My story in marching band, recast as science fiction. Written as a journal.
Monday, May 20
Well, it's been a while since I wrote. I started a project like this a few months ago, but neglected it almost as soon as the war started. This time, I've resolved to finish this book so its records will exist for all to read.
My name is Chris. I'm about 5' 7", lightly built, with brown hair that curls at the back and has atrocious cowlicks at the front. I'm a tank driver, and a pretty good one, too. I have served in the Nevada Alliance's army for about a year now, and have recently been promoted to the rank of Captain. Now, I lead the tanks and stationary guns division.
We go to war every year. I don't know why. All across the North American continent, the thousands of territories march to war every year. Every year, another cause to champion and another enemy to despise. But I love what I do for my country, serving alongside my best friends I'll ever have.
Today, we had our first training exercise. Since hostilities have been flaring up again, General Carter has decided that it's time to shift into gear. Since I am a Captain, it is my duty to train the new recruits.
I am the only veteran in my division now. Well, the others ARE veterans, but not tank drivers. We have KC, who is tall and blonde, who served as a grenadier in the last war, and has been transferred to the tanks. She's learning, but she has a long way to go.
The next man under my command is named Ben. He was our Auxiliary Gunner in the last war, manning the stationary weapons platform. The stationary weapons platform is essentially every weapon that is powerful but too big to move, all piled onto one slightly movable platform and manned by a gunner capable of multitasking. Ben has brown hair, is slightly shorter than I am, and wears aviators and a cowboy hat. He's picking up tank driving VERY quickly. I hardly had to teach him anything!
The last guy in my division is named Juan. He's probably from down South. He has short, black hair and dark skin. He's also a voracious learner. Despite his lack of experience, he's already mastering his vehicle faster than KC is.
Thursday, August 14
It's been a while since I've written. Some kind of politics or another led our standing army to back down, so we were given indefinite paid leave. The orders were simply to be ready to be called to action again when the political situation heated up again. And, sure enough, here we are, ready to drill and fight again.
Today, we didn't really do much. Meetings, signing forms, tactics and strategy discussions, etc. Pretty boring. General Carter talked like he was trying to increase the size of the army, not mentioning the budget cuts we’d all heard about. And, sure enough, the briefing room was full of new recruits. For the first time that any of us can remember, the assault division is not the most numerous! The backup infantry (snipers, carbines, and grenadiers) now comprise the majority of the army, with assault troops (assault riflemen, rocket launchers, and mortars) coming in a close second, and mechanized coming in dead last, as usual. Not including commandos, of course, but we'll get to that later.
Anyways, the most interesting thing we did by far was fitting our battlesuits. The military tries to reuse the battlesuits whenever they can, but an ill-fitting suit could result in an unnecessary casualty. The battlesuits, when strapped on, look like black plated steel, the torso slashed into two colors: blue in the upper left, and black in the lower right. The two are divided by a white and gold decorative sash. After that, we put on our heavy gauntlets, and helmets, although those didn't need to be fitted today.
Taken all together, we look like armored machines, with just a dash of ancient Rome styling with our white and gold plumes.
The battlesuits aren't just for show, though. They are powered with a high-energy shield system that protects us from harm. I'll go into just a brief explanation: when a projectile targets someone wearing these battlesuits, the shields kick in and deflect the blow: one knows he has hit his opponent when one sees a flash. However, the life-saving device comes at a price: the massive amount of energy required sometimes leaves a soldier dazed or even knocks him out. When I first joined, my Captain - a woman named Kelly - was killed because the shock of being hit stopped her heart. Other times, the shields fail to kick in, such as when a comrade was hit in the head and died before his shields even activated. Lastly, the shields can be overwhelmed, such as when my Captain last year, Tommy, took a direct hit from an Auxiliary Gunner's primary turret. The blast overwhelmed his shields and tore him apart.
Anyways, I wasn't surprised to find that my suit no longer fitted. I have always been a lightly built guy, but over the summer I decided to gain some weight and work out more, and so have gained 20 pounds since I last put on my suit! It was pretty tight in the crotch, and would make sitting impossible.
We all laughed as we changed, with many naked jokes being tossed around as 25+ sweaty young men stripped down and helped each other buckle on armor. As I went out to report to Kitty, our NCO, I beheld a hilarious sight: Savannah, a short woman (whom we have nicknamed "Gimli," don't ask) came stumbling around the corner, wearing an armor suit that was fitted for someone twice as tall and three times as heavy as her. Many people were laughing as she blushed and shouted, "No! I think I got the wrong suit!" She managed to stumble into the women's changing room to get the suit off.
After that, we reported back in to Jim, our new commander, who dismissed us. So here I am, writing this down for posterity. Chris, out.
