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The Battle for Atlanta

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  • The Battle for Atlanta

    After reading many of the stories here, I am encouraged to give it a go. I always tell a story in my head while playing Civ anyway…


    Will there be war?

    Life in the 75th Field Artillery was not as much fun as Corporal Carlos had hoped. Perhaps if he lived in Germany or especially with the Maya he would have had more chances to see things explode. But America had been peaceful for a long, long time. They were friends with everybody although their northern neighbors, the Byzantines were still smarting from the saltpeter war. But that was a hundred years ago and everybody had become friends.

    The 75th had been his life as long as he could remember. Although he had dreams where he spoke French and served in the 75me. Sometimes he would stop short and see his companions in blue uniforms with bright tricolor flags. But then he would blink and realize it was just the heat.

    Germany supplied the only tiny flaw in the perfect peace that guarded America. They persisted in maintaining a sizeable camp of riflemen in a hilly corner of the realm. Politicians tried to clear this matter up over the bargaining table but could never achieve their goal. The Germans were bitter about their lot in the world and this is how they expressed it. Unfortunately for them they had no ability to raise horses and create cavalry. Thus, a nation that lived for the glory of war had to do without horsed units. They made up for this with quantity as became apparent later.

    Corporal Carlos remembers the turning point well. He was returning from an inspection of some new guns when he heard the news that the government had politely and publicly asked the Germans to remove their forces from the compounds in America. Immediately the Germans responded with a thunderous NO! followed by a declaration of war.

    Carlos was not too worried about this. After all the armed forces of America were the most advanced in the world. There were 22 regiments of artillery, over 20 of cavalry and numerous of infantry defending the borders. They were the only country to have a fully developed railroad system. The slow moving Germans with their antique rifled muskets would disappear in clouds of dust from exploding shells. At least Carlos could finally see his guns used in combat.

    Carlos found himself posted to Cincinnati in the far East of the country. The Germans only had a small shared border with America and it was only a little bit further east than Cincinnati. He watched as the railroad disgorged load after load of infantry and cavalry. All the artillery of the democracy had also arrived and was awaiting orders for deployment. The government new that they would need a quick victory because the populace was not used to the strictures of rationing and wartime production. The hammer was about to fall on the intruding Germans. Carlos saw his CO talking with the Colonel and new that something was up.

    “Pack up your kit men, we’re gonna be moving out!”

  • #2
    An opening Salvo …

    Corporal Carlos finished clambering up the slick shale of the hill. His mind’s eye had always shown battles under bright blue sky with cheers of soldiers and thuds of horses’ hooves. Naturally the truth was that it was raining. Not a pouring rain but an on and off drizzle that kept the soldiers donning and then removing their ponchos. He was lucky that he had gotten away from the guns to be a forward observer. His jealous friends were back at the map table, calculating distances, elevations and trajectories.

    He looked down the hill and across a narrow valley to a low and jagged cluster of hills. With his ‘scope he clearly saw the faded but neat cantonments of the Germans. Curiously they had made no attempt to fortify beyond some entrenchments. On the other hand the camp was enormous. Carlos began to wonder if this war was going to be as easy as he thought.

    Suddenly he heard a rumble as of thunder and then the tearing sound of hundreds of shells rending the air above him. Blossoms of smoke and dust grew from the ground among the German buildings. The explosions from the first salvo were things of beauty as they rose into the air. Beauty that turned into something grim and horrible as they changed into shapeless balls of grey. The Germans must not have been warned by their government to expect an attack. They were caught in the open and shattered. Round after round flew from the guns into the camp until it seemed that nothing could live there and possibly nothing ever would again.

    As suddenly as it had begun, the bombardment stopped. Through gaps in the hills to Carlos’ left and right came long columns of cavalry. The horses stepped almost daintily through the scree at the bottom of the hills and spread themselves out into their deployments. Within the hour they were ready and began the attack on the German camp. They began by sending screens of skirmishers to probe for hidden pockets of resistance. This first wave of troopers was made up of men who could wield their carbines from horseback while guiding their steeds with their knees. At first they swarmed up the hills without opposition. Then tiny puffs of smoke began to drift up from the rocks and horsemen began to fall. They pulled back and large units of cavalry galloped in behind them and dismounted. The troopers began to advance on foot with their horses waiting behind.

