Posts Tagged ‘war’

Risha and Jeana talking about battle plans at the end of the story. Yes, this is jumping way ahead. For all I know I’ll never use this scene. I wrote it for a few reasons:

I wanted to see Risha and Jeana acting like Elizabeth and Walsingham.
I wanted to see Risha acting like a queen, where her criminal genius background came into play.
I wanted to write a scene that passed the Bechdel test.

Artillery explosions rumbled in the distance. A smear of fire glowed over the lip of the horizon, like early sunrise. The city and the enemy positions burned. Risha heard a hiss, then a clatter of falling bombs. Air strike. She considered having coffee. Someone had left a pot of it by the map deck.

“Still strategizing?”

Risha looked up. Jeana walked in, looking strangely calm. “Don’t you get tired?” Risha asked.

“Battle meditation. I know how to relax myself so I can sleep.”

“I wish I could do that.”

“You’re doing fine so far. I’ll teach you a few techniques when we have a moment.” She looked at the coffee pot. “You need sleep more than caffeine.”

“I couldn’t sleep. Better to just keep busy than lay there fighting it.”

Jeana nodded toward the map. “What are you thinking about?”

“The fucking Fels. We need them to attack, in force, from the north. Otherwise in a week we’ll be up to our britches in Ro’s troops. The problem is they’re known for their patience, not their ferocity. They’ll fight when it suits them. Let someone else do the bleeding.”

Risha rubbed her eyes. She yawned. She couldn’t see, but Jeana smiled at it. “I have two ideas on that. First, sweeten the deal. Soften up the enemy position so they can get a decisive victory. They’ll have something to crow about and I’ll pretend I’m impressed.

“Second, bring the battle to them. Hit Ro to the west so that they retreat east. It’ll drive them into Fel. Better to fight Fel than us. Fel outnumbers them two to one. They’ll still win but it’ll be bloody.”

“Fel will be bleeding rather than us.”

“That’s it. “

“Play it out for me.”

“We’re in the end game. Everyone knows it. No one’s worried about the win, or justice. They’re thinking ahead to the next move.

“Fel wants to keep Staven’s lands. We don’t have enough power to force them to give it back. They earned them with blood, but we fought this war for freedom, not conquest.

“I want Ro. I want to put him on trial and make his end a symbol for the planet’s new beginning. I’ll take his head, too. Either one works.

“The worst case for me is that Ro escapes to Fel and they grant him safe haven. No trial, nothing. It’s a mockery of what we fought for. Fel holds him as revenge because I didn’t give them Staven lands.

Jeana waited. Risha folded her arms. “Rekkish Fel is a chess player. He already has what he wants. All he has to do is sit still, leave his armies where they are, and wait for the game to end. If he gets his hands on Ro, he has leverage on me to validate his claim on Staven lands.”

“What if you don’t?”

“Then I’ve made an enemy.” Risha smiled. “Which he already is, anyway. So nothing lost there. Nobody else in the aristocracy wants Fel to have those lands. They’ll stand behind me. The Fels leave Staven and I’m stuck with rebuilding the country. The citizens of Staven, and even Ro, are grateful to me for not letting them be wrung out by Fel.”

Jeana nodded. “Ro is only a symbol. Like that crown Merritt was so worried about.”

“I still want his head.” And she did. People craved symbols. And the bastard had tried to kill her three times. Justice mattered.

Risha brushed her finger along the troop positions on the map. She tapped the citadel in the center. Ro’s palace. A dangerous, daring idea was taking shape in her head.

“What is it?” Jeana asked.

“If Ro is gone, his inner council will crumble. Ro’s army surrenders.” Risha pressed her finger on the citadel. “One more lightning strike. Could we do it?”

Jeana laughed. She stopped. “You’re serious?”

“General Tsavo told me today that he has a division of paratroops that are itching to assault the citadel just to have a chance at taking the bastard alive. I told him no. The cost in lives is too great.”

“I’m guessing 25% casualties at least.”

“I did a bank heist on Ularov once. We started a fire in the building next door. We arrived disguised among the fire company—they were cut in for half—and we worked on the safe while they took their time with the fire. We blew a power feed to cover our tracks on the way out. Worked like a charm.” Risha drew a circle around one of Ro’s units on the eastern flank. “That’s our fire company.”