Friday, September 12, 2008
This is the time of year when you know the army is kicking it up into high gear: we’ve been at intensive training for six hours, at least. We usually go up to a special training ground, but this year it was decided that we would just stay at the base. So we’ll all be sleeping here, in the HQ.
The infantry practiced marching and drilling for several hours while the mechanized division practiced our drills. I think we’ve got the second through fourth maneuvers down pretty well, but we’ve barely even looked at our first maneuver. The general says that the first will be the hardest.
Still, we’re looking pretty good. No sign of any hostilities in the immediate future, and we’ve got three quarters of our drills down.
After the marching practice, everyone gathered together for a classic favorite: hamburgers, with chips and fruit (not like I touched the fruit). After dinner, we all went in for a few solid hours target practice together. We’re looking VERY solid: my favorite maneuver so far is the fourth. I think we’re going to blow away the competition, literally.
Now, we’re just all kicking back. There are a few video games going on, both on consoles and handhelds. I think a techno dance party just came to a close, and right now Joe is playing an ancient NES.
Here’s what the final lineup is looking like in our brigade’s structure so far:
Jim, a fourth-year veteran, has been promoted to commander. He was the obvious choice, with his second-in-command, Chris, being the next likely candidate. Yes, we have the same name. Don’t tell me about it. I think Jim is looking very good as a commander, having a strong voice with which to issue orders, and being very solid on his signals.
I am, as I have said, the captain of the mechanized division. My next two experienced people are Ben (Wolverine) and KC, two good friends. They are both novice tank drivers: Wolverine (a nickname I gave Ben for his resemblance to the old comic book character) transferred from stationary weapons and KC transferred from grenadiers, I believe. She’s also got a boyfriend in the artillery: his name is Dan, and he’s a good friend. Anyways, if for any reason the unthinkable happens to me, Wolverine would be next in line for captainship.
Our stationary weapons gunner is a green recruit named Levi. He’s very inexperienced, but he’s got his whole career ahead of him, and his heart is in the right spot. I think he’ll go far.
Finally, we have three more people in the section: Danny, Melissa, and AJ. Danny is kind of a quirky guy, and we’ve had our differences in the past. Still, I hope we can have a good year together. He’s a tank driver with only a little less experience than I, but he is a rifleman for the first and fourth maneuvers.
Melissa is a raw recruit, but she’s different than the others. She’s the younger sister of Stephanie, an officer and artillery instructor, so we knew she’d go far. She’s only driving the tank for the last maneuver, but she’s already pretty good. She picks up on things right away, and she rarely needs to be told something twice. Having never even touched a military vehicle before, she can drive it with the best. Her primary focus is being a grenadier, but I believe that she could easily be the commander in a year or two.
AJ is a guy I met last year through a mutual friend, who ended up signing up to be in my division. Small world, huh? I understand that he is a talented turret gunner, and will doubtless be put to work on the MG turret mounted on one of the tanks. AJ is a little shorter than I am, with short black and blond hair (I don't know what his natural color is - I think it's brown - but he dyes it).
Juan ended up joining the artillery division, so I won't be seeing as much of him as I'd thought earlier.
It’s about twenty minutes to lights-out, so I’m going to turn in. Chris, out.
Wednesday, September 24
Ugh. Today’s drills were so…blah! Let me attempt to explain in a less onomatopoeic fashion.
When we reported in to the general today, he informed us that we would be down on the training grounds. Sadly, the AVC (Armored Vehicle Carrier) is still offline, so we were asked to bring all of our weaponry down by hand.
An hour later, we had finished lugging the last of the stationary guns into place, and we were ready for some intensive training. It was a hot, dry day, but we were focused and determined.
Sadly, the general and the infantry were not ready for us. We ended up mostly staying and standing to attention for a couple hours, firing our weapons maybe once or twice. General Carter had not anticipated the drills taking as much time for the infantry to learn as they did, and so the mechanized division ended up doing next to nothing.
Afterward, as we packed up and headed back to the base, sweaty and disappointed, the general came over to us and apologized for wasting our time. Those were his exact words. I told him it was fine, but I think he felt bad about the unproductive day we’d had.
Right now, we’ve only got the 4th maneuver down. Who knows when the war could start up? Right now, I’m just hoping we’ve got at least a few more weeks.
Thursday, October 2nd
Things are moving quickly here. The general has announced that we will be deployed at McQueen on Saturday.
Me, I’m not sure how I feel about this. We’re doing very well: we’ve got a whole three maneuvers down, something that will definitely play to our advantage.
However, we just seem a little…scattered. I’m more focused on not accidentally getting in the infantry’s way rather than fighting.
I dunno. Hopefully we’ll be all right. It’s getting pretty cloudy, and some people are murmuring about rain or maybe even snow. We have to cross a mountain range to get to McQueen’s territory: it would REALLY suck to get stuck in hostile territory. Command has promised, however, that we’ll pull out if things start looking bad.
