The Art of War: Epilogue – Funeral Rites [COMPLETE]

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The Art of War: Epilogue – Funeral Rites [COMPLETE]

#1 Post by Thallium » Thu Dec 02, 2010 12:54 am

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The year is 2012 and it is business as usual on Planet Earth. However, the Earth of the modern times is very different from how it used to be in centuries before for one very important reason. Perhaps one of the most significant events of human history took place six decades ago on a small island on the other side of the English Channel.

The Basitins arrived.

No one knew at first what they were or what they wanted, however it soon emerged that the Basitins had not come by choice but had instead been driven from their ancestral homeland and their own world by a force of power-hungry humans who called themselves: The Templar. Now refugees on an alien planet, the Basitins have had to forge themselves anew from the fires that consumed their once proud civilisation and accept a life completely beyond their own control. Rallied by the great General Keith Cornelius Keiser, the Basitins have endured into the modern age despite the mysterious disappearance of their great leader not many years after their arrival.

However, not all is well on Planet Earth for something sinister is stirring in the darkness; a plot that could threaten to consume the Earth in the fires of war that engulfed the Basitin’s home world years before. Everything is in place and the pieces have started to move. The fate of the Earth and all its inhabitants shall very soon be decided.

What can save us now?


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Prologue – At 40 Fathoms

Wreck of the SS Andrea Doria – Fifty miles due south of Nantucket Island

A piercing light cut through the gloom in the murky depths of the ship’s cargo hold. It swept left then right, searching for any dangerous aquatic life or rusted metal that could endanger the life of its owner. Finding nothing, the light cast its gaze on the floor and its master entered the hold through one of the small doors now located on the ceiling closely followed by his partner. The two men were wearing dry-suits and full face masks that allowed for easy communication via a radio headset integrated within the mask itself. In addition, they were each carrying a harpoon gun and a long serrated diving knife to ward off any overly aggressive fish. Or any other divers that got in their way. Both men were ex-Navy SEALs with over 4000 dives under their belts between them and they would need all of their experience if they were to complete their mission and get out of this graveyard alive. The Andrea Doria has claimed 15 lives since its submersion, all due to the extremely hazardous conditions found when diving on the wreck, strong currents, freezing cold water, and the fact that the wreck has decayed into jagged edges and tangled wires which can easily trap and kill even the most cautious diver.

None of this mattered to the two men however; they were the best and their “employer” knew that, which is why they were chosen for this particular dangerous task. These men were no ordinary treasure hunters, they were after something very specific, a relic lost years ago that their contractor was willing to pay obscene amounts to obtain. If they completed this job, the two would never have to think about money again.

Finning towards the bottom of the cargo hold, the first man settled down with a small plume of sediment and retrieved a laminated chart from a bag attached to his dry-suit. The second man joined him, “You sure it’s here?” he asked, speaking into his radio.
“Yeah,” replied his partner, “ultrasound picked up a small hollow on the south wall, we just have to find it under all this mess,” he gestured at the mass of decayed metal and sediment that once formed steel and wooden crates that was strewn about the cavernous room. They pushed off, gliding towards the south wall of the hold, their high watt torches picking out small fish and barnacles amongst the morass. The ultrasound told them what they were looking for but was not precise enough to tell them exactly where on the wall it could be found which was a problem when it was covered in so much debris that you could miss it while being mere feet away. The only option they had has to search around and hope that nothing heavy had fallen on it over the years.

After twenty minutes of scrabbling around in the dirt, the second man clicked his radio twice. He had found it. It was a small door; barely big enough for a man to fit through located about two meters up the wall from where the floor used to be. It was also welded shut. No matter, the two ex-SEALs had had enough experience to account for every possibility and the first man reached back into his bag again and retrieved a small but powerful underwater plasma cutter. Firing it up caused an explosion of vaporised water around the nozzle and so he quickly touched it against the welds; the super-hot beam easily powering through the decaying metal. In three minutes flat the door had been cut through and he and his partner carefully lifted it free of its housing, depositing it on the floor with a cyclone of silt. A dark corridor beckoned leading deep into the bowels of the ship, a place untouched by any diver or any human for that matter in almost 60 years.

The first man grinned; words were unnecessary at this stage of the mission, there was only one more step between them and riches beyond their wildest dreams. Still; no need to be careless. The first diver flashed his torch about and then pulled himself through the corridor, his air cylinder scraping along the roof and letting out an eerie sound like a drowned man’s last call. At long last the corridor came to a halt with another door, this one mercifully unlocked and yielded with just a small push to its strangely untarnished surface. The small room on the other side was oddly well lit, despite the fact that the corridor before it had been as dark as the night and the water seemed warmer in here too. Very strange. Leaning against one wall was a box, obviously tossed there when the ship went down from a small dais-like platform on which it had clearly been resting. It was a steel construction of better quality then all of the other storage crates they had previously seen. Again like the door, the box was unmarked as if decades of sea water had had no effect on it whatsoever. Covering its polished surface were strange markings that, on closer inspection, turned out to be runic characters of some description. The runes had a strange glow which was what was lighting up the room in such an eerie way and they almost seemed to shift, being different to how they were when last you looked at them.

“Wow, what do ya make of this,” intoned the second man, clearly in awe of the mystical runes.
“Nothing, it’s just a box, we’re after what’s inside remember. Now give me a hand with the cutter, this looks pretty tough.”
The two set to work, bracing themselves on the wall and guiding the beam onto the inscribed facet with as much precession as they could manage with their heart rates going at over 150 bpm. This cut would take much longer; the beam was having trouble eating through the hardened metal. As soon as they had made a small incision water poured in and a powerful glow penetrated through the gap, casting flickering shadows on the wall behind and sending the men reeling back in a moment of surprise. Recovering, they glanced at each other; what on Earth was this package they were supposed to be retrieving? After a short while the glare faded to an iridescent glow that pulsed occasionally, filling the room with more dancing shadows. After 12 minutes they had managed to cut a sizable hole out of the box, just enough to allow a man to squeeze through should the need arise. Cutting through the last edge, the square fell away to reveal…
“Jesus,” they both breathed
The first man patted his comrade on the back
“Well I think we’ll have certainly have earned our pay on this one, get the bag.”
Adjusting his headset with a gloved hand, he found the long wave frequency that he had been told to use only upon completion of their mission. As his partner reached into the crate, he let himself sink back slowly into a sitting position.
“Loki this is Dive 1 do you copy?”
There was a hiss of static
“Go ahead Dive 1, good news I hope.”
The man smiled “Oh yes we got your package, tell your “master” to have our money wired immediately, we’ll be surfacing in less than an hour.”
“Very well Dive 1, you’ll get your cash as long as we get what we want, a boat will be waiting for you topside so don’t take too long, out.”
Switching back to short band, he clicked the radio three times: the signal for “let’s get the hell outa here”. His partner was ready, their cargo stowed in a large bag over his shoulder. Taking one last look back at the mysterious box and it’s even more mysterious contents, the two men finned out of the room and back down the dark corridor. They could almost taste early retirement.

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???

“Loki” put down the radio, his face barely registering emotion. Fishing a mobile out of his jacket pocket, he keyed in a number. As the call went off it was automatically ran through an encryption program that was designed to be able to best the combined efforts of the CIA, MI5, Mossad and any other intelligence service you care to mention even if they had from now until judgement day in order to do it. The General was not taking any chances. After two rings a voice came on the other line, “Yes?”
“Sir, I’ve just heard from Dive 1, they have what we’ve been looking for sir.”
The General breathed, “Good, so it seems our intelligence was right then, very good. As soon as it is recovered finish off Phase 1, you know what to do.”
Loki did; no loose ends.
“And after that sir?”
A small chuckle could be heard down the line
“After that my dear fellow; begin Operation Muspelheim at once. No delays.” The General hung up. Placing the phone onto the desk, Loki reclined into his padded chair, his thoughts swirling around inside his head like a great whirlpool. Now that things had been set in motion, everything would start moving fast and he had to be ready for it. There would be no room for error here; one slip up would spell the end of him and of everything else.

Taking up his phone once again, Loki started making calls. He had a lot of work to do.

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The World in Which We Live



Hi there. My name is Gerrard. Keith Gerrard. I often get a second glance when I tell people my name for the first time, I guess people think of me as a bit of a stereotype, being named after a national hero and all. Oh, I should probably explain; while my surname is perfectly ordinary, I was named “Keith” after the famous Keith Keiser; the great general who (rather like Moses if you want a human reference) led us out the darkness and onto the little blue planet on which we now reside. If you’re a Basitin like me the you will certainly know his name and should also be able to recite from memory the majority of his life story (or at least, that which is actually in the archives) and if you’re a human, well, you should at least know who the guy was. I mean, he lead the exodus of an alien race to your planet for heaven’s sake, pay attention!

I talk about who Keiser “was” rather than who he “is” not because he’s dead but because, to put it plainly, he’s disappeared. No one knows where he’s gone. And this wasn’t a “run off to the Caribbean for retirement” kind of disappear, no, this was a “vanished into thin air” kind of disappeared. It all happened about 4 years after we first arrived (that’s 1956 in case you were wondering), Keiser was supposed to be travelling to a meeting in London but his car never arrived. Several hours later it was found parked in a back ally with his 3 bodyguards and the driver unconscious and with Keiser nowhere to be found. There was no sign of a struggle and no indication of a kidnapping, no ransom letter was ever received and neither the driver no the bodyguards remembered anything about what had happened. From that day forward, Keith Keiser vanished off the face of planet Earth without a trace. It is of course perfectly possible that Keiser never survived whatever happened that night and even if he did, he could well have died of old age by now (he would be 86 this year). While it’s true that Basitins have on average a slightly shorter life expectancy then humans, Keiser always seemed to me to be one to deify the ages. After all, Marcus Kain the old Arms General and one of Keiser’s closest friends is still alive at the grand old age of 90 so it’s perfectly possible that Keiser himself could still be alive.

But anyway, enough about my namesake, I decided to keep this little journal/diary to show you what life is like now that we are guests on another species’ planet and now that humans have finally realised that they are not the only intelligent life form in the universe. It’s not a bad life, far from it in fact, all in all we’ve got things pretty good here it’s just that a little less “structured” then things were before. Not that I would actually know first hand what things were like before, I’m only 16 after all and it’s getting on for 60 years since we first arrived here. I won’t pretend things have been perfect since we arrived, there were some “growing pains” in the first decade or so, a lot of humans weren’t exactly keen on having to share their planet with a race of long-eared bipedal space aliens and so everything wasn’t all warm and cuddly at the beginning. Still, we persevered and nowadays I think that we are generally accepted and (dare I say) liked by the human population by and large.

For me personally it has been an… interesting life so far. I’m in a somewhat unique position by being the child of two human parents (and no I’m not a freak of nature, I’m adopted). I have no idea who my real parents are and, to be honest, I don’t much care. I’m very happy to be the “odd one out” in the Gerrard family for I doubt that I could, under any other circumstances, be much happier. Despite being of no blood or even species relation, everyone in the family welcomed me with open arms and hearts the day my parents first brought me home barely two months after I was born. No one really seems to mind that their nephew/cousin/grandson is, to but it bluntly, not human.

I appreciate now that it must have been quite a challenge for my mum and dad in the beginning, like most humans they knew the basics of how Basitin children are brought up (which actually hasn’t changed all that much since the old days) since it’s pretty common knowledge and also because “Basitin Society” has been taught as part of the Citizenship course that all children in the UK have taken since the mid 60s. However despite this, they never had any idea about some of the finer details such as exactly how to put my name forward for the Military Training School that is still pretty much mandatory for all Basitin children to go through. Fortunately for them, one of the local councillors was a Basitin and he helped them along with all these details.

He was also very kind as he offered to tutor me in the Basitin language (which as you can imagine, was kinda important for me to learn) as, unsurprisingly, neither my parents spoke a word. Most Basitin children are taught Basitin first (until they have enough for basic communication) and then are taught English so that they can communicate with the world at large. Fortunately, Basitins are a linguistically adept race and so we can usually grasp languages quite quickly. This means that by the time that most human children start to master one language, Basitins have already started to lean two. Luckily for me, I am no exception to this rule and so can speak and write both fluently.

Interestingly enough, it was also this same councillor who suggested my name. It was always known that Keiser was an unknown, a maverick, one who didn’t always stay true to the laws and so given my slightly unknown origins, Keith seemed like an appropriate name to give.

Still, despite this help, it can’t have been the smoothest of rides for them. The slightly awkward glances from the other parents during pick up when I was in primary school and then, some years later, those same looks coming from the Basitin parents when it was time to go home from the MTS. In fact I distinctly remember a certain embarrassing moment when I has about 8. A well meaning police officer walked over one day when I was holding my mothers had in a shopping centre and politely asked if I knew where my mummy was and whether he should be concerned about this strange lady holding my hand was taking me. Of course, the entire centre stopped to stare and it took quite some persuasion from both my mother and me before the man believed that we were in fact mother and son and not kidnapper and the kidnapped. Even to this day we still get some odd looks whenever we are out and about as a family but fortunately we are never accosted by well-meaning but sadly misguided policemen anymore.

Even when by myself or out with friends, you still get the occasional odd look and, rarely, the unguarded star. Despite 60 years of co-habitation it seems that humans haven’t quite got used to the sight of us yet. I suppose they cannot really be blamed for their stares, after all there are only about 3 million of us total on Earth and so even in England where about 2/3 of us live, we are not something you would necessarily see every day and certainly not in the fur (or in the flesh as you humans say). Add to that the fact that humans have never experienced another race before and we in comparison have been used to the sight of humans for thousands of years and you can perhaps forgive the little kids who stop in the middle of the street and gape at you (to the profuse embarrassment of their parents and then the flood of apologies while hurrying their still staring offspring away).

And this is what it’s like in England where we are relatively numerous, imagine what it’s like when on holiday to a foreign country, especially places like eastern Europe or Asia where Basitins are almost totally unheard of.

