Warning: This story depicts scenes of violence
“Mein Herr. Wake up.”
The young officer opens his eyes. The whirring of engines muffles the chatter inside the helicopter. He hadn’t had much rest in the couple of days that’d passed since the Europish Bound declared war on the Kingric of Arabia.
“Yes, Schultz, I am awake.”
He looked at his subordinate; the one he called Schultz. The man, an older non-commissioned officer, took a glance out of the window, and then back to him.
“I believe you may want to know that we’re almost there. I can already see our pancers on the roads, firing into some houses taken over by fiendly troops. Our foes think this stead is ‘holy’ somehow, so I foresee them fighting tooth and nail for it. Heh, Saracens, am I right?”
The lieutenant nods with a giggle. “That only means taking this stead will be a blow to the balls for them, Schultz.” He turns to look at his soldiers. “Am I right, lads?!”
The twenty or so men all cheer and laugh. Despite being freshly commissioned as an officer and being with his unit for only a few months, he was quickly liked by those under him for his demeanour—he always gave a laugh that never faltered whatever came, and was lenient on those who had a few swigs while on sentry duty. Deep down, however, he knew he was the most nervous soul in the flying machine.
The lieutenant, seated near the cockpit, calls the pilot’s attention. “Flyer, how long until we land?”
“Three minutes, Leutnant Rüstow.”
“Alright. Lads! Wear your helms, load your guns, and say your beads. Our foes may be nothing more than Saracens with ‘Mosin’ boltgewears, but none of us have been to the sandy waste of the Near East. Watch all windows and doors, I want eyes a full three-sixty degrees around us, and do not let them get to our MBF. Am I clear?”
“Good. And if we all make it out alive, every man’s beer is on me.”
“Doors are open! Los, los, los!”
The first boots hit the sandy soil. Dust flew everywhere, lifted by the rotor blades. Air raid sirens and gunfire were heard from afar. After every soldier had disembarked, the chopper flew off.
“Get behind that wall! Twithe team, with Feldwebel Schultz, go behind and through the alleyways; breach any houses with Saracens! First team, with me, we’ll walk through the main road with the MBF! Stick to walls or wagons so you can duck if they shoot! Meeting point is the crossroads about one-point-two clicks from here! Oberst Metzger wants a base set up in the lofthaven nearby.”
Schultz nodded. “You heard the Leutnant. Go!” Each soldier followed his assigned officer like clockwork. Rüstow and his men stuck to the walls of a half-ruined house as they made their way to the main road.
Behind him, he could hear the mechanical clanking of the steel behemoth he called the MBF, short for Mobiles Baufahrzeug, or the Bewayly Buildfaretug or BBF if you speak English. These vehicles, each carrying hundreds of tonnes of equipment, supplies, and machinery, are the pride of military engineering. One takes a few hours to “unpack” into a Buildyard, after which then serves as the cornerstone and heart from which a forward base is built; it can also “repack” and move elsewhere. Technology first pioneered in the late 1940s, any military worth its salt would have one or more of these in store.
The MBF was flanked by four SW4203 “Knight” tanks and two Bv 407 “Arkont” armoured multirole carriers with the Number 2 loadout, that being an antipersonnel autocannon. The ten men, including Rüstow, in the first squad would be its foot escort.
A single shot hit the tarmac, and each man took cover behind what was nearest to him. In around the time it takes to cycle a bolt and aim, another shot is fired, hitting the armour of an Arkont. The vehicles kept moving forward regardless.
“Schnee one-two, this is Schnee one-one, we’ve got a shooter in a house; seventh from the landing point, east side of the road. Breach from behind, we’ll give understuttingsfire.” Rüstow says on his handheld radio.
“Verstanden.” Schultz answers.
Rüstow, with his hand pointing at the house he talked about, signals a foot soldier with a machinegun. He quickly understands and aims at a window, squeezing the trigger. It wasn’t called the “Kaiser’s Buzzsaw” for nothing; even it short bursts, the distinctive rate of fire is unnervingly audible.
Not even two minutes in, Schultz calls in. “Hold fire, Schnee one-one. House is clear. Two foes killed, a soldier and a burgher. No losses on our end.”
“Hold fire!” Rüstow orders the gunner, who promptly stops shooting. He then talks on the radio. “Sehr gut. Keep going forward, Schnee one-two. Out.”
“Oberst Metzger.” Rüstow salutes a woman in combat garb, seemingly his superior.
The woman salutes back whilst observing maps and plans. “Leutnant Rüstow. Hm. How’s Arabia so far?”
“A tad bit hot, if I may be frank.”
“It is fine, Rüstow. You needn’t get used to it. Overcommand at The Haw foresees us to win this in fourteen days with few losses, if at all. These are unlike the Soviets; we are fighting nothing more than apes. But you do know why we need this stead, right?”