On a lighter note, our hats came in yesterday! Since the armor division sits in tanks, we normally don’t wear helmets. Don’t ask me why, it’s just one of those rules. But anyway, we proposed to the general that my section should wear white fedoras (white to match the infantry’s helmets). He said yes, so I ordered the hats right away. Now we have them!
We shall be, without a doubt, the sexiest fighting force present on Saturday.
Chris, signing out.
Saturday, October 4
The battle of McQueen has come and gone, and the Nevada Alliance is looking much better for it! We came, we saw, and we conquered!
We were ordered to be ready to go at 9 a.m. and we would hopefully be in the APC and moving by 9:30. Things... did not work out that way. There was some kind of miscommunication between the driver and our staff, and the driver ended up showing up at 10:30. Organization at its finest.
Still, Carter wasn't fazed. He told us that he had allowed for delays of this sort, and we were still proceeding according to plan. So we all loaded on the APC as quickly as we could, and set off. Advance scouts had informed us that the weather was drizzling, and maybe snowing, but the temperature was holding at 50 degrees...so we would have at least until nightfall to be back.
The bus was fun, as usual. In my first year, the assault infantry had showed quite a lot of team spirit and had always brought drinks for the ride down. They had stopped last year, but I was starting it again in the mechanized section. I had brought sodas for everyone, which my section thanked me for. I also brought a case of soda for myself. You never know.
Toya, a commando, had brought the mother lode of food: donuts, candy, chips, and more. I managed to get in on some in exchange for a can of soda. I also gave a can to my good friend Luke, an assault infantryman who has been with the army for four years.
The trip through the mountains was passed primarily on handheld gaming systems, with a bunch of people linking up and playing together. At one point, the ceiling started dripping onto Wolverine, and the whole bus watched in amusement as he patched up the leak with electrical tape, only to have it start leaking on him from another place. When he patched that up, it started dripping on him from a THIRD place. By the time he had patched that up, the first patch had come off. Everyone was laughing so hard at that point that we were disappointed to see him move to another seat altogether.
Finally, however, we arrived! The first thing I noticed as the APC roared to a halt and we clambered out onto the battle-torn pavement, was that it was windy. Windy and cold. We buckled on our armor as quickly as we could, shivering in the cold metal. It was drizzling slightly, so the general ordered us to take off our sashes and plumes, so as to not ruin them.
As everyone locked and loaded their weapons, I gathered my division together and handed out our hats. With the frustrating wind, however, Levi concluded that his hat would be a nuisance and a liability in battle, so I ordered him to take his off. He has the biggest head, though, so everyone else's fit. AJ’s was tight, but he said he was fine.
As we assembled in the cratered lot to warm up our weapons, artillery fire booming in the background, the exercise was made noteworthy by two occasions: the wind blew over Levi's primary cannon, and the tank that I man in the third maneuver was not working. What do I mean, not working? The lights turned on, the thing whirred to life, but the piece of crap WOULDN'T MOVE OR FIRE. Frustrated, the general told us that a replacement was on its way, and would hopefully be there before we were deployed. Hopefully.
As we got moving, however, things started looking up. I directed some of our non-combat personnel in getting the AVC loaded. Everybody checked their sights, secured their armor, and got in formation. Jim ordered everyone to move out. The mechanized division jumped on board and we roared out... to victory, or to defeat.
It was on a hill, moments after the new tank arrived, that we got our first sight of the enemy. Or at least, AN enemy. Their armor was a dark red color, with golden trim. Both sides assembled, ready to do battle. Jim signaled us to begin.
The first part of our maneuver consisted of the infantry opening fire, with the mechanized and battery standing by. We were taking hostile fire, and I responded in kind when Chris signaled us to open fire.
BAM-BAM! Two, three, four, BAM-BAM! Always count. Always stay in time with the commander, but also keep an eye out for the infantry, so you're not getting in their way. Danny and Ben were keeping up a steady stream of fire.
Then, our maneuver got going in full swing. I did my part, keeping in rhythm with the infantry, always paying attention. By the end of the maneuver, the enemy had broken and scattered! Victory!
But it was too early. No sooner had we finished and were moving up the hill, onto a field, when McQueen's troops entered. They were all clad in blue armor reminiscent of our own, but they were wearing silver sashes. Their helmets were jet black.
Trevor signaled for us to execute the battery/mechanized exclusive maneuver. The new tank performed admirably, despite being a little clunkier than I was accustomed to. The attack plan was for us to take point as the artillery supported us, and let the battery mount a new offensive after each of our strikes. It worked to full effect, and the McQueen troops staggered back. No one ever expects us, with such a small army, to pack such a wallop.
