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CyberWar
June 9th, 2016, 11:32 PM
I've probably mentioned that war involves mainly boredom, intermixed with occasions of intensity.

Holding the line in times of inactivity does tend to get rather boring. Squaddies and platoon commanders must exercise all their imagination to keep the lads busy, keep them from going mad from the tedium. Most of the time, it involves some stupid, if necessary chores. For the more imaginative lads, like our Archer, it involves some form of games.

---

"Brunei!" Archer exclaims.

"Borneo!" I say.

"Braunschweig," Fender mentions. We are stationed not far from the said city.

"Boston," Hog grumbles.

We've been playing the geography game for some time now, having only made it to letter "B" thus far.

The trench line we're sitting in is just half-click outside some German town. Although the said place is for now in the proverbial no-man's land, Ivan snipers have been giving us quite a bit of grief lately. Yesterday, two lads from the Infantry company got badly injured. Luckily, those new Yank plate-carriers have lived up to their reputation, saving those two from otherwise certain death. In any case, the rest of us have to watch our heads - at least until the Yank aviation bombs that town to rubble, which they do not seem inclined to do anytime soon.

---

Archer is a really fun lad. Even being our squaddie since Kraut's demise, he hasn't changed one bit. Always cheerful, optimistic despite the world of shit and piss around him, always interested to learn something more, always cracking jokes even in the shittiest of situations.

I remember him from before the war. Archer is younger than me, and used to be our squaddie by virtue of having completed the junior instructor training course for a while. I remember him as eager to learn everything there was to be learned. He was always impressed by my impressive command of history. Admittedly, as far as military history is concerned, my knowledge still pales before the Sarge, who could even correct museum curators over certain matters. With that being said, I still used to be the company's history buff, Archer often talking to me with great interest about such matters. He also seemed impressed with my practical grasp of things - being two years his senior, I had the opportunity to attend many specialist training courses, which left me with somewhat decent knowledge in operating heavy weapons in particular. I remember Archer always being keenly interested in how these things were operated, asking me to show him or advice on their use.

Of course, I cannot brag being all over more competent than him either. Unlike me, Archer did actually graduate that junior instructor course, officially qualifying him as a squaddie, something that I never did. The war broke out shortly after I had completed my fourth week, and truth be told, I never expressed much desire to be a squaddie either. Teaching the rooks the ropes around heavy weapons like MGs and recoilless rifles is something that I can do and like, but herding a whole squad of young testosterone-laden miscreants isn't exactly my thing. I suppose that's why Beast appointed Kraut instead of Archer as our squaddie when the war broke out. Being older than most of us, and more serious and level-headed, he seemed like the best choice.

In any case, by the time Kraut met his end, Archer had picked up enough to make a suitable replacement. He hasn't changed ever since, unlike certain other "two-stripe generals" I've had the displeasure of meeting. Still the same cheerful, optimistic, ever-curious lad, who never pulls rank on us, his boys.

---

"Hammerfest!" I say.

"Houston," Katz adds.

"H... Fuck..." Fender doesn't seem to have any ideas.

"No cheating! "Fuck" ain't a country or place!" I jest.

"Fuck! I don't know!" he responds, "This game is getting boring! Why don't you tell any of your jokes for a change?"

"Yeah, I'm running out of ideas myself!" Archer agrees.

"Alright," I say, "Here's one. What's the difference between a Jew and a pizza?"

My usual race jokes. Never gets old with the lads.

"What is it?" Archer already chuckles.

"Pizza don't scream in an oven!"

The lads laugh hysterically.

"Here's another one," I continue, "There's a five-story apartment building in LA that cathces fire. There's a local Black family living on the first floor, all of them die. There's a Guatemalan immigrant family living on the second floor, they all die. There's a Mexican crack den on the third floor, and whole bunch of Kenyan immigrants living on the fourth, who all die too. The only survivors are a White couple living on the fifth. Obviously, this causes outrage with the NAACP and whatnot coloured rights organizations the Yanks have in the States, and they all demand explanation from LA's Fire Department chief. You know what he says?"

"What?" the lads ask. I haven't told them this one before, to my knowledge, at least.

"They survived because they were at work!"

---

The boys laugh like there's no tomorrow. Maybe because there probably ain't. Fender laughs hysterically, exposing his poor dentition that only a mother could love, his poor teeth having been the butt of many in-jokes in our company. Katz merely chuckles, being more discreet about having enjoyed things. Hog's grumbling laughter doesn't ascertain me about him having gotten the punchline of the joke, or simply laughing along the others. Archer laughs genuinely, even while he clearly doesn't agree with my rather poor opinion of coloured people.

"Here's another one. You know what the darkies say about us White folks?" I continue.

"I have a feeling this is gonna be the best one yet," Archer chuckles.

"I mean, look at them White people - when they are hot, they are red, when they're cold, they're blue, when they feel sick, they're green, and when they're dead they get grey - and yet they have the audacity to call us "coloured" folks!"

"Ain't that the truth..." Archer laughs.

---

The sudden wet slap and the supersonic whistle of a bullet interrupts or session of humor, followed by the late sound of a distant gunshot. Archer's face freezes in the expression of laughter, and his light-blue eyes grow blank as the back of his head explodes in a puff of red. Blood spatters into my face, and those of the other lads. In this bliss moment of carelessness, our squaddie has made the mistake of poking his head a bit too far out between the sandbags.

For a moment there, Archer stands there before collapsing to his knees and falling face-down in the dirt, exposing a huge gaping hole in the back of his head, blood and brain spilling out in the sand profusely.

"SNIPER!" Katz shouts, all of us instinctively assuming cover.

Seeing a buddy go down like that feels like a guitar string snapping deep in one's heart. Even though I've seen friends go down before, it never gets any less... I don't even know the word for the feeling. Kraut at least went out like a true hero, holding his guts with one hand and the radio with the other, calling in an artillery strike on his position with his last breaths, an act for which he was awarded a posthumous medal. Archer will have no such luxury - not that it matters much to him anyway now.

I'm not a man of emotion, really. Yet as I see him drop to his knees that wouldn't bend before the conquerors and ravagers of his fatherland, something breaks in my heart.

"No... No... NO! FUCK NO! FUCK NO!" I cry out, seizing him and holding him up even as his blood liberally spills over my knee, staining the pixellated uniform.

"Motherfuckers!" Fender shouts tearfully, rushing to a firing position and firing a few random bursts in the general direction of the enemy, only a near miss of another sniper shot forcing him back into cover.

"Fuck... Why now, buddy, why..." Katz breaks down in tears. I don't blame him.

---

People who say that they eventually got used to losing a battle brother are either sociopaths, or just goddamn liars. As I close Archer's eyes and quietly bid him to Valhalla in a last farewell, I know I don't want either kind to fight by my side.

20oz
June 10th, 2016, 04:40 PM
I was thinking about making a Best Story Encounters in August or September. Your story, I would definitely put on the list if I do do it.

I liked your attention to the comradery aspects of your story. From the interactions to the dialogue, you did a solid job portraying it. Most of the time, I can tell if something feels forced or shoehorned, nothing you brought up triggered any alarms.

There are a few errors here and there, I was too concerned on reading on, which is not easy to do.

Here are the things that didn't slip by =P~:


"There's a five-story apartment building in LA that cathces fire..."


Hog's grumbling laughter doesn't ascertain me about him having gotten the punchline of the joke, or simply laughing along (with) the others.

You're going to have to look for the rest yourself. :P

Very solid piece. You did a great job. Thanks.