push from Poland. But where? Szczecin. What a godawful name for a place. Why couldn't any of them have nice, simple Greek names? He looked again at the map of Germany with all of it's horrible names. He laughed. The country looked like a huge mushroom.

Igoumensita picked the phone up again. This time he was calling Michaelis Pantermalis, his chief of staff.

"Pantermalis," he said, "Let's start diverting forces to Poland. There's a city called Szczecin, that's where I want our bulk to be. S-Z-C-Z-E-C-I-N. Yes, it's a lot farther north than any of our targets. My plan is to throw the Germans off. They're going to think we're attacking from a city pretty far south. We'll actually be marching the men from Szczecin down to Görlitz. It's feasible.

"Let's get the air force started right away. Our prime target is Berlin, obviously. Let's try to take their capital. But have the planes sweeping very broadly. Bomb everything from Cologne to Münich. The important thing about this campaign is to always keep them guessing! Keep them guessing where we're coming from, keep them guessing where we are, keep them guessing what we're after. Yes. Good bye, Pantermalis."

Igoumensita put the phone carefully back into it's cradle. He leaned back in his chair to begin thinking again. France? No, France was too far west. For now.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 21, Part 1

Lewandowski smiled grimly. He straightened out the officer’s cap on his head. When the hysterical rioting had finally died down after two days of terrible destruction, he decided that he needed to organize his forces. His first action was to get all the women and children out of the city. Even though modern armies accepted women as an integral part of combat forces, Poland was still of the old school, believing in chivalry and the idea that war was a masculine art. So all the members of the fairer sex, all boys under eighteen, and all men who were too old to fight, were shipped to the safety of the fields outside of Warsaw proper.

He next distributed the weapons more aptly. In the fury of those first few nights, the Eastern armory had been taken by the Poles, but weapons went to those who grabbed them first. Some men were sitting on whole piles of machine guns and mortars and ammo. When he was able to carefully assess the situation, Lewandowski insisted that every man in his force was given a weapon.

He knew he would never be able to establish a proper uniform, so he simply demanded that everyone wear a helmet. He found that military gear just seemed to crop up. Men found themselves wearing tunics, blouses, flak jackets, fatigues, jackboots, and everything else. It gave them a ragtag sense of unity

Then he established a chain of command. He had rooted out as many men as he could find who had fought in the war. He had found that he was not the highest ranking former officer. Still, the people looked upon him as their leader, so even the former captains and majors whom he had dug up subordinated themselves to him. He assigned all the former officers appropriately sized forces of rioters. He had given each of these men a single officer’s cap from the precious supply he had found in an old building. Everyone had taken to calling him “general” immediately, though he constantly insisted that they not call him that.

So now he had a fighting force. They were poorly disciplined, and many were not skilled in the arts of war at all. Still, it was a force, and they were Poles, a stalwart and courageous people as a whole. By the time the initial surprise of the riot had lost it’s impetus, Lewandowski had organized the rioters into an army. The Easterners had at first been beaten by the sheer brutal madness, but by the time they had regrouped and prepared for rioting, they were forced to deal with an organized force. So Warsaw was still a killing ground, and it had now broken down into vicious street fighting.

“They’re better disciplined than we are,” Lewandowski said to his colonel, “And if this slugging match goes on for very much longer, they’re going to get the upper hand. I’d say we’ve done all the damage we’re going to do. Now we’re just fighting a holding action. It’s suicide to wait around here for fresh Eastern reinforcements. What do you think, colonel?”

The single colonel left over from the war had done his best to introduce Lewandowski to higher echelon tactical thinking. They had both quickly discovered that the former lieutenant was a natural tactical genius. He reluctantly admitted that he was a good enough leader to be called a general, even if he had no official claim to the title.

“I say we get out of here while we still can. If Igoumensita decides to send a division or two our way, we’re doomed.”

“I say we gradually move west. We’ll drag the remaining Easterners out of their holes, making them think that they’re finally beating us out of the city. But really we’ll be drawing them out in the open where we can deal with them as we wish. Our objective is to reach Germany, a safe Allied country, and then we’ll see what has to be done.”

What Lewandowski meant, really, was that in all likelihood they would reach Germany and disperse. And his use of the word “safe” had been partly sarcastic, because Germany was quite clearly threatened by the East. Odds were very good that Lewandowski’s gang would be apprehended by the Easterners and treated as criminals. The Eastern Bloc was notorious for it’s savage treatment of all criminals, especially revolutionaries.

So they moved out. A sad nostalgic wind blew as they abandoned their homes and trudged out into the countryside. The sound of gunfire off to the east was a constant reminder that there was still a sizeable Eastern contingent to deal with, as well as a huge expanse of Polish land to pass through before reaching the relative sanctuary of Germany.

