Sunday, February 21, 2016

Death and Beginnings-A Vedic Story.

Miko and Tel ran. The sand was hot on their feet, and the Sun with its warmth had burned their feet weeks earlier couldn't compare to the fire they felt every time the stepped down. Now they ran for their lives even though their breath came high in the their chest and their ears rang with the exertion of their hearts. The second wave of skimmers blew over the top of their heads and launched Lotus Arrows at their city.

“Arrrgh! You bastards stop! Can't you see we pose no more threat. You beat us! Stop killing us!” Miko yelled at the skimmers as they thundered past the two young people. Tel launched herself off the ground and tackled her friend, causing the both of them to hit the ground and roll into a hollow between two sand dunes covered in glass.

Multiple bursts of white light, brighter than the Sun hanging in the sky imprinted their shadows on the ground beneath them. The visors on their Dragon survival suits instantly polarized. Still enough radiation in the form of highly excited photons permeated everything so much so they could see their bodies and bones inside each other's suit.

They crawled into the notch of where the two dunes met and held on to each other. Each Arrow became a towering pillar of light and death where moments earlier they had spent most of their lives living. An already prostate community of thirty three million souls turned to ash in a silicone moment. They could feel the death of their people and their culture burn away in the glare of nuclear fire.And they screamed.

High overhead the Mitra Satellite orientated its optics to a valley where nuclear actinic light  became so brilliant, it caused the Mitra Monitor to automatically slide its filters over its lenses to protect its sensitive optics. Protocols began cascading with each spike of EMP radiation. Simple binary equations of yes/no caused other protocols to activate. In a matter of moments measured in the span between heart beats, the Oathkeeper found it was time to serve its original purpose and keep its promise to a people and a capital city who were even now turning to atoms.

Solar powered panels turned on their brackets, opening like a blossom. Mitra evolved into its true purpose for the first and only time in its existence. It had spent decades sending back agricultural and weather information to the ground as a way of camouflaging; But in the event of certain protocols, it answered its true calling, which it did with a silent dispassionate functionality. 

The station named after the Promise Keeper of Oaths, activated weapon deployment pods. Like the stamen of a Tagar Blossom, Missile pods began silently falling away from the satellite. At first gravity began a gentle pull on their cases and with a burst of transmitted information they orientated themselves to their targets and moved with the precise use of maneuvering chemicals which left ice crystal clouds floating in slowly decaying orbits.

An automated message was sent out on all known channels, it was the last thing Mitra broadcast before going dark: 

“At first the world was covered and void. Then force and heat came to shape the waters.
By this force he who was the Avatar of worlds came into being.
Lo' Shiva the creator and destructor of worlds has been 
called forth once more.
Look upon his mighty works and weep.”

In the deep purple waters where the sun was birthed, the planet rotated into darkness. The last glow of a golden Sun illuminated a lovely volcanic island with a large cinder cone. Placed inside the caldera was an enormous crystal, it collected the solar satellite power streams and distributed the power of the Sun to the citizen of this island nation via the enormous crystal. Homes and palaces ran down Mount Soor's slopes, and man made reefs radiated from the island like the spokes of a wagon wheel.

Some circles of land were given over to agricultural usage other's manufacturing and others housing. From the last and seventh ring, massive piers and warehouses radiated outward. From space it appeared to be an enormous Sun symbol. Which at the last moment was appropriate. All of the flower seeds from Mitra powered their way down through an increasingly thicker and therefore warmer atmosphere.

The ablative shield of the flower pods burned with a red gold glow, appearing as if a shower of light had fallen on their country. Warheads in the 100 kiloton range exploded 300 meters above the
city-island. The force of the explosion vaporized the ocean down to the seabed. In the nanoseconds the second wave of warheads exploded and actually cracked the mantle, punching their way into the living hot magma of the planet itself, causing a massive secondary and tertiary explosion to happen as the eastern ocean rushed back to fill the void.

Debris, dust, smoke ashes, were carried aloft. Soon darkness spread across the planet like black ink being poured into a bowl of clear water. Tsunamis rolled across the deep and entire regions of the planet sank beneath the waves. Beasts who had fought and clawed their way up the evolutionary time line found their environments altered beyond adapting. Entire continents changed and altered. What was once cool and temperate now had massive heat waves and droughts. Places who had never known ice and snow were buried under tons of it, with more falling everyday. The time of Now ceased to exist. It  had become the Breaking time. And at last the poles reversed themselves as the planet wobbled and was temporarily knocked from its familiar path.

For Kahur and Myah-Toc his commander , it was a time of horror. They watched as the two greatest empires of man had destroyed themselves. Witnessing intercontinental ballistic missiles crawl back and forth in an orgy of death was almost more than they could bear to view. but it was their duty to stand watch on Chaand Station. They were the moon's station keepers

It was their duty to continue to send messages of hope to those left behind on Earth and of warning to those of the deep space fleet around the water moon of Chaand Kab, and to the manufacturing plants in the Khsdrugah region. The Hegemony of Hasturah had created the space elevator and the markets has been flooded with micro circuitry products made outside the gravity well. 

Then the hegemony had been able to create the Kaar Adan Napat Dvaar The jump station at the limits of solar system, far enough away it appeared as a small star shining in the watery light of the Sun-even under magnification. Myah-Toc thought this might be the very reason for the war. When the Atlantes realized they were going to lose the race to far and distant star systems it was time to remove their mortal enemies. But it was just an errant thought.

