Part 19: Dies Irae (μηνιος ٴημεραι )
It seems the vote is in favour of extending this LP. So be it!
Today's update is quite short, however; Latin has consumed my soul.
Part 15: Dies Irae (μηνιος ٴημεραι )
Grumm had fallen, and Arulco was almost fully under Dagny's control.
However, on the eve of what would surely be their victory, Ira had disappeared. Dozens of Dagny's militiamen had been scouring the countryside, but no sign of the vicious man-thing was found. Unfortunate, Dagny thought, but Ira's disappearance did rather handily solve the problem of what do with her after Deidranna had been killed. Frankly she would likely have been forced to put Ira down for a permanent sleep, given her bestial nature. Of what use to a peaceful democratic regime could such a creature be?
Nevertheless, she was resolved to press onward. Team Statutory Rape was in need of a commander, and since Razor and Haywire still refused to cooperate with Biff, Dagny appointed Tim "Gumpy" Hillman in Ira's stead. His first action as squad commander was to declare null and void that vile, perplexing moniker the team had gone by for some time. His second action was to proclaim them instead 'Lusthog Squad,' after the shadowy maybe-heroes of Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket. Haywire and Razor were not displeased with the name, given that it at least made passing mention of the baser instincts.
Unfortunately, Gumpy's first assignment was of a less than epic nature. He was relegated to logistics duties, ferrying from Drassen to the road east of Meduna the supplies that would ensure their victory. Meanwhile, Team Purestrain Gold, as Dagny had elected to name her squad, would advance toward Meduna. Lusthog Squad would join them for the assault on the city proper.
The people were united behind Dagny. Even the children could not suppress the demon inside all of us that craves blood sacrifice:
Dinnertime conversation has the aroma of oriental perfume and gore-stained silk in Grumm. Pass the creamed corn
As Team Purestrain Gold departed from Balime to approach Meduna from the east, dozens of civilians from all across Arulco stood along the road, waving and saluting, whichever they felt to be appropriate. Dagny looked straight ahead solemnly, but the rest of her team took the opportunity to indulge in the boundless adulation being directed their way. Miguel waded into the crowd and began shaking hands and kissing babies, smoothing the way for his eventual ascent in the new regime. Gasket, meanwhile, had taken to assessing the looks of the local girls, aged fifteen years or younger, that he might find a wife to take back home with him. American girls had always found his forgetfulness and occasional bouts of manic depression somewhat off-putting, but he held out hope that Arulco's virtuous young maidens would not be so demanding. If all the shows he had seen on TV were correct, foreign women were quite happy being virtual slaves in the household, and would be more than satisfied living in an Alabama trailer park with only a subscription to Soldier of Fortune to keep them entertained. Marriage was about a division of labour, he thought: the woman was to raise their twelve children, while he was to go to the garage and bring home the bacon; the woman was to fill the fridge with beer, while he was to filly his belly with that same beer and then beat his wife cross-eyed so she wouldn't even dare to think about buying beer for another man. He nodded to himself and pulled out a jar of Pommade; it was showtime.
For his part, Biff remained beside Dagny, saying nothing. Flo's death had turned him into a morose, sullen individual. While he still followed Dagny's orders, and had become surprisingly effective in combat, he now moved as if the weight of a thousand worlds sat upon him. His eyes had gained many creases, and his lips were constantly dry and cracked, as if his spirit were slowly seeping out of the pores of his skin. He no longer wrote poetry; his free time was spent writing in correspondence with one of AIM's mercenaries, an individual named 'Reaper.' He was physically unable to part with his Dragunov, and would violently resist any attempts to take it away. Dagny would not be surprised if he ended up on AIM's roster somewhere beside Reaper, answering video calls with an icy stare and spine-chilling existentialist proclamations.
Eventually, the crowd dispersed, and the team entered the waiting Hummer. They made their way toward Meduna.
Deidranna, always the paranoid one, had surrounded Meduna with an impressive number of fortifications. For nearly two miles in every direction, a network of mines, barbed wire, sandbags, and soldiers spread out, wicked talons waiting to cut to ribbons the unwary transgressor. Fortunately, Dagny was prepared.
They arrived at the first fortifcation east of Meduna, ready for combat. What they found instead shocked them:
The team froze. Somebody had farted, but it wasn't clear who. Yet
Deidranna's force of guardians lay dead and rotting. They had been killed sometime before; their blood had begun to congeal, and crows were pecking at the corpses farthest from them. A hole had been snipped in the chain-link fence, and a bloody trail passed through it, on top of a long path of matted grass. Several soldiers had had their throats torn out. Only the rustle of the grass in the breeze and the cawing of carrion birds disturbed them as they slowly sauntered through the camp. They investigated all three buildings, but found only more of the same: dead soldiers that had fallen victim to some irascible, unappeasable force of nature. Dagny realized, with a sinking feeling, who was probably behind this.
