Just Another Day at Work (content warning)


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  1. #1

    Just Another Day at Work (content warning)

    "They are doing what now?" Fender exclaims in disbelief as he leans over to Sparks from his position behind the sandbags to see for himself what she's been reading out aloud on her smartphone.

    "You heard it right," Sparks chuckles in disbelief, "Now they are using bicycles..."

    "How the FUCK do you even use a bicycle as a weapon of mass murder?!" I exclaim in disbelief from my position.

    "It doesn't say," Sparks states as she continues to read the article, "According to this, it's only happened two hours ago, and the Parisian police have made no official comments thus far."

    As the rest of the squad enters a heated discussion over whether the said attacks in Paris simply involved suicide bombers on bicycles or some more creative nefarious use of the said vehicles, I too wonder in silence about how exactly a terrorist attack involving a bicycle in any other capacity than an ordinary vehicle for a suicide bomber would look like. I guess human creativity is only matched by their enviable skill in applying it for their own destruction and suffering.

    ---

    The Syrian desert is a beautiful place in its own harsh way. It is beautiful precisely because of it's simplicity, there being so little and yet so much. On the first glance, it might look merely like an endless stretch of dirt and rocks with some hills and a few hardy desert shrubs and small trees scattered about. Yet these rocks, sand and dirt have so many subtle variations in shade and colour during different times of the day, mostly various hues of red and beige, but also of black and brown.

    There's little life to be seen around during the blistering heat of the day, when it gets so hot we can comfortably cook eggs and bacon on the hood of our MRAP. Only the occasional bird of prey and maybe the odd snake resting in shadow can be seen during the day. At night, however, there's plenty of critters roaming about. Scorpions leave their hideaways under rocks to seek out prey and new accomodations which sometimes include our modest residence much to our displeasure, hamsters leave their burrows to seek out food, and one can often hear the ailing of jackals in the distance, their cries sometimes sounding almost human. Jackals and honey badgers are among our least favourite creatures of the desert because of their habits of feeding on corpses and tripping alarms at the least opportune of times.

    The desert is not unlike war - harsh, dangerous and unforgiving, deadly to the weak and timid, the infirm and the careless. And yet it is beautiful in its simplistic natural state, before being marred by the cancerous sores of humanity.

    ---

    My platoon has been manning a checkpoint some 100 clicks south of Damascus for a week now. Most of the action is going on in the north, near the Mediterranean coast where Yanks and Turks are making a two-pronged attack in an effort to encircle Latakia and cut the Ivan off from the Mediterranean coast for good. Here in the south, the NATO contingent is mostly an assortment of Eastern Europeans from the occupied parts of Europe bunched together with Israelis trying to push their way through Lebanon and Southern Syria to link up with the Yanks. So far, however, the progress has been slow at least in our parts of the front, hampered both by the Syrian government forces and various Islamic militias that have been around in these parts ever since the civil war that never really ended, Hezbollah being the most prominent of them.

    The fortified checkpoint that we are manning is the northernmost part of this sector of the frontline, stationed on a highway to Damascus. I never bothered or cared to learn the name of the town ahead of us, little more than a hideous assemblage of broken, bullet-riddled concrete and cinder block tainting the savage beauty of the surrounding desert. All I know or care to know about it is that there are convoys of Israeli tanks and APCs heading to it every day, and returning in the evening after a day's fighting, short a few vehicles every time. The bad guys in town must be dug in really well, if even Israelis with their vaunted urban combat training and specialist vehicles haven't been able to drive them out so far even as they keep raining bombs and shells on the town night and day. All in all, things have again ground to a stalemate, at least until enough forces assemble in the staging grounds in the Golan Heights looming over the horizon far behind us to finally level this accursed town to the ground and proceed to Damascus.

    The bad guys, who are evidently Islamist militiamen for most part, aren't content with sitting in their dugouts and waiting for the inevitable, and make occasional moves on our positions as well, usually at night. With roughly two and a half clicks between us and the town, we occasionally trade shots from the big guns, mostly to remind each other about our respective presence. Sometimes, however, our opponents do more than just that, making efforts to attack our checkpoint or some other nearby combat outpost in force. Since our assumption of these positions a week ago, we've had to repel two attempted infiltrations, the flare mines lining the outer perimeter thankfully giving us a timely warning. Attempted attacks by suicide bombers and bomb-equipped drones are also an almost daily occurrence, so the whole bunch of us are a bit on the edge right now, quarrels breaking out and tempers flaring more often than usual. Even while the platoon hasn't taken any casualties so far besides a few minor injuries and a scorpion sting, I feel it's only a matter of time until that changes.

