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by Gordon Rowlinson
If war is hell and we hate war so much, why is there so little peace?
Falkirk Scotland 1298
A primal scream of gut terror erupted from big McCullock as a mounted English knight charged directly into the wooden wall of long Scottish pike-shillans. In the violence of the split-second collision, the aggressive knight was impaled on McCullock's pike. The terrified horse screamed, tumbled and ran away in panic. McCullock held his huge pike as several men next to him started to beat the knight with clubs to ensure that he was dead.
They are turning back now, said the pike man next to him. The man chuckled a nervous laugh.
McCullock had joined the Scots under William Wallace two months ago. This was his first taste of battle and he was feeling more horrified than heroic. As McCullock looked up, it appeared that the English calvary was now retreating from the forest of Scottish pikes. He stroked his matted red beard and tried to figure out whether the rest of the English army would retreat now. If the English would give up, he could get off this battlefield with his life. As he looked past the calvary at the bulk of the English army, he thought he saw a strange light in the sky.
His thoughts were interrupted by a dangerous wave of arrows from the English front lines. The English were now trying a different tactic as longbow men were rapidly firing arrows into the Scottish front lines. As the Scots did not have shields, they were vulnerable. Cries of pain and fear filled the air as the deadly rain of arrows hit several pike men near McCullock and they fell to the ground. Still they did not turn and run. Then there was a blessed pause.
A second wave of arrows was thicker and more deadly. Suddenly an arrow hit McCullock in the arm. He screamed in pain and he dropped his pike. A second arrow hit him in the neck. The big man found himself falling to his knees. Desperately, he tried to stem the frightening flow of his blood from his body, but he knew he was very badly hurt. A pikeman fell to the ground next to him. The Scots were all sitting ducks for the damned English longbow men.
Weak nowMcCullock briefly thought of his wife and children back home in the Scottish highlands. Then everything went black.
Atlanta, Georgia 1864
Following the long army column of soldiers and wagons of the Union army fourteen corps, General William T Sherman steadily rode his horse along the East road. He smiled. The men seemed to be in good spirits despite the long march ahead. He thought for an introspective moment and coldly looked back at Atlanta, his previous military victory. The half-dead, defeated city was still smoldering. He thought he saw movement in the sky and assumed it was smoke. It seemed to him that the black smoke was hanging like a pall over the ruined city. It was clear Atlanta would not support any military activity or any civilian economic activity any time soon.
He turned his eyes to the road ahead and grimly rode on. He knew his brutal missionforage and loot the local farms for food for his army and whenever there was minimal resistance, cause as much destruction to homes, cotton gins, mills and railroads as possible. Like a terrible swarm of ravenous locusts, General Sherman's army began it's relentless, destructive march to the sea and Savannah.
Wounded Knee Creek South Dakota territory 1890
Little Deer thought she saw an odd object in the sky behind the artillery guns that surrounded the Lakota camp. She assumed it was a bird and walked closer to the center of camp get a better look at what was going on. The Lakota men were laying down their rifles in a pile in front of the horse soldiers. A glimmer of hope came into her heart as she felt that if they had no guns, the soldiers would finally leave them alone.
Just when things looked like they were going well, an angry cry echoed from the camp as two horse soldiers began to argue with a Lakota brave over his rifle. A shot went out from somewhere. Suddenly the air erupted with gunfire as the horse soldiers fired indiscriminately into the Lakota crowd killing men, women and children. Several Lakota raised their rifles and started firing back at the mounted soldiers. Then the large artillery guns boomed spreading shrapnel into tipis killing women and children.
Things had gone so very wrong in a matter of seconds. Terrified, she turned and ran away from the camp in the direction of a ravine that would provide cover. A women running next to her screamed and fell to the ground face down. She had been shot. Little Deer wondered why the horse soldiers were shooting at unarmed women and children running from the camp.
Panting hard from fear and exertion, she reached the woods and ducked under a fallen tree. Surprised that she made it to the wood safely, she looked back at the tragic camp. Scores of Lakota bodies were lying in the mud between the camp and the wood. In her heart, she knew her family and friends were dead, but her grief stricken, shattered mind didn't want to accept the shocking reality. How could such a massacre happen?
It's the end of the world, she thought bitterly. God has forgotten us. Then she began to cry.
Somme River front, France 1916
Generalleutnant von Fuchs abruptly stuffed his battle maps and papers into his worn leather briefcase. Snapping the case shut, he took one last look at the small, sparsely furnished room that had been his command post for the past four difficult months. He didn't want this battle to end this way, but he knew the retreat order from the German high command was the logical decision. The German army could no longer stand up to the greater numbers of the combined armies of France and the British Expeditionary Force. Out of frustration, he slammed his hand on the desk and pulled on his coat. As he walked out the door of the makeshift staff house, he instinctively glanced at the sky to check the weather. Seeing a moving object in the distance, he assumed it was allied surveillance aircraft. He scowled. They were outnumbered in the skies now too.
He hesitated before he climbed in his staff car. A platoon from the front line was marching along the muddy road. With an officer's trained eye, he surveyed the men and was disappointed to see how raggedy and weary the men looked. Even from thirty meters away, he could clearly see the look of defeat on their faces.
Von Fuchs climbed into the car and curtly told his driver to go. His orders were to move 10 kilometers from the French Somme river back into Germany. In four costly months of trench warfare and a war of attrition, the Germany Army had lost 537,000 men. Von Fuchs looked out the window of his staff car at the bleak, war-torn French landscape. His only comfort was that he knew that Allied losses were similar. In his somber mood, he briefly wondered what the Allied commanders thought of losing hundreds of thousands of men to gain a mere 10 kilometers of ground. Was it all worth it?