    Suddenly dozens of men began to drop. Clouds of smoke from rifled muskets and breech loading carbines obscured the battle. It became impossible to see what was happening. Transfixed, Carlos watched as the sun finished its climb and began to creep to the horizon. As dusk came on the firing of guns dropped away to a mere crackle and diminished units of cavalry returned to pass Carlos as they went back to their base. The battle was called a victory but the Germans continued to hold with a tiny force. Another day or two of “clean up” would see the end of this problem.


    • #3
      The Horizon is Dark with Armies

      As the forces of America worked to clear the borders of Germans, mounted scouts scoured the countryside for word of expected armed response. It turned out that this was not long in coming. Great clouds of dust were seen coming from Cologne and Bremen. Unit after German unit filled the roads. Twenty or more regiments of riflemen were preparing to cross the border.

      Orders went out and the forces of the democracy prepared to repulse these invaders when the true horror of the situation began to reveal itself. In the northwest of America, only a few dozen miles from the border with the Byzantines, Atlanta was one of the great arsenals of the democracy. Villagers poured into police stations to report that they had seen armies of Germans massing inside Byzantine territory. Suddenly the armies of America appeared tiny in comparison to the threat. The Germans came on and created the greatest threat that America had ever seen. Spies counted the regiments as they passed – 10, 10 more, more still. Finally the count stood at 97 regiments that crossed the border near Atlanta on that grim day.

      The call went out to all outposts and units. Town guards traded their muskets for up to date rifles. An army was hurried to completion in Atlanta. Reinforcements raced up the railroads to Atlanta. A dozen infantry regiments guarded Atlanta and were still impossibly outnumbered. The artillery corps was pulled out of action to Atlanta and shelled the Germans by day and by night. The cavalry, which had been refitting after the battles at the border attacked ceaselessly. By the end of the first day of the Battle for Atlanta, and at the cost of a half dozen units which had disappeared into the inferno of war, 27 of the enemy elements were reported destroyed with considerable damage inflicted on the rest. The cost was the shattering of many cavalry units that would take time to rest and repair.

      The next day saw a renewal of the battle. The three cavalry armies rode over unit after unit. Every cavalry unit that was still capable attacked. And, of course, Carlos guided shell after shell into the dense masses of approaching riflemen. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, the enormous German army sat at the outskirts of Atlanta. The next day would determine the war – if Atlanta fell, little would lie in the way of the Germans since they would have crushed the largest part of the armies of America.

      In the meantime, men in top hats and striped pants had been sitting at the desks of departments of state in a dozen foreign lands. “Will you help us? We can pay….” From the Hittites: “NO!” The Byzantines, the Dutch turned their faces away. “The Maya, they have always been our friends. They must help!” The Maya indicated that they would listen – if the diplomats could make the offer loud enough to be worth their trouble. The diplomats offered their technology and nearly all the fortune of thousands of years of good government. Was it enough? Could they decide quickly? The future of America lies in their hands. With a nod and a flourish of pens the deal was concluded. The Maya would attack the Germans at dawn. Their friends, the Arabs, also would attack and so would the Japanese.
      In the pre dawn of the third day of the Battle for Atlanta, Carlos stared with bleary eyes at a battered coffee pot. He did remember eating or sleeping but he did remember the coffee pot. It had been a constant companion for the last two days. The thunder of the guns had also accompanied him. Even at this early hour they were keeping up a desultory bombardment in order to keep the Germans from sleeping too well. Carlos had continued to work as a spotter and liaison through the battle. From the amount of time he spent on a horse he might as well have joined the cavalry. Still, this job was the only reason that he still had any hearing left. Two days around the big guns would have turned him deaf.

      “Carlos! When did you get back? What is happening up on the mountain?” – his friend Simon greeted him.