By centimeters and meters Lewandowski laid down a brilliant fighting retreat. He carefully whittled down the Easterners, and whittled away their morale. He laid down as many traps as he could think of for his adversaries. As the Eastern tanks rolled onto minefields and the troops fell into tiger traps, they began to slowly give up the chase.

A terrifying explosion brought tons of rocks falling down into a mountain pass that the Polish rebels had passed through. This blocked off the Easterners once and for all. There was no longer any hope of catching up with their prey.

And so the Poles crossed the border, and entered the refuge of Germany.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 20, Part 2

"Yes!" yelled Dansworth, "That was exciting, that was exhilarating, that was...fantastic!"

Dansworth was pacing restlessly around the barracks. Gunner Jones and Captain Arrington were sitting calmly drinking from bottles of liquor and eating ham sandwiches.

"Yeah," said Jones.

"Fantastic," said Arrington half-heartedly.

He took another bite out of his sandwich.

"How can you two be so calm and complacent after what we have just been through?" demanded the newsman.

"It is not complacency," said the Animal, "It is depression. We got beat back from Bayonne by the damn Coalies and we lost Moon."

"A tank crew gets really close, like brothers. How would you feel if you lost a brother, and for nothing, too?" said Jones.

"Well, well," Dansworth tried to search for words, "That sure as hell seemed like a victory to me. And it will to the rest of the world, too. We did some major damage. Now I know why they call you "The Animal", captain!"

Jones and Arrington exchanged glances. Dansworth was still giddy with the thrill of battle. When he saw what war did, he'd soon lose his bloodlust, and probably his lunch, too.

"The sad fact is no matter how bravely we fought, the Alliance still lost. Well, they did sneak attack us. At least we have learned. We won't get fooled again."

Dansworth nodded. Brazil, Russia, Australia, France, Britain, England (and to a lesser extent America) were the Alliance. Around the world they were having a hell of a time of it. America was probably getting the worst of war, with Washington taken, the country ashambles, Canada and Mexico invading, and everything else.

"So, when do we fight the Coalies again?" asked Dansworth.

He was relishing in the derogatory term for anyone in the Coalition. Arrington and Jones just used the word as a matter of identification, but Dansworth got a little thrill out of it.

"I suppose we will get a new driver, and then see where things progress from there," said Arrington, taking a long swig from his bottle.

Dansworth looked heartbroken.

"You mean I won't be able to go into battle again?"

"Not unless you quit reporting and join the army," said Jones.

"Well, that's just what I will do then!" said Dansworth.

"Until we meet again," said Arrington, rising and leaving the room with his gunner.

Later, Arrington made a bet with Jones that the next time they saw Dansworth he would still be a reporter. Jones was reluctant to challenge it, but for the sake of a game of chance he did.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Dramatis Personae: Alliance Edition



Part 2 in our 3 Part series on the two opposing factions of the Last War. I'll let you ruminate on that seeming non sequitur until next week when "all" will be revealed.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 20, Part 1

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

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

"Who are you?" the officer asked abruptly.

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

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

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

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

"Ah, I am fine."

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

"How are things going militarily here in France?"

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

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

Arrington was sweating. No, suddenly he was angry.

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

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

The Animal nodded.

"Thank you, thank you very much."

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

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

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

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

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

"Oh, well, certainly."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Shit! What was that?”

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

“Certainly, certainly. Can we follow you?”

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

“Fine. Don’t get in the way!”

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

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

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

“Jones!”

“Sir?” asked the gunner, Jones

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

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

Jones then began firing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some automatic shotgun fire exploded around them.

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

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

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

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

"Captain Arrington, look!"

The Animal looked in the direction Dansworth was pointing.

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

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

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

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

"We got it!" yelled Jones.

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

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

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

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

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

"Moon is down!"

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

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

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

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

Arrington thrust Dansworth into the driver's seat.

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

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

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

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 19

Ulan Bataar was the largest city in Mongolia, where most of it's urban population lived. Now that Mongolia had begun the invasion of Russia, it's populace had begun to spread into occupied Russia. While Mongols and Chigols were as far as Ulan-Ude, most of the Mongolian military forces were massed in Sühbaatar, on the Mongolian side of the border. But still, Ulan Bataar was the capital city. By custom, important diplomats would be met there.

A small transport plane landed in Ulan Bataar. It was painted extravagantly with the insignia of The Claw. Metzger left the plane, accompanied by Krauss as his honor guard. Metzger was the last to arrive at the proceedings, though he had called them.

