Hidden 5 mos ago Post by The Wyrm
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The Wyrm

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Mid September, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Luis Casillas heard the roar of the PBY Catalina flying boat before he saw it. The heavy engines made a drone like no other and he turned, shadowing his eyes, looking to the East and was able to make out the aircraft against the rising sun. It was just beginning its descent after clearing the mountains and he could feel his pulse began to quicken.

He glanced around for the hundredth time to ensure everything was perfect. A small American jeep, freshly cleaned, was waiting at the end of the wooden pier he stood on. A driver, dressed in immaculate white, was standing patiently next to the jeep, offset by the fat customs official with stained tie and bulging buttons. Luis grimaced but there was nothing else he could do. He had already spent a fortune greasing the palms of the local government to get the land grants he wanted. He had the land, the plan, the location, now he needed the investor.

The plane roared overhead and he felt the buffeting wind of the huge engines. He smiled to himself as the customs officers hat went flying and the man had to waddle after it. Several small children were waving frantically at the plane and he was relieved to see smiles on the faces that looked out of the aircraft windows. So far so good.

The plane did a wide sweeping turn and he was aware of a man with a camera snapping photos of the village and he felt his heart skip a beat. The village itself was small with an airport that could handle DC-3's and a poorly maintained road through the jungle to connect it to the rest of Mexico. It looked like any other Mexican village with white washed houses and dark tile roof tops. Stray dogs ran freely in the dirt streets and half naked children pursued them with abandon. He was thankful that the state government had at least installed sewer systems in the past year.

There were already a half dozen hotels in the area that serviced mostly American guests looking for a getaway. Tourism was alive and well in the area but not in the way Luis had in mind. He envisioned something else, a resort, where guests could find anything they wanted, and not have to wander the dirty streets and see naked children. A resort where a guest paid their entire fee up front, one that included their airfare, their hotel, and restaurants. He had come up with the idea while reading about cruises when he was a younger man.

The Catalina finally came around and leveled out, bearing down on the small port. The huge hull sliced into the gently rolling swells of the Pacific Ocean, sending up a huge spray of water that burst against the propeller blades. The aircraft settled into the water, slowing so that bow pushed up a large wake that rolled away to rock the small fishing boats plying the waves.

Luis swallowed nervously and tugged at his white jacket again. He had dressed as he had seen white men dress in National Geographic, in white pants and jacket, though he wore a cowboy hat to shade his olive skin. He had never actually met his guest, only heard of him and read about him. It had simply been luck that Henry Cornell was in the United States when Luis reached out to him. The man could hardly travel without attracting attention. The American media had been all over his visit and the investment's be been making throughout the States.

The roar of the Catalinas engines died away to nothing as the aircraft coasted into the jetty, two crewmen expertly leaping from the aircraft with lines in hand, securing it to the jetty with the assistance of several local men. The door of the airplane opened, Luis swallowed and stepped forward.

The first person off the plane stopped him in his tracks. It was a blonde woman, hair tied back in a severe bun, with a pair of dark sunglasses and a semi-automatic pistol on her hip. She was followed immediately by a towering blonde man who was clearly her brother, dressed in the same khaki shorts and collared shirt, matching firearm and sunglasses.

"Mr. Casillas?" The woman asked him and he nodded, mumbling his response before quickly clearing his throat.

"Yes, that's me." He held out a hand which she ignored, turning instead to gesture at the plane.

The man who stepped off the plane was as tall as his bodyguard, sporting a casual polo shirt, pants, tall leather boots, and a brown hilted six shooter revolver. He too wore a pair of dark sunglasses but where the blondes ignored Luis, he smiled and stepped quickly across the dock to accept Luis's hand.

"You must be Luis." They shook hands. "Henry. So this is Puerto Vallarta eh?"

Luis nodded, still nervous.

"Nice spot. I see you met Tom and Brittany." He gestured at the two blondes. Tom was speaking with the customs officer who was looking very much like he wanted to be anywhere else at that moment. "They keep an eye on me when I'm abroad."

Luis could only nod at that and resisted the urge to slap himself to refocus.

"Yes, they were very polite."

"Ha. Yes, that is one way of putting it." Henry snorted dryly. "Polite." He chuckled again.

"Did you have anything you wanted to see first?" Luis managed to get himself back on track and gestured toward the waiting jeep.

"Yes, let's take a roll around town." Henry made for the jeep and Luis hurried after him. His head was hurting. They both spoke English, but their accents were so different it was all he could do to keep up with the conversation.

"Here, take off." Henry was speaking to the driver of the jeep as he climbed into the drivers seat. Tom and Brittany swung themselves into the rear two seats and Luis was forced to jump into the passenger seat. This was not going as he had planned.

For the next thirty minutes they cruised the small town and Luis, despite his earlier misgivings, found himself warming to the Rhodesian. The man might have been wealthy but other than his silent bodyguards he looked like any other gringo in town. They drove past hotels with fading plaster, the local police station, a large church, numerous restaurants and bars, along the waterfront and past the airport. Dust whipped up around them everywhere they went but Henry hardly seemed to mind. They spoke very little during this time and it wasn't until Luis had guided Henry north of the city to a small clay brick building that sat on the side of the bumpy mule track that they parked the vehicle.

Henry climbed out of the jeep to stretch his back. The two blondes had also climbed out and stood like golden sentinels just out of earshot, heads constantly moving as they scanned the brush and the roadway.

"Okay, so there are already a bunch of hotels, restaurants, bars, drunk white folk and plenty of poor Mexicans. Why am I here, Luis?"

"Well, Henry," Luis blushed slightly. Henry had insisted on being called by his first name. "I have a plan that combines all of those into one package, if you will. Please, step into my office." He gestured to the small brick building.

Henry nodded, no sign of amusement at the building being called an office. He pulled off his sunglasses and stepped through the small door. Inside, the building was a single room with tables lining every wall. The two prettiest girls in the village had been hired to wait with prepared tequila and lemonade, along with water and some snacks. They hurried forward as Luis followed Henry inside.

They drained their drinks, the blondes taking only water, before Luis gestured to the large prints on the wall. He had a friend in civil planning for Mexico City who had helped him with the plans since he wanted as few people to know about the idea as possible.

The plans showed a sprawling resort with pools, guest rooms broken down into separate buildings, a main lobby, and manicured grounds sprawling right out to the white sand beaches currently hidden by the hot airless jungle. For three hours the two men talked as Henry bent over the plans, his hands folded behind his back. The two Mexican girls were quite forgotten as they stared at Tom in amazement, he was undoubtedly the biggest man they had ever seen.

At length Luis fell silent. There was nothing more he could say. Henry was still staring down at the plans in front of him and for a long moment he said nothing. Then he began nodding slowly.

"Alright Luis. I like it. I will invest in your project." He held up his hand before Luis could say anything. "But, that said, I have some conditions. You can agree to them right now, or I leave and you never see me again. You agree, and you're on that plane with me back to Mexico City and get things sorted out before I leave for Africa a week today."

"What conditions would those be?" Luis had no choice and he knew it. Henry knew it.

"First off, I own 80% of this project right now. You get 20% as managing partner. Two, I will be sending a site manager from a construction firm I own in New York, he will oversee everything. Three, you will have to handle the local side of things. I don't speak Spanish. But," He stepped closer to Luis. "If you fuck me..." He tapped his pistol and Luis swallowed, then nodded.

"We both know I don't have a choice, Henry. It's a deal." They shook hands and Henry's smile returned in a flash.

"Excellent! To the plane!" He seemed jovial and relaxed. Luis felt the tension go out of him. He had an investor. He just needed to make it a reality.
Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Dinh AaronMk
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Dinh AaronMk Revolutionary Marxist Shitposter

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“Have I told you of my first time in the woods?” the tall Cheng Bao said, idly stirring a tin pot. His eyes reflected the light of the small gas stove with a sharp inner light shining ahead from distant memory.

“No, I don't think you ever did.” said another. Yu Huan. It had not been a more than a year they were in the Siberian back country, a few months. But far from the comforts of civilization to the south his pudgy face had worn away. Now it looked shallow and it sagged. His face beginning to sharpen. He looked with a muted expression, but spoke lively. His knees pulled up to his chest he sat resting his arms out around the side, twisting at a tree branch. He shivered against the cold nocturnal air of a Siberian autumn.