In the middle of the attack, however, I took a glancing hit from a bullet. My shields caught it, thankfully, I maintained consciousness, and was able to get right back into my groove.
As we concluded, the infantry got up from where they had been standing and formed a wedge-shaped formation behind us. I knew that this final maneuver would be the one that delivered the coup de grace.
BOOM! A shot from Levi's cannon went off perfectly, and we got straight into the attack. We pushed hard and never backed off. When we did allow them a temporary reprieve near the end, it was only to contrast with our final, overwhelming onslaught that the McQueen Lancers, as they call themselves, had no chance of withstanding.
After we were done, Jim led us off the field. When we were allowed to stand at ease, everyone cheered. We had kicked some serious butt! We had dominated the competition, and in doing so, had removed McQueen as a major player in this war.
The only thing that could have improved was the mechanized and the battery, which made me kind of sad, but hey, you can't win them all. We loaded back on the APC and headed for home. We were even back by eight, making that possibly the shortest combat engagement I've ever participated in.
Wow. I sure as heck hope that the rest of the war goes like that battle. If it does, the Nevada Alliance is in fine shape indeed.
Friday, October 17
Well, crap. I don't know how I feel about how we're doing. The General has announced that we will be deployed at the Del Oro territory. We can expect stiff resistance: at least seven military units will be there. Possibly more. The biggest threat will be the Cordovans. Their unit has a separate veteran instructor for each infantry squad. The best we can afford is the general for the infantry, and his wife for us, and Stephanie for the artillery division. I don't think we can match them financially, but hopefully we can beat them on raw talent, determination, and morale.
The next piece of news is that we got new ammo canisters for the tanks! We were all very excited. Our old ones were nearly depleted, so the new ammunition is a welcome addition. The general apparently selected this stuff for its power and piercing value.
Our drills today went only so-so. The first drill is coming along, although my part requires me to fire a spray of highly accurate fire, faster than I can manage. However, due to a variety of complications, we ended up attempting the first maneuver over and over, until Carter became too frustrated and ordered us to continue through maneuvers one through four, no matter what.
When we finished, the general ordered us to pack it in. He told us that we would be doing some practice tomorrow before we leave. Today's practice was just to identify our weak points and know where we have to focus our efforts tomorrow.
As we all sat down, Bob called out, "Caylon, Ben, you guys have GOT to learn your parts on the fourth maneuver. I am so sick of covering for you!"
Carter replied smoothly, "And you need to get to where you need to be in the third maneuver." Everyone kind of chuckled quietly at that, including Bob and the general (thankfully).
"Now, it seems like we're really having a tough time right now, but I can promise you, we started here," he held up his hand at about knee height, "and now we're here," he held his hand at head height (he was seated), "and it's like climbing a mountain. You can't see the top, but it's right here. And we've only got that much more to go, and then we're there."
Everyone nodded quietly. Tempers were flaring, but we still have another practice tomorrow, and as the general said, victory is ours to lose tomorrow. Whatever comes, we'll be ready. Tonight, we just need to rest up and be back by nine in the morning.
Saturday, October 18
Well, the battle of Del Oro is over now. Let me relate my stories.
We were at the base early. Ben, KC, AJ, Levi, and I started moving the equipment down to the practice area. We were trying to make it as quickly as possible, to improve combat effectiveness but also to get in as much training time as possible. Goodness knows we’re going to need it.
The training went well. The general seemed pleased with our progress: I think the infantry really ironed out some stuff they’d been needing to work on. The first maneuver showed the most improvement by far. I still can’t manage the rate of fire and precision required at the very beginning. One interesting thing about the first maneuver that we’ve never attempted before: there is no artillery support. Command wants as much firepower up front as physically possible, so the artillerymen have all been reassigned to the mechanized under my command… I think. In the end, Trevor has the final word over his men, and I have the final word over mine. It’s for the best.
Anyways, since the battery will be parking their guns, this necessitates a whole new load of guns and cannons for them to fire in the mechanized. Which is a mixed blessing, because on the one hand, we have to carry a bunch more stuff into battle. On the other hand, however, we’ll have the artillerymen to help us with ALL the stuff and they are, all in all, stronger than my squad.
I’m getting sidetracked. After the training, the infantry all pitched in to help us load the AVC. Dan of the artillery is really the hero when it comes to loading: he’s good at working with his hands, and really the only one who knows how to load the thing. So he usually loads up the equipment while a few others assist him. I kind of feel obligated to help, since the mechanized equipment takes up most of the space.
When we were done loading, we returned to the HQ, where we found lunch waiting for us. Lunch, today, was sandwiches and various snacks: granola bars, chips, fruit, etc. I helped myself to a plateful of food, and went to eat with AJ.