Jeana’s eyes widened. “Are you sure?”

“They’ve already parleyed with us on a prisoner exchange. Their commander would have been shot for treason if Ro knew.”

“If Jaesa can get close enough, she can give us a sense of whether or not they’ll help us.”

Risha laughed. She leaned on the table. Risha hung her head, still smiling. “I feel like a ten-kilo weight just came off my head.”

“It must be have been your crown.”

“Maybe. Thanks, Je. On that note, I’m going to bed.” Jeana bowed. “Knock it off. I’m still just Risha to you.”

ruined wall

Post #35 of the Dubrillion Burning series

As much of a glorious flourish as the ending to last night’s Dubrillion post was, I need to make an edit. The diversion team has one more job to do before she blows the ammo dump.

Oh, and rather than having Dr. Lokin in the Cartog’s ship doing recon, it’s Vector, his crew member who communes with an insect hive mind. They need combat medics on the ground.

We’re picking up here: “With the Rebels in front of them, most of the defenders thought they had bigger things to worry about.”

Risha ran through the bombed-out, ruined edge of the city, scanning windows left and right for movement, helmets, gun sights, anything that would tell them they’d been made.

The unit coms erupted with a roar from Jeana’s captain Pierce, followed by a flash and explosion two blocks to her right. Loyalists started screaming. Survivors started yelling. Gunfire that had been going west turned east and fortified buildings became savage combat dens. Say this for him: he knew how to make an impression.

By the sound of it the squad of Drayen troops hit next. She hoped Merak was careful. The old man was as brave as anyone but he wasn’t as young as he used to be, and he didn’t care.

Vector said, “Squads three and four are fully engaged. One of the Loyalist tanks at the bridge is turning.”

Risha said, “Squad two, get under cover!”

“We’re not in position yet!” their leader replied.

“Blow holes in the walls until you get there then but get the hell out of the street!” Risha replied. She made a good example and kicked in the door of the nearest building. She didn’t know where the tank was going but couldn’t risk being caught in the open. It used to be an office building. Some kind of insurance company. Windows were already broken into jagged teeth and the southern side of it was burned out. It looked like the Loyalists had looted the water cooler and a vending machine. They reached the other side of the building and ran across the street.

From here they could see the ferrocrete barriers near the bridge. Flashes of light from explosions and blaster fire flared around the them. This block was where the Loyalists had bunkered up.

Risha saw movement in a third-floor window and fired at it.

Vette’s sister Taunt and one of her friends fired on it too. Risha cried, “Keep moving!”

“Couldn’t stay hidden forever,” Vette said.

Risha heard muffled concussion blasts, then raging gunfire as squad two entered the block next to them.

“Our turn,” Risha said. “They’ll be coming down. Everyone get ready!”

She and Vette flanked the nearest door. Someone had smashed off the doorknob a long time ago. The corner of Risha’s mouth turned up. You couldn’t count on someone making your job easier for you, but when they did, you gave fate a little thank-you. Taunt and Jeana’s captain Quinn fired on the third floor again. Risha and Vette entered the building, followed by the rest of the squad.

My favorite part of this scene is Risha’s little smile at the end. Having her kick ass is easy, but having her take a slice of gratitude for good luck is an insight into her criminal background and the freewheeling side of her personality. I need more of that.

Photo credit: “Somewhere in a dark place” by lainmoon at Flickr
Photo is unmodified
Shared under Creative Commons license

NopePost #29 of the Dubrillion Burning series

So I was thinking about yesterday’s post, and I started to poke holes in it.

Here’s the deal. Pulling numbers out of my… never mind… let’s say that the invasion of Cainar was the same size as the invasion of Sicily. We’re talking over 150,000 invading troops at the start, and almost 300,000 defenders, not counting ships, tanks, guns, dogs, cats, whatever either side had at their disposal. You don’t mount an operation or a defense like that without extensive planning. So I’m saying that they landed at Providence, made their way inland, and didn’t have a solid plan to take care of Cainar itself?