When he had finally taken the podium before a room full of diplomats, Metzger realized there were far more people there then he had expected. A polyglot hovered near Metzger, ready to translate a plethora of languages. Metzger wondered absently at why these proceedings had been changed from a private conference to...a circus.

A man called out in Spanish. The translator said, "The Spanish ambassador asks, 'Well, Metzger, you've called for this meeting, what's it all about?'"

Translators all around the room began chattering as Metzger began speaking.

"First, I'd like to apologize for not holding this, uh, conference in Washington, but, as you all know, we are in a very volatile and unstable state at the moment. But, what this is all about is a proposal which I would like to make to Emperor Bleda and to General Igoumensita. I'm glad the rest of you have decided to join us, but I'm not sure why."

There was some disturbed talking from the various emissaries, but it quickly subsided.

"What I'm proposing is a coalition. A coalition between Mongolia, the Eastern Bloc, and The Claw. All three of our nations have declared war in our own particular ways, and I think we could all benefit greatly from coming together in a formal alliance."

Metzger had not actually known about the Eastern Bloc until Krauss had filled him in. It had been formed while Metzger was in jail in Germany, and he had never really learned about it.

Greece, Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Greece, former Yugoslavia, Romania, and Bulgaria had come together to form a union of the eastern European nations. It wasn't like an empire, just a conglomeration for mutual defense. There was no longer a separate army for Greece, Albania, etc., but a single Eastern army. Instead of some dozen weak armies, one strong army came together. Recruits trained throughout all of the Eastern nations, getting a feel for the whole general area. In this way, the nations all provided for one another's defense.

Tariffs were eliminated, trade increased between the neighbors. Every nation was still individual, but they all managed to benefit from the unity. More nations ran to join the Eastern Bloc at the expense of the defunct European Union. All of eastern Europe came to join the Eastern Bloc. It's borders were Italy, Austria, and Germany. Those three nations and everything west of them preferred to stand on their own as the unofficial remnants of the EU.

Dimitri Igoumensita was a Greek, and the commander of the Eastern Army. He had considerable forces from the many countries which comprised the Eastern Bloc. He had lately been growing militant, invading Turkey, Italy, and Russia. Nerves were frayed, and it was growing close to all out war. Apparently Metzger intended to make real war begin.

"I think we can all take a lesson from the Eastern Bloc," began Metzger, "In that many weak countries allying themselves together can create a strong force, without losing their identity. To be honest, I need some reinforcements, even though the Americans are failing miserably in their siege. I think Germany is sending forces to America."

The German ambassador, who had been listening quietly to Metzger, suddenly started.

"That's right," he said, "You're holding one of our generals hostage."

"General Krauss is certainly no hostage. He's my protégé. Isn't that right, Krauss?"

Krauss looked about nervously. He was sweating.

"Yes, yes, that's right."

"Still, the chancellor isn't going to stand for it. She's already writing up a declaration of war."

Metzger looked around. He suddenly had a flash of inspiration. He removed a document from his uniform, and made a number of changes.

"I've decided to revise my proposal," he said, "I'd still like for Mongolia and the Eastern Bloc to form a coalition with me. But," he said, pausing for importance, "I'd like to open the offer up to any nation. Any nation that wants to be a part of something strong.

"I think I do know why you're all here. You're here to see how my meeting will affect all of your countries. Well, I'll tell you how it could affect your countries. I think we all know that a full fledged war is coming on. There are three choices for any of you. You could maintain neutrality, and accomplish nothing in particular. You could align yourselves with America and Russia, and whomever else might be aiding them. Or," he said, pointing his finger into the air, "or, you could do something that will change the course of history.

"I see representatives from a lot of weak countries here today. Many of you are unwilling to admit that, but down in your gut you know that you're weak. I, for one, know that I control a weak nation. But take a look at Mongolia for a moment. No one ever considered Mongolia to be anything. But with a tiny change in fortune, Mongolia is now a super power, soon to be a huge empire."

Bleda Khan and his entourage all smiled broadly.

"Or pick any name out of the Eastern Bloc. Would you call any of those nations strong? But together, aren't they a force to be reckoned with?"

Igoumensita scowled, but he had been scowling all along so Metzger didn't take it as a particularly indicating sign. The fact of the matter was that Igoumensita was somewhat preoccupied by the Polish Warsaw uprising, and was not particularly interested in these proceedings.

"I would like the aid of Mexico and Canada, to help me by invading America. I'm sure Emperor Bleda could use help. And, General Igoumensita, wouldn't you like some allies before you begin any attacks into Europe?"

Igoumensita nodded thoughtfully.

"I'd like to give you all the chance to become strong. I promise that any nation that joins my coalition will have land, money, resources, people,...and power. Real power. A real say in world affairs."