Luckily for me, having a strange appearance hasn’t affected my social life at school one bit and I have a close circle of friends both Basitin and human. I am one of the 3 Basitins currently attending my secondary school and to be honest, unless you were looking pretty close you would be hard pressed to notice any differences between us and the rest of the pupils in terms of how we are treated at school. Apart from a few obvious ones such as a general apathy towards and therefore being excused from Chapel services (we never were a religious race and to this day we find the humans belief in God a bit perplexing) and some interesting comments in relation to our physical traits you wouldn’t find many noticeable differences.

One of the more exciting aspects about being a Basitin is of course the MTS. In the old days, children went to the MTS for a whole year some time after their twelfth birthday. There they learned all the skills such as sword fighting, hunting, military tactics etc that they would need later if they decided to join the army or the Guard. Obviously not every Basitin went for that career path but the idea was that in case of invasion, in theory the entire population aged 13 and above could be called up to fight and they would not have to be trained from scratch. These days, due to annoying things like school, we can’t just take off for a year and so now MTS is rather like an out of school club and so is now stretched out over two years instead of one. We spend a few hours every weekend doing all the theory work and practising swordplay in (usually) a local town hall which we take over for a while and the, when we’ve learnt everything we can indoors, we make preparations for our Final Test. This is the part that is most like how it originally was in the old days. It takes the form of a giant, five week long exercise that tests everything we’ve learnt in the past two years and puts into practise all the theory work we spent so long learning. It takes place during the summer holidays where everyone has at least a six-week break from school and is probably the most fun I have ever had in my life.

We are ferried out to the middle of nowhere (the place changes year on year but always seems to be somewhere in Wales…just saying) and meet up with several other groups from other parts of the country. Now as one large group (usually well over 200), we start a series of tests and trials specifically designed to be as much like army Boot Camp as possible while still incorporating all that we have learnt the past two years. It’s a blast for 5 weeks and I have human friends who are genuinely sad that they can’t come along.

While much of the old MTS training is now obsolete, much of it is still relevant or has been adapted to fit the modern world in which we now live. For example, sword fighting with the Burrick (the traditional short sword) is still taught exactly as it was but now the lessons have a more self-defence aspect rather then an all out combat one. Similarly, military tactics are still taught but now we study modern human battles such as those in WWII, the First Gulf War and the Falklands etc instead of old battles fought back home.

The purpose of the MTS is still the same however: preparation for military service. Since Basitins were first allowed to join the army in 1961, we have contributed thousands of troops and have fought and died in every major British engagement since that time. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Basitins have contributed more troops as a % of our total population then any other minority or indeed, the British themselves in the army’s long history.

We even have our own dedicated regiment now, the Du’hadrin (obviously that’s a translation from Basitin runic script to how you would pronounce it in English). Named after the old royal guard, it’s made up of Basitin veterans from other regiments i.e. you need previous combat experience with one of the regular regiments before you can apply to join the Du’hadrin. After that it’s a series of trials and selection processes (rather like the SAS but slightly less brutal) to determine whether you’ve got the right stuff to make it in the Du’hadrin and not be ripped to pieces by the training instructors or your squad mates.

Life in the Du’hadrin is a little different from that in any other regiment, things are a lot more akin to what it was like in the old Basitin army, just modernized and structured to fit more in with the British army training program. For example, English is rarely spoken at all unless addressing a human (such as some of the support staff, the logistical core etc) and sword fighting with the Burrick is also taught in a way that is practical in modern combat (for example, close quarters fighting in a building). Indeed, part of Du’hadrin trooper’s combat equipment consists of a Burrick strapped to the back (or two if you’re an officer) and all soldiers are trained to draw it quickly and use it like a bayonet or a combat knife if the enemy gets too close.

The Du’hadrin have a proud, if short, record. Since its inception a few years ago, only 3 soldiers have been killed in the line of duty, which is pretty good considering that the Du’hadrin have been on the frontlines of the Afghanistan War almost constantly since 2009 in addition to operations in various other places. Add to that an almost flawless mission record and a number of Victoria Cross recipients and you can see that the Du’hadrin have quite an illustrious, if short, history.

So; that’s where we stand. We may be refugees but we are by no means a downtrodden people. Life is good, we now live in relative peace and security and we no longer have to look over our shoulders for fear of rampaging, fireball-throwing Templar. We as a people have integrated into human society quite nicely by all accounts. And the best news of all? Things can only get better.
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Re: The Art of War: Prologue – At 40 Fathoms

#2 Post by tony1695 » Thu Dec 02, 2010 1:02 am

Woah.
That's all I can say. Seriously, this is quite epic already, and I can sense it getting better and better.
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You take the psycho path.
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Re: The Art of War: Chapter 1 - I Have a Dream Today

#3 Post by Thallium » Sun Dec 05, 2010 12:50 pm

Thanks very much! Glad you enjoyed it :D

I just finished the first real chapter of the prologue story so I'll upload that now. Hope you like it!
btw if this works out (big "if" mind) il hopefully be able to do weekly updates. Wish me luck!

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Chapter 1 – I Have a Dream Today

Du’hadrin Regimental Garrison/HQ – Credenhill – Hereford

The staff captain’s office was hot and dry and did nothing to ease the discomfort and nervousness of its two occupants. Keith Gerrard and his long time friend James Hawk sat in two hard wooden chairs that had no doubt been specially designed to be as uncomfortable as possible in order to keep its occupants from relaxing. Given where they were and how long and how much effort it had taken them to get there, the two Basitins didn’t need the chairs to keep them feeling on edge. They had been like that for more then a few days now.

As the minutes ticked slowly by, they could occasionally hear noises emanating from other parts of the building, the scrape of a chair or the soft, muffled sound of a door closing. Even the odd squeak-bang that could only be the main door opening and closing as yet another perfectly calm, non-stressed-to-the-limit person entered or left the building.

Gerrard and Hawk had been firm friends ever since their first days in training together in the army over three years ago and had been with each other every step of the way since then. Both of them wanted to be career soldiers with eyes on (as every Basitin solider should) an eventual place within the coveted barracks of the Queen’s First Basitin Regiment, the Du’hadrin.

This was what has causing their distress, sitting in those backache-inducing chairs in that hot, stuffy room in some increasingly moist combat gear. For they were awaiting the return of the staff captain who would, they hoped, be telling them that they would not in fact be leaving on the next bus out but would actually be reporting to their new platoon leader and starting their first day as members of the Du’hadrin.

Both were lost in their thoughts when a soft hiss announced the re-appearance of the staff captain, two heavy files under one arm and a clipboard in the other. The sound of the files hitting the desk with a bang that could have dispersed and angry mob jolted the two out of their daydreams and back to reality. Both wore a mask of fear and expectation as the staff captain pushed a pair of spectacles up his muzzle and opened the top file, his face was almost totally devoid of emotion.

“You are both exceptional applicants,” he said, moving the top file to one side and opening up the second. He studied whatever data was written on the front pages for a few moments before looking at them for the first time. “Intelligence, ingenuity, physical fitness and leadership are high for the both of you, but we already knew that would be the case, otherwise you would not have been accepted into selection.”
He paused for a moment.
“To be accepted here you need to be more then just “good” at soldiering, you need to be “exceptional” and a lot of you applicants were just that sort of “exceptional” we are looking for.” He paused again and leaned back in his chair, regarding Gerrard and Hawk with the same “zero emotion” stare. This pause seemed to stretch out for the two friends and gave them plenty of time to dread the next few words to come out of the staff captain’s mouth. Had they been accepted? Had they been denied? Or worse still, had one of them made it and the other failed? All these questions and a thousand more besides buzzed around their heads for what seemed like eons despite the fact that only a few seconds had passed. The captain continued “so, I need to be sure that all new recruits are the best of the best so that this regiment can continue to have one of the best mission records in the whole army,” he adjusted one of the files so it was perfectly aligned with the other on his desk. “So I guess it’s fortunate for you that we do think that you’re the best of the best. Congratulations,” his face cracked into a smile, “you’re in.”

There was a stunned silence in the office for a few moments; neither Gerrard nor Hawk seemed to be capable of making coherent noise any more. Clearly used to this reaction, the staff captain eased back into his very comfy leather chair, content with the happy glow that being God for a few minutes often gave him. At last Hawk managed to splutter out something that resembled a “thank you” and the staff captain leaned forward again “you’ll be integrated into your new platoon immediately, the paperwork has already been done and everything is now official. You will be reporting to Captain Wight, commander of the 2nd platoon D Company who should be…” he checked his clipboard “on the assault course, you know where that is.” It was not a question; they did. They had spent the best part of a week running and re-running that damn assault course during selection. It was murder.

The staff captain rose “you’re dismissed, report to Captain Wight and then come back and get your kit over to D Block.” They also rose, saluted awkwardly and then proceeded to bumble out of the room. As they turned, the staff captain took a deep breath and then bellowed with mock rage “now get the hell out of my office!” They scampered away like naughty school children. Relaxing once more into his chair, Staff Captain Nicholas Moore sighed a contented sigh. Yes, he did love playing God.

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Gerrard and Hawk stumbled outside, dizzy with a mixture of pride and embarrassment (the latter courtesy of the stares of everyone inside the building who had heard Moore’s fake outburst) and were so pleased with themselves that it took them a few seconds to remember that they weren’t children anymore and were in fact old hand soldiers with two tours of duty in Afghanistan apiece under their belts. Remembering this they straightened up and set about making their way across the compound to where the assault course was (over 400 meters away) with a sort of stiff walk that was not quite a march which had been drummed into them over the past three years. As they walked, they looked upon all they passed with new eyes; no longer did they look at these people with envy but with pride. No longer did they have to dream of making it into the Du’hadrin, they were actually here.

The assault course was a monolithic construction, a mess of steel poles, netting and various water features (kept purposefully ice cold) designed to give even the most hardened SAS veteran nightmares. And give nightmares it did with Gerrard in particular having spent more then his fare share in that ice-cold water. It had one of the largest walls of any assault course in the country and almost required runners to perform a circus style human pyramid in order to reach the top. That combined with a zip line, razor wire tunnel and a “leap of faith” jump from a 20 meter high pole onto a crash mat made it one of the most feared places in the whole of Britain, beaten only by the immigration queue at Heathrow and maybe the shower block of Wormwood Scrubs. It was a surprise any of it was even legal.

They could see runners on it from quite a distance away and, as they came closer, could make out the shape of someone bawling at them from the ground. As they approached, the figure almost seemed to sense their presence for he turned before any of them had had a chance to call out.
“The new guys eh? Figures that I’d get the new guys.”
Captain Wight was a Basitin of very powerful stature, broad shouldered and very well muscled. He had light tan fur and was tall, very tall in fact, at over 6 foot 2 inches he stood well above the Basitin average of 5 foot 8. He wore his hair medium length and loose in a style very unlike anything the pair had seen on a military base before and his eyes were hidden behind a pair of impenetrably black, non-reflective sunglasses. His green Disperse Pattern Material combat clothes were impeccable without a single crease or mark and his black leather paw wraps were buffed to an almost painfully bright mirror shine. His very being gave off an aura of power and command and it suited him as naturally as Keith’s own fur. He looked like the sort of person who, had he not joined the military, would have ended up in one of two professions: a professional rugby player (that is if Basitins were allowed to play rugby professionally of course) or a gang boss. His fists certainly seemed to have had some usage so maybe he had been the latter at one point.

Gerrard and Hawk noticed none of this however because their attention was immediately captured by a small, almost unassuming badge on the captain’s left shoulder. It depicted a wolf: howling but with teeth bared and the sight of it took their breath away almost as much as when the staff captain had said “you’re in”.
“God…” mouthed Keith,
“…He’s in the Wolfpack,” finished James.
The Wolfpack, or as it was officially called, 1st platoon A Company, was the best that the Du’hadrin had to offer. It was an elite within an already elite organisation and marked the pinnacle of a soldier’s career in the regiment. They were famous throughout the army and were considered demigods by other members of the Du’hadrin. Known for their ferocity and efficiency (which is how they acquired their nickname) in battle, they were the only element of the Du’hadrin to have a completely spotless mission record and as such were considered the “go to guys” for the toughest assignments a commander could dream up. They along with the rest of A Company had been on the frontlines of both the Iraq War and then later the War in Afghanistan almost constantly since they began and were in some way or another, involved in some of the fiercest conflicts seen in both theatres. They came home for a few months each year but were straight back on the transport plane and back to the front as soon as they were legally allowed to be. The 30 Basitins that made up the Wolfpack not only made war but lived and breathed it.

The captain allowed them to gape perhaps slightly longer then regulations allowed before clearing his throat in an attention grabbing way. This broke the two out of their stupor and reminded them who they were staring at, causing them to snap a salute while desperately trying to look Captain Wight in the face and not in the shoulder. This episode would almost have been comical to an outside observer but fortunately the rest of the platoon were too busy finishing the course behind the captain’s back to notice anything.

Clearing his throat again, Captain Wight spoke with a voice that dripped both venom and compassion (which turned out to be how he normally spoke) “Before you get any ideas, no, you have not been assigned to the Wolfpack. 2nd platoon’s captain was injured in the last tour of duty and so is recovering in hospital. As A Company is on leave for the next two months and as 1st platoon have no special jobs to do, I have been roped in to plug the gap here. I’d give you the usual spiel about standards but I know you know all about that already. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t. Just don’t expect any lenient treatment because I’m not your regular CO. All clear?” They gave an almost imperceptible nod, “good, get yourselves back to Captain Moore and move your kit over to D Bock, Barracks 3. Then I want to see you back here so you can show me how you run the course,” he gestured over his shoulder as the first weary members of 2nd platoon started to return, “dismissed.”