It gets worse. I’m also saying that for thirty days, they’ve been stuck laying siege to Cainar, but the defenders north of the city haven’t staged a counterattack that kicked them back into the sea?

And worse. I want the readers to swallow that a group of sixty troops is going to sneak into the city, attack two sensitive, critical locations, and within, say, another thirty days, help turn the tide that seals victory in the city. There are probably at least a thousand special operations troops among the invaders who are just as skilled as our friends, who have been trying to do the exact same thing, for thirty days, and failing. Other than character shields, what makes our heroes smarter or luckier than they are?

Nope, nope, and nope.

Okay. The invasion happens as I described. The difference is that attack from Widom knocked down Cainar’s shields, so that when the Rebel forces reached the city, they moved into it, splitting the city in two, with the western side under Rebel control and the eastern side under Loyalist control. Loyalist reinforcements from farther north tried to break the siege, but couldn’t, because Rebel forces in Cainar were dug in, and because fresh Rebel troops were pouring into Providence and Falmouth faster than they expected. I could also say the Loyalists were being harried by airborne troops that were dropped in farther north, to prepare for the attack. It’s been a thirty-day grind of street to street fighting as the Rebels take the city.

And if anything, the Rebels would have tried to take the space port already, probably by dropping a battalion or more of airborne troops in rapid assault pods right on top of it. If they really wanted the space port, intact, they would hit it with about five times as many troops as they really need and live with the body count. They would blow up every enemy craft they could reach while they were at it.

My response to that is that the Loyalists knew that the space port is the most critical location in Cainar. It’s the center of the Loyalist defense, with armor and antiaircraft. Any direct attack on the space port would have failed utterly. While the city isn’t shielded, maybe the space port is, with portable, military shield generators. Knowing this, the Rebels didn’t do a direct attack. The best they’ve been able to do is keep the pressure on and wait for the Loyalists to crack somewhere. So far they haven’t.

Okay, that’s fine… then the Rebels’ equivalent of Seabees have been making improvised airfields to land and maintain local support craft, while they get additional support from carriers at sea. It sounds rather tenuous but at least I can buy it.

The Rebels need to take the space port intact because it’s the only facility that would allow them to service transports larger than carrier-based craft. That allows them to bring in larger transport craft and makes their foothold permanent.

Knowing this… do the Loyalists blow the space port’s facilities and just surrender? The only reason why they wouldn’t would be if it could still help them. If they could still get resupplied through it, and if they could still launch craft to defend themselves with. Basically, if keeping the space port gives the Loyalist forces an edge in pushing back the invasion, they would hold out as long as they could.

Which leaves the third “nope.” I’ll work on that tomorrow.

Have you ever pulled on a thread and had part of your sleeve unravel? I hate it when that happens.

Photo credit: Scott Beale at Flickr
Photo is unmodified
Shared under Creative Commons license

pianoPost #27 of the Dubrillion Burning series

The bath was blissful, and the massage was heavenly. Stylists had been commissioned as well. This would be a working meeting, not a gala, but Risha had to look the part of a queen. Risha chatted with the nurse—her name was Gwendoline—while the stylists undid a month of battlefield bruises and cracked nails, as well as showing her a selection of clothes to wear. Gwendoline said that the house staff didn’t think Lord Rinald knew their names as well as Risha did already.

She sent for sergeant Radiian to attend to her armor and weapons. He promised to see to them personally and return them to her room when they were finished. He said the last part with conviction. Risha smiled. He knew that she would check them later tonight.

She played the piano for an hour. The music reached inside her soul, which played back with a music all its own. Risha loved blues, but she had been classically trained by her father, and its sweet melodies called to her now. She thought of the gutted cities. Nights sleeping on the ground, sticky with your own dried blood. People still carried on. You had to. She didn’t know anyone who didn’t have a photo of a loved one in their pocket, in the pack, in their helmet. She played how she felt on those nights when no one else was around and she would look at the pictures she kept in her notebook: Merritt, and the gang from the Comet. She played how she felt when the man from Jacer had hugged her with tears in his eyes. She played remembering the hopeful eyes of children in the refugee camp, as their forces had rolled through.