      “Just a minute ago. I only have time for black and liquid fuel before I have to hit the road again.”

      “And the Germans. Are they advancing or digging in?”

      “Advancing. You can see the lights of their campfires spread over the entire face of the mountain. I guess they figure that the mountain provides enough defense without the need to dig in.”

      “Well,” Simon paused, “you won’t want to hear this – but this isn’t the only army out there. There are two, three, maybe more that have at least ten regiments in them.”

      Carlos kicked an ember back into the fire and stared down. This was going to be a long day and maybe the last for all of them.

      He looked up and over at Simon and grinned a humorless grin, “I guess there are enough problems to go around then. Let’s have some coffee and get out to see what happens next.”

      The two friends cupped battered tin cups and sat companionably for a few minutes in the middle of the cataclysm.


      • #4
        There is Hope!

        As two great armies prepared to contest the city of Atlanta in the predawn of the West, other forces were already on the move. Far to the East, veterans in the service of the Maya had seen battle across decades and centuries. Units of cavalry bore the proud heritage of the Armies of Zeus that had formed in that ancient temple in an era of quasi-mythology. They were not the most modern forces but they had fought and knew what to do. Maya troops poured across the border into Germany. Their food had been bought with American gold and American science would help their nurses and doctors. The Maya troops were ready to pay with their blood for the gains of their statesmen.

        However, the frontiers were bare of the normal outposts and spotters. Apparently, everything had been sent west to battle the Americans. While it was still dark over Atlanta, the Maya began their plunder of Germany. Farms were burned and primitive railways destroyed. Everything surrounding the great eastern cities of Germany was put to the torch. Riflemen crossed afterwards and marched to besiege the cities themselves. Japanese reinforcements began crossing Maya countryside in order to reach Germany.

        Further south, thousands of Arabs poured into southern Germany to further spread the destruction begun by the Maya legions. From all across Germany came cries for help. The General Staff paid no attention to civil matters and only heard of the requests for assistance when their Kaiser paid an unusual and personal visit.

        “But, my Kaiser, the towns are well fortified. Yes, we may lose some peasants, but the towns will not fall and we can rebuild after the Americans have been forced to share their undeserved bounty. We cannot afford to deliver anything less than our most powerful blow to Atlanta!”

        “Yes, I understand, General Remarque. However, we will not be able to feed the armies if the countryside is in revolt. And that is a very real possibility now. You must bring back the troops from America. We can save our homeland first and then deal with the Americans.”

        “But, my Kaiser….”

        “The answer is no. Bring them back!!”

        Carlos wearily mounted up and bade farewell to Simon and wished him well. He rode north through camps of sleeping men. Dozens of regiments of infantry and horse had come to the defense of Atlanta. Even units of men armed with antique muskets had appeared. Apparently, the generals would attempt to stop the Germans with quantities even if they could not be properly armed. He rode up to the last pickets north of Atlanta and exchanged passwords and greetings. They had come to know each other well.

        Light was beginning to come up in the east as Carlos tethered his horse and crawled up the hill. Just below the crest were the Privates that acted as runners for him. He nudged them awake and edged to the top of the hill. From here, the Germans had been close enough to use sharpshooters to make life miserable for anyone showing their head. He crouched behind rocks and prepared his sight. Carlos took a first look and saw the enemy waking up in their camps. He wrote down coordinates and gave them to Private Smyth for delivery back to the guns. In a half hour or so the bombardments would begin.

        He watched the Germans move about and start to form up. This was odd. Usually they have an elaborate breakfast before moving out for a day of hard battle. They seemed to be breakfasting on the fly. He realized that they were preparing for a early attack – trying to steal a few hundred yards of territory before the Americans could respond.

        “Private Fosbury, front and center, now!”

        A soldier ran up the hill, grabbing his helmet and pulling straps over his arms.


        “Verbal message, Fosbury. The Germans are beginning their attack an hour early. Ride as hard as you can. Tell them to send me more riders, too.”

        “Yes, sir!”

