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."

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 53

The train was shaped like an anaconda. It was as big around as an elephant, and as long as three football fields. Inside the snake's "head" was a fusion engine. The monstrous, shiny, and new chain reminded General Chavo Oso of Christmas morning.

"Christmas," Oso said, apropos of nothing but his own thoughts, "There is the tree and it shall lead us to our presents."

He pulled back the reins on his horse so that it dramatically reared up into the air, and then took off. The Mongolian cavalry company followed him, and behind them the thousands of Mexican soldiers.

After Oso had learned from the Colombians of the location of the American scanner station, he requested that the Eastern Bloc and Mongolia immediately send aid. He had specifically been hoping for a scanner jamming system. The Easterners had been using scanner jammers to confuse the German army. Now Oso needed one so that he wouldn't be discovered in this most important of missions. The Easterners had sent a tiny one, barely enough to conceal Oso's full force, and a few technicians to run it, with a few dozen soldiers. Mongolia had been only slightly more generous in sending the cavalry and foot troops he would need to reinforce his own soldiers.

"Remember that there are troops on the train," Oso said to the closest Mongolian horseback rider, "We will have to fight to take it."

The train began to pull out of it's station, and it was still going slowly as it accelerated when the Mexicans attacked. Mortars and grenades began to dent and eventually blow holes in the locked train cars. The infantry boarded the iron horse first. The mounted troops would be able to wait longer since they were moving faster and would be still be able to get on once the train was going faster.

Not every car was boarded, but many were. There had been a lot more troops on the train than Oso had foreseen. His men were fighting hard to stay on board. One a few cars had been established as bulkheads, he gave his next order.

"All infantry get on! Every last one of you! Pack in the train like cattle if you have to!"

As all the troops tried their hardest to board, the soldiers that had already been on board had to be displaced. Not all of the troops could fit on the few Mexican occupied cars. The Mexicans began to attack cars adjacent to the occupied ones, just so that they could have more room. It was interesting that the troops fought harder for comfort than they did because of orders.

A few stragglers were left behind. They were the fat ones, huffing and puffing and trying to keep running to board, but couldn't quite make it.

"Come on you pigs!" Oso yelled after them in vain, "Move, you swines! Disgusting."

The train was beginning to chug along much faster now. The Coalition troops had yet to take the engine car so they could slow the train down for the comrades. Oso knew that not even cavalry would be able to board one the train was going full speed.

"Are the Eastern technicians with the jammer on board?" Oso asked the Mongolian nearby him.

"Yes, sir," the Mongolian hacked out in awful Spanish.

"Leave the stragglers behind! Everyone board the train! Cavalry, everyone! Board, board!"

Oso had as good as delivered those obese soldiers who had fallen behind into an American P.O.W. camp. When Oso's horse began to tire and he found the train moving past him, many of the soldiers said to themselves, "Serves him right".

But Chavo Oso was not one to give up. He spurred his horse hard and made it press forward laboriously slowly, until finally he managed to leap off of it and into one of the Mexican cars. Some of the troops on the train cheered their commander for his miraculous feat, others did not who were still sore over the left behind comrades.

One of the soldiers in the car exclaimed, "We've won! It's over."

"No," said Oso, "We've not yet taken every car. The Train War has just begun."

By dawn the next day the Coalition army had taken the whole train, and left the walls and floors of every car covered with blood, both Allied and Coalition. The weary soldiers were happy for what little sleep they had gotten in the night, because a large force of defending Americans were there to meet them at the scanner station. The entire station was taken over by the next month.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sabbatical

***I apologize for the brief sabbatical which was not mentioned on the site. Things got hectic and then there were teacups full of vodka, and, well, you know the rest of the story. We'll be back to regular updates starting tomorrow.***

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 52, Part 3

A female colonel came running up into the emperor's personal box. She explained herself to the guards, and they let her in. She saluted Marshal Jagatai and then said something to him in a very low voice. He seemed suddenly deeply disturbed. He saluted again and dismissed her. Preparing himself, he turned to his leader.

"Sir?"

"Yes, marshal?"

"Sühbaatar has been taken."

Bleda slammed his fist onto the arm rest of his throne.

"Damn!" he exclaimed.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 52, Part 2

Dimitri Igoumensita checked the sights on his pistol.

"I have to use this godawful thing?"

"It's the regulations, I'm afraid, general," said Pantermalis.

"But my own weapon was blessed by a high priest! Well, if I must then I must."

Pantermalis looked a bit unsatisfied. His eyes shifted to and fro.

"Oh, what is it, Pantermalis? You've been acting like something's wrong all day?" he finally exclaimed in exasperation.

"Well, sir, it's just," he paused briefly, "Are you sure you don't want to use the magnetic target? If you don't do exceptionally well on this, Greece, and, in fact, the whole Eastern Bloc will look foolish."

"Pantermalis, I'm not going to cheat to make my country look good, or for any other reason. Besides, you've forgotten..."

"The Sword of Apollo," said Pantermalis, hiding his disdain.

"That's right. Don't worry, general, I'll make Athens look like the capital of the world after I shoot today. The gods are with me."

"Yes, sir," he said with the finality of resignation.

From outside came a voice over a loudspeaker saying in Mongolian, "At the special behest of our venerated emperor, Bleda Khan, for the first time in the history of the Nadam Festival a non-Mongolian will be participating. In pistol shooting, from Greece, supreme commander of Eastern Bloc forces, General of the Army Dimitri Igoumensita."

"That's you, sir," said Pantermalis, who was better versed in Mongolian than his commander.

Igoumensita nodded curtly to his subordinate and stepped out onto the target range.

"Please fire three rounds, general," said the field judge.

Though he didn't understand the Mongol, the Greek knew the rules and fired three shots at the target, then let his hand fall to his side.

"Three perfect hits," said the field observer.

"Move the target back fifty meters!" yelled the judge.

Mongols began filing in on both sides of him as he took his next three shots.

"Three perfect hits," cried the field observer again.

"Fifty meters!" the judge yelled again.

The other Mongols began firing at their own targets, most to modest success. Igoumensita reloaded, then took his next three shots...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 52, Part 1

"I don't understand it. Why does that idiot refuse his freedom?"

"I don't know sir," replied Supreme Marshal Kirghiz Jagatai.

Bleda shook his head and looked out at the race track. Everything was a hazy blur of colors. Could those be the horses?

"Why do you continue to offer him absolution if he keeps refusing it?"

"Because I feel I owe him a deep debt. I wronged him horribly, even though I know I was doing what was best for all of Mongolia. Damn it, I can't see anything. I'm putting on my glasses."

He was close to blind without his glasses. He had an astigmatism and was near sighted. It was only compounded by the fact that it was blackest night, and the light came from flickering torches.

"Sir, I'd warn against that," said Jagatai with an edge of warning in his voice, "You know how the public hates weaknesses."

"I'd rather look weak than miss the national games."

Bleda Khan pulled out his sorely missed spectacles and put them on. Everything finally came into focus. It hurt his eyes for a moment, but quickly subsided with the excitement of the annual Nadam Festival.

Both Metzger and Igoumensita had come, as they had for the past three years, at Bleda's request. As a matter of fact, this year Igoumensita was going to participate in the games. But that was later, during marksmanship. Right now was horse riding for speed.

The horses took off, all at spectacular speeds. Most of the jockeys were very young. Younger jockeys meant lighter weight, which meant better speeds. Mongolian children were trained from infancy to ride.

"Fantastic, simply fantastic," said Bleda, clapping his hands together slowly, "An excellent show. You know, Jagatai, it's a shame cavalry is so outdated. I can't imagine a better mounted army in the world than the one Mongolia would have."

"Well, Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan proved that point a long time ago, sir. There were cavalry troops at Irkutsk."

Bleda snorted in contempt.

"Not even a battalion. If I had my way, we'd have army groups of mounted soldiers. Damn, it's just not feasible. You send a tank up against a legion of rough riders, and I'd bet on the tank every time."

A second wave of horses took off from the starting gates. Bleda leapt up from his seat, his anticipation growing with every moment. The lead horse finally passed the finish line.

"Did you see that? Did you see it, Marshal?"

"Yes, sir."

"Why are they all leaving the track?" asked Bleda, suddenly noticing it.

"Pistol shooting is up next, sir."

It was the middle of the night and the horse racing had only just finished. The rest of the Nadam Festival would go on until well into tomorrow morning.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 51, Part 5

"Attack!" yelled out the Iron Man as violently as he could.

The force had assembled on the outskirts of the Mongolian city. Now they charged forward into it. The tanks were rolling at full speed and beginning to wear on the treads. The infantry was spread out to support the armor, but they too were sprinting forward as fast as they could.

And there went the leaper. A magnificent piece of machinery. Wreaking mass destruction and then running away in an instant. Almost Mongolian in attitude. The Iron Man saw it from his jeep, the only such small battle vehicle in the brigade.

"We've got a leaper now, Marchenko," Nemov said to his second-in-command, "We lost in Irkutsk because we didn't have one. We've got them now, though."

"They won't be ready for it sir," the man agreed.

A T-1K3 main battle tank rolled by on the left of where Nemov and Marchenko sat in the jeep.

"Hey, Iron Man!" a few troops called out in mock allure.

