Sunday, 7 April 2013

Man Flu

Well that’s maybe a tad overly dramatic to call what I have at the moment Man-flu.  But it’s certainly not fun.  It may actually just be a continuation of the cold I had a few weeks ago.  Whatever it is, it won’t go away.

Despite this, I have continued writing.  I’ve been working my way through draft 2 of novel 2 more or less every day, making amendments and updates here and there.  It’s going well and I’m enjoying fleshing out the story.

Likewise whilst I’ve not been on that often, I have been reading through stories and making some comments just to get into the way of things.  I even made the decision to upload my books 4th chapter to the site, though that is as far as I will go with the book.  It’s a good site, I would definitely recommend it and they have strong community.

I even managed to write another little short story.  This one was the ‘emotion’ short story I mentioned a while ago.  Sadly, I don’t think I’ve got the emotion aspect of the story to come out properly; it lacks a certain something.  However, I’m posting up here anyway for you all and I hope you enjoy.

Hopefully by my next blog update I’ll be feeling better and will have more detailed news on progress.  Take care guys.

* * * * *

The platform was a rudimentary thing.  No more than weak plastic structure set up in haste; it would do he supposed.

He stepped up the steps of the platform and over to the podium wearily, his legs moving with reluctance; he did not want to be here.  Not here, not now, and certainly not giving a speech.  But with rank came responsibility.  Prehapes he should have realized that sooner?

In front of him, emblazed into the podium itself, was a holographic digital screen displaying his prepared speech in clear 12 point font.   A glass of water sat nearby on a stand.  He took a sip from the glass, his mouth already dry even before he began.  He looked up, looking across the hanger bay to those assembled around him.

One hundred people stared back at him, the majority young, fresh troops of Pan Oceania Fusiliers.  The occasional Orc trooper, helmet-less but clad in full battle armour, stared out from the masses.  Amongst them were other regiments too.  Kamau, Bagh-mari.  Even a few Akalis.

They had all come to hear his briefing.  Hear him ‘give them a bit of courage’ so his old friend General Mcdonald had said.  They needed it.  With the 2nd offensive of the Combined army only just concluded, courage was in short supply amongst the Pan Oceania forces.  The boys and girls of the latest run of reinforcements needed courage before they entered the hot zone.

Who better to encourage them than a real life war hero?

He cleared his throat, straightened his back and placed both hands on either side of the podium, adapting a stern gaze as he let his eyes float over the assembled troops. He was gratified to see at least a few of the troops straighten up.

“Welcome to the Paradiso front ladies and gentlemen.” He said in a strong, clear voice, accent strong with his Sydney upbringing.  His tone was businesslike and his voice carried easily across the hanger-bay; he was not a man who needed a microphone.  He glanced at his digital speech.
“I will not mince words.  We are in the fight of our lives.  Make no mistake, the Combined Army is a formidable foe.  We are fighting a hard battle.  But we will be victorious.”

So far, so good.  He took a sip from his water again, before looking back across the audience.

“You will each have read the briefing I am about to give you, but General McDonald felt it would be wise for someone who has been on the ground on Paradiso to brief you personally.  That person is me.”

“My name is Captian Vandra.  I was in Ravenbrucke.  I was on the front line when the aliens arrived.  I…

Stick to the script he mentally reminded himself.

“It was we who held the line during the first attacks of the Combined Army…”

It was we who were the first to fall.

The sudden memory was unwelcome and unexpected.  He pulsed his lips, keeping that particular sentence from escaping.

It was we who first watched people die on Paradiso.

His hands had started shaking.  He gripped the podium tighter, to keep the troops from seeing.  He was aware he had paused too long.

Stick to the script

“Ravenbrucke was a hard battle, tougher than any I have faced in my career.”

That’s better, nice and easy.

“The attacks were sudden, without warning.  Our primary objective was to keep the aliens at bay to allow citizens to escape.”

We failed.

His next prepared sentence caught in his throat.  A new one emerged, unhindered.  He didn’t try to stop it this time.

“We held them…held them as long as we could.”

He wasn’t reading from his autocue anymore.  He knew the presentation managers would be exchanging words of concern.

The hell with this.

“We failed.”

The statement rolled across the audience.  A simple, biting statement of fact.  Not what they had expected.  Several of them exchanged worried looks.  Others kept looking toward him, maybe hoping that this was just part of the introduction; that shortly, he’d be back on track.

Take control.

Vandra cleared his throat.

I will tell them the truth and to hell with the consequences.

“Right now Dan and the other tech guys are trying to figure out how to salvage this quickly developing situation.  Thing is, I don’t need a microphone so they can’t just turn me off.  Isn’t that right Dan?”

A technician at the back threw his hands up before slumping back in his chair, folding his arms in resignation as his holographic control console melted away.

“The other boys in the presentation team aren’t going to step in.  Because they know my reputation.  Both my professional, and my physical.”