It also settled her mind. Risha refreshed her memory of the names and faces of the nobility participating in the conference. Their agendas. Whether they had already bought in to the alliance’s strategy, or if they were positioning themselves to make power grabs after the war was over. The chips that she had to play. What they wanted “tomorrow” to look like, and how they would make it happen.

There were eighty-eight keys on a piano. Each one was beautiful to play all its own. When all played together in different melodies, they could make you weep, make your heart race, and make you want to jump up and burn the floor. The keys didn’t have to sound the same to play well together. That was how she looked at the conference. They didn’t have to have the same agendas to work well together.

This wraps up the “place to recharge” scene that I wanted to write. For me, this sequence was about showing Risha as a warrior given a short time of peace. As this scene develops, I want to show her transitioning from carrying a rifle to carrying the reins of state.

The piano playing in this scene was inspired when I was listening to De Novo Adagio by Alicia Keys. I don’t think it’s Risha’s theme song, but it’s definitely a song she would like.

Photo credit: “And in this crazy life, you are my everything” by alongfortheride at Flickr
Photo is unmodified
Shared under Creative Commons license

city burningThings were humming at the Whiskey Comet. Raffa Korsaro pat his friend Corso on the back as he loaded the cargo elevator with what looked to be the last of their cargo for this world. “Get it stowed and we’ll be out of here, bud.”

“Sounds good, captain. Any chance we’ll get some R&R when we make it to Alderaan?”

“Are you kidding? Hell yes. It’s summertime. They’ve got a ceasefire going on and we’re going to enjoy it while it lasts.”

“Great!”

The ship’s com chimed on his belt. Raffa checked it.

He swore.

Corso saw the look on his face. “I guess it didn’t last as long as we thought it would.”

“I’ll let you know later.” He ran into the ship. “Risha!” he yelled.

“Already there!” he heard from deeper inside. She would be in the cockpit, where the spare holo was located and she could have some privacy from the rest of the ship.

As Raffa arrived, he saw Risha sitting in the copilot’s chair. A two-foot tall image of Count Merritt Rinald stood in the white holographic mist in front of her. He looked like a mirage in cold frost. Raffa was used to seeing him in formal robes and the cloak of Dubrillion royalty. Now he wore military fatigues. Behind him, Raffa saw what looked like a ferrocrete wall. He might have been underground. His face was half in shadow, from what little lighting he could get.

Risha’s back was to Raffa, but he could see her sitting straight, hands in her lap. This didn’t look good. As Raffa came in, Rinald was saying, “… wanted you to know the truth. Whatever you hear, the truth is worse. Two cities have been burned.”

“Holy,” Risha whispered. “Which cities?”

“Jacer and Kilkam. They were two of our strongest centers of resistance against the king. We think he wanted to make an example of them, to cow us into submission.”

“What will you do? Will there be more?” Risha asked.

“King Ro says that he’s withholding his might as a gesture of mercy to the rebels. We believe he’s afraid his army will turn against him if it goes any further.” Rinald straightened. He seemed to notice Raffa for the first time. “Captain. I’m sorry to bring such sad news to your doorstep, but matters are grave, and I had to speak to Risha at once.”

“No problem, count.” He realized he was looking at a man and his bride-to-be having what was probably meant to be a very private conversation. “I… you two probably want to talk alone.”

The image crackled. Rinald looked to his right. “We’re being jammed. Risha, you need to tell the Senate. No one knows what’s happening. Do you understand? They need to know!”

“I will, Merritt.”

“I love you.”

“I love you, too. Be safe.”

Rinald was in the middle of saying something else when his image broke into pieces and faded. The words COM LINK TERMINATED appeared in his place. Raffa leaned against the bulkhead. “Things just got real,” he said.

His breath caught when Risha turned to look at him. She had tear streaks on her face. Suddenly she started wiping them. “I didn’t even feel them. I hope Merritt didn’t see.” She wiped them harder. Harder. Risha looked like she was going to crush her own eyes.

Raffa pulled down her hands and hugged her. “It’s all right,” he said.

Risha started sobbing. She tried to pull away. “No, it’s not.” Finally she punched his chest. Raffa let go. She pushed herself away, not that she could go far in the cramped cockpit. Streams of tears and clouds of smeared makeup covered her face in bruised patches. “No, it’s not! Millions of people just died because of me. I’m supposed to be their queen. This isn’t a game any more!”