Nemov looked in the direction of the battle tank. One particularly coarse soldier was waving his buttocks at the colonel. The rest of the tank crew called out crude remarks.

"Your pistol please, major," said Nemov calmly.

Almost before Marchenko had finished handing his superior his sidearm, a shot rang out and the mooner fell into his tank with an agonized yell.

"We're in battle here, you sons of bitches!" Boris yelled, then settled back into his seat.

"That was amazing, sir. You hit him dead in the ass."

"No, Marchenko, I hit him in the face."

They both chuckled reservedly as the jeep bounced forward over difficult terrain. The tanks, mostly T-1K3's and Moscow III's, opened fire on buildings of Sühbaatar. As they began tumbling down and fires started, the Mongols finally seemed to realize they were under attack. A loose line of Mongols began to form before them.

The Iron Man leaned out of his jeep and yelled at an infantry platoon, "Don't spread out! Clump together! The Imps are spread out, so we've got to do the reverse!"

The Russians almost instinctively began to form into tight columns. It was a regular Russian battlefield tactic. Loose troops get swept up by closely packed attacking troops, but closely packed defenders get swept away by loose attackers because it's harder to hit them. Basic complementary behavior. Didn't always work, but it was usually best.

A mortar round blew a great big glob of mud up into Nemov's jeep.

"You see the kind of govno we officers have to put up with? Look at all this mud," said Boris, scooping a double fistful of the ooze out of his lap.

Marchenko saw a squad of tanks holding ground. He picked up his radio.

"This is Command to Red Squad. Do not hold ground, repeat, do not hold ground. We're going on the offensive here. Take armor against their infantry."

"Copy, Command," came the crackling hiss from the other end of the radio.

"That's some good work, Marchenko," said Nemov, "I don't want a single man or woman standing around here. We can't waste a single...Look at that! You there!"

The Iron Man pointed at a Russian sergeant who was holding an AS gun on about a dozen Mongol prisoners. He looked up when he heard the call of his commander.

"Yes, sir?"

"Don't troop those god damned Monks off the battlefield! Take their guns and throw them into the mud behind our lines! I need you on the front, sergeant. If they want to escape, they're damn stupid, and shouldn't have surrendered in the first place!"

"Yes, sir!" acknowledged the sergeant, then began systematically hurling each of his prisoners into the mud.

Nemov had been correct. The Mongolians had been caught completely by surprise. So many of them had been at the Nadam Festival that they weren't ready for even a battalion, let alone a brigade including large amounts of tanks and a leaper. They had mobilized surprisingly fast, however. Nemov assumed that they had put extra sentries on duty. Still, the Mongols were being plowed under the Russian war machine.

"Fog's lifting," said the Iron Man calmly, as he jolted along with the jeep.

"Yes, should certainly be better weather in the next few days," agreed Marchenko.

"Better occupying weather," replied Nemov, finally breaking into a smile.

The major turned away to avoid showing the huge schoolboy grin on his face. Russia's first victory of the war, and it was as huge a target as the waystation for all the Mongolian troops into the front.

By dawn it was all over. Sühbaatar was taken. It had been an utter rout.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Worker and Parasite

Well, kids, this is where you would watch a multimedia event, except I don't have any now, so here's Eastern Europe's favorite cat and mouse team, "Worker and Parasite."

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 51, Part 4

"Lieutenant Darbet Kazakh reporting as ordered, colonel," said the young officer

"At ease, lieutenant," Bura Karakoram said, returning him the Mongolian salute, "What do you think of the games?"

"Quite good this year, ma'am," he said.

Kazakh looked like he was still bottle feeding, but the colonel knew better. He had more battle experience than she had. Ulan-Ude, Lake Baikal, Irkutsk, Angarsk. He'd been at almost every major battle so far on the Russo-Mongolian Front. Kazakh had a young face, covered with the stubble of an inexperienced shaver, thick, coarse, and dark hair, and a large nose. But his eyes were like windows into a history of great bloodshed, great victory, and great maturity.

He was a fine soldier, short, strong, and built like a brick wall. He was brutish but handsome. The luster of his gilded armor was beginning to dull with age and abuse. But the most important reason he was a fine soldier was that he had survived so long.

The colonel was different from Kazakh in many ways. She was reminiscent of a hawk, a great, majestic bird of prey. She was tall, agile, and very intelligent. Her hair was fine and short, not long but flowing. She had a thinker's face, marked by lines of deep concentration. She was not spectacularly beautiful, but was appealing in her own way. Bura Karakoram had an officer's mind. She had been made to command troops and strategize.

"Lieutenant, I'm worried that our security may be lax, even nonexistent. Everyone wants to be at the games. Who would want guard duty? Only a jackass," Karakoram said.

"Actually, we found some jackasses and put helmets on them. They're standing sentry out front. With their tails clipped they're actually quite fierce looking."

"Kazakh," she warned.

"I apologize," he said, bowing.

"Find the men and women who've been here the longest. Tell them to take sentry. I want the guard doubled. I want to know if there's going to be an attack."

"Yes, ma'am," he said, saluting, "But if I may say so I doubt very much there will be an attack."

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 51, Part 3

As quickly and stealthily as possible the entire fleet had moored up on the muddy banks of the Orhon Gol outside Sühbaatar. Boris Nemov clenched his fist in impotent rage at not having more tanks and men, but he knew well that speed and surprise was far more important to the Sühbaatar offensive than numbers were.

It was June 11, the day of the Mongolian national games. No doubt all or most of the soldiers would be watching the games, and utterly unprepared for an attack. Nemov's brigade had the cover of fog, and an unimagined avenue of attack: from the river.

Marchenko was running around, furiously overseeing the disembarkment of troops and vehicles. He was beginning to grow exhausted from waving his arms and yelling. Finally, he ran up to Nemov.

"Colonel, sir, we can't get the tanks out of the holds of the fishing boats. I don't know quite how we managed to get them in, but we can't get them out now!"

The Iron Man looked out at the men and women struggling to let their mechanical beasts out of their wooden prisons.

"We built the boats around the tanks, major. A fishing boat with a huge hold would be suspicious," he explained.

"But how..."

"Just roll them out. Smash up the boats. We won't be needing them any more."

"How will we return? What if we must retreat?"

Nemov shook his head grimly.

"There will be two outcomes today. We either win or be cut down to the last man trying. There will be no retreat. Smash the boats. And do it quickly. We may be losing the advantage of surprise."

Marchenko stopped dead in his tracks for a moment as his commander strode solemnly away. Then he returned to the landing procedures.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 51, Part 2

It was closing on midnight, and the games were still on and the horses were still running. Torches lit up the grounds. It was difficult to see through the murk, but the Mongols were all burningly eager about seeing the Nadam Festival.

Colonel Bura Karakoram had been born and raised in Sühbaatar, and had never been to any other games except a campwide game one year when she had been stuck at the front during Nadam. The games went on in every city and shack in Mongolia, and there were often great rivalries as to which city had the better games. Supposedly the Ulan-bataar games were better than Sühbaatar, but she didn't think it was possible. She cheered suddenly as her chosen jockey won the race.

"I believe you all owe me something," she said with a smile.

The officers who had been dumb enough to bet against her grumbled as they passed the money into her waiting hands. On the other side of the playing ground the non-coms were also betting, cheering, and getting drunk, in a manner considerably more raucously than the officers.

Suddenly a dark sense of dread closed around her stomach. She looked off into the overcast night and the sense of foreboding slowly subsided.

"Emperor's Best is my bet for the next race," she said, rubbing her hands to ward off the cold as well as in excitement, "Any takers?"

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 51, Part 1

An extensive flotilla of fishing boats, skiffs, and little better than planks floated down the Orhon Gol. It was composed of hundreds of tiny ships, because they were far more inconspicuous than even a small number of large, modern ships. They were wrapped up in a thick and all consuming mist, not unlike in appearance to water clouded by mud.

"Govno, they must've seen us by now," complained Major Yurii Marchenko.

Govno is a Russian word which, if translated into english, would rhyme with "grit" and have just as many letters.

"Shut up, Marchenko!" exclaimed Boris Nemov, "The fog will protect us. Just trust in it. I've got to concentrate."

For the moment the junior officer satisfied himself with that and became silent. He shivered slightly, and clenched his teeth to prevent them from chattering. It was a bleak night and the moon came through the fog like a watery apparition. It was frigidly cold. Marchenko and Nemov were from far warmer climes, but they had grown used to the icy grip of both the weather and death from being on the front.

Nemov looked over his shoulder at the fleet of tiny craft, and noticed each breath froze once it left his mouth. Each craft held a single tank with crew, and a few infantry soldiers. Armor was infinitely more important than infantry in the proposed offensive on Sühbaatar. He had one - count it, one - leaper. It represented a large percentage of the total number of leapers in Russia at the moment. The government must have determined that this was a very important attack to let him have a leaper.

Suddenly Marchenko gasped and said, "Iron Man, look!"

The major was pointing off through the foggy distance. Nemov followed his finger, grumbling slightly at the nickname. During the Battle of Angarsk when one new private had been told about Nemov at Irkutsk, the soldier exclaimed, "My God, colonel, you must be made of iron!" The name had stuck, but Nemov for some reason did not like it.