Gerrard and Hawk saluted in unison, turned and double-timed it back to the camp admin offices where they found their Bergans and holdalls next to the wall where they had left them seemingly ages ago. Hoisting the up with practised ease, they followed signs to D Block and after a few minutes found Barracks 3. Stencilled on a plaque outside were the words “D Company, 2nd Platoon, Sections 2 and 3”. They entered and found a room not unlike any other they had occupied in the last few years only this one was far more modern. Gone were the usual post-war era tin wardrobes and the holes in the ceiling made by the maintenance department as they ripped out asbestos. Instead, everything was “neat” and almost “new”, even the sturdy looking steel beds and cupboards looked less then 10 years old. None of that “retro, falling-apart charm” that other barracks had, only the good stuff it seemed for the Queen’s newest regiment.
“This is it,” breathed Hawk, “we’re finally here.”
It was true; they had spent the past two years dreaming about this place and at last here they were, about to set their gear down on a Du’hadrin barracks bed. It was a special moment for the both of them and they savoured it as if it were a meal cooked by Michel Roux himself.
“Come on,” said Keith, mouth still slightly slack with awe, “wouldn’t want to piss off Wight on our first day.”
Dumping their bags on two empty beds next to each other, they hurried out of the barracks but not before a cheer of “YES!” which could probably be heard by the entire camp issued from their lips.

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N.B. I'm trying to keep military jargon to a minimum but if you have any questions feel free to ask!
Also "Wight" is pronounced "White"
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Re: The Art of War: Chapter 1 - I Have a Dream Today

#4 Post by Kaptain » Mon Dec 06, 2010 5:46 am

A military story? Damn skippy. You write very fluidly, I didn't have to backtrack while reading at all. Very nice. And as for military jargon, I would love to see more of it. This is after all what appears to be a military story. Maybe just put explanations at the bottom of every story post if you think people won't understand it. Oh, before I forget, great work on setting up the history and setting of your story. Some people don't pay much attention to it/go complete overkill on it, but you did it just fine (meaning, it's all in the prologue and you didn't roll forward into your actual chapters. Very nice). Bookmarked. Gotta love the military, hooah?
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Re: The Art of War: Chapter 1 - I Have a Dream Today

#5 Post by Thallium » Mon Dec 06, 2010 7:43 am

Kaptain wrote:A military story? Damn skippy. You write very fluidly, I didn't have to backtrack while reading at all. Very nice. And as for military jargon, I would love to see more of it. This is after all what appears to be a military story. Maybe just put explanations at the bottom of every story post if you think people won't understand it. Oh, before I forget, great work on setting up the history and setting of your story. Some people don't pay much attention to it/go complete overkill on it, but you did it just fine (meaning, it's all in the prologue and you didn't roll forward into your actual chapters. Very nice). Bookmarked. Gotta love the military, hooah?
Thanks a lot; later on things will get more military in terms of content and in terms of language (read: acronyms and swearing) when our heroes visit (spoiler alert) a little desert country in the east but until then things will be quite mild. Don't worry though, there's a twist coming up later and this is definatly not going to be a straight up military story through and through. You'll just have to wait to find out what it is :wink:

Good idea about the explanations though; I started that a bit at the end of the first chapter but I think that as time goes on I’ll put more than just little N.Bs at the bottom.

As for the history? Yeah I have had this all worked out for over a year so I’ve had plenty of time to work on it which is why I think it’s as concise as it is. God save the Queen!
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Re: The Art of War: Chapter 1 - I Have a Dream Today

#6 Post by Thallium » Tue Dec 07, 2010 11:33 pm

Smaller update today then the past few chapters but I just don’t have the “vibe” in me right now so this will have to do.

Any and all comments very welcome of course and any feedback you can give would be great as well, especially on characters (specifically speech and descriptions: Am I doing too much, too little etc.) would be greatly appreciated. Enjoy :)


Chapter 2 – Reise, Reise

When they returned to the assault course there was no sign of the rest of 2nd platoon, only Captain Wight remained, sitting at the top of the “upwards stepping stones” and tapping a paw. His eyes were still hidden by those sunglasses despite the ever-encroaching darkness and so his expression was almost impossible to read. As they approached he hopped down with a grace that no man his build should have been able to manage and strode towards them.
“You’ve both done this countless times no doubt during selection but now I’m going to show you something slightly different. Before, you completed each obstacle as you were told to do by your instructors; you used teamwork to cover the more difficult ones like the wall and the rope swing. That was indeed how things were done in the regular army but this is the Du’hadrin, things are different here. To become combat ready in my eyes you will need to be able to complete this course in four minutes and by yourself. No help from another teammate you understand?”
“Yes Wight,” they chorused (using what was considered the polite way to address a higher ranking officer in the Du’hadrin by using his last name) while internally they were panicking. How could anyone possible complete this by themselves? That was impossible surely?
“Good, I do not expect to be able to do this first time round. I just want you to show me what you can do and then I will show you how the Du’hadrin do it. Keith, you’re up first.”

Gerrard took his place at the start of the course, “Go!” shouted Wight and off Keith ran. He had little trouble with the first few set of challenges but stalled when it came to the wall, unable to jump nearly high enough to reach the top. After a few tries Wight shouted “Never mind, skip that and move on!” Bypassing the wall, Keith continued on but floundered again when it came to the rope swing. “Ok stop, nice try, Hawk you’re up next.” Once more, James started well but couldn’t find a way to scale the wall or cross the rope swing. He came back, a look of disappointment on his face at not being able to show up his friend in the friendly little rivalry they had.
“That’s enough, come over here both of you.” They double-timed it over. “Ok, now I’m going to show you what you will be trained to do over the next few weeks. Everyone in 2nd platoon has mastered this already so it’s not impossible; it just requires the right technique.”

With that the captain took a few paces back and then with a colossal burst of speed tore towards the wall, planting one paw on its surface the captain used his momentum to use the walls sheer surface as a foothold, propelling himself up with the grace of a mountain cat and grasping the top of the wall with ease and with some distance left to spare. “See? Easy, you just need to know how.” Wight then proceeded to demonstrate equally impressive fetes of athletic and gymnastic ability in order to clear the rest of the course. By the time he had finished and ran back to where Gerrard and Hawk were standing he wasn’t even breathing hard (and his uniform (and sunglasses) was still in perfect, spotless condition). “Right, that’s enough of me showing off. You’ll both learn how to do that soon. For now stop staring and get your tails over to the mess hall, you’ll meet the rest of the platoon there. Your training to become real soldiers starts in earnest tomorrow morning so eat well and get some rest. You’ll need it.”
And with that the captain slinked off into the growing darkness, becoming lost amongst the shadows almost instantly.

It had been a day of surprises and being “in awe” for the two newest members of the regiment and only Hawk’s rumbling stomach reminded them that they had a date with dinner. As they ran off towards the mess hall, a shadow detached itself from one of the nearby buildings. Captain Jason Wight watched them go, a smile of contentment slowly spreading across his face.

Extract from the diary of Keith Gerrard

Well, what a day that was. To be honest, I was dreading this day more then any other in a long time. It marks how far James and I have come in these past few years. I had a feeling at the back of my mind that there was something strange about this day, something more intangible then any of the surprises we faced, and then I realised what it was. The strange feeling was brought about because I haven’t in almost 10 years been around so many of my own kind, not since the MTS have I looked around me and not seen a single human. The language is also strange; we have grown so used to the language of our hosts that speaking the language of our people almost feels odd and artificial, it will take some getting used to.

I didn’t know what to expect from our new comrades in 2nd platoon, I knew that as new recruits we would be catapulted straight into an existing unit, where friendships have already been made and solidified and I honestly did not expect the warmth and friendliness with which we were greeted. I remember my first days as a recruit to be something akin to the first day of school, the day where you learn which kids you could become friends with and which you would forever avoid and I expected something similar here to. But no, James and I were greeted by our new brothers in arms as if they had known us for years. My guess is that it has something to do with us all having experienced battle before, none of us are new blood when it comes to fighting. All of us have killed in the past and seen friends die right in front of us and I suppose this experience of the reality of war has mellowed us out and made us act less like school children and more like the professional soldiers we are.

The biggest shock of all today however was definatly our captain. When we were fighting in Afghanistan, you always heard tales from passing soldiers about the Wolfpack, about how they had taken this position or captured this settlement single-handed and come out without a casualty and now here I am serving (although temporarily) under their leader, the Alpha Wolf if you will. He is a very…complex person that much is clear; I’m not quite sure what to make of him yet. I expected something approaching the bellowing sergeant majors that used to berate us about every little tiny detail for hours on end but no, he is nothing like that, he seemed almost “kind”. That scares me.

It will be interesting to see what the next few weeks hold for us, what new things we will learn, what new things we will do. D Company is here for two months before going back to the front and we have that much time in order to ready and prepare ourselves up to what the guys call “the Du’hadrin standard” of soldiering. The next few weeks will certainly be interesting, I just pray to whatever deities are out there that we can make it through.


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EDIT:And now the rest of chapter 2

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A week passed and Gerrard and Hawk were as promised, trained to be real soldiers. The physical fitness required to be a regular soldier was nothing compared to what the Du’hadrin required. Cross-country runs were now just that, runs, and if you even so much as thought about jogging you would be instantly left behind. Between the insane runs, endless practise in the CQB arena and the rifle range was of course the assault course. All of 2nd platoon could indeed complete the course just as the captain had done (minus the almost godlike finesse and grace that the captain somehow possessed of course) and both Gerrard and Hawk found it difficult to cope at the beginning. No one had ever told them you needed agility to be a soldier but you sure as hell needed it in the Du’hadrin. However, at last something clicked and they started to take it all in their stride the assault course included. They still were not nearly as fast as the others but at least now they could actually complete it in a time the captain found “acceptable” for “new guys”. After weeks of running and re-running the various courses and “surprise activities” the captain liked to throw at them, they could both feel their fitness improving, bodies strengthening, minds sharpening to a degree neither of them had thought possible before. It was a strange feeling, being able to run ten miles and not even feel out of breath.

It was a cold autumn morning about two weeks into their new life and Gerrard and Hawk were standing at ease in front of their barracks, listening intently to Captain Wight who was outlining the day’s program of misery.
“And that covers it, any questions?” No one moved, “ok then, fall out!”
As one they turned and proceeded to file back into their barracks to get their gear ready for another long day. As he turned, Hawk felt a hand on his shoulder, “not you,” the captain said, “get Keith and walk yourselves over to the quartermaster’s locker, he’ll be expecting you.” Hawk saluted and went to find his friend, “Seems we’re getting some new equipment,” he told Keith’s back, “Wight wants us over at the quartermaster’s locker.” Keith looked puzzled for a moment before nodding and abandoning his day sack where he had been packing it on his bed.

The two crossed the 100-meter stretch of concrete that led them up to the camps administration office, took a right and entered the unassuming door presented to them. This was the domain of Tobias Creek, the quartermaster. He had three missing fingers and only half a right ear but that didn’t stop him from being one of the most terrifying Basitins on the base, being famed for his volcanic temperament. But fortunately that was only when he was drunk. He was often drunk. Luckily for James and Keith, this was a sober day and so they did not have to put his legendary temper to the test.

Just because he was sober did not mean however that he was awake. Creek was slumped on his desk, an unlit cigarette in one hand and a pen in the other, snuffling into a stack of papers set before him. After hearing all the stories about him, the last thing either of them wanted to do was to wake him up. Luckily they were spared the potential consequences of that because at that moment the snuffling stopped and a pair of deep brown eyes rotated upwards to stare at the intruders. “What do you want?” he asked, still not quite in reality.
“Captain Wight said you’d be expecting us,” Hawk replied a little uncertainly.
“Wight eh? You must be the newbies then,” he heaved himself up from his chair, “follow me.”

Creek took them down a long corridor, racks upon racks of equipment of all possible types ranged along each wall, kept safe by steel mesh cages. Eventually he stopped by one, drew out a key ring from a pocket, selected one that looked identical to all the rest and opened the padlock that kept the cage shut. Inside were row upon row of Burricks, hanging shining and resplendent in their sheaths. He handed two to Gerrard and two to Hawk. “The one in the ornate sheath is your dress sword and is worn during parades; your squad mates will show you how. It is BLUNT and shall remain that way, clear?” Nods. “The other is your combat sword; the blade is dull and does not require polishing. The moment you leave this building you will go straight back to your barracks and lock them both in your locker where they will remain unless asked for, do I make myself perfectly clear?” More nods. “Good,” Creek handed them both a bottle of polish and a very rough piece of sturdy cloth, “whetstone,” he said gesturing at the cloth “not to be used until you’re at the front, mind.”

He closed the cage and re-locked it “follow me.” He led them to the end of the corridor and used another identical key on a small red door, opening it and gesturing for them to go in. Inside were more boxes that carried the same trademarked military smell as everything else in the building along with two “things” wrapped in black cloth hanging on a rack. “You’re dress uniforms,” said Creek, a hint of excitement entering his voice “just received them last night.” He unzipped the first of the cloth wraps and an iridescent glow seemed to fill the room. Inside was a full suit of pristine, newly forged steel armour. “Now this is what it truly means to be a Du’hadrin,” Creek said, wistfully running a finger over the plates “the MTS will have taught you all you need to know about recognising an officer by his armour,” he read the nametag “this is yours Corporal Hawk,” he said lifting the lot of its rack and handing it over reverently. He unzipped the other wrap “and this is yours Corporal Gerrard,” he said handing it over. The pair looked like 10 year olds on Christmas Day, their faces aglow. “Same polish as the Burrick, you better make sure those plates are damn mirrors when it comes to the Final Parade before you leave or I will personally make sure you never get on that transport plane, you hear me?” A garbled “yes Creek” ensued. “Now get out of my storeroom, no doubt your missing something important!” They saluted and hurried out of the locker, buzzing with emotion and pride. The acquisition of this armour signified the final step in their long quest to become what they were born to be: some of the best soldiers in the entire world. Now they understood why they had decided to go through selection, why they had endured all the hardship, all the pain that training to be the best of the best took. Now they understood. Now they were real Basitins.
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Re: The Art of War: Chapter 2 Part 1 - Reise, Reise

#7 Post by Thallium » Mon Dec 13, 2010 5:43 pm

Bonus points for those who can spot the two video game references :wink:

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Chapter 3 Part 1 – Once More Into the Breach, Dear Friends


“Parade-shun!” A resounding clack filled the otherwise silent parade ground as over 200 sabatoned paws stamped down in perfect unison. Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Korovin, the Du’hadrin camp commander along with his direct superior Colonel Nikola Vezax, the Du’hadrin’s regimental commander, surveyed the soldiers with practised eyes. They were good, all immaculately turned out, weapons and armour polished to perfection, standing in perfect rows. But they both expected no less. They were Du’hadrin after all; perfection was the norm. The combined might of A and D companies stood before them, ready to head once more into the fight. All that stood between them and the transport plane was today.