The Spanish ambassador piped in, saying, "How much? I don't think any of us here are willing to start a war for vague promises."

"Well, I'll strike a deal with any nation who wants to become part of The Coalition."

The ambassadors could all hear Metzger say "coalition" as though it were a hallowed, reverent, capitalized word.

"You could all settle for good enough. You could all say, 'I don't want to rock the boat, I don't want to do anything that could jeopardize my current position'. But, when you think about it, what is your current position? The fifth largest this, the seventh largest that. None of you are first in anything. I offer you the chance to be first. Do you want to live in the shadows of nations like America and Germany all of your life? Or do you want to be the ones who have other nations cowering in your shadows?

"I'm just offering an opportunity here. An opportunity to tilt the world, knock it back on it's heels. Any one of you could be a part of that. Or, you could fight alongside the Americans like you always have and when the fighting’s all over get a little pat on the head from them. 'Good job,' they'll say, and then leave you and patronize you and condescend you for a couple of years. Would you like that? Or would you rather have some real power and carve your own path?"

By the end of the month, when all the debating and arguing and checking was done, seven nations rejected Metzger's offer. America, Russia, Australia, Brazil, Great Britain, Germany, and France would not join The Coalition. A few dozen countries around the world stayed neutral. Mongolia, Spain, Mexico, Portugal, Japan, the Eastern Bloc, most of Africa, most of South and Central America, and, to put it simply, the whole rest of the world, joined the Coalition.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 18, Part 2

“People of Warsaw,” the Eastern major said gruffly into his microphone, “Despite the war and the deep resentment which has grown between the Eastern Bloc and the Polish people, we only want the best for Poland. Our occupation has been helpful to your country in many ways, and by resisting us, you only hurt yourselves. We are willing to be compassionate. We only ask that, in return, you admit your allegiance to the Bloc.

“It’s really not such a bad deal,” he added candidly, straying somewhat from the prepared speech, “You get a lot of things that an occupied country wouldn’t get, and that you didn’t have independently. Most importantly, you get our protection. As a token of our friendship, we now present this statue of one of your great heroes. In the interests of cooperation and understanding, we present the people of Poland with this gift.”

The major made a little hand gesture. A few of the Eastern soldiers pulled down a sheet that was covering a huge, larger-than-life statue. It was the simulacrum of an overweight, pompous slob of an officer. It was Johann Joniec, the notorious Ukrainian admiral whom the Easterners had placed in charge of the Polish North Sea ports after the initial occupation. There were simply no Poles who had been willing to collaborate. Through shrewd politicking and bold piracy Joniec had risen to become the head of the Eastern North Sea Fleet. He had a Polish name and his family tree could dubiously be traced to central Poland, which Igoumensita had hoped would placate the Poles by placing a foreigner in charge of an occupying Navy operating off the Polish coast.

“Monster!” Lewandowski yelled out.

The crowd had been startled by the Joniec statue. The major hadn’t realized that they would be angered by it, though. Joniec portrayed himself to his Eastern masters as beloved by the Polish people, an adopted son. Lewandowski had been counting on the Easterners to miscalculate based on Joniec’s lies. That was why he had set off the fuse that would send the crowd into a fury. He got a firm grip on the empty bottle he was holding and flung it at the statue, yelling Polish curses.

Pocaluj mnie w dupa, Joniec!” Lewandowski yelled.

There were suddenly murmurs of disgust and rising anger through the crowd. The Easterners were scared. It seemed as though a solitary old bum had seized an opportunity to turn a whole city against them.

“Now, now, calm down…” the major said.

But a flung brick halted him in mid-sentence. He jumped down from the podium. His soldiers also scrambled down. Unfortunately, they had made the mistake of moving directly into the crowd. The Easterners were bludgeoned and kicked to death. Lewandowski had now almost single-handedly incited the crowd into an angry mob.

“Show those Eastern bastards what being Polish really means!” Lewandowski yelled.

The screams of “Tak” rose to a fever pitch. The crowd began rioting. An angry contingent dragged down the statue of Joniec. Screaming bloody murder, Lewandowski ran and miturated onto Joniec’s face.

“To the headquarters!” Lewandowski yelled out, “Let’s kick those invaders out of Poland once and for all!”

Mob rule swept the city of Warsaw and out into the surrounding countryside. Eastern soldiers were murdered in the streets. And in response the Easterners began setting up machine gun nests to decimate whole crowds of Poles. Lewandowski found himself elevated from the status of beggar to the powerful leader of an angry throng. His own fury and leadership ability seemed to whip the Poles into a frenzy of destruction, eradicating anything even remotely related to the Bloc.

