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> The Salvation War: Armageddon???, “Balls.” Said Lieutenant Michael Wong
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Dr. O


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post Mar 20 2011, 07:00 PM
QUOTE (TV Tropes main The Salvation War page)
Disclaimer: The Salvation War is written in the style of a documentary. Characters will talk from their own POV, make mistakes, misspeak (if they're lucky), or talk out their ass (if they're not). Previously discussed plans might go off without a hitch, fail completely, or be abandoned either due to changing circumstances or because a better idea came up. Those looking for a conventional Three Act Structure, an exclusive focus on dramatic tension, or the other properties of a traditional dramatic narrative sometimes find it an off-putting story-telling style.

- TV Tropes, on why it's acceptable for fiction to lack tension, internal consistency, good research, or believable antagonists, and to be permeated with retardedly obvious author favoritism

I will get this out of the way now; The Salvation War is a series of lovingly detailed descriptions of Bronze Age peasants being slaughtered with high explosives and dying in puddles of their own gore. completely realistic account of humanity discovering that the Bible is true, and the cosmological consequences thereof. It may not be fanfic in the strictest sense, but the author does maintain that his descriptions of angels, demons, and the afterlife are totally faithful to Christian doctrine, so I suppose one could call this fanfiction of the Bible, at least in the same sense that Dante and Milton drew upon the Bible to tell their stories (and, by the way, the author has admitted that he cribbed his descriptions of Hell from Dante). The difference being that whereas The Divine Comedy and Paradise Lost have been enshrined in western culture as some of the finest works ever written on the supernatural, The Salvation War has given us gems like "[the clouds] were black, jet black, as black as Yahweh's heart."

Also, Dante didn't write The Divine Comedy because a thread on a sci-fi message board told him to.

The first book in the trilogy duology, Armageddon??? (no, that's really the title), is 300,000 words long. Much of that word count is devoted to describing radar systems, navy acronyms, and other military trivia, interspersed with HUMANITY FUCK YEAH wank, as well as the mandatory, comparatively subtle AMERICA FUCK YEAH wank. Oh, and don't forget the smugtheist wank about how religious people are not only misguided (LOL SKY WIZARD), but downright dangerous. Basically, the author's opinions permeate every word of this story like a fine layer of jizz, and his fans just lap it up. Because apparently atheists are so insecure in their opinions that they absolutely need to read atrociously dull, nonsensical accounts of humanity shooting Satan with missiles (and this isn't even getting to the part where America invades Heaven and kills God). I know that may seem like a spoiler, but if you can't tell what the ending will be after reading the first two or so chapters, then frankly you have the perceptive ability of... well... this story's antagonists. Yeah, this is going to be painful.

Gentlemen, welcome to The Salvation War.
Read for yourself here, if you feel so inclined.

********** FBI Warning ***********
Federal Law provides severe civil and criminal penalties for the unauthorized reproduction, distribution or exhibition of any copyrighted material. Criminal copyright infrngement, including infringement without expectation of monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and may consitute a felony with a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000.

DO NOT COPY OR DISTRIBUTE THIS WORK
********************************

This disclaimer was added because some Ukrainian kid made a torrent of the book that probably nobody has downloaded. This caused some serious internet drama in which the author loudly declared that he would be unable to get the book published (even though he uses publishing-on-demand services like lulu, which don't care) and threatened to sic the FBI on the person responsible. The leading theory is that he didn't want to put in the work of proofreading this mess and used the torrent as an excuse to do something else with his time. Either that or he's just a moron.

And before you ask, yes, the author pitched a fit because someone made his work publicly available after he published it, in its entirety, on a public message board. Derp.

Chapter One

Eagle Flight, Over The Eastern Pacific
“I, Satan Mekratrig, Lord of Hell, Commander of the Legions of the Damned do hereby declare my dominion over the earth and all that it contains. Crawl to me, humans, knowing the eternity of torment that awaits you.”

Do you ever long for the complex, subtle villainy of Cobra Commander? Because I do right now.

Also, Mekratrig? What? Forget the Bible, I'd like to know what Judeo-Christian apocrypha he read to come up with that one. I mean, why does Satan need a last name anyway? He is the quintessence of evil. Ugh, how much dumber can this story ge-

“Balls.” Said Lieutenant Michael Wong.

Oh holy fuck.

The voice that had come over the radio link, booming in the cockpit of his F/A-18E, had distracted him from paying proper attention to the cockpit display of his APG-79 radar. The new AESA radar was a vast improvement over the older APG-73 but that was, as always, a slight problem all of its own. Until the pilots learned how to take full advantage of the improved data flow, they could be swamped with it. Wong was experiencing that problem now, the resolution of the new radar was phenomenal but it seemed to indicate that the wings on the targets 60 nautical miles out in front of him were flapping.

That's a lot of words for "that ain't no airplane."

“Full of himself isn’t he? Or should it be ‘it’?” Lieutenant Anthony Squires was genuinely interested, he was renowned as being the Ronald Reagan air group’s grammar geek.

We are... three paragraphs in and I already want to kill myself.

“Try a ‘that’.” Wong wasn’t really interested, the targets in front of him were behaving oddly. They were slow, 180 miles per hour at most, they had a strong radar image yet seemed to have no infra-red signature. That was an odd combination to put it mildly. The bombastic message that had interrupted his concentration was irritating, no more than that.

"Lieutenant, Satan seems to be invading earth."
"Pfft, is that all? Now shut up, I'm too busy humping my radar display."

So what were those contacts in front of him? Birds? They were too fast for that surely?

I don't know. How about you tell us?

The Peregrine Falcon was the fastest bird known and that could, just, hit 180 mph in a steep dive. These were doing that in level flight. So they had to be some form of aircraft. That was assuming the AESA radar wasn’t generating a completely false image of course. And who knew how the electronic systems were malfunctioning following the delivery of The Message three days ago? There was one way to find out.

Um... OK? What is this The Message? Like, is it the same message that you just heard? Of course, we probably aren't going to hear any meaningful detail about it. Gotta make room for the important stuff. God forbid I don't know the differences between an AESA and an APG-73.

“Buster, this is Eagle Flight, 200 miles out, bearing 353, we have an anomalous radar contact some 60 miles out in front of us. Please confirm.”

There was a pause for a few seconds, electrostatic discharges in the atmosphere were playing havoc with radio communications but the systems filtering programs quickly cleared the white noise from the channel. “Confirm contact Eagle Flight. Bearing 358, range from Buster is 66.6 nautical miles.

lol i c wat u did thar

Target speed 184 knots, course one-three-fiver. For your information, Crown and Scepter are tracking also. They have locks.” There was a pause, a series of crackles on the radio, then the message resumed. “If targets are hostile, you are cleared to engage.”

Civilization is probably in utter chaos from the revelation that not only does Satan exist, but he's coming for us.
...
Welp, nothing to do but chuck missiles at the problem, durr.

Wong translated the message in his head. ‘Buster’ was CVN-76 USS Ronald Reagan,

Excuse me, but the proper terminology is RONALDUS MAGNUS.

‘Crown’ was CG-70 USS Lake Erie, an AEGIS cruiser, while ‘Scepter’ was DDG-93 USS Chung-Hoon, one of the Arleigh Burke class destroyers that now dominated the fleet’s surface combatant force. Also AEGIS-equipped, that meant whatever the targets were, they were now being tracked by three of the most advanced radar systems in the U.S. Navy. The ‘lock’ part of the message was really interesting, that suggested the order to open fire was already being passed out.

OK... I could be wrong but, that whole paragraph is basically "some stuff is about to get shot at." I think. My brain is starting to leak out my ears in an attempt to escape, so I may not be in the best position to decipher this jargon right now.

That didn’t surprise Wong, human reaction to The Message had split neatly down religious lines. Those whose religion had demanded blind submission to the ‘Will of God’ had accepted it without a struggle and more or less laid down and died. They just weren’t around any more.

OK, so, 1: The Message was from (the Abrahamic, one assumes) God. Who condemns suicide as a sin. So everyone commits suicide.

2: We have irrefutable proof that God exists. So naturally we start looking for stuff to shoot.

3: The stuff we shoot is not each other, as humans are wont to do. Instead we wait for the demons to obligingly show up in small groups so that we can ambush them.

4: This is a really dumb story.

The rest of the world’s population had followed the example set by Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown. His reply to The Message had been “Sod off, Baldrick,” followed by a reassuring message to the British people that he had a cunning plan to deal with the situation.

"Look at me! I watched Blackadder! That's the same thing as being funny, right?"

The British had enjoyed the joke, whatever it was, and collectively told Satan to perform some highly improbable obscenities on himself.

Oh, those wacky Brits and their Brit humor.

They’d been the first only by a matter of minutes as most of the other countries in the world has replied with similar messages. Ever since then, The Message had been repeated at regular intervals, almost as if the concept of human defiance was so completely unexpected that the powers ‘up there’ couldn’t comprehend its existence. Well, if that was the case, the powers ‘up there’ didn’t know the human race very well.

So, every agnostic, atheist, and non-Christian in the world has learned that their most deeply-held convictions are wrong, and that they are unavoidably going to Hell to suffer an eternity of indescribable torment when they die. This has not only caused no problems, but galvanized humanity into a united front dedicated to defeating the legions of Hell, even though they are supernatural creatures that should be beyond reach of human retribution. One might as well attempt to declare war on the Sun. And through all this, the demons are the ignorant ones.

Oh, wait, I forgot. LOL RELIGIOUS SHEEPLE R SO STOOPID THEY SHULD ALL JUST DIE.

The three days since the first reception of The Message had been something of a standoff. Humans had waited for the next development, allowing the situation to mature in military parlance, while the only response to their defiance had been the repeated proclamations. No effort to force compliance, not yet at any rate. And no overt human resistance. Wong got the feeling that was all about to change.

Most people who die show up in Hell, right? So Satan should be able to figure out that people aren't listening to his proclamation that all humanity's base are belong to him and, I dunno... change tactics? But that would require actual competence on his part, so I'm guessing no.

“All members, Eagle Flight, increase to fiver-six-zero knots, say again increase to fiver-six-zero knots. Intercept targets in front, range, five-eight nautical miles. Weapons are free, say again, weapons are free. Good hunting Eagle Flight.”

The four F/A-18Es accelerated out of cruise speed, building up to maximum subsonic. The E model had more range and fuel than the older As and Cs but fuel status was always a serious concern to Hornet drivers. Wong had listened with envy to those who had flown the now-gone Tomcats or even longer-lost Intruders.

Then, he glanced down at his radar scope again. There were four targets, apparently blissfully ignorant of the Super-Hornets bearing down on them. That was neat, one each.

How convenient.

“Eagle Flight, we are swinging around behind them. I have radar paints on all four, no infra-red signature yet. Each Eagle aircraft, take target corresponding to your flight position, from the left. Use AIM-120 then close in for 20-mike-mike. Not sure AIM-9 will work unless we can get a heat signature off whatever is out there. We’ll get a visual ID first.”

"Too close for missiles, switching to guns."

At twelve nautical miles range, the U.S. Navy Hornets got their visual ID. The contacts were four giant creatures, jet black in color, looking like a hideous cross between a gorilla and a bird. Four limbs, two wings, flying in an unconcerned, oblivious line.

“Just what the hell are those?”

Those are our antagonists. Say hi while you can, because I have a feeling they will not be with us much longer.

Wong wasn’t sure which pilot had breathed the comment into the radio. Didn’t matter, they all knew what to do. So did he come to that. “Buster, this is Eagle. Targets visually identified, large flying humanoids about the same size as a Super-Bug. Wingspan at least twice as great as ours, probably much larger. Engaging.”

What's a Super-Bug? We've heard about Eagles, Tomcats, and Intruders, but no Super-Bugs. Are we going to get any sort of explanation? I mean, the author clearly loves to wax moronic over military hardware, so- no? Not gonna tell us what that means? Oh... OK then?

“Eagle, this is Buster. Acknowledged. Targets designated as demons. Good luck Eagle Flight.” A few days earlier the fighter controller might have added “And may God go with you” but not after The Message and the betrayal it had represented.

The Message from God and totally not from Satan.

Wong switched the annunciator on his AIM-120s on. They were growling gently, a sustained continuous note that indicated their homing heads were logged on to his selected target, the demon second from the left. The F/A-18s were closing fast, the range was dropping to the point where the hits would be almost instantaneous. “Eagle Flight, open fire.”

Wong’s pressure on the firing button was almost simultaneous with his order. A pair of AIM-120 missiles streaked ahead of his aircraft, curving after the demon he had picked out for his target. He’d been right, the gap was so short that the target couldn’t have evaded even if it had wanted to. It never even tried.

It's almost as if this is set up to be as tension-free and one-sided as possible.

Demon Shingroleth

Yeah, I don't think you're going to find that one in any demonologies.

was actually aware of the approaching fighters, he’d seen them when they were still 15 miles out, far beyond the range of any human eye, so he had assumed their presence was coincidental.

This is important because it tells us two things.
1: Demons know what a fighter is.
2: Demons are incredibly stupid.

He had other problems to worry about, a few inconsequential humans were of no significant account one ay or the other. What concerned him was the way his skin was itching, it had started a few minutes before and was getting steadily worse. Maddening. He hadn’t even worried when the four human machines had swung in behind his group and started to close the range on them. That had been when his skin itch had become really intolerable. Then, the humans had done something really strange; odd streaks of smoke coming out from under their flying machines. Surely they couldn’t be resisting the all-powerful armies of the damned?

Seriously, how does it know that a fighter is a human machine but not what a missile is? This is a stunningly arbitrary level of knowledge, especially since the demons should be able to haul nearly any human who has ever existed out of the torture pits and interrogate them.

The AIM-120s worked as advertised. They were good missiles, well designed, well-tested, and they had a target that was proving co-operative to the point of suicide. No maneuvering, no electronic warfare, no interference, if the guidance had been capable of human thought it would have been vaguely offended at being asked to solve a task so undemanding.

I am awaiting the result of this close, evenly balanced conflict with baited breath.

The first missile exploded between Shingroleth’s legs, just underneath his tail. The 50 pound explosive warhead was wrapped with heavy-gauge pre-notched wire that disintegrated into an annular hail of pre-formed fragments when the missile’s proximity fuse set off the explosive charge. Some of those razor-sharp fragments slashed through Shingroleth’s tail, severing it at the root and sending it spinning off in a long arc. Others ripped into his legs and genitals, tearing open the great arteries, sending his fire-and acid blood spraying over his body, and mangling his reproductive organs beyond recognition.

Shingroleth’s scream of demented agony was heard even in the sound insulated-cockpits of the F/A-18s.

The first chapter and they've already castrated a demon with a missile with contemptuous ease.
...
Yeah, there's no way the humans are going to win this one.

The second missile did really serious damage. Its proximity fuse initiated it right underneath Shingroleth’s belly. The holocaust of tungsten-steel fragments ripped open his stomach and tore his abdominal cavity to shreds. Even in a mind crazed by the ghastly pain from the first hit, Shingroleth noticed the sudden drop in weight as his intestines dropped out of his body. Then his fire-and-acid blood, spraying from more wounds than could reasonably be counted, set fire to his flesh. Shingroleth tumbled downwards, all hope of control had gone when he had lost his stabilizing tail. By the time his remains hit sea level, all that was left of him was a fine carbon dust.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, what? The demons have fire and acid for blood? And they are not immune to the effects? I... what... why would you... but... I just don't... what? What? What?

THEY ARE MADE OUT OF WHAT KILLS THEM.

Leaving aside the numerous questions of biology, how is the audience supposed to take these things seriously when they self-immolate when harmed? Do demons just burst into flame whenever they get a paper cut? How are these viable antagonists? They have a gaping, ludicrously easy to exploit vulnerability that makes the aliens from Signs look downright reasonable. THIS IS THE DUMBEST STORY.

Immediately on firing, Wong had firewalled his throttles, cut in reheat and taken his F/A-18 up into a steep climb. The last thing he had wanted to do was get too close to those things. As he rolled over at the top of the climb, he could see the havoc his attack had wrought on the demon formation below. His target had gone, its death marked by a black streak towards the sea far below. Another one of the formation had taken hits from four AIM-120s, for some reason two F/A-18s had fired on the same aircraft, well, that sort of thing happened. It had meant that the demon had been quite literally torn apart by the storm of fragments and blast of the explosions. More than 200 pounds of best explosive American dollars could buy had vented its wrath on the hideous creature and all that was left of it was a shower of burning fragments. A third demon was staggering away, it had been the last to get hit and had escaped the eviscerating body hits. Instead, one of its wings had been torn to tiny fragments and it was going down in a helpless spin. Even as Wong watched, two of his F-18s were closing on it.

What gets me is how the out-of-place, bombastic American flag-waving is possibly the least dumb thing about this part. (PS Mike Wong, who is a real person, is a Canadian who despises the United States. Derp.)

Prigrathrath

OK, now he's not even trying.

was desperately trying to control his descent. One of his wings had gone, it was just a mass of torn flesh and spurting blood. The only thing that was saving him was that his flight path was keeping the blood-and-acid away from his body, the fate of Shingroleth and Caranaskatos had shown him what would happen when demon blood and body parts mixed.

The demons don't know about their tendency to self-destruct at the slightest provocation? I... I don't even... What the fuck.

Two of the gray-painted human machines were coming after him, he could see them, but with his crippled wings there was little he could do about it. It was odd, there was a strange twinkling light coming from the front of the two flying machines. Then Prigrathrath’s lights went out.

I hate everything.

Squires had fired a much longer burst than was normal for the M61 cannon in the nose of his F/A-18. He and his wingman had aimed very carefully, using the plane’s on-board computer and continuously-computed impact point sights to place all 100 rounds of their bursts square into the demon’s face. The effect was more than either pilot could have hoped. The great, hideously malformed head had just disintegrated as the armor-piercing incendiary shells ripped through the skin and shattered the bones underneath. The demon’s eyes, in fact every feature of its face, had been destroyed in the hail of cannon shells tearing through its structure. Once again, fire-and-acid blood spraying from the ruptured veins and arteries finished the job of destruction that fragments, explosions and blast had started. The demon erupted into flames and dropped like a stone towards the sea below.

Are the demons even going to try to fight back, or are they just going to take one look at the mighty armies of humanity AMERICA FUCK YEAH and surrender?

That had left one demon, untouched, unharmed by the sudden, vicious attack. Quellarastis simply couldn’t believe that the humans had dared to attack him and his colleagues, let alone that they had killed three of his flight-mates with such contemptuous ease.

Just to drive home the point that these demons are hopelessly pathetic and unbelievable as antagonists TOTALLY TRUE TO BIBLICAL DESCRIPTIONS GUIZ.

Filled with unrighteous wrath at the effrontery of the attack, he swerved to retaliate at the pair of human flying machines that were coming straight at him.

Now, they would learn what the wrath of a demon meant. He opened his mouth and gave a blast of terrifying hellfire straight at them.
In Eagle-One, Wong saw the fireball leave the demon’s mouth and flipped the ailerons over, pulling the stick back in a barrel role around the jet of flame.

All those hours spent playing Star Fox finally paid off.

It wasn’t precisely a hard maneuver, the demon may have had powerful lungs but they could only drive a jet of flame so fast. Compared with the problems posed by trying to dodge a multi-mach missile, the flame was easy to avoid. Even better, the jet of fire was a perfect infra-red source for his AIM-9 Sidewinders.

Both annunciators were screaming with the demand to be let loose and Wong obliged them both. They streaked from his wingtip mounts, heading straight for the inferno of heat that was the fire-breathing demon’s mouth.

I don't think heat-seeking missiles work the way you think they work.

Quellarastis did the worst thing he could possibly do under the circumstances. He gulped in shock as the two missiles hurtled into his mouth. Once again, proximity fuses worked to perfection,

What? WHAT!?
NO! YOU IDIOT! WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK "PROXIMITY" MEANS? Here's a hint: AA missiles generally do not detonate a couple inches away from the target. They destroy the target with shrapnel, not the explosion itself, because simply detonating relatively close to the target is enough to do the trick. Because, you know, aircraft aren't all that heavily armored.

If you can describe aircraft radar systems in fetishistic detail, then you should be able to work out what the fuck a proximity fuse is. Here, look at this. That's what proximity fuses do. They explode in the approximate area of the target. "Inside the target's mouth" is just ridiculous. It's like thinking that when you use artillery to bombard infantry in the open, you want the shells to land within a foot of the target, even though that's a completely unnecessary level of precision.

preformed fragments slashed out, ripping through the slate-black flesh of the demon. Some went up into his brain, bouncing around inside his skull until all that laid within was reduced to a finely-ground slush.

Given the demons' general effectiveness thus far, I don't see how that's any different than before.

Others sawed down through the demon’s chest, carving into his heart and lungs. More fragments, from the missile Quellarastis had accidentally swallowed tore the demons neck apart, severing his spinal column and paralyzing him. That was a mercy for Quellarastis, it meant that he did feel it when his blood set his flesh on fire and he vanished within a ball of fire.

OK, we get it. You can zip up your pants now.

“Buster, this is Eagle. All four demons engaged and destroyed. Inform all Buster elements, they blow up and burn if you hit them hard enough. We’re on our way back, we’re hitting bingo fuel out here.”

“Eagle Flight, this is buster. Come on home, the party is just starting down here.”

Wong relaxed in his seat. His Eagle-One had two confirmed kills, Eagle-Three and Eagle-Four had one each. Not ace status yet, but a good start.

Yeah, you can really tell that this is a close-run thing in which either side stands an equal chance of victory. Those demons sure are giving the Mary Sues human race a run for their money.

National Command Post, Washington D.C.

“Mister President, a message from the Ronald Reagan battle group out in the Pacific. They’ve engaged four flying demons, killed all of them. No casualties on our side. Whatever these things are, they aren’t immortal or invulnerable. They burn and die, just like we do.”

Humans catch on fire when they die? I blame all the preservatives in the food.

President Bush looked dully at Secretary Gates. The betrayal that had been represented by The Message had hit him deep, torn apart the faith that had kept him going even in the darkest years of his presidency. Then, with his opinion poll figures trending up at last, this had to happen. He shook his head, tried to clear the clouds of despair from his mind and absorbed the information. As he did so, his eyes lit up for the first time in three days.

“Get word out to all our armed forces. Tell them to engage these, these things, at every opportunity. Shoot first, hit hard and keep hitting them. Let them know that we may go down but it won’t be without one hell of a fight.”

Because supernatural entities from another plane of existence are totally vulnerable to human weapons.

I wonder what this story would be like if it were set in the Napoleonic Wars. We'd probably get multiple paragraphs devoted to explaining the inner workings of a musket, followed by extremely repetitive and illogical gorn. And then Wellington would punch God in the face or something.

“Them Sir?”

“Them. Everybody. Our forces, the religious leaders who brought that message to us, those who the message came from. I don’t care who “they” are, either they attacked us or they betrayed us and I don’t see the difference between those who promise us an eternity of torture or those who would hand us over to that fate. They’re both our enemies now. And we’ll fight them. All of them.” Bush’s voice had gained strength and he made his commitment. “We may have believed in higher powers once, but they’ve forfeited any loyalty we may have owed them. Secretary Gates, get the word out. We fight.”

It's pretty clear that Bush is religious. So why isn't he dead? I thought all the religious people laid down and died.

Oh, no, wait, a crisis in leadership might inconvenience humanity. Can't have that, so we'll just ignore the implications of what was written in this very chapter. Continuity? What's that?

“Sir, I have to warn you, this may well be committing a war crime. We haven’t had United Nations approval for any action and without a vote in the UN, we are committing an act of aggressive war, which is a war crime. I therefore rule that we must hold off any action until there had been a full meeting of the Security Council. I will also issue orders for the pilots involved in this incident to be arrested and brought up on war crimes charges.”

Considering that the demons they just slaughtered were apparently messengers... um... yeah? It's sort of a rule of warfare that you don't kill messengers.

Has been since the Middle Ages. But we can't place any restrictions on humanity, since that might make the story interesting introduce some actual conflict mitigate the wank.

There was a rumble of discontent around the war room. Bush heard it and that made up his mind. He looked at the JAG officer with contempt. “Place this man under arrest. Remove him, get rid of him. From now on, the United States will act in its own best interests and defend itself as best it can. Any other nations who want to join in this struggle are welcome to do so.”

“There might be quite a few of those Mister President.” Secretary Rice was carrying a mass of message flimsies. “We’re getting messages from other countries right now. First one is from Mr. George Yong-Boon Yeo, Minister of Foreign Affairs in Singapore. Apparently a demon landed there, carrying a demand for Singapore’s submission.”

“What did he do?”

“Nothing Sir. The demon’s demand was wrapped up in some sort of parchment and he dropped it on landing. Littering is a serious offense in Singapore Sir, and the Singapore police riddled the demon with bullets and then beat it to death. Anyway, Mr. Yeo says that Singapore’s going to fight and they’d appreciate our help.”

And, notably, did not burst into flames, killing everyone in the vicinity. For no raisin.

“He’s got it. Who else?”

“Another one landed in Bangkok, Thailand. That one didn’t get very far either. It wouldn’t bribe the police at a checkpoint to let it through and then got stuck in the Bangkok traffic jams.

They can fly. We saw that in this very chapter. Why would it get stuck in a checkpoint and traffic jam when it could fly over them? This is dumbfuck... fucking... I don't even know anymore.

The Army blew it away. With tanks. Apparently, local street traders are selling bits of demon to the tourists. Anyway, same message from the Thais, they’re going to fight and they’d appreciate any help we can send, only they’re adding if we need any aid, we only have to ask.”

Underage ladyboy prostitutes for everyone!

“Nice of them. Well, people, it looks like the war has started. Let’s try to do a better job this time round, right?”

There are 85 chapters in Armageddon!!1!!1!!! Believe it or not, it gets worse.

So very, very much worse.

Also, here is a picture of the author: Attached Image

I'm mainly including this here so that you imagine the rest of this narrated by the bastard offspring of Kermit the frog and Dr. Robotnik.

PS, sorry if this doesn't fall under the purview of fanfiction mockery. It's just that I'm sick of seeing people fawn over this story and persistently argue that it's OK to write a tension-free exercise in self-congratulatory wank simply because "it's the point of the story."

This post has been edited by Dr. O: Mar 20 2011, 07:02 PM


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Lizard-Man


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post Mar 21 2011, 03:14 PM
I feel the need to address some of your points Dr. O, because I feel there are a few problems in your line of criticism for this story. First and foremost the way you internalize this whole thing.

This is a story where Rober E. Lee comes up from hell to assist the American military, where Bill Clinton kills a Succubus with a shotgun, where a Russian soldier is killed, falls into hell and marches back out to rejoin his unit. Does this sound like a story that takes itself very seriously? Not to me it doesn't. Mainly it seems to be a "What the hell" sort of storyline that is made purely just for fun. It isn't meant to be taken all that seriously in the grand scheme of things. Your first clue should've been the part where the response to Satan's declaration was a fighter pilot saying "Balls", your second clue should've been the Blackadder quote. If a story is made for the fun of it and the author recognizes it is silly I don't see why it needs to be mocked. Especially when it barely qualifies as a fanfiction in the first place and is more of an original story.

Second, I think you read that line about "The faithful laying down and dying" the wrong way. It does not say they commited suicide merely that they accepted their fate as ordained by God. If God came down and told a number of the faithful they would burn in hell a good number of fundamentalists, beliving that God's word is infaliable would logically accept that and allow themselves to be taken. They aren't commiting suicide, they don't kill themselves they allow God's will to be fullfilled and surrender themselves to Satan.

This follows into my next problem with your critique, the world's reaction. You say that declaring war on supernatural entities is like delcaring war on the sun. Well think of this, if they actually exist then they are in fact tangible. Tangibility and acknowledgement of their existence presumes that they, you know, have a solid tangible form. In that sense if you can see it, if you can reach Hell and Heaven because they are actual locations then you can in fact attack these places. It's a logical assumption.

This is another thing I find problematic. Atheists as I understand it don't believe in God because some aspects of religion as incompatible with their moral or world outlook. Many Atheists are in fact former devout Christians who read the Bible and could not reconcile their religious beliefs with their moral ones. Many can, like me. Others cannot. So when they read about God ordaining that children be stoned to death for being disobidient, or read for example the story of Abraham and his son they cannot accept that such a being exists because it doesn't sound like he is a very loving God. And if he DOES in fact exist then it would only lead many to ask him questions about how a supposedly loving being could let such horrible things happen and in fact codone them. Personally, I have my own theories about the anture of evil and why it exists, but for many Atheists they cannot reconcile their moral outlook with that of a religious viewpoint.

So if they did find out God existed, it wouldn't so much as shake up their viewpoint in the world as it would lead them to ask questions about how such a being could allow atrocities when he is supposed to be all powerful. More over, if God suddenly came down to Earth and declared the entire planet Damned it would only further confirm to them that this diety is in fact not at all a loving benevolent being. So it would probably make them realise they were wrong about his existence, but it wouldn't neccessarily make them convert either. They would probably feel vindicated that they did not want to follow a religion that diefies such a being.