“Officers to the front! One pace forward!” roared Korovin. Eight Basitins stepped forward, all dressed in the silver and gold trim armour with various insignias that marked them as a captain or above. From his vantage point near the centre, Keith could see Wight standing immobile in front of the Wolfpack, cloth badge replaced with a painted version on his armoured shoulder; his usual sunglasses replaced by his slit-visored helmet. Wight had re-joined 1st platoon A Company a few weeks previously when 2nd platoon’s commanding officer had returned. Their new captain, a man by the name of Matthew Knight, was a likeable enough fellow with a short, well-built stature who had been discharged from hospital barely a month ago but was insistent that he return to active duty as soon as possible so that he “didn’t lose his touch”. He was a good officer, no doubt, liked by the men and with good leadership skills but was nowhere close to Wight in terms of awe-inspiring physical prowess and charisma.

“Present-arms!” As one, 200 swords were unsheathed and held to the front, blade pointing skywards. Vezax ran his eye over the troops, noting any tiny imperfections, his gaze falling over every soldier. In their respective places in the formation, Keith and James almost shivered as that searching gaze slid over them, so penetrating it seemed to see straight into their soul and all their thoughts as well as the minute dull patch on Hawk’s left gauntlet. At the end of its long sweep, the gaze shifted frontwards again, seemingly satisfied with what it had seen.

“Stand at-ease!” With a singular motion, swords were sheathed again and hands were clasped behind backs, paws shoulder width apart, tails wrapped around the left leg. The soldiers of A and D Companies relaxed, or relaxed as much as was possible when encased in steel armour. Vezax stepped down from the small podium on which he had been standing with Korovin. He was a powerful looking creature of a similar stature to Wight’s own, hardly surprising considering he was ex-Wolfpack himself. He was dressed in black armour with a highly elaborate gold trim that twined its way over the plates in the manner of an encroaching ivy plant. The plates themselves were left dull and polish-less while the trim was buffed to a frankly astronomical degree of shine, this contrast making the armour seem even more impressive than it already was. His head was similarly encased in an ornate black and gold grill-visored helmet and his twin Burricks shined like two small stars at his waist.

Pausing for a moment, Vezax seemed to be considering his words before speaking for the first time. “When I was standing in your place some 20 years ago I was a different person to who I am now; younger, fresher, more eager to do my duty for the glory of my kind, and although much of that spark of youth has left me now and my first days of combat are not much more than a blur, I always remembered one thing. It was something my commanding officer at the time told me, just before I boarded the plane for Ireland. He told me “The best fate you can hope for as a soldier is the one you have worked the hardest for, a soldier who has not worked hard will find his fate to be in a body bag, the soldier who has devoted himself to his cause will find his fate to be old age and a medal”. I can offer you no better words of advice then those my commander gave to me; discipline and training will carry you through what you are about to experience, if you fail, it will be no one’s fault but your own. Strike with the force of your ancestors, be vigilant and remember what you are fighting for. May the Masks give you luck my brothers. Good hunting.”


Extract from the diary of Keith Gerrard

Well, this is it, my last entry from England for a while. It will be strange going back to Afghanistan now, the conflict may be the same but I have changed so much in these last three months. Today I got a real sense of what it must have been like back home, more so then any of my other experiences here thus far. It’s the language, the armour, the feeling of belonging to something that really made the impression upon me that while I may be fighting a human war, I will be fighting it side by side with my brothers for the first time. Hawk will of course be right there beside me along with all my new comrades from 2nd platoon, all of them really good guys. They say that in the heat of battle, the soldier next to you becomes your brother, someone you rely on more than family and him likewise on you and they’re right; in the heat of battle the only people who matter to you are those right beside you. Honestly, I couldn’t wish for better brothers.

All our dress armour has been stored away in the lockup, waiting for our return in six months’ time and all the rest of our kit that we will be taking with us on the transport plane is sitting at the foot of our beds in our giant holdalls. We depart from RAF Halton at 8 o’clock tomorrow morning meaning that we will arrive in Afghanistan at around 4:30 local time proving we don’t get shot down or something. Then if things go at all like they usually do the only things we will do that day is get our barracks allocated and kit issued, then its dinner and bed before the fun starts all over again. It will be an eye opening experience seeing things from the perspective of a Du’hadrin, whenever we used to see them either in base or on operations I would dream about being one of them that night and what it must feel like. I guess now I’m about to find out.

Then the grind begins, six months of very early starts, lousy pay, constant danger… oh well, at least I’ll get to hobnob with the Wolfpack on occasions. Maybe I’ll even get to see Wight’s eyes for once, in three months of knowing him I’ve never seen him without those sunglasses on; it’s a bit creepy talking to him sometimes.

So here we go, off to the front again and Afghanistan: Round Three; wish me luck.
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Re: The Art of War: Chapter 3 Part 1 - Once More Into the Breach

#8 Post by tony1695 » Mon Dec 13, 2010 10:34 pm

I found one! You parodied the Captain's lines from Warcraft 3.
Lousy pay, constant danger... Well, at least I get to hobnob with royalty.
And a great chapter as always, man. Keep it up!
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Re: The Art of War: Chapter 3 Part 1 - Once More Into the Breach

#9 Post by Thallium » Mon Dec 13, 2010 11:29 pm

tony1695 wrote:I found one! You parodied the Captain's lines from Warcraft 3.
Lousy pay, constant danger... Well, at least I get to hobnob with royalty.
And a great chapter as always, man. Keep it up!
*gives cookie* good job, you have no idea how many times I reworked that line just to get it to fit but BY GOD I MANGAED IT EVENTUALLY.

The second one is slightly more subtle but as a hint I tell you this little riddle:

Within a titanic construction, far and wide
At the beginning of madness, I reside
Though you have faced many trials, tribulations and fears
Tis here in the darkness that your soul shall be seared
Through the crash of shadow and the screams of pain
Tis with no lips that I sing thee this refrain
For although your decent has just begun
You shall soon join us, the faceless ones


One cookie still up for grabs!

And thanks man, comments like that make this all worth while :)


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EDIT: And now chapter 3 part 2
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Camp Bastion – Helmand Province

A low rumble of engines startled Keith out of his light slumber. Glancing out of the window, a familiar sight of sand and dust greeted him as well as the usual glare of the sunlight burning his retinas to a crisp. The C-17’s wings dipped for the final decent into Camp Bastion; a regular home away from home. Nudging the sleeping Hawk into wakefulness, Keith set about checking that everything was in order: boot straps tied, personal belongings stowed away and making sure that he hadn’t lost his beret down the side of his seat (like last time). Finding that everything was in its proper place, he relaxed and tried to enjoy the final moments of air conditioning he would have before being greeted with the traditional Afghan welcome of a heat wave billowing into the plane.

A few minutes later the ground came rushing up to meet them and then the rough bounce of the wheels hitting the runway. Home again. Looking out of his window he could see that nothing had really changed since the last time, same squat buildings, same air control tower, and same huge tents off in the distance. It was like he had never been away. The seatbelt signs flickered off and there was a general scrambling for bags and equipment.
“Patience ladies!” yelled Major Alistair Rorke, D Company’s CO, “plenty of time for pushing once you get off the plane! Orderly lines please, you’re going off row by row.”
Rorke gestured at Keith and James’ row; they gathered their bags and started shuffling down the aisle, an almost palpable sense of excitement tingeing the air. With a pneumatic hiss the doors opened and the promised heat wave billowed into the cabin like an unwanted aunt at a Christmas party.

Blinking at the sudden inrush of light, Keith and James breathed the hot, stale air for the first time in a year, almost choking as tiny sand particles entered their lungs. With all the grace and dignity that one can muster when supporting a pack that weighs almost as much as you do, they fixed their black berets with the gold Du’hadrin emblem atop their heads and marched out into the sunlight.

As they all filed out and lined up in rows to one side of the runway, Keith noticed the gawkers, some of them Basitins, looking on from various buildings and it suddenly hit home that that was him not 1 year ago. He always remembered a feeling of envy whenever he saw the Du’hadrin, was this what they were feeling towards him now? He wasn’t sure.

Apparently the arrival of A and D Companies was important enough that Brigadier James Cowan, Commander British Forces Afghanistan and of Camp Bastion was there to greet them in person. Colonel Vezax strode forward, saluted and then clasped his hand, shaking it strongly. They exchanged some words in muted tones before Vezax nodded, saluted again and then jogged back to stand facing the still forming up A and D companies. When they were all standing in three ranks, packs squared across their shoulders he addressed them with the usual “welcome to the field, ladies” military spiel that both Keith and James had heard a hundred times before from every CO they had ever had. Finding to his disappointment that Vezax had nothing interesting to say, Keith’s mind wandered around the camp, drinking up the atmosphere of the place as it always did when he stepped off the plane. It was amazing really; ten years ago this place had been nothing but another strip of desert and yet now it contained one of the world’s busiest runways and was home to over 10,000 troops from at least 5 different countries. The sheer scale and logistical nightmare that this place must be never ceased to amaze him, no matter how many times he gazed upon it. For being able to micro-manage all this, Cowan needed a pay rise.

Keith phased back into reality just in time to hear Vezax announce the various billets they would be occupying for the duration if their stay in Bastion. Upon hearing where they would be spending a good proportion of the next 6 months Keith breathed a sigh of relief; if his memory served him correctly they would be no more than 50 meters from one of the mess halls. Perfect.

As first A and then D Company filed off to their appointed suite du nuit, Keith noticed the Wolfpack, led by Wight, tabbing off in the vague direction of the air control tower. At first he wondered what they were doing, seemingly disobeying orders before they’d even been on terra firma for half an hour. He shrugged, deciding that it was probably none of his business; Keith hoisted his bulging pack and traipsed off after Hawk’s rapidly disappearing tail. It was far too early for mysteries.

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The mess hall was a bustling maelstrom of bodies swirling around the central reservations where the food was being served. It was Friday which meant that it was Curry Night and so there was more bedlam than usual. Since arriving roughly three and a half hours ago, the Du’hadrin had been shuttled from station to station, getting kit issued as well as orders and the traditional start-of-tour photo. All this had turned out to be surprisingly draining and so they were all extra hungry. Had the cooks not hurried them on with threats and various elaborate curses, the 100 men of D Company would probably have drained the place dry within the hour. As it was they were limited to one portion each and so divided their time in the mess hall between wolfing down food, talking and stealing scraps from passing plates, much to the amusement of their fellows.

Looking around, it was easy to tell who among the other soldiers and staff were new to Bastion. Those that were old hands barely gave D Company a second glance while those who weren’t gave the customary long stare, clearly unused to seeing so many Basitins in one place. On any other night, the Du’hadrin would have capitalised on this for some free laughs by staring back and making the other person feel as uncomfortable as possible before turning away in red-faced embarrassment. Not tonight however. Tonight they were far too hungry to care about anyone else unless they had uneaten food on their plates.

As one by one the other contingents filed out, D Company became increasingly vocal: talking, laughing and even singing what sounded suspiciously like a sea shanty until they were the only ones left in the giant mess hall. Realising that they should have been back at barracks ten minutes ago, Major Rorke sprang up from his seat, let out a single long expletive in the form of a drawn out two-syllable word and started marshalling everyone up from their bloated states. Saying to hell with formation, he charged them across the open ground between the mess hall and the barracks blocks like a cheetah chasing a pack of gazelles. Arriving dishevelled and with several trying to hold their dinner in with their fingers, Rorke picked out the officers from among the groaning sea and began hounding them towards the administration block where they would receive their individual orders of the next day. This left the majority of D Company standing rather foolishly in a giant pack by the barracks blocks with no one in command. At last someone remembered what they were supposed to be doing and so began to traipse off to his appointed block, this snapped the rest of them out of their food-addled stupor and so they began to disperse like so many drunken sailors after the first night back in port.

Feeling no better than the others, Keith staggered through the door, feeling like he had just taken a nose dive into a swimming pool full of concrete. Mustering what little dignity he had left, he flopped onto his bed where he only just had time to set the alarm clock on his watch for 6 AM before passing out still fully dressed on top of the covers. It was one of the best sleeps in his entire life.
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Re: The Art of War: Chapter 3 Part 2 - Once More Into the Breach

#10 Post by Thallium » Wed Dec 22, 2010 5:50 pm

Ok boys and girls this is it, the final part of the intro story. I’m on holiday for 2 weeks as of tomorrow so the main story itself won’t actually start for a little while yet (I know, r’nt I just the worst). With that in mind I leave you with this little cliff-hanger and a small insight into the story to come.

Enjoy and have a happy Christmas :grin:


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Epilogue – Who Dares Wins

Nad Ali – Helmand Province

Captain Wight stood gazing over a map of Helmand, a marker pen in one hand and the grip of his Burrick in the other. It was night-time and thousands of stars winked overhead like diamonds on the tiara of an exotic princess. Somewhere just over the horizon, the rest of the Du’hadrin slept, many still feeling bloated from their gorging not two hours previously. Not the Wolfpack however, instead of sleeping, they were working. What many people and even most of the Du’hadrin didn’t realise was that the Wolfpack was not just another combat unit; while its duties were mainly concerned with the type of fighting that ended up on the evening news, it had “other” duties as well.

These were often the things that the general public would find “distasteful” if they ever found out about them; infiltration, assassination. Torture. The Wolfpack did whatever was required to get the job done, things that regular units and even the Du’hadrin itself either could not or would not do. While they wore a public face, their actions were surrounded by secrecy, many of their missions classified as Top Secret – Eyes Only. They were like the Du’hadrin’s personal SAS.