“To deal a heavy blow to our foes’ will to fight?”
“Spoken like a true soldier… but I’m afraid, not an officer.” The colonel scoffs slightly. “We are here for the lofthaven. It’s the only one in this sandy hole that isn’t near the headstead. We will land our bombers and loftunderstutting slaughtflytugs here in Medina, after which they can soften up other markles, like Riad or Jedda. The Saracens lack any sort of loftmight, so the skies are ours.”
“I see. I shall bear that in mind, Mein Frau.”
The colonel points on the map of the city. “There is a sickhouse here. While every other sickhouse is now or will soon be a wreck, I had to ask the English Harriers to not bomb this one, for it’s the closest to the lofthaven, and we will put our wounded there. I plan to take it without heavy weaponry, so I’m sending you and your men. The stead’s police and garrison are around the ord like maddocks on a rotten bit of flesh. Tostoere them all, that is your plight.”
“Mein Herr. Wake up.”
The young officer opens his eyes. The ringing in his ears muffles the yelling and gunfire around him. He tried standing up but staggered backwards; two of his subordinates caught him from hitting the hard floor.
“Yes… Schultz… I am awake.”
He looked at his subordinate; the one he called Schultz. He was ordering men around as they shot out from the windows of the ramshackle building they were taking cover in.
“We were hit by a slaughtwagongun, Mein Herr! You were knocked out for a few minutes! They seem to have fired a rystingbreaker since it didn’t blow up. Dummköpfe.”
“Saracens, am I right?” He cracks a smile. “Where is Weidemann? He has the panzerfaust.”
He heard an explosion, followed by cheering.
“Already done, mein Herr! The Saracenish pancer is-”
The soldier was cut off by another explosion.
“Oh, Scheiße! The guntower came popping right out! Hahaha!”
Rüstow looked out of the glassless window. What beheld him was the flaming wreckage of what used to be an M4 “Sherman” tank—sold worldwide in large numbers following the end of the Twithe Worldcrig, it made sense to be in the Saracens’ hands, he thought. Its turret lay beside the hull, blasted off like a jack-in-the-box.
The sight gave the Rüstow a smile. “Heh. Alright, lads, everyone out of the building. We have a sickhouse to take.”
Everyone climbed down flights of stairs and exited the premises, onto the street. A big building with a red cross on it was on the far end of the street, untouched by bombs unlike the houses around it. Enemy soldiers, noticing the “Angels of Satan” somehow left it alone, took shelter in and around the area.
“Keep out of sight. Wouldn’t want to get shot at, now do we? We’ll go through the back alley, and keep heading eastward from there until we reach the sickhouse. Twithe team will give understuttingsfire from the houses in front of the sickhouse, while my team will make a dash for it. Once we’re inside, twithe team will then follow. Understood?” Rüstow said.
They all nod.
Rüstow is the first to enter the alleys. As they walk through, he hears what seems to be the sound of a woman weeping.
“What was that?” A soldier asks.
“Crying? Eh, I’ll go take a look.” Rüstow answers. “Schultz, with me. The rest of you, keep going, we’ll catch up.”
Schultz and the rest nod. Rüstow walks toward the noise, following it into a house blasted open.
“Go to the living room, I’ll look through the kitchen.”
Schultz complies and goes forward. Rüstow turns left into a rubble-filled kitchen. The crying suddenly stopped, as if hiding from the approaching soldiers.
Behind a countertop, Rüstow sees her. A woman in a headscarf, still rather young, grasping the lifeless body of a young boy; either her son or brother, he doesn’t know. Do the specifics even matter? He thought as they locked eyes, rifle aimed at her.
She was dusty, bloody, and silent; it’s as if she’d given up already. It was hard to tell what she felt aside from sadness; either fear or anger, he doesn’t know.
The military doctrines of most nations dictate that civilians that are citizens of an enemy nation are to be classified as “non-military combatants”, regardless of intention or armament. While they aren’t soldiers, they contribute to the enemy’s industry and economy, and thus the enemy’s capability to fight. The recommended course of action is to shoot on sight, or take them to custody, if the officer is so inclined.
Tostoere them all, that is your plight.
Those words rang in his head.
Rüstow’s finger inches slowly toward the trigger of his rifle. The barrel of his rifle was pointed straight at the woman’s head. She just stared in silence. He took a deep breath.
But he didn’t fire.
He couldn’t understand why. Either he felt pity or was fearful of taking a life, he doesn’t know.
“Mein Herr, did you find anything?” Schultz’s voice was heard from the living room.
“Nothing aside from dust and mess. Unless you found something, let’s go back to the squad.” Rüstow turns his back and walks toward the gaping exit.
“Nothing on my end, too.” Schultz emerges from the living room.
