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Apocalypse Now

Chapter Eight: At the End of the Tunnel

By David bar Elias


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Fort Catherine, Uralia SubUrb, Russian Empire
May 13, 2008

For the first time in years, the colour was returning to Peter V's face. The Czar had sunk into several bouts of depression during the Posleen War; he had even been tempted towards suicide after he received news of the destruction of St. Petersburg.

But now, the Fleet had returned; as the Posleen Globes began to crumble, Russian forces were beginning their surge to drive these monsters off of the holy soil of the Rodina. Of course, it would be too long before the last Posleen died under the guns of the Bears Claws, New Model Army, or the Royal ACS Brigades; the Posleen bred like rabbits possessed by Satan himself.

But now, hope was certainly on the horizon; the day before, Sevastopol had been relieved. There was no news yet on the status of Lord Shalenko; the Czar had high hopes for his friend's glorious return.

The door to his private quarters echoed with a knock--and only one knock--the Czar was elated; that was the sign that there was new of Shalenko's status. Eagerly, Peter V opened the heavy door.

It was his aide, Pytor Kohn--and his eyes were downcast. The Czar stepped back in horror.

"It can't be-" he stammered.

"I'm sorry, sovereign," said Pytor. "He didn't make it-he fell in battle the day before yesterday."

The Czar collapsed on his cushions (the same ones he had lounged on before the start of the War with Shalenko). He couldn't speak; his stomach gave out, and his heart sank. It never rose again. He collapsed onto the floor.

"Your majesty?" ventured his aid. Then Kohn ran to get a physician; it would all be in vain; Peter V was now the latest victim of the War to End all Wars.

June 12, 2010
Baltimore, Maryland, British Empire

"Heave to it men!" bellowed Colonel Nuttall. "Break's ovah!" With a slight grumble, the workmen returned to their task; city hall wouldn't rebuild itself, after all. Liam Nuttall's home (what was left of it, anyway) wasn't very stately. At least it had escaped the fate of Charleston ... or Manhattan, for that matter.

Sir Liam Nuttall (Knighted personally by Her Majesty herself), strode back to his hovercraft; the GalTech-made machine would take him to his next assignment at Baltimore Command.

He had been knighted for his bravery in covering the Imperial retreat from Manhattan during the evacuation; he had spent the rest of the war in Boston, until the Fleet had arrived and saved Earth's arse. All over Baltimore, sophisticated Russian-made and Galactic-produced wreaking equipment continued the long job of restoring what had once been a major cultural centre of the 13 Colonies. All these years after the end of the conflict, the first refugees were trickling back towards their homes (or more likely, the craters of their homes).

Speeding over heaps of rubble and around the looming Bulldogs (still here to guard against any Feral Posleen discovered), Nuttall's speeder found its destination.

It was Baltimore House--the stately manor which had once housed Baltimore's wealthiest shippers and merchants.

Stepping down from the parked shuttle, Nuttall strode confidently up the pockmarked stairs into the gloomy interior. It was a bright summer's day, and he wanted to get out of the building as soon as possible.

He found the office he was looking for.

He knocked.

"Come in!" bellowed a gruff, mid-Atlantic voice.

Nuttall came into the office. Behind an oaken desk sat Sir Dominic Parkingham, a bruiser of a man (of Haitian ancestry), the head of Baltimore Command.

Nuttall saluted.

"At ease."

"I've finalized the crewers at City Hall," said Nuttall. "I've-" that's when he noticed that they weren't alone.

There was a woman sitting next to the General. She was a pretty flower...and in the crisp uniform of a Fleet Officer, she easily outshined anything else in the dingy office.

"Ahh yes, Colonel," said Parkingham. "This is my niece, Victoria. She's here for an inspection of Baltimore's prospective spaceport. Your assignment is to guide her around the site. Dismissed."

"Err, hello," said Nuttall gingerly. Great-granddad had always reminded him of one simple fact: "A Nuttall nevah arsks a girlie oot boy! A girlie comes to 'im! Never put yourself out theah, boy, and you'll go far."

For once, Liam Nuttall forgot Great Granddad's beer induced lectures. He grinned at Victoria as they walked out of the office together.

"Right this way, ma'arm," he gestured as they stepped into the sunshine.

"I look forward to seeing the sight for myself," she said, squinting at their ride. "I've been thinking of buying out property hear in Baltimore myself."

"If you'd like," said Nuttall. "I could point out some simply marvellous neighbourhoods worth considering." He smiled broadly to make his point.

She warmly returned it. "Looks like I'll be here longer than I thought."

"Marvellous," said Colonel Nuttall a little too quickly. At that, they both burst out laughing.

It was a beautiful day indeed.

[Excerpted from 'The Dance of Death' by Professor Ivan Ustinov of the University of New Sevastopol.
Published by Legacy Printing Press, all rights reserved, 2063]

"And in conclusion, we can look forward to the Imperium of Mankind's quest for security and prosperity amongst the stars, sending forth the newest generation of Zheng He's, Columbuses, and Berings. The world has recovered, and we can look back at our heroes and villains in this struggle for survival, and remain proud to be human.

"God Save the King-Emperor!

"Ivan Ustinov
University of New Sevastopol
September 9, 2063, New Era."


[Thanks to everyone for their help, suggestions, and comments]

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