        Fosbury turned and ran down the hill to the horse. He grabbed a biscuit from a crate serving as a table.

        Carlos turned back to the scope and looked at the Germans and got his second biggest shock of the war. He could not see the blue of their uniforms. That must mean that they had their backs turned to him! Stunned, he brought out the big, high power scope and looked. They were burning supplies and loading up caissons. They were retreating.

        Once more the call went down, “Private Mays, report to me!”

        “Mays, run faster than you have ever run before. Tell command that they are leaving the mountain. They are leaving Atlanta. Tell them that.”

        Mays was gone so fast that he forgot his helmet and rifle.

        All across the bruised countryside north of Atlanta, scouts saw the same sight and rejoiced. All the armies had turned around and were leaving. Some stray regiments were left behind on the mountains and on other hills in order to slow down pursuit. Bombardment followed by slamming cavalry attacks overran these units and probed the main armies.

        In retreat the armies seemed to have difficulties defending themselves. They were bent on speed. Again and again the great guns of the Artillery Corps spoke and the Cavalry Armies struck. Finally, the remnants of the great German army, the army of 97 units, made a final stand just inside the border of their friends the Byzantines. They waited for the Byzantines to bring up railcars on the newly built railroad that reached to this desolate border. But when the cars came there was nothing left of the army. Wave after wave of cavalry rode down the riflemen under nothing remained.

        After this catastrophe, the Germans apparently realized their mistake. They again turned around the three smaller armies but by then it was far too late. All Germans perished in the battered region north of Atlanta.

        America could now think about returning the favor…


        • #5
          Do You Speak American?

          Simon turned a happy face towards Carlos and waved a book.

          “Hey, you oughtta be practicing your German, buddy. Gonna meet some pretty girls over there and you’re gonna be outta luck.”

          “No thanks. No matter how hard I try, Mischa says that I’m wrong. Somebody’s gotta speak American. Maybe it’ll make me more ‘mysterious.’”

          “Yeah, whatever. ‘Wee heesen see, mine frow?’ See, I’m pretty good at this.”

          “We’ll see. First we gotta get there and those Germans have never given up without a fight.”

          The two veterans paused and thought. It had been a long fight. Not long in terms of clock time but long in terms of perceived time by men. The war had been good for professional soldiers when a grateful nation showered promotions on the pre-war servicemen who had saved Atlanta and probably the democracy. Carlos had gone from NCO to be an actual officer. As a lieutenant his responsibilities did not seem much different from what they had before. But his pay check was a little larger and more people saluted him.

          Following the defeat of the Great German Army of Invasion and the three companion armies, German attacks had been sporadic, isolated and not well followed up. The Maya, Arabs and Japanese were pinned down in eastern Germany but were subjecting the Germans to a war of attrition that made it difficult for the Germans to consider taking the offensive.

          In the month or so since the great battle, countries from one end of the world to the other had jumped into the conflict. There were a dizzying number of alliances with numerous triangle conflicts where three countries were all equally at war with each other. Germans had allies and enemies. Curiously, America had managed to avoid further war except with the notable German stooges, the Inca. And the Inca were far, far away. They had shown up in moderate force once or twice but the combination of the powerful and experienced artillery and the cavalry sent them home in tatters.

          Now, American leadership was looking for a way to bring the Germans to a negotiation table – and to smooth out a bulge in their frontiers. The two nearest cities were the large local capital of Cologne and the tiny satellite, Bremen. To carry this out, trains were again on the roll to bring troops and guns to the German border. Some unfortunate were left out of this big show because they needed to mount a border guard to shield Atlanta while it rebuilt its countryside.

          The attack on Germany began with a lightning raid on Bremen. Bremen could be reached from a near railhead in a day by cavalry riding hard. Losses among the unsupported cavalry were heavy but acceptable and Bremen fell. Cologne would not be so easy. Cologne sat in a long north-south valley without mammoth mountain peaks on all sides. The Battle of Cologne started as so many recent American fights had – with artillery pounding defenders in the mountains far to the west of Cologne. Following that, the cavalry dismounted and pursued the defenders through the crags until the American army spread out and covered the mountain range overlooking the Valley of Cologne.

