Days of Burning, Days of Wrath – Snippet 24
“It would be hard to call them ‘happy circumstances,’ now wouldn’t it?” was Khalid’s retort. “You can dwell on that to your heart’s content, Alix, but, longer term, if we don’t get you your army back, there are going to be a lot more Sachsen girls experiencing the same thing you did. Indeed, it will be the rare one who doesn’t experience it – no pun intended – in full.
“Take your pick of what you want. But do it quickly because once we’re assembled, we’re going after your Minister of Finance. If you want your country back, you’ll forget about resenting people doing their duty.”
“It wasn’t your duty to get me gang raped,” she said, calming slightly.
“It wasn’t my duty to save you from it, either, but I did. And it wasn’t me doing the raping.”
Tauran Union Defense Agency Headquarters, Lumiere, Gaul
The uprising in Gaul had followed a different pattern from Sachsen. In Gaul, precisely because the Moslems in Sachsen had risen first, the authorities had had a modicum of warning, enough to call out and form something like a militia, to drag in and organize food, and to expel likely fifth columnists. .
What that meant was that instead of a sudden take over, the capital of Gaul, Lumiere, had found itself besieged. One peculiarity of that was that, as the ad hoc militia folded in key places, the largely military contingent of the Defense Agency headquarters had found themselves not only on the front line, but a key component of the front line defenses.
“Now meself and Turenge,” said Major Campbell, lightly, to the Anglian twit, Houston, “if they capture us, we’ll probably be raped in a place reasonably well-suited to the purpose. On the other hand, you, Major Houston, will be raped in a place very poorly suited to the purpose. And, yes, they do prefer boys, many of them.”
Her two main bits of muscle, Corporal Dawes and Sergeant Greene, snickered at the sudden pallor that took over Jonathan Houston’s face. The rest of Campbell’s direct-action team, seconded to her from the Anglian Special Air Service, likewise snickered, but lacked enough of the detail Greene and Dawes possessed to make a very enthusiastic show of it. They simply enjoyed Houston’s obvious discomfort.
The whole Anglian crew, nine members of the SAS, Campbell and Houston, plus the lovely, albeit thin, Gallic captain, Turenge, occupied one corner of one floor of the Headquarters. Turenge, though armed, was away from the windows, listening into an earpiece attached to a small portable radio. They were all armed. Unlike the Anglians, whose insular histories tended to deprecate and discount both domestic violence and the means of violence, the history of Gaul had been almost unremittingly violent since inception. As such, they tended to expect disaster and likewise to prepare for it. In this case, preparation had come in the form of an arms room and ammo bunker, in total with enough arms and ammunition for a small war.
There was also enough food for several weeks, over and above what the city authorities had collected.
These factors had both proven to be important, though the food was less so, so far. Whereas the Moslems in Sachsen had been more or less integrated inside the cities, hence had found it fairly easy to take them over, in Gaul they’d generally been banished to towns outside the major cities. This had had two effects. One was that it had been easier to smuggle arms to them, by Khalid’s French-speaking colleagues, meaning they were also somewhat better armed. The other was that taking the cities had been much harder, since they’d had to work their way in from the outside, and the Gallic civilians had turned out to be a lot better armed than Gallic proponents of gun control had imagined, with a surprising number and amount of arms and ammunition left over from the Great Global War, generally hidden in a closet, or up in an attic.
The headquarters had been among the first places to stand like a rock, as the men and women – to include a goodly number of civilians – had flocked to the arms room and then, the armorer having given up on getting signatures, raced to man the windows and doors. A substantial number of Moslem rebels lay in various postures of undignified death in the streets around the building.
So far, the Moslems hadn’t asked for a truce to recover their dead, while the Gauls and other Taurans in the building hadn’t been especially eager to offer one. Instead, as they’d organized their numbers, they had simply sat back for a siege of the place. This didn’t prevent a certain amount of psychological warfare from continuing.
Jan and her people were better placed than most to see where the screaming was coming from but they still couldn’t see it. They were also better placed to hear what the screaming was, and couldn’t do anything to stop it. It went on for a long time, several hours, from at least two tortured throats, before anyone had a clue what it was.
They found out when two poles were erected over a wall on the other side of the boulevard. The poles hadn’t been screaming, of course. Instead, the sources now hung by their wrists from the poles. Jan took a set of binoculars, dialed the focus in, and immediately pulled them from her eyes.
“My God, how could anyone…? She had no answer, though she had a strong urge to retch. Greene borrowed the binoculars and looked for himself. It took about half a minute for his mind to believe what his eyes were seeing.
“They skinned them,” he said. “Obviously alive…they’re still alive…the bastards fucking skinned two people alive and then hung them up on display.”
“Put them out of their misery.”
Two shots rang out. Everyone could hear those, too, and, by that time, understood what was going on.
Ten minutes later, Sergeant Pangracs came calling. He was the senior medic at the headquarters, and more used to passing out pills to snivelers than to field expedient surgery. He was, however, picking up the latter rather quickly.
He’d already been a deft hand with psychological issues. That was why he materialized at Jan’s corner with a bottle of brandy and a fistful of paper cups.
“I figured you guys might need this.”
Santa Cruz, Santa Josefina, by the Cordoban Border
“The patrols all say the same thing,” said Rall to Marciano. “The enemy is thickening by the day. One group managed to get eyes on a particularly nasty looking artillery group, about ten kilometers from our forward trace. It looked, the squad leader thought, like Balboan regular artillery, well trained, and digging in fast.”
“They’re not even bothering to hide it,” Marciano observed.
“They don’t have to, anymore, sir. They’ve won. They’ve won more completely that I ever imagined they could have.”
“How long do you think we have before they’ve brought up enough to stomp us out of existence, Rall?”
“Less time than I thought initially,” the Sachsen answered. “Do you think it’s time for us to get interned in Cordoba?”
“No…we’ve got to get back home intact. And soon. We are needed there. Internment would last until a peace treaty was arranged, and there can be no peace treaty while most of our government – our governments – are on the run from or captured by the Moslem rebels.”
“It would be a worthy goal, getting home to fight for our own again,” Rall agreed, “but, I confess, I haven’t the slightest idea how to do it.”
“An airship, maybe?” Marciano suggested. “We have enough in the treasury to charter one.”
“No…no,” said Rall, “the range is so short the Santa Josefinans will shoot it down. And we can’t cross into Cordoba to get out of range because they’d have to intern us. They were terrified of the Balboans before, but now…”
“‘And now [Carrera], too, is running on the mountain, with no more between him and his will than a wolf has’.”
“Where did that come from?” Rall asked.
“Book – old book – from Old Earth; The Last of the Wine.”
“Ah. Someone predicted the son of a bitch that far back?”
“In a way.”
MV ALTA, Mar Furioso
A single Condor, one of the stealthy gliders developed by Obras Zorilleras, had come in the night before, carrying a heavy package for Hamilcar Carrera. Opening it would have been a chore, the package being three Faraday cages, one inside the other, with directions not to open them until the very last possible minute. Given that Ham knew what was inside the last cage, those were instruction with which he fully agreed.