“I was maybe five or six, maybe seven.” began Bao, “My dad took me hunting. We were out to find muntjac. Lately they had been rooting about in the vegetables so it was decided to thin the herds. We'd also have some meat to eat. So in the early morning, before the sun rises he comes to me in my cot and wakes me and my brother up and tells us it's time to go.

“He used to keep his rifle wrapped up in a burlap sack underneath his bed, and he had it out that morning leaning against the stove. It was some Japanese rifle he had picked up during the Revolution, an Arisaka. But work had been done to it somewhere along the line I assume. It always just looked heavier to me. But anyways: he takes the gun and he leads us out, I and my brother sleepy as we step out onto the dewy grass and trudge along after him.

“My dad has always had a long gait, and he walked fast. I couldn't keep up, but neither could my brother although he fared better than I in keeping up. I had to start jogging to keep up, which wasn't hard so long as we were going along on the road. But the moment we got to the woods then it was much more difficult.

“But he made do along a small path that split from the road. High up in the hills passed the woods was where the farmers had their rice fields and that was the only route up to them. We were still too early yet for anyone to be awake, and we had the path to ourselves. But among the bamboo and the trees the world began to darken quick and soon it was like the thickest of night, like right now.” he stopped stirring the pot briefly to gesture about. They sat out behind their barracks, boiling a pot of dried rice ration they had scrounged up from the commissary. The village around them was dark, and the sky clear and speckled with starlight. But without a moon there was no real light to it all. Only the faint twinkling of some reflected star or planet in the creek and the vague shapes of trees and horizon gave shape to where the village ended and the wilderness began. A dry clean presence hung on the crisp cold air and Wu Hong could feel it chill the back of his throat at each breath. He shivered, though it was no cold he was unfamiliar with ultimately.

“It is unusual, being in the woods early because while it feels and looks so lifeless there are always so many birds singing somewhere in it. That has always struck me, how noisy they are. Someone could hide themselves well in the darkness of the very early morning and no one would hear their footsteps with all the bird song. This was my problem, because too tired and too small to keep up with my older brother and my dad I began to lag behind and I had to race to keep up. But always I would hear as their footsteps became more distant and harder to hear among the birds.

“Eventually the path came to a fork. I've never been up there much before then, and I remember clearly not knowing which way to go. So I must have guessed. I took a path. Right I think, but it was much narrower and lesser kept. I think it might have been something only a child could see because remembering back I clearly remember it being very ill used. Though it may have been an animal path for pigs or the like.

“But after a while, I noticed the path was headed me downhill, and I suspect I believed I needed to go uphill. And what worried me was that I couldn't hear any more foot steps. I was terrified, you know. Terrified! I probably started breaking down in tears and I started crying, and turned back to head up hill. I skipped the path though, I think I thought if I did that it would be a shortcut: you know. Anyways, I started to go up.

“But it's hard to find direction in the woods. I learned that then, and I soon became terrified that I would never find the path and started running. I must have switched back and forth many times because I never did find it. But I did eventually break into a clearing. There were a lot of broken pieces of metal every where. There was a smashed plane, in the grips of creepers and vines with bamboo growing right through the cockpit!

“I had never known it was there, so I went to it. Maybe, you know: I could have found some direction. But I never did. I ended up stumbling through, or maybe I tried to climb the wreck and fell into a bush. And I'm surprised I never had nightmares about it later, but falling out of the bush with me came half a human skeleton, all held together by, like creepers and vines and shit and whatever bit of tendon had dried to it. I screamed, or I must have screamed but I guess something happened to terrify the birds because they all began scattering and screaming too and there in the grass looking up at me was this cracked and busted skull, it looked like it had shot itself through the head. I don't know whose head it was or why it was there but it froze me and I was crying and making loud noises.

“But I must have made enough, because anyways my father came bounding out of the woods with my brother in toe and he scooped me up. He said some stuff to me to calm me now and dropped the rifle and picked me up and saw the skull.”

“So did you finish the hunt?” Ju Gan said, reclining against a stack of fire wood.

“You know: I can't remember. But, some time later my father went back or must have been soon on the family alter he had placed the skull. I was terrified of it for a long time and would try to find excuses to paying my respects just to avoid the skull and its empty staring nightmare eyes. But as I grew older over the year it lose its effect. I came to recognize it as just an object, really. It was a man: yes. He had been alive: yes. But now he was just an object. I never got the full story on why it had been placed there. But over time I began to pick up bits and pieces and I began to suspect it was the head of a Japanese pilot and that maybe he had once flown over the village and killed some people, we had lost family in the Revolution; I don't know if it was battle of starvation or disease but we had lost them. I think this might have been a way for my dad to help placate the ancestors if any were vengeful. So there it stayed, and remained there until I left. I think it's still there.”

“How old are you now? Nineteen or something?” asked Keung.

“Something like that.” said Cheng Bao.

“So you had to be, what, four or five when the revolution ended?”

“Well it had moved beyond my village when it did. But I don't remember anything about the time. But I do know for some time after there was a problem with unexploded bombs in the area and that probably terrified my dad more than being lost in the woods, if anything. Fortunately, I never had a run-in, but I've heard stories told of people having stumbled upon an old bomb and loosing a limb or a life. It's rare, but it happened.”

“We were afraid of that too.” chimed Wu Hong, “the unexploded bombs. There were a few of those in the fields.”

“Oh? If you don't mind me asking though: where are you from. I don't think you have said, Hong.”

“Jilin, Changbai County. It was around where Baekya operated.”

“How'd you end up in Manchuria?” asked Lei.

“My family moved up there early. Or rather, my father volunteered in the army in the north and moved north to fight for the Korean Anarchists, met my mom. They eloped and married. Technically they moved to the village I was born because they eloped, they were escaping their parents; I don't know my grandparents well at all.”

“That's unfortunate.” Lei remarked.

Wu Hong shrugged, “It never bothered me.”

“So what about the bombs?” Cheng Bao asked.

Wu Hong clammed up, looking to the side. He knew all about those. He had seen them even. Artillery shells that never exploded, aircraft bombs. Some were chemical, he was told. Others just blew up.

“You saw one go off?” asked Cheng Bao. Wu Hong nodded.

“That's harsh.”

“It was a friend of mine, he was digging in the dirt because he thought he found a rock he could throw in a pond. He... he evaporated, basically.”

A collective wince ran through the group as they recoiled.

“I didn't go back outside again for maybe a year after.” Hong added.

“Have they been cleaned up at all?” Ju Gan asked.

“I think so. Perhaps. I wouldn't really know. I wanted to get out when I could.”

There was a long silence after. Cheng Bao checked the rice and announced with a sigh, “I think it's done.”

There were murmurings of thanks as they dove in with their hands. The rice was tasteless and bland, sticky on the fingers but the fresh hotness of freshly prepared rice was a relief to the soul cooled by turning winds; it was worth the burning of their fingers.

Their mute enjoyment however was cut off quickly as with a knock the pot was knocked aside, scattering hot rice everywhere as in the moment following the crack of a rifle echoed in the night. The squad scrambled and dove for cover as all at once the silent night was brought to life with the sound of gun fire. Wu Wong dove for the ground and covered his head as over his head rifle bullets cracked into the wood of the house being used as a barracks. Distantly the chattering reports of machine guns sang along the tree line as phantoms from the forest attacked the sleeping village.

Hong was forced to his feet as Ju Gan dove over, assuming in an instant the sergantly demeanor expected of him as he began to shout orders. So were others as lights were thrown on and the entire village erupted in a furor of voices. The intensity of the gun fire rose as the men on patrol gave their answer to the fire and out on the edges of the village made their painstakingly blind shots into the wood line.

Hong felt like a puppy as he was lifted up by and pushed along by the force of his instinctual training. A hard spirit tossed him through the door of the house as he dove for his bed, producing a rifle wrapped in burlap under the bed. Strange, he thought: this felt familiar.

The windows began to glow as a bright phosphorescent light took on the brightness of a midnight sun and scattered the darkness. With it too was scattered the cold air. Now it all tasted stale as Hong was forced back out to the street with staggering and confused ape men with their brutish rifles. Mustered up by his sergeant, Hong found himself again by the side of Ju Gan. The others were there, they were armed. But where was the radio? Huan looked to be without it. He had a rifle, that was certain. His glasses shone with the same phosphorous glow of the flare hanging high in the sky. It was not alone, or not for long; several more diamond white burning phoenixes had joined it; swooping up high into the air from beyond the trees as a war cry bellowed from beyond.

