05 September 2007

Story: "The Big Push", Part One

Had this action figure story idea in my head for about a week now, in various forms, and so, decided to put in down in bytes this morning. It's from the same general body of stories as "In Cannibalism We Trust", and shares roughly the same general setting as that one.

However, am hoping that this, unlike "In Cannibalism We Trust", which is well on its way to looking like being a multi-part "epic" of sorts, will be only a two-parter, at most.

However, who knows, especially when you've someone as generally long-winded as I am, writing the story.

Enjoy and be seeing you.

Once upon a time, and all that, there were, in the eastern lands of Dystopia, two small kingdoms in the northern central part of them, known as Battenberg and Windsor, respectively.

These nations had been founded and settled by cousin dynasties from Centralia and Pacifica that had failed to find places where they could establish themselves in their own fiefdoms, when the bigger states were starting out. But, in eastern Terra Nova, as Dystopia was then known, they found just the spots they wanted, and so, in the fall of 2000, they set out for their new homes, along with their retainers, servants and so-called "commoners", and, within a few months, established the kingdom of Battenberg-Windsor, in which members of both families shared power.

This arrangement worked well enough for about the first two years or so, even though the Battenbergs mainly spoke German and the Windsors English, and thought of themselves as Germans and Englishmen, respectively.

But, an inter-family quarrel over seating arrangements at the Foundation Day banquet, and specifically who was to be seated at the head of the Royal Table, provoked an on-going crisis throughout the fall of 2003 and the winter of 2004, with all the usual charges, counter-charges, denunciations, and, finally, threats of secession, by one side or the other, brought all that to an end.

In March 2004, the crisis climaxed, when the Windsors more or less told the Battenbergs to bugger off, and announced that the Kingdom of Windsor was going it alone.
The Battenbergs would have none of that, and so, declared war on their seceding cousins.
The Windsors did likewise, and so the Battenberg-Windsor War of 2004-2008 was on.

Both sides, confident of a quick victory over the other, and predicting that the war would be over by Easter, marched on each other's capitals, and only cities, only to collide in the field on half-a-dozen occasions, and be thrown back to their own territories every time.

To prevent the possibility of a surprise attack that would sweep all before one side or the other, both the Battenbergers and Windsors began digging trenches and other fortifications in and around the likeliest invasion route, Battenberg Mountain, a large, mole-hill-like protrusion, with a surrounding grassy field, that had traditionally marked the border between the Battenberg and Windsor lands.

Over the weeks and months that followed, these fortifications were extended and deepened by both sides, and, before too much longer, the kind of massive, sweeping overland attack that both sides had feared became impossible.

But, that also meant a swift end to the war was also out of the picture.

In order to end the war and achieve victory, both sides realised that they'd have to shatter their opponent's trenches with massed artillery fire and infantry assaults, and so, they tried, day after day, week after week, month after month, and, finally, year after weary year.

The results were, generally speaking, on the greatly under whelming side, with a few inches or feet gained by one side or the other, after one offensive or another, and just as quickly re-taken in the offensive after that, with nothing much gained except for a few dead and wounded on both sides every time.

At times, the numbers of dead and wounded were high enough, that both sides would essentially cease fighting for a few weeks or months, while the dead were revived, and had to undergo the whole process of action figure-doll infancy, childhood and adolescence again, before they could be sent out into the trenches, and the wounded could receive new body parts, so they could also be sent out again.

The only exceptions made to that policy regarding the wounded were those with exceptionally loose bodies, that would have, at best, made any movement of individuals and groups exceedingly slow and tenuous at best (not generally a desirable thing in combat, where speed is regarded as being essential), and those for whom no replacement limbs or appendages could be found or made. They, along with those figures whose minds had been so damaged by the obscenities they had heard, seen and experienced in combat, were shunted off into "rest homes", far away from the eyes of the general public, whose sensibilities were judged to be far too delicate and easily upset by the sight of limbless, raving wounded, which would have, so it was feared, also undermined its support for the war effort.