The colonel saw what his subordinate had been pointing at.

"Sühbaatar," he whispered with icy blue lips.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 50

The huge stainless steel door opened excruciatingly slowly, creaking and straining as it moved along it's path from closed to opened. For the first time in a year light came into the dank and gloomy dungeon room. Sitting in one corner of the room was a bent and broken man. He was as pale as a sheet, with a long flowing biblical beard, a shriveled and shrunken head, bulging eyes, lengthy fingernails, and tattered rags that had once been rags clinging to his skeletally thin body.

He shrank away from the light. Though it was dim it seemed painfully bright to this man who had been in perpetual darkness for six years. With his head turned away, he couldn't see the shadows of figures in the light of the doorway, but he knew they were there. He heard the sounds of footsteps, and then the arduous closing of the door. The man finally looked up.

"You look terrible, Oosan," said Bleda Khan.

"You've changed completely, Mabus," said Toghril, a withered husk of his former presidential self, "At one time you were a little rat of a man, always plotting away in your head. I could see it in your face. Now you've grown thoughtful, but not conspiratorial. You seem a leader. You have the bearing of a..."

"Emperor," said the Mongolian leader.

"An emperor, yes," agreed the ousted president.

"It's June 11," said Bleda simply.

"I know," said Toghril, then broke into a lengthy series of wet, hacking coughs that racked his whole body.

"My god, Oosan, it's the Nadam Festival. You used to love the national games. The equestrians, the archers, the wrestlers..."

"I'll not go!"

With all the pitiful force he could muster, the former president of Mongolia brought his fist down on the hard, slimy floor of his cell. He began coughing again, and when it subsided, Bleda began speaking again.

"Look, Oosan, I've never broken a law in my life but to put you here. I never violated the speed limit, never accepted a bribe, nothing. I'm sorry I ousted you, but it had to be done! I've regretted it every day of my life so far. The people wanted an empire; there was no bloodshed. The worst thing I've done in my life is to put you here."

"The people never wanted an empire," sneered Toghril, "No race ever wants to be ruled. We overthrow the Communists so many years ago for just that reason. They want democracy. They want freedom. They want me!"

Bleda shook his head. He began pacing the room.

"They don't want you, Oosan. Look, a republic can be a hundred times worse than an empire. It all depends on how it's run. The only difference between a democracy and an empire is that in one the people elect their leader and in the other they don't."

"It's not that simple."

"But it is! It's not a necessity of imperialism that civil rights be denied! I'm freeing these people even more than you did! I'm giving a home to the Chinese migrants."

"As I recall, you were the one who wanted to stem the tide of the Chigols."

"I did," Bleda conceded, "But that was because I knew they were overflowing the country. I realized two things had to be done when the migrants started entering our country. The first was that an empire had to be formed so that there could be better organization of the greatly increased populace. The second was that we had to expand our lands to provide enough room for the migrants.

"That meant stopping the flow of Chinese into Mongolia. If it had been allowed to continue unabated, there would have been unemployment, squalor, and death from overpopulation. I had to close the borders for long enough to expand the borders into Russia. Then I let more migrants in. I had enough forces to invade China after that, and the Chinese now all had a benevolent hand."

"Benevolent? The people have no hand in the government. They don't want you, Mabus!"

"They do! They've said it a million times, a million ways. I would have gladly dissolved the empire in an instant if I had thought the people didn't want it. But they do. They don't want a lengthy bureaucracy, they don't want to vote. They're happy to have a competent ruler."

"You're saying I was incompetent?"

The question stagnated in the air, stinking the feculent room up even more.

"Yes," said Bleda finally, "You know why I'm willing to give up power, right now, on the spot? It's because I care about the Mongolian people, and the adopted Mongolian people. I was willing to change everything, if the people were happy. All that you ever cared about was preserving the Mongolian democracy and way of life. That's the difference between us."

Toghril seemed to want to change the subject completely.

"You arrested me six years ago," he said with some pride, "And I understand a war began three years ago?"

"We spent three years building up our military capabilities before we launched our assault against Russia. Look, Oosan, I'm not here to debate politics with you. I'm here to invite you to the Nadam Festival. I want to free you for this."

"I'll not go," said Toghril sharply.

"Damn you, Toghril, you're not a martyr! The people never saw you as a martyr, and they never will! They've forgotten completely about you! It serves no purpose for you to stay here!"

"What about the rebellion?"

"There is no rebellion, Oosan! There never was a rebellion! No one was loyal to the democracy. You've been deluding yourself for six years. I've tried to free you six times, for each Nadam Festival. But you've refused every time. You can go, Toghril! I'll keep you here if you insist, but you must go!"

"You know, Mabus," the prisoner said, "You once thought me a reprehensible beast. You hated me once, thought I was a fool. Now you're trying to give me some kind of retribution. Right here I serve a purpose as a symbol for the revolution. If I leave, it'll be seen as a sign that democracy is weak. I'll look as your puppet. I'd prefer that you still thought of me as reprehensible, Mabus, but I will not compromise my beliefs for my freedom, because it would only be a bribe."

The Emperor nodded knowingly.

"I see that you value your freedom so much you are willing to give it up. I once pitied you, Oosan, but you disgust me once again. I'll return in a year, and if you should change your mind at any time tell one of the guards. But stay here, accomplish nothing, be a cause with no rebels. You want it, so I'll give it to you. I'll say good day now. I'm already late for the national games."

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 49, Part 2

"Captain Leonard?" asked the Australian, and once Carl had confirmed his identity with a handshake, "Vice Admiral Gus Waber."

"Admiral, sir," said Leonard with a quick salute.

"No need for that, skipper, I'm just a crazy old sailor who happens to have a high rank."

With a boisterous laugh Waber pounded Carl on the back. A queer sort of half smile flittered on the edge of crossing Leonard's lips. He could tell immediately that he liked this huge, swaggering man.

"The largest ship in Australia, the world in fact, is this aircraft carrier, captain," said Waber, "Code name Supership but we call her the Leviathan. At twenty kilometers long, the Leviathan must have more guns on it than the rest of the allied fleet combined."

Waber prepared to bask in the other's envy and awe, but seeing that Carl was merely mildly interested, he continued on with his tirade.

"The Leviathan is commanded by Vice Admiral Gus Waber, the best damn sailor in Australia. At least, I think so," he said with a chortle, "Look, captain, even though I'm one of the highest ranking officers in the Australian navy, I never thought of myself as anything but a regular old sailor, in a fancier uniform, okay?"

"All right, admiral," said Leonard, then wryly, "Or seaman, if you'd rather be called that."

Waber bellowed.

"Admiral, I want to give you a hand here, but I need to know a couple of things."

"Anything you want to know. I can't keep security under these kind of conditions."

"All right, first: why doesn't anybody know about your Supership?"

"My government ordered me to keep this a top secret mission, even though it is so major. We couldn't even tell our allies, for fear of something like what just happened happening."

"I think we can assume Mongolia's on to you."

"It would make sense. I've been killing their ships damn near since the start of this war."

"I think Mongol commandos took over that frigate. And I think they loaded it up like a fireship and crashed it into you."

"Well, shit! Is anybody out there looking for them?"

"I sent out some boats and divers to find them," said Leonard, "So calm down."

Waber nodded, but he was staring off into space.

"My Leviathan..." he said distantly.

"Look, admiral, we're going to give you some help with repairs."

"It doesn't matter, Captain Leonard," said Waber bitterly, "She's going to sink. Decades of work, and a bunch of fucking Mongol terrorists blow a huge hole in us so that we start taking on water. We're not going to make it."

"You're going to make it," said Leonard fiercely.

"We don't have half the supplies we need to seal that hole, captain. It'll take almost a full day because of our sheer size, but we're going to sink no matter what happens. Just take as many of my crew members as you can hold and go."

"You do have enough supplies, admiral. Can the Leviathan hold my crew?

"Well, easily, but..."

"Then I want you to scrap the Farragut and seal that god damned hole."

"My God...You're not really going to give up your boat to save mine, are you?"

"This Supership is a lot more important than my little destroyer to the war effort, and you know it."

"Thank you," Waber whispered, and a moment later regained himself and began yelling out orders.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

HOW TO GET PUBLISHED IN THREE EASY STEPS

***As my faithful readers probably noticed over the past few weeks, I've been in a bit of a drought regarding multimedia events. It's been really hard to top "Whiskey Cat" and "Mustard Shark" so I've been trying a few other stylistic flourishes until the muse strikes again. This week enjoy a unimedia event. I initially wrote this as an entry in a contest for another blog, but it, ah, obviously didn't win. So now I'm posting it here. Enjoy. Or don't, as is your prerogative.***

STEP 1: A JOURNEY OF A THOUSAND MILES…

…Begins with a single death: your mother’s! Always, always, always begin your book with your mother’s death. It’s simple, it’s easy to relate to, and everyone’s experienced it. Your first chapter should start with these words, “Mother died as she was BLANK.” Then all you (the writer) have to do is FILL IN THE BLANK. What could be simpler? Writing chick lit? “Mother died as she was solving a compelling mystery that brought her closer to her multiple female friends.” Writing science fiction? “Mother died as she was gleep-glorping her woozle-wozzle.” I could do this all day, but I won’t. That’s your job now, aspiring authorist!