But they were on the move again. Had Ju Gan gotten the information he needed somehow? Was there a telepathy between the officers, even the non-commissioned? If so, why was there even radios. Never the less, perhaps it had something to do with the trailing great coat of the senior office running ahead, a pistol raised as he screamed. And then he was off into the labrynth, running up against the pine wood and plank siding as he heard joining into the chorus the frightened screams of children. Was this really the place? The time?

The dimensions of the place seemed to change. There was so much more going on now then there ever had been. Was their group this big before? There were soldiers now, it looked to be hundreds. He could not count all the men as he ran along. He could barely hear his heart beating as they drew up to where the bullets were flying. Window glass lay strewn across the ground, shimmering like diamonds at the bottom of a pool in the hard packed clay of the street. Bright white splinters of wood too joined it, along with rose pedals. Hundreds, and thousands of them bleeding out of bodies. Wu Hong felt sick, he had to fight it back. He looked away and closed his eyes. Again he opened them when he felt a firm hand grip his shoulder and he looked up to the conciliatory glare of Huan. He could swear his glasses were a window into a much more calmer soul.

“Keung, is there a back door?” Sergant Gan called out.

“No, I don't think so.” Keung called back. Their voices sounded distant.

Darting down the road a man riding a gray horse tore onto their street, a raised saber. Hong Wu looked up at the rider, a gray phantom and a sparkling ghostly scimitar. With a crack besides his ear a rifle shot towards the rider as the horse turned towards them, a second and a third shot rang out and each bullet landed. From alongside Wu Hong he watched the rider's shoulder bloom as the bullet tore his shoulder. A second pierced his gut from behind and a third tore through the horse's shoulder and it ran careening several feet before crumpling into the dust.

But soon after the rider came others. Sepia gray phantasms that tore threw, lashing out with sabers or turning handguns against them. Hong Wu could do little but to raise his rifle and blocked the swing of one sword. Its biting tip stinging his nose as it drew back and the rider kept going.

Bullets raced after them as they left. Hong Wu lay pressed tight against the wood house feeling warm and numb. He looked to his side, Keung seemed to have taken something across the face and he sat clutching at his brow with the sleeve of his coat. The riders down the street were dropped by the rifle follow that pursued them, but not all of them dropped and their horses kept charging.

“What's going on?” shouted a man on the other side of the street as them.

“I don't know!” Ju Gan shouted back.

“Do we have orders? Do we have a plan?” answered the other.

“No! Just to come here!”

“The fucking eggs!”
Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by TheEvanCat
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TheEvanCat I wouldn't say / I'm "missing" it

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Patara Darbazi, Georgia

The province of Kvemo Kartili was slightly larger than six thousand square kilometers of forested mountains sitting on the border of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Rustavi, its capital, lay forty kilometers to the northeast of the Armenian encampment at the small village of Patara Dabazi. While historically, Georgian Christians had occupied much of the region’s north and ethnic Azerbaijanis lived along the southern border, more immigrants and refugees from Azerbaijan were displaced to the Azeri Shiite communities and had quickly become the majority. Rustavi maintained its Georgian majority while the rest of the province became overwhelmingly Muslim. A clash between the province’s population, who resented attempts to secularize and denounce Islamic culture, and its governing parties had resulted in widespread lawlessness, insurgency, and banditry compared to the rest of the country. They furthermore resented the incursion of Russian refugees traveling south and the presence of Armenian irregulars and, now, troops in what they viewed as their last bastion. Armenian high command had designated Kvemo Kartili as a “high risk” area of Georgia alongside the northwestern Abkhazian and north-central Ossetian provinces.

The main portion of the Georgian Plan consisted of sweeping into Tbilisi with a cadre of Armenian-trained Georgian troops and officers, along with previously-identified “reconstructionist” politicians and bureaucrats to solidify the existing weak government. They would go province by province to convince, by diplomacy or by force, the warlords to join a national government: their power would be converted into seats in parliament, and their guns turned to pens. Yaglian’s unit, patrolling the dirt roads winding through the mountains, only heard sparse updates from his platoon leader when they were gathered for the morning briefings. They had been there for just about a week, and the regular Army had just reached Tbilisi along with elements of the Poti Garrison. In name and in theory, at least, the Republic of Georgia’s government had been officially reinstated to its territorial claims. Of course, a long road was ahead for the men on the ground in country. Elections, stability operations, rebuilding and reconstruction: everything from the engineers setting up power lines and water wells to the medical service training rural doctors was planned to wrest control of Georgia from the warlords.

Patara Darbazi was a small distance away from the ruins of the bandit camp that they had destroyed a mere month ago. A single road ran through a few dozen houses, without much else. Livestock meandered around through farms and yards, grazing on the dry grass that grew along the dirt paths. As the company took an area of responsibility, each platoon took up a village or two in their own areas as a way to get to know the area better. Half of Yaglian’s unit was assigned to watch over Patara Darbazi, while another detachment was set up to patrol Kudro. Each patrol through the area consisted of two rifle sections along with a scout jeep providing backup and a platform for their machinegun. They trudged up a hill in the late morning, a mountain to the east providing shade against the August sun. Yaglian felt the steel frame of his rucksack press into his back as pools of sweat grew under his collar and armpits. He cradled his carbine in his arms, letting its sling press most of the weight uncomfortably on his neck and shoulders. At some points he picked his weary head up and moved it around, but for the most part he stared down at his feet.

The troops halted just before cresting the hill and parked their vehicle off to the side of the road. A trio of goats walked past the hood, looking up at the soldier on the pintle mounted gun while he stared back, unimpressed. The two sections each dropped their packs off by the truck in neat, orderly lines. Platoon Sergeant Ozanian was with them that day: him and the Lieutenant often switched out the towns they patrolled, each trying to make an impression on the civic leader. He ordered them to rack their weapons and they marched into town. It seemed empty, but only a few dozen people lived there to begin with. A few people were gathered around a well in the center of the village, but they scrambled as soon as the troops walked into town. This was becoming a daily occurrence, but they still remembered when loud noises and explosions woke them just a few weeks ago: in the morning, they had to bury the dead Mountain Wolf casualties. Yaglian had never spoken to anyone in the village and doubted that they wanted to interact regardless. He felt uneasy.

Ozanian and the Lieutenant had initial plans to interact with a “village elder” of some sort to try and bring Patara Dabazi into the fold of a new county government that their company commander was establishing in the large town of Talaveri to the north. They would ease them in with the promise of security and safety against the bandits before trying to push the envelope further with taxes or a centralized constabulary. Yet they routinely found in these towns a more communal approach: there was no formal leader, and the closest thing they had to anyone in power was simply the oldest patriarch of the largest family. It continually frustrated efforts for the Armenians, who were relegated to standing around in town before going to patrol through the mountains in search of bandit camps. They had no evidence that the Mountain Wolves were there besides the burnt remains of the outpost they had destroyed in their initial raids. It was like they had disappeared. Yaglian knew that they hadn’t: ambushes and raids were still occurring in other company areas nearby. But not his.

The Corporal walked amongst his team and checked them off. He casually asked them about how much water they had been drinking, if they felt dizzy from the long walk, if they had seen anything in their sectors, and other minutia. He had just lifted up his cap to wipe the sweat away from his forehead when a loud bang sounded from one of the houses.

“Ambush!” shouted someone, before a volley of shots rang out. Everyone dropped to the ground and pointed their weapons out. Someone was groaning: Yaglian looked around to see a rifleman writing around in pain as he patted away blood on his pant leg. A friend of his had rushed over to rip the trouser fabric out of the way, pour water onto the wound, and start wrapping a tourniquet tightly above the wound. Another man rushed forward with his machinegun and, firing from the hip, unleashed a burst into the house where a body now lay in front of. Windows shattered and wood splintered apart: the sound echoed throughout the valley. It became deathly quiet again as Ozanian sprinted up to the area of conflict. “What happened?” he barked.

“One guy in the house just came out and started shooting!” cried the man tending to the wounded soldier. He nudged his head back to where the gunner had riddled the wooden cabin with bullets. His friend on the ground grabbed at his leg as a bandage was applied, tears streaming down his grimacing face. He kept moaning and cursing.

“I got him!” replied the gunner. He let the machinegun dangle on its sling again, but he still pointed cautiously towards the house. Ozanian trudged towards the body of the militant who had shot at them, pointing his rifle forward at a high-ready while he walked. Everyone else, who had now found cover, were watching. Yaglian had to remind them harshly to keep covering houses and some of the mountain ridges around the town. His Platoon Sergeant assessed the man on the ground and determined that he was still alive. Wounded, barely breathing, and clutching a silver revolver, the assailant was an older man with dark hair and a wild beard. Ozanian looked around, raised his carbine, and unceremoniously shot him straight through the forehead.