A piercing screech assaults Rüstow’s ears. He looks behind him and sees the woman. She had a devilish look on her face as she charged at him with a knife. He couldn’t even raise his rifle as she tackled him to the ground, about to plunge the blade into his chest. Time seemed to slow down. He saw her, with a vengeful expression.
Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang.
The woman slumps forward. Lifeless, like the boy she was holding with her arms just moments ago. In Rüstow’s mind, the important thing is that he is alive. He pushes her corpse away and stands up.
“Are you alright, Mein Herr?” Schultz comes and offers him a hand.
Rüstow takes it. “Y-yeah. Crazy bitch must’ve snuck on me.”
A hail of machinegun and rifle fire fell upon the soldiers around the hospital. They ran around in a confused scramble, desperately trying to get to cover. Those who didn’t die and found themselves behind something returned fire, with their outdated bolt-action rifles. Oddly, however, some of the soldiers were dressed differently and held more modern rifles.
Rüstow’s squad went in first. They lob grenades into the driveway and clear it of enemy troops. A soldier gets hit right on the middle of his body armour, sending him staggering backwards. His comrades pull him, alive but badly bruised, to safety.
Rüstow himself gets grazed by a bullet on his left arm. “Ach! Gottverdammte Scheiße!”
“Get in, you’re the engineer!” Another soldier kicks the half-wooden, half-glass doors of the emergency room. An enemy soldier with a modern rifle was shot, and he fell onto the floor. Two women that looked like nurses ran for the hallways. A doctor manning the reception desk was shot three times in the chest; he’s dead for sure.
The soldier, still alive, crawls and reaches for his rifle, but a Deoch soldier kicks it away from him. “Don’t you dare, you son of a whore!” He shouts, firing a shot into the soldier’s thin steel helmet. The man on the floor stops moving.
“Look around and behind you. If they sneak on you, you’re dead.” Rüstow tells his men, still feeling the pain from his wound. “Leave. None. Alive!”
Deoch soldiers swipe open the curtains of the triage area. Inside were fearful and wounded people. Wearing a military uniform or not, they all were dragged outside and shot.
Two other soldiers breach a storeroom, where a woman in a nurse’s clothes was hiding. She wails and pleads in a tongue the soldiers do not understand, so they drag and shoot her as well.
The soldier who was saved by his armour was placed upon a hospital bed, where the squad medic performed triage on him.
“Fuck me! That kicked like a mule!” The soldier groaned in pain.
Rüstow sits down and wraps a bandage around his wound.
It was time for the second squad to come in. They had an easier time as the soldiers in the hospital were in the middle of clearing it of enemies, so any shooters would be distracted.
“What did we miss?” Schultz asks coming in.
“Not much. We just shot some dumbskulls.” Rüstow says. “And I got shot, too.”
“On the arm. You know what they say—if every gunstone hit its mark, where would kings get their soldiers?” Schultz jokes.
“Pfft…” Rüstow cracks a smile. “Well, I’ll go look at my odds then. The Saracens still hold the top floor, two flights of stairs from here. They’re everywhere.”
“The bugs need spraying, don’t they?”
“Indeed they do. Alright, five men, with me. The rest, stay here and wait. But do call me if anything happens.”
Rüstow, Schultz, and five other soldiers climb the stairwell. The young officer takes the rear, holding only his pistol, a modernised handgun from the old war, with his unwounded arm.
“Soldier, throw them a gift, will you?” Rüstow orders the foremost soldier, who nods and throws a grenade upwards into the hallway of the top floor. It explodes, sending dust and little chunks of concrete flying. Shouting can be heard from above, and oddly enough, not in the Saracens’ tongue.
The soldiers above yelled at the Deoch men. “Nous capitulons! On se rend, ne tirez pas!” A bit too late, as the soldiers who came up the stairwell instinctively shot them dead where they stood.
“Was that French?” A soldier asks.
“Seems so. Bad accent, but French nonetheless. But why are the Saracens speaking it? If what I’ve heard is true, they couldn’t even read.” Wonders Schultz.
“You speak French, Schultz?” Rüstow is bewildered. “What was he saying?”
“He said: ‘we give up, do not shoot’.” Schultz answers.
“You never told me you spoke French.”
“My mother is a Frenchwoman. Papa met her in his time in the Heere, in the Besetting of Frankric, a little thorpe called Bergères-lès-Vertus. We have good wine there, if I do say so myself.”
“Deoch and French, huh? Well, I don’t besculd your father. Frankric’s women are known to benit their mouths rather well.” Rüstow jokes. The soldiers, even Schultz, laugh out loud. “Well, our work here is not done. Clear the floor.”
The soldiers comply and start breaching rooms and checking ends and corners.