Now onto your question of why Bush is still alive. Well, it's kind of like this. How far would you go for with your faith? If you truly believed you are saved and that you are going to heaven, would you be as willing to accept that you must burn in hell cause God told ya so? Evangelical Christians, people who believe they are already saved, are different from Chrisitans who believe we all have a defined end point we can't change. Those people would lie down and accept it. Evangelicals believe you can get to heaven as long as you accept Jesus Christ. Imagine the shock that would occur if told they were doomed from the start. Bush himself is one of these people who are saved, so perhaps his motivation in this war isn't so much to save the Earth but to get to Heaven as he believed he was promised. In fact from what I understand, the Vatican itself excommunicates God in this story deciding he no longer has the church's best interests at heart. So this is how a number of Religious people could still be alive, because they want to get into heaven and not lay down and die. They want to change their fate, like Kratos in God of War if you think about it a bit.

Finally, and I think this is your weakest critique of the lot:

QUOTE
Because supernatural entities from another plane of existence are totally vulnerable to human weapons.


If you're going to take issue with this element of the story you might as well take issue with the existence of this movie:



And before you say "But those were ghosts! These are Gods and demons!" Gozer the Gozerian was a Sumerian God.

Science versus Magic is not anything new, it's been done countless times in media with varying results over which conquers the other. It is entirely plausible that mankind could in fact fight off supernatural creatures with regular means, they are tangible and have a form after all. They are not invincible just because they are not of this world. An Alien may be supernatural for example, but as Arnie says "If it bleeds we can kill it." Taking a more direct scientific approach you can even claim that the creatures are not in fact supernatural and there is a scientific explanation for their creation and composition. Richard Dawkins has said that the only way Intelligent Design could be correct is if it was insitituted by a other illeigent beings that had themselves formed through evolution. So, perhaps the reasoning behind God and Satan beng real isn't that they are supernatural but naturally evolved creatures and therefore not so difficult to kill as previously believed.

So demons having acid and fire for blood being rather combustible when hit by missiles... I don't really see a problem with that that seems like a rather unstable physical make-up. I think the reason the demons are not as powerful as was originally presumed in this story is because they are behind the times and do not recognize science as anything but another form of magic. They may understand certain things about human society but not fully enough to comprehend them.

(Also from what I understand Super-Bug is military jargon for Super-Hornet a type of jet plane)

Also their apparent so far curbstomped nature runs in parallel to Satan, perhaps, overestimating his ability to subdue humanity. Perhaps he thought they would do what you thought, become fragmented and easy prey. But when presented with a common enemy, old foes will usually unite to fight it. This was a theme in Turtledove's Worldwar series where aliens invaded earth during the Second World war and both the Allied and Axis powers had to team up to repel them. Faced with either, fighting God or, well, eternal damnation, I imagine quite a few nations would choose fighting God.

Overall I think you're being way too harsh on this story in general. It does not seem nearly as bad as you've made it out to be. It just seems like it wasn't made to be taken seriously and a lot of your complaints when you consider it all in context of what is going on don't seem to hold water. It's a story about dudes with big guns killing demons and invading hell... really this is not something I'd be so quick to inclined to start hating so readily because of a few silly bits of writing. It would be like hating the GI Joe cartoons because they were ridiculously outlandish. Or disliking Red Dawn because of the ludicrous way it makes the soviets take over half the damn world. These sorts of things are just for laughs, to have fun, there's really no reason to get up in arms about a few, in my opinion, nitpicks. If you can't find enjoyment in watching Fighter jets bombing demons back to hell well... for one I don't think this is your kind of story and two you probably shouldn't play Gears of War either.

Also, Satan Mekratrig is from a TS Elliot story... so yeah. I wouldn't accuse this story of not doing some form of research.

This post has been edited by Lizard-Man: Mar 21 2011, 03:21 PM


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post Mar 21 2011, 04:04 PM
That is... a very well-thought-out response, actually. Thanks for taking the time to write it up, Lizard-Man.

QUOTE
This is a story where Rober E. Lee comes up from hell to assist the American military, where Bill Clinton kills a Succubus with a shotgun, where a Russian soldier is killed, falls into hell and marches back out to rejoin his unit. Does this sound like a story that takes itself very seriously? Not to me it doesn't.


Now, see, I wouldn't have an issue with that if the story weren't so dull and predictable for the most part. I actually loved the part where Bill Clinton kills a succubus. That was extremely cool. But all the cool stuff is buried under the conference scenes where characters explain exactly what is going to happen. And then bucketloads of demons die. Maybe the whole of Armageddon??? should have been more like Shroom Man's TSW fanfic Doom Patrol. Doomvees! biggrin.gif

QUOTE
They aren't commiting suicide, they don't kill themselves they allow God's will to be fullfilled and surrender themselves to Satan.


My biggest problem with the message is that it's never really elaborated upon. Like a lot of stuff in TSW, it's a great idea that gets sort of screwed up in the execution. We just learn that everyone learned that the Bible is essentially correct, Heaven is closed for business, and then all the religious folks died. You could do a whole novel about the Message itself and people's reaction to it, but it's more or less glossed over. And, incidentally, in chapter 2 there was a chaplain who committed suicide after the fact rather than lie down and die.

QUOTE
Tangibility and acknowledgement of their existence presumes that they, you know, have a solid tangible form. In that sense if you can see it, if you can reach Hell and Heaven because they are actual locations then you can in fact attack these places. It's a logical assumption.


That's... a really good point.

QUOTE
In fact from what I understand, the Vatican itself excommunicates God in this story deciding he no longer has the church's best interests at heart. So this is how a number of Religious people could still be alive, because they want to get into heaven and not lay down and die. They want to change their fate, like Kratos in God of War if you think about it a bit.


That sort of depends on who issued the Message to begin with. The beginning of the story indicates that it's Satan and that God hasn't said anything, although apparently God was in league with Satan to soften up humanity or something. Again, a little clarification would have worked wonders.

QUOTE
Science versus Magic is not anything new, it's been done countless times in media with varying results over which conquers the other. It is entirely plausible that mankind could in fact fight off supernatural creatures with regular means, they are tangible and have a form after all. They are not invincible just because they are not of this world. An Alien may be supernatural for example, but as Arnie says "If it bleeds we can kill it." Taking a more direct scientific approach you can even claim that the creatures are not in fact supernatural and there is a scientific explanation for their creation and composition. Richard Dawkins has said that the only way Intelligent Design could be correct is if it was insitituted by a other illeigent beings that had themselves formed through evolution.


I have no problem with science against magic, or the basic premise of TSW, for that matter. But an inordinate amount of the science in this seems to consist either of shooting things with missiles or instantly working out the solution and applying an easy fix. Just look at demonic possession, which could have made for a riveting storyline. But nope, they just issue tin foil hats to everybody after working out that tin foil stops quantum entanglement.

I also don't have a problem with killing angels and demons, or even a story about humanity rolling into the New Jerusalem with tanks and shooting God. It does make sense in TSW, since the demons and angels are the work of some form of directed evolution, and are really nothing more than very, very hardy hominids with a limited variety of impressive-looking (to a primitive) magic attacks.

I just don't like how the demons come across as a complete non-threat. I know that's subjective, but it never feels as if humanity is in peril. It's more or less a book-long mopping-up operation. I know that the point of the story is that science has made humanity more powerful than the deities we used to worship. I get that. But if the point of the story, as written, makes it less interesting and less compelling, then maybe the point should be made in a different manner. Either that or the book should have been written on a smaller scale, centering around human soldiers (who can very well be threatened by Baldricks and angels, especially in close-quarters fighting) instead of the people at the top describing the strategic military picture.

QUOTE
So demons having acid and fire for blood being rather combustible when hit by missiles... I don't really see a problem with that that seems like a rather unstable physical make-up.


It is explained in one chapter that the harpies have hydrogen blood, which they use to decrease their weight enough to fly. This would be kind of acceptable if they didn't breathe fire. Or live in a dimension that has so many volcanoes, the air is constantly described as being thick with pumice. That's just asking for trouble.

QUOTE
Overall I think you're being way too harsh on this story in general. It does not seem nearly as bad as you've made it out to be. It just seems like it wasn't made to be taken seriously and a lot of your complaints when you consider it all in context of what is going on don't seem to hold water.


See now, the problem with that is that, at least to me, it doesn't come across as a tongue-in-cheek work at all. Maybe that's because Mr. Slade's writing is very... practical. It comes across feeling like an honest attempt at an epic on humanity overthrowing the shackles of Heaven and Hell, with the occasional bit of wry humor thrown in. There are far too many loving detailed descriptions of artillery and missiles turning Baldricks into little demon chunks for me to think this is anything other than the literary equivalent of a straight-faced war movie. Only with demons instead of Nazis, and the Nazis all use tridents and rhino-lobsters instead of guns and tanks.

By the way, Harry Turtledove wrote a short story that gets one of the main points of Armageddon??? across perfectly well (that modern industrial warfare has made war worse than Hell). In it, the Biblical apocalypse happens in no-man's land on the WWI western front. The French end up stopping it with machineguns, thinking it's some kind of weird German trick. And Turtledove did it without having to tell us about radar systems or what FOSM means.


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post Mar 21 2011, 05:32 PM
I see your reasoning and I raise a few more points.

I suppose another reasoning, since they're going to hell anyway what would it matter if you did or didn't commit suicide? I mean it's not like anything anyone says to God at this point is going to help them. I suppose they figure they can at least have control over their own death if not where they end up.

I guess that's the authors way of showing a tangible strategy for what will happen, or maybe he just really likes waxing military jargon. Either way while boring at times and I can understand why it may be tiresome, I guess it depends on who is reading it. Some people actually like conference meetings and strategy room scenes. Look at the Star Trek franchise. Personally I like dialogue scenes and stuff about strategy, but maybe that's because I'm a military buff.

As I understand it clarification comes later on, I guess for an opening shot the author just wanted to get into a fight scene early on. I can understand your problem with it though. It would be better if there was clarification.

Actually I think if these hydrogen blooded creatures used said gas correctly they would be able to breath fire via spitting it out through some kind of duct. It is flamable after all. In any case, I guess it is a little short sighted but Evolution does exactly produce perfect results it merely helps a process along. I suppose the demons just figured it was magic and didn't question it before getting shot up, it's problematic but nothing too big. So long as the demons don't get cut they should be fine. They never expected to be fighting missiles.

I guess the sense of a non-threat from the demons does hurt the overall picture, but from what I understand the war for heaven is considerably tougher than the one for hell. So perhaps the threat is more apparent during those sorts of fights. Perhaps a better sense of picture could be gained from your idea, but again as you admited overall this is kind of subjective. Although I do again see your raised point about the demons not being as threatening when they are so easily curbstomped. It could perhaps be the author sneaking in a message of "Hell isn't as scary or as bad as God!" but I'm just guessing there.

I suppose your look on this as more straight faced with bits of humor thrown is a valid viewpoint. I'd still contend that an action movie can be straight faced and still a bit of a popcorn flick all the same. Take Die Hard for example, not comparing these two stories, it's just that was a movie the creators knew was a pop corn flick and they had fun with it yet it was still a serious and well told story. I'm not saying that Salvation War is the same calibre, it just allows me to give it more leeway.

Perhaps Mr. Slade figured "I better explain this to the audience or they won't know shit about what I'm yammering about." I remember in one of my stories a complaint I got was that I listed off names of dinosaurs I knew that weren't mainstream. I assumed a lot of people would know what species they were or perhaps look them up. While it wasn't an issue reviewers brought up a lot it was something that I understand now could be a turn off to them.

Machine guns don't require much explanation as to how they work.

I suppose my defence of the story stems from a few things, one I like the idea in general. The concept of magic vs. Science, that we can conquer the unknown with ingenuity and ability to solve problems, is compelling for me. So in essence I like that factor of the story. The second is, well, I get a bit annoyed when people put down cool sounding ideas for what I see as nitpicking. I found a comic about a time travelling Abe Lincoln only to find a review that claimed it sucked for some reason that made no sense. Amounting to "This is stupid! Blargh!"

I don't think you were doing THAT here, but I stil lfelt you were being a bit harsh in your criticism. Make no mistake, I don't want you to suddenly like the story now. Your tastes are your own, I just wanted to point out a few problems I found in your thinking if only to get it off my chest.

That and well, it looked like no one was responding to ya and I know how that feels like. Personally I'd enjoy having someone say something on my work here at times. I like being given feedback on my mocks, I work hard on them and I want to know how to improve. I suppose this was my way of offering up the same advice I'd like whether in praise or constructive criticism.

This post has been edited by Lizard-Man: Mar 21 2011, 05:37 PM


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post Mar 21 2011, 06:21 PM
QUOTE
I guess the sense of a non-threat from the demons does hurt the overall picture, but from what I understand the war for heaven is considerably tougher than the one for hell.


I have read a bit of Pantheocide, and it starts with Heaven sucker-punching the US Air Force with an E6 tornado. So yeah, it does look like the angels are a bit more formidable.

QUOTE
I don't think you were doing THAT here, but I stil lfelt you were being a bit harsh in your criticism. Make no mistake, I don't want you to suddenly like the story now. Your tastes are your own, I just wanted to point out a few problems I found in your thinking if only to get it off my chest.

That and well, it looked like no one was responding to ya and I know how that feels like. Personally I'd enjoy having someone say something on my work here at times. I like being given feedback on my mocks, I work hard on them and I want to know how to improve. I suppose this was my way of offering up the same advice I'd like whether in praise or constructive criticism.


Heh. There are a few things about it that I really do like. The first one is the upcoming Bill Clinton segment, which I don't think I can say anything negative about. And there's also a great bit later on where Hell's unconventional geography is explored a little. It's just that, while I feel the premise is outstanding and the author has a number of good ideas, that potential is never really met. It's a problem when you write anything on a large scale; if you stop to dwell on any one thing for too long, you risk bloating the narrative, so a lot of stuff gets skimmed over, potential storylines are nipped in the bud, and maybe characters aren't as developed as you'd like. Though I do admit that TSW has some good characters; ironically, most of them are the higher-ups like Bush and Michael.

I do appreciate the comments, by the way. It can be easy to be overly critical without giving credit for a story's good points. At the same time, being positive in a mock generally isn't that funny. That's why I plan on balancing the snark with serious comments on the writing, like why certain parts and certain characters work better than others. Because I do think that with a solid round of editing, TSW could be a good story. After all, this is just the rough draft, but it's unlikely we'll ever see more because the author canceled his plans to publish (in fact, I wasn't going to do a mock of this until I found out there was basically no chance of a polished version seeing the light of day).


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post Mar 21 2011, 06:56 PM
Time for me to post some content. This time we find out that the demons are not only vulnerable to their own bodily fluids, but also to sound waves. Yeah. It's a good thing Bill Clinton will be showing up soon, so there's always that to look forward to.

Chapter Two

HMS Astute, On Sea Trials, North Atlantic

“Any idea what it is?”

The Sonar Operator shook his head. The Type 2076 sonar system was the most advanced the Royal Navy had ever deployed, one Admiral had tried to describe its capability by saying a submarine in Winchester could use that sonar to track a bus going around Hyde Park Corner in London. That comparison wasn’t true, but the real capability of 2076 was a closely-guarded secret. Tracking buses at that range was child’s play compared with what it could really do.

BALLS said Lieutenant Michael Wong.

The waterfall display on the sonar panel was showing the target track, it was diverging from norm slightly, first one way and then the other, as if the unidentified contact was snaking in the water. It always came back to the same course though, one that took it to London. Eventually. That was another problem, the target track indicated a speed of around 12 knots. Not the sort of speed that made much sense. Too fast for economy, too slow for a speed run.

Can we just get to the part where the Mary Sues brave and valiant forces of humanity murderize an innocent, defenseless Bronze Age peasant infernal minion of the damned?

“I’m not getting any blade beat Sir. None at all. In fact I’m getting no machinery noise at all. No pompholugopaphlasmasin.”

You lost me somewhere around the eighteenth syllable.

The sonar operator got the odd word out without missing a beat. He was referring to the odd selection of pops, hisses, squeaks and rattles made by machinery as it went about its daily tasks, an odd selection that was a clear signature to a passive sonar system. “I’m getting broad-band flow noise and that’s about it.”

If you're going to use a bit of naval shorthand that requires half a paragraph to explain for those of us who aren't submariners, then maybe, I don't know.

You could use a different word.

ohmy.gif

“Biological?” Whales, clouds of shrimp, schools of fish, all got give strange sonar readings. Pompholugopaphlasmasin was the sonar operator’s best tool to distinguish man-made equipment from the natural sounds of the sea. And there wasn’t any. That would normally point to a biological but the one thing these times were not was normal. There was a body in the submarine’s freezer to prove that. The Ship’s Chaplain had committed suicide when the full implication of The Message had sunk home.

The chaplain committed suicide because Satan told him to.

I can't even think of where to begin, so feel free to insert your own joke here.

“Not at 12 knots Sir. A biological will either drift or move slowly at random directions. One holding 12 knots would be attacking something and this one isn’t. Then, there’s it’s course. Straight for London, never changing. No Sir, this isn’t a biological but that doesn’t change the fact that we can’t pick up anything on our narrow-band demodulated noise tracker.”

“You don’t suppose it could be….” Lieutenant-Commander Michael Murphy adopted an exaggerated expression of terror. “….the Red October.” Across Astute’s control room, the duty crew rolled their eyes in disgust, then shook their heads. That wretched author had caused so much trouble….

The funny thing about this is that the author can only get his stories published via vanity press. It's sort of like if a cook has to pay people to eat his food, but then turns up his nose at McDonald's.

It may seem like I'm being overly harsh, but come on. I'm not even a Clancy fan and I think "wretched" is over the top.

“No Sir. But respectfully Sir, we are on trials. FOSM may have slipped us a weirdness just to find out what we would do with it.”

Murphy nodded. Flag Officer, Submarines was known for doing things like that. “Right, Atkins. We’ll treat this like a hostile.” His eyes flipped to the tactical display where a long oval marked the position of the anomalous contact. Passive sonar could give fine cuts on bearing but its range data was much less precise. “We need to fine that up a bit. We’ll establish a baseline. Make course one-eight zero, speed 34 knots, hold for 20 minutes. Anybody want to take a head-break, now’s the time, we won’t be tracking anything at that speed.”

I was going to make some snarky comment here, but this scene actually does work pretty well. It's providing some background information, getting us acquainted with the characters, and setting up an encounter with a demon. Not bad at all.

That was true enough, Astute didn’t have the phenomenal underwater speed of the American Seawolf class but then few other submarines did. Astute was still fast enough for the flow noise over her hull to blank out her sonar. Murphy checked the plot again and thumbed the intercom. “Captain to the bridge.”

Captain Phillips materialized almost immediately. Captains tended to do that when trouble was brewing. “Problems Number One?”

"Yeah. Worf got his ass kicked again."

“Don’t know sir, we have a highly anomalous contact. Behaves like a submarine but has the signature of a biological. It’s maintaining 12 knots, course takes it to London. I’m establishing a baseline for range now.”

“Very good Number One.” Phillips studied the tactical plot with great care. When a new submarine ran sea trials, it wasn’t only the ship that was being tested. Her crew were under the microscope as well. “Very good Number One. I have the con. You take over the attack team. If this is FOSM playing games, we’ll go along with it.”

"Make it so!"

The crew felt the vibration from the submarine’s machinery build up under their feet. One advantage, one of many, held by the nuclear-powered boats was that they never had to worry about fuel status or battery charge. The Royal Navy nuke-drivers pitied their NATO allies who were stuck in diesel-electrics and spent their lives with one eye glued to their battery charge meters. Astute was barreling through the water, putting distance between herself and the scene of her first set of track readings. Once she got a second set, the cross-bearings would give her the range data she needed.

OK, see, this part was good. Now it's sort of dragging.

So... you know... Get on with it.

Twenty minutes later, Astute dropped back down to her four knot observation speed. The sonar team dropped their relaxed air and immediately got down to work, trying to re-acquire the anomalous signature. That didn’t take much effort, they knew where to look and the weird flow noise was distinctive enough.

“Got it Sir. Range 18,000 meters.” On the tactical display, a second long oval appeared. The computers eliminated the time delay that had taken place and then superimposed the two sets of reading. What had once been long, thin ovals now crossed and gave a single precise point. Then the screen blinked again as the computers applied the range data they had just calculated to the bearing figures already on file. A single green line now appeared on the tactical display, one that gave both range and bearing. All that was, in fact, needed for an attack.

Blah blah blah navy stuff blah blah JUST DO SOMETHING ALREADY.

Phillips thought quickly. “Stream towed array, sonar team check on passive for any emissions, anything at all. Every frequency band you can think of, whatever we’re tracking doesn’t have to be using what we are.”

They have everything they need for an attack. It said so just up there. So how about they attack? Surely some of the detail about military procedure could be excised in order to improve the pacing?

It took a few more minutes but the result was worth waiting for. “Got him Sir. Active emission, very high frequency, much higher than ours.” Atkins’ voice was triumphant. “It’s like a biological, well more like a bat really, but it isn’t. Power too high. I’d guess it’s a navigational or mine avoidance sonar but its nothing like anything we have on the books. That’s why the computer didn’t call it.”

They know it's something weird. OK. Now is something interesting going to happen?

“Very good. Helm take us up to periscope deck, sensors prepare to extend radio mast. We’d better call this in.” Phillips disappeared into the radio room for several minutes. When he came back, his face was a mixture of grimness and elation.

"Sorry, men, but we're going to have to get off our asses and actually do something."

“Word direct from DOps.” A stir went around the control room, when Directorate of Operations gave the orders, things were happening. “The situation is breaking loose. The Spams shot down four Baldricks a few hours ago. Been a few other similar incidents around the world. The old stories be damned, the Baldricks are not invulnerable and we aren’t going down without a fight. There’s nothing friendly out here so we can presume that any unidentifiable target we’re tracking is hostile. Torpedo room, load two Spearfish, tubes one and two. Load sub-Harpoon into three and four. Helm, take her down to two hundred feet, make speed 34 knots, course one-six-three.”

OK, good, they have torpedoes ready. Shouldn't be much longer.

Helm punched the figure into the computers. The tactical display flickered again, the green track turning to red and a blue line superimposed on it. That gave the relative position of Astute and the target. Phillips looked at the position. “Make that 35 knots and one-six-one.” A tiny refinement that would put Astute into a perfect position for a torpedo attack.

They have the target pinpointed, they have torps loaded, and now they're in the perfect position for an attack. So they're going to attack, right?

Phillips watched the display as the carat marking Astute’s position moved along the blue projected course line. Mentally, he was calculating angles and ranges, the computer could actually do that for him but he preferred to do his own check. “Drop speed to four knots, say again, to four knots. Bring bows to oh-one-oh. Open bow doors, tubes one and two. Sonar, hit that thing with a low-frequency pulse to check range. One pulse.” Phillips took his authorization card from around his neck and inserted it into a slot in the sonar control console. By using active sonar, Astute was announcing her presence and position to the world at large, That was why using active sonar required the Captain’s explicit authorization. One the card was in place, the BA-WHOOM from the sonar array in the submarine’s bows could be heard throughout the boat.

STOP PREPARING TO DO STUFF AND JUST DO IT ALREADY.

I can appreciate wanting to include material that is interesting to you. The author was a naval systems analyst for a long time (decades, I believe), so he is incredibly well-versed in this stuff. I am sure that he could talk about navy things all day and it would be accurate down to the most minute detail. But, by that same token, I am sure that Scott Adams knows a ton about telecommunications. That doesn't mean that I think Dilbert would be better if he spent a panel out of each strip describing the technical details of a telephone network.

Ralaraspanathsis

How do you even get these names, anyway? I guess Mekratrig actually does have some basis in T. S. Elliot (among other things, including the Blish novel Black Easter), but Ralaraspanathsis? That's less "mysterious demonic entity" and more "banging your face on the keyboard."

was swimming quietly through the ocean of this strange planet, his great tail swinging from side to side as it drove . As one of the Corps of Diabolical Heralds,

Second in Hell's hierarchy only to the Legion of Puppy-kicking Baby Eaters.

his job was quite simple, he had to go to the designated place where the humans gathered and give them the message that informed them of their fate. Not that their fate was ever in any doubt but it seemed as if the powers higher up had got bored with playing their little games with this dimension and decided to wrap things up. Ralaraspanathsis actually slightly regretted that, this wasn’t the first time he’d been on this planet and he’d rather enjoyed the way the humans had cowered before him on his first visit. Still, perhaps his master would allow him to play with some once they were all in his domain.

I like this guy. He doesn't dick around with military hardware or talk about BALLS, which automatically makes him the best character so far.

It was half way through that pleasurable thought that the pain hit Ralaraspanathsis. His head seemed to explode, his ears crushed by a terrible pressure that shattered the bones in his inner ears. His forearms moved, almost of their own accord, covering his eardrums, trying to shut out the dreadful crushing noise.

Then, almost before he could think again, the terrible noise was gone.

“Wow, will you look at that.” Atkin’s voice was awed.

"It's almost as if these demons all have arbitrary weaknesses that, miraculously, make it absurdly easy to kill them without ever putting ourselves in danger."

The contact was spinning in circles, threshing in the water creating a maelstrom of flow noise emissions. “It didn’t like that at all.”

“Hit it again. Full power to the forward sonar transducers.” The contact had been settling down when the second pulse hit it. If anything the threshing was even worse than with the first pulse. “That’s a Baldrick, no doubt. Weapons, fire tubes one and two. Target that thing.”

Taking four tons off the extreme end of the moment arm caused Astute’s bow to dip. It didn’t matter to the torpedoes, they were already out and climbing to the shallower water near the surface. Once there, they kicked up to 81 knots and ran out to the estimated position of the target. At that point they dropped their guidance wires and dived vertically on the contact below them.

"Hey guys, look at all this navy stuff I know!"

A shaped charge can penetrate six times its diameter; that gave the pair of Spearfish torpedoes a theoretical penetration of 126 inches. In fact, they did a bit better than that, blasting deep cavities in Ralaraspanathsis’s back, severing his spinal column and burning deep into his vital organs. His body tissues, vaporized by the blast, sprayed out and down, searing and cooking his internal organs and bursting open the swim bladder that kept him afloat. Crippled and dying, he felt himself floating upwards towards the surface. Confusion filled his mind, he was a herald. How could they have done this?

"I have just been turned into crabcakes. I think I'll ponder the superiority of man for a bit."

“Well, there’s no doubt about, we just scored a Baldrick.” A cheer went up around the control room. Ever since Prime Minister Gordon Brown had quoted ‘Blackadder’ in his initial announcement, the British had taken to calling the denizens of hell, ‘Baldricks’. It had a nice, contemptuous air about it, one that was beginning to catch on. “Number One, take the boat to the surface, we need to collect samples.”

Did you know that when you explode large marine creatures with torpedoes, they always float to the surface? It's true, and not at all yet another biological implausibility the author created in order to ensure the humans acquire every conceivable advantage with as little effort as possible.

Also, I like how the demons never have fire and acid blood when it would be inconvenient for the homo mary suepiens humans.

And lastly, he explained just last chapter why they are called Baldricks. This does not need to be reiterated. The fact that people are using the term means that it's catching on, so the explanation is kind of superfluous.

Phillips looked through the periscope again. “In fact, if we can tow that wreck in, so much the better. Environmental, keep a check on water conditions, the Spams said the ones they shot down had acid blood. We don’t want our hull plating corroded, the taxpayers would get perturbed.”

Tamanskoya Motor Rifle Division, Outskirts of Moscow

“Remember Bratishka. Rodina, chest, slava! Let the name of the Chertkovsky Tank Regiment chill the very fires of hell!”

After the author's treatment of Singapore and Thailand, this is almost nuanced.

The Americans had killed four of the demons, others had killed one each. Now it was time for the Rodina to strike its blow against these arrogant beasts who had dared to declare their dominion over humanity. The demon had appeared an hour or so earlier and was walking across the countryside towards the Kremlin.

I like how these demons are just sort of appearing in the middle of nowhere and ambling toward their destinations, giving the humans as much opportunity as possible to kill them with heavy ordnance without having to be worried about collateral damage. Oh well, maybe it'll make more sense when we find out how travel between Hell and earth works.

If the pattern from earlier encounters was holding true, it was making for Russia’s capital. Well, it wouldn’t get there, not if the Chertkovsky Tank Regiment had its way. Colonel Mikhail Suranov had worked on the presumption that the beast was heading for the city and set up a neat L-shaped ambush. The kill zone was covered by the 125mm guns on his tanks and, just to make sure, he had his Smerch multiple rocket artillery systems dialed in.

They mobilized a tank division and rocket artillery.

For one demon.

I don't know if that's a hilarious overreaction, Russians being Russians, the people involved being smart and prudent, or an indication that the following encounter is going to be even more horribly one-sided.