STEP 2: MERCHANDISING! MERCHANDISING! MERCHANDISING!

Now is the time to start thinking about tie-ins, crossovers, sequels, prequels, advertising revenue, and awards speeches. First, write a speech specifically targeting each of the following: the Emmys, the Oscars, the Grammys, and the Cable Ace Awards. Then, write an all-purpose speech combining the general gist of your last four speeches into one, just in case someone springs a surprise awards ceremony on you. This is the step where you should be considering whether your title rhymes with Mountain Dew (or can be easily inserted into Mountain Dew commercials.) Go Tell It On the Mountain? Clunky, but serviceable. Mountain Stu? Better. Mountain Stu’s Extreme Carbonated Soft Drink-Fueled Adventure Series, Part 1: Maximum Hyperdrive? “Pitch” perfect. (That’s a little advertising humor for you.)

STEP 3: QUERY TILL YOU JUST CAN’T QUERY NO MORE

To write a query letter, use this simple formula: “My name is Barnaby Jones. Stop what you’re doing right now! Put that chicken wing down, fatty, and buy my book! It’s got robots and explosions, it’s about the human condition, it’s got a setting and everything! Patent pending.” Then send it out. Send it out like crazy. Send it to every editor, publisher, agent, bookseller, self-publisher, literary review journal, library, and producer you can find online. Send everything online. Query Amazon. Query Google. If possible, set up a robot who can send queries for you automatically. When you’ve been rejected by someone once, all you have to do is query that same person ten, fifteen, twenty, a million times. He’ll give up the ghost eventually (trust me on this.) Batter down the walls of the publishing industry like a little Dutch boy holding a dike.

That’s it. Problem solved. The end. Step 4? There is no Step 4. Just bask in your own glory. I mean, I guess that’s a step, but it’s kind of implied, too, so you don’t really have to do it. At this point in the process, you can pay other people to bask in your reflected glory. Now get out there and remember: don’t stop believin’.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 49, Part 1

Captain Carl Leonard pinched his face into a bizarre countenance. He was deep in thought, and his musculature had a tendency to show how deep his thinking was by a directly proportional amount of facial distortion.

"What could it have crashed into?" he muttered under his breath.

He had long since gotten over mourning the dead Americans on the frigate. He was now completely convinced the Coalition had taken over the frigate. But why crash it? And what had they crashed it into? An island? Another ship?

Carl laughed out loud at the thought. No ship was that big...was it? Now he began to seriously question what two decades of naval doctrine had drilled into him.

"You can’t have a ship that big!" he exclaimed, oblivious to the stares he was getting from the junior officers and sailors around him, "It's just impossible."

He began to rub his chin, and fell into thoughts again. Was it possible? He began to pace the bridge. He had to find out. But how?

"Send out some boats and divers. See if you can recover any survivors from that frigate. I think...I think they'll be Mongolian," he said to his commander.

He continued pacing once again. Leonard stopped pacing at the communication station. He picked up the transmitter and put it to his mouth.

"Wide band, all frequencies," he said to the comm officer, who obliged with a nod.

The captain pressed the transmit button and considered momentarily what he would say.

"This is Captain Carl Leonard," he said finally, "Of the U.S.S. Farragut. I am transmitting this message to the...party which may have been damaged when a U.S. frigate recently crashed. We are here to offer our assistance if it is needed."

Carl released the transmit button. If anyone responded he would at least know what had happened. As far as he could tell it had rammed into a wall or an island. But there weren't any landmasses within hundreds of knots of their position. So what could it have been?

The radio suddenly crackled to life and, if it hadn't been for many years of naval training for a certain dignity and cosmopolite manner, Carl would've jumped.

"Farragut, this is the Australian vessel Leviathan. Do you read?"

"That's an affirmative, Leviathan, we read you," said excitedly, then to his crew, "Find where they are."

"Oh, thank God. I was about ready to start evacuating," Carl could hear the man's thick Australian intonation, "But if you can give us a hand with repairs, we may not need to. Over."

"Captain Leonard, we can't find them on anything. I think our scopes are malfunctioning. Radar, sonar, infrared - I'm getting nothing."

Carl nodded.

"We read you, Leviathan, but we can't find you. We think our equipment may be malfunctioning. Can you transmit us your exact coordinates?"

The other seemed to be laughing.

"Negative, captain, your scopes aren't blinking. We're right in front of you. We'll send off a signal flare so you don't crash into us."

Leonard looked around urgently.

"Well?" he demanded of the scanner officer.

"I'm sorry, sir, the only thing we get is this massive sort of blob. Too big to be a ship. It might be an uncharted island, or an iceberg - although that seems unlikely in the south Pacific."

"Well, check for their flare," said Leonard growing very irritated.

"There, sir," called someone.

Carl looked to where they were pointing. A signal was going up from what appeared to be a solid gray wall.

"Holy God," muttered Leonard.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 48, Part 2

"Perce! Perce! Perce!"

A rough hand was shaking him brutally. He awoke with a start. The Uruguayan sergeant major grabbed him up and threw him out of the train.

"Brazilian turd," he said, muttering loud enough for all of the prisoners to hear him.

More by static habit than force of will Perce fell into ranks with his fellow Brazilian prisoners.

"Now then, if Private Perce is done with his beauty sleep, we can get on with the roll call. Perce!"

"Here!" yelled out Felix.

The sergeant major continued on down the lines of names. Felix looked around, dimly recalling it all. He tried to grasp again that beautiful dream of his home, but the more he tried to remember it, the harder it became, until it seemed to slip from his mind like sand through his fingers.

Unwillingly he became a slave to consciousness again. The Last War was not over. It was far from over. He remembered the battle through the jungles. He remembered advancing too far, deep into enemy lines beyond his allies until finally he was outside of radio contact. And then the Venezuelans had captured him. He'd been treated roughly. Everything he had owned had been stolen, including his wedding ring and the pictures of his children for the little frames they were in.

He'd been beaten methodically. Then he was taken away from the regulars and delivered into the hands of the P.O.W. camps. Loaded onto a train like cattle they were shipped deep into the heart of Uruguay. Every day they had to get up at ungodly hours for roll call, and then spend the rest of the day shoveling wood into the train, while most of the guards slept on. The beatings were even more severe, from both the Uruguayans and the other prisoners. The winner of a fight between prisoners often got to take the few scraps of food which they were all provided with each day. Food deprivation was worse here than in the days on the front line.

Felix wondered when he'd be able to go back home again to his wife, his children, and his parents. To eat until full, not to have to be beaten at all, to be able to sleep in a bed and not on some slat in a train. But he grimly knew the answer was never. Some day they would reach the P.O.W. camp where conditions would be worse if such a thing was possible, for there would be much more work to do there than on the train. And Felix knew the Uruguayans would kill a prisoner, rather than have him return to his homeland. Even if the war ended, they would be kept, and if they could not be kept they would be killed, just to spite Brazil.

Felix knew his life was over. Stuck in this country, a neighbor of his own, for the rest of it. The prisoners reloaded the train and began to shovel wood into it. As it chugged along it seemed to whisper into Felix's ear, "Never, never, never, never, never..."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 48, Part 1

The warm inviting smell of roasting pig wafted through the air, tantalizing the nose and making the mouth salivate in anticipation. Felix Perce licked his lips and pushed forward for the last time towards his little cottage. It was small, but it was home.

Trees shaded him and seemed to split apart to herald his approach. It was pleasant and cool under the shade, unlike the terribly hot and feculent conditions on the front. Felix shivered at the thought. But no, the war was over.

With a broad smile on his face and shivering in excitement, Felix threw open the door.

"I'm home," he called out in glee.

"Felix?"

His wife, his beautiful, beautiful Ana looked up from where she had been bent over and working in the kitchen.

"Felix!"

Ana rushed to greet him, throwing herself into her arms and kissing him and hugging him vivaciously. Felix had stayed chaste all those nights on the front, no matter how often he had been tempted his thoughts strayed back here. The woman he loved, the most beautiful woman in the world. How he had ached to be back here.

He tried subtly to slip his tongue into her mouth, but she pushed it back out with her own. He tried again, and again she stopped him. She broke their embrace for a moment.

"Not, now, love," she whispered, "The children are here," then she called out loudly, "Children, your father is home from the war!"

There was the rushing of little feet down the steps and four whirlwinds of energy burst into the room. Felix's two boys and two girls came charging at him. He bent down and took all four of them in one strong hug.

"Father! Father! Father's home!" they were all saying.

"Madre de Dios," he exclaimed, "You little ones are so much bigger now. I can hardly believe it."

"You've been away a long time, Felix," Ana reminded him, "And I almost forgot, your parents came here to see you the moment they heard you were coming home."

"Mother? Father?"

Felix quickly ran through the house and found his parents, both tired and weak with age, in the living room. His father was dozing in a chair and his mother was gently rocking and watching the television.

"Felix?" his mother exclaimed, "My little Felix?"

"It is I, mother."

"Oh, how we missed you, my little boy. But we knew Brazil needed you."

Felix's father was up by now. He grabbed his son's hand in a warm paternal handshake.

"Welcome home, my boy," he said, then finally broke down and hugged him stiffly.