Finally, it was time to move. We climbed into the APC and settled in for the ride. I tossed the drinks to my section, and we roared out. One of the predominant activities was handheld games, of course, but any couples on the bus just sat and cuddled the entire time. Myself, I tried to catch some sleep, which isn’t as easy as it sounds, because my head kept bumping against the window every time we hit a bump.
Finally, the distant booms and chatter of gunfire became more and more insistent until it was obvious we had arrived. The driver took us in to an abandoned lot. We all jumped out, squinting in the harsh glare of the sunlight and the disorienting heat. But there was no time to waste: there was too much to be done.
The base camp had to be set up, we had to get into our battle gear as quickly as possible, the infantry had to check their weapons, and my division had the task of accounting for all the equipment. Patty showed up pretty soon in a Humvee, and ordered us to get ready to move out. As we moved to our vehicles, I handed out our hats. Everyone put them on: Del Oro had nowhere near the wind problem we encountered at McQueen, so that at least went smoothly.
The hot sun beat down oppressively on us as we moved into position. We jumped onto the AVC and, holding onto the sides, roared out to battle alongside the infantry. Everyone in my squad looked overheated and more than a little thirsty. These were not ideal conditions to fight in, but we would continue onward anyway. Besides: it’s not like we even had it the worst: we were riding the AVC. The poor infantry had to march alongside us.
It was approximately 4:30 when we spotted the enemy. The sun hung mercilessly in the sky, tormenting the pitiful soldiers beneath and providing us all with a common enemy, regardless of affiliation. Through the shimmering heat waves, they came. They were clad in jet-black and golden armor, with white plumes. I recognized them as Del Oro’s defenders. Jim signaled us to set up in attack formation. The enemy did the same. We unloaded the tanks as quickly as possible, while the enemy did the same.
Finally, we were ready. The attack began with something a little unusual: Luke and Matt of the assault infantry would deliver the first strike, and the rest of us would support. This was our first time utilizing the first maneuver: I hoped it would go well.
The enemies returned fire. We seemed to be losing until… our entire mechanized division opened fire. Supported by the artillerymen, we blew a ragged hole in Del Oro’s front lines. Wolverine, Dan, KC, and I flipped the guns to full auto and let ‘em have it. With the snipers’ support, we were actually doing pretty well.
It wasn’t good enough, however. I took no fewer than four hits from fire I should have been able to suppress, had I been better at executing the maneuver. But there is no time for second-guessing.
As the first maneuver drew to a close, Del Oro’s troops had sustained heavy casualties. We were winning! The artillery squad left their vehicles and cannons for their artillery guns while my squad formed a defensive wall and the infantry provided covering fire. Our entire brigade operates as a single, impenetrable unit, with each division covering others’ weaknesses.
Finally, the artillery signaled that they were ready. BAM-BAM! Two, three four… BAM-BAM! Two-three-four… the second maneuver had begun, and it spelled doom for our enemies. Machine guns chattered, artillery screamed, snipers hissed, and cannons roared in a symphony of destruction for our enemies.
No sooner had Del Oro’s remaining forces broken and retreated, dragging their wounded with them, than another enemy showed up. They were clad in black armor, with white and red slashes. Their names rose from rumors and nightmares.
Trevor signaled the mechanized/battery assault while the infantry regrouped. After only a few of the artillery rounds fired off, the Cordovans got into range and returned fire. Our training took over, and we fought as we had been trained to do: we stayed together, executed the maneuver well, and (I like to think) made General Carter proud.
The Cordovans, however, were unimpressed. They pressed forward mercilessly, hitting like a hammer. Suddenly, I believed everything I had heard about the massive amounts of money they poured into their army. We were outnumbered, outgunned, and outmaneuvered three to one.
As we completed the third maneuver, the infantry formed their wedge behind us. For better or for worse, our fourth maneuver would decide the outcome of the battle. Or so I believed. In actuality, what happened next was what turned the tide.
Bright flashes of light lit up Cordova’s left flank like an electrical storm. Artillery shots screamed overhead and came down with lethal precision. Someone else had joined the fight.
They came out of the trees, lethally efficient and calmly brutal. As the newcomers fired indiscriminately on both Cordovans and Nevada Alliance troopers, I got a good look at them. They stood out in their red and white armor, especially the golden trim. But for the life of me, I could not identify them.
“Who are these guys?” I asked AJ over the roar of the battle.
“No idea!” came the reply.
Whoever they were, they did not take long. By the end of our fourth maneuver, the Nevada Alliance was beating a retreat, and the Cordovans were sustaining heavy casualties from the unknown force. My squad and I stood, ducking our heads from the bullets that whizzed overhead every now and then, loading up all the tanks onto our AVC. One thing that stands out in my mind was Wolverine grabbing one of the biggest, heaviest cannons we had deployed and running with it over his head.