Berwaniklasnin had his message to deliver, as a herald that was his infernal duty and he was going to do it.

"Infernal duty."

Haha, wow, nice to know the author is impartial. For a while, I was worried he might want one side to win. (And yes, I know that the use of infernal is technically correct, but that doesn't change the fact that it's a loaded term.)

The problem was, word had started to spread that the humans weren’t cowering in fear the way they were supposed to, before it had only taken a single appearance to throw them into panic. Now, there was a whisper they were fighting back. Not just fighting back but showing uncanny skill in doing so. That was a troubling concept.

Berwaniklasnin felt a sudden itch on his skin, there were ten or more brilliant green dots on his hide, points where his flesh was beginning to swell. One of his arms moved to cover them, as he did so, the dot vanished from his hide but appeared on the back of his hand. A beam of some sort? He never had a chance to work it out because a massive blow struck his chest and sent him staggering backwards.

It would be really impressive that this demon can tank a 125mm shell and all it does is rock him back on his heels.

If, y'know, he hadn't just stood there staring at his hand like a moron.

The first shot had sent the HVDUAPCFSDS

When your acronym is probably longer than any of the constituent words, I think you might want to find a better way of describing whatever it is you're trying to say.

I really hope the infantry rifles in this story aren't going to be described as "launcher, rifle cartridge, (insert caliber here)."

bolt screaming into the beast’s chest, sending it reeling backwards. An instant later the nine other T-90S tanks of the first company fired in salvo, their shots striking home as almost a single blow. The Russian tank gunners had been told that the Thais had killed one of these beasts with their pathetic little M-41s, the Russian T-90S could do better than that surely?

I dunno, how about you tell us?

There was an unspoken message, it had better. And it could. The beast was down, battered off its feet by the depleted uranium bolts that had smashed into it. Even as the gunners watched, the beats tried to get back to its feet but Second Company were waiting. A brief interval as their laser rangefinders locked in, then another salvo of shots. These ones struck low, sheering the beast’s legs from its body. It rolled to the ground, trying to pull itself upright.

OK, now this is just kind of pathetic.

What criminality was this? Berwaniklasnin couldn’t believe what was taking place. He was a herald, one of those charged with carrying messages to the others. By all the laws and customs, he was granted immunity from attack for how could wars be fought if neither side could talk? But these humans had opened up on him without warning. It was a hideous crime for which the wrath of the higher powers would be terrible. Berwaniklasnin shook his head, he was crippled, his legs gone, his green blood soaking into the earth. Even as he looked around another salvo of shells struck him, ripping his arms from his body. He crashed onto his back, helpless and dying.

"Tis but a scratch!"

(see, I know my British comedy, too)

Suranov looked up at the beast dying on the ground. It had taken 30 hits from 125mm guns to bring it down and it wasn’t dead yet. If these things resistance to damage was as high as that, these beasts were going to be trouble.

Spoiler: lol no.

“Tovarish Colonel. Please ask your men to help me. I need to sit on the beast’s chest.” It was one of the politicians from Moscow. It didn’t take long to help him up, a T-90 pulled alongside the beast and the political was unceremoniously hauled up into place. Somebody handed up a camp stool and he carefully selected a spot overlooking the beast’s head, one clear of the bubbling craters where the armor piercing shots had torn through the beast.

“Beast. Before you should die, I believe you should know who it is you are waging war upon. I will therefore read you some of President Putin’s speeches. Listen well and learn of your folly.”

Man, now you're just being a dick.

“I can almost feel sorry for the beast.” An engineer sergeant placing the demolition charges around the great body spoke quietly but his team heard and laughed. The word spread amongst the tank crews and the chuckles spread there as well. The politician appeared not to have heard, his droning monotone carried on unaffected.

A few minutes later, the preparations were ready. Suranov looked up at the politician who was starting the third speech of his program. “Tovarish. We are

about to blow the beast. Please come down.”

“But I must finish the President’s Speech to the Iron Worker’s Union.”

There's torture, and then there's... this.

There was a hideous racking groan from the beast, muted only by its failing strength.

All right, that's actually really funny. Credit where credit is due.

Suranov got a clear mental picture of it begging to be put out of its misery, anything other than to have to listen to another speech. The Colonel could see its point. “Now, Tovarish, my orders are to destroy this thing then bring samples back for analysis.

The politician reluctantly agreed, and the charges were detonated. Looking around, something puzzled Suranov. “Didn’t the Americans say these beasts had acid blood? Because this one doesn’t.”

They only have that when it's convenient.

James Randi Educational Foundation, Florida, USA

“Thank you for seeing me at such short notice Sir.” The woman was Thai, middle-aged, still poised, elegant and attractive. She also had the hardest, coldest black eyes James Randi, aka The Amazing Randi, had ever seen.

This should be good.

(For a certain value of "good.")

“I am pleased to make your acquaintance Ma’am.”

“Major-General. Sir, for many years your organization has run a million-dollar prize for evidence of people with supernatural abilities.”

“That is correct General. We were going to end the challenge in a couple of years but now, after these events….”

I like how all the religious people died (except the ones who inexplicably didn't), but a dedicated atheist, whose personal beliefs have been shattered and whose life's work is now completely invalidated, seem to be getting along just fine. I'm not saying they should have died, too, but you'd think there would be a bit of a personal crisis, especially given how many atheists used to be religious. The Message would seem like a punishment for their apostasy.

“Sir, that is why we wish to speak with you. The events of the last few days have changed everything. You and your organization have decades of experience in exposing frauds and discrediting psychics. You probably have more practical experience in this than anywhere else. My government, and quite a few others I believe, need to exploit that experience. We believe that buried amongst all the frauds and imposters there may be a few who really can talk to the dead. If there are such people, we need to speak with them very badly. We want you and your organization to find them for us. Mr Randi, I do not exaggerate when I say that the whole future of the human race may depend upon us finding such people.

Randi looked at the woman sitting before him. “In that case, how can I refuse?”

Maybe because he knows as much about the supernatural as Cris Angel?

National Command Post, Washington D.C.

“Congratulations Prime Minister. And yes, we gladly accept your offer of cooperation in analyzing the body your submarine is towing in. We have heard from the Russians, they also have samples they are prepared to share with us. The more information we have the better, there appears to be significant differences between these recent kills and the ones shot down by our pilots. By the way, Gordon, are your legal people giving you trouble? Ours are claiming all sorts of strange things. Their latest one is that these are peace emissaries and we’re committing war crimes by killing them.

I must have missed the part where Russia and America became BFFs. Or is this it?

“We have had some such troubles yes. I suggest, Mister President, that you tell your people what I told mine. In view of the circumstances, Britannia waives the rules.”

"We're committing war crimes by slaughtering unarmed guys attempting to deliver diplomatic messages. LET'S BREAK OUT THE PUNS LOL."

OK, it isn't that bad a joke, but it does seem kind of misplaced. Still, this chapter was overall kind of good.


--------------------
Index of horrible mocks

QUOTE ("Al_Cone")
However, I totally would sleep with the Doc... but only for your brain.

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Dr. O


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post Mar 22 2011, 04:45 PM
I'm going to finish this whether or not anybody cares. Because I'm a stubborn bastard.

QUOTE (Leon Trotsky)
"The depth and strength of a human character are defined by its moral reserves. People reveal themselves completely only when they are thrown out of the customary conditions of their life, for only then do they have to fall back on their reserves."

- Trotsky, who clearly did not understand that the strength of human character is best measured in megatons

Chapter Three

Cabinet Conference Room, White House, Washington D.C.

“Condi, could you summarize the international situation at this point?”

"The global economy hasn't collapsed, there is no civil unrest, not a sinlge disease outbreak has been sparked by the mountains of corpses that should realistically exist but mysteriously don't, our enemies have revealed themselves to be hopelessly impotent, and nations with long-standing disputes between one another are getting along perfectly."

"Then God is on our side?"

"Even better, sir: the author."

“Mister President. So far, more than two dozen of these invaders, Baldricks the Brits call them, have been killed around the world. The latest was off Tokyo where a monster similar to the one killed by HMS Astute came ashore. It was engaged by the Japanese Ground Self Defense Forces and destroyed. According to the Japanese Ambassador, all that time spent shooting at Godzilla finally paid off.” A laugh ran around the room, partly a release of nervous tension but mostly in appreciation of the unexpected sense of humor shown by Ambassador Nishamura. “Most of the Far Eastern countries are coming on board pretty quickly. China, of course, has taken an early stand.

On board for what? Taken a stand against what? There is no coordinated invasion. This is like if, when diplomats from the People's Republic of China entered the United States after diplomatic relations were opened, the army killed them with artillery and then tried to start a war because their presence represented some sort of egregious betrayal by the USSR or something. I'm having trouble even thinking of a suitable analogy because of how stupid this story is.

The People’s Liberation Army, Army Air Force and Army Navy have all gone to full alert. Europe’s following the same approach, they’re all shooting at any Baldricks that appear on their territory.

“On the debit side, South America and Southern Europe appear to be in shock still. Christianity was deeply rooted there and The Message struck them very hard. The idea that they’ve been systematically deceived by the very being they worshipped has left them adrift.” Secretary Rice paused for a moment. Coming from a religious background herself, she could empathize with the degree of bewilderment that was paralyzing so many governments around the world. “The Middle East is a mixed bag. We’d expected the area to be virtually depopulated; after all the word Islam means submission to the will of god and we assumed that the populations there would just lie down and die according to demand. Well, that hasn’t happened, not universally at any rate.

Why?

It’s hard to work out exactly what is going on but it seems as if, with radical Islam being discredited by The Message, the alternative philosophy of assertive Arab nationalism is returning.

How? All the religious people should be dead! Is she saying that all those Islamic fundamentalists just said "we'll get back to you on that" when The Message came, and then ignored it? I think that, on balance, southern European Catholics are less fanatical than, say, the Saudis, but I guess no Croatians decided that Croatian nationalism was more important than obeying Satan.

This story is so fucking stupid.

The largely socialist Arab nationalist movements have been eclipsed by the Jihadists in recent years but now, they’re coming back and coming back strong.

This would make sense if they were coming back because all the fanatics were dead. But no, al-Qaeda shows up later.

As the good guys.

Al-fucking-Qaeda.

Of course, the Sunnis are blaming the Shia and the Shia are blaming the Sunnis for The Message and they both blame us. Business as usual there.

OK, this is actually kind of cool, since we're getting a hint of sectarian conflicts. Maybe humanity will splinter as the tentative anti-Hell alliance is strained by a resurgence of old cultural/religious/political divisions. After all, if humanity does liberate Hell, that means that every Communist and Nazi ever is going to be there, too. That would have a momentous impact on the remnants of those movements, potentially giving them new relevance and creating serious problems on earth.

Or this interesting concept won't get explored at all. Which do you think is more likely?

Equally predictably, the Israelis have gone to work with a vengeance.

Israel, a country founded specifically to be a haven for adherents of a particular religion, with a national identity intrinsically tied to an Abrahamic religious faith, has "predictably" weathered a message from Hell saying that God has abandoned them, apparently without any trouble at all. Can you tell me what's wrong here?

Apparently one of the Russian Baldricks appeared there, homing in on Jerusalem and the Israeli Defense Forces shot it to pieces. According to the Israeli Ambassador, 120mm shells are much more effective than sounding trumpets. They’ve sent word by the way, don’t use armor piercing shot to take the Baldricks down. Just whips straight through them. HEAT, high explosive and canister all work much better.”

OK, story, if you aren't going to take this seriously, neither am I.

I mean, just look at it. We're three chapters in and the forces of Mary Suemanity are already slaughtering demons in throwaway lines. At this point, the only thing that will prevent this from being a total curbstomp would be if the humans ran out of ammo. And even then they'd probably fix bayonets and stab the legions of Hell to death because it turns out the demons' melee weapons are made out of talc or something and can't penetrate kevlar.

“You like the term Baldrick then Condi?” Department of Energy Secretary Bodman seemed to favor the expression as well.

“I do Sammy, it has a nice, contemptuous ring to it. But, much more importantly I think it is very important to distinguish between the mythological demon and the creatures we face in reality. There is little doubt that the monsters we face today are the source of the myths we have all read about but I believe we must make the difference between the two very clear. There is nothing ghostly or ethereal about the Baldricks, they are very solid reality. As to what their powers are, that we must find out.”

This right here is the author's excuse for why the demons are so pathetically weak compared to their abilities as described in Judeo-Christian sources. It basically boils down to "the Bible is propaganda from ignorant trans-dimensional aliens." You know, because any story about science fighting God would inevitably end with the all-powerful creator of the universe winning, so something had to be done to invalidate the source to which the author is ostensibly being faithful.

Oh, and I wouldn't worry too much about their powers, which so far seem to consist of "be killed by own blood" and "die in puddle of own gore." You know, as opposed to turning the seas to blood, possessing thousands of animals at a time, unleashing plagues, causing natural disasters, or anything else that can't be easily dealt with by spamming high explosives.

“On that note, we need some scientific input. Thank you Condi. I have asked the Department of Defense to coordinate the scientific research into these Baldricks. Secretary Gates has resigned from his position as head of Defense, I have appointed, subject to confirmation by the Senate, Senator John Warner to be the new SecDef. John?”

Oh no, not Gates!
...
Which one was Gates again?

“Thank you Mister President. At the moment we know very little about these creatures. Factually, we have identified three separate types which have very different characteristics.

One self-immolates. Another is crippled by sonar. And the final, most imposing type has the amazing ability to be killed off-screen. Truly, these are formidable opponents.

“The first are the flying Baldricks we shot down off California. They’re the same ones that were whacked in Singapore and Bangkok. Working on camera gun footage from the F-18s, we can size them at around 30 feet long from tip of horns to root of tail with a wingspan of around 60 feet.” Warner gestured and a picture was projected onto the screen at the end of the Cabinet Room. “As you can see, they look rather like the traditional depiction of a demon or a cartoon devil. Horns, tail pointed beard. Two arms, two legs, two wings.

That's right. They're cartoon devils.

Where are the malicious spirits composed of personified greed? Where are the unfathomable beings that drive men to madness? Where are the fallen angels who, under the banner of the prince of lies, fought God to a standstill? Oh, right, gotta nerf the antagonists and defuse any potential conflict make things scientifically plausible.

This raises an interesting point, the combination of weight and musculature mean these things can’t possibly fly.”

“Just like a bumblebee?” Education Secretary Margaret Spellings tossed the quip in, one that gained her a reproachful glance from the President.

Most people don't know it, but Dubya is actually one of the world's foremost authorities on the aerodynamics of bumblebee flight.

“In a way yes. You see, the musculature of the back doesn’t give any great strength to the wings, it can’t the bone structure won’t support it. The only way this thing can fly is if it weighs virtually nothing so its wings provide propulsion and lift, not steerage. The only way we can think of doing that is if the body contains a lot of very light gas, probably hydrogen. We think that is why they burned so fiercely when they were hit.

The demons are hydrogen balloons.
The first problem with this is that it's flammable.
The second is that helium isn't, and provides something like 90% of the lift of hydrogen.
The third is that blimps are large because they need a lot of gas to provide adequate lift, so the flying demons should just be vaguely demon-shaped balloons.
The fourth is that no glorified organic blimp is going to go 200mph when even the fastest bird in the world, a creature optimized for flight, it's going to break 200 in a steep dive. The explanation only increases the implausibility, which is an endemic problem in sci-fi.

The pilots reported that the creature’s blood set them on fire, we can only think that there’s some sort of body process in there where very acid blood reacts with a mineral to give off the hydrogen needed. That would allow the Baldrick to breath fire as well.

The demons are hydrogen balloons.

There are things about these flying Baldricks that are reminiscent of humans, its almost as if they were a parallel evolutionary path from a common ancestor somewhere.

Somehow, the secular humanist fails at evolution as hard as he does at theology.

"It's a sixty-foot-long hydrogen balloon. Common ancestor lol."

“The second class we’ve run into are the aquatic ones. According to Astute, the one they killed was more than a hundred feet long, about 20 feet in diameter and has flipper-like legs, six of them. They did careful pH testing on the water as they closed on the corpse and detected no sign of acidity. Also, note, despite being hit by two torpedoes, it didn’t burn. So, our working hypothesis is that this one doesn’t have acid blood. The one that came ashore near Tokyo walked on its flipper-legs, all six of them. Apparently it fought by shooting jets of water at things.

BALDRICK used HYDRO PUMP!
It's not very effective...

Anyway, the JMSDF-GF will be sending over information as it develops. One thing they have said, apparently the flesh doesn’t make good Sushi.

Again, this is a surprisingly good joke. I have to admit, whatever his other failings, the author does have a good sense of humor.

I’m not sure what worries me most about that, the fact that doesn’t make good Sushi or that somebody tried it.

No, NO! You don't explain the joke! It worked just fine on its own!

Either way, at the moment we’ll know more about the Aquatic ones than the others soon.

“The third group are the land ones. These have just started to appear. According to the Russians, they’re over a hundred feet tall. They’re tough, they walk on their hind legs using their forearms to strike blows. They have vestigial wings only. No acid blood again. The ones that appeared have been killed so quickly we have no idea whether they breath fire or what.”

"[U]sing their forearms to strike blows."
Three sentences later: "we've killed them so quickly they didn't even get the chance to fight back."
Consistency, how the fuck does it work.

“We’re going to need names for all these types. Baldrick’s good enough for a generic name, I agree with Condi, we have to distinguish between the mythology we’ve all read and the reality we have to fight.” President Bush leaned back in his seat, rubbing his eyes. “Does it seem to anybody that these Baldricks are getting tougher.”

I dunno, it seems like they all die pretty readily when faced with any opposition, no matter how minor.

“Certainly Sir.” Senator Warner tapped the pictures of the three types of demons. “There’s a definite progression here.

Satan, like all good cliche overlords, is sending out progressively stronger troops, so as to give his opponents as much time as possible to acclimate and learn all their weaknesses.

There’s another thing, we have people going through ancient records, demonologies, grimoires that sort of stuff. Now, the information in there is undoubtedly corrupted and distorted but we’re hoping it gives us some form of clue as to what we can expect. One thing we have noted. You’ll note that these Baldricks haven’t come in blasting. We would, under the same circumstances, we’d be advancing behind a wall of missiles, tactical air and artillery fire. These just cruised straight into our defenses and died on them.

PS it's not harrowing or inspiring when, three chapters in, your own protagonists are openly discussing how pathetic the opposition is, nor does it make this story any more interesting or believable.

“We think we may have discovered the reason for this. One of our early readings found a mention of demonic heralds who were supposed to carry the word of their master to his new subjects. Apparently they would just appear in a population center, announce that all within were now subjects of their master and carry them off to hell. As far as we can see, nobody ever resisted. There’s even a suggestion that, by some sort of celestial Geneva Convention, these heralds are immune from attack.”

Population centers in antiquity were far smaller than they are now. So how, pray tell, are the demons completely missing major metropolitan centers like Moscow and London?

Bush frowned. “Attorney General Mukasey, has the United States ever signed an agreement to that effect.”

“No Sir, we have not.”

“Good, doesn’t apply to us then. Tell everybody to keep shooting. A question John, does ‘immune from attack’ mean that they can’t be shot at or that they are immune to weapons fire?”

Seeing as the hundred-foot-tall demons are treated as more of a curiosity than an actual threat even by the people they're attacking, I think that's a pretty meaningless question.

“Our guess at this time Sir is that the second lead to the former. People found their bows and arrows and so on didn’t work against them so they rationalized it by creating the former. Of course, we could be wrong on that. But the key point is, if these are the heralds referred to in the Grimoire, the real armies of hell are still to get here. We have to stack our defenses ready.”

"[T]he Grimoire." Not any specific book. Just, you know... the Grimoire.

“I agree, Henry.” Treasury Secretary Paulson started. “Henry, we need supplementals, huge ones. This is a war, we have to fund it as such. We’re going to be spending serious money. Organize it. Elaine, Carlos, get to work shifting our industry to a war footing, get the missile factories and tank lines on triple shifts. Tell Boeing we’ll take every F-22 they can build, cost-plus basis. I believe the B-2 jigs and tooling are still in storage, if they are, get the Spirit back into production. Same with the Bone. What we can’t build, we’ll buy from abroad.

Who are we going to buy equipment from? I was under the impression that America is a net arms exporter, and that even highly developed nations rely on us for some key pieces of equipment. For example, the British SSBN fleet would be pretty much useless without American assistance. Or is the US going to start buying up cheap Chinese Kalashnikov clones? Hey, can't be any worse than the M16.

“Oh and John. Defense is fine but nobody ever won a war by defending. We have to go onto the offensive and attack. Find out how.”

Throne Room, Infernal Palace of Dis, Hell.

Dis? Is this a Dante's Inferno fanfic now?

“They have done what?” The infernal voice boomed across the hall, making the thick red vapor boil and eddy as the banners of long-forgotten kingdoms twisted and furled in the smog.

“Your Eminence, I cower at your feet.

“I know. Do it some more. Then tell me what you meant.”

Haha what the hell.

"Your Eminence, I cower before your incredibly cliche evil overlordism."

Abigor cringed on the ground at Satan’s feet, his tongue flicking over the great hooked claws. “Sire, forgive me”

Abigor is from other works (The Lesser Key of Solomon comes to mind), in which he has the power of prognostication. Specifically, he can prophesy the course of armed conflicts, which would be extraordinarily useful here.

Guess what he can't do in Armageddon^*$?_

“No. But continue.”

“Sire, they killed your heralds.”

“My gentlemen!”

"Fill me up with barbeque sauce, because I'm dumb as hell!"

The scream of anger made the very foundations of hell shake. Across the fields of burning rock where the souls of the dead were forever held in torment, the devils looked up from their work and shuddered in fear. “They killed my gentlemen. It is laid down by our immortal will that the heralds shall be forever immune from attack.”

“Sire.” Abigor whimpered and abased himself still further. If he had been human he would have lost control of his bowels several minutes ago. “We believe that one of the heralds may have lived long enough to say that.”

“And what did those insignificant humans say to that? Do they cry for my forgiveness? Not that they’ll get it.”

This is just ridiculous. It's like the author looked at Skeletor and thought "I can do better than that, but only if he weren't so dignified."

“No Sire. It is reported they replied ‘screw you and the horse you rode in on’. We don’t quite understand that Sire.”

They know what a jet fighter is and can speak contemporary English, but horses and/or modern colloquialisms are beyond them.

“Then they must learn obedience. I blame this all on Yahweh. He was supposed to have softened this lot up, got them to believe anything and obey everything. I thought he had too.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, back up. Did he just...

...

He did...

...

God is in league with Satan.

...

...

...

...

...

...

Abigor, you will rectify this. You command 60 of the 999 legions of Hell. You will take them and wipe these upstarts out.”

I like how Satan has to tell Abigor how many legions he controls, like he didn't know already.

"As you know, General Petraeus, you command X of the Y divisions of America."
"Um... yeah? And?"
"As you know, General, your rank is General. Because you are a General. This is indicative of your being a General, General. Now go do General things, 'k?"

And this would have been laughably easy to fix, too, while getting the point across more subtly. Just have Satan tell Abigor to head out with 60 legions as if it weren't any big deal. Or maybe have Satan order Abigor to use a certain proportion of his forces while leaving the demons' total strength unstated. The implication would be that, if one demon commands such a large army, then the total forces under Satan's command must be staggeringly enormous (they are, after all, capable of successfully containing and torturing tens of billions of humans). That would convey the vastness of the forces of Hell and let the audience know which forces are at his disposal, without being so off-puttingly blatant about it. You know: show, not tell.

“Sire, may I beg your indulgence for one moment of your time.”

“No.”

“But Sire, the heralds are dead and we do not know how or why. The impossible, the impermissible, the unforgivable has been done and we know nothing of this. Sire, we should find out before we invade, then we can inflict yet greater suffering and despair upon them.”

You are in Hell. I'm sure there are plenty of fires and crap. You can also travel to earth somehow. Just open a big-ass portal or something and dump fire and brimstone on the humans. There's no way they could mess that up.

“Greater suffering and despair, I like the sound of that. What do you propose?”

“Sire, I suggest that I ask Deumos send the comeliest and most seductive of her Succubi to Washington, capital of the greatest nation on Earth.

AMERICA, FUCK YEAH!

There is one there, peculiarly susceptible to her charms who might be seduced into telling us what we need to know. Think, Sire, of his grief when he learns his lusts have betrayed all humanity.”

Oh man, this had better be going where I think it is.

Macdonald’s Restaurant, just off Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington D.C.

Former President William Jefferson Clinton jogged up to the restaurant and headed through the doors, his Secret Service detail following behind. He stopped to mop his forehead, his sides heaving with the exercise. He carefully did not look at the two Secret Service agents, he guessed that they were unmoved by his evening routine. In fact, he doubted if they were even breathing heavily. Fortunately, the place was empty, or nearly so. It pretty much always was this late at night.

"Big Mac attack! Yee-hoo!"

“Can I help you Sir?” The young Latina girl behind the counter was too tired to recognize the former President.

“I’ll have a double quarter-pounder with extra cheese, two super-size portions of fries, oh and a small diet soda please.”

Heh. I know the joke is overdone, but it works.

“Coming right up Sir.” The girl got her order from the pass and gave it to Clinton. He paid his bill and went to a table.

“Hi Sir, mind if a girl sits with you? Don’t want to be on my own this late at night.” Clinton glanced up. The woman waiting politely by his table had a mane of jet-black hair that fell in curls half way down her back. Great, luminous black eyes and a mouth that promised everything imaginable without saying a word. “I’m Sheba, please I won’t bother you, your such a big, strong man. I’m sure I’ll be safe with you.”

"And I'm definitely not a demon."

A few feet away, the two Secret Service agents registered the scene with horror. How in hell had she slipped in there? It was appalling, a total breech of security, one which the senior agent had to do something about.

“Hey Lady get away from here. Don’t you know who….” Sheba looked at him her eyes pleading for understanding. “Well, alright I suppose it’ll be OK.”

So they have mind control powers now? Things just got interesting.

Clinton finished his snack, leaving the garbage to be thrown away by one of the Secret Service men. As he left the restaurant, the girl was trotting along beside him. Clinton kept throwing calculating glances at her, she was, perhaps, a little on the heavy side

Just how he likes 'em.

but that mouth was so enticing.

“This is so wonderful, what is it?” Sheba was stroking the great black wheeled vehicle that stood on the road.

“A Chevvy Suburban. It belongs to my bodyguards.” Clinton threw another calculating glance at Sheba. “Would you like to see inside.”

I'm liking Clinton so far. Now if only they could spring JFK from Hell. They'd out-succubus the succubi!

“Ohhh, yes please.” Sheba peered in, the front seat was like any other automobile, controls, a steering wheel, pedals on the floor. “How many horses does it take.”

How many slugs to the horsehead?

“Three hundred and thirty five.” Sheba blinked trying to imagine the sight.

“The front’s standard, all the good stuff is in the back.” He turned to his Secret Service men. “Open up the back please?”

“But Sir..”

"Remember the last time you took a demon home, sir?"
"Oh, right... Hillary..."

“Open it up please.” Clinton’s voice was insistent. The agent sighed and did as he was told. A lot of the equipment in the back was classified. “Isn’t that one of the new automatic shotguns?”

Why does Bill Clinton keep a shotgun in the back of his car?

Clinton took the nod for an answer and reached in, picking the heavy weapon up. With slickness born of long practice, he spun around, racking the mechanism as he did. Then, with the barrel less than a foot from Sheba’s stomach, he pulled the trigger.

The long roaring burst drowned out her scream and the blasts of buckshot hurled her backwards across the sidewalk, rolling her over as she started to fall apart. The Secret Servicemen’s faces were expressions of utter horror at the scene, horror that was replaced by revulsion as the figure sprawled on the ground began to change, its flesh going black, horns growing from its head, a tail sprouting from under the absurdly-short skirt. Their reactions were, under the circumstances commendable. They stopped their dive for Clinton in mid-lunge, spun, drew their SIG-Sauer P-229s and each emptied all twelve rounds of .357SIG into the writhing demon. Clinton had dropped the empty magazine of his shotgun, loaded another and a second roar finished the job. The demon was dead, its bright yellow blood spreading across the sidewalk.

You'd think the yellow smear on the pavement would be all that's left of it.

“It was a demon.”

No, really.

“Hey, Bill’s killed a demon.”

The whispers from the crowd grew as they recovered from the shock of the violent confrontation. One man, obviously the worse for drink, staggered up and smacked Clinton on the back. “Well done Bill. Have a drink.” Clinton grabbed the bottle in its brown paper bag and took a swig.

I don't even like Bill Clinton and I think this part is great. Whenever the story isn't focusing on conferences or milwank, it's actually pretty decent, and the mental image of Clinton blasting away at a succubus with an automatic shotgun is priceless. Now if only the author had embraced camp and made the rest of The Salvation War like this.

The senior of the secret servicemen was speaking on the radio. “Stay away from the body please, we don’t know what we’re dealing with here.” Then he turned to Clinton. “Well done sir, but, how did you know?”