Kahur turned to his commander, “May the Gods and Goddess preserve us. It is all gone. They annihilated themselves. It's all just gone...” he momentarily broke down.

“What is not gone Kahur is the Hastin Class Freighter in bound from Khash Manufacturing on the outer rim of Varuna. They have been inbound for two months with a load of equipment destined for the Gravity Ladder, and they are almost out of reaction fuel for docking. They have requested clearance to land so they can refuel for the last leg. Tell them to come on.” Myah-Toc replied, as she scrubbed her face and ran her hands through her shiny blue black hair and continued on with a grim voice, “Keep all news of this off their channel until we have a chance to meet with the Captain and her officers. They will find out soon enough.”

“Yes Ma'am at your command.” He replied.

“how long are they going to be in arriving?”

“ At least not until Chaar Gante. About four hours from now.”

“Good this will give us time to call all divisions and do an assembly. Carry on Sub-Commander.”


“I said quiet!” Myah-Toc said to the assembled men and women of Chaand Base of the Hegemony of Hasturah. Known informally as the Hegemony. Her assembled officers and department heads were panicking, knowing their home along the Indus were gone. Myah-Toc rapped sharply on the fused plastic table top with her gold command ring showing she was in charge of the installation. 

“Pay attention. We are in a precarious position. We have huge naval stores for a fleet that is not here. We have rations and water for a force twenty times our size. But we have hundreds of people who are friendly and not so friendly bouncing around looking for a place to come home to. Not mention the Grand Fleet under Admiral A'adarshini Bharadwaja has jumped and they are not expected back for three years. Even so she is our best hope for a rescue in the distant future... we need to be worthy of being rescued. However we are now on our own and we need to have options for ourselves and anyone we might allow to come into our docking bays. Most importantly you need to realize something very important. We are not dead. Not. Dead. Repeat it over and over in your head. Not. Dead. So I want plans I want contingencies and we need to know how well or badly we are going to be several years from now.”

Just as Myah started to outline her plan for the stations long term survival, Lt Lakshmi Paradawan of Orbital Command sent a message. “Pardon me Commander for interrupting. But the Altanteas have used their submersible crab ships to launch an attack on Mahisa base. They are going after the Ladder. Our missile defenses have been swamped. They are going to severe it.” Paradawan said in a voice crawling with horror.

“Do you have a video or telemetry link?”

“Aye ma'am! On its way!”

What the Hegemony called Crab ships were large vaguely crustacean shaped robotic ships which did manual labor in deep waters where chemical chimneys spewed forth massive amounts of strategic mineral wealth from the earth's mantle. Instead of having the bulbous egg sack arrangements of harvested chemical effluent they normally towed, they bristled with missile launchers.

Before the video feeds cut out, Myah-Toc Commander of Chaand Station watched in horrified fascination as the Crab Ships crawled from the ocean spewing death and destruction from their pintle kinetic energy mounts as rocket after rocket slammed into the root structure of the Hegemony's Gravity Ladder. Then it was gone. A base which tethered the earth to the stars was wiped out. Along with most of the Island of Mastoon. Gone. As if it never existed.

“Turn it off Lt Paradawan.”

Mercifully the hellish images from the slowly spinning planet died on the flat screen...

“Give me inventories of what we have. Down to the amount of toothpaste. If it isn't here on station then unless it is floating in space, it is not going to magically show up. I want know what we have down to the nuts and bolts holding this place together.” Seeing their shocked and horrified looks on their faces she rapped one more time with her gold ring of command.

“Remember! We. Are. Not. Dead! Now get to moving!”

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Destiny found on a battlefield.-Story

Harald Fairhair receiving the kingdom of Norway from his father
Halfdan the Black.

First it started with the boys. Too small to carry a shield or heft an axe. They ran out behind the shield wall of their fathers and uncles with whirling slings and leather bags full of round river rocks. The oncoming line of men had to keep their shields up or risk catching a duck egg shaped blue stone in eye. Several were already down and Floki the Navigator lay dying.

The raiding party didn't bring enough archers to drive the boys off. The steady rain of rocks upon their shields sounded like spring time sleet on the roof of their longhouses next to the fjord. Growling with frustration they marched, hunkering against their shields as a man might against a blowing storm. 

Finally when a trio of local men appeared carrying light spears with blue heron feather fetishes, It gave the raider chieftain a target he could aim for. 

Halfdan the Black threw his spear with a shouted "Ha La Odin!"

It transfixed the biggest of the three. Acting like a tripod leg, Halfdan's spear went through the man's body and into the ground behind him. Bowed back with his arms thrown wide he remained upright and wiggling on the spear.

"All Father I give you this field. Reap the brave and take our offerings to Valhalla!" Halfdan cried. 

With a snarl of rage the men closed upon the ranks of terrified farmers and herdsmen cowering behind their shields. Sword and axe beat upon ox hide faced shields. Like shipwrights building a wave skimmer in Tonsberg, hammer like sounds of mallets striking wood or beating into flesh filled the clearing. 

Blood and the slaughter yard stench of human waste ran thick in the men's nose. Screams of death and pain came as a counterpoint to the rhythm of slaughter. Knives flashed as quick as serpent tongues. And still those whey faced farmers held their line knowing they were the only protection their families had from a slave collar or worse.

Snorri Gudmundsson growing impatient hewed his way through men with his aptly named bearded axe 'Manreaper.' Moving like an Orca cutting a bait ball of mackerel in two, he carved his way through their ranks. Once behind their shields and into their unprotected rear he became the stuff of nightmares.