          Carlos sat on a barrel outside of headquarters, enjoying the sun. Funny how it had rained almost continuously during the first part of the war when they fought to save America. Now, with the invasion of Germany, it was as if the sun was welcoming them. Action had not been intense for Carlos in this battle. They saw little of the enemy as they retreated from the attack. Strangely, he found that he felt somehow empty without the adrenaline push of living in the forward observation posts, under the guns of the enemy. He wondered if he would ever find anything that matched the rush of joy, relief, fulfillment and satisfaction that he felt when he had survived one of the battles. War brings out many sides in a person he decided. He wondered what he would do after the war, because it was clear that the war would soon be over.

          He lifted up his constant companion of several months, the telescope, and looked down into the Valley of Cologne and to the spires of the distant city. The Valley had a pleasant river running through it and the land looked flat and fertile. But it was barely developed. It seemed in a way that the Germans had spent so much time preparing for war that they had neglected to develop their land. Carlos thought about the careful tailoring of every acre around the great cities of America and tried to compare their bounty with the wilderness that surrounded Cologne.

          Shaking his head he thought, “It will all look a lot different ten years from now, after we have ‘helped’ them!”

          From these mountains, the guns of the Artillery Corps could not reach Cologne. They were moving forward but were having difficulties with local guerillas and with bridges and roads that were destroyed by retreating Germans. Inside headquarters, Carlos knew that they were trying to decide whether to attempt a “coup de main” against Cologne with the Cavalry or whether to wait and bring up the siege equipment before attacking.

          After a little more time dozing in the sun, the doors to the headquarters began to disgorge streams of runners bearing orders for the armies. Carlos learned that the Cavalry was to attack as soon as possible while the artillery continued to follow up in case the battle became prolonged.

          Carlos reported to his unit and watched men and teams of horses drag the artillery train down the mountain. Occasional glimpses to the Valley floor showed that the Cavalry was marshalling itself in preparation for the attack.

          As it turned out, the Cavalry was only partially successful. After several days of attacks where they forced entry into the outskirts of the city, they were ready to rest while the big guns settled the fate of Cologne.

          Inside Cologne the residents huddled in their cellars in terror, awaiting the rain of death that they had been warned about. By this point in the war, most of them had lost relatives and friends in the March to Death far to the west. Much of their savings had been taken to finance the war and food was scarce. Many voiced the thought that they did not care anymore who won the battle as long as the war ended.

          The defenders of Cologne seemed divided into three groups. One group created blockhouses and entrenchments through the city, in preparation for defense. These grim eyed defenders knew what war was and knew that it was about dying. It might be their time now but they knew that they would do their best to see that it was also someone else’s time. They prepared and they waiting.

          The next group prowled about Cologne as an uncontrolled virus. They drank when they could find drink and looted if they could find anything to loot. Occasionally citizen bands would surprise groups of these soldiers and a grim street battle would ensue in the now dark neighborhoods of Cologne.

          The last group of defenders were trying to get out the east side of Cologne as fast as they could. They found their exit unopposed until the last minute. They were surprised to find that no reinforcements were coming to the town. It was left on its own.

          When the bombardment came, it was everything that the recipients expected and feared, but it was also something else. It was accurate. Soon, people were gathering on their rooftops to watch the bombardment. The defenders around the town were taking a beating but the civilians could still drink beer.

          Carlos had ridden to the front again as the Cavalry formed up to finish the job that the Artillery had begun. He had managed to beg a pair of a cavalryman’s high boots and a tunic. He still wore his flat artilleryman’s hat instead of the crested helmet of a cavalryman. They looked a little goofy to him, albeit impressive when they charged. He joined the Cavalry in their attack and slept in the ruins of Cologne at night. Finally the day came when the firing stopped and all that stood between them and the town square was a small cluster of chubby men wearing suits.

          “We (they said it more like ‘Vee’) wish to speak to your officer. We are surrendering the town.”