Clinton grinned, the easy, friendly grin that won him elections. “I’ve been married to Hilary for thirty years. Believe me, after going through that, I have no trouble recognizing a fiend from hell.”

Bill Clinton is, by far, the best character in Armageddon///, and will likely remain so. Seriously, I'd read a whole book of nothing but Slick Willie slaughtering demons with a shotgun, even if most everything else remained the same. Just imagine him storming the gates of Pandaemonium, shotgun in one hand and a Big Mac in the other. And then he guns down Satan's personal guards, strikes a match on one of their cloven hooves, and lights a cigar.

Satan: Feeble human! Resistance is useless in the face of eternal damnation!
Clinton: Depends on what the meaning of "is" is.

Maybe this isn't going to be so bad after all.

This post has been edited by Dr. O: Mar 22 2011, 04:57 PM


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post Mar 22 2011, 05:17 PM
I guess the scene was okay, but it continues to demonstrate how totally ineffective the legions of Hell are.


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post Mar 23 2011, 04:29 PM
I would like to begin this chapter with a selection from the thread that spawned The Salvation War.

QUOTE (The Duchess of Zeon)
God was turned away by Iron Chariots once before. Are you people all so pathetic as to forget the myths of your ancestors? When the Heroes at Troy wounded the Gods and drove them from the field? When the mortal hand of Rama struck down the demon Ravana after invading Sri Lanka on his bridge of hurled stone? Satan is the Prince of Hell; God may have put him there but he still has princely power and he controls who is to be tortured and who isn't. This is his moment to break free from the cycle-curse. If we can turn away the strength of God with Iron, then let us make common cause with the Prince of Hell and turn on heaven with full fury. Angels can make war; we'll kill them, and we'll drive God from his throne at point of sword, and exhort the moral of the spirits in heaven to rise against the injustice of a God turned against his own word.


QUOTE (Stark)
Except god wasn't driven off by iron.

Back to your regularly scheduled fantasies of potency. I vote we cut Zeon into pieces like Horus to ... handwave handwave... save the world with violence.


Chapter Four

Oval Office, White House, Washington D.C.

“Sir, newsflash just in, Former President Clinton has just killed a baldrick at the McDonalds just down the road.”

“Damn, that will cost us at least one more seat in the House.” President Bush looked pensive for a moment. “I don’t suppose we could get my pappy to whack one?”

If only.

Maybe they can put together a squad of ex-Presidents who go on missions wrecking the demons' shit. If would be like the A-Team, except for the part where they exhume Reagan's corpse, force the battered remnants of his soul from the astral plane and into the cadaver, and then put it in a mecha suit that uses an anti-tank gun like a rifle. And he and Jimmy Carter would put aside their differences as they carve a bloody swath through the legions of the damned, only for Carter to tragically die on a mission to assassinate Beelzebub, causing Reagan to fly into a berserker rage and ascend to a level of badassery heretofore unknown in the annals of human history. So, not like the A-Team at all, really.

Sorry, it's just that I get the feeling that this chapter's going to be incredibly dry, so I'm doing all I can to keep myself entertained.

His public relations advisor shrugged, if one turned up in the right place it could be arranged, probably. But that was asking too much. “No Sir, not that we can rely on anyway.”

Bush’s mouth twisted, a pity to be disappointed so late in the evening. “How did it happen anyway? How did Bill, I suppose we’ll have to call him Wild Bill now, manage it? And what were the Secret Service up to?”

“The details are very brief, Sir, apparently he just blasted the baldrick with an automatic shotgun. Doctor Surlethe, the National Science Advisor is waiting outside, perhaps he can give you some more details.”

Surlethe is a member of the forum where this was posted, and I think he contributed to this story. Basically, we're dancing on the razor's edge of self-insertion here.

A sigh wafted gently across the room, President Bush really didn’t like being briefed by scientists. They tended to use such long words. Like any good politician, Bush knew that the time taken to say a four-syllable word was greater than the attention span of the audience. “Trot him in.”

Bush leaned forward in his seat, giving the impression of studiously examining the papers on the Presidential desk. “Doctor Surlethe, good to see you. A great achievement by the former President, but one that raises a few questions I think?”

Questions that in no way the humans will instantly solve, allowing them to effortlessly halt any further attempts at demonic infiltration.

“Indeed so sir. Mr. Clinton was very lucky that the baldrick in question was a new type, one that apparently has some unnerving capabilities. In accordance with your instructions, we’ve started naming the baldrick types we encounter. For example, the we’ve designated the flying baldricks as harpies, the aquatic ones as leviathans and the land-based one as behemoths. The one killed by Mr. Clinton was human sized and gave every appearance of being a human female, a very seductive one. It changed appearance into what we assume was its real form only when blasted with several dozen rounds of double-ought buckshot and automatic pistol fire.”

"Its true form appears to be a chunky gruel of bone chips and liquefied internal organs."

“Wait a minute, this thing was able to simulate people’s appearance? It’s a shape shifter? That means it could be anybody, you, me, anybody could be killed and replaced by one of those things.”

It would make for a good story if the possibility of demons popping up anywhere undetected were to spark paranoia on a scale dwarfing even Stalin's wildest dreams.

So naturally it's not going to happen.

“Yes Sir, although things may not be quite that bad. The other thing is that this baldrick, we’re going to call this type a succubus, just materialized by the former President’s table and started to speak to him. The Secret Service men thought they’d fouled up badly but nobody saw that thing before it was standing next to the former President and speaking. It’s as if it simply materialized there.”

“That’s appalling. It means nobody is safe, one could materialize here and now.”

And the demons know of Washington, D.C.'s location and importance, which means they could decapitate the American government with contemptuous ease. Which they would do if they were halfway competent. I mean, they can even manipulate people's perceptions directly and (as we'll find out later) have caused school shootings, so what's stopping them from just having a secret service agent gun down everybody?

In fact, why did they even try to seduce Clinton? They want to kill all humans, right? And all humans show up in Hell, correct? So just have the succubus pop in, kill Bill, and then interrogate him in Hell. Shit, just drop in a few of those hundred-foot-tall ones that can soak up tank shells and have them stomp all over the capitol building and the Pentagon. There, all the intel they could want. Ta-da!

Oh, wait, I forgot. I was assuming that the demons were formidable antagonists being led by the fountainhead of all deceit and evil, rather than a pack of lobotomized Assyrian peasants under the command of Dr. Evil with goat horns.

“Well, that all depends Mister President. There are pretty much two possibilities. The first is that the succubus really is a shape-shifter and can teleport around. If that is the case, then we can take the entire science section of the Library of Congress and toss it on to the landfill. Everything we thought we knew about the physical world is wrong. However, the other possibility is much more probable and something we can handle.” Doctor Surlethe paused for a second. This was going to be the tricky bit. “This option is that the succubus doesn’t change shape or teleport, it simply makes us think it looks the way it does.”

“How can it do that?” Here comes the long words Bush thought to himself.

“Mister President, are you familiar with the concept of quantum entanglement.”

"Quantum" is the new "atomic." It can do anything you need while maintaining the thin veneer of scientific credibility.

Knew it Bush thought. Four syllables at least. “I’ve heard the term.”

"Is it one of them nukular things?"

That means no. Doctor Surlethe said ruefully to himself. Oh well, here we go. “Quantum entanglement is a phenomenon in which two or more objects influence each other at a quantum level even though the individual objects may be spatially separated. This leads to correlations between observable physical properties of the systems. For example, measurements performed on one system seem to be instantaneously influencing other systems entangled with it.”

Surlethe looked at the President, he wasn’t sure but Bush’s eyes seemed to be rotating in different directions. “What this means is that one quantum state can duplicate itself, transit information on itself if you like, to another without a direct contact. This has been experimentally demonstrated within a laboratory and we are just beginning to appreciate the implications of the phenomena. Now, the workings of the brain and nerves all use various kinds of energy fields, you’ve heard of brainwave measurement and things like that. We’ve been doing that for years. Now, theoretically, its possible that the succubus can entangle its energy field with those around it so that it transmits information to them, in effect it duplicates itself in them. So, the succubus holds a mental image of itself in its mind and uses this ability to entangle the sense transmissions in those around it so it duplicates that image in them. In short, all those around the succubus see it the way the succubus wants them to see it. It doesn’t change shape, it simply changes the way people see its shape.”

Attached Image

“And the teleport thing.”

“Easy, the succubus simply transmits an image of itself that isn’t there. It isn’t invisible, it simply tells the senses in its victim that it isn’t present. Now, if this is correct, we should be able to detect that energy field, there isn’t a part of the electromagnetic spectrum we can’t detect and measure, and work out a way to stop it. Only, we’ll need a live succubus for that and we haven’t got one. Until we get one, we won’t know which explanation is correct.”

So the succubus can travel across dimensions and manipulate the human mind with enough finesse to not only alter its appearance, but make itself effectively invisible.

I guess the question is, why do they have to teleport? Can't they mess with our heads from Hell? What's preventing them from ripping the information they want directly out of the victim's mind? What's the point of placing themselves in physical danger when their presence doesn't seem to be at all necessary for this quantum magic to work?

Wait a minute, that's a lot more than one question.

“We don’t need a succubus Doctor, we’ve got the evidence we need.” Bush grinned to himself, just because he didn’t like using four-syllable words and usually mispronounced them when he did, didn’t mean he couldn’t understand them.

That's a pretty nice bit of wry humor, as well as some characterization for Bush.

“We have Mister President?”

“This is Washington Doctor. The city with one of the highest crime rates in America. Knocking off fast-food restaurants and shooting the staff is a daily event. Or was, until the places started installing video surveillance cameras. Now, if I follow your explanation properly, the entanglement thing you talk about works on the energy fields in the brain. Surveillance cameras don’t have brains. The film should show us what is really there, not what it wants us to think is there. So, lets get that film.”

Because there's no way a succubus could manipulate electronic equipment. I mean, it's not like the brain is just a really complex organic computer, and anything that can hack a human brain to the degree the succubi do would be capable of coping with less sophisticated systems.

Then again, it appears that the demons haven't been following earth all that closely ever since the Age of Sail, so maybe they have no idea what a camera is.

In which case you'd think someone would already have spotted a succubus while going over security footage.

It took just under an hour. The manager of the 19th Street McDonalds had the interesting experience of FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, III arriving to collect his video surveillance tapes personally. Director Mueller carried the tapes went back to the White House where they were set up in the projection office just off the Conference Room. By the striking of the hour, the audience had assembled and the tapes were run.

“Right, here we are, we can see the former President and his two Secret Service men entering the restaurant …… will you look at that!” Mueller’s voice was incredulous. A jet black figure, human-sized but with a set of rounded stub horns and a long pointed tail entered through the open doors of the restaurant, only a foot or so behind the rear Secret Service man. By the time the doors had closed, it was inside. “He’s getting his food, going to the table.” The succubus had walked less than a couple of feet in front of the Secret Service agents, both had looked directly at it, but neither of them had seen it. The succubus spoke with Clinton while he ate, then the two left together. A few seconds after they left, there were the brilliant flashes of gunfire outside.

This part was a lot better the first time.

“There we are, Doctor Surlethe, it doesn’t teleport and it doesn’t shift shape. It just makes us think it does, so you can start to look for your energy field, right?”

“Yes Sir.”
Bush relaxed in his seat, running the implications of the scene in his mind. “Doctor Surlethe, your Quantum Entanglement theory was very interesting and, as far as I can make out, plausible. Don’t concentrate on it to the exclusion of other theories though. I’ve seen that happen all too often.

Why should they? We all know he got the right solution on the first try. Because that's exactly how science works.

“Gentlemen, we’ve proved something else today. We can rely on our optical sensors even if we can’t rely on our own eyes and ears. That’s worth spreading to the troops, to everybody in fact. I doubt that this succubus thing that Bill killed so emphatically will be the only one that we run into, there will be more and we need to be on our guard against them. Closed-circuit television surveillance, remote surveillance so that the operator isn’t within the zone of control of these things, is essential. By Executive Order, I’m making the installation of such equipment a tax-deductible expense as from now. See that gets out as fast as possible.”

I'd like to know how he plans to pay for this.

James Randi Educational Foundation, Florida, USA

James Randi rubbed his eyes. The last few days had been tiresome in the extreme, ever since the announcement that all mediums were being tested so that their abilities, if any, could be used in the war effort went out, the Foundation had been besieged by applicants. The big names, of course, had refused to show their faces. They were scared spitless of The Amazing Randi and with good reason. He knew the tricks they used and how to expose them, submitting to tests by him would destroy their livelihood. That reasoning hadn’t helped them, they had found themselves being picked up by the FBI, bundled into the back of a Chevvy Suburban and brought down to the Foundation. A few hours later, they had been on their way back, their fraudulent claims exposed and discredited.

Yeah. Because that's what Randi does: he discredits people. So why aren't they having actual scientists look for supernatural stuff and do the testing? The narration makes it pretty obvious that he's predisposed to see all psychics as frauds, and "a few hours" indicates that the testing isn't very thorough. This is less "science and reason triumphing over superstition" and more "people the author likes winning by fiat."

“Not one. Not one genuine medium in the whole lot. There was a time when that would have delighted me but not now. We know there’s something out there but we can’t get at it. It was easier being an atheist, now I don’t know what to believe. Guess that makes me agnostic.”

You know, it's possible to believe in the existence of God without worshipping Him. There are all sorts of ways you can rationalize this stuff that don't fit into the neat pigeonholes of atheism and agnosticism. Or the vague "religious people" with which victims of The Message are described.

“No, James. I know that the idea an agnostic lies between the extremes of atheism and religious fanaticism but it does not. It is a separate line of thought. An atheist denies the existence of any sort of god, the theist affirms it. An agnostic believes that the existence or non-existence of a god can never be proven, the Gnostic believes that the existence or non-existence of a god is subject to rational proof. If I understand your position correctly, you were a Gnostic Atheist. You denied the existence of a god and thought you could prove that your denial was correct.”

Just as long as he isn't a Dawkins Atheist. Also known as a douchebag.

“And I was wrong, General.”

“Why James? We know now that there is life after death, that is undeniable. We know that the afterlife is ruled by beings. Why do you believe those beings are gods? We have already proved we can kill their servants with almost absurd ease. Why cannot we kill them as well? They’re probably more trouble than they are worth anyway.”

“We don’t like our gods, so we kill them. Now that’s a soldier talking.”

"We don't like X, so we kill them" is a pretty bad mindset for anyone to have, much less a soldier. Ever heard of "fragging?"

“No James, it is not. A soldier fights for those who cannot fight for themselves. Today we fight for all those who have died, who are being held in horrid slavery. We fight for all humanity, past, present and future. You are part of that fight, don’t forget it. In this war, you are as much a soldier as I.”

“General, while we are speaking on this subject, may I ask something? How does The Message affect you and your people? Few or you are Christian.”

“On one level James, The Message does not concern us.

I do like the image of the Thais just being kind of nonplussed at The Message, like Satan is just another annoying western tourist or something.

I am a Buddhist, so are more than 90 percent of my people. The Lord Buddha was not a god, he was a man. A very wise man who laid down rules for living one’s life as well as possible on an imperfect earth. Good rules that when applied mean one lives a good life. To us, being a Buddhist simply means following those teachings, I could give you a long lecture on what that means but here is neither the time nor the place. When we meditate we simply ponder the teachings of the Lord Buddha and try to seek enlightenment on how they can solve our problems. When we pray to him, we simply are asking him what he would do under these circumstances. Any question of gods or devils is quite irrelevant to that center core belief. In my country, we are animists, we believe that everything has a spirit that lives in it, a spirit we can talk to and who will talk back to us. So The Message didn’t affect us much. On another level, what does affect us is the assertion that all humans go to eternal punishment no matter what they believe. The Message made no distinction between the religions or stated that one would be exempt while another was condemned. All humans are subject to the same fate. So we fight. That’s why governments pay us the big bucks.”

“Which brings us back to where we started. We’ve been pulling in every psychic, every medium, every fortune teller we can find. When we’ve exhausted this country’s supply, we’ll start abroad. Yet, for all our efforts we have not come up with one single person who can actually speak to the dead. What if there are none? What if the dead are indeed beyond contact?”

Look for the mentally ill?

oh wait...

The General finished her whisky and refilled her glass. “Perhaps we are looking in the wrong place. Perhaps we should consider the possibility that so-called mediums cannot speak to the dead but that those who can speak to the dead are not mediums. After all, let us suppose that one can communicate with the dead. What will we learn? That the dead are subject to an eternity of hideous torture, without hope of end or reprieve. That the same fate awaits us all. Now, the grieving family of a dead person turns up on our doorstep. They want reassurance, they want to know that their beloved husband, or wife, parents or children have gone to the better place promised, that they are happy in their afterlife. Would you tell them the truth? That a terrible fate has fallen on them and that the same awaits their relatives?”

Randi shook his head. Such cruelty would be inconceivable. Thinking about it, The Message itself was an act of diabolical cruelty, one that only a truly foul mind could conceive. When Satan had proclaimed his dominion over the Earth and proclaimed that all its souls belonged to him, regardless of virtue or cause, he had fully lived up to his reputation. “So where do we look?”

The General sipped her whisky, savoring its smoky taste. “Imagine yourself as someone who can speak to the damned dead, know their pain and anguish, feel their agony, know that the same fate awaits you and that there is no hope, that the fate ahead is what inevitably awaits you. What would you do?”

Randi thought for a second. “I think I would go mad.”

Look, man, I was just kidding.

The General looked over the rim of her glass. “Quite. So shouldn’t we start looking amongst the mad? Looking at those who hear voices, voices whose messages are so dreadful that they have driven the listener insane? All through history there have been those who have claimed they have heard voices that drove them to acts of rage or despair. They’ve always been treated as though they were insane but suppose they were not? Suppose they really did hear voices, either accidentally or deliberately. In ancient times, such people were described as possessed but in our arrogance we assumed otherwise. We assumed that they were sick, that they had a mental defect that we could treat. Perhaps they were not, perhaps they really were possessed by the demons who now assail us. That they were victims of the hideous game we are now playing to its final act.”

“So we should start looking amongst the mentally ill. That will be a long job.”

This is a world where everything is supposed to be explicable through scientific analysis.

But if you have mental problems, it's because of Satan.

“It will indeed, James, but it is one we can move fast on. We are looking for specific kinds of people, those who hear voices that drive them insane. I think computers can help with this, we need to have the records searched so that we can find the most promising cases. Then we can bring them here.”

Office of the National Science Advisor, Washington D.C.

“Call for you, Doctor Surlethe. From Florida.”

“Thank you, put it through.” Surlethe waited for a moment. “Surlethe here.”

“Doctor, this is the James Randi Educational Foundation.” Surlethe recognized the contralto voice, one that had a threatening growl underneath it. The sound of a well-fed tiger that was eying a small animal with the thought that it had just a little room left in its stomach.

Are we really gonna go with the "Asian tiger lady" stereotype? Really?

“Ah yes General. How is the research going down there?”

“We’ve hit a dead end, our initial concept was wrong so we’re changing tack. We’re writing off the known mediums etc as source material, its pretty obvious they’re all frauds and confidence tricksters. Instead, we’re going to start looking at people who claim to hear voices in their heads and are under treatment for such ‘delusions’.”

“So you and The Amazing Randi think that some of them really do hear voices.” Surlethe’s voice was bitter. Scientists had never forgiven Randi for exposing tricksters whose acts had fooled ‘scientific’ testing. Randi had pointed out that the skills needed to expose a fraud were different from those needed to conduct an experiment. It hadn’t helped, if anything it had made things worse.

Then why is he being allowed to do this? For a book that's supposed to be about science defeating theism, you'd think there'd be some actual, y'know, scientists.

“We do. What we need you to do is to get as much information on such cases to us as possible so we can start working through them. Also, I read the note about the search for energy fields? Can you get some instrumentation down here pretty quick, if we do start finding what we’re looking for, we should be able to measure what it is they’re hearing.”

“I’ll get the equipment sent down, along with some experts to install it. Thank you General, and good luck.”

Surlethe leaned back in his seat. A new front had been opened against the forces that were threatening humanity. While the armed forces were picking off the baldricks who appeared in earth, science and reason were striking at the very heart of their power. For the first time since The Message, Surlethe felt good.

This chapter was just recapping what happened in the previous one and talking about what the protagonists are going to do in the future. I think this is a rich enough premise for the author to explore an angle other than "George Bush gets briefed." I mean, I understand the importance of building things up. I get that. But surely it would be more interesting if we saw some of this research that's supposed to turn the tide of the war instead of being flatly informed of its progress. Earlier there was a bit where they talked about analyzing the corpses of demonic heralds. That could have made for a really interesting bit where some scientists perform an autopsy on a demon, which would have doubled as a nice opportunity to tell us about their biology without a character infodumping. Letting the readers see something and figure out some of it themselves is better than writing entire sections of exposition.

I guess it's not that bad, though the squandered potential really does get to me. Ah well. The actual war against Hell begins in earnest next chapter, so at least something will be happening.


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post Mar 24 2011, 06:17 PM
I almost forgot to do a chapter today. Spending a good chunk of time working on a paper on the comparative industrialization of Japan and the United States and its effects on naval doctrine in WWII will do that to a person. So, anyway, have some more Armageddon???

QUOTE (Ephesians 6:12)
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

- the Bible, completely missing the point of Armageddon???

I apologize in advance if this part isn't very funny. A significant portion of it is describing how the demonic army is organized, so the source material wasn't all that interesting to begin with. On the other hand, we're almost to the part where the gunship pilot forum member rape victim stats an armed uprising in Hell. pinch.gif

Chapter Five

Martial Field of Dysprosium, Hell.

Hehehe element 66.

His troops were formed up on the field, awaiting his inspection. 60 legions, each with 6,666 demons, a total force of over 400,000 demons if Abigor’s own command staff were included.

You know, there are some people who think that 666 is a mistranslation, and the actual number of the beast is 616. That would kind of put a damper on this 6 fetish the demons have going on.

By far the largest force that Hell had ever sent to another world yet it was only a tiny fraction of the army that Hell could deploy if it wished. There were 6,666 legions in hell, a total of 44,500,000 demons under arms, a mighty host that had never in its history been deployed against a single foe. There had never been a single foe whose ability had demanded that level of force.

Then... why do they have that large a military? I'm guessing Hell is pretty firmly under Satan's control, so he wouldn't want potential usurpers running around with a lot of independent military force. Also, most states don't maintain a more powerful military than necessary. You build a military in anticipation of having to fight an opponent, which is why the American military shrank in the 1990s - it was no longer necessary to maintain that level of force.

Of course, we all know why the demons have so many soldiers. It's so the humans can achieve a monstrously inflated kill count.

Always, those lower down the scale of existence had cowered in fear when the demons had arrived, genuflecting at the appearance of the creatures from a greater dimension. Mostly, the armies of Hell had never been needed, the Heralds had been terrifying enough to put their victims into a state of catatonic terror.

What with their self-destructo powers and all.

Only, not this time. This time the creatures from the lower dimensions had the temerity to fight back, even more than that, they had killed the Heralds. That had disturbed Abigor more than he let on. If the Heralds could be killed, what did that mean for the demons in his ranks? The Heralds were deliberately created to be awe-inspiring, terrifying by virtue of their size and apparent invulnerability, yet the humans below had fought back and killed them. Individually, the demons in the ranks of his legions were much less formidable than the great Heralds. They were formidable enough, that was true, their tough hides were impervious to arrows and the blows of swords yet would that be enough? What did the humans have that could kill so effectively?

Maybe the demons should have sent up a couple succubi to figure out human capabilities before they invaded. Or pulled Robert McNamara out of the ninth circle or something and said, "hey man, we can move you up to limbo if you give us some intel."

But instead they didn't, because apparently they were expecting humans to fight back with swords and arrows. You know, Harry Turtledove already did a better job of portraying an ossified society struggling to cope with the human propensity for innovation, and he actually had a good reason for the disparity between the invaders' expectations and humanity's actual technology. And if Harry Turtledove is doing a better job than you at something, well, that's just fucking sad.

There was another point that worried Abigor. The Heralds had been killed, what had happened to them. The rulers of Hell knew what happened to those on the lower dimensions, their creation and life built up a form of energy that, when they died, boosted them over the threshold and translated them to the next level of dimension. Unfortunately for them, the energy needed to surge the occupants of this reality level was much greater. That’s why Hell existed, the second deaths of the unfortunates from realities below were prolonged as much as possible, by millennia or longer, nobody knew the limit yet, so that the energy released by their suffering would boost the rulers of Hell up to their afterlife. The creatures from below suffered in their afterlife to provide the creatures of this level with theirs. But suppose the beings who lived in the reality above this one adopted the same philosophy. Was there a super-Hell that awaited Abigor and his kind?

I like the sound of "super-Hell." Hopefully it's ruled by a super-devil who is even hammier than Mekratrig.

Also, I wonder why humans respawn in Hell when killed but demons don't. I guess there's something that discriminates between human souls and demon souls and figures out who goes where. I know it's not funny, but this is actually a nice little bit of cosmology. It makes the demons more sympathetic by letting us know they have the same feelings of uncertainty and fear of death as humans.

The infantry in his legions were crashing the butts of their tridents against the ground as Abigor rode past on his beast. 56 of his 60 legions were his infantry, Abigor’s host was one of the less mobile of its kind, he had only three mounted legions and one flying legion. The information he had was that the humans lived mostly in cities, that meant the war would be one of sieges, the cities fighting from behind their defensive walls in a series of last stands.

Sieges entail a lot less fighting and a lot more waiting for the other side to starve, but whatever.

That would put a premium on his infantry, his mounted and flying legions would only be of use in isolating each city before the infantry besieged and destroyed it. It had been done before, Abigor knew that human myths were full of stories of cities that had been besieged by hordes of monstrous, inhuman foes.

Name some.

Now they would find out where those myths had come from.

The horns sounded, their wailing drowning out the crashing cadence of the trident staffs. The legions did a right-face, towards a black dot that had suddenly appeared against the roiling red smoke of the sky. The dot expanded, opening a gate into the lower dimension that had dared to defy the will of higher beings. This was the critical stage, the energy gradient ran steeply from the lower dimensions to the higher, it was relatively easy for the higher dimension beings to gain access to the lower, much harder for the lower dimensions to ascend. Only opening a portal could ensure easy access between the dimensions. Yet that same energy gradient meant that once a portal between the levels was opened, it would be very hard to close. Size also was a factor and this was the largest portal that had ever been created. Just how hard would it be to close again? Abigor had an uneasy feeling that nobody had thought to ask that question.

If he's worried about using such a large portal, then why not make a series of smaller ones? I imagine he's just going to march his soldiers through, so any part of the portal more than a couple yards off the ground is going to be wasted space anyway.

The portal reached its full extent and the horns wailed again. Abigor lead his host forward, into the black circle of the portal and from it into the brilliant yellow light and the clear blue skies of Earth.

Headquarters, 1st Armored Division, Task Force Iron, Multi-National Force Iraq

“Have we got the Global Hawk Feed set up?” Major General Wilkens snapped the order out. The situation was breaking loose at last and he didn’t want to fall behind the loop.

“Sir, yes Sir. Direct feed to us, to Washington and to Moscow.” The latter part was new, one of the hurried preparations that had been made over the last two weeks. There had been a frantic effort to link up the world’s military headquarters so that the fight, if it started, when it started, would be properly coordinated. Task Force Iron also had a direct download from Russian satellites and other recon capabilities but it was the RQ-4B Global Hawks that were the key asset. Nobody knew where the attack would come, on paper it could be anywhere but Iraq had been a leading bet. The association of old legends and the fertile triangle of the Tigris-Euphrates was too powerful to ignore.

The demons are attacking Iraq.

They... Which legends are you talking about? The only ones that seem applicable are the Bible and Jewish texts, but the way it's phrased makes it sound like the US military started reading up on Marduk to gain insight into Satan's plan.

High above the desert, the Global Hawk turned lazily, its long wings biting at the thin air. Its stabilized cameras focused on a strange sight in the desert of Western Iraq, a black oval that had suddenly appeared in the stony wastes, one that spread even though it had no apparent substance. It wasn’t even a shadow, it was more of an absence of anything. The cameras zoomed in on the strange spreading stain that still grew beneath it.

Now, let's assume that everyone looked at Judeo-Christian mythology and eschatology and assumed that the demons would show up in the Middle East first. Except... why would the demons follow what is essentially God's game plan? They know enough about the world to be aware that Washington DC is the most important target they could hit. But instead they put their giant portal in the Iraqi desert.

“Well, that looks like it.” Brigadier General Boothe looked at the image with horrified fascination. If the guesses were right he was looking at something humanity had discussed, described and occasionally cursed but never actually seen, the mouth of Hell itself. The black shadow had stopped spreading and seemed to be holding its breath. “Is that thing flat on the ground or perpendicular to it?”