Shortly the onslaught brought most of the farmers to their knees. Halfdan drew back his sword to give a mercy stroke to a Jarl who had lead his people bravely. The Jarl's death wound in his belly had brought him low, when a small boy with hair the color of summer wheat rolled from behind the press of bodies and drove his small belt knife into Halfdan's leg. 

"Aggh! your puppy has teeth!" Halfdan cried, as he took his fist and knocked the young boy to the ground senseless. He looked the dying Jarl in the eyes and said, "He has spirit. I shall take him as my own. No slave pen for your whelp. What is his name?"

The dying man clutching his intestines hissed, "His name is Harald." And his eyes rolled back in his head as his spirit fled from his ruined earthly shell.

Bending down and picking the small boy off the bloody battlefield where he had been knocked unconscious  defending his father, Halfdan The Black threw the small child over his shoulder and said to him, "Ja Harald...we will have some adventures you and I!"

DS Baker

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Brother's in Arms-Story

It gets better they tell you. Like growing a scab over a wound. Eventually scar tissue forms and you can move with only the memory of pain and a shiny patch of skin to mark your travels.

At least that's what they say...

Am I my brother's keeper? I don't know. But they have been keeping me for a long time. Running and gunning is all I know. Been hiding from my shadow all my life and it just wears on a body. I tried to drink it away or sleep it away with dozens of women. Thinking I left it in the dirt as I marched away with another army crossing to fight on the other side. Turning around I see my shadow sitting at my feet.

My brothers find me down in the dirt once more. They pick me up. Dust me off, give me my gear and tell me it is time to soldier on. And so I shoulder my load and carry on. And in the dust behind me matching my tread the devil follows my every step.

"The man is too big and the man is too strong." I hear them say, little do they know I am just a shadow myself.  

Hollow in the core, hoping to find my way out. The soldiers of my vanity and the commanders of my sin, have dragged me from bloody mountain tops and down through many swamps of desperation. 

And when I couldn't run and gun my son, I laid my load down, and told them I had humped my last klick.They told me I would hear the drummer boy playing soon and they would see me in the Vanguard stepping to the beat with the rest.  I waved them on, sad to see them go. I laid my weapons down in the dirt and fell on my knees.

When I thought I had been stabbing and slashing others, I found I had been killing me. I couldn't go on, and my hatred and my fear poured out of me. I knew I was going to die, and maybe this time I would welcome death, just to be free from my wounds. I was so tired of fighting.

I surrendered my sin. I gave away my fear and felt the muscles relax as my spirit began to leave my body, I felt God's breath blow life into my body and I was suspended in a state where I had all my sins laid bare and held up to the light. I wept. And I was made anew. 

When I awoke I found new brother's in arms. They bound my wounds and buried my weapons. They are teaching me to carry other's loads, and I build sheep pens to protect the flock when wolves come calling. Satisfaction can be found in a well built wall of stacked stone, or an honest earned meal. 

When those old soldier boys come around, I don't open my door to them anymore. I nod politely acknowledging their presence in my life, and I wish them an honest journey. My new comrades tell me I am not too big nor am I too strong. Being humble keeps me safe, sane and healing. Sometimes though in the darkest nights I can hear those drums rolling over the distant hills and I still wish I could pick up my rifle and join them...Then I see my children's faces and my wife's eyes. 

Thanking the Lord I stack my stones as I build a better life for others. That's my struggle now. I fight in an army of love. And I have learned to let my spirit dance. Shhhh... it likes to boogaloo. 

* For RB Go Easy Shipmate*

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Corpus Christi Cowboy-Story

 I am fifty now. Been out here in the dirt building casinos and working at places were they blow up bombs in the desert till the jack rabbits have night vision eyes. Creating other folk's dreams while mine have been waking me up in the middle of the night.
I remember the rigs of Corpus Christi Bay, I worked them from three to midnight, drank the sun up and slept the day away. My dreams are haunted by gas fires on the water and drinking on white sandy beaches and chasing girls from Houston down on the bay.
If I could live my life over, I would go back and never leave the Corpus Christi Bay. Now I am pulling wire in the Mojave sweating on a beach with damn few girls and no water. Yeah if I could live my life over, it wouldn't matter any way I couldn't stay sober on the Corpus Christi Bay.
I went to bed last night in my trailer with the wind blowing and the grit peppering my windows . A red headed woman with a soft smile and a six pack of Pearl asked me to take her to the water. We made love under a rising moon. I woke up with the taste of sea salt in my mouth and a heart breaking longing for home.
Living on the road my friend it's damn difficult to stay sober and clean. Been tramping long enough my skin is rough like iron and my breath's like kerosene. And yet the farther I go the more I want to come home. I keep hearing the guide wires on the derrick moaning in a high wind.
So my brothers don't be surprised if you find me someday dead in a man camp on a project out in the back of beyond; I made sure to leave some money under my mattress so you could send my ashes back to Corpus Christi Bay.
Find a nice spot in the sea oats and dump me out on the grass and pour a Pearl or an Ice Cold Jax over my mortal remains and think of me when you look out to sea. Give my regards to the boys down at the hall and send my money to LU-278 2301 Saratoga Ave, Corpus Christi, TX 78417.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Story-"Willy Don't Paint."