Tonight they were on one of their “other” duties. Earlier that day, Wight had taken seven of his squad mates and joined in on one of the logistical core’s “food runs” that brought supplies to various outlying villages as part of the “win hearts and minds” campaign. Less than an hour out of Bastion the convoy passed the town of Nad Ali. No one saw the eight Basitins disembark. Fast-forward a few hours and they were placing a small breaching charge on the door of a house a few hundred meters outside the main town. The charge blew with a small crack, flinging the lock and a good chunk of the wooden door out into the night. They entered with practised ease, forgoing their rifles for their Burricks in the tight confines of the small house. It didn’t take them long to find who they were looking for.

In the basement they found a man in his mid-40s with a rough countenance and wild looking hair brandishing a pistol. Before the man had a chance to fire, Wight stepped forwards and grabbed the hand, expertly twisting it until the man let go with a cry and the pistol clattered to the floor. In a moment the others were on him, pinning his arms to his sides and pressing his face into the cold, concrete floor. Wight strode over, a chair and a length of rope in one hand, a small weighted cosh in the other. Hauling him to his feet and binding him to the chair, Wight clicked his neck from side to side. This could take a while.

An hour later and Wight stood gazing at the map, pen skirting over the mountains. He placed it on the table and looked up, noting the seven others standing in the shadows. Finding a small piece of cloth on the table, Wight ran it along his Burricks blade. It came away red. He glanced at the man slumped in the chair in the corner of the room…or what has left of him. He had been a difficult nut to crack, loyal and devoted, but no one could resist forever and especially not to Wight. Under normal circumstances, he would not have been quite so “efficient” and the man would have been returned to High Command as a POW but Wight’s orders were very clear. No loose ends.

A few hours from now, the citizens of Nad Ali would be awoken by an orange glow and a crackling sound coming from that house on the outskirts. By the time the fire had burnt itself out early the next morning, there would be nothing left but ash and melted plastic. The basement would be the only part of the house left, its walls and any other surface which might contain evidence of the nights events, carbonised to charcoal. And what about the man? That wild haired “informer” Wight extracted information from? Well, let’s just say that one month from now a fisherman casting his net into the Helmand River is going to get a very unpleasant surprise indeed.

Glancing down at a piece of paper on the table, Wight took up the marker pen and drew a small, red circle on the map’s vellum like surface. Straightening up, he handed it to his direct subordinate, 2nd Lieutenant Marcus Findel who took one glance at it before proceeding to speak a series of coded call signs and orders into his headset mic. Surveying his soldiers with a smile on his lips, Alpha Prime considered the significance that their little night-time sojourn would have in the not too distant future. One thing was for sure; regardless of the eventual outcome, the information gathered tonight would make the next few months very interesting indeed.
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Re: The Art of War: Part 1 Epilogue - Who Dares Wins

#11 Post by Kaptain » Tue Jan 04, 2011 4:39 am

Nnnnooootttt fffaaaiiirrr!!! How could you leave us with that :c </fanboy>

Awesome. Haven't been on the forums for awhile or I would have commented earlier. But still, awesome.
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Re: The Art of War: Pt2 Chapter 1 - Eifersucht

#12 Post by Thallium » Thu Jan 06, 2011 2:04 am

Aaaaaaannnnndddd I’m back! Happy new year everyone!

Wow I never even thought I’d have fans let alone my very own fanboy. Good to see that at least a few people like the story so far, it’s always nice to know you’re not talking to the empty air.

Ok, a few things are going to be a little different now that the main story has started. The first of these will be immediately obvious as it is right the beginning of the chapter. These little prelims to the chapter will sometimes be abstract but relevant (like todays) but at other times will actually help to tell the story. Feedback is of course appreciated on that.

Second is that the chapters should now be slightly longer than the pre-story’s and I will also hopefully always upload the entirety of a chapter at once so that it’s all neat and concise and doesn’t spread across several posts. While I will always try to do a chapter a week, bearing in mind that school is starting back up again soon and that the chapters are now longer, I may not always be able to (kinda depends on my mood as well, remember: nice comments make Thallium happy :wink: )

Third, I’d like to throw an idea out to you guys: do you think that listening music would be a good idea? Now I wouldn’t do it all the time for every chapter, instead I would use it at appropriate times to make a chapter or part of a chapter feel more atmospheric and realistic. Do you think this would be a good idea or a bit too much of a cliché? Etc etc

Ok, I think that’s all for news and since, when re-reading the chapter, I wasn’t sure if people in general would know about some of the acronyms/terms, I thought I’d put up all the ones that I could find here just for clarity (I’ll probably do this before most chapters now). Enjoy!

CO – commanding officer
UAV – un-manned aerial vehicle
IED – improvised explosive device (aka a homemade bomb)
Bergan – British army (and maybe other militaries as well) standard issue rucksack, about 120 litres
Pashto – one of the official languages of Afghanistan

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Chapter 4 – Operations


These men have no uniform, no flag, no country. They are ghosts; striking and disappearing into a crowd like smoke upon the ocean’s waves. How can you kill something you cannot see? How can you destroy something as intangible as that smoke upon the water? Fervour drives them, consumes them, it is what makes them such a dangerous enemy. They know no fear, no reason and no boundaries and while we are weighed down by rules and limits, they can roam free. A friend once asked me whether I could see an end to this conflict; I told him “yes” and it will happen in one of two ways. Either we leave soon with some dignity intact and prepare for the coming storm, or we stay and continue fighting an unwinnable war that will drain us of men, machines and money. Either option damns us, now or in the future we will pay a price and nothing can prevent it. So please, remember us; the last generation that is truly free, for when our time in this story is over it is you, not us who will know the true meaning of fear and the terrible vengeance that will be wrought upon this world.

-unknown



FOB Robinson – Helmand Province

“And I’m telling you Rorke this is [censored]!”
Keith Gerrard stretched out, leaned back against a low wall and heaved a sigh at this latest outburst; it seemed that their platoon commander Captain Knight was having yet another argument with D Company’s CO. Major Alistair Rorke and Captain Knight seemed to be at each other’s throats and increasing amount these days, ever since Knight had got the idea a few weeks ago that Rorke had been saddling 2nd platoon with more “grunt work” then everybody else. Knight had gotten it into his head that Rorke had it in for 2nd platoon and more specifically, in for him and so the two had been fighting like schoolboys over every tiny little thing ever since.

It all started when Rorke had assigned 2nd platoon latrine digging duty twice in a row and progressed from there. Now, any time they were given anything from reduced ration supply to escort duty for the logistical core’s “food runs” Knight and Rorke would have one of their little “talks”. It was plain to see that if things continued the way they were, someone would be getting reassigned and it wouldn’t be the major. To Keith, this particular argument sounded like the one that would break the camel’s back as the pair had been bawling at each other for a good ten minutes now. In fact there was a secret poll among some of 2nd platoon as to how much longer Knight would last before being forced to take a leave of absence “for the good of the Company’s morale”.

The entirety of D Company was currently stationed in Forward Operating Base Robinson, just south of the town of Sangin, and the sense of imminent danger which being posted there caused was not helping ease Knight’s paranoia that Rorke was trying to get him killed. Still, at least they had a roof over their heads now unlike last month in which they had spent the majority of their time swatting round the desert for no obvious reason. If he concentrated hard enough, Keith could swear he could still taste the desert on his tongue and was even now, three weeks later, finding sand in various pockets of his Bergan.

With an angry fluttering, the flaps to Rorke’s lean-to tent burst open and a very pissed off looking Captain Knight emerged. He looked frankly apoplectic with rage. From his vantage point near the wall about twenty meters away, Keith could see that the captain was digging his claws so hard into his palms that blood was beginning to fleck the ground where he walked. Looks like 2nd platoon would be needing a new CO. Spying him, Knight strode over and grabbed him by the lapels, hoisting him off the ground until his muzzle was less than an inch from Keith’s own.
“Find 2nd platoon and tell them to get over here right now!” the captain spat, “tell them they’re not going to like it!”
With that he released his grip, dropping Keith back into a sitting position. Snapping a sloppy salute, Keith scrambled to his feet and ran off to find his comrades. Oh well, no new CO yet it seemed.

Fortunately for Keith the rest of 2nd platoon was not hard to find, being as it was lunch time, most of them were lazing around in the sun near the large marque that served as the mess hall. Rousing them with different variations of “Knight wants us. Very pissed” he led them back to where the captain was pacing back and forth seemingly lost in his own little rage-filled world. On the way back there had been some speculation about what exactly Knight wanted them all for and the suggestions ranged from tearfully announcing his resignation to commanding them to burn down Rorke’s tent.
Once they had all formed up in front of him in neat rows, Knight finished his pacing and looked at them all squarely.
“Command has a “special” task for us in the coming weeks ladies and gentlemen,” he said, sarcasm dripping from his teeth like poison. “After examining all possible options, our dear Major Rorke has graced us with this special task with the knowledge that we are of course the only ones in the entire of D Company who can possibly accomplish it. You thought you were here to fight a war but guess what, you were wrong. For the next few days, 2nd platoon will not in fact be making ourselves useful by fighting our enemies; we will in fact be making ourselves thoroughly use-less by going on Guard Dog Duty for the higher-ups.” He let his words sink in for a moment. “What will we be guarding you ask? Well I’ll tell you. We along with a regular American platoon will be acting as protection detail for a US humanitarian aid mission bringing medical supplies and food into Sangin in order to get the Afghans to support us and not the Taliban.” He spat into the dust. “Fat chance of that ever happening but the top brass are adamant that it will improve our appeal to the locals and they want one of the Du’hadrin platoons to come along for some “ethnic/species diversity” [censored] or whatever.” He let out a long sigh. “Whatever the reason, the decisions been made and there’s no getting out of it. We leave tomorrow morning to try and guard a whole bunch of civilians in one of the most dangerous areas in the entirety of Afghanistan. Masks have mercy upon our souls.”

And with that he turned on his paw and stalked off in the general direction of the officer’s mess.
“Captain”
Knight whirled around
“Yes, what?”
Hawk stepped out of the formation
“Who will be in charge sir? Of this whole operation I mean?”
Knight gave a short laugh that twisted his muzzle into a sneer, “Use your imagination Corporal, do you really think the Americans would let us call any shots on this? No, we will be under the direct command of their platoon leader,” he paused. “There’s a command briefing tonight at 22 hundred, I’ll get to meet him then. Hopefully we won’t have any…issues.”
Knight seemed lost in thought for a moment before his head snapped back up to look at them all again
“Any more questions?”
2nd platoon stayed silent
“Good. Dismissed.”

They fell out of rank with practised discipline and returned to finishing off lunches left abandoned in the midday heat. As they finished their meals, there was only one topic on 2nd platoon’s lips: How many of them would be left by this time tomorrow.

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Knight entered FOB Robinson’s command room five minutes early; he hated being introduced to people as it gave them a physiological advantage. No, he much preferred to be the one that they were introduced to, that way it was much easier to assert authority. He would need all that he could get tonight.

Rorke and a man who Knight could see by his gold leaf insignia was the major’s US counterpart were already seated around a large round table, talking away. A map of Sangin was spread out in front of them. As he approached, Rorke stood up and Knight flashed a slightly stiff salute which Rorke reciprocated.
“Captain Knight this is Major Williams, he’s commander of Echo Company and is in overall charge of this operation.”
Major Williams looked to be about 40, his hair beginning to go grey at the temples. He was quite a stocky figure with well-built shoulders and hands the size of dustbin lids. He had the same air of command about him that Wight did, certainly a more impressive looking command officer then Rorke was and no mistake.
The pair saluted each other crisply and then shook hands, “I’m pleased to finally meet you Captain; Major Rorke here has been telling me all about you, how’s the leg?”
Knight flashed Rorke a stare that could have melted glass. What else had Rorke told him?
“It’s all better thank you sir, just a bit of shrapnel, nothing too serious,” said Knight, the faintest hint of annoyance entering his voice.
“Well that’s good to hear, have you-” but he was interrupted by a knock on the door.

It swung open to reveal a tall, bespectacled man with a pretty severe looking crew cut and eyes that were made out of onyx. The first thing Knight noticed however was how god damn shiny the single silver bar on his lapel was. The first lieutenant strode in, clearly trying to make a good first impression on his xenos allies. Everything about him from his boots to his lapels screamed “pristine” and Knight had no doubt that he had spent the last hour or so polishing and re-polishing that rank pin until there was nothing left of it. This man was either trying too hard or had insecurity issues; not a good start.

“Captain, major, this is 1st Lieutenant Max Thule; he will be commanding Echo 1st platoon in our joint operation tomorrow.”
Thule stepped forward, “Pleased to meet you gentlemen,” he said with just a hint of a Georgian accent. Thule extended a hand to Knight which he grasped, their eyes locking together for a moment. As they shook, Knight squeezed the hand, digging his claws into the soft flesh just enough to make most men give a startled cry. Thule however didn’t flinch. At first a look of surprise flashed across his face but in an instant it was gone, replaced by a sly grin that didn’t quite touch his eyes. In response he squeezed Knight’s hand back, digging his nails into the short fur with equal force. Knight almost laughed out loud, any doubts he may have had about this lanky lieutenant instantly evaporating. In those few seconds where their eyes had locked and they had had their little exchange, Knight had been able to read this man’s character better than a shrink would have been able to in an hour of questioning.

Knight had used a little technique an old sergeant had taught him back when he was in the regular army. Its method and purpose were very simple but gave an excellent idea of a person’s character with no more than a handshake and a look. People have all sorts of ways to mask what they’re really feeling, what they’re really like, however that masking technique only works when the person in question is actively keeping it up i.e. they’re concentrating on it. Plenty of commanders use this as a means of portraying someone who they’re not and most of the time it works, however the best commanders don’t need this force field disguising them. They are who they seem to be all the time. When doing something as simple as shaking another’s hand, those who mask themselves are usually concentrating on how they look, how they present themselves to the other person and that’s fine, as long as nothing “unexpected” happens. This is where the little “squeeze” comes in.

When you cause the person unexpected pain, even for a split second, the barriers they have erected come tumbling down, revealing their true personality for a moment as they focus on the pain. In that moment you can see them as they are not how they want to be seen. Most people would yelp and withdraw their hand which indicates a timid personality, unsuitable for a major command role. However those with strong personalities, those used to leading from the front don’t have this instinctive reaction to get away from pain as quickly as possible. No, these people react like Thule did, recognising who caused them pain and then reciprocating with equal force. It was more a contest of wills than anything else. This is why in that instant Knight retracted all the bad thoughts he had had about the lieutenant as he first walked in, in that simple moment he had assured himself that no combat virgin mummy’s boy would be leading them into Sangin the next day. Maybe they had a chance after all.