          “Finally, somebody that speaks American,” Carlos thought.

          Carlos waited as did the troops around him. Somebody reached over to where he sat on his horse and nudged Carlos.

          “Hey, you’re the only officer here.”

          “What? Huh? I’m not even supposed to be here. I’m in the artillery.”

          “Well, they want an officer and I want to start the drinking. Go wrap this up.”

          With that the trooper yelled to nine other troopers around him and they formed up on Carlos as an honor guard.

          He looked around and realized he was in for it now. He started the horse into a gentle walk and rode up to the suited burghers ahead of him.

          “If only Simon could see me now. Nobody is going to believe this.”

          He dismounted. A man bowed to him. Someone said something in German. Carlos stared. Finally a man spoke in American and passed a paper to him.

          Carlos spoke, “No. I will not sign anything. I cannot do that.”

          “But, sir, General, this document you must not need to sign. It is surrender. We are yours. The troops are leaving and we are America happy to be joining.”

          The man did not actually look too happy. But what the heck? Carlos had heard their beer was good. And what was that word? “Frow-line.”


          • #6
            OK. This is my first try. I guess that I tend to run kind of long. Let me know if it is good enough to post more.



            • #7
              Its a great first effort Golden bear, I would like to hear more and see what happens next

              Welcome to the stories forum and dont forget to join the story writers guild civ group
              A proud member of the "Apolyton Story Writers Guild".There are many great stories at the Civ 3 stories forum, do yourself a favour and visit the forum. Lose yourself in one of many epic tales and be inspired to write yourself, as I was.


              • #8
                Originally posted by ChrisiusMaximus
                Its a great first effort Golden bear, I would like to hear more and see what happens next

                Welcome to the stories forum and dont forget to join the story writers guild civ group

                party hard Golden Bear

                that was cool
                Gurka 17, People of the Valley
                I am of the Horde.


                • #9
                  Thanks for the kind words, men!

                  I had not really thought of going further, but there are a few more tales to be wrung out of this one since you sound interested.

                  Maybe pictures also.



                  • #10
                    Pictures always help so yes please
                    A proud member of the "Apolyton Story Writers Guild".There are many great stories at the Civ 3 stories forum, do yourself a favour and visit the forum. Lose yourself in one of many epic tales and be inspired to write yourself, as I was.


                    • #11
                      Blood Oath mate

                      always like a good pic with a story
                      Gurka 17, People of the Valley
                      I am of the Horde.


                      • #12
                        Grrr. I have some pictures but the system tells me too big even though they are under 500 kb. This may take some work.

                        I am not good with this BB stuff.



                        • #13
                          have you saved them as jpeg files?

                          also they need to be no bigger than 800 x 800

                          looking forward to them if they work
                          Gurka 17, People of the Valley
                          I am of the Horde.


                          • #14
                            I'm having a problem with the 800x800. Plus, I lost the latest chapter of Carlos' journal. Grrr.

                            Still efforting.


                            • #15
                              Carlos Gets a New Job


                              Long columns of wagons crawled away from the railway terminal in Cologne and snaked their way through the twisted streets. The troop trains had already come and gone and now the support units were rolling in. It was only recently that the railway had been repaired and extended to reach into the former German district capitol.

                              “Keep it movin’, Paolo,” bellowed one of the overseers. The small, dark man that was the subject of his attention waved his hat in reply and continued a leisurely walk while talking to his companions.

                              The overseer saw the seated Carlos watching him and leaned over as he walked past.

                              “Bloody foreign labor. These Portuguese have been settled here for what? 25 years? And they still work like they’re livin’ on their island.” Following that he strode forward and reached his great arm around the shoulders of the man named Paolo and talked with him while they pursued their path down the dusty street.

                              Carlos and his friend Simon sat at a table in front of a tavern and nursed glasses of strong and cool German beer.

                              “It just seems strange – how willing these people are to forget their country and join ours. Makes it seem like a holiday now. You’d hardly know we were fighting through their streets a few weeks ago,” Simon pondered aloud.