USS Tulsa PG-22

Nanjing China, January 1937

The Old Galloping Ghost of the Yangtze River Patrol US Navy, The USS Tulsa was looking rather shabby, Petty Officer Third Class William Anton Rostov was grumbling to himself as he was the ship's Electrician, and he hated anything to do with painting. The USS Tulsa was sitting in the Port of Nanjing, and t
he Captain wanted the old Ghost looking pretty before heading down river to Shanghai to join up with the rest of the Asiatic Fleet. 

Instead of getting dressed for liberty and a forty eight hour pass, Willy found himself chipping paint and wire brushing rust off the bulkhead of the port companionway. Lacking something electrical to keep him busy, this was the US Navy's answer for idle hands. 

Having only been in service for less than six months, this time honored tradition of keeping their ship, squared away and ready for action was still new to Willy Rostov. Who had incidentally joined the Navy as a skilled recruit and had been give an advance promotion as a result.  Willy found  he could just tolerate chipping off the old paint, while barely being able to bring himself to scrape rust. Painting on the other hand. Sheer unadulterated pathological revulsion.

Chief Petty Officer Jones, stuck his head out in the port companionway where Petty Officer Third Class Rostov was steadily mumbling a sordid stream of obscenities. “Willy! What the hell are you bitching about?”

Consumed with rage, Willy turned to his chief and replied, “I am a God Damned International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Four Year Apprenticeship Trained Inside Journeyman Wireman from Local Union Eleven, Los Angeles California. And Chief, got to tell you something...”

“Yeah? What the hell have you got to tell me.”

“I ain't no God Damned to Hell Painter! I am a union trained wireman. I don't paint. If you bastards don't like it you can send my money to the hall and let me off this chickenshit ship!"

Guess what Petty Officer Third Class Rostov? You AIN'T in the God Damn Union anymore, so shut your slop shop and get to working! And when you get done scraping this companionway, come find me.” Smiling with a evil glint in his eye, Chief Petty Officer Jones slid the blade home, “You'll get to paint this companionway, and it has to be done before you go on liberty Union man!” And with that he turned on his heels and walked away, leaving a seething Willy Rostov behind.

With the hope of liberty off the Galloping Ghost rapidly fading from his grasp the idea of not getting off this ship was killing Willy,  especially since Madame Mei Mei's Bordello in the Copper workers section of Nanjing was starting to slip from his grasp, not to mention personal alone time with the delicious Chun-Mei.

Twenty minutes later saw him standing outside the Chief's quarters with ten five gallon cans of Gray, Battleship, US Navy, Paint, One Each, stacked up on the deck. And the last words of the Chief ringing in his head, “No, god damned pussy for a god damned inside wireman from local eleven, Los Angeles! Get to Painting! And Maybe, Just Maybe a God Damned US Navy Electrician's Mate Might Get Off This Ship for a Beer With The Black Gang Coolies Down at the Coal Refueling Pier! Now Hop To It!”

Forty Minutes later, Petty Officer Third Class Rostov changed out of his utilities and had changed into his dress blues, and was about the exit the ship, when the ship's Executive Officer, Lt Fitzroy yelled down from the flying bridge of the ship, “Petty Officer Rostov! Stand where you are! The chief told me you had to paint the port companionway before you were allowed to take liberty. Where the hell do you think you are going?”

Pulling down on his tunic and tilting his ship's hat at a jaunty angle, Willy replied. “Nanjing Sir. Specifically a number one rice bowl where the beer is cheap and the women are easy!”

“Stand where you are! I know for a fact it has been less than an hour since the Chief came to me. You can't have painted the port companionway in less than an hour. It is just not possible.”

“Well sir I would never call anyone a liar if they told me they did something. I painted the companionway and I did my duty. If you don't believe me go look sir.”

The executive officer tore down the ladder and threw open the hatch leading into the port companionway and stopped dead in his tracks. It had indeed been painted. Fifty Gallons of Flat Battleship Gray Paint had been slathered over every conceivable surface. Doorknobs, Battle Lanterns, Live Steam Pipes, Portholes Wiring. 

The walls were running with paint, as was the deck of the companionway, every surface that could be painted had been coated in a thick slimy coat of gray. The air was thick with fumes as drips of paint could be heard plopping onto the deck from where it oozed from between electrical conduits. It looked like someone had used a fire hose to coat the entire area,

“Holy shiiiii.... Officer of the Day! Arrest that man!” The Executive Officer yelled at the top of his lungs, but it was too late.

Petty Officer Third Class William Anton Rostov, late of IBEW Local Eleven, Los Angeles had jumped ship and was half a block away in a coolie powered rickshaw running for his life.

Two Days Later...

“Seaman Rostov. I am curious what did you use to paint the port companionway of my ship?” The Captain of the USS Tulsa said in an evenly modulated tone of voice.

“Uh sir, the Chief failed to give me a paint brush sir. I went down to ship's stores and signed myself out a mop and got to work.”

“I see. Thank you Seaman. I think I will have a discussion with Chief Petty Officer Jones about his ability to give adequate and comprehensive instructions to his subordinates. Dismissed.”

“Aye, Aye Sir!”

US Navy 201 Addendum:

February, 2nd 1937

{Petty Officer Third Class Electrician's Mate Rostov has been Judicially reduced in rank to Seaman Recruit E-1.}

{ William Anton Rostov Service Number 33459062 Enter Service From Los Angeles California, is found both physically and mentally unable to paint and is henceforth forbidden from doing so, as long as he is serving the US Navy.}


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Story. "How the LT. got his nickname."

Somewhere outside of the main suburbs of Mosul, Iraq 2004
Two men in uniform have a quiet conversation after a dirty dusty confused morning of death and destruction.