As a side note, Knight had once tried that little trick on Wight in his first week as a Du’hadrin trooper. He finished the day with two broken fingers.

Rorke was wise to Knight’s little power-play game and so gave only the barest smile when Thule seemed to pass; Major Williams had either not noticed or kept his thoughts very much to himself, his face showing no sign of what he was thinking.
“Gentlemen,” said Williams, “if you would be so kind as to sit over here so the major and I can explain the finer details of tomorrow’s operation.”
The two sat down on the same side of the table as the COs and got out notebooks and pens.
“If you would be so kind Rorke,”
Rorke smiled, “Thank you; right you both know the general gist of the mission tomorrow. Let me apologise to the both of you for how short notice this is but we had only just got the word from command ourselves. Now; the two platoons will form up in the motor pool at 08 hundred where you will meet up the aid workers and then you will travel by Humvee to Sangin. US engineers will have cleared the road of any IEDs that morning so you don’t have to worry about any of that. You will also be under UAV surveillance the entire time to make sure that you are not walking into any Taliban ambushes, so all in all it should be an uneventful trip.”
Knight crossed his fingers under the table.
“When you reach the outskirts of Sangin you will dismount and continue into the town on foot, we want as little a military presence here as possible so the aid workers can get on with their job of proving we are not all warmongering westerners. Air support will be available in the form of an Apache gunship should you need it but we should use it only as a last resort, after all we are here to help these people not bomb them. Now as for the route you will be taking, you will be following Route Pegasus from one end of the town to the other,” he indicated Sangin’s main market street, “stopping off at points to unload water and supplies.

“The two platoons will be patrolling down the side of the street, Knight you will take the east side and Thule the west. When you reach the other side, the Humvees will be waiting for you and then you will return here for debriefing and any further orders. We estimate that this should take no longer than four hours to accomplish from start to finish, barring any…complications.” He looked around, “any questions?”
Thule and Knight shook their heads.
“Good, your call signs and radio frequencies will be issued to you before you leave tomorrow, have I missed anything major?”
Williams stood up, “Rules of engagement,” he said, his voice straining out the words like they were laced with strychnine, “you will not fire upon any person within Sangin unless you come under effective fire first. It doesn’t matter if they’re aiming a [censored] RPG at you; you will not fire unless they fire at you first. You will also not engage if there is even the tiniest risk of hitting a civilian which means no grenades or explosives of any sort on Route Pegasus AT ALL, do I make myself clear?”
Nods.
“Then you are dismissed. Good luck; to the both of you.”

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Sangin – Helmand Province

“So what do we do now Alpha?”
Wight was startled out of his day-dream by Findel’s question and it took him a few seconds to remember where he was. 1 section was standing in the courtyard of a house on the outskirts of Sangin, not two miles from FOB Robinson. Night had closed in a few hours previously and the air was chilly, causing their breath to fan out in front of them like an ice dragon’s fire. Face first on the ground before them were ten people, all handcuffed with plastic zip ties and trembling in the cold air.

Tonight had been another of the Wolfpack’s “wet work” duties, following up the lead they had “acquired” two months ago. The information that man had given led them here to a small, unassuming house that looked like any other in Sangin. Unassuming to the untrained eye that is. One of the first things Wight had noticed when they reccyed the place a few hours ago was that it had about five doors, perfect for anyone who might need to make a quick getaway. When they went in under cover of darkness, Wight had stationed at least one man at every door to prevent any escape attempts. No breaching charges today, this had to go off silently or their quarries would try and make a break for it before they were ready.

They entered without a sound and caught the occupants all seated round a big table in the main room eating dinner. The sight of eight Basitins, armed to the claws and covering all possible exits made one of them feint outright and the rest gave up without a fight. Smart boys. This whole operation was going almost too perfectly as Wight did not even have to get out the cosh before the headman started blubbing everything the Wolfpack wanted to know and more. And now, Wight had the final piece of the puzzle stowed away in a pocket. It wasn’t much; just a simple address written on a small piece of paper but Wight knew that it was the last piece of the plan. This one address could potentially change the world. Tomorrow they embarked on the final stage of their journey; and it would be glorious.

“Captain? What is to be done with the prisoners?”
Wight looked about him, a grin of satisfaction on his face. Flicking off the safety catch on his pistol, Wight walked purposefully over to the headman and jammed the barrel under his chin.
“Anything else you’d like to tell us eh?” he asked in fluent Pashto.
“N-no I swear! I’ve told you everything I know! Ask the others, they’ll tell you the same thing!”
Wight smirked, “Oh I’ve no doubt they will,” he cocked the pistol “I’m just saying that if you’ve left anything out, now would be the best time to tell me.”
The headman was shaking violently now “I promise! Everything has been the full truth, just please let me and the others go! We’ve been nothing but cooperative!”

Wight grinned again, flicking the safety back on and returned to the others. He looked at Findel “Well, is he telling the truth?” he asked, speaking in Basitin once again.
Findel shrugged, “Seems to be, either that or he’s a better liar then a politician.”
Wight smiled “Good, then our work here is almost done.”
Removing a silencer from his webbing and fixing it to the end of his pistol, Wight motioned for the others to do the same.
“You’ve all done well tonight which means that our mission is almost done. Tomorrow we finish this once and for all. Only one small matter remains.” He clicked the safety off.
“No prisoners,” he said, and then in Pashto: “Kill them all.”


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Re: The Art of War: Pt2 Chapter 1 - Eifersucht

#13 Post by Thallium » Sun Jan 16, 2011 3:55 pm

Phew, sorry this is late; I blame RL and all the annoyances it brings.

I have a question actually: do you think that these chapters are too long? Looking at a few of the other stories here, the chapters in mine seem to be a lot longer than quite a few others (I’m looking at Tony’s right now). Is this a good thing or would you guys prefer to have things in smaller chunks which I would then (obviously) update more often?

O yer; and because I’m a sucker for shout-outs, there’s another (albeit extremely obvious) reference in this chapter (well two actually but one was an accident) for you to find. Think on the theme of web comics.

Enjoy!


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Chapter 5 – A Road Either to Safety or to Ruin


Sun Tzu once said that “water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing and therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions.” The best soldiers are not those that can run the furthest, lift the most or shoot the truest, the best soldiers are those that can adapt to any given situation and any given enemy at any given time. It is those men that will live to see out a war, not those that carry the biggest guns. A soldier’s greatest asset in combat is not his weapon, not his body armour and not even his commander. A soldier’s greatest asset is simply his fear. Fear drives everything we do in any given situation and a good soldier will use his fear to sharpen his mind, think clearer, think faster while a bad soldier will let fear consume him utterly. When I choose men for my contingent, I don’t think of which of them is the best shot or the fittest or the strongest, instead I look at them and think one thing: which of these men will make the best use of his fear? Any soldier who tells you they feel no fear when the bullets start to fly is lying. All men feel it; the great ones simply use it rather than give into it.

-unknown



FOB Robinson – Helmand Province

Keith Gerrard lay on his back on the roof of a Snatch Land Rover gazing up at the steadily rising sun. It was about half six in the morning and the sun’s rays were just penetrating over the mountains, warming the metal roof on which he lay to a pleasant heat. Keith always liked to see the sunrise here, it gave him a wonderful sense of calm even in the most stressful of times. It was the morning of their big operation and so nerves were running high among all of 2nd platoon. They had all spent many hours going over and over the plan with Knight when he had returned from his briefing that evening and no one liked what they saw. They would be going in light, limited ammunition, little to no air support and to top it all off, they would have to ensure not only their own safety but that of their civilian charges as well. All of them had been on enough town patrols gone wrong to know that this was all set up to be a text book disaster and there would be little they would be able to do about it. All the training in the world wouldn’t be able to save them from an insurgent firestorm, especially when they were under strict orders to restrain themselves and protect the aid workers with less firepower then they would usually take on a visit to the camp latrines.

And to make things even worse, they would be doing this on a Sunday. The medics and doctors back at Bastion had a name for the last day of the week; they called them “Holy [censored] Sundays”. This was due to the fact that Taliban fighters, invigorated by Friday evening prayers, would spend Saturday planning their attacks and then execute them the next day, causing Sunday to be the day when the most amounts of casualties from both IEDs and gunshot wounds came in. At peak times, it could get very messy inside Bastions main field hospital and doctors and soldiers alike dreaded the end of the week’s inexorable approach. Why the supposed “military intelligence” had chosen this day of the week on which to conduct this operation was beyond any of them in 2nd platoon and it certainly wasn’t doing Knight’s paranoia any good either.

It was this risk of a potential [censored] storm that had Keith on the roof of the Land Rover, allowing the suns gentle rays to calm his nerves and savouring what could be his final day on God’s green earth. But then, that was what he thought every time he was about to go into combat. So far Keith had had some of the best of soldiering, never picking up more than a few grazes in any of the tens of fire fights he had gotten into over the past few tours despite his fair share of ambushes and rocket attacks. Hawk on the other had had not been so lucky, having spent almost a month in the recuperation wing of Bastion’s hospital after being showered with shrapnel from an RPG that had impacted barely ten meters from him early in their first tour. Fortunately no permanent damage was done, the only serious injury being a small piece of meat carved out of his leg by the blast; the rest was just superficial scratches and light impact wounds. It had taken him a while to get back on his feet in any meaningful sense but then Basitins were tough; legendarily so, and so no one was really surprised when he was back on active duty in way less than half the time a human would have taken. That was his only major injury and Keith prayed that their combined luck would hold on for at least for a little while longer.

The roof was beginning to warm up nicely and Keith was just about to doze off when he was rudely awakened by a shadow falling across him and blocking out his sunlight. He cracked open an eye.
“Oh, hey sergeant,”
Sergeant Amsel, 3 section’s commander, gazed back down at him levelly
“Thought I’d find you out here; Knight wants us all formed up at the motor pool at 07 15 so you’d better go have your final meal now before it’s too late.”
Keith attempted a half-[censored] salute which was not easy when lying supine to which Amsel smirked and hopped off the Land Rover’s rail in search of other prey. Letting his mind relax of one final moment, Keith slowly raised himself off the roof and got a twinge of cramp for his trouble. Leaping down he padded off in the direction of the mess hall. This was gonna be a long day.

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“Indeed Thaddeus! I do believe that you’re absolutely right; we ARE all about to be horribly killed! It’s going to be positively ghastly!”
The stereotypically posh British accent could be heard across the motor pool despite the fact that its owner was nowhere to be seen. Hawk groaned; why did they always have to do this right before a battle? It completely ruined his focus. Sure enough, around the corner of the barracks block came Corporal John Pike and his partner in crime: his twin brother Lucas; marching out of step in a style that was used circa 1914. Changing course they double time goose stepped over to where Knight was standing, a mixture of despair and horror on his face. Stopping before him in perfect unison they both saluted, arms vibrating like they had a bad case of Parkinson’s disease.
“Reporting for duty sah! Where are the Jerry machineguns what!”
Knight worked his jaw in a way that meant he was either thinking very fast on the best way to ensure the pair never saw the light of day again or he was about to devour them whole. Eventually he spoke, “Corporals… do you really think this was either the time OR the place,” he said gesturing around at Thule’s rather bemused looking platoon which was forming up not twenty feet away. The pair looked around, “Oh yes sah!” said John,
“Bit of the old mood lightening could do wonders here, everyone looks so depressed!” continued Lucas.
Knight had buried his head in his hands
“Just get into formation you two before I have you disciplined; clear!”
The two snapped straight again
“Aye sah!” they said in unison before turning back to their section and skipping off while holding hands.

Hawk chuckled, much as he found them annoying at times, the Pike brothers certainly knew how to lighten the mood. All of them had been on edge recently and a good bit of comic relief was probably a welcome replacement to the usual pre-combat nerves. Every contingent had its jokers but few had soldiers who could be so ludicrously over the top out of battle and so absolutely professional in it. In the mess hall, these were the two who started the food fights. In combat, these were the two who saved your life.

2nd platoon was standing in three sections each of eight men along with two medics, the radio op and of course Knight himself and his bodyguard. The Du’hadrin worked differently from the regular army in that because the minimum rank for entry was a corporal, command ranks and the jobs which they entailed were shifted upwards significantly. This meant that while, say, a normal section would be commanded by a corporal, in the Du’hadrin it could be commanded by a sergeant or someone even higher up. It was also different in that even its higher ranking officers went directly into combat. No sitting behind a comfy desk or leading from the rear in this regiment. Here Knight would be right up with them, running across the battle line and giving orders as was needed. Because he was not attached to a particular section, Knight had two riflemen with him at all times to act as protection and also as runners in case the section commander’s Personal Role Radios failed and he couldn’t reach them directly. Below Knight was the platoon “sergeant”, 2nd lieutenant Mark Rhodes, a man of few words and fewer morals who could usually be found in the middle of the largest nearby fire-fight or hitting the bottle in the officer’s mess. Rhodes did the entire platoon’s admin from requisitions of ammunition and food to assigning latrine cleaning duty and choosing which poor unfortunate souls would be picked for sentry duty that particular night. Below him were the three section commanders: Amsel, Gaunt and Creed who were the bedrock of the platoon and then finally the common soldiery like Gerrard and Hawk.

Amsel strode over to where James, Keith and the rest of the 3 section were slouching near the Humvees that been assigned to carry them the short journey to Sangin.
“Ok guys; load up and get in. Dust off in ten.”
With a barrage of clicks, 3 section loaded up their SA80 A3 assault rifles and checked their sights. Perched atop the rifle was the standard issue SUSAT 4X magnification scope with night fighting capability courtesy of the radioactive hydrogen isotope Tritium contained as a gas between the lenses. The Tritium gave off a faint glow as a result of its radioactive decay which meant that the scope could be aimed in the pitch black of night and would also effectively never run out of charge given that the Tritium had a half-life of just over twelve years. In addition to their rifles, 3 section was of course equipped with their Burricks. Each Basitin had one of the short swords strapped on the left side of their back within easy reach in case things got “up close and personal”. The blade was approximately 70cm long and was sharpened to a razor’s edge; it was a slashing blade meant for cutting through plate amour back in the old days and was now used to cut through anyone foolish to get in its wielder’s way. It was a Du’hadrin soldier’s most distinctive mark and brought with it a great deal of respect as well as envy and jealousy.