“Don’t fuck with me,” he said just loudly enough that Yaglian could hear. It appeared he was mostly talking to the body. The Platoon Sergeant turned around and ordered: “We’re going to show them what happens. Either they follow the new rules, or we burn their goddamn house down. I need a lighter.”

A soldier next to him reluctantly reached into his pocket and tossed over a steel-plated flip lighter to Ozanian. Yaglian pushed his cap up from his forehead and watched, ambivalently, as his platoon sergeant gathered up the dry grasses and tinder in the Georgian man’s neglected garden, carefully arranging them in a pile on the wooden windowsill. He flicked it, opening the flame with a subtle whooshing noise, and set the pile alight. The fire started burning, slowly at first, then caught onto a support beam on the wooden house. The smell of burning wood filled Yaglian’s nostrils, as the whole platoon watched the flame creep across the faded green paint of the wooden walls. A few minutes of burning had rendered a corner of the home on fire, as Platoon Sergeant Ozanian asked for a placard and something to write with. Yaglian directed a soldier to the jeep, which had materials inside for marking warnings for minefields or other such hazards. Now, he was instructed to write in Georgian: “Do not attempt any attacks! This is your fate!”

The wounded man was dragged away to the jeep, stuffed in the side seat with a bandage pressed to his leg. The crew rushed him back down the hill towards the patrol base: the injury didn’t look too serious, but he needed to be sent to a hospital across the border for at least a few days to recover. Yaglian’s men kept staring at the fire curiously until he told them to stop and pick up their kit. Platoon Sergeant Ozanian had ordered them out on patrol again, through the winding mountain trails. If this assailant had any compatriots, they would be finding them. Silently, with only the rustling and clinking of gear, Yaglian’s section stood up from their positions and headed out. Another day of walking in the hot sun, amongst the green hills of Georgia. The smell of smoke permeated through the crisp mountain air even some distance from the village. From the ridges and hills around Patara Darbazi, they could see the civilians come out again. They gathered around the body and the smoldering house. Yaglian paid them no mind.

Sochi, Kuban Unorganized Territories

Natasha scribbled out details of a clearing in the woods on her map and notepad. She carefully noted the dimensions of the roughly-rectangular piece of land and followed her instructions. No large obstacles that couldn’t be removed or reduced like big rocks or tree stumps. As little uneven ground as possible. Not too marshy or wet. It had to be close to the city limits, but not too close. Her commanders had given her a general area of where to search along with potential points of interest: two of them proved to be too rocky for the specifications, but this one seemed just right. Anton crouched beside her, leaning forward while using the stock of his rifle to support him. “What do they need these clearings for, anyway?” he asked. “These are way too specific for paratrooper drop zones.”

Natasha shrugged. “Seems like they might be dropping commandos, if I had to guess. Smaller units, maybe. Specialized equipment that can’t get broken on the way down? We’re a long way from home, they might just be trying to make things extra safe so no accidents happen on the insertion.”

Her partner leaned back onto his heels and stood up as she finished writing the last notes in the margins of her book. She slipped it into a cargo pocket on her smock and shouldered her rucksack. The scouts trudged away from their objective, cloverleafing around to the other side to avoid walking through. They kept their movements slow and deliberate, avoiding sticks or crunchy leaves or anything else that could make the obvious sounds of people moving. Their next objective was a hill by the sea, where they were to post up and wait for the next phase of their mission. In Anton’s rucksack was a small mirror signaling device. An Armenian rescue team consisting of a cruiser and a seaplane tender were on the way from their naval base in Poti. Naval infantrymen were to storm predetermined locations on the beach near where the pirates were located and destroy the bandit outpost there. Natasha and Anton were to signal their information to the crew of the warship to let them know how and where to get the sailors back.

The pair had reached the hill by nightfall, using the cover of darkness to mitigate the risk of speeding up their movements. They had traveled many kilometers over hilly and rough terrain and were eager for a rest. They encamped on the hill, which lay just a few hundred meters from the town at the northwest tip of Sochi’s area. There would be no campfires or much noise that night. Natasha dropped her rucksack off at the base of a tree on the north side of the hill, so that the crest of it obscured their movements from the town. She unslung her rifle and leaned it against her kit, using this opportunity to stretch out her sore and aching back. Quietly, she sat down and took off her boots: she recoiled at the smell when she stripped away her socks. “Jesus,” she muttered, unbuttoning a pouch on her ruck to take foot powder to her sweaty feet. A blister was starting to form on her heel: she cleaned and dried it to bandage it as best she could. Her feet throbbed with pain, but that was to be expected. All she could think about was how at least the boots were better than walking the streets in heels.

Before she knew it, she was asleep without even setting up her tent shelter. It didn’t look like it was going to rain, so she skipped that procedure and curled up next to her bag underneath her field blanket. Anton took the first guard shift, sitting and sipping his ration coffee out of a metal cup until three in the morning. He woke up Natasha, let her know that the most he had seen was a squirrel rummaging around a nearby berry bush, and gave her the watch. He fell asleep as soon as he hit his gear. Natasha stared out into the darkness for the next few hours, watching the moon move across the sky and the pink rays of dawn peek out from behind the mountains. The lights in Sochi turned on, one by one, as the stars faded away. She looked out into the sea, along the compass azimuth she had been told that the cruiser was coming along. They would reach by the daylight to allow Anton’s signaling device to reflect sunlight. In a few hours, she noticed the dark outline of a ship appear over the horizon. “Anton!” she whispered. “Set up your light.”

He took the little mirror from his rucksack and quickly set its tripod up between some rocks, positioning it and steadying it in the ground. Natasha dropped her book next to him with the information already bulletized and formed into easy phrases that were pre-made to send via Morse code. The first one was a simple greeting: he repeated the letters “NSS” into the device while Natasha watched the ship with binoculars. They were scanning the coastline looking for their position but finally locked onto Anton’s signal, and replied with a series of flashes of their own: “NAVY.”

Natasha smiled as she translated it back towards Anton. He flashed his own message at them: “INFO FOLLOWS.”

He looked over to the listed data points and flashed the letters and numbers slowly, consciously on the reflective light. All locations were marked in UTM coordinates. “PRISON: 37N-559197-4828043.”

He waited for the ship to flash back the coordinates to confirm. Natasha read them out one by one. Anton flashed back: “YES.”

The scouts began transmitting their long list of information and waiting for the responses. The ships drew in closer, preparing for their fight: the Russian pirates were no doubt scrambling for their skiffs and boats. It took several minutes of flashing back and forth to coordinate the location of the beach landing zones, landing areas, and relevant information. But the plan went off without a hitch, as Natasha saw the cruiser flash back a final signal: “INFO RECEIVED. THANK YOU NSS. BEGIN ACTION.”

On the sea, the seaplane tender that had been following behind the cruiser had peeled off to a safe distance away and began hoisting its attack planes into the water with a large crane on the stern. These smaller types carried two planes nose-to-tail on the stern behind a hangar for maintenance and refit. Each seaplane carried several bombs and a series of guns for ground strafing. It dropped the aircraft into the water, and they immediately began motoring out to their launch straightaways. Engines roaring and water splashing across their boat-like hulls, the seaplanes took off from the water and angled themselves straight to the town of Sochi. One took to flying up high, almost reaching the clouds, while the other prowled the waters. They weren’t aerodynamic enough to dogfight other planes, but they were perfect for sighting in on the pirate skiffs that now started swarming out of the harbor. A salvo of gunfire erupted from the Armenian seaplane that went straight across the deck of a skiff, starting a small fire aboard. Small arms reports sounded from the way as the pirates shot back.

The cruiser had angled its deck guns towards the developing situation and began to fire off rounds at the pirates as they slowly motored out of port. These slow targets were easy pickings for the gun crews, who exploded the small craft in brilliant showers of smoke and flame. The second seaplane had overflown its objective and circled back around to begin bombing boats still in port. These bombs penetrated straight through the wooden docks and exploded, rocking the moored craft and crashing them into each other. Hydrostatic shock ruined their keels and hulls, sinking many of them before their crews even got to them. In port, the Breadwinner laid unshaken by the outbreak of fighting. Workers scurried around on the shore for cover as a pair of old Russian trucks careened through the gate. Naval gunfire was quickly beginning to pound positions were the pirates were shooting from buildings and prepared defensive positions. A select few artillery guns from the Great War were now used as direct-fire weapons, taking shots at the cruiser as it steamed closer and closer.