"I knew you'd be home today, I just knew it," Felix's mother was going on, "I told Ana, 'Ana, my Felix will come home today. We should kill one of the pigs and cook it, just do he can have a good warm meal.' And we did. Did you eat well enough on the front."

"Oh, we hardly ate at all," Felix said with a grin, "And I'm famished."

"Well, then, let's stop talking and go eat," said his father gruffly.

They walked into the dining room, where the children were already washed and seated. Ana set out one extra place for Felix. There was a sumptuous feast laid out, a roasted pig at the center of it.

Suddenly, Felix's oldest boy opened up and yelled out, "Perce!"

Felix was taken aback. It was not his son's voice. It did sound familiar, but...

"Perce!"

This time Ana and his parents had joined in.

"Perce! Perce! Perce! Perce!"

The images of his home began to swirl away into a rainbow of colors.

"No, stop, come back!" he called out.

And that voice kept on chanting out, "Perce! Perce! Perce!"

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 47

Fadla bint Tarriq sat next to her right-hand man, Mossad al-Xyz. In front of both of them, the general Abd Qajar was beginning to go red in the face with yelling.

"You must understand me, madam general," he was pleading with her, "We shall never have another opportunity like this. The Arabian Peninsula is far too small a place for us to subsist on forever. We are involving ourselves in but petty battles here, when there is a whole world at war just beyond the horizon!"

"General Qajar," bint Tarriq said with infinite patience, "The Americans and Mongolians are not paying us. The Iranians are."

"We have the Iranians in our pocket," spat out the lesser commander with contempt, "Today they pay us to fight. Tomorrow they will pay us not to fight. They would pay us if we were on the moon. They fear us."

Bint Tarriq raised herself out of her chair slightly looked to al-Xyz. He was sitting stone-faced and placid as usual. She relaxed back into her chair and continued to listen to Qajar prattle on. They were in Saudi Arabia, Fadla's homeland, where the mercenaries had special safehouse. It was more of a fortress, really.

Supreme General Fadla bint Tarriq looked very forceful, a severe and imposing visage. She had to be equally as hard in her rule as she looked. Most Arabs still believed women should be subservient, which was why she had left to become a mercenary in the first place. It seemed odd to her that rebels were always more accepting than established governments.

Still, most of the mercenaries sought to put a veil over her face and stick her in the back of the caravans for later. She would not have it. Fadla bint Tarriq did not serve anyone, and would never back down. She had clawed her way to the top of the massive Middle Eastern mercenary groups, and had to fight every day to stay there. She was often so harsh and adamant in her manner that few noticed what a beautiful woman she was.

She had brown eyes and dark hair, and skin that had been darkened by the sun but was not nearly so dark as some of the soldiers' under her command. She wore a typical khaki desert uniform, like that of a foot soldier, which made her figure less feminine and, in the soldier's eyes, more respectable.

General Abd Qajar seemed the antipode of his commander. He was an ugly little man with bulging eyes and a stupid mustache. He always seemed to be in consternation about something, and yelled constantly as if every word he said was important. It served only to make him seem pompous and less important than he really was. His only truly redeeming virtue was a battlefield prowess which was unparalleled except by perhaps General Mossad al-Xyz.

Unlike Qajar, al-Xyz's men thought him a man to be obeyed and respected. His men obeyed his orders without him having to constantly prove himself, as Qajar had to. He was a tall, imposing presence. While bint Tarriq evoked fear, al-Xyz immediately evoked awe. He said little, if anything, and always looked to be, as he was, in deepest thought. He was a hulk of a man, who looked as though he was filled with brute strength. His face was intense, wrinkled with years of hard work and deep pensive thinking. He had great hands, which he often clasped behind his back in perfect military stature. Al-Xyz always wore a scowl. He and Qajar were both equally capable generals, and very often rivals, though they were both regarded by their troops and their commander quite differently.

"Abd," Fadla said, "What are the Americans offering us?"

"It's not the Americans, madam general, it's the English."

Fadla's eyes narrowed.

"They haven't set a price, yet, madam general, but the English ambassador is here, and I really think we should take whatever offer they give and give up this silly Iranian conflict..."

"I will speak to him, General Qajar," she interjected fiercely, "And I'll take your feelings under consideration. You may go, and send him in."

She waved him off. There were two types of people in the world, Fadla bint Tarriq thought, those who could be waved off, like Qajar, and those that could not, like herself or al-Xyz. Everything else about a person was minutia. The genius or the fool, the dignified and the clumsy, the warmaker or the peacemaker, all added up to naught. Whether a man or woman could be dismissed was what it all really came down to.

The Englishman came in and introduced himself with some hideous European name. As a footnote, he butchered the pronunciation of both her own and al-Xyz's name, in typical fashion. She wondered if this man was the type to be dismissed or not.

"I am a woman of little time to waste," said bint Tarriq almost instantly, "What is the purpose of this meeting."

At his side, the Englishman's translator whispered into his ear. Unperturbed, the ambassador replied.

The translator said to bint Tarriq, "The ambassador says, His Majesty would like to hire the services of your mercenaries."

Fadla gave a quick glance to al-Xyz. He was still sitting stone faced, but had an aura of interest about him. She'd gotten down to brass tacks, so the ambassador had gotten down to brass tacks. This might be difficult.

"To do what?" she asked, followed by another linguistic exchange.

"To invade Egypt. Our intelligence bureau tells us that you have large forces all throughout the Middle East. An army like that could stand toe-to-toe with the Coalition."

She controlled hundreds of thousands of mercenaries. And she did have divisions spread throughout many of the countries the Westerners condescendingly called "The Middle East." Her army was stronger than that of many nations, but she preferred the profitable life of a soldier of fortune to that of political recognition.

"True," she admitted, "But I could also fight the Alliance with relative ease. Mongolia has already sent an emissary to discuss a possible invasion of... Let's just say that the Coalition has offered me an opportunity as well."

The Englishman smiled as the last words were explained to him.

"Don't think lying will convince me to raise your fee. I'm an experienced diplomat, and I can tell that the Coalition has given you no such offer."

"Explain first the specifics of what you want us to do, and then we can discuss a fee," undisturbed that he had pierced her prevarication.

Producing a map, the Englishman went into a long, drawn-out speech about precisely how he wanted the invasion to go, including how many troops would be needed, where the invasion would be, and when it would occur. When he had finished, he returned to his seat and watched Fadla ponder his proposition.

"It will be costly to my troops," she said finally.

"Not unusual in your line of work."

"It will be very expensive for you. Money is not primary in my mind, however. We are in need of supplies, ammunition, food, water, and weapons."

The Englishman raised his eyebrows, but said nothing.

"I will require a few tank companies, a leaper, several hundred crates of automatic shotguns and ammunition, including Executioner shells, and several thousand suits of armor. We will also need food, medicines, tools, water, and petrol. If you can provide us with these, the cost will be dramatically reduced."

"Obviously we can't give you any of our most modern technologies. We can give you an old leaper, old tanks, and early versions of the AS gun and bulletproof armor."

"Understandable," bint Tarriq said.

I don't know if I can allow the amounts you ask," he said through the interpreter, "My government's given me some leeway in negotiations, but not as much as you ask."

"Then let us try to reach a fair price."

The negotiations were fierce and long. In the end, the ambassador knew the price had been high, but as long as the mercenaries fulfilled their end of the bargain, he was satisfied. Fadla bint Tarriq was more than satisfied and broke into a smile once he was gone.

"This is fantastic, al-Xyz," she exclaimed, "We'll be resupplied for months, and be well paid, too."

"You did reach a fair price," al-Xyz said tersely, probably the first words he had said all day.

"You know, Mossad, to be honest I never would have considered any Coalition offer. The Mongols and Easterners are cheaters and fierce diplomats. I wouldn't have gotten half of what I did for the same job if Bleda or Igoumensita had been in that man's place. An Englishman, on the other hand would pay until he bled."

Al-Xyz got up from his chair.

"I'll begin preparations for the attack," he said, and started out the door.

"Don't forget to consult General Qajar, Mossad," she called after him.

She almost detected a shudder in the iron man as he stepped out the door. Let the old rivals hash it out, give them both a little aggravation. Her favorites would have to start learning from each other. They were both so extreme, al-Xyz so laconic and Qajar so agitated.

"So much money. Enough supplies for months," she muttered.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 46, Part 3

"I'm afraid we don't know where there are exactly, madam chancellor. Without scanners we're as good as blind," said General Bruno Olensheim.

Katarina von Baden hung her head in her hands. As recently as three years ago, before the start of the war, there had been no such thing as a scanner, and the German army had gotten along just fine. Now they were beginning to lose their edge because of technology.

"If a man has worked all his life with his hands, and you give him a tool for a day, the next day will he accomplish nothing, because he doesn't have the tool?" asked the German chancellor.

"Nein, Frau Kanzler," said Olensheim, his posture straightening with the rebuke.

Von Baden took a look at the map laid out before her.

"Where are they generally?"

Olensheim took a red marker and circled an uncomfortably large portion of the map.

"Our air reconnaissance shows the Eastern Army could be anywhere within this area."

A long, winding, green arrow traced the path of carnage the Eastern Army had wrought since entering Germany. At ten points (at least) blue arrows representing German forces intercepted the massive green arrow. Black arrows traced the retreats of each of these forces. And now the green arrow terminated into a hazy area of possibility, represented by an uncertain red circle, disturbingly close to Berlin.