But, they, along with women, children, the newly-deboxed, fledgling and nearly-mature figures, and a very few farmers and factory workers, whose labour was deemed essential to the war effort, were the only ones who weren't drawn into, in one way or another, into the war.

Everyone else went, though some, especially members of the Royal Families, the nobility, and those commoners with connections of one sort or another, were able to wangle positions with the General Staff, or some sort of quartermaster or similar non-combatant post in the battle area's rear.
As for those who weren't connected or lucky, it was the trenches, dug-outs, blockhouses, machine-gun and artillery emplacements of the front for them, and where they would remain, in all sorts of weather, artillery and machine-gun fire, infantry assaults and counter-assaults, snipers' duels and disease, for up to two weeks at a time, until replaced by another unit, which would then endure the same, if not worse, conditions.

For those Other Ranks who were temporarily out of the lines, their experiences were of re-fitting equipment, re-training, and preparing themselves to go back to the line, with only a few hours in the evenings to be able to go to some little canteen on base to have a drink, or, for those types who were a bit more on the religious side, a reading room where they could study their faiths' religious texts, or to the base chapel.

Otherwise, it was drill, work and sleep, day in and day out.

The officers were luckier, in that, every few months, they could go to either Windsor or Battenbergstadt, see their families and friends, and take in a few music-hall shows, plays or something like them, and, for three days at a time, somewhat enjoy themselves and forget the war, or, at least try to.

Not that one really could forget the war, as whether from the radio and television, billboards, signs, newspapers, magazines and books, cinema screens, the legitimate stage or music-hall boards, and even walking in the streets and parks, where speakers would hold rallies and exhort their listeners to buy more war bonds, eat less, economise more on everything, and, above all, to keep supporting the war, no matter what, the war was everywhere.

It could be seen, heard and felt in the constant and growing shortages of anything and everything that one could care to name, and in the growth of black markets on both sides that could and did get one anything and everything, provided one could pay the prices they demanded.

It could be seen in the generally shabby clothes in people's backs, the grubby appearances of city buildings and rural farmhouses, heard in the rumblings of often empty bellies, and felt and tasted in the rough, abrasive textures of war-time substitutes for everything from clothing materials to food. It could even be smelt in the often greasy, oppressive odours generated by boiled cabbage and food substitutes, unwashed bodies, because of lack of rubbing alcohol with which to cleanse them, unbrushed and unflossed teeth, because of no materials with which to make tooth powders and pastes, or dental floss, and in uncollected garbage that piled up in the back streets of Windsor and Battenbergstadt, because most of the rubbish collectors had gone away to the war, and the few remaining prioritised for operating in both cities' upper- and middle-class districts.

This sorry state wasn't entirely due to the war between the two kingdoms, as the general social, political and economic collapse that had taken place in Dystopia since Pacifica broke away from Centralia in 2002, had resulted in all manner of conflicts that had greatly inhibited agriculture, industry and trade throughout the region ever since. But, it certainly was responsible for most of the sufferings of Battenberger and Windsorian soldiers and civilians alike.

And, every six months or so, so it seemed to most of them, the Royal Family, nobility, generals, politicians and press on both sides, kept repeating that this latest offensive, or the "Big Push", as the Windsorian elites liked to call it, was indeed going to be the final one.

Of course, it never was, and, over time, it became a running national joke that the only "Big Pushing" going on was the various rubbings of crotches inside the palaces and manor homes of the Royal Family and nobility. There were similar jokes in Battenberg as well, though if any music-hall comedian, stage performer, or newspaper columnist in either country had said them aloud in public, or written them in a general publication, he or she would have been imprisoned for dis-respecting the Royal Family and Nation and obscenity, then sent to a front-line punishment unit to be quickly sent over a trench parapet and killed or wounded, preferably fatally, as rapidly as could be, the perversities of the enemy, who sometimes wouldn't co-operate with the intended scheme, notwithstanding.

It's at this point, in February of 2008, nearly 4 years into the war, and at the beginning of another Windsorian "Big Push", that our story truly begins.

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