                              Carlos drew some watery circles on the tabletop with his finger. “I suppose that is what peace is like. The politicians are meeting in Los Angeles to sign a treaty and the armistice has been quiet. It looks like the Inca are too weak to ever cause us trouble. This is what we have to get used to.”

                              “You don’t seem too happy about that my friend. Me, I’ll take some more of this. No sleeping on rocks. No waking up with artillery shells the first thing I hear. No more waiting for the piece of lead with my name on it.” Simon took a long draft of beer. “And I think it’s just fine if the locals, particularly the ladies, think that we’re their saviors.”

                              “You have it right, I guess. Still, we’ve got too much time on our hands and I don’t like working as an administrator in an office all day. It’ll probably not be too long before we have to go back down to peacetime contingents. They’re already mothballing some of the guns back in San Fran.”

                              “Gloomy Gus. I’m gonna enjoy it while it’s good.” With that, Simon jumped up and bolted down the last of his drink. “Gotta date. Gotta go.” And he was gone, leaving Carlos alone at the table.

                              Since the Battle of Atlanta and the subsequent invasion of western Germany all fighting had stopped. The Germans had pulled back from the borders and the Inca had all but disappeared from Byzantium. The American democracy had gone back to a consumer footing and life seemed normal.

                              During the early part of the armistice, Carlos had made a trip back to his home in Philadelphia. It seemed a different world from where he had lived. The furious storm of guns and infantry, cavalry charges and artillery battles could have been in a different universe. In Philadelphia, wagons still hauled the morning trash away from brick houses and hauled in the afternoon groceries. His sister was all the family he had remaining. She was married to a shopkeeper who owned a fur business. The business was below the floors where they lived. It was quiet there and people with money bought expensive clothes.

                              Carlos enjoyed his time at home but knew that it held little for him anymore. He had seen sights that few would ever see. There was a strange and compelling beauty to the artillery bombardments that he directed. And from a distance, the colorful uniforms moving across the countryside could have been a painting. There was a stark reality to a night battle under stars and starshells – a reality that made every second of movement seem to have a life of its own. Close up, the war had been ugly. Dead men, dead horses, destroyed houses and equipment all combined to put a stain on the heart of the men who fought. However, the moments of fighting were full of a vitality that was all but unknowable otherwise.

                              On the long train ride back to Cologne and to his unit, Carlos pondered the war and his service in the army. Did he actually “like” combat? He had not knowingly killed anyone despite being in the front lines. He did not like the thought of people dying in pain and alone in some strange place. He dreaded the thought of being in one of the long casualty trains that always pulled away after a battle. No, he did not believe that he liked the fighting. But he did not know what he was looking for. In the meantime, he had a hut full of secretaries to preside over. The business of the army had turned to administration and he was learning what it felt like to be a businessman.

                              “Lieutenant Carlos?” A voice broke in on his reverie. A young man wearing a clean and pressed uniform stood in front of him and saluted. A nod, and then the man stated, “You are required back at HQ, sir. As soon as is convenient.”

                              “What’s this about then? Has a quartermaster been ‘robbed’ again. Another job for the JAG’s office?”

                              “Sir. No sir. The General has called in all his officers for a briefing. The Colonel wanted you there with him. Sir.”

                              Carlos dismissed the man and arose. He put his head into the tavern and thanked the proprietor. He picked up his funny round artilleryman’s hat and started the walk to the compound. It must be the General’s HQ, he thought. Should have asked the messenger about that.

                              A brisk 10 minute walk in the tropical sunlight brought him to the military compound close beside the railhead. After saluting and identifying himself he went about locating his Colonel. There was indeed a buzz of activity around headquarters. Colonels and Majors and their staffs stood outside in an impatient gathering.

                              “Sir. Lieutenant Carlos reporting”

                              The Colonel acknowledged him. “Carlos. I want you here because something is in the wind. You’ve been my eyes through the last two campaigns and I want you to pay attention and give me your judgments after we hear the details.

                              Carlos wondered what was “in the wind” but forbore asking his superior about it.