"I'm afraid, gnädige Frau Kanzler, that we can not continue this defensive fight. It is the unanimous consensus of the commanders of the German military that we can no longer stay in Germany unless we wish to be utterly destroyed. In order for there to be a hope for the future of Germany we must evacuate our forces and our government for a brief period, until the Eastern Army has grown spread out and weak and we can retake the Fatherland."

"Is the situation really so dire, Olensheim?" von Baden asked, "There must be some chance we can stay and defend ourselves."

"We can't let Berlin be taken," said the general, "And the Eastern Army is in a perfect position to do so. The memory of what happened in the United States six years ago is very strong. If Berlin is taken, it is feared that the German people will fall into a state of chaos. Because of this distinct possibility we need to relocate the government. The people must know the government is functioning, even in absentia."

"I can't leave, general." von Baden said, "Not now. Germany hasn't faced a crisis like this in decades. The government needs to still function. It can't on the run. General, Berlin has been fortified again and again against attack. Every citizen is armed and trained in the rudiments of warfare."

"A shotgun over every mantle will hardly be a defense against leapers, armor, and battle hardened infantry. Madame Chancellor, we have no idea when the Easterners will strike. We don't even know where they are. They have a major advantage over us, and that is that they have scanners. They've got a jamming system which jams both of us, and they turn it off sporadically to give orders, but not for enough time for us to get our scanners on line, or find any information of use.

"We can't divert the whole German army to Berlin, because they could attack in any direction, and there would be nothing to stop them if they choose to go away from Berlin. We simply can't take the risk of overprotecting Berlin and leaving the rest of the country undefended. But that's not the point. We have dismal chances of successfully defending Berlin against the invaders. The odds are almost two hundred to one against us. If Berlin is taken and it is still the seat of power, Germany will be lost. If we evacuate our troops and our government now, we have a much better chance of retaking Germany from the Easterners.

"We've already begun evacuating the Bundestag, gnädige Frau Kanzler. The government and a good portion of the armed forces are in France. We've also begun to send our troops to England and Norway, to divide our forces for our three-pronged counter invasion. With your approval, madam, the entire army will leave and then we will at least have a chance."

Chancellor Katarina von Baden sighed and said, "I see that it can be no other way. You have my approval to evacuate all of our forces. I can not leave, however. I must stay here in The Fatherland. The German people deserve at least that much."

"You are far braver than I, madam chancellor. I only hope that we meet again someday, when we are both alive."

Olensheim saluted his leader and left to do the hardest thing he had ever had to do: abandon his country for the greater good.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 46, Part 2

"It's incredible how animals take no notice of human affairs," said Pantermalis.

His commander was not listening. Igoumensita was holding aloft his Sword of the Sun and yelling at the infantry troops. They were pushing forward through the Germans swiftly, and many thought that the battle was over already.

"The battle is not over," he yelled, "Do your duty!" then, turning back to his subordinate, "What did you say, Pantermalis?"

"I was speaking of the bird, sir, and his indifference to the battlefield."

"Animals are resilient things," said Igoumensita, "And humans are perhaps the most resilient and the most animal of all. That raven is an omen in our favor."

Pantermalis nodded. So he had noticed. The older Greek turned his attentions back to the current invasion of Germany. He looked down at his scanner. It was showing nothing but a blank screen

"Order the jamming system off," said the supreme general of the Eastern Bloc.

His right hand repeated the order. Igoumensita's scanner suddenly flickered to life. He pressed a few buttons and the scanner showed an arcing path of the Eastern invasion. From Szcezcin to Görlitz to Bautzen to Cottbus and onward through the rolling German countryside to Berlin. They'd met the bulk of the German army in numerous battles and they had won.

Behind them for kilometers around fields and towns lay ruined and smoldering. They stood in blood red fields that had once been flourishing with crops. The Eastern Army was preparing to siege the city-state of Berlin.

Igoumensita pressed a few more buttons. He had given out orders to all of his commanders, to be filtered down the ranks to every squad commander in the invading army. When the Battle for the Fields (which he called it because he did not care for the German name of the place) was over, as it soon would be, they would make their final press for Berlin. When the German capital was taken, the European allies would be as good as ruined.

Looking at his own scanner, Pantermalis said, "The battle is winding down sir. It's just a matter of taking prisoners and killing the last few holdouts now."

"I know. Reinitiate the jamming system."

"Jammer on!" yelled Pantermalis at a field engineer.

"Prepare the troops for the final press, general. It'll be soon. I can smell it in the air. It's the smell of the souls of surrender."

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Spider Mounts

I know this isn't really a website dedicated to Warhammer or the art/science of model painting, but, hey Sundays are a day to switch it up a little, and this is a hobby of mine. These are models of giant spiders that the newly resurrected Forest Goblins ride into battle. Even as a layman you're probably familiar with goblins (think the Mines of Moria in the first Lord of the Rings movie.) Forest Goblins are aboriginal type goblins that worship spider totems. I haven't done the riders yet, but here are the mounts that I've painted so far:


This is the view from above. The mount for the leader is painted in the style of a Black Widow, with a red skull instead of an hourglass on its back. (They come with skull patterns.) I originally left the legs black like a real Black Widow, but ultimately decided red legs would look better.

This is the view from the front. You'll also note I painted two spiders like Brown Recluses. These mounts are for the unit's musician and standard bearer, which are important, but not as important as the unit's leader. So I opted for the second deadliest spiders in the world for these two. Also note that these are the only two spiders painted in the same pattern.


And, this is, of course, the view of the spiders' asses. The rest of the mounts for the regular warriors are painted in blues and purples, which aren't based on any real world spiders, but seem like good "venom" themed colors. It may be hard to tell from these photos, but none of the spiders (except the Brown Recluses as noted above) are painted in the same pattern. Some have purple legs and others have purple bodies, etc. etc. If I get more spider riders I may have to start repeating myself, but for now I'm pretty satisfied.

So, there you have it, a little something different for Multimedia Sunday this week. Tomorrow: back to the story.



Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 46. Part 1

A single bird flew over the killing field. It was a raven, separated from it's murder. It's black plumage stood out from the crimson splatter on the ground. It looked down upon the once green fields, which even now were still being fought over by the petty humans.

It saw a tank roll through the knee deep piles of remains, spattering gore all about it in it's wake. It's slow, inexorable advance was marked by rapid and periodic fire from it's guns and turrets. The humans broke and ran, tripping among the entrails of their brethren and sliding through the carnage, but they ran. Another tank also pushed forward. And another, and another, and another...

There were many thousands of people there, and that was only the ones that the raven could see. They were trading bullets with each other, and every time they did there were fewer left to trade bullets. It slowly spiraled downward, spreading it's wings farther out. A single human caught it's eye, one holding aloft a bright metal sword.

Suddenly, the raven could no longer fly. It's wing was gone, replaced with a bloody stump. It cawed in pain and surprise, but still it fell. It plummeted toward the ground like a rock. It too, was soon dead, like so many others on the killing field.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 45

Captain Marianne Totschläger pulled the goggles down from her safety helmet securely over her eyes. She motioned with her hand. In turn, each member of her motorcycle squad nodded to her.

"Jetzt!" she yelled, and all the bikers took off.

Gruber and a corporal were holding the huge ramp between them. It had handles on either side and had wheels on the bottom so it could be moved. They had already measured it perfectly so that it lined up with the walls of Washington. Gruber and the other pressed their feet to their respective pedals, and rammed the ramp up against the wall, turning out at the last instant.

Totschläger was the first to hit the ramp. She went flying up the thing at full throttle, literally flew through the air for a few seconds, then landed with a bad knock. She was surrounded by hundreds of Claw men. The captain immediately pulled the trigger of the machine gun mounted on her handlebars, and sprayed hot lead into the crowd of American rebels. She made sure to keep moving constantly and fast, at all costs.

The next thing she saw was Metzger, half dressed, ordering volley after volley of AS gun fire shot directly at the next motorcyclist coming over the wall. Apparently he had been fooled by their night offensive, and had been sleeping. The guards seemed minimal.

Suddenly, the biker exploded into flames. He went tumbling head over heels (or rather, wheel over wheel) and smashed apart when he hit the ground. The volleys of fire had finally hit his gas tank.

Marianne paused for a moment briefly muttering a German curse. Ducking her head to avoid fire, but still feeling the shells bang off her safety helmet, she headed for the gates of the city.

Sergeant Michael Gruber came flying off the ramp next, yelling and screaming for all his worth. He, too, landed in a crowd of The Claw men. He had a mounted S-75 shell machine gun the same way his captain did, but he preferred the more personal approach to bike warfare. He rushed through the crowd of troops, mowing them down with the spikes he had specially fitted onto his tires before they could return fire.

Totschläger eased up alongside Gruber, and continued firing. He started firing, knowing his captain would not appreciate his more aesthetically pleasing means of killing. Motorradkorps troops continued raining from the sky around them, some being blown away still in the air, some being picked off by Claw troops at close range, and others surviving to wreak havoc.

"Gruber, I'm going to make a break for the gates. Cover me!" she yelled.

"Understood," he acknowledged.