“Man Top I wish you had been there! It was fucking unbelievable!” A visibly worn out blonde haired Second Lieutenant said.

“Yeah give with the details shithead.” The crusty First Sgt. Said with a beckoning motion with his left hand as he leaned up against The M1A1 affectionately known as Sand Pig Six. Which incidentally had scorch marks all down the left side where an IED mixed with gasoline had scored its flanks, and Suitcase Sagger Missile guide wires draped over the turret and hull like Christmas Tree Tinsel.

The Lt, young and jittery as only a butter bar can be after his first 'That son of a bitch just tried to kill me!' moment, tried valiantly to marshal his thoughts as he scratched his salt soaked head letting adrenaline and a whole host of flight or fight responses go twitch in some dark corner while he tried to think a coherent answer.

“Shiiiiiit.” The Lt dragged the vowel out, revealing his Texas Panhandle roots. “Top. I told Sgt Palmer to take the left flank and I would scan what was on the right. We kept our intervals with the convoy. I can remember Palmer told that idiot, err excuse me, Major Marks we should plan an alternate route as we would be going through a 'U' shape bend in the road and them Baathist Bastards would probably hit us then.”


“Well you know he just looked at us with that blank stare he gets. We even pointed to the road section down where Wazzim and Jandahar meet. He sort of blanked out. Then he blinked like my cousin Diggs did when I kicked him him in the nuts in Junior High; he shook his head and told us to get back to our tracks.”

“And what happened after that?” The crusty First Sgt asked with his sun burnt crow lines showing as white marks against his eyes which had gone dead as a baby dolls.

“It was just like me an Sgt Palmer predicted. Everything went well until we got bunched up and when they made that turn in the road the Baathist waited until most of the soft skin vehicles and over half of the crunchies were on the other side of the 'U' and opened up on us. Would you fucking believe it, them sorry SOB's dropped a damn building on the road! It split Palmer and myself from supporting each other and they were chopping up the Infantry boys one at a time. And the up-road side of the convoy got hit with IED's and some of those Toyota pickups with 23mm Dshk, mounted in the back rolled out and began laying down heavy fire. Things rapidly went to shit after that. Especially when the Major's head popped off his body when he took a RPG round through his Hummer. ”

The First Sgt, handed the young Lt, a cold coke from a lunch box he had dragged to the defensive position were Sand Pig Six was squatting. The Lt made an inquisitive gesture with his head and the First Sgt, just nodded in reply and the LT swung the insulated plastic lunch box up to his loader Zeek the Greek and went back to telling his story.

“I was ducking down into my TC position when a damn RPG bounced, bounced off the damn turret! Skipped over the top of the blast panels and took Zeek's duffle bag, our Crosswind Sensor Mast, and grabbed our Pogey Bait Box out of the Bustle Rack and blew to fuck all over the dirt behind us.”

The Lt, popped the cold Coke he had been holding in his shaking hand, held it up and drank it down in one go. He scrubbed his dirty face, where the dust goggles had made a reverse Raccoon pattern across his eyes. “Jesus Top. You got to promise me you won't tell no one in Battalion. I just pissed myself. Then I got mad as hell. I told Smith to load Heat and fire point blank into that apartment block. About that time, I saw the flash of a Sagger Missile flying past my vision block. So we kicked it in the ass. I think that is probably what saved us from the second one.”

The Lt paused for a moment scrubbed his face with an Olive drab green bandage used as a bandanna, he continued on, “Then it just got ugly with Smith and Zeek servicing the guns. I could hear Sgt Palmer tell me his track had been shot off by the those two 23mm Dshks, then that's when the second RPG hit the turret and took off our radio antenna.”

“So what did you do then? Considering our ROE concerning Civilians in an active combat situation?” The First Sgt asked in a dead pan voice.

“Well I figured by this time, the Goat Roping had culled, any civilian left on the streets or anyone any where near this damn street weren't no civilian. And with my radios shot away, I figured fuck it, it was time to earn my paycheck not worry about the horseshit until the shouting was over."

“OK Lt, I got that. What did you do next? C'mon give with the details.” The Crusty NCO made a give me gesture with his right hand.

“Top I hit the MP3 Player in the Hoffman Tray cranked up AC/DC and then told Private Anderson to kick the fat pig in the ass and could he please drive us into the apartment building. I then took the Tank Commanders override and laid Smith on a sandbagged position where some of those bastards were running back and forth shooting at us. We almost got to the building when they blew up some piece o' shit Mazda parked on the corner. Motorhead came on at this point playing a Metallica tune. After Lemmy started singing, things got a little weird after that. I kinda remember telling Anderson to Neutral steer through the first apartment wall we drove through and we sort of shot out at a right angle as to how we came in. We bounced into the other side of the ambush. I told the boys to keep firing until we ran out of rounds. We reversed ourselves and on our second return through the building I think that's when Ice Tea and Body Count just ratcheted everything up to eleven. Screaming out “There goes the neighborhood.” Got to tell you Top it made for some kick ass fighting fuel. I cracked open the hatch and grabbed my 50. Cal and just started hosing the shit out of the backside of the Apartment building. I can remember seeing those sorry SOB's jumping out of bedroom windows trying to get away. Then we sort of ran back through the bottom floor one more time maybe that was the third time we drove through there. I think it was at this point Metallica started playing.”