Rüstow found an enemy soldier hiding in a room. “Aieee!!! N-ne me tuez pas!” He squealed and raised his hands high up. Rüstow aimed at him, but did not fire. He thought back to that woman in the house. He thought back to what Metzger told him.
Tostoere them all, that is your plight.
Destroy them all, that is your duty.
He squeezes the trigger a couple of times. Two bullets went from his magazine into the surrendering soldier’s torso. Empty casings clang and ring as they bounced on the floor. Vapour leaves the barrel of his pistol. He knew what he had to do.
His duty is to destroy.
His radio sounds off. “Schnee one-one, we found something you may want to see.”
“Where are you?” He asks.
“Turn left on the end of the hall north of the stairs. You’ll see us.”
“Alright.” Rüstow returns to the hall and walks, leaving the man to bleed out. Turning left on the end of the hall north of the stairs, he sees Schultz and a soldier aiming their rifles at and manhandling a Saracen-looking man in a business suit.
The man approaches Rüstow while ranting in angry French. He is stopped, however, by Schultz, who promptly warns him and tells him to stay put.
“What did he say, Schultz?”
“He asked if you were the befealsofficer here.”
“Why, yes, yes I am. Overset for us, Schultz.” Rüstow says. Schultz speaks to the man in French. The man replies, and Schultz translates.
“He says he is the bodeshipper of the Republic of Mauretania to the Kingric of Arabia.”
The man speaks again and reaches for his pocket. Schultz slaps his hand and warns him to stay put again, or there won’t be another warning.
“So that’s why the Saracen can speak French then?” Asks Rüstow.
“It seems so.”
The man speaks.
“He says the soldiers that were giving up to us were his lifewards, soldiers from the Arabish King’s guard. He also says you will yield dearly for this. Lastly, he says we ‘should free him, or else’.”
“So they are our foes. Yield, huh? Or else what? Pfft… the way I see it, he has no grounds to be even saying anything.” Rüstow looks at a soldier. “Hand me a rope, will you?”
“Jawohl.” The soldier takes his backpack off and produces from it a coil of climbing rope with hooks on both ends.
The man speaks again.
“He wants to know what you’re doing.”
“This.” Rüstow punches the man in the face. He falls on the floor, groaning. Rüstow ties the rope tightly around his neck, securing it with the hook, while the other hook he fastens to a metal-framed bed. The man starts yelling as Rüstow lifts him with all his strength. He yells angrily, but also in fear.
“Halt de fick Klappe! Das ist mir scheißegal!” Rüstow angrily shouts, silencing the man.
The officer breaks the window and defenestrates him.
“AAAAAAAAAAAAA-” The bed budges slightly just as he stops shouting.
Rüstow is an officer, but is foremost a soldier. And a good soldier follows orders.
His orders were to destroy.
So that is what he did.
He takes his radio and calls. “Silber, this is Schnee one-one. Updraw is done. We’ve taken the sickhouse. Over.”
“And next to win the Twithe Class of the Iron Cross, Leutnant Karl Rüstow, for his outstanding deeds and leadership before our foes in the Slaught of Medina. Brushing aside the threat to his life, he led his team in taking a sickhouse that would help save the lives of many of our soldiers, as well as slaying many of Deochland’s and Europa’s fiends.”
The young officer stands on the stage completely still, looking at the audience in the hall. They applauded him for his bravery, valour, and spirit.
“Given to him on this day, the Twelfth of June, Nineteen-hundred and Eighty-one, in the Frithpalace, Headquarters of the Europish Bound, in the stead of Den Haag, the Kingric of the Netherlands.”
A female officer, Metzger, pinned the cross, suspended by its ribbon, beside his two other medals. He salutes her, and she salutes him, after which they shake hands.
“I look forward to watching your worthgang.” She says softly.
They both walk off the stage and take their seats as other soldiers and officers are awarded.
The war ended nine days after hostilities began, after the King of Arabia announced his country’s unconditional surrender. The country was transformed into a joint condominium of the Europish Bound. The King and other high government officials, mostly members of his extended family, were tried and hanged.
Medina itself fell the same day it was attacked, and was used as a staging ground for both airborne assaults and indiscriminate carpet bombing campaigns on all other major cities in Arabia, which helped bring a swift and decisive victory for the Europish Bound.
The cause of the war, as stated by the Europish Bound’s Overcommand, is to secure a substantial supply of petroleum for the EB.
Deaths caused by the war were 179 on the Europish side, and around 42,000 on the Arabish side, most of the latter being civilians killed in the bombings.
Mauretania submitted a complaint regarding the dead ambassador. It was ignored.
Rüstow thinks on what happened. He can only feel pride in himself, in his subordinates, and in his accomplishments so far.
He realises that in war, there are neither heroes nor villains; there are only soldiers.
And a soldier’s duty is to destroy.