He’d seen Risha in bad shape before, even wounded, but this went deeper. It tore him up. Her cries felt like a slow knife cutting him down the belly. Raffa didn’t know what to say. He would fight the good fight, but he was used to walking away from a losing card game, too. “We’ll fix this. I swear on the suns, we’ll make this right.”

Risha composed herself. She wiped her face with a greasy rag that she’d stuffed in her belt from working on one of the engines. “Raff, look… this is a war. Another gun is great. Shuttling in supplies is better. But I don’t want you or anybody else risking your necks on the firing line.”

“No way, Rish. No way. I’m all in. I’ll put it to the others, but you know what they’ll say.”

She nodded. “’We’re family,’” Risha said. She’d heard it a dozen times before, when things were at their worst, and when they’d been drinking a toast to their win on the other side. Somehow they always seemed to pull one out, no matter how bad things looked.

“That’s right. You know how we do this. We call our friends and get help. First, the Senate. You and I have saved the Republic’s bacon more than once. After that, we shake every tree we can reach and find out what the rebels need. We get every spacer in the galaxy running guns and supplies to our friends and turning Kala Ro’s space force into scrap.”

She shook her head. “We’ll be lucky to get a handful, Raff. You know how it works. Everyone’s your friend when you’re on top. Nobody knows you when you’re in trouble.”

“Hey. Let’s have faith.”

She nodded. “Sorry I punched you. You’ve got a strong grip.”

“No worries. I’m tougher than I look.”

He knew she was right, about no one being there when you’re in trouble. He’d rather start with some faith. His lucky stars liked it better that way.


Inspired by Allyson‘s kind words for my post “Under Watchful Eyes,” I’ve decided that my next big project is going to be a fan fiction story for Raffa, Jeana and Cartog, my characters from Star Wars: The Old Republic. This will be a story in progress, while I work on stories like “Don’t Mess with the Dreamcatchers” and whatever else magically makes its way into the blog. The story had to begin here — this is the left turn that I’m taking from the storyline in The Old Republic. My next post will probably involve figuring out what the story arc will look like, roughly, or at least the start of it.

Be warned: there may be left turns, right turns, scenes that I write just to try them out, and jumping ahead, back, and in any direction where I feel the need. You’re watching my creative mind in real time. We may be putting the “hyper” in hypertext. You’ll probably wind up spending time behind the curtain as well as in front of it. Whiplash warning. Wear seat belts, sun screen, and other protective gear as needed. Parental advisory.

(Holy crap, I need a title, too!)

The Good You Can Do

Posted: February 19, 2014 by writingsprint in Fantasy
Tags: , , , , , ,

Reuters photo - fighting in Syria

Reuters photo – fighting in Syria

Daniel said, “Let me show you want you can do better than giving someone a sandwich.”

Angelina blinked. She and Daniel stood on a rooftop in the middle of a ruined city. In the distance she saw a puff of smoke rise up between buildings. To her right and left, she heard mechanical clatter. People shouted. Other people screamed.

Angelina covered her mouth with her hands. “Oh my God. Where is this?”

“Aleppo.” Daniel gestured to his left. “Over there are loyalist troops.” He gestured to his right. “Over there are the rebels.” The building shook. Another puff of smoke rose in the distance. Daniel gestured toward where the smoke was. “And right over there is a family of four, trying to get out of the fire zone. Do you want to get them sandwiches or shall I?’

Angelina hit him in chest. “Stop being an asshole or I’ll shove that snake up your nose.”

“You can do good here, Angelina. What do you want to do?”

Angelina acted on instinct. She closed her eyes.

When she opened them, she stood next to a frightened-looking man, low thirties, with a bandaged shoulder, carrying a child in his right arm and holding a bag of diapers in his left. His wife, late twenties, was holding the hand of a teenage son. The son looked too old to be holding his mother’s hand, but was drawing comfort from it just the same.

She walked alongside them. Two cars up, someone had left their keys in the ignition and abandoned a Honda Civic. It wouldn’t get them far, but it would get them out of here.

“Look,” she said.