    ---

    I scan the town in the distance with my binoculars while the folks below are busy arguing over the possible uses of bicycles as tools of terrorism. Although the news has me equally baffled at that particular aspect of the attacks, I honestly don't really care about the particulars. I've spent the better part of my life regarding all people from south and southeast of the Mediterranean as worthless scum, a waste of breath whose only purpose of existence is to be a nuisance to proper civilized European folk by means of warfare, terrorism and illegal immigration. Even though the article says nothing about the identities of the terrorists, I'm willing to bet my entire month's pay that their names weren't Pierre and Francois. They were most probably another bunch of home-brewed Ahmeds and Muhammeds born and radicalized in Europe owing to the sickening incompetence and dreadful lapse of judgement by the liberal establishment that allowed their ancestors to settle down in our once-beautiful and glorious continent. Now the children of those deranged liberals are paying the price, having to look out for degenerate towelhead scum on airplanes, trucks and now also bicycles in addition to the ever-looming threat of Russian bombers and missiles.

    "What do you make of it, Fascist?" Fender shouts from below, "How would you use a bicycle for a terrorist attack? Besides the obvious, of course!"

    "I don't know, stuff the hollow of the frame with explosives rather than wear them on myself..." I grumble, "Look, what does it fucking matter? Another bunch of fucktard sand niggers blew themselves up along with a bunch of European infidels - what else is new?"

    "Well, that they used bicycles to do it, obviously..." Fender states, "I wonder what the French authorities will do now. After they started using trucks, they started to erect barriers along roadsides. Maybe they'll ban the use of bicycles in cities now?"

    "Wouldn't surprise me at all. Because banning bicycles is obviously more sensible than banning the cause of the problem," I retort.

    "That would be too excessive. Most of them don't cause any trouble," Sparks objects.

    "What, you're defending the Hajjis now?" I exclaim angrily, "Look, from what you just read, there's much information absent about those incidents, but you know what else is absent? The firm and vehement denunciation of these attacks by the French Muslim community. Even if they don't openly endorse those degenerates, they certainly don't give a flying fuck about them killing innocent unbelievers either. Because for them, there ain't no such thing as an innocent unbeliever, and I don't believe we should act any different towards them. They might try hard to pretend that they are civilized people like you or me, but they ain't! As far as I'm concerned, they're not even fucking human beings, and even calling them animals would be an insult to our world's beautiful wildlife! They are a disease, a blight upon this world - and this here is the cure!"

    And I pull out a length of ammo belt from my machine gun's ammo box to show and emphasize my point.

    "Whoa there, ease up, Fascist!" Fender seems shocked by my sudden outburst, "I'm not gonna be the devil's advocate here and pretend I disagree with you at large, but don't you think doing what you suggest would be a bit... uh, too extreme? I mean, Sparks is right about most of them being peaceful folks."

    "Hate to bust your dream bubble, old friend, but do you remember that girl and her kid in that last town where the battalion TOC is stationed now? I will bet you my monthly pay and my ass too that those degenerate monkeys screaming "Allahu akbar" while they stoned and kicked them to death didn't just come over from Assholeabad in Fucktardistan, but were born and bred right here in that same town. I don't want to live next to people who are capable of doing this kind of shit to a defenseless girl and her kid simply because she doesn't share their schizophrenic delusion in an imaginary entity controlling all aspects of their lives through a book authored by a 7th century paedophile Arabian warlord! In fact, I don't want to even coexist with people like that, having to constantly look over my shoulder whenever I see one of them nearby and hope that he won't be in the mood to blow me up, stab me to death, run me over with a truck or a fucking bicycle simply because I don't share his delusions or may have offended his sensibilities based in the said delusions! They have no concept of peaceful coexistence, as their own holy book makes abundantly clear, infidels being at best a problem for later - so as far as I'm concerned, slaughtering all those camel-riding goat-fuckers down to the last unborn kid would be doing the world a favour!"

    The incident I am referring to as an example we bore witness to a week ago on our way here, a mob stoning and beating a young woman and her child to death. Our Israeli interpreter explained that they were killed because they were Christian and had done something to upset the Muslim mob - which might as well have been for no real reason at al. Despite our desire to intervene, we had neither the time, nor the authority to. Guys deemed it prudent to physically pull me down from the turret while I could still resist the urge to open up on the crowd and ventilate every scumbag dune coon in sight. I probably wouldn't have, if only for the following court-martial and subsequent problems to the guys that it would have resulted in, but resisting the temptation sure was hard.

    "I don't know what bothers me more - that you sincerely seem to believe so, or that I am inclined to agree with you," Sparks chuckles.

    "We certainly won't kill enough of them to make a difference, or even a dent in their population during our stay here," I grin maliciously, "But getting the ones we do is also good enough for a start."