Finishing their checks and ensuring that their safety catches were on, 3 section climbed into the waiting Humvees. These particular ones had had extra seats added and consequently, part of the rear was gone to make room. The gun port on the roof had also been dismantled. These were now basically glorified troop carriers rather than machines of war; a sign of how much Command wanted so desperately for this to go off without bloodshed. They had been told to spread themselves out into two threes and a two as they had to leave room for some of Thule’s platoon to squeeze in as well as they were the only ones authorized to drive the damn things. The civvies would be going in an armoured troop carrier along with one of the American squads as protection detail and then they would all meet up again on the outskirts and get this over with.

Keith and James climbed into the first Humvee along with Corporal Heller, a huge Basitin with fur so dark it was almost black. Heller was 3 sections machine gunner and so could nearly always be found cradling the sleek black General Purpose Machine Gun like a mother would hold her child. Heller looked out of the Plexiglas window, “Do you think we’ll make it through today? Something just doesn’t feel right,” he said, fondling the gun’s iron sights as he always did when he was nervous. Hawk shrugged, “You heard what the Captain said about Thule; he’s a good man, it’s not like were being led by a complete idiot like back in the desert.”
Heller smiled grimly at the memory, “Yes I suppose, but what about this whole mission? Doesn’t it seem a little off to you? Like Command has forgotten that there sending us into one of the most dangerous parts of the country with a bunch of people who’ve never held a rifle before. One shot goes out and they’re gonna be running all over the place like headless chickens. It’ll be a bloodbath.”
Keith pinched his muzzle, “Hmm you’re right, I wonder if-” but his musing was interrupted by the driver and passenger doors opening and two men in US ACUs climbing in. The one who had entered in the driver’s side turned around to face them, “Hey there; Private Artimus Arloest, I’ll be your driver for today.” He extended a hand which Hawk shook, “and this is Private Pyle,”
Pyle gave a nervous sort of wave.
Glancing ahead, Arloest saw Humvee in front of him starting up, “Well looks like we’re off then, hold on to your tails!”
He threw a wide grin over his shoulder before jerking the stick into gear and flooring the accelerator. The huge machine rumbled beneath them and started moving, quickly picking up speed. As the neared the checkpoint on the edge of the base Arloest gave a mock salute to the man in the watchtower, “See you in hell Gein!” he shouted out of the window, “tell your “boyfriend” that if I make it through this alive he owes me a month’s pay!”
The trooper responded with what looked like the two-fingered salute but then he was gone, falling into the distance behind the speeding Hummer, a dust cloud quickly obscuring any sign of FOB Robinson’s existence.

The road had has promised been cleared by engineers earlier that morning which meant the convoy could go flat out across the desert road, a sandstorm being thrown up in their wake. Before long the outskirts of Sangin could be seen rising up out of the desert, buildings partially obscured by the heat haze their outlines fading into one another like a Monet painting. Up in the distance they could see the Humvee at the head of the convoy slowing down about a hundred meters from the first buildings and then coming to a stop. The rest of them followed suit, coming up side by side until a small grid of expensive military hardware had been assembled. From behind came a slightly higher pitched roar and then from out of nowhere came two trucks, one laden with the civvies and one of Thule’s squads, the other with the supplies they would be handing out.

Arloest applied the hand brake, “Well looks like this is it, hope to see ya back here in a few hours; later.” He and Pyle jogged off to regroup with their squads but not before he had flashed another grin over his shoulder.
“Well he was an…interesting character,” intoned Heller, a look of slight wonder on his face.
Arloest had spent the quick ten minute journey talking non-stop about everything from his family to comparing his and their training programs while Pyle had kept mute, preferring it seemed to let his much more exuberant friend do the talking to the aliens. Arloest’s training it seemed had gone exactly like Private Joker’s in Full Metal Jacket, just minus the psychotic breakdown of one of the recruits and his subsequent suicide.

“3 section on me!” shouted Amsel over the hubbub of doors opening and slamming and of all the other officers trying to marshal their troops. Gerrard, Hawk and Heller double timed it over to where their sergeant was standing, the rest of 3 section gathering around his ankles.
“Order of March, herringbone now! Move, move!”
The section quickly filled their respective places in the marching order: Corporal Carter at the front of the section as the lead scout, Amsel behind him and so on until it got to Hawk, positioned as he was as the section’s “bell-end” or rear guard. Having found their places they all dropped to one knee, each man facing in the opposite direction to the man in front and behind so that three men faced left, three right and one at each end looking to the front and back. The “herringbone”. It was a seamless operation; all were in position and settled within five seconds. Just like at boot camp.

“2nd platoon sound off!” yelled Knight amongst the din.
“1 ok!”
“2 ok!”
“3 ok!”
Knight nodded and marched off to where Thule was marshalling his own troops. As he approached, Thule turned and saluted, recognising that while he may be in charge of this operation he was still Knight’s junior and so a certain degree of respect was demanded.
“2nd platoon formed up and ready for orders Lieutenant.”
Thule rubbed his hands together, “Good, let’s get the trucks unloaded and the we can get this whole damn operation over and done with.”
The two saluted again and Knight strode off
“Captain Knight”
He turned and looked back to where Thule was still standing
“Yes Lieutenant?”
Thule paused; “No [censored]-ups ok? For both our sakes.”

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Sangin – Helmand Province

“Hey, James”
“Yeah? What?”
“You ever get the feeling your being watched?”
Hawk glanced around; they were walking down the bustling Route Pegasus, market stalls to the left and right and crammed with seemingly the entire population of Sangin. Everyone who wasn’t browsing the various merchant’s wares or crowding round the aid workers was staring at the coalition soldiers. More specifically, they were all staring at the Du’hadrin.
“No Cyril, I genuinely feel totally alone on this deserted street. No eyes upon me at all.”
Heller raised his eyebrows, “You know damn well what I mean; what about the houses? Can’t you feel eyes upon you?”
Heller was right and Hawk’s little show of sarcasm was just a show to mask his own trepidation. They were walking down a perfect death-trap: houses on the left, houses on the right and any one of the shuttered windows could contain an insurgent fighter just waiting to throw it open and start shooting at them like the fish in a barrel they were. There was also the threat of a ground attack of course, any bomber would jump at the chance to sidle up to them in the crowded street and detonate and the first thing they would know about would be Death’s smiling visage. The Du’hadrin had one advantage in this field over their American allies in that the general population was afraid of them and so kept their distance. While the American’s mingled freely with the people (if with an ever watchful eye), around the Basitins there was a good five meter dead zone which would make it very difficult for any potential bomber to get close before being filled with holes.

The more Hawk looked at it however, the more he was certain that something was about to go horribly wrong. It wasn’t even like their visit was a surprise; Command had told all the local Imams and elders of the aid mission in order to maximize turnout and so in turn maximize the PR impact of this little stunt. Hawk spat on the ground. Politics. If they didn’t get contacted at some point during this then the local insurgency was either asleep (unlikely) or had changed their ways for the betterment of the world (even more unlikely).
They were all on edge as they patrolled down the high street, walking just ahead of the aid mission on the right side of the road. They all hid it well but you could tell that each and every man was nervous: the odd itchy trigger finger, the sudden jerk reflex reactions to any sudden nearby noise, it all told its tale.

Suddenly Corporal Carter’s hand flew into the air as a closed fist.
“Stop!”
The urgent whisper was quickly passed down the line from soldier to soldier and across the street to the Americans and the aid workers. As one they all dropped back into herringbone, eyes glued to their SUSATs, urgently scanning the surrounding buildings and the suddenly dissipating crowd for what had made Carter call the halt. Knight raced up the line in a crouched run, “What did you see!” he whispered.
“I’m not sure sir. I just thought I saw a glint out of the corner of my eye. Could’ve been nothing.”
Knight cursed, “Everyone scan the buildings; make absolutely sure nothing is there.”
Back at the rear of 3 section, Hawk tapped Heller on the shoulder
“Hey, look over there, the window on the second floor” he said pointing at a house about 50 meters away. Heller scanned it with his scope
“Hey you’re right, the glint.”
He looked at it again but closer this time.
“Masks…is that an-”


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Kaptain wrote:Nnnnooootttt fffaaaiiirrr!!! How could you leave us with that :c </fanboy>
Kaptain; that was for you
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Re: The Art of War: Pt2 Chapter 2 – A Road Either to Safety....

#14 Post by Kaptain » Sun Jan 16, 2011 5:54 pm

Thallium wrote:
Kaptain wrote:Nnnnooootttt fffaaaiiirrr!!! How could you leave us with that :c </fanboy>
You're a sick [censored].

And no! Long chapters > small chapters. And this is really nice by the way. I had a comment about loving a specific part of this but I can't remember... I'll edit it if I remember. But yeah... Nice c:

Edit: Ah, it was your description or Heller's nervous tick with the iron sights. Not sure why but it just seemed like it was important to me.
-¤- "The Art of War" -¤- written by Thallium. Feeling unfulfilled? That's because you haven't read this story yet.
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Re: The Art of War: Pt2 Chapter 2 – A Road Either to Safety.

#15 Post by Thallium » Mon Jan 24, 2011 11:29 pm

Friends, forumites, readers. We have a crisis on hand! One that must be solved immediately for the betterment of society and the forums as a whole. Yes my friends, you know of what I speak. The Story Board is BARREN! Seriously, look at the dates and number of recent posts on, say, the art board and now look at the ones here. See my point.

We as the Republic of Words need to abate this frankly scandalous monopoly by the so called “artists” and restore this once great forum of tales to its rightful glory! So my friends; go out into the desert-ed board of words and live by these words: “I came, I read, I commented!”

/classical education

*sounds of a scuffle* *punch* *thwack*

*cough* I’m sorry; Jules gets out of control sometimes and escapes his gimp suit. Must install better padlock at some point in the near future. Makes a good point though *muses*

On another note: Wow; I’ve managed to write a war story and it’s now effectively chapter 7 and no one’s died yet. I know, I’m amazed to! Have no fear though because if you couldn’t tell that some serious effluent was about to hit the whirling bladed arrangement in this next one then you may want to have you sensory cortex checked over by your local mortician.

On with the show!


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Chapter 6 – Donner and Blitzen


We go to liberate, not to conquer.
We will not fly our flags in their country
We are entering to free a people and the only flag which will be flown in that ancient land is their own.
Show respect for them.

There are some who are alive at this moment who will not be alive shortly.
Those who do not wish to go on that journey, we will not send.
As for the others, I expect you to rock their world.
Wipe them out if that is what they choose.
But if you are ferocious in battle remember to be magnanimous in victory.

It is my foremost intention to bring every single one of you out alive.
But there may be people among us who will not see the end of this campaign.
We will put them in their sleeping bags and send them back.
There will be no time for sorrow.

It is a big step to take another human life.
It is not to be done lightly.
I know of men who have taken life needlessly in other conflicts.
I can assure you they live with the mark of Cain upon them.

If someone surrenders to you then remember they have that right in international law and ensure that one day they go home to their family.
The ones who wish to fight, well, we aim to please.

If you harm the regiment or its history by over-enthusiasm in killing or in cowardice, know it is your family who will suffer.
You will be shunned unless your conduct is of the highest -- for your deeds will follow you down through history.
We will bring shame on neither our uniform or our nation.

-Lt Col Tim Collins



“RPG!”
A trail of smoke streaked out from the second floor window, corkscrewing through the air and impacting in the wall just above 3 section’s heads, showering them with fragments of stone and metal.
“Get to cover! Now you [censored]! RUN!”
Everyone dived behind the nearest scrap of protection, be it wall or market stall as more windows all around them opened up and bullets started being sprayed around the market. Most of 3 section found themselves dumped in a heap behind a low wall that marked the boundary of one of the houses, all frantically peering through their scopes to try and locate the nearest enemy shooter. Over their radios, they could all hear Knight screaming at the rear section commanders, “Get the civilians off the street! Back down the proven route NOW!”
“Where the [censored] are they!” shouted Ziegler, the sections other GPMG gunner.
“Over there, west side! About 50 meters, second floor window!” yelled Amsel, “blast them to hell!”
As one, 3 section rose, weapons already sighted on their target. They were however unable to loose more than a couple of shots before the bullets whipping around their heads made them duck behind the wall again.
“[censored], they got us pinned! Someone get a smoke grenade in the street!”
Gerrard and Hawk reached for their webbing where they plucked and primed one of their smokes.
“Now!”
They tossed them down the street with all their might. The two canisters bounced and rolled before coming to a stop in the center of the road. The caps popped off and their chemical reactants combined, issuing twin plumes of white smoke from their red hot tops. In ten seconds the entire street was awash with white.

“3 section MOVE!”
Rising from their hunkers they charged across the street, aiming for a shop’s shattered front window while all around them there came explosions and the sound of ricocheting bullets as their ambushers fired blindly into the smoke. All of them knew that in situations like this the chain of command went to hell and it was all down to the individual section commanders to get their troops through it. They were professional enough to know that the first rule of being ambushed was to keep moving and not let yourself be pinned down and Amsel knew that every other section 1IC would be doing the same as him: keeping their men moving and then hunting down their ambushers before they could properly entrench themselves. If they lived through this they would regroup and then consider options but until then it was down to him and him alone to ensure the safety of his soldiers.