As we fell back to the camp, everyone set about the work that needed to be done. Equipment had to be repaired, we had to care for our wounded, and everything and everyone had to be accounted for. Jim called us together, and Carter talked to us about our performance. He said we had done well: VERY well. We gave Del Oro and Cordova a run for their money, and might have come out the ultimate victors in this battle were it not for the final army, a territory I had never heard of called Golden Valley.
I grabbed a bottle of water, spilling it over my boots as I let the refreshing water flow down not only my parched throat, but also my face and neck. I put the bottle down, feeling entirely revitalized as the dehydration headache I had been feeling began to subside.
The rest of the day passed relatively uneventfully. We stayed close to the base camp and guarded against further enemy incursions into our little section of Del Oro’s territory. The evening was actually nice, with a beautiful sunset over the war-torn plains of Del Oro. It got cold quickly at night, so I was grateful when we were told at 10:00 that we were pulling a retreat.
Sitting on the APC, I reflected on the day. We had certainly accomplished our objective: Del Oro would not be contributing to this war anymore. All they could do from here was try to rebuild and repel any remaining invading forces. In addition, we had fought well and fiercely, proving that the Nevada Alliance is still able to hold its own against far larger territories. So, in that regard, today was a success.
However, the mysterious Golden Valley intrigues me. They demonstrated a frightening show of force, yet I had never heard of them before. This meant that they were either not interested in expansion or conflict, or that they were simply waiting. Whatever the case, I hope it’s the last we see of those guys.
We were back in Nevada Alliance territory by 11:00, and everyone helped unload the AVC. Within a half hour, our entire war machine was packed up back in the base, and sleepy soldiers were shuffling off to sleep.
Friday, October 31
Happy Halloween! We were let off a little early today in celebration of the holiday. I took the chance to go home and catch up on some sleep, although I understand there's a party at Jim's house.
There's not much of note to write, just that foreboding weather is brewing. The sky has been overcast all day, and is just starting to drizzle. I hope the weather won't be too rough tomorrow.
Saturday, November 1
So, out of all the battles I have fought, this is the only one I can say was well and truly... WEIRD.
Everything started normal. Up early, onto the APC, and a quiet trip down. The weather at the base was stormy. Like, the whole deal: rain, wind, and lightning. We were grateful that the APC's windows all closed securely, so we spent the ride down in relative comfort. Unlike the previous two engagements, people weren't playing their handhold games as much this time, for some reason. Don't ask me why.
I spent the ride down listening to my music after handing out the drinks to my section. I actually slept for a part of the way, despite the nerves.
When I awoke, we were slowing to a stop. The rain lashed against the sturdy walls of the vehicle, and the wind screamed like a banshee. Nevertheless, we wouldn't let a little rain dampen our spirits. We stood, made ready, and stepped out into the howling dark.
We hustled as quickly as possible to a defensible location: a large building that seemed to be an empty warehouse of some kind. We stood alert for about twenty minutes before the general ordered us inside to relax pending further orders.
Now, last weekend I played Caylon at a game of chess and beat him, although it was a close and tense match. Luke approached me and told me that recently he beaten Caylon at a game of chess, and Caylon was really good. So Luke wanted to play me.
Luke stands just under my height, with short, blond hair and a round face. He's solidly built, and is a very cheerful guy. He's great to be around, which is why, I suppose, he's dating Lori, our resident midget commando. (She's not really a midget, but she's still pretty short. I hope she never reads this!)
Back to the chess match. I handily defeated Luke, thus holding onto my honor and my title. Afterward, he went to make out with his girlfriend, while I went to play a game of volleyball with a couple others.
After about an hour of waiting with no sign of any defenders, we broke out the rations and had a relaxed lunch on the cold ground.
When we were done, the general ordered us back to the bus. There, he stood and addressed us: the storm was intensifying, making the atmospheric disturbance too much to fight in. We could anticipate high casualties if we insisted on confronting the defenders on their own terms.
Thus, we would be returning home. Once there, we would train for the remainder of the day in order to stay sharp.
The journey home was uneventful, and the rest of the day passed without anything particularly of note happening.
So there you have it. Easily the strangest engagement I have ever fought in.
Friday, November 14
Earlier this week, Carter mentioned that we would be receiving a visit from a potential ally: North Valley. I had never heard of them, but we were all excited, nonetheless. I couldn't wait to meet them.
So everyone was stoked to hear that they had arrived this morning! The general went to meet them, and even helped them work on their maneuvers. It was then that he revealed we would be doing something a little different today: war games!
We grinned. North Valley had about the same number of troops as us: everyone knows you need at least 2:1 odds to beat the Nevada Alliance in a straight-up fight. However, it is my eternal shame to admit that I can no longer say that.