    "Let's change the subject," Fender proposes, "All this political talk never leads to any good and only sours the mood. How's your new sweetheart doing?"

    "Sweetheart?" Sparks exclaims cheerfully in disbelief, her blue eyes almost shining at the news, "So it is true what the guys have been saying? You have finally found yourself a girl?"

    Great... Now they will want to hear a full account of my rather accidental dally with a certain Israeli lass. I for one am not fond of discussing anything pertaining to my personal relationships.

    "Well, long story short, yes," I reluctantly confirm, "I guess you could call her that. To which pertains my next question - can one of you show me how to use this piece of junk?!"

    And I pull out a brand-new Huawei smartphone, my latest acquisition purchased right before our deployment to Syria at Ayana's insistence so we can hold video calls and send each other pictures, something my dear old obsolete Nokia made in the days before Internet access on cell phones was even a thing is obviously incapable of. A self-professed technophobe, I've never held smartphones in much regard, especially hating the inconvenience of touch-screens to a button person like myself and also the adverse effects on social skills that smartphones tend to produce in people.

    "What model is it?" Fender asks.

    "How the fuck would I know!?" I grumble, "I can't even text with this damn thing properly, let alone know it's specs!"

    "Damn, buddy, and here I was thinking I'm old-fashioned," Fender chuckles, "Go to options."

    "How do I go to options?" I grumble, getting increasingly frustrated with my efforts to poke the screen at just the right place, "More importantly, will this piece of trash work in a proper civilized human country when we get back there eventually?"

    "You can also check that in options," Fender patiently continues as he and Sparks climb up to my position to lend a helping hand, "Ergo, go to options."

    "What is she like? Is she pretty? Where is she from? Is she also in the military?" Sparks continues with her questioning.

    "Bloody hell, give me a break!" I finally break and shout, "We still have another three hours on our watch, during which I will apparently have to tell you all about her, but for now, let's focus on this damn phone, alright!?"

    At that moment, the radio next to me chirps to life.

    "Heads up, folks, we've got a boomer coming our way!"

    ---

    It's Katz. He is pulling the "luckyman" duty with Reindeer today - standing at the preliminary checkpoint some 200 meters outside the main checkpoint and doing the preliminary examination of any incoming non-allied traffic before sending them over for a more detailed search. They are "lucky" in the sense of being the first on the receiving end of any potential attack, their demise meant to serve as a heads-up for the rest to brace for defense. One of several Israeli soldiers fluent in Arabic attached to our company as interpreters is also constantly on duty as a "luckyman". Most non-allied traffic coming from the enemy side are the occasional refugees, of which there aren't that many, but on occasion a more sinister individual attempts to make his way to our positions, his efforts usually involving an armored Toyota pickup truck full to the brim with explosives. Given the logical outcome of such a vehicle being destroyed by intense gunfire, we've taken to calling these suicide bomb trucks "boomers".

    The current boomer emerges on the road from behind a small hill treacherously obstructing our line of sight over a sizable stretch of the highway between here and the town. Covered in heavy steel plates, it roars straight towards Katz, Reindeer and the Israeli interpreter with no intentions of slowing down. I see Sparks freeze in horror at the sight as the lads open up on the attacker with no apparent result, while I hit the panic button that triggers a general alarm in the main checkpoint. Fender immediately rushes back to his position, swearing profusely as he drags Sparks along. I open up as well, but my first burst misses the target, the tracers indicating I've overshot my target by a long margin. A moment later, I can see the guys dive into protective trenches behind heavy-duty concrete slabs just as the boomer smashes through the roadblock and continues towards us with obvious intentions. Even disregarding the weight of armor plating, the truck seems to be loaded heavily, so I dare not even think of what will happen if it reaches our position.

    I blast away at the truck with the full might of the Browning M2HB heavy machinegun that I am currently manning, and while some rounds find their mark, the car starting to smolder, most shatter or riccochet off the thick steel plating protecting the driver and vital parts of the engine.

    An instant later, I am joined by Katti, Hog and Steph. Katti hits the deck immediately, taking a quick aim through the scope of her marksman rifle before blasting off a round at the enemy, followed by another and another after that. Finally, the suicide bomber seems to show signs of slowing down despite smoldering and revving his engine wildly.

    "Hog, hit him!" I bellow just as my gun runs out of ammo, covering in anticipation.

    "Loaded!" Steph announces as Hog takes aim with his Carl Gustav.

    "Ready to fire!" Hog bellows, strictly sticking to the established protocol.

    "Clear!" Steph shouts after a quick glance behind.

    "Whatever you do, better do it fucking now!" I'm about to shout, when Hog bellows "Firing!"