The skies over Dresden, Germany 1945
The steady, monotonous drone of the four Rolls Royce engines was a strange comfort to tail gunner Alistair Harrison as his Royal Air Force Lancaster bomber approached the mission target area. He hated his job. He hated the flak. He hated the enemy fighters. He hated the uncertainty. It was like rolling the dice. Any one of these bombing runs, could be the last for him and his mates.
He scowled as he peered into the darkness looking for German fighters approaching from behind. In the distance at a five o'clock position, he saw a strange orange glowing light approaching their plane. It didn't look like any enemy aircraft he had ever seen before. The odd light also acted differently than any German fighter. Instead of closing and attacking, the thing moved to the side of the bomber as if flying in formation.
Foo fighter, crackled the static voice of the upper turret gunner over the interphone.
Harrison strained but couldn't get a good look at the foo fighter. The thing continued to fly in formation with the RAF bomber as they started the bombing run. Looking down, he could see that the city of Dresden was already on fire from the incendiaries from the first bombing raid three hours earlier. The Lancaster methodically flew directly over the target and efficiently dropped a deadly load of incinerates. Halfway through the run, the mysterious foo fighter made an abrupt 90 degree right turn and disappeared in the night. After completing the bombing run, the big bomber banked right and headed Westtowards England. Harrison smiled. No enemy fighters.
From his tail turret seat, Harrison got a panoramic view at the total devastation they and the other bombers had unleashed on the German population below. The entire city was a firestorm with black smoke rising 4,000 meters in the sky. He had never seen such destruction.
Harrison tried unsuccessfully to tell himself that the luckless souls that were trapped in the hell below were German soldiers and civilian casualties were minimal. Up till now, he had performed his gunner job in bitter anger. He had reasoned that every bomb they dropped on Germany, was payback for the London blitz. Now, that he saw an entire enemy city in flames, he wondered for the first time, if all the devastation and inhumanity was really necessary.
Will this inferno really help end the war? he pondered. Then the tail gunner closed his tortured eyes so he wouldn't have to view the torched city anymore. It was too late. The horrible vision of the city in flames would remain imprinted in his memory for the rest of his life.
Fallujah Iraq 2004
Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war, said Corporal Lawrence. He had a small, crazy smirk on his face.
What? asked Private Smith.
Don't you read Shakespeare?
No. You think too much, said Smith. He almost laughed. Lawrence was an odd character. Sometimes he said crazy pseudo intellectual things when they were in dangerous situations. Today was one of those dangerous days. Their platoon was working in teams of three going through the streets of Fallujah and systematically clearing houses and buildings of insurgents. It was nerve-wracking and dangerous work. Anything could happen. Smith thought he saw movement in the skies over the North side of town and figured it was one of the predator drones.
I'm going in, said Smith. He scowled as it was his turn to take the lead. As he gingerly stepped to the building door and slowly pushed the door open, he heard a faint but telltale click. Instinctively he jumped back. Too late. Like a sledge hammer, the powerful explosion threw him off his feet and back out the door. Landing in the debris filled street, he felt an intense pain in his leg like nothing he ever felt before. Over his own screams of pain, he heard Corporal Lawrence shouting for a medic.
It was an IED connected to a booby trap, said Lawrence. Kneeling down next to Smith, he started applying direct pressure on the leg in an attempt to stop the red flow of blood out of Smith's body.
It's going to be OK buddy. It's real bad but not so bad that you lose the leg. You'll keep the leg and get to go home.
Don't let me bleed to death.
The medic is coming. You get to go home and forget all this mess. Ya hear me? You don't have to worry about all this winning hearts and minds crap or whether this war is worth it. You get to go home now.
Smith felt a medic inject something in his arm and was grateful to feel a blessed numbness spread through his broken body.
Home... he said.
Jupiter near the Great Red Spot 2016
The creature known as Gck methodically piloted his small spaceship through the thick, colorful layers of Jovian atmosphere. Giant heat generated bolts of lightning lit up the skies around the ship illuminating the way. After several time periods (considered by the Jupiter civilization to be of the medium length standard), of spiraling through the cloud layers, he finally reached to the planet's liquid hydrogen ocean. In this isolated and unique high pressure environment, he felt the emotions of familiarity and comfort. He was home again. He expertly slowed his small ship's speed as he approached the floating Royal palace. Switching to autopilot, he docked to the floating palace spaceport. Exiting the high tech spacecraft, with his fish-like body, he half walked half swam in the direction of the royal throne room. He didn't stop to look at the historical and spectacular magnificence of the palace, but went quickly past the guard into the throne room. Entering the throne room, he found the king of Jupiter was waiting for his report.
You have returned from earth. What is the latest report from our drones? inquired King Chlls in a unique, complex language that combined sound and sign language movement of all five appendages.
No change. We have continued to fly drones above earth wars to monitor hostilities and the situation remains the same. The earthers are constantly at war and killing each other. As you know, we have never observed a sustained period in human history where there is an absence of war. replied Gck.
They certainly are an odd and self destructive species. Ether they hate peace or they don't understand the destructive costs of war. said King Chlls. Now that they are reaching farther and farther out from their planet. Are the earthmen any threat to us?
No, replied Gck. They are only a threat to themselves.
This story took war by the throat and shook it till it bled. It is true that it seems as though there will always be war - although I live in a place where I have never seen it marching down the street at me. The last section put it all into perspective - we are only a threat to ourselves at this point with our militaries - although our war on nature may end everything living on the planet eventually. Earth: Mostly Harmless
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|Time Wars & other SciFi Tales|
by Gordon Rowlinson