As they came to the window they all dived through, disregarding the shattered glass strewn about everywhere. Picking themselves up, they regrouped along one of the inner walls.
“Ok; anyone hurt?” asked Amsel. A few cuts and bruises, nothing worth mentioning. From the sound of automatic fire they could tell they were on the floor right below one of the shooters. Forgoing speech for sign language, Amsel pointed at 3 section then put his finger to his lips; he then pointed up to the ceiling and drove his fist into an outstretched palm. They all nodded; they knew what to do. Slinging his rifle on his back, Amsel drew his Burrick and pistol. Carter and Ziegler, the other two front-men did the same while the rest kept their guns ready in case it came to a corridor shoot out. Stealthing over to a door at one end of the broken room, Amsel inched it open and peered through the crack.
Coast clear, he signed.
3 section followed in tandem through the door and out into a small corridor; to the right were more closed doors but to the left they could spy a set of stairs which led closer to the chattering of machine gun fire. Halting before the corner of the steps, Amsel reached around with his sword arm and waved it up and down several times to check for trip wires. Nothing. With painfully slow movements he inched round the corner, eyes locked to his pistol’s iron sights, ready to pop anything that moved. Finding nothing he advanced further up the stairs with the rest of the section following close behind, adrenaline levels and heart rates skyrocketing.

They moved up the stairs in almost total silence, making slightly less noise then the Night itself before reaching the second floor. The sound of firing was much louder now and seemed to be coming from behind a door diagonally across the upper corridor from them. Checking round both corners for hostiles, they moved across the passage and stacked up in a breaching position beside the door. Placing a sensitive ear against the wood paneling, Amsel closed his eyes and concentrated hard. After a few seconds he withdrew and turned to face the rest of them. Four shooters, automatic weapons, five meters. Carter pulled a thunder-flash from his webbing, primed it and looked to Amsel who nodded just once. Creeping forward, Carter placed one hand on the doorknob, the other gripping tight to the grenade. With a sudden movement he opened the door a few inches and tossed the grenade inside before slamming the door to again and scurrying back to his place in the line behind Amsel. There was a slight pause where everything seemed to be in limbo before a loud bang issued from the room and flashes of white appeared around the door frame. Within a moment, Amsel had shoulder barged his way through the door with as little effort as if it had been made of balsa wood and stood framed within the room. He surveyed and took it all in within a split-second: there were four men as he had thought, all in various stages of reeling on the floor and clutching at their ears in pain. They each carried an AK-47, all fully loaded up but with one’s bolt being fully rear-ward, indicating an empty magazine. They were in a perfect firing position too, overlooking the entire street and being given plenty of cover from the ground by a stone balcony behind which they had been crouched. Shame; none of that would do them any good now. Moving with a speed and callousness that had earned him a slightly sinister reputation, Amsel stepped among them, delivering strike after strike with his Burrick until all four lay dead on the floor; blood pools already beginning to spread around their lifeless corpses.

Wiping the blade on one of the bodies, Amsel re-sheathed his blade and turned back to his subordinates.
“Well; don’t just stand there. We’re still in the middle of a firefight here! Get over and get some fire on those positions!”
3 section hurried over to the windows the shooters had being firing out of and saw the big picture for the first time. It was a big mess; many troopers were still pinned behind various pieces of cover and the insurgent fire-storm was showing no signs of letting up. From their elevated position they could see quite clearly the muzzle flash that indicated where their aggressors were hiding. Ziegler and Heller pushed to the front, unclipping their bipods and setting them up on the balcony’s edge.
“Pour it on!” screamed Amsel and the two machine guns opened up, spraying bullets at the muzzle flashes. As soon as the gunners opened up, so too did the riflemen, using their SUSATs 4X zoom in order to locate and snipe enemy targets. Finally they were making progress! Within moments of opening up the insurgents wisely ducked behind cover, allowing the pinned units to finally make some ground and advance on their positions. Across the way, 3 section could see that a US squad had managed to do the same as they had and had taken one of the shooters firing nests, allowing even more suppressing fire to be poured onto those that remained.

Amongst the din, Amsel’s PRR crackled and he quickly adjusted it so that it rested snugly over his ear.
“Amsel, you there, over”
Amsel recognized Knight’s voice
“Loud and clear sir, what’d ‘we got? Over”
There was a hiss of static
“-seen some enemy activity on the outskirts, they think we’re about to come under…” but Knight’s words were lost amongst a cacophony of high pitched wailing sounds that seemed to appear out of nowhere. Recognizing what the sounds were instantly, Amsel jumped over to where his section was still pumping rounds into the adjacent buildings
“MORTARS! Get a away from the windows now!”
He grabbed at the nearest man and hauled him away just as the first rounds struck in the dead center of the street.
“[censored], they already got us zeroed! Get out of here now!”
3 section leapt up from the floor where they had thrown themselves when the first round had hit and pelted over to the staircase. More rounds were starting to fall now and before long they could here almost nothing but explosions. They charged down the stairs and into the ground floor corridor. Amsel took the lead again and started searching franticly for a door, the house exploding and being torn to pieces around them. At last one yielded to reveal the open air at the back of the house and they poured out like a stampede of cattle, hurrying to get away from the explosive rounds as quickly as possible.

The door led to a passage that was enclosed by high walls on both sides and off in the distance they could see crowds of civilians desperately trying to get away from the carnage on Route Pegasus. 3 section double timed it down the open-air corridor, weapons still at the ready in case they encountered any surprises of the “rag head” variety. Suddenly from above came a whistling sound far louder than any they had heard before.
“Get down-”
The sergeant’s words were drowned out by a truly massive explosion that struck just on the other side of the wall from where 3 section were hurrying; knocking them from their paws and shattering the wall like so much brittle glass. The ringing in their ears was tremendous and kept them on the floor holding their heads for a good ten seconds. Finally, Amsel sat up, wiping blood from his face with a shaking hand.
“E-e-everyone alright?”
Fortunately for them, the wall had taken almost all of the mortar’s impact and so the Du’hadrin troopers looked relatively unharmed. Relatively compared to what they would have looked like had the wall not been there that is. There was blood on the ground and on the opposite wall but at least no one seemed to be missing limbs or had an arterial bleed. The troopers picked themselves up one by one; wincing as they discovered various shrapnel injuries littering their bodies.

Amsel picked himself up off the floor, “everyone up on your paws. Come on, a little bit of shrapnel never stopped a Du’hadrin!” All of them could stand which was a very good sign indeed; the medics would be having enough to deal with without adding 3 section to their casualties list. Amsel pointed down the alleyway, “quick, get under cover away from the road and then we can get out the med packs. Hurry!”
“S-sir…”
Amsel spun around, “What?”
Keith pointed to his SUSAT which had a large gash down one side which had penetrated all the way through its armored surface.
“[censored]! Gas leak, everyone hold your breath!”
Amsel leapt over to where Keith was still standing immobile and snatched the rifle from his trembling hands. Fingers working frantically, he unscrewed the scope from its housing, taking care not to inhale any of the radioactive tritium gas that was audibly leaking out of the scope’s usually air-tight interior and then threw it as hard as he could in the direction where shots could still be heard over the noise of the mortar shells.
“Have a present Terry,” he muttered under his breath before gesturing at everyone to move away from the contaminated zone.

It was slow going; quite a few were limping or wincing every time they moved and so progress down the alleyway was limited to a hurried shuffle. At least now the mortar shells seemed to be slackening off a little bit; however that didn’t mean they were out of danger yet. They still needed to get under cover away from the barrage in order to treat their wounded. At last they reached the end and the alley opened out into another street. It was deserted now, the residents fleeing when the first shells struck and so they had no trouble barging their way into one of the houses. Amsel left Corporal Corren, the sections 2IC in charge of seeing to the wounded while he tried his PRR. Nothing. Whatever frequency he tried, all he got was static. Bugger; some micro-shrapnel must have cut a wire somewhere. On the plus side, Amsel’s ears were assaulted with the sound of silence. Good; Terry had given up his mortar barrage. Seeing as he was not going to get anywhere with the radio, Amsel rejoined Corren in their make shift ER. Luckily there were no serious wounds which might have been initially hidden by the surge of adrenaline that your body automatically pumped through you when something like this happened. Too many times had Amsel seen soldiers who seemed fine just after an attack and only later discovered they were missing something.

Corren was at that moment extracting small pieces of shrapnel from various parts of Heller’s body with a pair of tweezers, the big GPMG gunner wincing every time Corren removed a sliver. Other regiments would have found it odd that the section’s second in command was no higher rank then the common soldiery, but that was just how it worked in the Du’hadrin. Here they worked not only on rank but a system of “implied seniority” whereby at section level, the commanding sergeant would choose the man he thought best suited to the job out of the rest of the section and then he would assume the 2IC position without any real increase in rank. While this chosen man had no real power over his comrades, his underlings would still carry out his orders as if they came from a higher up. That was just how it worked, it was simply biological for them to accept the decisions of the sergeant in his choice over who should be his second and then treat him as such.

Oddly enough, the two ICs seemed to be the least injured of the lot, both having no real injuries to speak of while Heller was definitely the most; it looked like he had half the wall embedded in his flesh. The rest had lighter injuries which they were dealing with themselves: Hawk using a mirror he had found and his fingers to extract a jagged piece of rock that had stuck itself just under his eye, Carter tying his field dressing around his abdomen which was bleeding freely from the now open wounds there, Gerrard nursing a badly pockmarked tail. Walking over to where Corren was still tending to Heller, Amsel placed his hand on his Second’s shoulder, “When you’re done. I want a word outside.”
The corporal nodded and turned back to his charge. Extracting the last few pieces in just over a minute, the corporal packed up his first aid kit and stepped outside where his commander was waiting.

“What is it sir?”
Amsel scuffed his paw across the dusty ground, “Radios [censored], can’t get anything on any channels so we can’t reach Knight for orders. From what I saw as the mortars fell, everyone has been scattered over this part of town so our best bet is to try and make our way to the rally point at the south end of Pegasus. Only problem is that’s a little over a mile away and most of my section is walking wounded.”
Corren scratched at an insect bite on his arm, “Injuries aren’t that major sir, most can still run and they’re tough sir. They’ll make it.”
Amsel sighed, “Well, it’s not like we have much choice, that rally point’s our only means of extraction since some genius figured we wouldn’t need any evac helicopters.” Amsel pounded his fist into his palm, “when I get back I swear I’m going to rip Rorke apart for agreeing to this; what the hell was he thinking, sending us in with no backup. He must have known something like this would’ve happened.”

Corren had opened his mouth to reply when he suddenly cocked his head to one side, listening intently.
“Sir, do you hear that?”
Amsel looked around, “I’ve still got ringing from that shell impact, what is it?”
His Second looked quizzical, “I’m not sure…sounds like…whispering?”
“From where?”
Corren tilted his head.
“I think from behind that building,” he indicated a house across the street.
Amsel looked concerned, “Can you tell what they’re saying?”
The 2IC closed his eyes, concentrating hard. Suddenly his lids flashed open.
“Oh [censored], that was Ara-”

"غضب الله على الأجانب!"

With a loud war cry the gate that led behind the house burst open and a troop of fighters swarmed out, every one of them bristling with ammo and AKs.
“Jesus Christ!” yelled Amsel, grabbing his Second and diving back into the building, 7.62 rounds spraying the space they had just occupied. The commotion had raised the rest of 3 section to their paws, rifles already gript in their hands and looking ready for a fight, injuries or no. Amsel picked himself up off the floor, “Ten shooters in front of the house across the road! We need to get the [censored] out of here and head for the rally point at the south of Pegasus! Never mind equipment, we’ve got no time just get outa the back of the house now!”
Pausing only to grab discarded webbing, 3 section tumbled out of the back door into a dusty back street, radios, medical supplies and water bottles forgotten in the rush of battle.

Pausing by the back door, Amsel tossed in a couple of frags to keep the enemy’s heads down before extracting what looked like a giant cigar case from an inside pocket of his webbing. Zeigler cocked his head to one side, a look of bemusement on his face despite the danger less than twenty meters away,
“Aren’t those…illegal?”
Amsel primed and placed the motion detecting Claymore in the ground just out of sight of the door.
“You gonna be telling Command?”
Zeigler rolled his eyes, “Just making an observation Serge.”
“Make all the observations you want when we get back to the rally point; let’s move!”
They double timed it down the alley, praying that their attackers would wait a while before trying to follow them. The Claymore would hopefully keep them occupied for a little while but once they realised there was only one booby trap or had the presence of mind to go around the house, it wouldn’t be long before they were after them again. They knew these streets infinitely better than the Basitins so it probably wouldn’t be long before they caught up again. 3 sections time was running short.

They were barely at the end of the alley before their day got a whole lot worse.

From out of the blue sky came a terrible whine that the beleaguered section thought they had left behind twenty minutes ago.
“INCOMING!”

There was nowhere to hide; nowhere to run. The alley was only partly enclosed, one side bordered onto the back of the houses they had just left, the other onto a large strip of wasteland, covered by all manner of building site debris and broken walls that had clearly been until recently been used by the local children as a football stadium. No cover, no nothing.

The first rounds of this new salvo came thundering down upon the tops of the houses, shattering roofs and blowing out windows in a huge radius. Amsel searched frantically for a door but it was no use, all the ones for as far as the eye could see were locked, bolted and shuttered with a metal grill. Trapped.

From amongst the din came a new sound, similar but wholly unlike the whine of the falling shells. For 3 section; time seemed to slow down to a crawl, their desperate actions conducted seemingly in zero gravity. Hawk looked above him, up to the sky and swore he could almost see a glint in the sky. The Glint. Falling…falling like in trance; making its lazy way downwards towards them, sauntering through the sky like bird without a care in the world.

Falling.

Then there was a mighty explosion and everything went black.


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Cake for those who can tell me what the Arabic means (I hope it came out all right and isn’t just symbols…)

EDIT/ANNOUNCEMENT: Lower 6th work has got the better of me these past few weeks and at this rate, will continue to up until my mid-years are over in about a months time. Sorry for missing updates the past week or so but I’m afraid it’s gonna continue until the pressures off and I can settle down for a bit. To that end, I may not be able to update here for quite a while. I may get the odd sporadic chapter in here and there but at the moment, even that is looking increasingly unlikely. It’s a shame really; next chapter was gonna contain a major plot moment… guess you guys will just have to wait :twisted:
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What I cannot create, I do not understand.
The imagination of nature is far, far greater than the imagination of man.

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