    I barely manage to cover my ears, when the shockwave from the deafening blast of the recoilless rifle tears through my body, forcing everything in my nose deep up my sinuses for a moment. An instant later, our checkpoint is shaken violently by an even louder blast as the boomer disintegrates into a massive pillar of fire, debris and dust.

    "Got him!" Hog grins, ducking behind the sandbags next to me as chunks of metal and bits of body parts start to rain down on our checkpoint, the boomer having detonated less than 100 meters away.

    "Katz!" Sparks cries out, trying in vain to see if her beloved is alright through all the dust. By my book, he should be, the truck having detonated more than a half-way away from his trench, "Try to get him on the radio!"

    "Luckyman One, this is Overwatch, you still in one piece?"

    After moments that seem to drag on like ages, Katz's voice responds on the radio much to our relief.

    "Luckyman One to Overwatch, yeah, we're in one piece. Damn, those things are loud... My ears are still ringing so hard I can barely hear you!"

    "Good to hear from you, mate!" I say, "Now get everyone back here, this checkpoint is out of business until Beast says otherwise now! How copy?"

    "Roger that, over and out!"

    "That was a fucking close one..." Fender comments.

    "Yeah, and judging by the number of riccochets from my piece, I guess we better talk to Beast about procuring some steel-core AP rounds for it," I agree, "Katti and Hog won't be around every time our assed might need saving, and I can't stop these punks if my slugs won't drop them where they stand!"

    "You're reading my mind," Fender agrees, "A third try in just two days means something serious is brewing."

    ---

    Brass ain't gonna like this for sure. But just as they hardly ever bring good news to us, I feel I'm only happy at returning the favour on opportune moments. While the EOD team arrives to check the blast site and make sure nothing dangerous remains, I better have an incident report ready by the time our watch is over.

    But I guess it's just another day at work for the bunch of us....

  2. #2
    There is some nice scenery description in this piece, and strong detail on the military and political side, but I found I did not become gripped by the characters. I think this is mainly due to not learning much about the MC and his weaknesses and seeing those weaknesses become exploited by the conflict All the characters just seem to be mouthpieces for political statements outs at this point. The story flows well, and you are concise with your detail but its weighed down by political preaching. Too much telling and not enough showing. Good luck and hope to read more.

  3. #3
    I homed in on this because of the one, sole reply after all the work.
    A few years ago I was reading about how to make the movie 'Zulu' on a low budget. It said you have two soldiers in a tent with one soldier looking out of a slight opening saying to the other "There's a couple of thousand Zulu warriors surrounding our soldiers and throwing spears. Our soldiers are shooting back."
    This is a problem with the opening section of your piece. It's one of the problems with first-person prose.

    Then you move to the desert. You've not engaged me yet with the first section so I need my attention grabbing and this isn't the way to do it. I have a preconceived notion of the desert which is totally sand-dunes and nothing else. I may take on board the odd cacti or lizard you include but jackals and honey badgers are stretching it. This second section I don't feel suits the 1st or the 3rd sections.

    The 3rd section is where I feel the story should start but I found it an extremely tough read. I don't know if you've heard of the rule have you, of not to introduce too many characters too soon? The reason is that it's mentally difficult for a reader to take in too much info. too soon. You do something like this with the 3rd section with your inclusion of places and people. Damascus, Mediterranean Coast, Yanks and Turks, Latakia (?), Ivan (?), the South, Eastern Europeans , Israelis, Europe, Lebanon, Southern Syria, Hezbollah - all in 6 and a bit lines. Phew!

    I think you should be a bit more sympathetic to the human limitations of your readers. I think the overall problem is there is too much scene-setting when your scene is just far too big to accomplish it so quickly and so early on. It doesn't have to be simple but this is too much for me.
    Last edited by Fatclub; December 14th, 2018 at 12:56 PM. Reason: To erase an erroneous full-stop.

  4. #4
    The tense is wrong for the whole beginning. The present tense descriptions threw it all off.
    Also, the opening paragraph was like one big run-on sentence. Chop it into pieces so it's not so klunky.

    Your writing makes it sound like you have or are serving with an active unit in one of the conflict zones.
    If so, this could give you the credentials to write some true-story stuff.
    For a number of years a magazine called Shotgun News ran articles written by a former Speznaz soldier who had served in Afghanistan. The articles had this whole RUssian flavor to it and was very interesting to hear that side of the conflict. His writing was marginal, but the genuine flavor of it made it a reader fav.

    What I am saying is, writing the way you do, you should consider submitting some stuff to ShotGun News or even gun mags like SOF. Branch out, you may find success in that niche as well. Fiction is but one type of writing.

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