The seaplanes circled back around to strafe anyone in the streets near the prison. It was unclear who was civilian or bandit, but with the volume of small arms fire coming for the planes it was assumed to be a free fire zone. The two planes danced around each other in unpredictable, zig-zag patterns. They retreated back up to altitude where they could come back in for their targets without being harassed by the rifle fire below. Small fires had broken out in several of the shelled positions, pouring out smoke that made it harder to discern what was going on in the town. The cruiser mercilessly shot at whatever tried to shoot at them, their small guns still pounding and concussing the NSS scouts far away. Behind the smoke from the cruiser’s armament, Natasha saw a key element of the plan beginning to form: landing craft were being hoisted over the side of the ship with its crane, filled with a platoon of naval infantrymen each. There were four of them: an entire company of troops was heading towards the shore of Sochi.

Natasha watched the landing craft form up and begin their sail to the shore. They swerved between gunfire and the smoking wrecks of Russian boats, a wide wedge cutting their way through the breaking waves. Through her binoculars, she could see gunners on the decks of each boat begin to lay down fire. The reports of the automatic small arms echoed across the coast shortly thereafter. Mortars, angled shallowly on the craft, launched out smoke grenades to the beach that hit and burst open to obscure their landings. The naval infantry had attempted to form a line and hit the beach at the same time, but one of the crafts was still being maneuvered into position and was trapped behind a Russian boat. The first three rushed ashore and dropped their ramps: soldiers charged out of the berths with rifles in hand, desperately making a run for cover as the pirates and bandits now began to take potshots at them. The fourth landing craft had to drop its ramp in the water, as its position was too clogged with debris, and make its naval infantrymen wade ashore.

Anton nudged his partner and slung his bag over his shoulders. “Let’s go,” he said, motioning towards the battlefield below. One of the seaplanes flew by, its engines cutting through the air, then dropped a bomb onto a street below. It exploded, shattering glass on the buildings just below the hill from them and forcing a concussive wave up onto them. Natasha plugged her ears with her fingers. Her ears rang and her vision was a little blurry, but she felt alright. She waited a moment to formulate her thoughts again: she felt like they had been scrambled like an egg for a second.

“Alright,” she answered. Bending over to pick up her own rifle and kit, she quickly donned her load-bearing vest and smock. Without a word, they left the hilltop to head down to the sounds of battle below.

Nakhichevan, Armenia

A pair of black cars, little Armenian flags fluttering from the front of the hood, stopped on a dirt road next to a rustic-looking building. The lowlands of Nakhichevan had a vibrant green tone to them. The farms around the outskirts of the city stretched for kilometers, growing wheat, barley, grapes, or orchard fruits. In the mountains beyond them, intricate and well-worn mine tunnels led to deposits of salt, molybdenum, and lead. Life here was peaceful and simple: the divisions that seemed to terrorize urban Armenians in the center were nonexistent. Despite the fighting that occurred in the Artsakh, the Armenians, Azeris, and Iranians of Nakhichevan never had any reason to dislike each other. Whatever Russian migrants came to the towns below the mountains were welcomed with Persian politeness: many were laborers working the fields. While different groups were fairly self-segregated into their towns and regions, everyone was fairly free to do what they pleased. The province was much too blue-collar to concern itself with the political problems of the day.

Hovik Idratian stretched his legs in the back of the car, tucking the fabric of his shirt into his trousers. A wave of slight embarrassment washed over him when he felt the soft rolls of fat across his stomach: his wife had been scolding him to start running more and lose some of the beer belly, but long hours at the office had replaced whatever free time he had for exercise. Luckily, however, his suit was tailored in a way that was about as flattering as it could get. Despite this, he wasn’t allowed to button it: his publicist had recommended he wear a simple brown coat and pants with no tie, something to ground him more with the locals in this farm town. A photographer sat next time him, fiddling with her camera flash and talking nonstop about what kinds of angles and types of lenses she needed to get the best shots of him. Both Idratian and the bodyguard in the front seat paid no attention. She was probably just nervous, after all: it was her first time following someone as high up as the Vice President. The state-run Armenian News Service routinely furnished journalists and reporters to cover what the government was doing but they often had experienced veterans behind the camera.

A crowd had gathered in front of the wood-paneled town meetinghouse, with the village’s officials arriving outside. An older man in a boxy, well-worn dark grey suit sported a purple tie just like the President’s along with male-pattern baldness and a smile showing crooked teeth. Beside him was his town police constable: another older man, slightly darker in complexion with close-cropped brown hair and an elaborately thick mustache, who wore high riding boots and a low-slung revolver belt atop the classic blue police uniform. Everything was shined and polished, or as much as it could be. The townspeople were the definition of rough and tumble, almost picturesque rural farmers with stoic, weathered faces. Their sleeves on their flannels and shirts were rolled to their elbows, and even the women in their threadbare dresses looked like they could easily beat Idratian in a weightlifting competition. The officials shook hands with the Vice President and his entourage, before the man in the grey suit identified himself in a cheery voice: “My name is Vasif Shahbuzi! Welcome to my village, it is very exciting to have a visit from Yerevan.”

Idratian smiled: the mayor went along, almost skipping down the dirt road as he followed. The photographer behind them rushed into position, bent over and peering down the sight of her camera as she rushed from angle to angle like someone was shooting at her. The mayor explained what the name of the road was, where people lived, and how they lived. A stray goat crossed the road being chased by a girl in a green dress. The mayor chuckled at her, and so did Idratian. A mother came walking up from behind, hollering at her daughter to grab the goat’s collar and get it back to the pen. It felt scripted, like a scene from a movie, but the rural Nakhichevanis had a penchant for the dramatic. Eventually, the daughter threw herself towards the frightened goat and grabbed ahold of its collar before triumphantly returning to the road. She noticed the mayor out of the corner of her eye and turned to him: “Mr. Shahbuzi! The goat jumped the fence again!” she pouted. The photographer, sensing her opportunity, started snapping pictures. The click of the camera was rapid-fire. The mayor knelt next to her and the goat as the mother came up to thank him.

“See, if you really want to keep him under control,” the mayor said helpfully as he moved his grip to yoke up on the collar and to the back, “you have to hold him like this. Otherwise he slips out and runs away, and he doesn’t have any collar.”

The little girl nodded, her wide brown eyes following the mayor’s instructions. She tried it herself, smiling as the goat bleated. “Thank you!” she said, before turning her attention Idratian. “Who are you, mister?”

The Vice President looked down at the mayor, who answered: “Well, he helps the President run the country. He’s the Vice President, actually. The second-biggest man in the country.”

The little girl nodded, even if it was clear it wasn’t entirely sure that she knew what the position meant. Idratian at least thought it was a cute exchange, and asked her name. “Ivanka!” she replied, cheerily. “And this is my mother.”

The mother, by contrast, appeared quite nervous. She introduced herself by her family name as Mrs. Ali and politely excused herself. She took Ivanka and thanked the mayor for his time before bringing the still-stubborn goat across to their house, taking it behind and through a waist-high chainlink fence. The mayor and the Vice President continued their stroll down the packed dirt road. It sloped slightly downhill, the houses thinning out before plots of orchards took up more and more space. Ripening fruits of the late summer hung temptingly from the trees, as a few villagers picked them off the branches to assess their coloring. In one orchard, the father of a family was apparently satisfied enough with his apple that he bit into it and directed his teenaged son to gather a bucket to start plucking the fruit from that particular row of trees. The mayor explained the type of apples there and that this was their specific month for harvesting. It would be the last first run of the year, with more and more of them becoming ready in the autumn before the winter months.

Idratian nodded along, smiling and offering his own inputs on the kinds of agriculture that his family had fostered in the west. The Idratian family, long members of the poorer class of their village, found their luck in the late 19th century when an uncle passed away and left a large herd of cattle to them in his will. The family’s wealth increased significantly as they could sell more animal products at the bustling market. Their political life started modestly, as respected members of their bucak township at the time. Eventually, after service in the Fedayi during the Revolution, the Idratians soon found themselves as mayors of their hamaynkner town political division. Their popularity only grew from there, becoming a political dynasty of down-to-earth, common workers. His father made the rounds in the new Van marz, eventually elected governor in the 1930s. It was only natural that his son Hovik picked up the mantle: but only after finishing courses at the Agricultural University of Van and working the fields just as his father and grandfather did.