Biking would be almost impossible in shell-preventative armor. It would simply be too bulky. Motorradkorps members had to wear leather uniforms that offered the most minor of protection, but were excellent for wind resistance. Only their safety helmets were armor. This left them highly vulnerable. Two bikes had a much greater chance of mission success than a single bike.

Gruber and Totschläger carved a bloody path to the main gates of Washington. It was locked by crude means, a huge metal plank like in some ancient fortress. The captain leapt off her bike for nearly ten seconds to upset the metal plank and force one door slightly open. Gruber feverishly defended her from the quickly massing Claw troops. She leapt back on her bike and they took off out of the gate.

The rest of the motorcycle squad followed the two, each member opening the gate slightly more as they passed through. German infantry poured quickly into the city through the gates.

Taking off her goggles and wiping away the sweat from her face, Marianne barely took notice of the completed mission. She got down from her bike for a moment to take a breath.

"It's a damn shame the Americans aren't here," she said to Gruber.

"I'm disappointed myself," agreed the sergeant, "They always made The Claw pay for every inch they defended."

"Oh, well, our troops will do well enough," she said, then reboarded her bike, "Move out!"

The motorcycle squad slowly moved forward back to the German camp. Tonight would not be the night for victory. It was merely a time to whittle down The Claw defenses. The German infantry would be pushed out in a few hours, but they would've killed many Claw troops. After enough attrition, the Germans would be prepared for a massive assault. Then Washington would fall.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 44

"Fire! Fire, you bastards!"

Hearing the sergeant's frenzied cry, Corporal Ricardo Cerdo opened fire on the Brazilians with his AS gun. The smell of sweat, metal, blood, and oil was in the air, but was fighting it's own battle with the pungent smoke. A Brazilian came running at Cerdo, screaming and firing shells at him.

Cerdo swung at the man with the butt of his AS gun, and knocked him unconscious. If one of Cerdo's fellows didn't take care of him, the fire surely would. Cerdo lit up a nearby tree with his handheld, standard-issue flamer.

All around him the rainforest was burning. When the war was over, Colombian farmers would enter Brazil and begin farming this land. In a way, the army was doing them a service. But for now it served to eke out the Brazilians from their hiding places.

"Cerdo!"

Ricardo swiveled quickly to see his sergeant bringing an AS gun to bear and firing at him. He pulled the trigger and a spray of shells came towards him. Cerdo was flung around, as though the bullets had pushed him out of the way. He could now see that his sergeant wasn't firing at him, but behind him, at a clump of Brazilians. Shivering with the release of fear he fired at the Brazilians too. It was only afterwards that he noticed he had wet his pants. He stood there trembling, feeling the warm spot in his pants clinging to his skin.

"Come on, Cerdo," yelled his sergeant, "The only reason I saved your miserable hide is so you can go out there and kill some more Brazilians before you really bite the dust!"

Ricardo nodded and became almost like an automaton, firing, stopping, moving forward, firing, stopping, moving forward. He had already long since used up his allotment of Executioners when he tripped over a dead comrade. He snapped out of his trance.

"Hector," he whispered, "Hector muerte!"

He had known the man. Hector was clenching in his pale, icy hand a black drum marked with a skull.

"Forgive me, Hector," said Ricardo, "But I need these more than you."

With that, he pried the Executioners out of his dead friend's rigor mortis hand and snapped the drum into his own AS gun. He tapped the trigger lightly so that only a single shell went rocketing towards the Brazilian position. It exploded in a blossom of fire that sent a squad of Brazilians flying and ignited a copse of trees.

The Colombians all cheered.

"I thought we'd all ran out of Executioners!" someone yelled.

"So did I," Ricardo whispered under his breath, and then pressed forward.

It was a common lament of sergeants and officers on all sides that troops always used up their Executioners far too quickly in battle. It meant that battles always began explosively (literally) but soon became monotonous and difficult as only regular shells were used.

A private with a flamethrower leaped next to Ricardo. All Colombian soldiers had some sort of incendiary device to burn out the Brazilian rainforests, but a special few had those massive flamethrowers for real slash and burning.

"I'm supposed to cover your flanks, corporal," she said, "The sergeant says for you to push as far forward as you can, and the troops with just shells will follow in your wake."

Cerdo nodded and began to run forward, firing conservatively to carefully preserve his precious few explosive shells. The other soldier followed him, sending sheets of flames in both directions of him to ward off attack from the sides. They quickly became a two person wedge, pushing forward through the enemy lines, and allowing the advance of their mates. Still, the other Colombians were far behind Cerdo and his defender. They were all alone and out front.

The young corporal had just leapt into a Brazilian trench screaming "Die!" when his AS gun ceased pummeling him with recoil. It clicked repeatedly, and Cerdo's heart sunk into his stomach as he realized he was out of Executioners. With a yell, three Brazilians rushed at him, firing, but a wall of flame soon halted their advance.

Cerdo looked up and said, "Gracias," to his companion.

She nodded back and he jammed a round of regular shells into his AS gun. It looked grim, and the two of them began firing wildly as what seemed like the entire Brazilian army came rushing towards them.

A single Brazilian had managed to avoid death at the hands of the flamethrower wielding private, but his gun had become so hot from the inferno that he had to drop it and grapple with Ricardo hand to hand.

The Brazilian had already knocked his weapon out of his hand so he looked up to his defender for help, but she was concentrating intently on holding back the Brazilian advance single-handedly. He tried to scream to her for help, but the Brazilian had already wrapped his hands around Cerdo's neck, and was crushing his Adam’s apple so that no sound could come out. Ricardo vainly flailed his arms, trying to catch the Brazilian, but only succeeded in grabbing a fold of cloth from the other's uniform and quickly losing it.

Ricardo had grown utterly weak from oxygen deprivation in the tenacious, crushing grip of his enemy. Black spots began to appear before his eyes, and he slowly lost the will to fight, and ceased even to struggle. It seemed so simple. Just fall asleep, and never wake up...

His heart beat slower and slower, his lungs ceased fighting, and his mind drifted away from the battlefield and towards a warm, inviting place. He sunk to his knees slowly, and continued to sink.

He was snapped out of it suddenly when the butt of an AS gun crushed the Brazilian's skull and flung him to the ground. Ricardo looked up to see his sergeant, who had saved his life for the second time that day. Dozens of Colombians were pouring into the trench to relieve the beleaguered and almost dead two advanced guards.

The Colombian army, not long ago far behind Ricardo and his defender, had finally caught up with them. The Brazilians were running like pigs from the slaughter. Ricardo managed to crawl out of the way of his fellows' charge. He'd be of no use to them in his current, asphyxiated condition.

Ricardo only managed to cheer, very weakly, for his compatriots, but he was still regarded as the hero of the day. By the end of the week Brasilia was in ruins, and all of the forests were burning. Brazil was taken.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 43, Part 3

"What do you say to people who claim that it was you who initiated The Last War?" Tricia asked.

Without hesitation, The Master of The Claw said, "I say they're right. The Last War can, in it's own way, be traced back to The Rape of Washington. And surely it would have gone no farther than skirmishes along the Russo-Mongolian border if I had not stepped in and proposed The Coalition.

"I'm not trying to make myself look good. I'm simply going to portray myself the way I am. And the truth is, I'm a warmonger. I've always loved battle, honest battle, though."

"What about the incident in Bavaria where you killed, as I understand it, a large number of Jews? Would you consider that fair battle?"

"I had my orders," said Metzger with a slight grimace, "And I won't deny what I did, but I will simply say that I was misled into that atrocity. That's all I'll say on that subject."

"What about..."

"That's all I'll say on that subject," he said again with a foreboding sense of finality.

"Do you think you'll be able to hold Washington forever?"

"I doubt it greatly. For the moment at least America and The Claw have reached an agreement. I'm certain the moment The Last War is over or the tides start to turn, I'll come under fire again. I feel confident right now, though, since I only have to deal with a small German force."

"Have they been attacking you much?"

Metzger smiled a thin, tight-lipped smile.

"You're trying to betray me into giving away some advantage. I know your type, Miss Marsden. You keep airs about being a perfectly professional, unbiased reporter, and yet you very slyly eke information out for the Alliance. Quite clever."

"I note you haven't answered the question."

"Nor will I."

Tricia swallowed a lump in her throat. She was trying to compare Metzger with Bleda Khan. They were both intelligent and dignified. They had both caused vast amounts of suffering and death. The difference between the two, it seemed to Tricia, was that Bleda had principles, he admitted he was wrong, and yet believed his ends were more important than the means. Metzger, on the other hand, didn’t seem to show any sense of morality. She had felt safe in Bleda’s presence that he would keep his word about not harming her, but Metzger evoked terror in her. She continued with her interview.

“Do you have everything you need, Miss Marsden?” Metzger asked towards the end.

“Uh...yes, yes I do.”

“Might I have a few words, then?”

Tricia looked at her cameraman. He nodded. Apparently the ratings were good enough to keep going. GRTH sometimes cut off interviews and even shows right in the middle if the ratings weren’t high enough.

“Yes, certainly,” she said dryly.

“Thank you,” he said, then turned towards the camera.

He said something in German. He repeated it in French. When he began to speak in English again, Tricia could understand him. Since GRTH broadcasted in subtitles, it was unnecessary. He was just showing off his command of language.