Sgt Palmer a tall slender man with a face that was far too old for a twenty seven year old, came up to where the two men were talking. His green coveralls where covered in black stains of sweat and blown hydraulic line fluid. He stumbled slightly over the rubble of what had once been a city block which was now smoking and smoldering in large piles of concrete and trash. His right hand was resting on his nine millimeter in his shoulder holster rig, while his left hand was shaking with spent adrenaline.

He pushed his CVC Crew helmet back on his head, and reached into his left breast pocket pulled out a packet of reds and lit one. His hands shook so much he could barely finish the task. Sgt Palmer looked at the First Sgt and said, “It was fucking epic Top. For some reason we couldn't talk to each other over the net, but I could hear his track blasting 'Supernaut' by Black Sabbath out of every available speaker. It was an amazing sound tract of destruction playing out over the net.We felt like were inside a drum with some asshole pounding on the outside with those damn 23 Mike Mikes slapping against our turret and tracks. The optics were shot and you can see our track was spilled all over the road like a gut shot deer. We took three RPG rounds. Two to the engine compartment and one to the blast panels at the back of the turret. When the last one hit, it pretty much put us out of action. It was about this time ' RocknRolla' dropped what was left of the Apartment block on top of those assholes head's. We could hear the building coming down even through the hull. After that the fight went out of them. And out of a cloud of dust and smoke, 'RocknRolla' comes spewing fire from every weapon on his track making sure they were done.”

The Lt, looked at his Platoon Sgt and sheepishly nodded his head. Sgt Palmer handed him his smokes and lighter. After he had pulled a long nicotine burn into his lungs and exhaled, he asked the First Sgt the question that had been worrying him the most since the fight had finished. “Top I ain't in trouble for coming to the rescue of my men am I?”

Grinning from ear to the ear, the Company First Sgt replied, “Well 'RocknRolla', that remains to be seen. I will talk to the Battalion Commander and there will be a hearing on any possible ROE violations. But since everyone for 25 Klicks could hear you and your tank blasting out the tunes and giving fire commands to your crew, let us just say it has been recorded for posterity. By the way it is already on the favorite play list of the BC and possibly the Brigade Commander. But I think you and yours are going to be alright. Just try not to demolish anymore apartment complexes by yourself in the future."

The End.

DS Baker.

STORY : The Being of the Crimson Labyrinth

The Being of the Crimson Labyrinth
by DS Baker

The snow was clean, with the hard diamond crust of a liver and kidney pie that has been baked to perfection. The deep freeze had come in the dead of the night, and Asko heard the pine trees who had been greedy in the summer explode from their water-filled cores freezing so quickly. Their soft booms along with the sound of the green forest brothers falling over sounded like the tread of giants in the night.

Morning dawned brilliantly clear. It was so bright, it didn't matter which way you turned your head it seemed like the sun kept shining directly into your eyes. Asko put on his leathers and made sure his Puukko blade was secure in his waistband of his reindeer belt. His parents called him the 'Wood Mouse', and his blade was his shiny tooth.

“A man without his blade might as well jump off a cliff, and save the world the trouble of killing him,” his grandfather's words echoed in his head.

His white and black painted bow with the marks of accuracy and protection which had been carved into the wood by the shaman of his people waited for him by the flap of his tent. As a young man coming into his full growth, he used his bow and arrows to keep food in the larder for his family.

Asko sang a children's song as he stretched. It did no one good to go lame in the snow and ice:

“Kukkoni kuoli komea, kukkoni kuoli komea.
Ei se enää laula kokodii, kokodaa,
Ei se enää laula kokodii, kokodaa,

(“My beautiful rooster's dead, my beautiful rooster's dead.
He'll no longer sing kokodii, kokodaa,
He'll no longer sing kokodii, kokodaa,

Asko heard his father's herd of reindeer moving restlessly in the night. As he approached to investigate, he hoped it might be because of the deep freeze. But it was not to be. Wargs had come in the night and killed one of the newer calves who had dropped in the last six day.

One of the wargs had lost a portion of the fight with either the mother or the herd bull. There was blood splashed on the snow, and not that of a young reindeer. The tracks looked confused and they staggered away from the camp with deep bloody paw prints in the pristine snow. Asko could see where the tracks led off into the land beyond where he and his family camped, up the mountainside to where the tree shadows ran long and light could sometimes be no more than a memory.

Against his better judgment, Asko (who was supposed to be watching the herd and not hunting wolves while his family went ice fishing for Arctic Chard) decided a wounded wolf, especially a full sized forest warg, was too dangerous to leave limping around the camp, looking for an unsuspecting human to eat. Besides… tending to reindeer got boring.

Gathering his hunting gear and his skis, he set out on the bloody trail. It didn't take long for the trail to lead deep into the woods. Asko followed the warg tracks with the morning's song stuck in his head endlessly repeating:

“My beautiful rooster's dead,
He'll no longer sing kokodii, kokodaa.
My beautiful rooster's dead,
He'll no longer sing kokodii, kokodaa.”

Deeper he went, and as he did the light went soft as fog lifted from the land, making a gray blanket between the trees as the bones of the mountain rose up like a giant's horned knuckles. Asko paused in his hunting.

The snow had gone thin, and the trail ran over frozen stone. The young man took off his skis and stacked them against a large pine. He pulled a larch wood arrow from his quiver and nocked it in his bow. Now was not the time for loud movements. Now was the time to think like the small wood mouse does when the wild cats are hungry. Stealth and soft steps would help him track the warg. The forest gloom gathered him close like a blanket.

Softly he began chanting to himself the wisdom of finding the Sun and Moon:

"Verily the Sun lies hidden,
And the golden Moon is sleeping
In the stone-berg of Pohyola,
In the copper-bearing mountain."