The Eastern garrison returned the favor in kind. The soldiers used brutal force to try to quelch the rebellion. The entire city became an urban war zone. Warsaw burned that night.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 18, Part 1

Krauss walked into the room looking for his mentor who had sent a rather odd summons to him. Metzger was there, all right. But he didn't look himself. His uniform was disheveled, his eyes were bloodshot, his hair was a mess, he had not shaved. In his hand was a large bottle of vodka. Krauss was taken aback. In the conversation that followed, Krauss saw Metzger in a way that he had never seen him before. He had always been calm, thoughtful, and intelligent. Now he was emotional and agitated in a manner more terrifying than if he had been his usual terrifying self.

Metzger was looking out a window at the collected Claw.

"Look at them Krauss! The biggest collection of useless rabble on the planet! Skinheads, KKK members, militia members, revolutionaries, criminals. Idiots, every last one of them!"

Metzger swung his bottle as if to hit them with it, but he lost his balance. Krauss caught him and thrust him back to his feet. Metzger staggered about a bit.

"It never would have been like this in the old days, Krauss. No, never. I was in the army, like every other capable man...Do they still have mandatory service in the Fatherland?"

"Ah, yes, sir," said Krauss trepidaciously.

Metzger grunted.

"So I did my time, and then went career. Never led in battle, of course, no battles to lead into. I was in charge of covert operations - you know, strikes against terrorists, that sort of thing. Black operations - your superiors know about it but they deny knowledge of it if you're caught. All that.

"I must have been pretty damn good. I got to be a marshal."

Krauss took Metzger by the shoulders and began to push him gently towards his room.

"Perhaps you should get some sleep, marshal."

Metzger struggled out of Krauss' grip.

"I'm fine! I was telling you a story. Where was I? Oh, yes, the black op. Military Intelligence had received word that a group of rebels in the Bavarian countryside were planning something big. An assassination, a coup, something. They sent me with a small squad of men to a little farmhouse one night.

"A whole lot of them were congregated there. It was just like the MI men had told me. So we took them out. They fought back of course, took out my whole squad. But, when it was over they were all dead and I was still standing. I ran off and almost directly into a police car.

"I was arrested, charged with mass murder. My superiors denied everything, of course - it was a black op. Oh, and it turns out that all the people I had killed were Jewish. They were holding religious services in a farmhouse since their temple was being fumigated or something. So, I got branded as a Neo-Nazi Anti-Semite.

"The papers called me "Der Metzger von Bayern", The Butcher of Bavaria. The name just stuck."

Metzger took a long swig from his bottle.

"You know, it was in jail where I learned my harshest lessons. They all took me for a Neo-Nazi. I got regular beatings and rapings - from the prisoners and the guards. It was...the worst time in my life. In jail there was a real Neo-Nazi (I never knew the man) but he decided I was a hero. He talked to his contacts in America, where they were forming a new sort of conglomeration called The Claw under that man Basilisk. Basilisk and the Claw busted me out of jail and took me back to America.

"I'm a German, general, so I don't know all that much about American political affairs, but as they explained it to me, this has to do with groups for anarchy. Militias, revolutionaries, lonely rabble. They all collected together. But even they knew the only thing they had was hopeful ideals. Even they knew it would take a strong leader, a real leader if they were going to accomplish anything.

"They had this uniform tailor-made for me. Based on Nazi, but blood red and with Claw insignia. They wanted to call me Grand Imperial Dragon Wizard Something Something, but I wouldn't have it. I submissed on the uniform, but I told them, 'I'm a marshal, I've been a marshal for longer than I can remember, I will remain a marshal'.

"And then I led this coup on the American government. You know," he said wistfully, "It's kind of ironic. Back in the day I was loyal and idealistic. I would have done anything to prevent a revolution. But when I tried to prevent a revolution, it set me on a path to causing a revolution."

Metzger sat on the floor and sobbed. Krauss approached him in a roundabout fashion. He suddenly leapt up, and Krauss jumped back.

"I suppose I proved to be a good enough leader, eh? I still remind myself, though, that it was America that chose me, not me who chose America."

He leaned in close to his protégé.

"Krauss, there's a secret that I've discovered and I want to share it with you. Do you think power lies with mustached führers or men with white sheets on their heads? Do you think it lies with kings and presidents, revolutionary leaders and armies? It doesn't. It lies in the one place it never should. Power lies in the people. Nothing can be accomplished without the people. The proletariat, the huddled masses, the fools, they have all the power. Not me, not you, not any big name. Them."

The bottle slipped from his grasp and shattered on the floor. He walked to his room.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 17

The drums beat to a tune that was hallowed in Mongolia and feared in China and many other places. The haunting melody of "The Mongolian Imperial Battle March" was well known in most of Asia, for various reasons.