“Can’t tell.” Wilkens spoke quietly, the tension in the room seeming to dull voices. “I think it’s a different dimension entirely, we’re not seeing it, we’re seeing its shadow. I don’t think it has dimensions or proportions as we understand them.”

Even though aircraft can fly through it without a problem (just wait).

Something stirred in the shadow and a line of figures started to appear. “Zoom in on that.” The order came from the commander of the UAV detachment that was operating the Global Hawk. The image enlarged in a series of jerks as the operator clicked up through the zoom scales. The group of figures resolved, one huge figure surrounded by a group of others. Then, another smaller group appeared out of the shadow, followed by lines of others.

“What do you make of that?” Wilkens wanted other opinions, other eyes looking at this.

“First group, the command group. Now. We’ve got combat troops appearing.” The analyst looked quickly at the emerging lines. “They’re coming out in a parade formation. If we only had the assets within range.”

Um, no. Commanders don't go in front. The front ranks are for expendable guys like Uriah. And even if that is the demonic command element, how did the humans immediately arrive at that conclusion instead of trying to figure out whether it's a recon party or something else? They could be some poor schmucks the demons got to go through first in order to see whether the portal is safe and stable.

“The alerts gone off to the fly-boys and the squids. We’ll have jets here soon enough. And we’ve got the friends with their toy on scene.”

On the screen the figures had continued to pour out of the portal, forming up into a huge square on the desert. The UAV operator dialed his cameras in again. “OK, that formation seems to be complete. I make it 81 ranks, each of 81 baldricks. They’re subdivided into 9 groups of 9 ranks with a command section between each. I guess that gives us 6,666 down there.”

Are the demons organized this way just because "haw haw it's a 6," or is there some logical reason? Like, do they count in a different base than humans? Ah well, it's not that important, I guess.

“Appropriate number. About a brigade-sized formation then? And that would make the smaller sub-divisions battalions.” There were nods around the room, it seemed fair enough, 9 ranks of 81 meant 729 demons in a battalion. This was translating raw numbers into a structure that could easily be understood – and to the people in this room, what could be understood could be destroyed. Once structure, form and numbers were evaluated and put into context, destruction was a matter of planning. “Each line is a company with nine nine-baldrick platoons?” More nods of agreement

“If that’s it, this is something we can cope with.” Boothe spoke as if he was trying to convince himself. He needn’t have bothered, the situation was changing even while he spoke.

The demons were getting out their ceremonial swords in preparation for ritual suicide, which would save both them and the Americans a lot of time.

“More coming out Sirs.” On the television screen, a second square was forming beside the first, the stream of black figures emerging from the Hellmouth coalescing into a second square to the right of the first. Even as it was completed, a third square started forming to the left of the first. Still the figures poured out, new squares forming until the line had seven in all.

“Assuming the squares are all identical, there’s almost 47,000 of them down there. The baldricks aren’t playing games are they?”

They're definitely serious, having committed a whopping .1% of their total forces.

Wilkens shook his head. Even as he did so, the line of seven squares started to move forward and another wave of black figures poured out, forming into squares exactly as their predecessors had done. The command center was utterly silent as the imagery poured in from the cameras on the Global Hawk. The second line of squares was finished, moved forward and a third row started, then a fourth. By the time the figures ceased to pour out, there were eight rows in all, 56 of the black squares spread out on the Iraqi sand.

“Rows are divisions, the whole thing’s a Corps.” More nods of agreement, faced with the huge numbers assembling on the screens in front of them, naming units seemed trivial yet it was utterly important if the enemy was to be understood. “Span of command is very large. Seems to run in nines.”

Who left the camera running? Just move on to the next part already.

“Probably personal command, we’re going to be looking at a slowly-reacting army here. It’s very low-geared. Big but ponderous. Suits us just fine.” More nods around the room. The United States Army was built to fight large, ponderous opponents. It was beginning to look like it had finally found one.

"Our enemy is specifically set up to fight the large, set-piece battles for which the American military has been planning for decades."

How convenient.

“What are those?” More figures were pouring out, larger ones. The UAV operator played with his camera controls, zooming in on the new arrivals. They were baldricks still but sitting on a beast, one that looked vaguely like a rhinoceros with a great horn on its nose, but with a scorpion’s tail arched high over its back and claws like a lobster.

Look, Rhinos! RHINOS! Our enemies hide in METAL BAWKSES, the cowards! THE FOOLS! We... mmuhhh... we should take away their metal boxes. SINDRI!

“I’d guess those are the cavalry. We don’t know how fast those things can move, mark them down as priority targets.”

“More coming.” The figures pouring out of the Hellmouth were flying, winged creatures, like the harpies show down by the squids a couple of weeks earlier but smaller. They landed and formed a last square. Seconds then minutes crept by but no more baldricks joined the awesome parade in front of the Hellmouth. The Global Hawk wasn’t equipped to pick up sound but nobody watching was in any doubt that the desert was alive with the sounds of drumming and the hammering of feet.

See, this right here is why I don't buy the documentary excuse. This looks exactly like a dramatic narrative. It looks like it was intended to be a dramatic narrative. It is set up like a dramatic narrative. But apparently it isn't, since Armageddonಠ_ಠ transcends the cliches of traditional narrative.

Hellmouth, East of Ar Rutbah, Iraqi Desert
Unnoticed in the noise and confusion, a small winged structure danced in the dust and glare. It was an odd little thing by anybody’s standards, a lumpy fuselage with two longish wings, a tripod tail unit and a propeller was at the rear. Its name was an MQ-1B Predator.

The Predator didn’t have markings which was hardly surprising, it’s operators, far back at Task Force Iron’s command center weren’t from the U.S. armed forces, they were Central Intelligence Agency. For almost five years, the CIA had been operating a clandestine force of Predators, using them for covert assassinations of terrorist leaders and others considered undesirable. That role had abruptly ended with The Message, those who had taken the “submission to the will” bit seriously had died, the rest had thrown their lot in with the rest of humanity. Now, the U.S. Army and CIA had the strange but not unfamiliar experience of working with people who only a few days before had been their blood-enemies.

Just like that? Yeah, because Islamic terrorist organizations have such a great history of casting aside their feuds with what they see as imperialist powers. Just ask Israel, the Soviet Union, and the US. I bet the Chechens are currently chest-bumping with their new Spetsnaz buddies.

Unless all the devout people have died, leaving the guys who were in it for secular power. In which case they'd still have an anti-colonial/pan-Arabic/nationalist agenda that would put them at odds with America.

But then in book two, we do get humans fighting each other, and who is it? Fucking Burma. Because clearly they want reconciliation with Thailand less than Al-Qaeda does with the CIA.

The change had meant the Predators had a new job, one which was of absolutely vital importance. It was essential to find out if human weapons, human technology could be sent into Hell and return. More importantly, were those weapons as destructive there as they were proving on Earth. If the answer was yes, then humanity had a means of striking back at its foe, if not, then they would forever be condemned to an ultimately futile defense. The Predators were the vanguard of this exploration, the information they gained within the next few minutes would mark the start of the investigation. It was, quite literally, reconnaissance by fire. It’s orders received, the MQ-1B obediently turned around and headed for the shadowy ellipse that marked the Hellmouth.

Is it going to work perfectly? What do you think?

(no points for being right, by the way)

Headquarters, 1st Armored Division, Task Force Iron, Multi-National Force Iraq

Back in the command center, the CIA operative held his breath as the little drone approached the disk and became swallowed in it. Then, the whole section erupted into wild cheers for on the monitor screen, images had emerged. Pictures of a vast plain, bare rock under a swirling red-orange sky, dust clouds sweeping backwards and forwards over the desolate scene. The image brightened and sharpened as the computer-controlled adaptive optics compensated for the wildly unfamiliar light levels and spectra but the images were there.

The operator manipulated his controls, getting the vision head on the electro-optical pod to pivot around. The pictures swirled, grotesque and unfamiliar but still vaguely recognizable. The imagery was coming back, that had enormous consequences.

That was when they realized Hell looked exactly like Detroit.

“Tell Washington, and everybody else, Phase One is complete. We got the bird in and we’re getting data out. There is something the other side of that gate and we can get at it.” The agent’s voice broke into a chuckle. “No huge letters of fire yet, now we’ll try and change all that.”

He played with the optical head again, looking for something important. He found it, at least it seemed important. Some sort of review stand at a far part of the field. The Predator was closing in on it, the trouble seemed to be that it was hard to judge ranges in the red-clouded murk. A quick flash with the laser rangefinder built into the Predator told him what he needed to know. The target was four thousand yards away, easily within range of the two Hellfire missiles hanging under the Predator’s wings. He locked their homing heads onto the stand and fired them both.

So far we have gone exactly one chapter without any demons getting blasted to pieces. Meanwhile, on-screen human casualties are...

Uh...

...

Martial Field of Dysprosium, Hell.

The parade was over, the Army of Abigor had departed into the lower dimension, and the guests who had watched it leave were making their way off the stand. It had been quite an unusual sight, never before had such a force been sent to a lower dimension to enforce the will of those above it. Defiance was unprecedented, such a display had never been required. Now, with the mighty force appearing before them, they would be regretting their failure to submit. The demons who had watched the army leave never saw the two missiles streaking through the red murk towards them, or, if they did, they never realized the significance of what they were seeing.

"What are those two straeks in the air? Why do they look exactly like the thing that the humans have been using to kill us since the first chapter? Oh well, I'm sure it's nothi-"

The explosions destroyed the stand totally, sending fragments of wood and stone flying through the air, ripping into the hides of all around them. Blast seared their skin, flaying flesh from bones, shattering limbs, tearing at bodies. What had just a demonic second before been a decorated review stand was now a pile of shattered wreckage, splattered with the green, yellow, black, red and white body fluids of those who had been standing on it.

"just a demonic second"

I don't know why, but I feel that bears repeating. Also, it looks like demon blood comes in so many colors you could almost paint a day care center with it.

Those outside the blast area looked on appalled at the catastrophe that had suddenly enveloped the senior guests. The more astute of them started running towards the disaster, hoping to gain status and rewards by being the first to aid the stricken. Above the chaos, still unnoticed by those below, the Predator turned around and flew back towards the Hellmouth.

In Hell, you gain status for helping the weak.

Instead of, you know. Being devious.

So far, the humans have been bigger dicks than the collective forces of evil, and that's saying something.

Headquarters, 1st Armored Division, Task Force Iron, Multi-National Force Iraq

“Phase Two complete! Two solid hits, it’s chaos down there. Wherever it is, whatever it is, our weapons work there. Look at that people, boy have we just kicked an anthill over.” The CIA Agent’s voice was triumphant, the camera on the Predator was showing a boiling mass of confusion where the target had been. He had no idea of who or what he had just killed, if indeed he had killed them, but there was no doubt of the destruction. The reviewing stand had gone, its position marked by a pyre of smoke and flame. There was just one thing to check and that was coming up soon. The Predator approached the Hellmouth and flew through it. It took a second for the optics to readjust but when they did they showed the blue sky and yellow sand of the Iraqi Desert.

For all they know, they just bombed a bunch of civilians who were there to watch the parade. Way to go, America.

“Phase Three complete. UAV recovered.”

“Confirmed, we have a radar paint.” The transponder in the Predator marked the position of the drone as it set off on its long flight back to base. It had done its job better that anybody could have hoped and certainly far better than its manufacturers could have ever contemplated.

The Oval Office, The White House, Washington D.C.

Good. I would have been despondent if there weren't at least one briefing in this chapter.

“My fellow Americans.” President Bush paused, then shook his head. “No, my fellow humans, for today we all stand shoulder to shoulder against a threat that promised to engulf us all. Truly, in these desperate days, if we do not hang together, we will all hang separately. Today, there are no Americans, no Russians, no Japanese or Chinese or Australians. We are all humans together and it is to each other that we must look for our survival. We cannot hope for aid or help from others, we stand alone with only each other and the tools of our joint ingenuity to protect us.

Oh, hey, it's a speech.

And a good one, at that.

“We have learned, beyond any shadow of a doubt that Hell and Heaven both exist but that the doors to the latter are closed to us.

How do you know this? Was that The Message? As opposed to Satan's message, which hasn't been distinguished from The Message at all? Or did Satan's original message end with God saying, "I'm the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and I approve this message."

If we lose the fight in which we are now engaged, the entire human race faces only a screaming eternity. Hell and Heaven both have, by both word and deed, declared their undying hatred of Mankind united, and as such we return it tenfold. As of this day, we find ourselves embroiled in a war, the war, Armageddon as it was never once dreamed in the worst nightmares of our forefathers, a war not between Heaven and Hell for our own salvation, but between Heaven and Hell and Humanity, a war we must win completely and utterly if we desire the slightest chance of sparing untold generations of future men and women a literal eternity of suffering. We claimed to be fighting in a 'War on Terror', now we find ourselves allied with our former enemies, they are our brothers in a wider struggle, on all of those who would condemn humanity to an eternity of suffering.

"And I apologize to Saddam and Kim for calling them the 'Axis of Evil.' Seems kind of silly, now that you think about it. Heh... We're cool, right, guys? Well, not Saddam, because... you know."

“Once, mere weeks ago, I would have prayed to God to have mercy on our souls. Now I, and all others on this Earth, know better; the being many of us once worshipped as a God has stated in no uncertain terms that there will be no mercy on our souls. To that 'God,' to Lucifer, to all the angels and devils massing to rend and destroy the hope of Humanity's future, I respond: You who would show us no mercy shall receive none in return, for the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve do not suffer betrayal!

"I hate religion now, so I'll paraphrase CS Lewis."

“Today we struck our first blow at our oppressors. Acting on national intelligence information received from reliable informants, a Predator aircraft operated by an intelligence organization struck at a major enemy leadership figure. It is believed the attack was successful and the target was killed. This is the first in a series of targeted assassinations aimed specifically at the enemy leadership. There will be more. They will not know where the blows will come from or when they will strike but there will be more.

“In the war we are about to fight, we will take casualties, probably more than at any time in our history.

Spoiler: lolno. Hell ends up killing fewer American soldiers than the Ardennes offensive.

But in this war, our fight does not end with death. I charge those who fall to spread the word in hell. Humanity is coming. We will not stop, we will not cease, we will not fail. To all those in hell we say, hold fast, we are coming. No matter what it costs, no matter what the sacrifices we must make, no matter how long it takes, no matter who we trample on the way, we are coming for you. You will be freed, your souls will be liberated from torment. You will be saved, not by prayer or submission to the will of some self-proclaimed deity but by the force of our arms. No human will be left behind. I will say that again so there is no misunderstanding. Myths speak or rapture in which many will be ‘left behind’. This may be their way but it is not ours. We serve notice. No human will be left in the clutches of those who would hold us in bondage for all eternity. On that promise may our enemies rest in an uneasy and frightened sleep.

Thank you, and good night.”

That was a little... ah... articulate for Bush, but not bad by any means. I guess that makes two things that-

Thanks to White Haven for valuable inspiration and much of the content of The Speech

Oh.


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post Mar 24 2011, 08:19 PM
QUOTE
Truly, in these desperate days, if we do not hang together, we will all hang separately.

Wow, that's pretty deep. In other news, if we aren't dry, we may be wet, and if we aren't standing, we are laying down.


Or sitting.


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post Mar 24 2011, 08:40 PM
In his (grudging) defense, he was paraphrasing Benjamin Franklin. Though I don't see why the line was necessary, seeing as Islamic terrorists were already working together with American forces in Iraq. That's about as united as you can get. Mission accomplished?

Though I do like the implicit message that if all those pesky religious people just died, humans would stop fighting each other. Countries have never gone to war for secular reasons like land, resources, economics, ideology, support of an ally, or regional hegemony, right?


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Soren Highwind


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post Mar 24 2011, 08:42 PM
QUOTE (Dr. O @ Mar 24 2011, 11:40 PM)
Though I do like the implicit message that if all those pesky religious people just died, humans would stop fighting each other. Countries have never gone to war for secular reasons like land, resources, economics, ideology, support of an ally, or regional hegemony, right?
*


Dude, what the hell history books have you been reading? It's always been about religion. Nope, no other reason. [/sarcasm]

This post has been edited by Soren Highwind: Mar 24 2011, 08:42 PM


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post Mar 24 2011, 09:16 PM
QUOTE (Dr. O @ Mar 24 2011, 08:40 PM)
In his (grudging) defense, he was paraphrasing Benjamin Franklin.
*

Benjamin Franklin can say stupid things sometimes.


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post Mar 25 2011, 11:31 AM
QUOTE (T_K_17 @ Mar 25 2011, 12:16 AM)
Benjamin Franklin can say stupid things sometimes.
*

Touche, TK. sad.gif

Chapter Six

Throne Room, Infernal Palace of Dis, Hell.

“And exactly how did they spontaneously explode?” Satan’s voice had a silky, oily quality to it that was far more unnerving than any of his berserk rages.

"Well, sire, you know how we explode when we bleed?"

“We don’t know Sire. We found bits of metal in the wreckage so we think it was one of the human machines but we don’t understand it.”

“A machine? A human machine you say? They invaded my territory and killed four of my subjects with a machine?” The silky, oily quality was fading, replaced by the hysterical screams of rage. The audience found that immensely reassuring, it was business as usual. The unnatural calm had been horrifying from its unprecedented nature. A raving, screaming temper tantrum was much more familiar. “And nobody saw it?”

The most devious figure in the Bible, who tempted Christ himself... throws temper tantrums enough for the denizens of Hell to consider it "business as usual."

I can only imagine what the characterization of God is going to be like.

“None Sire. Although we do have a message that was transmitted by one of their warlords. It refers to a Predator aircraft.”

“And just what is a Predator?” Satan was struggling to keep his temper under control.

“A hunting bird.” The voice came from a tiny minor demon on the floor. Satan glanced sideways and his glance mashed the speaker into a purple pulp that drained away through the stone floor.

Killing your own minions. Satan is aiming to set some kind of evil overlord cliche record, isn't he?

Oh, and a hunting bird would be a raptor. Which is also the name of an aircraft.

“Does anybody else want to state the obvious?” There was a sudden shuffling of cloven feet and demons glancing sideways at each other. The more astute of them were already trying to work out the best place to take cover when their infernal overlord decided it would be necessary to stage a massacre.

And then help the wounded afterward, because Hell places a high value on altruism.

“There is another problem with that message.” Asmodeus spoke carefully. “The warlord spoke of ‘major enemy leadership figure’, we assume that means an important person here. Yet there was nobody on that stand of any importance, a few relatives of Abigor, that is all. None in the leadership and none of any importance. We do not understand this.”

"We're just demons. You can't expect us to understand the concept of misinformation."

“Perhaps I can explain.” Beelzebub was also speaking carefully. “The warlord also spoke of ‘information received from reliable informants’. There can be only one explanation for that comment. There are those of your Infernal Majesty’s subjects who are in contact with the humans and are passing information to them.”

A horrified gasp went around the hall. The whole concept was a nightmare to contemplate yet was also eerily plausible. Who here had not sold information on an ally to an enemy in order to bring about a tactical advantage?

“But Sire.” Asmodeus was appalled, his voice terrified at even speaking of this idea. “Nobody important was killed.”

"Just our competence and credibility as antagonists."

“Nobody important perhaps.” Beelzebub spoke almost as smoothly and calmly as Satan had done. “Not in our terms perhaps. But the traitor – or traitors – who sold the information to the humans may have been using them to settle a private score of his or her own. Who knows where treason might end?”

Even Satan was silenced by that thought. The hall was still, silent as the occupants absorbed the implications of what Beelzebub had said. Then, the glances that they were exchanging underwent a slow change from apprehension at what might Satan might do next to suspicion at what their neighbors might be saying to these upstart humans. No matter how intense those suspicious glances became, they couldn’t match the ones Satan was casting at them.

Room 352A, Arkham Asylum, New York City, NY

Does this count as a Batman fanfic now?

The voices had been haunting Julie since her sophomore year of high school. Every time she'd tried to tell them to go away, they simply laughed at her. And when she denied they were real, they'd whisper to her, caressing her mind like an unwanted lover, telling her secrets – what was happening far away, what others were thinking about her, telling her things that were never wrong.

I guess the demons do show up on earth in modern times, but only to dick around.

And they were always right, always there, always just out of her senses, dripping across her mind like black grease. Even after she'd tried to kill herself – it hadn't worked; they'd told her that it was pointless, that someone was at the door just as she'd watched the blood stream from her wrists with morbid fascination – even after the suicide attempt, when her family had tearfully waved her goodbye, and she'd gone to Arkham for treatment (which hadn't worked) and incarceration, they were telling her things, what was happening outside. The conquest was on, they'd said. The infernal deal that had haunted her nightmares since she was five,

A paragraph ago it was high school. Must have been a real precocious kid.

that had haunted every waking moment since the voices had first come, was sealed and complete. Heaven's gates were closed and locked, the whole of humanity damned without hope of rescue or reprieve.

Her cell was locked, as always. The white walls were padded, and she was sitting on her cot in the corner murmuring to herself when one of the voices – Domiklespharatu, it called itself – whispered, "Look to the door!" She did; the lock on the door clicked and lifted. "They're coming to get you ... coming to take you away ... to experiment on you ... to rape and torture and mutilate and humiliate you ... ."

The demons can not only broadcast thoughts directly into people's heads, but also have some kind of remote viewing ability. I wonder what will come of this.

hint: nothing

The voices were never wrong. She hurled herself back into the corner, away from the strange people filing into the room. Then there was Dr. Becky, her presence a welcome familiarity that was dispelled by the presence others, more people in uniforms and more in white lab coats. Domiklespharatu laughed. “Look at you, pitiful little girl.” The floor reared up, and she stumbled backward into the walls.

Dr Becky Skillman had worked at Arkham for fifteen years,

Hi there, abrupt scene change!

and in all that time she’d never been visited by the government. Two men in suits, with dark sunglasses, guns, and no sense of humor had knocked on her office door, shown her a pair of bright and very impressive badges, and asked her for a list of the patients at Arkham for whom treatment had done absolutely no good. Especially the ones who heard voices.

She wasn’t one to deny the government a request, especially not in this day and age, with the Message, a quarter of the Arkham staff were gone, and the strange reports filing through the news were unsettling. There was fighting, of some sort, the sort that reminded her of the nightmarish hallucinations of her patients. The men had been from the Secret Service and they’d thanked her cordially, gone, and then a half hour later were back with an entire platoon of men in fatigues with rifles, asking to be taken to Room 352A on the third floor.

What is this? Could it be?

A part with some actual... tension?

Julie Adams had been at the top of the list, and they’d decided to take her first. Before Skillman had a chance to ask any questions, they’d waved a piece of paper – subpoena or something like that – in her face, and were demanding the case files.

Adams was an untreatable schizophrenic, and had only gotten worse through the eight years she’d been in Arkham. No treatment had worked – and they’d tried them all, from the newest drugs to some of the oldest tricks in the books, the sort that the staff all mutually agreed to keep quiet because people who didn’t work at psychiatric hospitals just didn’t understand. And now the government wanted to take her away?

So far we have a sympathetic character, some conflict between humans, examination of the consequences of the Message and conflict with Hell, and no tech-wanking. Maybe the critics were all wrong and the author just got off to a bad start.

Or maybe this section was written by someone completely different. Place your bets now.

Skillman shrugged. Eh – not her place to question or worry. As they filed into the pure white cell, Adams was scrabbling against the back wall, face contorted in fear, the greasy tangles of her long, black hair swabbing the wall. “No! NO! I’m not gonna let you take me!”

The soldiers impassively moved forward, seemingly deaf to the woman’s harsh, pathetic screams. Reaching down, two deftly warded off her slaps and kicks and lifted her by the shoulders so that she hung between them like a rag doll. Brushing past Skillman, they filed back out of the room, Adams’ screams echoing down the corridor. The two men in black thanked her, and walked out, leaving her standing in the silent room, listening to the sick woman being dragged down the hall.

What this story needs is more of this (looking at the social implications, I mean, though I guess it could stand to have more punching of crazy chicks, too) and less of "the new APG-74 radar system blah blah tech vomit."

Temporary Headquarters, Randi Institute of Pneumatology, The Pentagon, Arlington, VA

James Randi sighed and rolled his eyes. While the search teams were scouring the nation’s medical facilities for the apparently insane who might not be insane after all, the fakes and charlatans had continued to pour into the Institute in unimaginable numbers. The publicity combined with the persuasive talents of the US Secret Service and the FBI had achieved results that even his million dollar prize had failed to attain. Privately, Randi kicked himself, he should have involved the Secret Service earlier. They’d even brought John Edwards and Sylvia Browne in, over those two unworthies angered protests. It had taken only a few minutes testing to discredit that pair of mountebanks, after which they’d been unceremoniously ejected from the building. As Agent Stella Carter had remarked ‘Hey, guess what. Sylvia didn’t bounce.’

I think that having ludicrously biased researchers conduct minutes-long tests isn't going to yield thorough, objective results. But what do I know.

Up to now, that had been par for the course. There were still the palm-readers and card-players who waited in the antechamber for their turn, all dressed up in beads and eye liner and all sorts of clothes that looked mysterious in smoky, underlit rooms but just appeared absurd under fluorescent business lights. They were the routine dross that had to be inspected, just in case. Even so, there was hope for the plea for any real psychics or necromancers to come forward had brought in five or six possible hits – all quiet, shy people who worked ordinary jobs and lived ordinary lives.

How are they determining whether these people are psychic? Are they actually finding people who can talk to the dead? Have they asked Buchanan whether he was really gay?

He was just about to call the next person in when his cell phone rang. He checked it; it was a 555-1000 number. He answered. “Randi here.” After a moment, he nodded and said, “Will do. Please bring her in.”

At last. Randi sighed the words to himself. Ever since his discussion with that charming Thai General, he’d been waiting for the first of the medical subjects to arrive. Then, he squared his shoulders and opened the door to the antechamber and just stood there, looking out toward the outside door. It opened, and eight national guardsmen marched in, wearing full combat fatigues. Two of them were carrying what appeared to be a heavily sedated woman, her glassy eyes half-open and a bit of drool trailing down her cheeks. Behind them were three men in lab coats, looking like stereotypical doctors. As they reached where Randi stood, one of the men in lab coats strode forward past the soldiers and offered his hand. Randi shook it, and the man said, “James Randi? Dr Ed Bullmore, psychiatry and neurology at Cambridge. Pleased to meet you.”

Call me crazy, but I think a neurologist might do a better job than James Randi at figuring out if someone is psychic. Sure, they may be handicapped by the fact that they're not James Randi, but I think that's an acceptable tradeoff.

“The pleasure’s mine, Dr Bullmore. What do we have here?”

Bullmore spoke with a pleasant British accent. “Untreatable schizophrenia patient from New York. Name: Julie Adams. Onset at age sixteen. Reported ability to read minds.” He looked meaningfully at one of the soldiers, who spoke up, sounding shaken. “On the way over here, she told me about my daughter who drowned. No way she could have known about that – she was locked up for years before Kelsie was born.”

If the demons can figure this stuff out and are keeping such close tabs on people, why did they never possess a soldier and realize "oh, shit, these guys have things that can kill us?"

Randi thought for a moment. “Bring her in.” Briskly, the white-bearded man walked back through the door. He glanced over at his secretary. “Jane, please request brain-imaging at the nearest hospital ASAP. Play the DoD card if you have to.”

Neuroimaging Center, Arlington Hospital, Arlington, VA

Julie Adams woke up in a little tube of metal, found herself immobilized, and felt a little whisper in the edge of her mind. “See? I told you soooo!” Then she slipped back into unconsciousness.

Maybe the reason the demons don't know anything is because the ones that possess people appear to have the maturity of an elementary school student. No, wait, that applies to just about all of them.

When she next woke up, she was sitting in a chair, leather straps holding her wrists to the chair arms. Sitting across the table from her was a grandfatherly-looking man, bald but with an enormous white beard. A voice danced across her vision, and she said, “James Randi?” The man raised one eyebrow, dropped it, and continued to regard her over clasped hands. She struggled with the bonds.

“They told me you’d do this to me! They told me!”

He spoke, his voice, calming and authoritative. “Who told you?”

"The demons."
"No, Julie. You are the demons."

She’d never been asked that before. Before, they’d always assumed the voices weren’t real, that she was crazy. She wasn’t crazy; she just heard voices. “They did.” A warning buzzed across the back of her mind – “Don’t trust him. He’s going to rape you.”

The man smiled. “Have they ever told you who they are?”

These questions were completely foreign to her. “Uh … I … no … .”

I bet they did tell her, but she couldn't remember since their names all sound like someone sneezed.

His eyes twinkled through his spectacles. “Well, Julie, we want to help you. We know they’ve hurt you. We’re going to hurt them back, and we’d like your help.”

It was tempting. She’d always thought of them as enemies, even when they were telling her the truth. But they’d been enemies of her enemies, and so they had been her friends. But now, this man was offering his help to her, to her … “DON’T LISTEN TO THEM!” screamed a voice, and spots erupted behind her eyes as Randi morphed, grew – black scales erupted on his face, horns growing from his bald head, his glasses falling to the desk, shattering; furred bat wings unfurled, spread, brushed the walls and ceiling, looming over her. And now a smell like rotten eggs was strengthening; the room was darkening, and she could hear faint screams in the distance, like a chorus of damned souls.

