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[GZG] [GZG Fiction] The Door Is Open

From: <Beth.Fulton@c...>
Date: Wed, 24 Jan 2007 01:46:07 +1100
Subject: [GZG] [GZG Fiction] The Door Is Open

New Guardian Times, Orduna, December 19th, 2196

With the latest tank battle on the steppe complete and action again
inside the confines of a city the media has been allowed to return to
the sides of their embed units. My beloved Swabians are leading the
assault on Orduna, down over the south western lip of the city. In
amongst the buildings - with their off kilter alignments, strangely
polyhedral and faceted facades - the smell of acrid smoke is thick.
Strange odours that have nothing at all to do with the destructive
forces deployed against the city's infrastructure can also be detected
despite our snout filters working at maximum capacity.

The closest fires are near enough you can hear the crackling flames. The
yells of men from other units bounce off the walls, and down the
streets. The alien constructions creating a new acoustic signature, one
quite different to that typical of human municipalities. It feels like
flights of planes buzz overhead about every ten minutes. The engines
grinding rather than roaring as they try to slow their fly-by to
increase accuracy. 

The bombs from our flyers do not make the constant overwhelming din that
the Kra'Vak explosives had back in those terrible days through January
2194. I had not been in Orduna at the time, but I can imagine the terror
the inhabitants felt, as I was certainly taken to the edge of paralysis
by the fear that enveloped me during the actions I witnessed in the
south. By comparison this current bombing is lighter and intermittent,
with the explosions separated by minutes in many cases. 

The constrained visibility available to those caught down amongst the
city streets means they do not have a clear view of the target areas.
Still the sounds of the explosives can be used as reference. If the
sound is sharp, then the strike was sent in nearby; if soft and muffled,
then it was far away at the other end of the ravine. 

I joined a detachment that had been sent to a rooftop to act as scouts
and observers. By accompanying them I had got a much better view of what
was going on beyond our tiny foothold on the city's edge. Looking down
into the dark, shadowed streets below we could see flashes of fire
fights. Our view was suddenly washed out by a string of incendiary bombs
which fell in a cluster to our northeast. A couple of dozen went off in
a matter of seconds. The flash was terrific, overwhelming the buffer on
the low light goggles we were using. After the initial ignition they
quickly subsided, simmering on as pinpoints of dazzling white that
burned ferociously. Some of these were quickly snuffed out. My guess was
this signified the action of Kra'Vak fire-fighters. Others would
transform into yellow licks of flame that took hold and consumed the
building they had been seeded in. The greatest conflagration took hold
about 10 kilometres directly to our front. The flames seemed to whip a
hundred metres or more into the air. The night vision caught the heat of
the fire and showed the plume of smoke as a gradient of bright lime to
grey-white as the plume extended up into the clouds above. Switching
from low light false colour to actual image the sky flicked from
white-grey to an angry red, as the fires reflected off the bottom of the
clouds. As if the heavens had a demonically decorated ceiling. Through
the shroud you could see the hint of brilliant sparks, bursts from the
dogfights happening up there. After the flash you often heard a crack
like distant thunder. For one brief moment there was a rent in the cloud
cover large enough I even saw the rarest of treasures in this long
cloudy, dusty war; the incongruously permanent twinkle of a genuine
star. It was not visible long enough for me to determine the
constellation, but it was a thrill to see it, my spirits were
immediately raised.

Coming back down to the ground, looking about us the fires were
beginning to throw a glow down the network of streets, semi-illuminating
them and picking out the intense fight occurring down there. As I
scanned back up again, trying to take in all our surrounds the shifting
winds displaced the smoke to our left. And as if it were some ship
looming through the fog a great multi-domed Kra'Vak building slowly
became clearer, taking shape the way objects do at dawn; metamorphosing
from an amorphorous blob to some recognisable structure. I had
absolutely no idea of its purpose but it was an edifice of amazing
proportions. Its jarring architecture unsettling to the human sense of

Not long after I was unceremoniously asked to "shove out of the way" so
that the squad members could set about sand bagging the lofty perch.
They wanted some nice handy cover to dive into should we start to draw
more attention. They wasted no time and the defensive wall was in place
in under half an hour. The new topic of conversation centred on sand
bags, the best form, the best size, the best shape to lay out, whether
to just edge or create alcoves. For those who are not in harm's way on
the front line it is hard to understand how the configuration of
sandbags can be so transfixing. When it comes down to it though, no
matter their origin or final destination, when a bullet is interacting
with you it's always coming straight at you. Any one who has seen life
from that perspective can understand why sand bags can be such an all
consuming topic. From there they moved on to rations and bedrolls and
"lucky bastards in the south that get to patrol from camp". In my time
among the troops of all the different races it seems a universal
characteristic that your lot is always the worst, unless of course for
those unlucky sods in the really deep shit. Soldiers are always full of
gruff cheer and wit when they get started on that conversational arc.
The exact words change, but it's always a variation on the age-old
pastime of grousing. Doesn't matter the occupation or the circumstances,
having a good grouse lightens the soul and helps take the mind off

As dawn came and the sun rose, we watched on as the drama unfolded about
us. We were increasingly caught up in exchanges of fire over the
rooftops. The troops below us made no real gain in new ground, but they
were holding the ground they did own more and more firmly. As the day
wore on we started to sweat, but all knew this was an illusion of the
closeness of the buildings and the non-stop activity. No one suggested
we remove clothing or dial down suit temperatures. Just over the limb
was a landscape that competed with many Terran realms in full winter
swing, despite its almost equatorial latitude. Not for the first time it
strikes home how long and hard this fight will be.

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