The first thing I noticed as we set up was their armor division. It was all set up on a sleek train, so that it could be easily detached and ready to roll within 30 seconds. I tried to stifle my jealousy as I loaded the blanks into the cannons.
Next thing: their armor was just a little...plain. Black and gray: not even a sash to spice things up. I was confident that we could hand their poorly-dressed asses to them.
Not so. It was close, but they defeated us. It is indeed rare that we encounter a force that punches above their weight as much as us.
Afterward, we helped each other up and loaded up the AVC. I am proud to say that I only gave two envious glances over my shoulder to their sleek setup. For the first time in a while, I stayed and helped load the AVC to the end. When we were finally done, we trudged wearily up to the base, not expecting there to be any food left.
However, up at the base I beheld a magnificent sight: pizza! Boxes and boxes of it! And just past it...soda! Bottles and bottles of it! We cheered and got in line after the North Valley troops but ahead of all the Nevada Alliance. Hey, we loaded the AVC while their lazy butts were chilling at the base!
I ate greedily, savoring the sheer greasy wonder that is pizza. I even got a nice big cup of root beer to wash it all down. After that was done, I put some music on a pair of speakers that somebody had brought. We danced until we wore ourselves out.
After that, I went inside and watched the video game tournaments. I had one thing left to do: I had to find my counterpart in the North Valley army and meet him. I started asking around, but my enthusiasm was quickly dampened. I was told that North Valley's armor captain was going prematurely bald, he was a stoner, and was generally considered to be a loser. Suddenly, I wasn't so anxious to meet him.
After that, I quietly excused myself to turn in for the night. So here I am writing this. I get the sense that tomorrow will decide the war, for better or for worse.
So how do I think we'll do? Allow me to quote the words of a wise man...
"Chris, bend that maneuver over and have your way with it. Four times."
The only thing dampening my spirits right now is that I can't find our hats. It doesn't really matter, I suppose, but still. It's a little disappointing.
Saturday, November 15
The battle of Fairfield has been fought, and the war is over…but don’t get too excited. This is not Captain Chris of the armor division writing.
My name is Amy. I am a rifleman (actually, a riflewoman), and I am in my third year with the Nevada Alliance military. It’s been Chris’ plan for a while that if anything happened to him, I would take over his records. Today, something did happen (obviously), but the story needs to be told one step at a time.
The army set off in good spirits. Chris brought drinks for his division, as usual. This time it was apple juice/cider. We were all on the APC at the time, and the general noticed.
“You brought one for me, didn’t you?” he said. “Those are my favorites.” Chris good-naturedly handed one over, to general (yay, bad puns) amusement.
We made good time to the combat zone in Fairfield. The other times we’ve fought in this area, we’ve had to get up long before dawn to launch sneak attacks. Fortunately, we didn’t have to do that today.
No sooner were we there than we were on the move, scrambling into our battle suits and preparing for something unfamiliar: mobile guerilla warfare. There were so many armies at Fairfield, you could hardly move without stepping on them. We had to secure someplace to camp. We manage to carve our way through, but we didn’t distinguish ourselves in any way. It was all we could do to survive. (We are not a guerilla band. We’re used to the more formalized strategic maneuvers, not all this sneaking and dashing around.)
We established a perimeter and parked ourselves to rest and recuperate. Everyone knew there would be more fighting today, and that it would decide the war. We ate, and then the general took a group of more experienced soldiers and a team of diplomats to the negotiations that were going on. When they got back, the general seemed very disappointed in them…and yet we had weaseled our way out of having to fight half the armies there. I swear, if he’s ever satisfied, we’ll probably get a total truce – without firing a single shot.
Still more armies were en route to the battlefield, so the fighting didn’t resume until late afternoon. The sounds of artillery fire boomed around us constantly as we relaxed. A couple of guys found a soccer ball somewhere and were kicking it around. Those fortunate enough to have a boyfriend or girlfriend retreated into the shelter of the APC for cuddle time.
Some crazy and enterprising civilian drove right up to our camp and started selling us ice cream out of a bulletproof van. We enjoyed the ice cream, but I can’t help but wonder why he thought making a few bucks was worth risking death. Come to think of it, that describes my job. The only difference between him and me is I get a nice big gun so I can make other people risk their lives, too.
Chris passed around these records. People read them voraciously. As soldiers, we really like knowing that our stories are being told.
I spent a lot of time with my friends: Claire (a sniper), Joe (a mortar trooper), and Erin. Erin’s a very old friend of mine, a witty and accident-prone grenadier. And I do mean accident-prone. A recruit name Kieren tried to claim that she was more accident-prone, saying, “My friends call me Jinx.”