Ooh, sensory manipulation. I hope this means Bill Clinton will show up and blast Randi to pieces with a shotgun.

She was dimly aware of her own screaming, of the stabs of pain spiking through her; the thing across the desk was prodding her with a pitchfork, leering at her. It stepped backward and lustily licked its lips, grabbing a giant organ from between its legs and –

The hellish scene shimmered and faded suddenly, and the previous scene returned with the bald, grandfatherly man looking concernedly down at her and two men with chiseled faces hovering right above her. One of the men said, “Hold still, sister. You’re almost safe.” There was a prick in her arm, and then she was happy, floating free down toward blessed oblivion.

What? What? They just so happened to have an anti-demonic-possession drug on hand? Why? How?

Randi straightened up and looked over toward the door. The psychiatrists and a lab technician were filing through the door. “Did you guys get it?”

“Yes James, we did,” said Bullman. “Before we hashed the room with electronic white noise, the electronic surveillance system we had set up caught a faint signal. It was a miracle we picked it up at all, it was right on the edge of the spectrum covered by the ESM but it was there and we’ve recorded it. It has some strange properties, and we’re sending the records to the physicists next door. They’ll digitize it, feed it into our threat libraries and we’ll be able to monitor for it. Also, if we can feed the waveform into the computers controlling our own emitter systems, we should be able to transmit ourselves.

Just like that?

We can't eliminate fucking malaria, but it takes all of two minutes to create a solution to demonic possession.

“Much more importantly, we’ve already figured out how to keep her, and others like her, safe and sound from any further interference.”

Randi cocked his head curiously. “And what’s that?”

Yes. Let's just pile on the contrivances.

“Well, James, the signal in question isn’t that much different from an electromagnetic pulse, you know that thing the scare stories have claimed would wipe out electronics worldwide. We’ve known how to defend against that for decades and the power levels are much lower here. So, building on that experience.” Bullman grinned and pulled a shiny contraption from his lab coat. “A hat made of aluminum foil.”

t68nfvCNM,bv8fh0jp35huigjor]42ptl;'3h,jg[[ghi'klW{FOPIEUQT&#LKYJFKUTDYiglhukgyfito7lheuigf6UK<YgkulhiO:*YTP)$H;oiguLTY$&LGE>Q}!#PORLF<C>Njfg<>JHgklbnj31kj13o[[p1ojipgmj

Recon Team Tango One-Five, Wadi Haran, Western Iraq.

“Control, we have baldricks, column advancing along the Pipeline Route. Estimated battalion force with company-level harpy cover.”

“Very good. Engage and harass.”

Lieutenant Jade “Broomstick” Kim acknowledged, the transferred her attention back to the mast-mounted sight on her AH-6J helicopter. A deft touch on the controls and the aircraft rose slightly so that the ball of the sight just peaked over the ridge. The picture hadn’t changed much, even though the column was mounted on the rhinolobsters, they were moving slowly. Well, slowly by United States Army standards, Broomstick guessed that by medieval standards they were fairly galloping along. That was excruciatingly slow when compared with the way the First Armored Division was moving up.

Oh please not more air force stuff.

A long rectangle of rhinolobsters, each with its rider and a small group out in front. They’d have to be the command group. The primary subject of interest, the cream of the crop in this target-rich environment. Eliminate the command structure first, leave the combat elements floundering around without orders. It was a process the United States Army called ‘shaping the battlefield’. “Tango Leader to all Tango birds. Select Hellfire missiles, target the command group in front, ripple fire both missiles.”

"BALLS." said Lieutenant Balls.

Spaced out down the wadi, the three Little Birds gunner their engines slightly and lifted up still further. The column ahead was oblivious to their existence, even when the laser target designators locked into place. On her display, Broomstick could even see the designated targets starting to shift and scratch as the lasers irritated their skins. Then, a gentle squeeze on the firing button and the first of the Hellfires streaked off across the desert. Off to her left, a split second later, Tango-one-five-Bravo fired its first missile with Tango-one-five-Charlie following an instant after that. Broomstick had already selected her next target when she fired her second missile, as soon as she saw the explosion from the first hit she swung the laser to her selected victim and watched the Hellfire missile obediently switch targets. The explosions four thousand yards away seemed an almost continuous rolling thunder as the six missiles devastated the command group.

Except, um... that's not how ripple fire works. The idea is that you fire all the missiles in the launcher in quick sequence. Here she's taking the time to shift targets between shots, so it's really not the same thing. It's like if a soldier is firing single shots and someone says it's full auto. I don't even know how you could confuse the two, really.

“All Tango-One-Five elements, jobs done, let’s get out of here.”

“We got a problem ell-tee.”

Broomstick looked across at the burning patch of desert where the baldrick command group had been. Above it the harpies were heading for the position of her three Little Birds, coming in very, very fast.

Oh no, after five and a half chapters of being effortlessly dominated by humanity, the demons might win an insignificant token victory and take out a solitary recon flight. I am in suspense.

“Bug out, everybody bug out now. Max speed.” She rammed the throttles forward, swinging her helicopter into its high-speed position, trying to get away from the cloud of harpies that was closing on her.

“No good ell-tee. They’re faster than us.”

"Our helicopters can't possibly match their superior hydrogen!"

Broomstick didn’t acknowledge, she didn’t have to. The AH-6 could do about 180 miles per hour flat out and the harpies were closing the range. She pulled back and swung the nose round, flipping her armament selector switch to the pair of Stingers mounted on the side of her cockpit. The annunciator tone was mixed, even in the cold of a desert night, they were having difficulty locking on. It was no good, whatever lock they had would have to do. She fired into the mass of harpies, watching as one missile went through the formation without exploding, the other struck home and she saw a harpy briefly outlined in fire as the Stinger tore into it. There was another flare as well, but Broomstick had no time to congratulate herself or anybody else. She was turning away, diving, obeying the old rule, no matter how little height you have, trade height for speed. Out of the corner of her eye she saw that Tango-one-five-Charlie had left it too late. The Little Bird was engulfed in jets of fire from the harpies, its fuel tanks exploded and the flaming wreckage fell out of the sky to earth.

She was back in the wadi, heading away from the cloud of harpies, grimly aware they were closing in on her. “Control, engaged baldricks, command group badly hit. We are under attack by company-strength harpies, Charlie is already down. Two harpies down. Issue is in doubt. Tell others, don’t close in on harpies.”

They'll just have to wait until they discover whatever ridiculous weakness these demons have. Which, if everything up to this point is any indication, will take about as much time as it takes Chris-chan to go through a Hungry Man dinner.

Duty done, Broomstick spun her helicopter again and went straight at the formation of harpies pursuing her, her two miniguns blazing a long, long burst. It registered briefly that there were two piles of burning wreckage on the desert floor now and that she was alone. Bravo had gone. So had at least two more harpies, torn apart by the stream of bullets from her miniguns. Then, there was a clank and silence, she’d run out of ammunition. The harpies were on her, clinging to the airframe, tearing at it with their claws, kicking at the skin with their hooves. One was clinging to the cockpit canopy, smashing at it with its claws, trying to tear its way in. She could see the demented, screaming hate on its face, she could smell the stink of jet fuel as the harpies tore their way into the Little Bird’s structure. That was all she saw and smelt because that was when Tango-one-five-Alpha exploded.

And then respawned in Hell.

My thanks to Surlethe for his work in writing the middle part of this section and his most appreciated inspiration and encouragement.

Yeah, I thought so.


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post Mar 26 2011, 06:13 PM
QUOTE (Darth Wong)
Who cares? The source material ends roughly two millennia ago. If we're going to use Milton, we might as well use the computer game Doom.

- from the thread that spawned The Salvation War

Chapter Seven

309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona

"Aerospace maintenance." This is bound to be thrilling.

She was an old lady, put away in her retirement home like all too many aged family members who were just too much trouble to look after. Her age showed in so many ways, her wrinkled skin, shabby appearance, general neglect. Another few months, a year or so at most, and she would have been gone, forgotten. Only now times had changed and those who had written her off as a relic of the past now found they needed The Gray Lady again.

"Alas, my ship, whom I love like a woman, is... disabled."

“What about this one?”

The AMRG clerk looked at the tail number and turned to the page in the ledger. “This one’s a good prospect Sir. She hasn’t been stripped or cannibalized yet and she was in good condition when she arrived. I’d mark this one down as a definite.”

Am I seriously reading about people doing inventory.

“Do it, we’ll get a team down here to work on her. The draft notices are going out this morning.” For once in its life, the U.S. Government was beginning to move fast. The re-institution of the draft had been authorized late the previous night with the highest priority being to get the maintenance and technical support personnel who had left the services over the last few years back into uniform. In a strange way, it was almost like the job being done here, inspecting the veterans and getting them back into service. The B-52G in front of them looked like an early candidate for a return to the colors.

You can tell this is a well-thought-out story because less attention is paid to reinstating the draft than to determining whether a fucking B-52 is fit for repairs.

“How many does that make?” Colonel Degan was in charge of this particular effort, a few hundred yards away, another team was going through the short line of eleven B-1Bs parked in storage. That team wasn’t doing well at all, the Bones here were in a hell of a mess. It was very doubtful if any of them could be repaired. The B-52s, that was another matter. Still, there had been some pleasant surprises, tucked away in one corner of the airfield had been a B-52H along with four B-1Bs and one of the surviving B-1As, all in perfect condition. What the latter was doing there was something of a minor mystery but it had been rumored for years that more B-1As had been built than the official records showed.

Riveting.

“There are 43 B-52s in repairable status Sir. Of those, 20 require a medium level of remedial repairs, the remainder, well, they’re a real mess. Take months if not years to fix them up. Shortage of engines is the main problem, they’ve all been stripped of those. Mind you. We’re not short of spare parts.”

OK. Why does this matter?

That was true enough, Degan thought. There were 45 more B-52s in the Boneyard but they’d been scrapped. The wreckage was still here though, the wings shorn from the fuselage, the tails chopped off. “I don’t suppose there’s any chance of fixing the wrecks?”

“No Sir,” the technical officer was quite firm on that point. “The wing spar’s been chopped and the forge to make new ones was scrapped decades ago. Those birds are gone, at best they’re spare parts for the rest.” Degan grimaced. Those planes were badly needed. The technical officer saw the expression and sympathized. “Good news though Sir, the tactical boys have been through the line of F-111s, there’s 169 of them here and they reckon we can salvage enough to equip a group, fifty or sixty if we’re lucky. And the transport guys did even better, Lockheed-Martin are coming down to refurbish all twenty of the C-5s we have here.” In some cases that would mean almost a new aircraft, it was an old joke, ‘repairing” an aircraft meant lifting up its registration number and sliding a new aircraft underneath.

I still can't believe some people say this is intended to be read as a documentary. So, what, if you made a documentary on the American Civil War, would you include ten minutes of footage of some no-name colonel counting minie balls?

“Any word from the Rhino drivers?” There were literally hundreds of surplus F-4 Phantoms here and several teams were working their way through them, trying to find how many could be brought back into service. Not many, was one guess but times were desperate and at least F-4 components were still in production. That was the second batch of draft notices going out, by tomorrow a lot of airline pilots were going to be trying on their old Air Force and Navy uniforms again.

Maybe I should start excising chunks of the text that I find unbearable. I'm hardly even reading this section as is. All I'm seeing is numbers and aircraft models.

The technical officer shook his head. Those teams had a lot of work to do and it would be days before they finished. He scratched his head, the Arizona sun was beating down hard and the aluminum foil lining his baseball cap was getting uncomfortably hot. Still it was better than having some baldrick invading his mind and turning his thoughts to jelly. “OK Sir, I think we’re done with the bombers. You want to have a look at the KC-135s? See if any of those are fixable?”

“Lead on.” Degan looked back at the B-52 behind them. Already, people were starting to go over her in detail, listing all the fixes needed. There were 84 B-52s in USAF service and another 9 in the Air Force Reserve, if they could bring that up to 120 with the aircraft salvaged from here, it would be a decisive step forward.

Why should I care? What's the significance? Are they going to mount a strategic bomber offensive against Hell? How is this a decisive step forward when there's been no indication that they're ever going to need these aircraft? If the demons were sending harpies to tear up civilian air traffic and stuff like that, then I could see the urgency in mobilizing all available military aircraft. But as things are, it just looks like the humans are adding on more overkill.

Oval Office, The White House, Washington D.C.

Finally.

“Did it pass Dick?”

“It did indeed. 99 in favor, one against, you can guess who that was. Effective as of 1800 Washington Time, the United States of America has formally declared war on Hell. Unconditional declaration, first time we’ve had one of those for decades. We’ve issued a conditional ultimatum to Heaven as well. Unless they open the gates and surrender those who closed them for trial within 72 hours, a state of war will exist there as well. Civilian mobilization bill is through, reserves mobilization bill is through, first issue of war bonds will be released tomorrow.

What obligation does Heaven have to let people in? Or are they basically declaring war on it for having really good border security?

Oh, that's right, I forgot - this is just an atheist revenge fantasy.

“Next stage is to mobilize industry, we’re making plans for that now. We’ve got the leaders of our major defense contractors up all night, working out what they need and how we can ramp up production. At the moment we’re concentrating on getting ammunition supplies increased, we’re expecting to use up our stocks of Hellfire and AMRAAM missiles pretty fast at the rate we’re going, as for aircraft we’re hoping Davis-Monthan will bridge the gap until upped production rates start to fill the gap. Ships can wait for the time being, tanks and armored vehicles will be more important, at least in the short term.

“Mister President?” Condoleezza Rice was punctilious about using the President’s formal title when other people were around.

“Condi.” President Bush turned around, taking quick note of the Secretary Rice’s headgear. “Nice hat.”

"Do you like it, Mr. President? I got it straight from the deus ex machina depot."

Rice smiled in appreciation, she’d been on the telephone to Donna Karan to have her aluminum foil hat designed professionally. After she’d been appointed Secretary of State, one of the satirists had said that her appointment marked the first time in its history when the United States had a Secretary of State who looked good naked. She thought that was a little over the top but at least she’d always taken pride in her wardrobe.

"She was no B-52G, but she did look at least as good as a B-1A."

“Good news Sir. The Indian Ambassador has just told us that the Indian Air Force are sending a combat wing to Iraq. A squadron of Su-30MKIs interceptors, two of Jaguar ground attack aircraft. Even better, the new Iranian Government is opening up its airfields to us. That gives us some badly needed depth. General Petraeus was worried about how close our airfields in Iraq are to the invasion. Word from the Israelis, they’re moving up from the east now, their F-15s will be available to give top cover when we need them.”

The President nodded, one of the problems in this situation was that the bulk of America’s F-15 fleet was grounded with structural problems. That left the country short of heavy fighters, privately he wondered if that was a coincidence or not. Just how long had the enemy been planning this assault?

You mean the assault that the demons threw together at the last minute because they found the idea of human resistance incomprehensible? That assault? Don't kid yourself.

Al Habariyah, Iraq

The clear yellow light was painful to the eyes of beings accustomed to the comforting red skies and dust clouds of Hell. Not that there wasn’t enough dust here but it was the choking clouds of silica, not the soft, warm touch of volcanic pumice. The accursed sand was getting into Hornaklishdarmar’s hooves, rubbing even his hardened skin raw. Glancing across at the eight demons in his contubernium, he could see they were having the same trouble. When they’d first entered this world, they’d held straight ranks, lined up in perfect parade order but that had been long abandoned. Now, the legion was straggling, spread out, its ranks tangled as the fitter or less feeling had moved ahead and the lesser spirits had lagged behind.

They are invading Mesopotamia based on ancient myths, and yet they apparently had no idea there would be sand. And if they did, then they did absolutely nothing about it with their thousands of years of lead time.

I...

This is so fucking stupid.

It wasn’t as if this area was actually worth the discomfort. On the long march from the portal, the legion had seen nothing of any value, just the empty desert and the accursed sand. At least now they were approaching some sort of civilization, a collection of huts, so poor that they didn’t even have doors, just some sort of blanket hung in the entrance. There were even one of the human’s weird four-wheeled chariots, a white thing with a boxy body at the side of the road, its front wheels crushed and broken. Obviously abandoned as the humans had run from the approaching legion.

YOU CAN VIEW EARTH FROM HELL. YOU COULD DO THIS FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS. HOW ARE YOU JUST NOW LEARNING THAT WESTERN IRAQ IS WORTHLESS.

“Lords! Have mercy on me! I beg you, forgive me for not submitting to you sooner. I was mislead by traitors who denied you. Forgive me and accept my obeisance.”

Up in front of him, Hornaklishdarmar could see the human run out from one of the buildings, an older human, portly and dressed in a flowing robe. He dropped to his knees in front of the legion. Hornaklishdarmar saw the commander of his Octurnia go towards the man, raising his trident to strike him down.

And then the human killed all the demons. I know how this goes.

Hornaklishdarmar was on his knees, his head ringing from the terrible blast that had suddenly engulfed the human and the demon poised to kill him. The human had gone, only his head was left, rolling in the dust leaving a wet trail behind on the sand. The commander of the Octurnia had gone completely, just yellow smears on the ground behind where he had been. Several of his staff were down, screaming, ripped open by the blast. Hornaklishdarmar saw the other demons of the legion edging away from the scene and the hut from where the man had come. Suddenly, the sight alarmed the demon, there was something wrong.

Now, Hornaklishdarmar was on his back, and he could see the yellow fluids leaking from his body. His instinct had saved his life but he was still hurt. Where the truck had been was now just a crater, black, smoking, surrounded by the dead bodies of demons, tens of them, some smashed and pulped beyond recognition, others still demonic in form but dreadfully still. Yet others were worse that dreadful, writhing and threshing with the wounds ripped in them by shrapnel. He pressed his arm into the vicious rip in his skin, feeling the comfort the pressure caused, and looked at the scene again. It had been planned, he could see it now. The first man, the fat one, had caused the demons to crowd back against the truck, packed them around that second, huge explosion. It had all been planned, very skillfully planned.

Uh... not really. There was no reason for the guy to kill himself. It's not like roadside IEDs are something utterly alien to terrorists in Iraq; they could just as easily have set it up and then used some other distraction. Or set it off without the first bomb, since the demons were going that way anyway. Or did the author get his information on suicide bomber tactics from Command & Conquer Generals?

Operation Iraqi Freedom Headquarters, Baghdad, Iraq

General Petraeus stood before the transmission screen and waited for it to light up with the link from Washington. His briefing would be going direct to the command center in the White House and to as many of the growing list of allies as could be provided with the equipment.

“Mister President Sir. My situation report.

Good. What this chapter really needed was more people talking.

“We have identified the enemy force as eight infantry divisions, three cavalry brigades and one airborne brigade. The enemy main body consists of four infantry divisions and is advancing towards Khan Al Baghdadi. It is preceded by one of the cavalry brigades supported by an airborne battalion. The cavalry brigade itself is split into three columns each containing three cavalry battalions supported by three airborne companies. At the moment, we are falling back in front of that force, we have no wish to engage it at this time.

"They might scratch the paint on our tanks."

“To the north is a flanking force consisting of two infantry divisions. They’re moving close to the Syrian border, again with a cavalry brigade in front supported by harpies. We’ve been harassing that screening force overnight, I’m sorry to report that the 160th Aviation Brigade took significant losses, at least a dozen AH-6 and MH-6 helicopters were lost to Harpies. We’ve learned from that, the Harpies make helicopter operations too dangerous, we’re going to have to eliminate them before we can send helicopter-based forces in again. However, their sacrifice was not in vain, we’re driving their reconnaissance elements in on the main body and we’ve severely hit their command and control structure. We believe we’ve eliminated a significant proportion of their battalion and brigade level command staff. A brigade of the First Armored Division is moving into position around Al Qaim. It’s a perfect kill zone, with their recon element driven in, their heading into it blind.

I apologize to anyone still reading this, and promise that I'll abridge future chapters when they get really dull.

In fact, I should edit the whole story like that, because then it would just be "'Balls.' said Lieutenant Michael Wong." And Bill Clinton, of course. Or condense it and have Bill Clinton saying "balls." That could work.

“To the south is another screening force, identical to the one in the North. We haven’t done much about that one yet but the British are moving up a mechanized battle group to handle it. We had word from al Qaeda a few minutes ago, they hit one of the infantry divisions with a combined suicide and truck bomb attack. They claim to have killed more than sixty baldricks including a part of the brigade command group. We can’t confirm the numbers but a Global Hawk has confirmed the attack.” Petraeus paused for a second. “Sir, I still can’t get used to feeling pleased about an IED incident.

You're working with Islamic terorrists. At just which point did you start feeling pleased about it?

“Overall, we’re about to start the main phase of our defense. We’re going to kick the northern and southern screening forces in and push them back on the main body. That will put them in a kill zone west of the Hawr Al Habbaniyah. As we compress them in that area, we’ll be hitting them with artillery and all the tactical air we can bring up. If we stop them, we can drive them back across the desert, all the way back to the Hellmouth. If we can’t stop them there, the only way forward is through two narrow necks of land, north of the Bahr al Milh and south of the Buhayrat Ath Tharfar. Those are also perfect killing grounds and give us a another chance at them.”

“They won’t get through?” President Bush sounded concerned. The heavily populated Tigris-Euphrates valley was in the direct path of the advancing baldricks.

It sure is a good thing the demons don't have the capability to instantaneously travel anywhere they want to, even between dimensions, which would render conventional lines of battle obsolete. You know, like some kind of ability to create a portal. But we know they don't so it makes total sense for them to pop in far away from their objective and march there over the course of several days.

“No Sir, we’ll stop them dead. After a while, all their added numbers means they’ll be piling more bodies into the kill zone. The days when an army could be swamped by sheer weight of numbers are gone. The way we’re mauling their command structure, once they’ve started advancing into the killing ground, they won’t be able to stop, the sheer pressure of the forces at the rear will drive them forward.”

“General.” Rice smiled an apology for the interruption. “Be advised, we’ve just heard from the Russians. They’re sending down forces from their southern military region. Armored divisions, battle experienced from Chechnya, they’re coming through Iran. They’ll be with you in a few days, you can count on them for reinforcements.”

Instead of holding their forces in reserve in case the demons invade Russia. But that would make too much sense.

“Thank you ma’am, that’s good to know. If you’re speaking to the Russians, could you ask them for their Smerch rocket launchers. We need all the salvo rocket artillery we can get here. Also, their Luna short-range ballistic missiles, we’ve got ATACMS here but we need something with a bit more reach.”

“I’ll do that. The Iranians are promising to send help as well. Any requests?”

America, Russia, Israel, Iran, and Al-Qaeda working together in perfect harmony. Wow... just wow...

“Fuel. That more than anything. We’re going to need all the fuel we can get. We can’t cope with these baldricks in a slugging match, we have to maneuver them to death. One thing my people here are asking. Why here? For the sort of enemy we’re fighting, this is perfect ground for us. No restrictions on maneuver, no civilians to get in the way, we can use every scrap of firepower we’ve got. So why here? Why not straight into New York or Washington? Come to think of it, why aren’t we seeing more hellmouths opening up anyway?”

Good question!

Vice President Cheney leaned forward. “We have a theory on that, we think that for some reason the Middle East is where is easiest for them to open the portal, it may be the only place they can open a portal we don’t know. But we think that its no coincidence that all the reports of monsters, hells, battles between good and evil etc start in this area. We don’t know but that’s our guess. Anyway, don’t knock it, its better we fight them out there than back here.”

That... that's really your explanation.

...

I don't know what to say. I mean, it's a completely wild-ass guess that will almost certainly be proven right by the plot. You might as well say that the only places in the world where the US Marines can possibly be deployed are Normandy and maybe Guadalcanal, because that's what all the books are written about.

Because I am seriously having a hard time swallowing the assertion that the only legends ever to involve monsters or a battle between good and evil originated in the Middle East.

Petraeus laughed. “I’ve heard that before. Another question, a policy one. We’re likely to start taking prisoners soon. What do you want us to do with them.”

Rice’s voice was decisive. “Ship them to Gitmo.”

“I thought we were closing that place?”

Not until Castro is dead and buried.

“We were, but plans changed. Its under international management now. It’s being organized by the Italians, Bangladesh is providing the funding, the Germans the guards, the Russians the political speeches, the Belgians the entertainment, the Japanese the music and the British are providing the food.”

And the Americans can provide the human righ- Oh.

Petraeus visibly winced at the thought. “Ma’am, that’s inhuman. Please, whoever thought that arrangement up, buy them a beer for me.”

“Why, thank you General. I’ll enjoy it.

I don't mean to whine, but this was such a chore.


--------------------
Index of horrible mocks

QUOTE ("Al_Cone")
However, I totally would sleep with the Doc... but only for your brain.

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post Mar 28 2011, 05:08 PM
Here's more Armageddon???. Yay.

Chapter Eight

Muncie, Indiana, United States of America

What could this be? An examination of the social implications of The Message?

And/or more stuff that we're told but won't have any impact on the story.

Muncie was a small town, typical of the American rust belt. Highly religious, conservative, with 65,000 people before the Message and 50,000 after, the city had been ailing even before a quarter of the population had laid down and died. The manufacturing industry had been slowly abandoning the city for decades, leaving it with rusting, overgrown factories, a 23 percent poverty rate, and a hospital and university as the largest employers. The Message had hit the town hard, too as it had most of the rural, conservative American Midwest, leaving the local economy in shambles and even further down the toilet.

I guess the American midwest was hit harder by the Middle East, which bounced right back with... Islamic terrorism, if the last chapter is any indication.

I shouldn't even try to make sense of this, should I?

Sharon McShurley, newly elected mayor, was sitting at her desk in the Town Hall wondering for the millionth time that day what she was going to do when the telephone rang. She picked it up. “Hello, the Mayor speaking.”

The mayor's just sort of zoning out instead of doing anything about the 15,000 corpses that must be spreading disease like it's 1347. Which, now that I think about it, is probably an accurate representation of American political leadership.

“Mrs. McShurley?” The voice was male and unfamiliar.

“Yes? May I ask who this is?”

"A minor character here to put in my one appearance and then promptly disappear into the narrative ether."

“This is Nathan Feltman, Secretary of Commerce for Indiana.”

“Ah, Mr. Feltman. How can I help you?”

“Mrs. McShurley, I was contacted not five hours ago by Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez. You know of The Message?”

"You know, that thing that killed off hundreds of millions of people and condemned all humanity to an eternity of torment in the pits of Hell. That Message."

“Of course.”

“And of the developments in Iraq?”

Don't remind me.

“Of course. It's been all over the news.” Truth was, she'd been doing little more than watch the news since The Message. There had seemed so little she could do even to regain control over her small town.

Try selling it for scrap.

“Secretary Gutierrez has informed me that the United States is immediately shifting to a war economy. I don't know how things will work on the military side, but on the economic side, we're going to be ramping up production as fast as possible. I've already spoken with the mayors of Indianapolis, Gary-Hammond, Fort Wayne, Evansville, and Anderson. Do you have a list of production overcapacity and unused assets in Muncie?”

You know who doesn't know how things work on the economic side? The author. Seriously, one-fourth of the work force just died. This is a big problem.

“Yes, we do.” Unemployment was just the single most pressing problem in the city, and had been for thirty years.

But at least unemployment shouldn't be a problem anymore.

“We need to compare our list with yours, and then we'll send the updated version to the US Department of Commerce. They'll be asking corporations to buy them up and get working on military equipment. Given Indiana's central location, rail accessibility, and manufacturing history, we'll be up near the top.”

Feltmann gave McShurley the fax number for the Indiana Department of Commerce, and within twenty minutes, the substantial list of old factories, closed-up warehouses, abandoned rail yards, and defunct properties was on its way to Indianapolis. A half hour and two double-checks later, it was again winging its way through cyberspace to Washington, D.C., where an undersecretary of commerce opened it and copy-pasted its contents into a secure website, open only to the procurement officers of the vast national and international corporations which supplied the US military with its equipment.

OK.

I don't see why we need to know every step in the process, but whatever.

The next day, McShurley was in her office when the phone rang again. “Hello?”

"Is your refrigerator running?"

“Mayor Sharon McShurley?” Another unfamiliar voice.

“Speaking.”

“This is John Walker, with Borg Warner Automotive. In light of the recent developments, we've decided not to close down the plant in Muncie. Instead, we're retooling it to provide transmissions for tanks.”

Maybe I'm just being dense, but wouldn't tanks be a highly inefficient way to fight demons? You'd think that artillery and IFVs would be better, since the former does most of the killing in war and the latter would be useful for getting troops around while protecting them against demons.

Don't get me wrong, I like tanks. But they just seem like a white elephant, given how horrendously weak the demons are. You could probably round up a bunch of combines and just run over the infernal legions.