It was written to complement an army. The music was for bugles and drums, as only a large military force could provide. Part of the music also came from the beat of troops marching in a regular pattern.

It loses something in the translation from the sweet Mongolian tongue to the brutal English one, but the song's message is still clear: Mongolia will never back down.

Hail to the Empire
Long live the Emperor
We are blessed by some divineness
For we shall never be beat
Nor slow down
We shall keep and defend our homeland
And take more land to call our home
Sweet Mongolia.

The Mongols marched on towards their objective, the hole which had been blown in the great wall of China. The troops crossed the border and began pouring into China. Some of the Chinese put up resistance, mostly those still loyal to the Communist regime. Many more still rushed to greet and welcome the Mongol soldiers, and have joyful reunions with the Chigols whom they knew. The Mongols swept through China. Resistance grew less and less until finally, when they reached the Pacific Ocean, there was none left. The people were beaten. And yet, they were all happy. Bleda Khan promised jobs for everyone, medicine, food, land, money, and, most importantly, competent leadership. The Chinese people had hope again.

We honor Bleda Khan
Our first Emperor
He shall rule forever from above
Though we look forward
We never forget the past
Nor shall we forget
Above all else:
We serve Mongolia

From China the conquering Horde swept south. Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia fell quickly, but the occupying army was harrowed for a long time by guerillas and terrorists. Soon even the terrorism petered out. Kirghiz Jagatai, the commander of the army, next led a detachment into Myanmar. The Burman government surrendered their country without a fight, and the Burmese people were all too happy to support the Horde.

We shall campaign
We shall crusade
We shall defeat all who stand in our way
We are blessed
The Empire shall watch over us
We shall march into battle
And never back down
For we fight for Mongolia


Brilliant, unworkable schemes were planned out for the invasion of Indonesia, the Phillipines, and the countless thousands of islands to the south of Vietnam. The more ambitious strategists even proposed a sweep through the Pacific Rim and an invasion of Australia. However, a distinct and strange lack of ships left this utterly impossible. A few islands, such as Brunei and the northernmost Phillipines were invaded, but the Horde’s fleet seemed utterly tapped out. Many of the governments of Maritime Southeast Asia surrendered in advance, to retain a fair amount of autonomy and avoid Bleda Khan's minimal naval wrath. Expansion into the islands was cut short. As for the reason for the fleet’s mysterious disappearance, no explanations were forthcoming.

We shall have sea on every side
We shall have four shores
We shall not stop fighting
Till this task is accomplished
We watch over our people
As we bring others into the fold
So they can stand with us
For Mongolia

Bleda Khan had originally believed that India would only fall when the Mongolian navy surrounded her borders. However, the Mongolian Empire had such overwhelming ground forces, that a land invasion without any naval support had become possible. Jagatai, despite having been wounded and infected with gangrene during his campaigns in Laos, led the Horde into the subcontinent. Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India fell. Spurred on by their own impetus, the Horde swept into Kazakhstan and Tajikstan, but was halted in Uzbekistan, where the Uzbeks sued for peace and preservation of their autonomy. Jagatai was disappointed, but his army was exhausted, so he turned back, happy with his conquests. The Middle East lay just out of reach of Mongolia. Bleda, however, was more than happy. With a final diplomatic force launched into the underdefended Japanese islands to negotiate a truce, Mongolia achieved hegemony over the entire Far East. In the entire Asian continent only Russia still opposed the Golden Horde, and Russia, too, was falling fast. The old Mongolian Empire had been resurrected.

Our Chinese brothers and sisters will join us
As will many others
The people of the world shall fall before the Golden Horde
No one shall want for anything
Our dynasties will go on
We are golden
The Imperial Battle March shall play
And everywhere shall be called Mongolia

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 16

The new recruit was decked out in a uniform unlike any the other recruits had ever seen before. He smiled broadly, happy to have been distinguished enough from the other recruits to be chosen by the sergeant to wear the uniform.

Of course, he was swimming in it, but he could barely tell. (There's an old saying that there are only two uniform sizes in the army: too big and too small.) He was wearing a helmet that came down to his neck, but allowed his whole face to be free, and would have been except for the black goggles. He was wearing black jodhpurs into which was stuffed his fabric camouflage pants. His tunic was not, however, fabric. It was some kind of space-age plastic that was light as a feather and supposedly could deflect bullets with ease. A black belt topped it off. He wore no insignia of any kind, as it would endanger higher-ranking officers in combat, nor gloves, which would probably only hinder the hands in combat.

His mates were assembled in ranks in their old fabric uniforms. Many of them looked at him with envy. He smiled. It was then that the drill sergeant came in. He was holding an automatic weapon.