Joe and I just shook our heads and said, “No. You’re not.” We then proceeded to tell her all the ways Erin had gotten concussed in her 3 years in the army. Most times it hasn’t even been in battle!
A report came that the enemy was on the move. We grabbed a quick snack and scrambled into full battle gear. As we marched toward the battlefield, our morale was unbelievably high. Almost done…almost done…and everyone was ready to kick some butt! We were so revved up, in fact, that the general barely had to warm us up at all. He ordered all the infantry to line up and give each other back rubs. This massage drill was supposed to loosen us up for battle and bond us into a tighter fighting force. Then he ordered us to say “Aah.”
“Aah,” we obediently roared.
“Ooh aah ooh aah.”
We parroted that string of gibberish back to him, wondering what the point was.
“You guys’ll do anything,” the general chuckled, and on that humorous note, we marched into the mountains. We watched the skirmishing taking place in the valley. The fighting was fierce. All of our old enemies were duking it out below: McClatchy, Terra Nova…everyone. Fortunately, our new allies, North Valley, were also approaching the battlefield, so we would have support.
When the moment was right, General Carter ordered us into the fray. We passed the North Valley army in their gray armor, screaming battle cries and encouragement, and plunged into our maneuvers.
I know Chris described them before, so I won’t do it again. Just bring them to mind, and then imagine them about ten times more devastating and epic.
The problem was, our bad-ass little army finally had foes worthy of it. McClatchy, in their red and black armor, hammered us with their infamous Tempered Steel attack, and despite out best efforts, we were taking heavy casualties.
It was during this attack that Chris went down. The poor bastard went out with style. He was in front of me, so I saw it happen.
He was chugging along in his tank, blasting holes in the enemy, when BOOM: white fire lit the dark valley like day, and I saw him silhouetted against the explosion as it threw him clear of the tank. He hit the torn, muddy ground maybe ten yards in front of me, limp as a rag doll, sparks beginning to play over his suit, the shield generator trying to cope with the blast.
That’s it, I thought to myself, raising my rifle again. Poor S.O.B. has cashed his chips – and then, in the hell-red glare of fire, one of Chris’ eyes snapped open.
The eye glistened. Then he lurched, and he was sitting, struggling to his feet and roaring like a beast. White lightning danced across his armor as he reached for the handgun all mechanized carry. Most never use it, but he sure as hell did.
Trying to keep one eye on the maneuver, I watched him shoot at the enemy, watched him take a hit to the chest. His shields had blown out; there was no hope of them catching the shot. He sank to his knees, blood soaking his armor. His entire body shook with pain, and sweat glistened from his brow as he fired the weapon again and again. Then he took another hit. And another.
Finally, it was over. His battered body simply couldn’t continue. He collapsed, and died on the cold, bullet-torn mud as friendly and hostile fire flew indifferently all around him.
Behind my armor, I shuddered. The rest of the battle passed in a daze. We finished well, with many acts of bravery, but it wasn’t enough.
After making our retreat, we huddled in the mountains for hours as medics tended to the wounded, waiting for the fighting to finish. Our captains went with the general after a while for peace talks.
It gets cold in Fairfield at night. I had to lend Ben – not Ben of the armor division, a young assault infantryman – my sweater, and we huddled for warmth.
Finally, the details of the treaty came through. It turned out that our North Valley allies were dirty backstabbers: they had taken land that had belonged to the Nevada Alliance for the past seven years.
Disappointed and minus some beloved faces, but unashamed and deeply grateful the war was over, we rode back to the HQ.
As we unpacked, I found myself talking seriously to one of the recruits about why we do what we do and how we cope with it. My heart went out to him. He was asking the same questions I’ve asked. There are no easy answers, and sometimes it’s easier not to ask. Then you’ll never know that your friends died for nothing. I am one of the few in the army that asks the questions, and while I think the reasons for the wars are all crap, I know what we fight for:
That’s what made Chris a good soldier and a good man, just like all the others who have died. I hereby record their names for posterity.
Chris – Armor Captain
Jim – Commander
Chris – Assistant Commander
Erin – Grenadier
Amy – Riflewoman
Melodie – Grenadier
Sean – Grenadier
Matt – Assault Captain
Luke – Assault Infantryman
Danny – Battery/Rifleman
Trevor – Battery Captain
Andy – Battery
Kaitlin – Commando Captain
Lori – Commando
Davina – Commando
Lyle – Battery
Dan – Battery
May God’s face shine upon them and grant them peace.
We were soldiers. That’s a brotherhood that holds tighter than any other. Our lives are together. Don’t forget us.
Do me a favor, keep the record going after I’m gone, would you?
Amy, signing off.
The last chapter was written by ThinkingOutrageously (http://www.writing.com/main/view_item/user_id/abandgreek). Give her portfolio a read!