“Well, that's certainly happy news. Thank you.”

The man hung up, McShurley got back to her paperwork, and within a half hour the phone rang again. “Hello?”

“Mayor Sharon McShurley of Muncie?”

“Speaking.”

“I'm James Torida of General Dynamics Land Systems. We have acquired an older factory in Muncie to build M1A2 parts, and we would like the cooperation of the local government in finding employees and in renovating and retooling the plant as quickly as possible.”

It's nice to know that if America is ever involved in another major war, rural Indiana will rescue the rest of the country with its massive surplus of decayed infrastructure.

“We'd love to help in any way we can.”

They discussed the details of the deal for fifteen minutes, then hung up. McShurley heaved a sigh – two in one day! Wow!

The thrilling life of a small-town mayor.

The phone rang again fifteen minutes later. It was General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems, wanting again cooperation, tax breaks, etc., to get another old plant up and running, this time to manufacture AIM-120C missile casings. McShurley was more than willing to cooperate.

Fascism is fun!

Before business hours ended, three more corporations had called. One wanted to acquire land to build a fourth railroad track south through the city; apparently, it was working on a line south from Chicago to Cincinnati and the Ohio River to supply raw materials from the mines in Minnesota and Ontario down to barges on the Ohio. The second had bought two abandoned warehouses on the south side of Muncie and wanted to open up the old trackyard to the warehouses to help supply the rejuvenated factories. The third was applying for a construction permit for the properties northwest of town that had so recently been slated for urban sprawl.

How is anyone going to pay for this? Huge numbers of people are dead. Is the government just going to provide huge tax cuts and subsidies? That would just pump money into the economy faster than it's spent, which would trigger massive inflation. But nah, obviously the economy will do just fine, even though there shouldn't be any sources of foreign credit available anymore, which would destroy the American government's budget even if spending weren't increased at all.

Because when the fans say this story's selling ponit is the realism, they of course mean "realistic weapons descriptions," rather than any sort of connection to reality in any of its other aspects.

804 South Tillotson Ave., Muncie, Indiana, USA

Jim Schenkel had been a tool machinist for forty years before being laid off from his long-time job in 2003. He'd elected to retire instead of pursuing another job, and for the past five years he'd followed the same schedule: up at six, drink his coffee, read the morning paper over toast, an egg, and a glass of orange juice, tend his gardens until lunch, eat a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich, monitor his investments and piddle around in his workshop until dinner, eat a bowl of soup, then watch the news until 10.

Fascinating.

It was 1:30 AM when the phone rang. Groggily, he rolled over, and picked up the receiver on the sixth ring. “Hello?”

“Jim? Jack Roberts here.” Jack Roberts was his old supervisor at the ABB factory, before they'd all been fired and the place shut down.

“Jack? Why the hell are you calling me at –“ he squinted at the clock – “1:30 in the morning?”

"Have you heard about The Message?"

“Jim, you're re-hired. We need you in tomorrow morning at 6:30.”

“What the hell's going on, Jack?”

America is spontaneously reviving its rotting industrial base with funds from nowhere in order to kill Satan.

“The factory's been started back up for the war effort. We need all the equipment repaired and retooled; the management wants the lines rolling in a week.”

“... the hell? I'm retired, goddamnit.”

“Like I said, we need you back. To be blunt, Jim, you don't have a choice. We'll send men out to get you if you can't make it on your own.”

Slave labor is fun!

“I don't give –“ he stared at the receiver, listening to the audible dial tone.

The next morning, at 6:30, he pulled into the parking lot of the ABB factory on the south side of town, and stared. It was packed with cars, and people were streaming toward the factory. The factory itself was brightly lit; the loading docks were packed with semis, and parts were already starting to form small piles waiting to be taken inside. He parked his car and joined the flow of humanity heading back to work.

At least we're being shown all this instead of having yet another scene where a presidential advisor talks at the audience Bush and says "we have an industrial base again."

That morning, The Star Press headlines read, “Look out, Baldricks! Here comes Muncie!” That day, the Mayor's office received eight more phone calls from corporations, and the first semis and trains started to roll into the city as construction equipment started to move away from the university – which had agreed to put its new dorm on hold for the time being to aid in the war effort – and toward the old, broken-down factories. Overnight, the city had been transformed.

Transformed from a corpse-filled patch of rust belt into something out of a 1940s civilian morale film. Now we just need Superman saying it's OK to slap a Baldrick.

And it wasn't alone. All across the eastern Midwest, the rust belt was being de-oxidized. Surveyors were entering old factories, cleaning companies entering and sweeping up dust, weeds being cleared and broken windows replaced. Lights that hadn't shone for decades were being turned on and replaced; cars were parking in lots that were more grass than gravel and hadn't been touched by tires for thirty years. More and more trains were rolling out of yards and thundering down the immense but ailing network of tracks connecting American cities to each other, and tractor-trailer semis were moving down the highways in huge fleets, carrying piping and wires and tools and other implements of the new war economy.

If Satan could have looked up from Hell and seen this, if he had wanted to learn about his enemies, if he had been capable of comprehending the vast network of the US economy and felt the rage at betrayal coursing through the collective veins of that nation, he might have felt that he was seeing the first traces of life in the resurrection of a giant long dead. But in the next dimension, sitting on his throne, lording over his sulfurous domain, and trying to figure out how fifteen of the senior generals in Abigor's army had spontaneously exploded, these thoughts never even occurred to him. Ignorance is bliss, until the first bombs start dropping.

EXCEPT THAT HE SHOULD KNOW! What about that whole plot point with the demons known about Washington? How could they know that the United States is the most powerful nation in the world, a product of the last twenty years, without being aware of the concept of an industrial economy? Industrialization began centuries ago, so even if the demons only check in every couple hundred years, they should still know about firearms and industry! This is such a selective level of knowledge that I don't know how anyone can't think that the author is deliberately crippling the antagonists! I mean, just look at the above paragraph! Could the author be jerking off any harder?

Moscow, Russia

And these changes were hardly unique to the US. In Russia, Vladimir Putin had immediately accelerated the redevelopment of the military; old factories closed during the economic woes of the 1990s were being reopened, old mines and oil wells were being rechecked for viability. The storage depots and military installations were being searched for equipment, tanks, armored carriers, artillery that had been sitting in storage for a decade or more was being refurbished. New tracks were being laid, and the first of tens of thousands of new T-90S tanks were rolling off the final assembly lines even as he walked toward this meeting, flanked by security forces.

Maybe he should also do something about all those nuclear warheads being kept in a shed with no security detail.

Putin entered the church, and crossed himself before the altar before he turned to the men gathered there, about ten in all: the heads of the Russian mob. He spoke first, taking charge, as always. “Gentlemen.

Behold!

You are not stupid; you know why I've gathered you here today.

They all nodded with varying degrees of alacrity. Putin continued. “Now, the human species faces a threat greater than anything it has ever faced in its past. We – I and all of you – face not just extinction, but eternal damnation. This is now our reality.” He paused to evaluate what he saw in their faces. Blank, hard, determined – they share the vision, he reminded himself, just like every live human now. “Therefore, in return for amnesty from prosecution for any crimes which may have been committed prior to the Message, I would like to request that all of you cease from any illegal activities in which you may now be engaged.”

Why would they want amnesty? They're the fucking Russian mafia! They already control the Russian economy! Putin knows this!

There was a small stir in the room. One, a fat man with an unlit cigar drooping from his lips, spoke. “Sir, with all due respect, why do you take us for criminals.”

As he spoke, Putin fixed him with a lidless stare until the other man dropped his gaze. “We are not stupid, you nor I. You know that I called you here today; you know that I am aware of who you all are in actuality and where you may be found. These things are not unknown to the government.”

And the mob would never ever do anything underhanded if the government threatened them, right?

“Then why are we guaranteed amnesty?”

“Because the fabric of society must not buckle during this war. All of you are hard men; we need such men to help prepare our society for the terrors of a war on the very forces of Hell. And we will need such men to administer the territories of Hell once it has been conquered. I am asking all of you to become respectable, but I am not asking you to lose profits.”

That seemed to seal it for most of them. As he walked away, Putin allowed himself a thin smile. Russia would show the world what she was capable of, and Russia would play her part in fighting eternal damnation now and forever.

All it takes is one conversation and the mafia goes straight! What the fuck? Why wouldn't they just keep doing profitable illegal activities? This is stupid!

Hey, did you know that organized criminals are involved in crime? WHO KNEW?

The Fifth Circle of Hell

Oh fuck there's more.

Lieutenant Jade Kim tried to move. She was stretched out on some form of frame, her wrists secured by an iron shackle with a heavy spike driven through the palm of her hands. The pain caused by her moving was severe but that was the least of her problems. She was submerged in a ghastly mass that seemed to be comprised of equal portions of mud, toxic waste and raw sewage, she was drowning in it, only able to breath by the occasional drafts of air as the movement of the foul swamp briefly exposed her face. She had no idea how long she’d been here but she did know she’d be in this place for eternity unless she did something about it. Or, worse, she might be hauled out for another dose of the treatment she’d got when she had arrived. Gang rape was so unimaginative but she knew that if she hadn’t already been dead, the internal damage the baldricks had done would have killed her.

She has just been raped so badly she should have died, and all she thinks is that it's "unimaginative."

This is going to be one of those characterizations, isn't it?

Time for applying the lessons driven home at SERE school. The drill taught by the instructors, Survive, Evade, Resist and Escape. Lesson in part four was that all bonds would loosen in time if worked on. Of course she’d never been nailed down at SERE. The spike through her hand was the first problem, until that was out, she couldn’t do much else. She twisted her hand around, trying to get a grip on the spike, succeeded even though the effort sent waves of pain up her arm. Then she started to rock it from side to side. She had no idea how long she kept trying for, it seemed like forever, but suddenly she was aware the spike was moving slightly with her pressure. Encouraged, she kept up the effort, feeling the motion increasing as the spike worked free. Then, at last, it was loose and she worked it up through her fingers, exquisitely careful not to drop it. Who knew how deep this foul muck was and anything dropped would never be found again.

But, with the spike free, she had a lever at last. Still with painstaking care, she worked it around and pushed it under the iron bracket that held her wrist down. Once more she started to push, levering the bracket away from its frame. In time, it loosened and she took a deep breath. The way she had been taught, she crossed her thumb over the palm of her hand and wrenched. Her hand slid under the shackle, scraping skin off in the process but her arm was free. That made levering the rest of the ironwork off her much, much easier. Her arms and legs freed, she was able to move and she now had four spikes as weapons.

Yes, escaping from Hell is that easy.

...

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The sight once she got her head out of the muck was grim, some sort of river meandering through the gray, foul-smelling wasteland. Enough to fill anybody with despair which was, she supposed, quite intentional. There were rocky outcrops from the swamp, breaking the featureless plain but they didn’t matter too much right now. She’d survived and escaped, now it was time to evade. She stood, sinking in the foul mess up to her waist, and started to make her way to one of the rocks. It would be a start, but she’d only managed a few feet when she bumped into another cross under the mud. Instinctively, she reached down to clean the filth off the face of the victim.

“Hi ell-tee.” It was McInery, the pilot of Tango-one-five-Charlie.

“Hi Mac. Hold tight. I’ll help you get out of this.” With her spikes as levers, she was able to pry the shackles off quickly. “Salvage the spikes, we’re going to need them.”

Why is Hell's security so bad? Has nobody, in all of human history, out of the billions of souls sent there, even once, tried to escape? And then someone manages it in the first five minutes of arriving?

She looked around quickly, it suddenly occurred to her that all the members of her unit would probably be close at hand. It didn’t take long to prove that correct and not much longer to get the six members of Recon Team Tango One-Five out.

“You’re out of uniform ell-tee.” McInery noted the fact casually. Kim looked at him and laughed, the first time that sound had been heard here for longer than anybody could remember.

I am just... I still don't get it. This is completely inexplicable.

“So are you sergeant.” She reached out and quickly drew three chevrons on his bare arm, using the mud that coated them all. “There, that’s better.”

“You OK ell-tee?” Robinson, her co-pilot on Tango-one-five-Alpha spoke with pity in his voice, another thing that had never been heard for longer than anybody knew.

Kim glanced down, the damage the demons had done to her was obvious, even though the wounds were healing unnaturally fast. “Won’t do much good for my future sex life.” Then her voice caught and shook as the memory quickly overwhelmed her. “It wasn’t the size, it was the barbs.”

The demons have barbed cocks? What is this now, Shinji's Nightmare Cataclysm?

Then she shook herself. It was gone, past. Now was time for the group to evade.

Only, something else got in the way. Or, to be more precise, the supervisor of this area did. Jarakeflaxis was doing his routine rounds, amusing himself by disemboweling some of the humans choking in the swamp. In truth, he wasn’t paying much attention to his surroundings, he’d been doing this round for millennia. He heard something, that wasn’t unusual, moans, screams wails, all were quite familiar to him. Only this sounded like a human woman yelling “take him down.” Then six figures smacked into him, knocking him over and swarming on top of him.

I guess we've run into a new type of demon. Except instead of being impossibly large, it's small and weak enough to be killed by a handful of torture victims.

Jarakeflaxis couldn’t believe it, they were humans. What were free humans doing here? They were slamming metal spiked into him, keeping him pinned down as he floundered in the mud. One of the humans was the woman he and his friends had enjoyed not so long ago. She had a spike in her hand and he could see the gratification in her eyes as she started her swing. Then, he could see nothing because they’d driven their spikes into his eyes and he was blinded.

And then he was dead. Because they killed him! He was no longer alive because he had undergone death from being killed. They killed him until he was dead!

In case this isn't clear, he died.

Kim looked down at the torn, shattered body. Rage, hatred and Krav Maga had killed Jarakeflaxis, killed him dead. So started the Resist bit of SERE. “Well done boys. Get him over to the rock there.”

They dragged the body over, then Kim drove spikes through its hands, crucifying it against the outcrop.

That's not how crucifixion works. The nails go through the wrists, not the hands. But we're already using the Dante's Inferno version of Hell for some reason, so I guess tertiary sources written centuries after the fact take precedence over reality.

Then, she dipped the hand in its green blood and painted four letters over the scene.

“PFLH?” McInery was confused.

“People’s Front for the Liberation of Hell.” Kim grinned savagely. “That’s us boys. Let’s tear this place apart.”

With their deadly spikes, they shall succeed where the collective militaries of all humanity have presumably failed.

Wadi Al Khirr, Western Iraq

HOW IS THERE MORE? JUST END ALREADY!

Memnon hissed softly and sniffed the remains of his companions. Groztith and Hezbitari had been flying next to him, soaring on the very ethers of this world savoring the panic and the fear. It was like the sweetest nectar to their refined senses. These monkeys were clever little things, they always had been but who would have imagined they would have come so far as to fly themselves in chariots of steel and plastic? Plastic. Memnon snorted in confusion. What was it? It was hard like metal yet he could divine nothing of the earth from it. No metal, no ore. It had no elemental song within itself, it did not sing, it did not even hum. It was a dead thing this plastic that only told him its name and nothing more.

Wait wait wait.

Memnon? Like Saint Memnon? Well, at least it's recognizable as a name, rather than a string of letters created by the author running his dick across the keyboard.

Oh, and now the demons have some kind of element divining ability that will no doubt prove utterly useless.

Yet these chariots of steel and plastic had been so very deadly, yes. Unleashing arrows of fire and steel that tore through ethereal flesh with rude abruptness and unerring accuracy his wing mates were overcome. Groztith barely had time to chant its challenge to the once-born. The arrows tore him into this pool of viscera and smoking bone. Memnon groaned slightly as his ruined left shoulder began throbbing again, ephemeral essence gelling and congealing over the gaping wound where his massive leathery wings had been. The chariots had eyes and they were not fooled.

Except for the part where they get no heat signature from demons.

It had taken all of his will to overcome the pain and panic as another human arrow of steel and fire had pinned him between his once proud wings. Hezbitari was dead as well, the leering face plastered against the cracked tree trunk to his left. The rest of the demonic form was sprayed in a smoldering mess splashed among the tree tops and underbrush. "You're a fool Hezbitari." Memnon growled as he made it up to his cloven hooves and steadied himself. Above him he still heard the chariots roaring triumphantly as they raced away after having circled over his clearing these last few minutes.

At least the quality of the writing has improved dramatically. Must be a guest contribution.

His senses smelled the approaching monkeys before he heard them and he licked his lips. He smelled more plastic and steel and he knew they were armed with weapons that wounded far worse than simple steel swords and spears. It did not matter. Briefly, it was like the old days, he had the advantage. He had their minds before they even knew he was there. These ones were not like the others, the ones whose minds seemed shielded by something he couldn’t explain. These ones, the ones in the long robes, were vulnerable still. He held their minds in his hands and carefully formed the image of himself, transparent, invisible in his own. They would see what he wanted them to and that was nothing. He let loose a deep throaty laugh like some predator from this world's bygone days. Memnon liked to play with his food. It was time for his pound of flesh.

The first monkey peered over some underbrush, carefully keeping his crafted spear of plastic and steel before him like a talisman. Memnon stood imperiously, arms crossed and quietly waited as more of them approached, tentative and fearful. Some whispered curses as they saw the charred remains of his wing mates blasted all over the clearing. Several were easily within an arm's length of the never-born as it watched them with cold satisfaction. Twelve of them in all moved in tight formation into the clearing. What an auspicious number, Memnon mused.

See how much better the narrative works when it's from the demonic point of view? And when it's written by someone who knows what he's doing? And when the agenda is to tell a story rather than fellate Mary Suemanity humanity?

Arabic. The language was Arabic. His gift of tongues was perfect as he listened to the monkeys musing and whispering as they examined the remains of his wing brothers. By the time the clouds overhead lifted and the sun shown down on these fields the ephemeral flesh and bone would boil and hiss away. One of them lifted a box to his ears and spoke into it. He could feel the ether sparking around him and trilling with voices. They were communicating over distances without seeing their audience. He had heard of this phenomenon from those who dared venture into this plain. He did not believe it until now.

"Clever little monkeys, you have come far." He finally spoke breaking the silence in perfect flawless Arabic save for the omnipresent low growl that undercut every syllable. Some of the al-Quaeda men whirled around and began firing wildly. They could not see him.

The ability to understand and speak any language is pretty interesting. Though it doesn't prevent the demons from butchering the definition of "predator."

No matter. It was time for his pound of flesh. One of the humans stared dumbly down at his chest as a taloned claw erupted from his chest in a gruesome spray of crimson gore and bone. The soldier's eyes focused on the still beating heart held in the claws like an obscene flower before dimming forever. Memnon shuddered in near orgasmic joy as he felt the passage of the Essence through him and into the depths of his realm. The fallen soldier’s fellows screamed incomprehensibly in a panic, some fumbling for grenades and others were firing into the smoky form dancing along the edges of their perceptions. They heard the guttural chant of challenge from their unseen attacker and some of them found their bowels turned to water and fear gripped them as surely as the talon gripped the hapless soldier's heart. They had come to set up another roadside bomb, to strike another blow at the satans who had invaded earth but it was they who had been ambushed. Memnon's eyes rolled into the back of his head like a Great White Sharks' revealing black within black eyes, lifeless, like a doll's eyes, and he descended upon the children of Seth and ravaged them as only the never-born could with divine fury and hunger. Their screams could be heard for kilometers and then there was only a sudden still silence.

Commendations to Surlethe who wrote the first part of this section and to Stravo who wrote the last. Well and nobly done guys!

See?

I'd probably like this if the whole thing were written by Stravo, if that last section is anything to go by. Make that... three parts I like so far: Bill Clinton, the asylum employee, and the demons being menacing for once. And that last one only serves to further illustrate the level of incompetence involved. Even if humanity still curbstomped the demons, this could have been a decent or even pretty good story if it weren't told from a top-down point of view with an ensemble cast, but instead developed a handful of grunt characters. If we saw the fighting from the viewpoint of an infantryman, who would realistically be threatened even by the Armageddon??? version of demons, then it would be more compelling, simply because we'd care about whether the person lives or dies. The tension wouldn't come from whether humanity wins the war, but rather from what happens to the person through whom the events are filtered. It's like stories set in WWII; the audience knows which side will win, but is still concerned about the fate of the protagonists.

Eh, whatever.


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post Mar 29 2011, 06:18 PM
Here is another post from that thread, which marks the precise moment when The Salvation War was born.
QUOTE (Stuart)
Agreed Mike, if we're going by theology, the source material is that extant 2,000 years ago. And that makes the demons/angels (hey in this context they're both just targets to me) pretty pathetic.

You know Mike, there's a really good novel brewing up in my mind here.

Wow. Now that is some horribly misplaced optimism. Also note how the demons were doomed to lose before he even started writing this.

Chapter Nine

Wadi Al Jaram, Western Iraq
“Now hollow fires burn out to black, and lights are guttering low.
Square your shoulders, lift your pack, and leave your friends and go.
Oh, never fear, man, nought's to dread, look not to left nor right:
In all the endless road you tread, there's nothing but the night.”

There once was a man most dull
Who wrote a book about Hell
The protagonists grin
'cause they always win
Just like a GI Joe doll

“Sorry Sir?”

“Houseman, poem called ‘A Shropshire Lad’ about the kids who died fighting for Queen Victoria in far-off parts of the Empire. How they left home and died for thirteen pence a day. His theme was that they couldn’t see what they were dying for or the point of it all. We’re spared that, we know what we’re fighting for here.” Brigadier John Carlson glanced down at his watch. “Today. When dawn comes, we will be fighting for everything there is to fight for. There’s literally nothing we won’t be fighting for.”

“That’s not true Sir.” Simon deVere Cole, Carlson’s ADC was speaking equally softly. “We’re not fighting for God. Queen and Country, yes. Our people, yes. The whole of humanity, yes. But not God. Never again. We stand for ourselves this day, on our own two feet. The men are saying its about time too.”

It would be hilarious if, at the end, they found out that Satan sent out the heralds to try to convince humanity to join his war against God, and that the military fucked it up by slaughtering them and provoking a war.

“That’s good. I wish there were just a few more of them.” That was the truth. Carlson had the British Brigade here, The Royal Dragoon Guards, a regiment of Challenger II tanks, were dug in along the ridgeline, with the 1st Duke of Lancaster and 1st Mercian, two battalions of mechanized infantry with their Warrior armored carriers, beside them. From the front, all that could be seen of them was the tops of their turrets peeking over the ridge. From behind, the tanks were sitting in open-backed revetments so they could fall back from this position to the next. Carlson looked up at the stars overhead. It was a trite cliché that looking up at them made man and his works seem insignificant and now it was a false cliché as well. For today, man’s works made the heavens themselves insignificant. And Carlson had just a regiment of tanks and two battalions of mechanized infantry. Plus his artillery batteries of course and a lot of engineers. One advantage of a “peace-keeping” mission was that there were a lot of civilian development projects involved and they had needed engineers. Those engineers had been hard at work for the last few days.

You don't have to keep reminding us how convenient it is that the demons just happened to attack the largest concentration of active military forces in the world.

Out in front, he could see the result of their labors. A shimmering river that stretched north and south as far as he could see, glistening gently in the moonlight. It was a beautiful sight if one didn’t know what the silver river was, to those who had seen what razor-wire could do, it glimmered with evil promise. Yet even worse was what nobody could see until it was too late, the thousands of anti-personnel and anti-tank mines sewn across the front. Carlson’s plan was quite simple, all good military plans were. He would break the enemy attack on the minefields and wire while his artillery poured fire into the mass of enemy hung up in front of him. As they broke through the mines and wire, as they surely would, his tanks would slaughter them while the infantry protected the tanks. The wire and the mines were his force multiplier, the thing that would allow him to stand against the force threatening him.

And if the demons drop a portal behind those extensive fortifications?

He ran those figures through his mind as well, 93,300 infantry, 6,666 cavalry, 2,187 harpies. Less those killed by attrition in the long march to contact. Against them, he had just over 8,000 men. The government in the UK had promised him more, but they were a long time coming, years of British under-spending on defense had seen to that. Those years were gone but even with the Government printing all the money it needed for the war effort, it would take time for the added production to reach the front.

So their plan to pay for all of this is to print shitloads of money.



The RAF had only four C-17 transports and their first priority had been to fly aluminum foil out to the theater. Every man in his force now had his helmet lined with aluminum foil and the people in the rear were handing rolls of the stuff out to the civilians. In a strange way, this was already shaping up to be one of the great logistics achievements of the war. A concerted effort to give every human on earth his own aluminum foil hat. Carlson chuckled, he suddenly had a picture of aluminum haberdashery becoming a study topic at Sandhurst.

We can't even get mosquito nets to every family in sub-Saharan Africa, but we can get every person on earth an aluminum foil hat with no lead time. Sure, whatever.

“Sir. General Fereidoon Zolfaghari to see you.” deVere Cole interrupted the train of thought.

“General, Sir.” Carlson snapped out the salute. The Iranian General returned it punctiliously.

“I think you will be pleased to see me Brigadier.” The English was excellent. “I have brought with me the Shamshar Armored Division. Three of my regiments of T-72s, 324 tanks, are moving into position along your left while we speak, supported by a regiment of armored infantry, 108 BMP-1s. We have not the excellent position you have here but the Global Hawks tell us the enemy will strike your position first. When they die on your wire, we think they will try and flank you. They cannot go to your right, the Hawr al Hammar prevents that. They must go to the left, right into the guns of my tanks and artillery.”

Instead of describing what's going to happen, how about, you know...

You just write it happening.

ohmy.gif

“We’re more than pleased to see you General, you’re a sight for sore eyes. We’re expecting to get hit after dawn. That glow on the horizon? It’s the Baldrick’s campfires.” A thought occurred to Carlson. “Have all your men aluminum foil for their helmets? We have plenty if you are in need.”

If they can see the demons' camp fires, why don't they call in an artillery strike? The demons have just pushed straight ahead even after getting hit repeatedly by airstrikes, so I don't think a little preparatory bombardment is going to send them running.

“The Americans gave us enough, thank you, but I will spread word. If any of my units are short, we will come to you. If I may offer you some help in return? You are very light on anti-aircraft here. I have an extra anti-aircraft regiment, the Shamshar is a composite division, made up from what is left of all four of our southern armored divisions. So many of our men went when The Message was sent, we could not support all the units we had. At least it means we are not short of front-line equipment for those we have left. I would be honored if you would accept the attachment of the regiment to your force. It has SA-8 missiles and ZSU-23/4 guns.”

I wonder if Iran has that problem.

You know, since it's a theocracy and all.

Or is the United fucking Kingdom more religious than Iran now?

“Thank you, I am honored to accept. General, I was about to have some tea, a little fruit. It is poor refreshment to offer a comrade in arms, but perhaps you would deign to join us?”

“I would prefer a glass of the whisky for which your Scots are so famous.” Carlson lifted an eyebrow and Zolfaghari smiled gently. “The pact is broken, the commandments do not apply. Now we have faith only in our tanks and guns.”

I like how religion being proven right discredited means that all the cultural intertia from religious strictures instantly vanishes.

Like any good ADC deVere Cole had anticipated his Brigadier’s needs and a bottle of 18 year old Laphroig had appeared. He measured out glasses for the two officers.

“Oh come on Simon, pour one for yourself as well.”

“Thank you Sir.”

“To the morrow and may the day be ours.” Carlson’s voice rang across the moonlit desert.

"TONIGHT WE DINE IN HELL!"

“And to our arms. May we bring honor to our countries and those we fight beside.” Zolfaghari’s response echoed across the dunes. Below them, the razor wire seemed to sway in response but it was just the wind rippling across the sand.

Headquarters, Multi-National Force Iraq, Green Zone, Baghdad.

General Petraeus stood in front of the great screen that showed the disposition of forces in Iraq. Viewed one way, what he was about to do was committing an act of mass murder. The thought made him chuckle quietly to himself, a long time ago he’d held a press conference and the subject of night vision equipment had come up. The American officer behind the podium had explained how the U.S. Army had night vision equipment that enabled them to fight a 24-hour battle while their enemy didn’t have anything approaching that capability. One journalist had been greatly angered by that and had launched a tirade about how the one-sided night-fighting capability “wasn’t fair.”

I say that, in the interest of fairness, all wars should be decided by having the head of state for each side engage in a boxing match. The only downside is that Idi Amin would have conquered the world, but hey, no system is perfect.

Well, what was happening now wasn’t fair either. The screen showed the disposition and order of battle of the Hellish forces in great detail. The Predators and Global Hawks were doing sterling work, tracking every move the baldricks made. Zoom down far enough and the display could show how and where individual baldricks were deploying and spending their time. It was painfully obvious that the baldricks had no such capability.

THEY CAN READ MINDS. THEY HAVE DIVINATION AND REMOTE VIEWING ABILITIES. THEY CAN, AS ESTABLISHED IN THE FIRST TWO CHAPTERS, BROADCAST ACROSS THE ELECTROMAGNETIC SPECTRUM AND USE EXOTIC TYPES OF SONAR. HOW DO THEY NOT HAVE ANY SORT OF COMMUNICATION OR SURVEILLANCE CAPABILITY?