"Ladies and gentlemen," said the sergeant, "Take a look at wonderboy over there."

He pointed at the bedecked recruit. The recruits all turned their heads to look at him, though they had already been looking at him. The drill sergeant turned around and fired a full clip from his automatic weapon at the recruit. The entire congregation was so taken aback by this, everyone in the room found themselves holding their breath.

Including the recruit. He was not dead.

"The uniform your friend is wearing is bullet proof. Take a good look at the carapace and headgear. I just emptied an entire magazine into him, and the armor is barely dented. You can get up now, son."

The recruit got up off the floor, shaking violently. He checked himself for bullet holes, and, finding none, resumed normal breathing and life processes.

"Could you please place that helmet on the hook behind you and step out of the way, son?"

The recruit did as he was told, and the drill sergeant put down his automatic weapon. In it's place he held a regular, break-action, ten-gauge shotgun.

"Observe."

The sergeant fired one shot at the helmet. A huge hole (which was actually composed of many, many tiny holes) was in the helmet. The sergeant cracked the gun, removed the used cartridge, and threw it haphazardly on the ground.

"That armor is our latest military technological breakthrough. It's cheap, easy to make, lightweight, and completely bullet proof. A man wearing that armor could only be seriously harmed by being shot in the face, an unlikely happenstance in a real combat situation. It can, as you have just seen, be penetrated by shotgun shells.

"We assume that these new-issue body armor uniforms will soon be in major usage around the world. This is why the army will be switching from conventional weapons to shotguns, in order to be effective on the battlefield when combating an enemy wearing armor.

"Of course," he said, reaching down to pick up a third weapon, "You don't want to have to reload every time you fire. That would be damned stupid. So, I give you the automatic shotgun, or AS gun, for short. Kid, could you remove that helmet and put that tunic onto the hook?"

The recruit did as he was told. He wasn't watching what he was doing, though, he was looking at the AS gun the drill sergeant was holding. It looked similar enough to a regular Remington M-1100 single-barreled shotgun. There were a few minor differences, such as the large drum attached to it. The drum and handle seemed to give it a feeling of a tommy gun rather than a shotgun.

And it sure fired like a Thompson. The entire armor tunic was little more than strings of melted plastic when the sergeant was through firing.

"These are going to be standard issue in a few weeks. They're drum-fed, and each drum should last you a couple hours in battle, if you shoot conservatively. And, although shotgun shells are considerably more expensive to make than bullets, it would take so many bullets to get anything done on the battlefield the army would go broke. But, there are things more expensive and more effective than regular shells. I give you The Executioner."

The sergeant held up a black drum marked with a skull. The recruits hadn't really noticed that the regular shell drums had been white, or that the regular shells had been yellow. The sergeant threw the drum and the AS gun he was holding onto the floor.

"Executioner shells are universally marked with a white skull on black background. Remember that! A drum would do too much damage, so I'm going to demonstrate with a single shell. Recruit, could you please stick that dummy on the hook, and get the hell out of there!"

The recruit stuck a dummy full of sand onto the hook where he had hung his helmet and armor already. He ran back to stand in line with the other recruits behind the drill sergeant. While he was doing this, the sergeant had picked up his conventional shotgun and loaded a black Executioner shell into it. He pointed at the dummy and fired.

The entire room rocked from the explosion. Sand was everywhere. The sergeant broke his shotgun and removed the used shell. He placed the gun on the ground.

"Before going into combat you will typically receive ten drums of dumb-dumb shells, and one drum of Executioners. As you can see, Executioners are devastating explosive shells. Use them sparingly! They're damn expensive, ten times as expensive as regular shells, that's why you get one tenth as many. That's the end of this demonstration. Dismissed."

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Dramatis Personae: Coalition Edition

Like most people in the blogosphere I am more commonly a lurker than a commenter. (Or, as my old battalion commander would put it, I am more of an "aginner" than a "forer.") But I have to say I do appreciate when Jane Smith runs her occasional "Pitch Parties" which sort of force comments. Like "paying it forward" you get free advertisement for your blog but then you have to comment on at least three others. At the last one I randomly inspired a total stranger to write a flash fiction story. What can I say, these things are great. So, while there is a normal multimedia post today, I also want to say welcome to any partygoers, and I wholeheartedly recommend if you haven't been yet to crash:

http://howpublishingreallyworks.blogspot.com/2009/06/birthday-pitch-party.html

Saturday, June 6, 2009

June 6, 1944

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!

I have full confidence in your courage and devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!

Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

SIGNED: Dwight D. Eisenhower

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 15, Part 2

The gun rocked again. Another Mongolian vessel was blown clean out of the water, and it's shrapnel blew one of it's mates to bits.