The soft, wet earth of the irrigated fields felt familiar to him, as he had walked across hundreds of similar ones during his campaigns. Although a long way from the pastures of his hometown, the rustic sights and smells of this village brought him back to Van. By his feet as the pair walked, water trickled through a beaten aluminum pipe and occasionally sprayed into rows of yellow-white wheat. Another villager, ever watchful, picked apart the grass and inspected the bushes’ readiness individually. Mayor Shahbuzi reminded Idratian that there were still a few weeks or so before the grain harvest. Idratian picked a kernel off one of the stalks of grass and bit gingerly into it, concurring. “Although it’s a shame you didn’t take me through the barley fields,” he remarked jokingly. “I keep Nakhichevani beer in the fridge at the Presidential Palace.”

Their tour finished back at the meetinghouse where it began, with the mayor and the constable both conversing with Idratian on the steps of the porch. With his hands in his pocket, Idratian surveyed the village again. They had been there for an hour or so, the sun was starting to reach its noon peak. They were due for a lunch before he ran off to more meetings with administrators in the Nakhichevan urban center, but the Vice President had pulled Mayor Shahbuzi and his constable to the side away from both of their entourages. “Mayor,” Idratian began, looking around. “I know things here aren’t as… visible to the Yerevan government as they should be. If you have any suggestions, let me know and I can try to make things happen. Totally candidly, of course… you and I both know what it’s like, the National Assembly gets too tied up in its own big-picture issues.”

Mayor Shahbuzi nodded along, stroking his chin pensively. “Small problems from the small people,” he mused poetically. “So far, we’ve been seeing a stagnant increase in wages. People just don’t make the same amount of money as they used to at the market and we’re starting to struggle.”

The Vice President reached towards the small notebook he kept in his pant pocket, flipping open the well-worn cover to scribble in some notes as the mayor talked. “I think it’s the industry,” Mayor Shahbuzi continued, becoming gravely serious. “Those subsidies are starting to push out the village folk. I don’t know what it’s like in the west or in the Artsakh, but we’re feeling the pinch here because we’re not heavy industry.”

Idratian continued to scribble. In the margins of his notebook, he wrote down something about subsidies and money flow to the Nakhichevan marz. “Makes sense,” he said. “We haven’t had anyone bring it up before… usually the main concern is obviously the Turks. Tanks, tanks, tanks. Guns, guns, guns. Railroads, cement factories.”

“Going to Georgia didn’t help either,” he added quietly before flipping the notebook shut. The mayor nodded and shrugged.

“That would go a long way to the problems we have. Leaky irrigation, old tractors, everything else. Bring more money to the people and we can fix it better. Or at least we could buy more duct tape and spare parts.”

“Alright,” agreed the Vice President before quickly moving to shake the man’s hand. “I’ll bring this to President Assanian.”

With gracious words of thanks, Mayor Shahbuzi waved the photographer over. Coming out of her place like a stalking animal, she moved to take a picture of the smiling handshake. He announced that they were ready for lunch, adding in that the Vice President’s favorite Nakhichevani beer would be served at the table since the brewery was so close by. The doors of the meetinghouse swung open, two aides flanking the wooden steps, and the politicians entered into the plain one-room structure. Atop a wooden table lined with rows of hand-carved chairs was a feast of local meat and grains. The chefs who prepared it stood proudly at the end by an Armenian flag hanging over the fireplace. They waved the Vice President in and sat him at the end of the table where Mayor Shahbuzi took the head. When all of them were seated, a toast was called for. Everyone in unison lifted their glasses of wine or beer as Mayor Shahbuzi and Vice President Idratian stood over them. One after the other, they toasted for Armenia.

“For the fertile valleys of Nakhichevan!” announced Mayor Shahbuzi.

Idratian finished the rest: “And for our mountain Fatherland: Armenia!”
Hidden 3 mos ago Post by The Wyrm
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Some Time in October, Salisbury, Rhodesia

"Abraham, welcome, please, join me." Byron Starr stood, towering over the older black man. Starrs' face looked like a slab of ham, the shaved bald dome of his head crisscrossed by dozens of scars. The man played rugby in his spare time and it was clear he had tried to tackle more than one person with his face on multiple occasions. The battered look often led people to underestimate his intelligence.

"Thank you, Byron," Abraham smiled as he spoke, his teeth white against the dark colour of skin. "I hope everything is well?"

"Should it not be?" Byron replied as he sat in a plush armchair, gesturing for Abraham to join him in the second chair on the small veranda overlooking "Government Park", a large green space surrounded on all sides by federal office buildings. This was the heart and soul of the Rhodesian nationstate.

"I was unsure if you had decided to "unforgive" me after I failed to obtain a place for you in the African Union. If I can use a word like unforgive."

"Ah, heh, no." Byron gave a good natured chuckle that sounded like boulders rumbling down a hillside. "We fully expected to be rejected, but we tried, and now I don't have to feel guilty about telling our neighbours to pound sand when they want something for free."

Abraham nodded, lowering himself into the other chair with a sigh. The park in front of him featured several small lakes, a river, and an amazing collection of Rhodesian plant life. He had been fortunate enough to walk the shaded paths on numerous occasions and still found an obscure joy watching the small primates that called it home run freely through the boughs of the massive Khaya trees.

"I don't imagine you just asked me here to watch squirrel monkeys..." Abraham let his words die away as he eyed the big whiteman.

"No, I did not." Byron replied with some stiffness and Abraham felt the hair on the back of his neck rise. "I wanted to talk to you about the troubles you're having with Communist rebels in the Empire."

Abraham was surprised, the Rhodesians had always been very careful to keep their nose out of the internal affairs of other African nations, officially at least. He was well aware of the airstrikes and special forces raids into neighbouring countries, though he didn't blame them at all. He would have done the same in their position.

"What about it?" He asked carefully, not quite sure where the other man was going to take the conversation.

"Let us be frank, Abraham. The Empire is more or less losing this fight. I have my suspicions as to why but I won't test our friendship by suggesting those reasons to you."

Abraham nodded. He knew that the Rhodesians held the Imperial family in contempt at pretty much every level and did not need to ask who Byron was referring to. It was perhaps lucky they just happened to hate communists more.

"I invited you here today to offer your our support, militarily that is." Byron finished his sentence rather quickly as he leaned back in his chair to observe the Ethiopian. The man was handsome, in his late fifties, and probably the Ethiopian most trusted by the Rhodesian government.

"You want to offer us support?" Abraham asked the question to buy time as his mind mauled over the idea.

"Yes. I think, pardon the expression, but as one of your aides said of me, better the devil you know."

Abraham laughed at that. He remembered the incident clearly. He had been relatively new to his post in Rhodesia when he had first met Byron, after which his aide-de-camp had made the comment.

"I understand. I imagine Rhodesia is not to keen on Communists running rampant." Abraham had composed himself and made the comment carefully. Communism was popular among the black rebel factions in Rhodesia and they had killed plenty of people. It was only in the last month that Rhodesian special forces had managed to ambush and kill the final significant black communist inside their borders. He felt sympathy for the rebels, not as communists but as people wanting their country back. He also acknowledged that the white Rhodesians were part of Africa and a right to exist as well. It was a tangled mess he danced carefully around. Byrons' youngest son had been killed by communist soldiers two years previously.

"Quite." Byrons' reply was short and the flicker of pain on his face told Abraham that the two men had been thinking along the same lines. "They are a stain and we will hunt them to the ends of the earth."

"What do you offer Ethiopia?" Abraham brought the conversation back on track. He observed a vein beginning to pulse on the edge of the white cannonball head and knew the signs of stress well enough.

"Aircraft, artillery, and naval support if you need our fast destroyer." Byron shifted his attention swiftly back to the matter at hand and was businesslike again. "We aren't willing to commit any serious ground force but I have been authorized to suggest a large contingent of support units."

Abraham tilted his chin back as he thought for a moment. The Rhodesians were eerily skilled with what resources they had at hand. Their messy divorce from the British Empire had made them very self sufficient and he had often thought of them as an army with a nation. Their war with the Portuguese had taught them the value of aircraft and since then they had assembled one of the finest air fleets in the world. In his minds eye he could see the Rhodesian aircraft ripping through Ethiopian skies to send communist forces fleeing. It was a tempting image. Abraham, though he rarely spoke of it, had four sons in the army. He personally believed they would be much safer with a highly professional airforce on their side.