“What I’ve just said to Germany and France I will now repeat for all the English speaking nations of the world,” the Master of the Claw said, “This war’s gone on for six years now, if you trace it to it’s roots. Nostradamus said that this war would go on for twenty seven years. You’ve seen what only six can do. Do you really want to let it go on for another twenty one? So, I beseech the Alliance nations to surrender and hasten this war to the conclusion which we all know it will take. Help us to avoid more bloodshed.”

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 43, Part 2

"Wann die Katze fort ist, tanzen die Mause."

Krauss whispered the old saying under his breath. It was kind of a stupid old saying: when the cat's away the mice will dance. But it seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Gently, almost reverently, he flipped on the light switch. Metzger's room was instantly illumined by the strength of all eighty of his lamp's watts.

The general shivered in anticipation. This was the first time in a long time Metzger was away from his office (the Oval Office) and Krauss did not have some duty to attend to. He looked around the room. Papers which would determine the fate of The Claw lie on the desk. They were of no concern to him. Then he saw what he was looking for.

"Ach, phantastich!"

Krauss had been trying to practice his English, but he reverted to his native tongue whenever he got this excited. He picked up the little stick which Metzger always held, as well as the marshal's cap.

He plopped the officer's cap down jauntily on his head. He adjusted it a bit until it was dead even with his brow. Krauss turned his face to and fro, looking at himself in the mirror from different angles. He gave a puzzled look at the little stick. He wasn't really sure what it was for. How had the Master of The Claw always held it?

Krauss snapped the little stick quickly under his arm. He gave his armpit a good whack. All the important and painful nerves which reside in the armpit gave him a blunt and profuse yell.

"Aaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggccccccccchhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!"

"You know, the general use for a swagger stick is not to hit oneself," came a voice from behind the general.

Krauss jumped, his pain turning to fear. By the time he turned to face the Butcher of Bavaria he was icy cold and pale white. But Metzger showed no signs of annoyance, let alone rage. He simply walked up to his protégé and took the swagger stick from him.

"It's called a swagger stick," said Metzger, "Or a baton. It's a sign of high rank, mostly for marshals, although a few high generals may have one. It's for aiding your look while swaggering. Watch."

Metzger abruptly snapped the baton into the perfect position slightly under his arm and poking out the back. He walked from Krauss to the door and back, demonstrating a practiced and well done swagger. The Butcher of Bavaria held the baton up against Krauss' arm and examined both.

"This baton's a bit long for you. It should be about the length of your arm. I suppose when you get one I'll have it custom made. Oh, tsk, tsk. Look at that cap. What are you, a raw recruit right out of boot camp?"

Metzger grabbed his red cap (the one Krauss had been wearing) and adjusted it on Krauss' head so that it was slightly askew.

"It's got to be at a forty-five degree angle, otherwise no one will take you seriously. I mean, honestly, Krauss, these are just simply tricks of the trade."

Metzger smiled at his protégé. Krauss trepidaciously smiled back. He was finally calm when he realized Metzger wasn't mad. But that all changed rather suddenly. Metzger whacked the cap off of Krauss' head with his baton, and stood ready to beat his subordinate with it.

"Now get the hell out of my office. And don't you ever touch anything of mine again!"

Krauss was off like a shot. Calmly, Metzger reached down and plucked the cap from the floor, and placed it at an angle on his own head.

"Oh, that boy's got to learn a few things," he said, and checked the cap in the mirror.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 43, Part 1

Tricia Marsden nearly spat her gin out all over the hotel suite.

"You what?" she exclaimed, gulping it down instead.

"I have joined the army, my dear," said Aubrey Dansworth on the other end of the phone, "I am going to fight for righteousness and all that lovely sort of thing."

Oh dear, oh dear.

"Surely you are not serious, Aubrey, dear," Tricia said, calming down and sipping her drink again, "What do you know about fighting?"

"A lot, actually. I fought at Bayonne with Arrington."

"Look, Aubrey," she said, smiling, "You are a reporter. I understand you've gotten a big old testosterone injection from reporting out on the front. But that doesn't mean..."

"I'm sorry, Trish," he cut in sharply, "But I drove a tank, and I've developed myself a taste for war. It's a fantastic thing."

"You'd serve Britain much, much better reporting on GRTH," she said grinding her teeth, "You're just another piece of cannon fodder out on the front, but if you're reporting, you're rallying the people around you."

Tricia gripped her towel closely around herself. She had just gotten out of the shower, and even though she knew Dansworth was thousands of miles away, her modesty got the better of herself. She had went to get a quick drink before getting changed, but this phone call had changed all of that.

"I'm sorry, Trish," he repeated stalwartly, "But I'm doing this. I can understand if you want to break up, but I'm doing this no matter what."

"Fine," she said, sighing heavily, "Do it. But I'm not breaking up with you. Oh, no, that would be just too easy on you. You're going to have to face my full wrath next time we're together, you understand, and you're not going to weasel your way off the hook with a breakup. I'm now going to hang up on you huffily."

"Understood."

She punched the END button on her cell phone. This was quite annoying. Who else but her idiot boyfriend would throw away a perfectly promising career in journalism to get shot at? No one, that's who.

She muttered a few things to that effect and flung herself out on the bed. She'd somehow managed to leg it out of Mongolia. She was now in Washington D.C., getting ready for an interview with Lars Metzger. She'd been planning to go back to Shepherd's Bush and spend some time with Aubrey next chance she got, but the idiot had canceled. Why? To become an army man.

Tricia laughed. It was the kind of thing that little kids said, wasn't it? "I'm going to be an army man when I grow up." Oh well.

What an idiot. But she had a job to do, and she was going to do it. She picked an outfit and started to get changed. When she was finished she headed out the door to meet the Butcher of Bavaria.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Stewie Griffin - Everything I Do (I Do For You)

video

So, obviously this is not a video I created. This is clip from Family Guy that basically skewers every music video cliche. You may notice that there are not any advertisements on my blog, so I'm not making any money off of this. So since I'm not claiming credit and I'm not making any money, shall we consider this fair use? This is my own personal disclaimer since I've written before on this blog about intellectual property. But damn if this isn't a funny video. So if you want to lambaste me, please do so in the comments.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 42

Most Venerable Parents,

I am most pleased to be able to say that I shall soon be returning to you. My tenure in the Golden Army is up. How long has it been since we first invaded Russia and I first volunteered? Three years? Four?

I can't really recall. It has seemed a lifetime to me. But now it shall soon be up. I'm to be given a permanent pension, an officer's pension. It's not enough to live on, but it's enough to make a poor man satiated and a satiated man almost rich. I've been trying to figure out what I should do when I return. Employers look kindly on veterans, but what skills do I have? I can dismantle, clean, and reassemble an AS gun in thirty seconds. Perhaps I can get a job at an arms factory. Or would you rather have me help with the sheep, father?

Well, that is still far in the future. I am in Sühbaatar now. You may recall this is the city from which I first was sent to the front. It is the jumping point for all infantry troops, into and out of the front. Speaking of which, have I written to you of Angarsk?

I was correct in assuming we would battle more Russians at Angarsk. It was apparently a city of some importance to their war effort. I found the bodies of at least two of their generals in the rubble after the battle.

It was, once again, an easy battle. I grow fearful that our battles may soon become difficult. For every army, as for every man, there are equal parts bad luck and good luck. We've been winning for so long I wonder if it will not be soon before we start losing for an equal period of time.

Well, it does not concern me personally, only Mongolia as a whole. My days of war are over. I hope to be able to tell my children and my children's children my war stories. I'll have to find a lovely woman to marry when I come home. I don't want to die without children to carry on the Kazakh name.

I wasn't really on the front line at Angarsk, you understand. I was more of an observer. You see, on the march from the site of Lake Baikal, I was shot by a Russian sniper. I don't know why he chose me over the more important officers, but he did. Don't be alarmed, he only hit my leg. It's already healed. But at Angarsk it wasn't.

I was ordered to stay behind the line with the artillery. The only way I would have had to have actually faced battle would have been if the Russkis had broken all the way through our lines back to the big guns. Of course, they did not.

I did have to listen to our mortars banging away at them from up close. It's a wonder any of our artillery men can still hear. They have to face those kinds of awful noises every day. Luckily, they all stopped abruptly when our men began to charge. You don't want to be firing artillery and accidentally hitting your own men.

I saw the way the two forces of glorious, shimmering, gold clad forceful Mongolians and muddy, brown, fur clad ragtag Popovs met. It was like two seas meeting and throwing waves against waves until finally one dominates. Our Shepherd IIs and Khan IVs smashed away Russian resistance.

I could tell the Popovs really didn't have their hearts in it. They all seemed more intent on getting away from Angarsk than actually fighting us. I think the toll of too many defeats is beginning to hurt them. It remains to be seen whether that will prove to galvanize them or to ruin them.

Well, I was hardly a hero at Angarsk, but I served my quota of battles. My time was finally up. So they sent me here to Sühbaatar. I've mostly been relaxing, letting my leg heal, and biding my time until I'm finally sent back to you. It shouldn't be long. Until then.

Your Son,

Lieutenant Darbet Kazakh, 76th Heavy Infantry
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