The man didn’t hear her voice, but he looked. “Everyone get in. Thank God. It’s a miracle.”

Daniel stood next to her. “Ahem.”

“Shut up.”

The mother looked around. “Did you hear that?”

“Get in!” her husband called.

“Go to the right at the end of the block. That’ll keep you away from the battle,” Angelina said.

“I think we go right,” the mother said.

The Civic peeled out. Angelina hugged her arms as mortar fire flew over their heads.

“They’ll make it. Today,” Daniel said.

“Shut up. I’m going home,” Angelina said, walking away from him.

“That’s the idea.”

“My home! With Keith and my cat!”

“Food for thought, Angelina.”

She covered her ears with her hands and closed her eyes tight. Home. Take me home. I want to go home. Get me back to Philly, damn it.

There Were Worse Places in the World

Posted: December 19, 2013 by writingsprint in Drama, The Line of Duty
Tags: , , , , ,

Ninth and final part of “The Line of Duty”

At 10:30, the radio crackled. “Mole, this is Hole, over.”

“Roger, Hole, over,” Criston said.

“Time to switch holes, fellas. Over and out.”

They both stared at each other. Believing it would keep it from being true. Jack set down the radio in the bottom of the ditch and shuffled over the edge. He jumped out first, hugging the ground as closely as he could. Criston tossed up his rifle with his right arm, then tried to heave himself up with only his legs. He almost cried out in fear as his back pitched too far upward, practically begging to be shot. With only the one arm for balance he fell sideways, onto the wounded arm. Criston bit back the sobs as the pain pounded all the way from his arm into his chest.

“You all right?” Jack asked.

“Go,” Criston said. “I’ll catch up. Move it.” He didn’t hear Jack’s feet on the ground. “This thing’s killing me. I’m too slow. You couldn’t drag me if you wanted to,” he added. Jack still hesitated. Criston glared at him and said, “I’ll be all right. Just give me a second.”

Jack nodded and started moving. Criston shifted his eyes to the direction his head was pointing. He noticed that the sky looked a lot like Erie’s. He felt really hungry again, now that he had time and enough of a chance to worry about it. Damn peaceful, even out in the middle of nowhere. The pain in his arm started to die down to the throbbing that it had been. He rolled over, slung his rifle over his back and started to crawl using his legs and his good arm.

Jack trotted in a bent-over crouch as far as the wire. He looked back every few seconds, each time waiting until Criston waved him off. He grinned. It reminded Criston of those faithful dog stories that his dad told him when they used to go hunting.

The battlefield never looked so unreal before. The moonlight reflected off the barbed wire and shiny, bare patches of earth. Any shooting was a few miles up the way, and that was just a potshot now and then. Pop. Bang, boom. Pop. Pop pop. Boom.

Jack was halfway through the wire by the time Criston reached it. The relief team from second platoon on their way under the wire. There were three. “Hey, Bill, you’re in one piece,” one said. He couldn’t tell who it was. Another said, “You guys are lucky–you get to leave now that it’s getting tough!”

Criston moaned. He didn’t know what to say. He did feel lucky, but lucky to be going back to the line? Yeah, he admitted it. Then, as the team was following the wire to the ditch, he called back, “Don’t miss us too much,” knowing that they would. He coughed while he said it; his swollen throat kept him from raising his voice. They didn’t reply, and he couldn’t tell if they’d heard.

It took about five minutes to make it all the way through. Criston kept snagging his clothes on the wire from trying to keep his tender shoulder out of the mud. Jack was already back in the line by then. Criston wondered if he should try to jog the rest of the way. He could tell by the trail that Jack hadn’t trusted the snipers that much. Criston decided not to, either, and crawled the last twenty yards. It was still easier to make it back than Criston had dreamed it would be.

The sergeant and Jack helped drag him back into the line. Criston looked at him. “Bill, it ain’t much , but welcome back,” he said. No one whooped or yelled. They offered smokes and whatever else they could. It was a lot of patting on the back and everyone had a grin that went ear-to-ear. Criston realized that it was probably the first time in the whole unit that one of the M.I.A.’s was crossed off the list and didn’t wind up on the K.I.A. list instead. He grinned along with them.