Gus Waber laughed and clapped the gunner on the back.

"Good job! Not too bad for our maiden voyage. Chalk another Mongolian ship up. How many is that, commander?"

The commander of the Leviathan checked one of his charts.

"Seventy-nine!" he yelled back.

"We're shit-hot!" exclaimed Waber.

Waber had never seen a fleet routed before, but he saw one now. The ships that weren't sunk were fleeing. A lot of the fleeing ships were crashing into the wrecks of their compatriots.

"Keep firing, don't let any get away!" said Waber.

The guns continued firing their massive shells and the decks continued rocking from the force of the guns.

"Navigator, plot us a course for the Mongolian coast," Waber said to the navigator.

The Leviathan slowly began to inch along towards Mongolia. They'd been cutting a route from Australia to the Asian mainland through Mongolian infested waters. The Leviathan had been having nothing but great luck. The Mongolian fleet was a lot larger than Waber had expected. He supposed it was a direct result of having such a large populations, what with the relocated Chinese and all.

Waber had discovered an interesting little fact. The Leviathan was so large that it wreaked hell with observation systems like sonar or radar. They were practically undetectable, and even if they were detected, what kind of a radarman worth his salt would believe a screen that said something the size of Jupiter was bearing down on them?

Waber looked around. The blue water was clouding red with blood.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 15, Part 1

Admiral Yuan Timur smiled as a breeze blew back his hair. The salty taste of the ocean and the sweet taste of victory mingled in his mouth.

Timur had never been to the ocean before. Mongolia had always been landlocked, and so his fleet had been confined to lakes and rivers. Because of that, it was considerably small. But ever since China had been taken, things had been different.

He looked around him at the slowly gathering armada. The Mongolian fleet was massing in the Indian Ocean at a top secret point, preparing for an assault on India, and, eventually, Africa and Australia.

Hundreds of ships and submarines were falling into formation. They were mostly Russian built, and most of the airplanes that were on the ships, such as the carrier Timur commanded, were Russian MIGs. Very few were Mongolian made, but that was only because Mongolia had only begun major military production very very recently. Most of their weaponry was captured from the invasion of Russia.

Soon that would change, however. Mongolia would begin pumping out ships (and other weapons and vehicles, but that hardly mattered to Timur) and their fleet would be purely Mongolian. For the moment, though, the Golden Navy was a motley assemblage of ships.

"Begin plotting a course for the sub-continent," he said to the navigator, and then, to the radio operator, "Order all the ships to follow us once we begin."

Both answered, "Yes, sir."

They were both Chigols. Useless nomads. Timur silently wished that once the war was over, Emperor Bleda Khan would eliminate all of the Chigols. It was not likely to happen, though, Timur lamented.

"As long as the fleet is just sitting there, let's start running some battle simulations. I want our ships..."

But the world would never know what Timur wanted his ships to do because a Chigol grabbed his shoulder and shook him vehemently. The man (or boy, really, he couldn't have been over eighteen) apparently couldn't speak Mongolian. He kept on going on and on in Chinese.

"Stop!" Timur said harshly.

The Chigol handed Timur a pair of binoculars and pointed. Timur looked in the direction the Chigol was pointing. There was nothing there. The binoculars were showing black, as though the lens cap was on. Timur checked, but the cap was off. The binocs must've been broken.

"You idiot! These binoculars are broken!"

Timur looked in a different direction. They were perfectly focused and clear. He looked back and the binocs were black again.

"What the hell?"

Timur slowly lowered the binocs from his eyes. A ship the size of a planet was bearing down on them from a distance. If he hadn't been looking for it, he never would've seen it. It was too huge to be noticed. That was a strange paradox. He took it none of the rest of the fleet had seen it either. They had been reporting a lot of sonar and radar malfunctions, though.

"That's too big!" he said, "Radar and sonar can't pick something like that up the way it should!"

There came a screaming whine through the air. Several shells the size of large automobiles were plummeting down towards them.

"Shit! Abandon ship! Abandon ship!"

"It's too late!" yelled the Chigol in his native tongue.

Three seconds later Timur had a huge splintered plank rammed through his stomach. A barrage of shells rained down on the Mongolian vessel. It was blasted into lumber and shards of metal almost instantaneously. Timur would never go down in history, only into the dark ocean depths.

A moment later, a depth charge put a hasty end to a Mongolian submarine. The fleet commanders began to grow scared, and a few ships actually steered into one another. The fleet was being slaughtered.
Enter your e-mail address in the box below and click "Subscribe" to join Stephen Kozeniewski's Mailing List for Fun and Sexy People. (Why the hell would anyone ever want to join a mailing list?)