THIS IS SO STUPID.

They were charging head-first into a trap, unwavering, unconcerned with what the humans were doing. Petraeus was doing his best to help them, his aircraft had been carefully hitting the command structure of the enemy forces, slowly but surely breaking up their ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

They can communicate across dimensions! Why do they not have high-ranking commanders in Hell, safely out of reach of human attack? This is just one-sided for the sake of being one-sided.

Have I mentioned lately that I hate this story?

It was far worse even than that. The baldricks were moving slowly, as a professional, Petraeus recognized them for what they were, an infantry army that moved like one. Slowly, ponderously. They had their cavalry out as screens of course but it was a myth that cavalry forces could move much faster than leg infantry, they could in a tactical sense but the difference strategically was marginal at best. The harpies had been more of a worry, there had been an effort to use them as an advance guard but they’d been shot out of the sky by the F-16s based at Kirkuk and Incirlik. The small detachments, usually three at a time hadn’t stood a chance against the fast jets and after a while, their commander had stopped sending them out.

In contrast, the Allied forces were mobile almost to the point of insanity. They could slash at an enemy formation, disengage, regroup and slash again while their enemy was still wondering what to do about the first attack. [excised two paragraphs of descriptions of American/British deployments and order of battle]

That's nice. Can we get on with it?

Petraeus knew that if he pulled this off, it would go down as one of the greatest envelopments of all time, comparable with those the Germans had pulled off at the start of their war with Russia. That was one of the things that made Petraeus uneasy, for all the scale of those early victories, the Germans had lost the war with Russia and most skilled strategists knew that they had never really had a chance of doing otherwise. What was facing the baldricks was an unparalleled military disaster yet Petraeus knew in his heart that this was just the opening move. He had no idea of the military resources hell could throw at Earth and until he had a handle on that data, he was fighting blind. All he could do was make sure the casualty rate was as lopsided as possible.

Remember, wars are decided by who kills more enemy soldiers. Just ask the Vietna- OH WAIT.

Also, Petraeus' musing makes no sense. Germany, for example, was moderately competent and used the capabilities available to it in WWII. What the demons are doing is equivalent to the Germans forgetting that they can use vehicles and trying to march to Moscow. If you've established the antagonists as idiots who aren't even aware of their own abilities, then no amount of "oh no it's really a close fight honest guys" hand-wringing is going to convince the audience.

“Sir. Message just in. The Iranian Shamshar Division is arriving and taking up position to the south of the British. They’ll be in defensive position by dawn. General Zolfaghari has ceded operational command of the defense to Brigadier Carlson as officer-in-position.”

“Thank you Charles. Send my compliments to the General and my appreciation of an advance to contact well-executed.” There was more to that message than met the eye and the recipient would know it. Ceding overall command to an officer of lesser rank had been a magnanimous gesture, one that spoke volumes about the character of the Iranian general. Privately, Petraeus promised himself that he would see Zolfaghari received full credit for his part in this operation. Then his mind went back to the battle that was about to unfold. What could go wrong? What hadn’t he foreseen? What were his options when everything dropped in the pot?

Seriously, you can't have the demons go "herp derp let's march straight into them instead of using our magic scientifically plausible quantum portals to go right to our objective" and then try to tell us that they stand any chance of winning.

He looked again at the huge display on the wall. Four new symbols had just appeared, the Iranian regiments covering the southern flank of the British brigade. Everything was set up, the pieces were in position.

"If we hit that bullseye, the rest of the dominoes should fall like a house of cards. Checkmate."

Behind the allied lines, the truck convoys with their supplies of ammunition and fuel were waiting to support the lunge forward. With them were his reserves, Stryker brigades, more mechanized infantry. Again Petraeus reflected on just how unfair this battle was going to be.

Then why is he so concerned that the demons might win?

A human general would have known how and where the great ambush would be mounted, to a human, brought up on armored warfare and battles of maneuver, the Iraqi road network made the positions and deployments entirely predictable. The baldricks painfully obviously had no concept of those matters. Truly, this was a bronze age Army fighting a force from the 21st Century. That didn’t change the fact that this was a – literally – hellishly big bronze age army.

Why does this matter? He said, just last chapter, that it's impossible to swamp a modern army with numbers.

“I’m going outside for a few minutes. Get some fresh air.” Petraeus spoke to his deputy, settled his aluminum-lined baseball cap on his head and left the command center, his bodyguards following. Outside, it was still night, the stars shining brightly down. In front of the command building sat four of the hulking M1A2 Abrams tanks, silent shadows in the darkness. Petraeus walked over to them, absent-mindedly returning the salutes from their crews as he racked his brain trying to think of outcomes and eventualities that might have missed his attention. It was no good, as far as he could see, he’d done all he could, it was time to rest and let the battle unfold.

Then he patted the massive sloping armor of the nearest tank. “Well, honey-bunny. It’s all down to you and yours now.”

Headquarters, Army of Abigor, Western Iraq.

Abigor stood over the wooden table, looking down at the parchment scroll that was pinned to it. It was a map of the area, with thick lines drawn on it, representing his forces as they fanned out across the countryside. His plan was simple, three thrusts, each aimed at a major population center. The city called Kirkuk in the north, Baghdad in the center, Basrah to the south. His mounted troops would brush any enemy opposition out of the way and leave the cities isolated. Then, his infantry would besiege them, cut off their supplies and starve the defenders. When the cities collapsed, they would storm the walls and ravage the inhabitants amid scenes of horror that would panic the remaining humans. They would stream away from his advance amid utter terror and he would slaughter them while they did so. Humanity would die screaming for its defiance. As it should.

Uh, Abigor?

You can teleport.

Just sayin'.

Where to go next? Once the fertile crescent of the Tigris-Euphrates had been cleared, what to do? Keep heading east into Persia or head west towards Jerusalem? Ravaging the area the humans called “The Holy Land” would be satisfying and it would give Satan an opportunity to goad Yahweh over the fate of his “Chosen People”. That made Abigor grin, how could the humans have believed Yahweh for so long? Accepting every bit of good fortune that came there way as one of his gifts, dismissing every disaster as a test or trial. Abigor couldn’t help but think that humans must be terminally deluded. Perhaps that was why they were resisting now? They were hoping their Yahweh would change his mind and come to aid them? They were in for a disappointment if they were, it simply wasn’t happening.

If I understand this correctly, God went to Satan and basically said, "hey, how about you go conquer earth? It'll be awesome. I totally won't do anything to stop you."

So then Satan took God at His word because... uh...

Abigor tapped the parchment with a claw, thoughts irritating the outer edges of his mind. Just why did his commanders keep exploding? Obviously the humans had something to do with it, putting things together it had become obvious that the commanders exploded when the human’s flying chariots were around. Yet how? The chariots flew so high up they could hardly be seen. Sometimes the only clue they were there was the great white streak they left across the sky. How could they hit so precisely from so high? It was impossible. Abigor’s customary scowl deepened. Perhaps it wasn’t the humans after all. Promotion by assassinating one’s superiors was a well-known tactic in hell, smiles upon as long as it was successful. A commander who couldn’t even protect himself was unfit to be in a position of authority. And yet, and yet…. Some commanders had noted another pattern, it was always the leaders who rode ahead of their command, their banners flying proudly that died. Some had started to hide themselves in their units, keeping their banners furled and marching on foot like the rest. It showed lack of pride and hurt the morale of the units but those commanders lived.

They know about jet fighters. They know about predator drones. They know about jet contrails. But they have no idea what a missile is.



Problems, more problems. The truth was that Abigor wasn’t quite sure where his units were or how much resistance they were facing. The distance he and his kind could read minds was limited to line-of-sight and with so many dead commanders lost from his ranks, communications were spotty at best. He’d tried sending out small groups of the flying demons to get information on the positions of his units but the human flying chariots had killed them. Those flying chariots were a nuisance, they’d made the demonic fliers too vulnerable to use except in large groups. Just how did humans get them to fly so high or move so fast? Some of them were so quick they arrived before their noise could be heard.

It's not like the demons could read minds from across dimensions, which is only the best espionage tool possible, so it makes perfect sense for them to be completely ignorant!

Abigor stretched and walked outside his tent, his clawed feet clicking on the stones in the sand. Above him, the stars shone brightly, their light apparently amplified by the clear, dry desert skies. That was a unique thing about this dimension, Abigor’s home had no stars, no planets, not like these. It was a place that existed in and of itself, self-contained and alone. Heaven was the same, another self-contained, isolated entity that was complete within itself. Bubbles in a formless void.

So the hollow earth concept is true? Huh.

Idly, Abigor wondered what would happen to this planet once the humans on it had been harvested. It would make a nice private retreat for his personal use, would Satan allow him to keep it? He had conquered it after all. In his heart, he knew that would not be the case, Satan wouldn’t allow any of this realm to establish a presence outside it for to do so would be to give them the chance of establishing a power base independent of his reign. This planet would be abandoned, left to develop without humans. Perhaps to see another species of intelligent life develop and in its turn be harvested to serve the beings from the higher dimension. Abigor had heard that there were creatures living in the sea that were almost as intelligent as humans.

And given their competence thus far, I bet the demons would get their asses kicked by Flipper, too.

Another problem, another worry that flittered on the edge of his mind. He and his kind were used to being able to read human minds and control their thoughts, even across the dimensional rift. Once he and one of Yahweh’s angels had held a competition to see who could cause the most minor fatal accidents in one day; he’d won that, 106 to 102. But now, it was becoming harder and harder to find humans who could be affected by the demons mind control. Something was getting in the way, something was stopping the demons possessing the minds of anybody they chose. Already, nearly all the important people, the leaders, their minds were closed off. Even the lesser people, the peasants, were becoming immune. It was so hard to find one who could be possessed now.

Wait a minute.

Going off the above paragraph, they know which people are in positions of leadership. They have also attempted to read those individuals' minds, but only after they were equipped with magic mind control-blocking tin foil hats!

This is a level of contrivance that I didn't even think was possible. It's like the author can't even remember what he wrote as he writes it. This is just... bad.

Abigor shook himself. Why was he worrying, a few days and it would all be over. Humanity would be a panicked mass, fleeing for its survival and a few days beyond that it would be gone forever. There wasn't any point in worrying about details.

I don't even know anymore.


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post Mar 30 2011, 01:46 PM
What the hell was that?!


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post Mar 30 2011, 06:30 PM
Chapter Ten

The Royal Dragoon Guards, Al Badiyah Al Janubiyah, Western Iraq
“Time to mount up.” Guardsman Bass finished the last of his tea and shook his mug over the sand.

Yup, he's British, all right.

His Challenger II was ready to move, one of the 56 tanks lined up along the ridge. It was still dark but the eastern horizon was glowing red as the sun approached it’s first appearance. That’s why the tanks were along this ridge, with the sun behind them the baldricks would be advancing with the glare of the dawn directly in their eyes. It was a small point perhaps but the officers were paid to think of things like that. He climbed up on to his tank and slid into the turret beside the 120mm gun, settling comfortably into the familiar seat. “Boiling vessel on?”

Hey, I just realized something. In the previous chapter, Petraeus made a big deal about America's (and by extension, one would assume, Britain's) lead in night fighting capability.

So why didn't they just attack the demons at night, when their advantage would be greatest, instead of letting Abigor have the initiative?

The loader nodded, the tank was going to seal down, they’d fight that way. Nobody knew what the baldricks would do when they found themselves under fire so orders were to expect the worst and make sure the tea urn was ready to use. Bass felt his ears click as the positive-pressure system powered up. The air inside the tank was at a higher pressure than that outside so that if there were any leaks in the tank, the flow would be out, not in. They had rations, everything they needed without depending on the outside world. They even had some empty cases from the artillery so they could relieve themselves without leaving their armored home.

Thus transforming the Challenger into the world's most expensive port-a-potty. God bless the military-industrial complex.

“Sabre-One Actual.” Lieutenant McLeoud’s voice was calm, studied. “All Sabre One units. Confirm sealed down.”

Bass thumbed his transmitter button. “Sabre One-two sealed down.”

You can tell they're extra British, because they switch their e's and r's.

“Very good. Recon tells us the baldricks are moving, straight at us.” There was immense satisfaction in the Lieutenant’s voice now. ‘Straight at us’ meant straight into the minefields and on to the razor wire. We will be opening fire at 5,000 meters with HESH. Aimed shots only boys, we can’t waste ammunition. Hold Fast!”

HESH? You know, there's a fine line between providing no useful information and filling up entire paragraphs with extraneous crap.

The last words were McLeoud’s family motto, repeated with almost boyish enthusiasm. Young officers bass thought, a little patronizingly, a little sadly. So keen, so likely to die. “You heard our Lieutenant. Load HESH.”

You could just tell us what the acronym stands for and move on, but no.

(For anyone who's curious, it's High Explosive Squash Head.)

“Up.” The one word meant that the 120mm gun was loaded, ready to fire. Bass leaned forward slightly and peered through his commander’s periscope. Even in the brief time since they’d mounted up, the sun had risen enough to start lighting the battle area. Across the dunes, Bass saw a section of the horizon turn black. Baldricks crossing it in strength, a great square of them. He knew the numbers, 81 ranks, each of 81 baldricks. This was the cavalry, their advance guard. As he watched the great square changed, splitting into three rectangles, the two at the rear moving up either side of the lead so they formed an extended line. Then the rectangles split again, into three sections, one behind the other. The numbers played in Bass’s head, 729 in each sections, almost 2,200 in each of the three closely packed waves. This would be a bloody day, Bass had read the intelligence on the baldricks and of their wild, primary color blood. So what color would the blood be?

“They’re charging by battalion.” Bass lased the formations that were approaching at steadily-increasing speed. “Range 17,500 meters. They’re not holding formation very well. No discipline there at all.” A critical point, a charge had to hit as a solid blow, a fist formed of every available asset. If the charging cavalry were ill-disciplined enough to allow their formation to break, the strength of the blow would be much reduced.

This is very... clinical for a soldier fighting otherworldly creatures for the first time.

F-14A Tomcat over the Al Badiyah Al Janubiyah, Western Iraq
“Lion-Leader, the enemy are moving. Engage airborne threats as detected.” Lieutenant Hooshank Sedigh looked around at the other Tomcats making up his formation. The last weeks had been strange, after decades of sour hostility, the airfields around Dezful had seen a constant stream of C-5 and C-17 transports landing as the Americans shipped in supplies of spare parts for the Iranian Air Force. Not just spares, stocks of AIM-54C missiles for the F-14s that had done without for so long and, even better, American technical service teams, Tiger Teams, to bring the Tomcats back up to full serviceability. Aircraft that had been stripped hangar queens for years had been towed out and were being repaired. Sedigh’s Tomcat had been upgraded by a team lead by retired Navy maintenance chief who had been drafted out of his civilian job. Now, more things worked on the aircraft than they had for years.

Just like that? Wasn't one of the points of an earlier chapter that aircraft restoration is hard?

“Be advised, Indian Air Force Su-30s are closing on your position from Omidiyeh.” Another change, Iran’s airfields were crowded with aircraft from all the surrounding countries. A weird mixture of types and technologies. It was lucky the American AWACS birds were up, keeping sense of it all. “F-15s approaching from King Khalid Military City.” The American controller tactfully didn’t mention that the F-15s had been Saudi until quite recently. The Saudis had been terribly hit by The Message, a huge percentage of their population had just died. Typical of the Sunnis thought Sedigh then mentally kicked himself. The time for that nonsense had gone. It didn’t matter any more. How could he rail against unbelievers when everything he had believed in was a proven, demonstrated lie? Anyway, the Americans had repossessed the Saudi Air Force, although it did seem that, even before they had done so, a surprising number of “Saudi” pilots answered to the name of ‘Bubba’ or ‘Jim-Bob’.

Oh, hey, it looks like one country was severely affected by The Message. Progress!

“We have first target group on scan now. They are stacked behind lead ground element, estimated number approximately 950. Lion Group will engage. Fire at will.” Sedigh swelled with satisfaction, his 24 F-14As were Lion Group. They would fire the first shots of the Battle of Al Badiyah Al Janubiyah.

First Brigade, First Armored Division, Tel Ash Sha’ir, Northern Iraq.
“It’s starting.” Colonel Sean MacFarland looked at the electronic displays in his command center. He’d zoomed in on Al Badiyah Al Janubiyah where the map was showing the first of the Baldrick formations moving up. They were leading with their cavalry down there, just like they were doing here. MacFarland zoomed out, moved his point of display up to Tel Ash Sha’ir then flipped the display mode from synthetic to raw video. The pictures from the Global Hawk showed the baldrick cavalry shift from a solid block to a column of three long lines. The British had placed their faith in wire and minefields to stop the initial push but MacFarland was relying on his artillery. It wasn’t as if he was short of it.

Oh no, I wonder if the humans can win. This fight looks completely even and I have no idea which side will defeat the other. Can't you just feel the tension?

Command Sergeant Major Frank L. Graham picked up the microphone. “All Ready First units, now here this. The enemy is moving. These are the bastards who thought we’d just knuckle under to their wishes. Well, they’re wrong and we’re going to show them just how wrong. We’re going to teach them what American values stand for. We’ll show them the meaning of truth, justice and the American way, and by the last of those I mean, of course, mindless indiscriminate violence.” There was a chortle of laughter at the crack. “So show them just how much violence Old Ironsides can do when we put our minds to it.”

OK, I kind of like this guy.

He put the microphone down. “The MLRS and Paladin batteries are waiting Sir. Just give the word.”

Cavalry Legion, Right Flank of the Army of Abigor, Al Badiyah Al Janubiyah, Western Iraq

Can we establish a scene and stick with it, please?

Visharakoramal kept his beast in hand, trying to keep lined up with the other members of his unit. It was hard, the great beasts wanted to surge ahead, their claws snapping in anticipation of biting into flesh, their tails arched up, ready to strike. Ahead of him the first rank was already breaking into a gallop, the beasts covering the ground with great loping strides. The second rank were into the trot, waiting for the order so they too could start their charge. Visharakoramal’s third rank was still at the pace, their turn had not come yet. Far ahead of him, he could see a strange shimmering cloud that seemed to stretch across the battlefield. Odd, but then this human world was full of surprises. It wasn’t the way they’d expected it to be.

"Ooh, shiny."

It was time, his beast broke into its trot as the lines in front shifted to the gallop. The waves had spaced out, the gaps between them lengthening as the beasts accelerated to full speed, their riders letting them have their head in the race to gain the honor of being the first to crash through the enemy lines. Then, the surge and the pounding in his rear end as his beast went into the gallop, its head stretching out as its muscles pushed it faster towards the enemy. Visharakoramal sneered at the enemy in front, instead of forming up in the open where they could fly their banners and show their defiance like proper warriors, they were hiding behind the hill crests. Not that hiding would save the humans. In front of him, the first wave was nearing the shimmering river. Then, the earth opened up and swallowed them.

They can identify the tanks as human vehicles?

But the still don't know what a missile is.

F-14A Tomcat over the Al Badiyah Al Janubiyah, Western Iraq
“Fox-Two, Fox-Two, Fox-Two, Fox-Two, Fox-Two, Fox-Two.” Lieutenant Hooshank Sedigh was one of 24 pilots making the ritual chant as the missiles streaked away from his Tomcat climbing up, high into the stratosphere as the started their deadly course. This was what the Tomcat had been built for, taking on a massed formation of enemy aircraft and blasting them apart with long-range weapons. It was, after all, what their American Tiger Teams had said, it was all very well to win a fight but much better to kill your enemy before he knew the fight had started.

The radio crackled again,

"BALLS." said LIEUTENANT BALLS.
...
Sorry, I just saw "radio" and thought this was the first chapter again.

the Su-30s were opening fire with their long-range missiles. They didn’t have the multi-target capability of the Tomcats, not quite, they could engage four targets at once instead of the Tomcat’s six, but they were firing their R-77 missiles in a stream at the mass of harpies. As the first four hit, the radar would automatically switch to the next four, and then the next. Sedigh realized something else, the harpies would be looking at the huge salvo of missiles aimed straight at them, not upwards to where the AIM-54s were already hurtling down. Off to the south, the American F-15 formation was already closing to follow up the initial long-range pounding.

Is the rest of this chapter just going to be humans indiscriminately killing demons? Because if I wanted to read that, I'd go over the first couple chapters again.

Over a hundred kilometers away, Inkraskalitran saw the sky in the far distance turn into a white could, one that lengthened towards the flock of harpies with incredible speed. This had to be the fire-spears thrown by the human sky-chariots, the harpies had all heard of them and quietly discussed them. There was word that three of the great Heralds had been destroyed by the fire-spears, if so, what could the smaller fliers do against them? He watched the fire-spears approaching, then the whole world seemed to turn upside down.

Three heralds? But there were four in the first chapter... Sure, one of them was killed with guns instead of missiles, but how would the demons know that? Were some of them watching the first from Hell? Then why didn't they already know about miss-

No. I'm not going to get hung up on that anymore. It's just not worth it.

His eyes blurred, de-focused from the shock, Inkraskalitran looked with horror at the chaos wrought upon the harpy flock. One of his wing-mates had taken a direct hit from a fire spear and had been blown to fragments. Others around him had been caught by the blast and fragments and were fluttering down, crippled, wings torn apart, some already burning where their bodies were being seared by their blood. Even as he watched, the members of his flock were dying as more fire-spears tore into them, the explosions adding to the chaos in the flock. Hundreds were dead and dying as Inkraskalitran tried to absorb the havoc that was being wrought. In the chaos, he saw a fire-spear coming for him. Panic-stricken, he dived and turned away, trying to accelerate as fast as he could but the fire-spear obediently changed course and followed him. That just wasn’t fair.

Nothing in this story is.

“I love it when a plan comes together.” The voice in Sedigh’s earphones was a mixture of professional satisfaction and awe. The sky where the harpies had been was a mass of explosions and fireballs. “Lion Group, return to base, maximum speed. Reload and get back out here fast. Don’t worry about fuel, we’ve got tankers up if anybody gets short. Tiger Group,” That was the Indians Sedigh thought. “close on what’s left of that harpy formation and slaughter it as soon as the F-15s have finished. Don’t hang around, don’t get close, zoom and boom. Watch out, the F-15s will be there as well.”

Sedigh thumbed his transmitter. “Eagle Eye, kill totals?”

Because the middle of combat is the best place to compare dicks count kills.

There was a laugh in the controller’s voice. “Bloody fighter pilots. Hard to say Lion Leader. In that mess, its hard to work out who’s killing what. We have Lion Group down for 121 kills, Tiger Group for 290. Panther Group is about to engage. Good luck Lion Leader, look forward to seeing you back here.”

It made sense, Sedigh thought. The Tomcats were long-range killers, they had no place getting mixed up in a wild furball, but the fighter pilot in his soul screamed in protest still. Because what a furball it was going to be. Behind him, the area of sky occupied by the harpies redoubled in its fury as the salvoes of AIM-120Cs tore into it.

Cavalry Legion, Left Flank of the Army of Abigor, Tel Ash Sha’ir, Northern Iraq.

Zorankalirtagap jabbed his heels into the neck of his beast, urging it onwards, towards the enemy who was supposed to be trying to stop the Legions of Abigor. His beast responded gallantly, straining every muscle in its body to get ahead of his rivals and be the first to start the slaughter of the humans. Dawn was well advanced, the sky turning from black to blue, only it wasn’t?

There is something about the above sentence that bothers me. Can you spot it?

Zorankalirtagap took time to glance upwards, there was a weird white cloud rising from behind the humans, a cloud tinged red from the rising sun. The appearance of a cloudy red sky for one second made Zorankalirtagap homesick but the clouds shot through with streaks of intense white fire. Suddenly, Zorankalirtagap saw the streaks of fire were curving through the air and the curve was going end with him.

The mathematics were simple and deadly. Just under 25 kilometers away from Tel Ash Sha’ir were 29 M270A1 MLRS rocket launchers. Each had 12 rockets. Each rocket had 644 shaped-charge multi-role sub-munitions. 12 x 29 x 644 = 224,112. Getting on for a quarter of a million sub-munitions were descending on the 6,600-strong cavalry legion that was charging across open terrain. The United States Army had a name for what was happening. They called it steel rain.

numbers numbers numbers numbers numbers numbers blah blah blah blah

Zorankalirtagap was staggering around amid the wreckage of the cavalry charge. His beast was down, threshing on the ground, screaming with the agony of holes blasted through its body. Great craters seared by the fury of the shaped-charges that had blasted raw copper plasma into its body, they were something that the beast had never experienced before. All around it, others of its kind were in the same condition, screaming, legs, claws, tails blasted off, their faces melted, their bodies ripped open and their organs hanging out. Some were dead, they were the ones who had been fortunate enough to be hit so hard that even the tough body and lust for war that was bread into the beasts could not allow them to survive. Between the bodies of the great beasts, their riders were strewn, some dead, some screaming from their wounds, all hurt in a way none had ever experienced before.

It really didn’t register in time, the screams from overhead that drowned out even the shrieks and howls of the shattered cavalry charge. The explosions did catch his attention, they were large enough to attract anybody’s. they rippled across the killing field, tearing apart the force pinned down there and finally bringing peace to the crippled beasts as they were blown apart.

I was really tempted to just snip this section - the entire chapter, in fact - and just replace it with "humans win." Because really, is there anything else to it?

Just over 12 kilometers away, the 18 M109A6 Paladins had dropped into the steady firing rate of four rounds per minute, the rate that conserved ammunition and broke armies. Their shells arched over the Abrams tanks and Bradley armored vehicles of the First Brigade and slammed into the mass of struggling baldricks below. On the ridgeline above the tankers and mechanized infantry watched in slightly bored interest as the baldrick cavalry died. There was nothing to be really interesting here, they’d seen MLRS and artillery at work before. The artillery observers actually had something to do, they watched the patterns of shells landing and datalinked a stream of information back to the guns, directing fire onto any pockets of survivors.

And now the author finally admits that this is boring. They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

In the middle of the mass of artillery fire, Zorankalirtagap was learning new lessons and learning them very fast indeed. He was learning that he was helpless, that there was no defense against the shells that were moving backwards and forwards across the killing ground. He was learning that artillery and the controllers who directed in had no mercy, no compassion for the creatures they were slaughtering. They were just targets, to be erased as quickly and conveniently as possible.

He was learning that it's a really bad idea to be on the wrong side of author favoritism.

Zorankalirtagap had learned one other thing. He was a creature of hell but these seemingly puny humans could create hell any time they wanted to. For the first time in his long life, Zorankalirtagap knew what sheer, unadulterated, panic-stricken terror felt like.

The Royal Dragoon Guards, Al Badiyah Al Janubiyah, Western Iraq
“Now that is a sight.” Guardsman Bass swung the turret of his tank so he could watch the scene in the minefields. The meter long bar mines had been designed to knock out tanks but they worked against the baldrick’s rhinolobsters very effectively. The first wave had been blown apart by the mines, Bass had seen one rhinolobster have both its left legs torn off by the mines, as it had collapsed to one side it had landed on another and been killed by it. But the problem with minefields were that they were declining assets, every mine that claimed a victim thinned out the field. The second wave had done much better than the first, for a time at least. Quite a few of the rhinolobsters had made it though the minefield and then they’d hit the razor wire.

I wonder what rhinolobster would taste like. (Sorry, just thinking out loud.)

Razor wire was nasty stuff, lift a piece carelessly and it could remove a man’s fingers. There were dozens of interlocked coils down there and even as Bass watched he saw the rhinolobsters tear into it and become entangled in the mass of razor-sharp edges. They screamed and threshed as the wire sliced ever-deeper into them and their efforts only got them more entangled and inflicted yet more damage. Some of the riders tried to help their mounts, grabbed the wire to lift in clear and these ones learned the terrible truth and the wire sliced their fingers to the bone.

And then burst into flame, cooking the rhinolobsters to perfection.

Behind that second wave came the third and these had learned. Most of them followed the paths of the rhinolobsters that had made it to the wire. They climbed over the creatures from the second wave, escaping the first entangling coils of wire but got bogged down in the rest. Others followed them and by simple weight and mass they crushed down the wire with the bodies of those in front of them. By sheer weight of numbers, the enemy cavalry had breached the wire and were through.

“Get ready Boys.” Lieutenant McLeoud’s voice came over the radio. “The artillery lads are opening fire. Get ready to pick off any of them monsters that get through the barrage.”

Oh no, the demons might get through and ineffectually thrash at the humans before being slaughtered en masse yet again. This is so exciting I can hardly wait until the next chapter.

Bass settled down into his tank commander's seat, then took a look through the scope. The blood in the minefield and on the wire was green.

I can't even think of how to describe this chapter. This is a story so firmly entrenched in its own insanity that I just... wait, what's this?
QUOTE (shiroamasa @ Mar 30 2011, 04:46 PM)
What the hell was that?!
*

Yeah, I'll just go with that. It's a better summary than I could have come up with.


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