“You boys ready for hot food?” the sergeant asked. “We made it up special for you two.” They ate dinner in the dug-out in the trench, a hot onion soup with potatoes. He remembered once calling it creek water. After he and Jack gave the rest of the platoon a few stories the lieutenant ordered Criston to go have his arm treated. As he started for the communication trench, the one that led back into the lines, he looked at the rest of the platoon. He knew that he wouldn’t think so after a few days back on the line, but for now he decided that there really were worse places to be in the world than in a trench near St. Mihiel. Wherever the hell that was.

You Call This Help?

Posted: December 15, 2013 by writingsprint in Drama, The Line of Duty
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Part five of “The Line of Duty”

Morning came with a bang.

Criston didn’t think it was funny, but his sense of humor and his butt were the only two things that he had to hang onto. They’d woken him up with the shooting, and he’d started coughing a little bit after that. His throat felt raw, and he felt cold. Granted it was already cold, but he didn’t know if it was that or some level of fear he hadn’t felt before. It stunned him, thinking straight at all, but it wasn’t normal. It was like being outside of his head.

He covered his face with his arms and tried to get into the very bottom of the crater as artillery crashed outside. This was Germany’s counterattack, but it wasn’t nearly as big as the American one. If it had been, they’d already have charged, and he’d already be dead. They’d been firing all morning, but it was only just starting to get inside of him. Every boom, every bang, shook his insides and rattled around. The idea of having a bayonet stamped “Berlin Ironworks” rammed through his guts had been very present, very clear and very terrifying for the past hour.

Criston’s head swam as he sat up. He was going out. It gave him a giddy feeling. He wasn’t afraid like he was when they’d charged. He cleared his throat hard.Snipers and the Maxims were one thing, but he wasn’t going to die in a lousy ditch without even a chance to make it. The shells sounded like they were falling closer. Criston grabbed his rifle, then decided to leave it. Then he thought, If you get it, it won’t make a difference. You might as well bring it. He grabbed it again and turned to the American side of the crater. One. Two….

He took a deep breath when a volley of shells hit the ground outside of the crater barely fifteen yards behind him. Criston almost wet his drawers, as if you could have noticed they were more wet than they already were, but then he heard running and someone jumped headfirst into the crater with him. Criston almost went for his bayonet. The guy jumped from the American side of the crater. Lying in the crater were a box, a big one to carry around, and a roll of radio wire that led back out. It was Jack.

Criston was speechless.

Nowhere to Go

Posted: December 14, 2013 by writingsprint in Drama, The Line of Duty
Tags: , , , , ,

Part four of “The Line of Duty”

Silence. Then he heard Jack’s voice call, “Is that who I think it is?”

He wants to know who it is, he thought incredulously. “It’s Corporal William H. Criston from Dreary Erie!” he shouted. “Who do you think it is?!”

“Bill, what happened? Where are you?”

How the hell was he supposed to know what happened? He thought for a second and guessed that they missed him when the charge pulled back. “I’m fifty yards up, and some Hun has his damn crosshairs on me!” A spattering of bullets told him that he’d moved up to Maxim targeting. “Jesus Christ!” he cried. He tried to shove himself farther down inside the crater.

“Can you run to the wire?”

Sure. He could run there. Making it there was the problem. “Do you waste water, Jack? I can’t stretch my legs without getting scalped!”

Pause. “Just stay put,” Jack yelled.

“Damn right I’ll stay put,” Criston muttered. He could barely keep his head below the ground, and curled up he lay twelve inches below the top of the crater, and that was going to keep him alive. He felt cold and wet again, and reminded himself that people died of pneumonia or lesser things under the autumn sky. Criston didn’t jump the next time they fired the machinegun at him, but he just wished they’d stop so he could get his head together.

About fifteen minutes later he could hear them starting to lay out the wire on the new trench line again. “Hey!” he shouted. “What the hell’s going on out there! Jack!” The guys in the platoon either ignored him or didn’t understand what he was yelling. Sounds carried in a funny way across the lines. Criston suddenly felt tired again. Being knocked out in a ditch wasn’t nearly the same as sleep. He wanted to be somewhere else, anywhere lousy else but in some muddy ditch. He remembered stories about wounded men drowning in shell craters when it rained. He tossed that around with being gassed, being shot, being bayoneted, and being gang-tackled during a football game. Gas was still tops. Criston swallowed hard and bit down on his tongue to keep himself alert. He wanted to get the hell out of there. Jack was either taking his time or getting stuck talking to officers.