"I can only say I am thankful for the offer, as are my boys." He swallowed a lump threatening to rise in his throat. "I will certainly convey the request to my superiors. Exactly what forces can you provide?"

"I am told not to provide exact numbers until we receive a confirmation, or otherwise, from your government. For obvious reasons."

Rhodesia had survived through paranoia and preparation. They trusted virtually no one and Abraham could guess just how deeply the their hatred of communists ran if they were willing to support the Imperial faction.

"Very well, I will pass the offer to my superiors as soon as I have returned to the office."

Bryon smiled. "Excellent. Victory or Death."

It was a Rhodesian battlecry and Abraham had no doubt that they meant it.
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Dinh AaronMk
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Dinh AaronMk Revolutionary Marxist Shitposter

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“How many did we lose?” said the voice drifting on empty winds.

“I haven't counted, but I hear we lost all of Tsien Hua's squad.” said another on the choked air.

Wu Hong ambled through the streets of the village. The weight of his rifle hung with the dead weight of a severed arm in his hand. He felt detached from his own body as he shuffled about with plodding steps. The side of his face was covered in thick plasma. He didn't think it was his blood. Or he hoped it wasn't. He couldn't feel most of his body. He felt loose and ragged. His flesh simply hanging from his body like a rag. He stared out from stunned eyes as he looked across the graveyard intersection.

Crossed timbers of corpses lay stretched and crumpled. Their arms reaching out as if to hail the soldier. Their eyes glassy and faded. Frozen in mid-speech, their mouths hung open and some yawned in an eternal doze, their eyes half lidded. At least one stared back at him through a leaking third eye scooped out of his forehead. The back of his skull empty like a bowl. He could see through as the morning light poured in revealing the black bloodied universe that lay behind the man's eyes.

His heart beat lazily in his chest. He could feel each pulse in his throat. The junk ecstasy of adrenaline having long faded, his body was captured by the cold numbing drum of its withdrawal.

Far and ahead in the butcher knife ridges of trees, columns of black smoke crashed upwards into the sky in great waterfalls of charcoal black streams. Filling the clear blue with a hazy black miasma. The bending and dancing smudges of ash winded and bent in a flowing stream of twisting protoplasm on the high winds as they were pulled lazily across the sky. From above, the heavier particles drifted down in a snowfall of gray ash, littering the ground at Wu Hong's feet. It gathered in his hair and on his shoulders blackening his skin. As he rubbed at his face and his eyes he smeared it, mixing the charcoal with the blood turning his skin Ethiopian black.

“There is perhaps... twenty. Thirty dead.” said the voice of ghosts.

“Thirty? Did you count right?”

“I said perhaps.”

“Maybe you included the Russians.”

“It's hard to tell when you can't see their faces anymore. Have you ever seen a face with both eyes gone from a single bullet?”

“What about the uniforms?”

“Too muddied. The doctors will figure it out.”

“We have medics left?”

“I suppose so.”

“Have you checked?”

“Shen said he was.”

“Where is Shen?”

“Who knows. Did you find his finger?”

“We were looking?”

What was there left to know? Everything was up in the air. Detached ghosts lost in the world, as Wu Hong. He wondered again, what had happened to his squad? He couldn't remember. Then a light came on his head. He remembered he was looking for them. His feet lifted and he was back on the move once again. Each foot falling hard as he shambled along. He felt undead down to his bones. Was he in fact a ghost now? He felt like it. Strangley sick. Gut empty. His stomach lay muted in his belly, a heavy dry rock. His bowels empty. His heart was alive, a slow beating throb felt in his throat. Lungs too, weighted by the very weight of the air he breathed. Piss, shit, blood, and ash.

He walked on. Here and there along the road side lay the discarded dolls of the previous night. Their faces pale as porcelain and cold. Their lips purple and open in rubbery expressions of permanent fear. When their ghosts woke up, would they be as terrified as they were?

Absentmindedly he began counting. One, two, three... he got as high as five before his mind drifted. He felt tired, and the weight of everything bore on his shoulders. He succumbed to the weight, and collapsed on the ground laying his head against the warm walls of a cabin. Sprawling out and letting the full weight pull him down, his muscles relaxing hazy eyes fell to the dead animals that littered the street, chickens and half dead horses.

He felt numb. Not necessarily in any peace. But numb. He lay his rifle across his lap, using the last of strength for that before he let his hand drop and lay still, caressing the warm wood of the stock. His chest rose and fell in heavy hot breaths. His teeth rattled with each draw, whistling through his lips. The focus of his eyes dropped to the blood muddied street, the dirt black and oily. He could take a nap here, the search could wait.

As his eyes closed and the darkness of exhaustion came over a pair of boots stepped into his vision. The disembodied limbs turning to meet him as he fell back into darkness. In his sleep he still saw the gray light of the settling ash around him.

He woke up with an antiseptic smell in his nose. A strong plastic smell filled the air with the moans of mangled people. Shuffling on a bare mattress he found he was naked except for his under pants. A sick feeling in his stomach he turned to look a sleeping babe in an adult's body across from him. As he collected himself he could see more into the room, a dark lit space save for only the beams of thick heavy light saturated with dust and smoke particles from sick green lamps. He flapped his arms around him until he found the neatly folded lump of his uniform and he sat up on his elbows.

He stood up, the tattered olive-green rags of his thin quilted uniform between his fingers. The haziness that had occupied his head was long faded and Wu Hong felt as though he could see clearly again. And he feel. His body was not so dumb and heavy. There was a dull throbbing in his flesh, the ground zeroes of which felt to be a spot on his arm. Before he donned his shirt he looked down and ran a finger up along his arm. Wrapped in twisted knots and crowned with a rose seal of blood was a wound in his arm, which no doubt twisted and tore deep into his flesh. His fingers played around the spot, but he didn't feel any pain, merely a dense throb of irritation.

The sight of the wound made Hong sick in his throat and he felt his neck tighten. Gagging at the thought, he turned away cursing himself as he threw on the uniform. Summoned by his raised arms, an doctor with the impossibly long and thin arms of a crane walked over. “Are we awake?” he asked, obviously.

Wu Hong looked up at him with a dumb look and nodded. “Very well.” the medic said. He knelt down at his side, “You need help?”

Wu Hong glanced about at the room. They must have appropriated this house. But it looked familiar. But with the furniture thrown to the side it was hard to tell. But the hand of dejavu brushed down his neck with one of her cold fingers with the sickly eroticism of forgotten familiarity. With rote unthinking he lay a hand on the medic's shoulders and he was helped up to his feet. His bare legs shaking under him. He was suddenly reminded of his hunger and he placed a hand over his stomach and messaged the gnashing beast inside.

“Thank you.” he said. His voice sounding distant and dry. He threw the shirt over his shoulders and dropped it down, hiding his thin farm boy's body and winced at the numbness in his shoulders and arms.

“If you could,” the medic advised, “I would try to stay out of the fighting. The bullet tore into your arm and it might hurt to feel the kick of the rifle in so much as the shoulder.”

Wu Hong nodded. All he wanted was to get out, to see if his companions were alive. For now he could bare the pain. Perhaps he could get a chance to sit back. Or they'd throw something at him to help with the pain. It was to him all a mystery as he stepped into his pants and died up his boots. By this point, the doctor had scuttled away like a spider in the dim light of the make shift infirmary.

Looking out at the door though he saw nothing but the bodies of the wounded or the ill. Laid out on rags or the mattresses the army could scavenge many of the worst filled the floor of the small family room of the village cabin. In the dim light he could see their pale glowing eyes looking up at him from pallid shrunken faces. Some held their hands to their guts where a heavy brace of bandages held something to their bleeding stomachs as they lay stoned out on pain killer and anesthetic. Others he noticed simply looked up, cradling broken arms or hands. A few civilians were here too, mothers holding children close to their chest, empty of tears or children holding their parents.

He tipped toed over and around them, shambling out of the door. The sun burned his eyes and he turned away, holding up his bad arm to shield his face. But even under local anesthetic a tearing pain rippled in his arm and he was forced to lower it, holding it tight against him as he shuffled out with his head down. In the was mid afternoon. The ash still hung in the air. So maybe it was the same day, or the fires somewhere were still going.

As his eyes acclimated to the stinging low light of Siberia he found a group of soldiers sitting around a radio operator, passing around cigarettes as they leaned into the radio. Its hawkish operator bouncing in his seat alongside of it. Small beady eyes looked up and caught Wu Hong on his approach and he gestured with a nod to take a position.