These are the words of Wainamoinen:
"I shall go at once to Northland,
To the cold and dark Pohyola,
Bring the Sun and Moon to gladden
All Wainola's fields and forests."

The boy could feel his spirits lifting with the song of power. As the magic of the song filled him with confidence, a deep startling roar came from the depths of the fog bank to his right. He spun around as the large gray wolf leaped at him with its mouth full of teeth aimed at his throat. Asko let his arrow of protection fly. It was the last thing he did before the world spun upside down and over, and over. He landed with a hard thud! The air in his chest ran away in a rush, and he passed out.

The wights and spirits of the world and the not-world danced as the sun slid beneath the far waves of the big water and the golden moon climbed into the sky to illuminate all the realms of possibility beneath her lantern.

Asko awoke. His whole body was battered, bruised and sore. His mind was clouded and he couldn't remember why he or how he came to be laying upon such a large warg skin as the one he found himself upon. He groaned as he levered himself up. He soon realized the rug was not a rug, but the wounded and starving wolf who had preyed upon his father's reindeer. Its front right leg had a long score upon it, and most surprising of all, an arrow with protection and quick-finding runes etched upon its shaft was buried in the wolf's throat, all the way down to the arrow's fletchings.

Silently saying thanks to the great smith of the world who pounded out the shape of men and the wizard who protected the great smith's creations, Asko looked around and tried to figure out where he was.

He began to chant the verse of power, when Louhi was scared by the Smith Ilmarinen into releasing the sun and the moon:

"Rise, thou silver Sun, each Morning,
Source of light and life hereafter,
Bring us, daily, joyful greetings,
Fill our homes with peace and plenty,
That our sowing, fishing, hunting,
May be prospered by thy coming.
Travel on thy daily journey,
Let the Moon be ever with thee;
Glide along thy way rejoicing,
End thy journeyings in slumber;
Rest at evening in the ocean,
When the daily cares have ended,
To the good of all thy people,
To the pleasure of Wainoloa,
To the joy of Kalevala!"

As Asko sang, he laid out three chips of birch bark and touched them in the manner his father taught him. When he finished the stanza where the Sun and Moon were released by Louhi, a soft pale light appeared above his head. That's when Asko realized he had landed in the ocher-stained walls of the red labyrinth.

Chills of pure ice ran up and down his spine. This was a place of legend and great danger. Asko had fallen through the vault of heaven and the true world only to have landed in Louhi's ice-covered, rubble-strewn caverns beneath her citadel of power, the Stone-berg: a place where foul things wandered, and people died horribly.

“Heya, Heya!
Dance the magic dance of the stone land fairies,
Let Asko dance the dance of magical creation while he keeps his puukko knife,
His sharp tooth safe to slice the throats of those who would harm him.
Dance the magic dance! And grab your Puukko knife!
Keep the throat slicer close to keep the elves at bay!
Heya, Heya!
Dance the magic dance of the stone land fairies,
Let Asko dance the dance of magical creation while he keeps his puukko knife,
His sharp tooth safe to slice the throats of those who would harm him.
Dance the magic dance! And grab your Puukko knife!
Keep the throat slicer close to keep the elves at bay!”

Asko chanted over and over as he built power into his silver blade he called his 'tooth'. He chanted until he saw his blade begin to glow with its own light.

Deep in the bowels of the earth, a dark rumbling of power echoed through the caverns Asko found himself in. The noise grew louder as he hid in the shadows of a boulder lodged in the red clay walls.

“Doom! Boom!
Grind the bones,
Use the blood to make my soup.
Kick the bones and make cups for my wine
From the skulls!”

A large hairy man marching along the crevice sang at the top of his voice while holding aloft a leg bone being used as a torch.

Asko crouched down and made himself into the wood mouse gripping his sharp tooth, waiting for the hairy man beast to go past. But it was not to be.

“Ho! Someone has offered Staalo a gift! A fine pillow for his head! Come out and accept my hospitality, new friend of Staalo!” The giant hairy manly thing said, as he lifted the dead warg from the floor of the crevice/cavern where it had fallen dead with Asko's arrow in its throat. The hairy creature threw the warg carcass over his shoulder and began searching the crevice with the split arched roof.

“Come out, man thing. I can smell thee. Come meet Staalo. I promise I won’t eat you much. Buwahaha!” The creature bellowed with a voice which sounded like boulders rolling in the springtime milky river floods.

Chanting from his center of his belly, where the real place of power of humans lives, a very scared Asko the wood mouse replied, “I am Asko, who received his magical sharp Puukko blade from the man who slew the wicked wizard Kullerwoinen, I am the youth who rides wargs over the air and under the ground, whose shiny blade cuts throats and gives silence to the world plagued by dark elves and snakes. I have the matchless Puukko blade, the sharp tooth! It will slice those who even look upon its silver blade. It is the tooth of the wood mouse and all fear its bite!”

As he chanted his challenge to the hairy brute, Asko stepped from behind the boulder with his silver-chased blade with the walrus ivory handle. “Come taste my silver tooth,” Asko said in a flat voice.

With a roar that shook the very stones beneath his feet, the giant hairy man thing threw himself at Asko, who tucked himself into a ball and rolled under the giant. As he rolled between the legs of the creature called Staalo, Asko sliced the tendons on either leg - snicker snick! He came out of his roll and ran down the tunnel of the crevice from whence the giant had come.