“Bill!”

“Yo!” He almost stuck his head up but remembered not to. The Maxim started up again, spraying near the crater. What the hell did those Huns want with him?

Jack’s speech became staccato. He stated each word so that he could hear him over the machinegun, but each word also carried emphasis, like when the Brits were telling them how to stay alive in the trenches. He’d never heard Jack talk that way before. Dad used to, for sports. Jack was doing it on purpose, to make sure that he got the words right.

“Listen carefully…”

Listen carefully! “For Jesus Christ’s sake, I’m stuck out here! What are you talking about?”

“God damn it shut up and listen!” Jack whipped at him. Criston got the message and swallowed his replies. He had to trust Jack.

“How many trench lines can you see?” Jack asked.

Criston shuffled around so that he lay on the American side of the crater. Because it was at the top of the rise that he’d run up, if he craned his neck he could see outside of without exposing himself to any fire but the luckiest. “All of them,” he replied. “I can see a little of the roads heading back into the fog, too.”

Jack was quiet for a long time. “All right,” he finally said. “We don’t have the ammo to cover you out of there. We won’t have it until the morning when new supplies come in. You’re going to have to stay there.”

Criston wasn’t surprised, but it was worse actually to be told that he was stuck. It was actually having someone tell you that you’d messed up, when of course you already knew it. With outrageous dismay he realized that he missed the damn sleeping dugout back in the trench, that was at least almost dry, had some old blankets, and where he was that much safer.

“It’s near midnight. It’ll be morning before you know it. Just sack out, okay?”

Criston nodded dumbly and felt tired again. He wondered what made Jack so mad about his asking. Probably having to dig out the new line. That was always a bitch. Eventually the machinegunner gave up, and the rhythmic sound of the shovels and artillery in the distance lulled him into the same uneasy sleep that he’d known since his first day on the line.

No Man’s Land

Posted: December 13, 2013 by writingsprint in Drama, The Line of Duty
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Part three of “The Line of Duty”

Football dreams and old injuries came back to Criston when the throbbing in his shoulder woke him up. No concussion, he thought. I’d already be dead. Cold rain fell lightly on his face, like a spray in July back home. Only it wasn’t July, and this wasn’t Erie, PA. His clothes were already soaked. What else was new? He fumbled for his bayonet and noticed how dark it was. What time was it? Night-time, that much was sure. There wasn’t much shooting going on now. Just a pop here and there, a bored sniper or a mortar team trying to blow up some of the wire. His body ached, and the pit of his stomach felt empty.

He rolled right-side up in the crater and looked up at the gray, overcast sky. The fog was thin enough to see it now. He felt all the parts to his rifle and it seemed to be in one piece. He seemed to be in one piece, too. He noticed that the crater wasn’t even deep enough to be a self-respecting ditch, and wondered how good its cover was going to be if the Huns started raining in shells again.

Criston noticed again that he was hungry. He took out the ration that he always kept in his pocket for just such an emergency. The sergeant had taught him that after bawling him out for not concentrating while on guard duty back in boot camp.

He thought for a second, then detached his bayonet and put his helmet on it. He raised his helmet up over the top of the crater; how alert were the snipers tonight? He held it up for about a minute, but nothing happened.

Criston put his helmet back on and looked around. The new position was behind him, and they hadn’t set up the new wire yet. He could hear the shovels digging it out. By the shape he guessed it was a collection of shell craters. It was at least forty yards away from where he was. Criston realized that he was in no-man’s-land.

Damn. They really had made some headway. He felt sort of proud. Putting in that new wire was going to be a bitch, though. He opened his mouth to yell when three bullets hit the ground near him. He ducked back inside the hole. Jack or the sergeant or somebody had better have seen that. If they did, they knew he was out there. No sniper was bad enough to miss the trench by fifty yards .

The digging sounds stopped. “Jack!” he shouted. “Any Americans! Anybody out there?”