                              The General’s aide stepped out of the building and called the group to come inside. In the large room at the front of the building there had been set up a dais with a table and chair and a map of the country and its neighbors. There were no chairs for the audience and the officers sorted themselves out so that they all had a look at the map.

                              The aide announced the General who started talking as he climbed the stage. “Gentlemen, the peace has been too good to last. We are a country built on peace and we have only ever asked to be left alone. Our armies were formed for defense and we have guarded our borders zealously. We did not seek conquest when we came to Germany but were forced to it in order to bring the enemy to the peace table. Frankly speaking, we tried to give ‘em back both Bremen and Cologne because they are unnaturally outside our defensible borders. But they wouldn’t take ‘em. Said the populace was traitors and we could have all of them.”

                              He looked uncomfortable. “But enough of that. We’re an army built for peace but we live in a world built for war. You know that the Inca have long claimed to be at war with us but you probably did not know that the Portuguese have been too.” There was a rustling in the room. “No, no, it’s all right. They are resource constrained and their armies are backwards. Besides, they declared war on the Germans too. Our navies have destroyed their fleet of wooden ships and they cannot reach us.”

                              “The problem is the Germans still. Well, the Germans and the Inca. The Germans have signed the peace treaty but they have been shipping Inca troops across their country. Our spies report trains that run all night from one end of the country to the other. If this is true, then the Inca will be massing an army or armies for attack. As you know, if they come through Germany and attack us here, then the peace treaty will be broken. The Germans are not ready for that, so we think that they will deny them use of their own country to form up.”

                              “That leaves Hatti [n.b. the homeland of the Hittites] or Byzantium as the likely launching places. The border with Byzantium is long and difficult to guard but that with Hatti is an exposed corridor. Whichever way they come, we will need to be on emergency war footing and be prepared to move. Trains are being queued up and will be ready to pull us to any threatened front. God willing, we will not see an army the size of that German one last year.”

                              Some nervous laughter followed the memory of the grim days when monstrous German infantry armies rolled across the border.

                              “Unfortunately, the Inca are up to date and well equipped troops with infantry and cavalry. Last time, we won because of our superior equipment, better training and better strategy… and because the Maya helped us. Nobody is helping us this time and they are as well equipped as we are.”

                              “To make things worse, we are stretched thin with our defensive forces because of our new territory here and because of our need to guard our one saltpeter supply. We are apparently lacking most of advantages we had before.”

                              “However, the secret is in the word, ‘apparently.’” We have long led the world in invention and our engineers have not relented. We may have something new that can help us. We don’t know if it will work or how well and I cannot even tell you what it is. And we may have to fight for some time without it. I am going to ask some of your commands to supply officers and soldiers as volunteers to this new and secret project. We favor engineers and artillery in this endeavor.”

                              Carlos had a churning feeling in his stomach and grew chill when he saw his colonel give him an appraising look.

                              The meeting continued with a discussion of dispositions and time lines and then broke up.

                              “Carlos. You are going to volunteer. Tell them now. I want you to be the first picked. Apparently, whatever the project is, they are going to keep it under the command of the Artillery for now. I should be able to keep you under my command while you are seconded to this other unit. I want somebody I trust to tell me what is going on when the time comes. Go find the reporting officer and get packed up. Report to me when you can. Dismissed.”

                              Dizzy with the speed that this happened, Carlos went looking for the General’s aide in order to find out how to “volunteer.”

                              The aide was another lieutenant. “I need to find out who to talk to about volunteering. My CO has authorized my movement.”

                              “Curiously, I’m the registration officer. You know that you have to leave this afternoon on one of the empty supply trains. Name, please?”

                              “Carlos is it. Hmm. You’re on the list already for officers that I was to seek out. You made my job a little easier. You are on the list. Show up at the station by 16:30 with traveling kit. Send or store anything else.”

                              “And I was afraid that life was getting boring,” Carlos mused.

                              He realized how much he enjoyed being bored, sitting in the sunshine and drinking with his friends. Mostly, adventures seemed better after they were over rather than before they started.