Dagny ducked under the loading bay door of the storage facility - it had become jammed because some miserable soldier's head had been wedged into the gears that controlled its vertical motion - and entered. Inside, she found dozens of mortar shells and LAWs, which would be an asset to their cause. As she wandered amongst the boxes, she saw something written on one of them. She approached, and found that the ink was in fact human blood. Squinting in the near-darkness, she tried to make out the crusty message:
She was puzzled by its meaning, but she soon realized it was part of a larger message that ran in a ring around the circle of boxes. It continued:
confronted with questions
It jumped another box:
q's about who I am
about whats good
The blood was sparse in the last message, but thickened up again in the next:
& what evil
long & pointless or short & glory not my choice
evil by nature
The last part of the message was doubly thick in its sanguinity:
can only do good by meeting evil
Dagny emerged from the warehouse into the daytime sun, chilled by the things she had just read. Ira had finally gone mad, it seemed, and was beset by psychic demons on all sides. But what did she mean by 'return to the source?' The source of what? Did it have something to do with Orta? She had come back from that place somewhat deranged, Dagny noted. But surely Orta was not her destination, for the facility was miles away; clearly, she was advancing into Meduna. But to what end...?
return to the source
The rest of Team Purestrain Gold joined her outside the warehouse. The robot buzzed as it approached, breaking the heavy silence that hung over them all. They were used to carnage, but not of such a gruesome nature.
Dagny addressed them in a soft voice:
"We move on. Do not be frightened of what you have seen here." She cleared her throat, and spoke again, more strongly this time: "We have seen the dead and dying before, and we have always overcome. Perhaps you are curious about its cause in this case. Well, as far as I can see, this just makes our job easier."
In turn, she looked them all in the eye. None met her gaze except for Biff. With his Dragunov over his shoulder, he spoke to her evenly; his stuttering had departed with Flo:
"You're saying we should just ignore this totally unprecedented massacre and march la-de-dah happy into Meduna?" He snorted. "Good plan, boss."
Dagny's eyes hardened, and she sharpened her words to a fine edge.
"Mr. Apscott, unless you wish to end up like your departed lover, I suggest you fall into line."
Biff slung his rifle on his back and moved into a fighting stance.
"Don't you even fucking mention her, you witch," he shouted, eyes brimming with tears. "It's because of you she's dead."
"Enough. This fighting accomplishes nothing." He looked at Dagny with a raised eyebrow; he had not been informed of the nature of Flo's demise. "Whatever your problems, surely you can all agree that Deidranna is bigger than all of them."
Gumpy lowered his fists slowly, silently acknowledging the wisdom of the giant's words. Wordlessly, they strapped themselves into the Hummer and headed for the interior defensive line of Meduna.
A minor breakdown forced them to stop for the better part of the day while Gasket jury-rigged a temporary fix. By the time they made it to the second fortification, night had fallen. As it turned out, it was to their advantage. As they quietly advanced on the fortification, a heartstopping sight awaited them behind a thick wall of sandbags:
Beep boop superior body found; beginning upload
As it turned out, Deidranna had purchased a number of Russian T-72s that had come onto the market with the fall of the USSR. Supplies of diesel were dear, however, and so Deidranna pressed the tanks into service as stationary artillery emplacements. While totally immobile, they still packed a fearsome punch, and their operators had had plenty of time to practice their aim.
Fortunately for Team Purestrain Gold, Dagny's mortar allowed them to strike at the tank from afar. While Gasket and Biff sniped at the few nearby patrolling soldiers, Dagny let fly a pair of mortar shells. The two explosives arced through the air and smacked into the tank's armoured shell, with devastating results:
A chunk of Deidranna's Maginot line is destroyed by, uh, Nazis, I guess, if the metaphor is to be complete
Few soldiers emerged from behind the sandbag barricades to punish their insolence. As the team cautiously approached the crackling ruins of the tank, it soon became apparent that most of the soldiers had already been killed for them. A number of Deidranna's elite commandoes lay dead on the ground, a trail of blood leading toward Meduna proper. Clearly, Ira had come through here, though she had obviously managed to avoid the tank.
Dagny clenched her fists, and with the flickering flames of the charred remains of the tank illuminating her face, she stared at the outline of Meduna's buildings in the distance, barely visible in the dim light, and whispered:
"We're coming for you."