“River Yu e'route along Ullanbataar. Open plains from there. The high Wei says to hold positions. Cavalry banners rallying for detachment.” the radio's voice squealed, its breaking voice crackling and popping as the operator spoke the words slowly. An officer turned to Wu Hong as he came close and made space for the injured soldier as he sat near the machine.

“The central group is deployed from Mongolia.” the officer translated for him, “There's been no resistance, they're just driving north. We're holding our positions. Air support in bound.”

Wu Hong blinked, “How many did we lose?”

“Ten dead, thirty injured. Fifteen civilians were killed, another... I don't know; twenty injured. We tried to organize an evacuation for them, if they'll take it. Going to see if we have enough.”


Out of Khazakstan, the old Chinese bike popped and hummed down old dirt roads through high mountain valleys. Far from the brown steppe of the north the air here was cool and green with verdant pine forests dressing the slopping bosoms of the hills and mountains of a rich and pregnant land. Gusts of chill wind blew down from the mountains where the two young men on the bike marveled up at the sparkling ice caps and high glaciers of diamond pure white.

They passed into and out of rain curtains. Where the land was suddenly arid and dry it soon was lush again with green forests and alpine fields where goats grazed under the watchful eyes of mounted herdsmen and where deer ran across the road. The air here was fresh, and it felt clean. Days previously they had passed through Almaty, pregnant with its former imperial Russian glory. Its high Russian buildings, looking scooped out of a picture book of Moscow and transplanted at the foot hills of the mountains and at the river side looked out of place amid the gangs of narrowed eye, stooped Mongolians riding their horses or bikes through the town.

The two young men were watched with suspicion all the same by the dour blonde haired Russians who still lived in the city and clutched close their rifles as they came. Did they look like the foreign invaders they felt they were to this country? Or perhaps the hard Slavic men simply confused them for the high stepped Tatars of the countryside around them.

Chao and Guo both felt uninvited in the city, and they sped through it as fast as possible. Stopping briefly in a small park to rest their legs, long jostled by the rattling of their motorcycle and baked by the engine in the cool shade of apple trees. There they stretched and ate bread and the apples they picked from the tree. There was a wide variety of fruits and unknown growing from the branches. Some where heavy and sour, others light and sweat. Without discrimination the two filled their bags of the wild apples growing in the city's parks and left that imperial capital and continued south on into the mountains.

Beyond the city they stopped at a small creak that ran crystal clear over blue and gray stones in the high hills and filled their canteens. Washing their faces in the crystalline and pure water they again sat to dine momentarily on the fruits and foraged more from the even wilder trees that grew with twisted ruggedness like crone's fingers in the alpine heights. The fruits were juicy, and whether they bit back with a bitter shock or a sweat lovely embrace it was a refreshing taste from the plain bread, goat's butter, and spare rice that they had left with them. In so far as they stayed in these hills they could keep their food stocks full. But they had more road to cover, and they left those Kazakh groves behind and continued their adventures on into the mountains.

Neither Chao nor Guo knew when they crossed over into the land of the Kyrgyz. There was no sign saying so, no change in the roads. Simply rising all around them were the peaks of the mountains and the depths of the valleys. Shimmering creeks fed from melting glaciers above them and the calls of large eagles whose wings blotted out the sun.

They decamped in the mountains. Without any other light but the camp fire the stars above were a vibrant collection of jewels. Forming constellations and revealing the full galactic band. They nearly brought light to the mountains themselves, and the boughs and needles of the the trees glowed faintly with their diamond blue light.

“These are beautiful mountains.” Chao explained, fingering an apple he left at the edge of the fire to bake and caramelize in the heat, “What do you think is hidden out there?”

“What do you mean? Like wolves?” Guo asked in response.

“No- well yes. Wolves. Do you think they're very big?”

“I don't imagine they're there at all.”

“How so?”

“It's quiet.” said Guo, gesturing into the darkness.

“But do you think they might be there, stalking us in the shadows?” Chao looked unafraid, he in fact looked excited. A youthful child beamed from behind his lion's mane. A sudden change from his over all dour expression since leaving China, as if the oppression of the open and empty steppe had lifted from him when they entered wild mountains. Guo supposed that was it. He shrugged at his question.

“And what if there's some hidden kingdom here? Something the Russians or the English overlooked?”

“What sort of kingdom?”

“Oh, you know: maybe a remnant of Genghis Khan's empire. Some forgotten Golden Horde biding its time in the mountains. Or maybe we'll find the Monkey King's empire. He came this way, didn't he?”

“I think so.” Guo mused, “He's have to come through here to go to India. And what are we going to do if we find these lost kingdoms.”

Chao took a long time to answer. “Start a revolution, I think. Wouldn't that be fun?”

“And kill The Buddha?”

“I think he would like that.”

“I think he wouldn't mind if we killed him. I don't think anyone would.”

By the following morning they decamped, spread the smoldering ashes of their fire in the rocks and kicked off. The motor of the motorcycle puttering away along the mountain side, as soon as it was filled with a new tank of gas. Both noted that they may soon need to find a way to restock. But down the road would eventually be signs of civilization, a village of some sorts.

They continued on through winding mountain roads hugging precarious cliffs and mounted on the other side by sheer rises up, or steep boulder strewn ridges upwards. On the far side of the valley were alpine forests, green havens. The valley was alight with the sound of song birds in the dewy morning and as the sound of the engine waned the bird song grew in strength.

In the voyage through the valley they came to follow close the course of a turquoise blue river running white over hidden smooth stones. It's shining brilliance lighting up the afternoon air with quick silver glimmers.

“Where do you think it flows from?” Guo asked over the noise of the motorcycles old roaring.

“Some mountain somewhere.” answered Chao, looking briefly down at it.

“Say perhaps it flows from a jade palace. Hence its color.” Guo said.

Laughing, Chao answered back, “Why do you think this?”

“Why not?”

“That's not an answer.”

“Does it need one?”

“Are you going to tell me you're going to write another fiction?”

“Maybe. When we find extra paper and pen. I don't want to intrude on your diary.”

Dragon Diaries

Li Chao

September 20th, 1960. Tuesday. Year of the Metal Rat

I don't know where we are anymore. But I don't think it matters. We left Almaty behind us, a smelly city. There's an air of horse shit and diesel in the streets and neither of us liked it very much. It's clear not much of the city is in working order as many of the lights were out when we passed over it at night. But there were a surprising many apple trees in the area. It was surprising to say the least. We must have filled our packs with them. Anything to avoid eating the same stale bread day in and day out until they become filled with maggots. The apples at least should help choke it down until they become bad, or bruised mush. We'll see what comes first.

But there's still more to be said about the apples. There were some which were small with a roughly knuckle appearance, deep red. They had a strong flavor. Somewhere between sweet and sour. I thought they tasted almost like lemons. Guo figured an orange or something. It was hard to place, but they were mostly seeds. Most of the time spent eating those was in pulling out the seeds as we ate, we couldn't decide it to eat the whole fruit or nibble at them.

There were others also banded with different shades of red. The texture was kind of soft and strange, like foam, without much of a flavor. But they were substantially larger. We didn't like them as much as the small ones, and not as much as the much larger ones, we found out we swear is as large as a melon! It's amazing it grew on the tree at all. But that was bitter to taste. Both of us spent time wondering if we would shit out the fruit in a few hours but I only really had gas, perhaps one was fermenting, there were so many of so many different textures and taste one might have been a little expired when we picked it up.

But looking forward to the mountains is something else. It's been a long time since we've seen any green. Guo seems to be uplifted but he isn't talking much. I don't know if he has eyes for home again. At this stage I don't know if he can escape, he's as trapped as I am. But who knows, he may try. How could either of us get home from here? Walk? I don't know if the mountains here can be crossed, or we might be able to walk into southern Xinjiang and find a train back to the east.

I do find myself thinking of hope. Perhaps it's unfair, but I find myself comparing home to the people here. Particularly the people of Amalty. They seemed all on edge. No one would talk to us, and we dared not try to have a conversation with anyone we passed. It must be something from the fall of the Empire. It's got everyone walking on egg shells. But most of everyone seems so isolated and seperate. In the time we spent in the city I would have expected to see a group doing Tai-Chi in the park, or old me playing Mahjong back home. But there was an absence of joy in Almaty. So we moved on.

I do not want to return.
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