“Arrgh! Boy, I shall use your ribs as my toothpicks to clean my teeth of your stringy meat and your skull will hold my Akvavitti!” The giant called out to the retreating back of Asko.

Staalo turned to catch the lithe young man. He took one step and fell down on his face. His feet no longer answered his call and he was crippled.

Peering around the corner of the tunnel, Asko sang, “Come taste my magical Puukko the Silver Tooth! Let it give you the mercy of opening your throat and letting your breath escape your crippled body!”

“Come here, boy! Let me give you a friendly hug!” Staalo threw his torch at Asko in frustration.

Dancing back and forth like the wild wood mouse his father and mother named him after when he was a little boy, Asko danced out of reach of the giant. Neatly he sliced one finger off and then another.

“Stop! Stop, young mouse! I am staggered and bloody. Stop cutting me and I shall reward you!” The giant pleaded from a growing pool of blood in the ocher-stained labyrinth.

Angrily, Asko replied, “What shall be my reward for allowing you to live, old troll?”

“Treasure,” Staalo replied. “I have enough gold and treasure to make even a wyrm envious. I live in the earth and the earth gives me her lost things from up above. Let me live and I shall give you all that you can carry.”

“And what of Louhi? This is her stone-berg. We are in her basement. I want to go home. Shall you show me the way out, old troll, or do I have to fight her and her heroes?” Asko held up his silver tooth Puukko blade, using it to punctuate his speech.

“No, this is my realm, wood mouse. Take me to my cavern and I shall reward thee,” the bleeding and humble giant said with a dejected tone.

Presently with Asko's help, Staalo led the pair into a wondrously large cavern after many winding and twisting steps through the red labyrinth.

Piled up in immense golden bergs were coins, gold and silver; silver-chased swords and iron-tipped battle spears with heron feathers; daggers and golden harps with fine wire strings. But the most amazing of all were the gold-chased drinking cups made from skulls. The stench of rotten half-cooked pork filled the air and the ground was littered with human bones.

Spreading his arms and fingers wide, Staalo said, “Welcome to my abode! Make yourself at home!” The giant's voice thundered out. “Make yourself at home, young man.”

Bowing with his eyes locked with the hairy giant’s, Asko replied, “No, old troll. I want my gold you promised and I want to go home.”

Showing his full intention to begin cutting once more, Asko began stropping his blade upon the leather bracers on his forearm - whisk, whisk, whisk as he honed the knife’s already sharp blade sharper.

“Alright, alright. Fair is fair. I promised you my ransom. Come take it and I shall show you the way after I have had some Akvaviitti to regain my strength for the journey out of the maze of Louhi's basement.”

Hobbling over to a throne made of bones in the middle of his cavern, Staalo poured amber liquid into one of his skull cups and began to drink deeply. His throat moved up and down as if it had a life of its own.

Fearing the treachery of Staalo and having heard tales of how he grew strong after drinking his magical Akvavitti, Asko the wood mouse with the silver tooth slid up as silent as a shadow and laid the Puukko knife against the hairy throat and sang a soft song:

“Oh hello my enemies,
Should I tell thee of the dance I had with the troll named Staalo in his caverns of gold and stone?
We jumped, we cavorted, we rolled and we bit at each other.
His throat became overly long and I helped him shorten it.
Heya! Heya Hi! Heya! Heya Hi!
Shall I tell thee of the dance I had with the troll named Staalo, who is rotting in his den?”

With an audible gulp, Staalo swallowed his last bit of Akvavitti and with eyes grown large in his hairy face slowly lowered his cup and said, “Gently, wood mouse. We shall leave presently. Let me gather a crutch for my wounded legs and we shall be about the task of navigating you through the earthen coils of my home.”

Presently Staalo, leaning on a crutch made from lashed together battle spears, led Asko out of his cavern. As they passed the last pile of gold near the entrance to his cavern, Staalo's face changed from resignation and defeat to silent rage. Clutching his crutch, Staalo made to spin around and pin the upstart wood mouse to the floor of his cavern. But his greed was his undoing. The golden serving plates in Staalo’s treasure hoard acted as a mirror. Asko could see through their reflection the transformation in the giant’s face, and as Staalo spun around, Asko fell to the floor and threw his silver Puukko at Staalo's head. As luck would have it, Asko's silver tooth spun end over end and lodged itself in Staalo's right eye. The giant fell down dead at Asko's feet.

No sooner had he died than an earthquake rumbled through the labyrinth. Asko shouldered his load of gold and grabbed his Puukko blade from Staalo's eye socket, then ran for the entrance of the cavern. The earthquake followed him as he ran. It collapsed the passageway behind him and drove him relentlessly forward. After what seemed like hours of exertion, Asko could see a circle of light in front of him. The dim half-light of the maze gave way to true light. Running through the portal of stone, Asko burst into the sunlit plains of Kalevala.

Several weeks later, Asko was steadily working his way through his father's reindeer herd tending those who needed help or keeping the bulls from killing each other, when he heard a shout. Turning around, there was his father and mother along with his little sister. They were home with loads of frozen fish.

“Asko, my little wood mouse, what have you been up to since we left?” his mother asked.

Breaking into a song he replied:

“The wood mouse chased a warg upon the mountainside.
He taught the warg to fly and the mouse killed the warg under the ground
Along with a troll who wanted to make a drinking cup of his skull.
Heya hey! Heya hey!
The silver tooth of the wood mouse bites deeply.
Heya hey!”

The End.

Edited by Rebekah Stolhdrier