Just to be sure he turned a daring eye on the security corps troops at either side of the podium.

His look said I will have my say.

The troopers, good soldiers, took the hint, and advanced no further.
He gripped the podium again.  The audience looked to him, now much more interested.  That or they just didn’t know what to do.

“We held as long as we could.  The term shoulder to shoulder didn’t mean much to me until that day.  When we really did stand shoulder to shoulder as they tore into us.  The merciless Morat.  The invisible Shasvasti.  A hundred different kinds of horrors came out of those drop-ships.”

“We held as long as we could.  Through the screaming, the blood, the pain…the loss.”

He felt the pain of loss gripping his heart.  His jaw tightened as he fought down the feelings of regret from that day.  Regret at being one of the survivors.  That he lived, when others died.

“We held as long as we could.  But they were too strong, too many.  I remember taking a wound to my shoulder and down I went.  The last thing I remember was a trauma doc signaling for aid before he got hit by something and fell on top of me.”

Doctor Mcleod.  A good man.

“We lost a lot of good soldiers that day.  Damn good soldiers.”

He’d been hanging his head and at this point looked up at the audience again.  He knew his eyes were watery with tears that wanted to flow, but that he would not allow to flow.  No.  No he mustn’t, even though now he had a captive audience.  An audience watching a man falling apart.

Despite his best efforts, a single tear dropped from his eye.  As small as it was, everyone seen it; noone moved.  They simply didn’t know what to do, even as General McDonald himself arrived from one of the side hanger-bay doors and advanced on the audience, his expression a mix of anger and concern.

Captain Vandra sighed heavily.  He opened his mouth to continue.

The courage.

You can’t fall apart.  You do that, and you deny them the one thing they had in abundance that day.  Courage.

He closed his mouth and nodded, as if remembering.  “The courage” He breathed, yet his voice carried across the audience.  All ears heard it.

“Courage.” He said again, louder this time.

He looked up, his expression hardening.  Changing.


“We ran short on ammunition awful quickly.  Food and rations too.”

His eyes narrowed.

“But the men and women who stood beside me that day did not run short of courage!”  He almost yelled the last word.  He wiped his watery eyes.

“The enemy had better weapons, better equipment, some would say better tactics.”  He straightened now, that single tear now but a memory.  Just as quickly as his mood had darkened, now, his mood rose.  Rose to that of a warrior.  Of a fighter.  Of one who would not defile the memory of his dead comrades.

“They do not have the same level of courage!”

Murmurs came from the crowd.  The advancing form of General McDonald slowed, the yell of frustration in his throat dying before he could utter it.

“You men and women now take the place of the soldiers of Ravenbrucke.  Will you be brave?”

Fusiliers exchanged looks, but some of the other regiments knew this was a direct question.

“Yes!” growled an Orc trooper, stepping forward from the front row, the armoured giant easily towering over the other troops.

“Will you be brave?” asked Vandra again.

“Yes!” yelled two Bagh-mari troopers in unison, stepping forward, their camouflaged armour plate shimmering.

“Will you be brave?”

“Yes!” a troop of Fusiliers roared, punching the air.

“Yes! Yes! Yes!” chanted the audience now, every regiment, every individual, men and women, chanting and yelling at the top of their lungs.  Yet even over the din Vandra spoke and his words were heard.

“We will batter them to a stand-still, make them bleed for every inch of land they take!  They will run screaming back to the hell spawn that sent them with their tails between their legs!  And it is we who will send them there!”

“Yes Yes Yes!” chanted the excited audience.  They roared their approval and Vandra’s chest swelled with pride.  He almost believed his own words.

No wait.  He did believe his own words!

They had made them bleed for every inch of ground.  They had made them fight bitterly for every piece of Paradiso soil.  They had died in their hundreds.  They would do so again!

It was not his soldiers who had failed.  The aliens had failed!  Paradiso was not their’s.  Humanity was still here, fighting.  And not giving up.

Another tear rolled down his cheek, but this time not of regret.  It was pride.  Pride in his people, his army, his comrades now in arms.  General McDonald was at the platform steps, walking up with a smile on his face.  He knew what the end of this speech should be.

He marched across the podium, the audience still chanting, and embraced Vandra in a warriors hand shake.

“You are one surprising son of a b****.” He said as the two of them turned toward the audience.

He had done as he was ordered.  He’d given them courage.

* * * * *                                                

Amongst the assembled fusiliers, one stood watching.  In the background, unnoticed.  She smiled and nodded. 

Yes.  Captain Vandra’s speech was very inspiring.  Good for the humans to have such inspiring leaders.

She slipped from the assembled troops as they calmed down and moved to their various units.  Internally, she prepared a micro-data burst for later transmission.  The transmission read simply:

Captain Vandra: Flag for termination

* * * * *

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