The World Today

The World Today
Earth in 2013

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

On the Columbia Front, Part 5

Former Canadian Trench

Columbia Front

August 18, 1913

Clive Arnold was starting to develop a distinct dislike of the Cashmere Valley. The geography of the valley was quite vexing. After storming a ridge held by the Tories for the past few weeks, he reached the top of it, minus a good chunk of his company, only to discover more hills and ridges beyond. This time, the enemy occupied a hilly ridge to the south of the Wenatchee River, as well as a rocky outcropping north of it. Any American push further west would be divided by the river, and caught in a crossfire.

If Arnold was in command of the Twenty-Third Division, he would have smashed the fortified hillside towards the north first. It was the lesser of two evils, and lightly manned. The only downside was that its hillside was lightly vegetated, giving advancing soldiers little in the way of cover. It was not a position worth keeping, and the Tories knew it. They placed just enough soldiers and machine guns among the rocks to chew up any advance towards the better developed trenches on the valley’s south side.

From what news he gathered of the outside world, warring fronts across the planet were turning into similar mazes of trenches. Virginia reportedly already had a lovely line of trenches leading from the Appalachians to the Chesapeake Bay. Kentucky was not a whole lot better off. The Ohio Front worried him the most. It had been a couple of weeks since he heard from his old man, the esteemed general. The old man was likely far enough from the fighting to be safe, unless some Confederate airplane lucked out and dropped a bomb right down his chimney.

As if thinking about airplanes were to make them appear, Arnold’s attention soon turned skyward. Inside a trench, even one dug by the Tories, gave him a narrow view of the blue sky above. The sky appeared to be the only part of his world not set ablaze. On either side of the ridge, as well as the river that flowed around it, once lush orchards were burned to the ground and reduced to toothpicks. With his duties to keep him busy, Arnold never once considered what happened to the people who worked the land. He heard a few made it to the relative safety of Cashmere, which only faces intermediate bombardment as of late.

He glimpsed briefly the aircraft, and its American stars upon its wings. A observation plane, probably flying out of the Francher Aerodrome. He still remembered a time before man took to the sky in powered flight. Unlike balloons, airplanes could evade fire from below. Of course, if they did evade, the observer would fail to receive accurate photography. He could not fault the intelligence the Twenty-Third. Reconnaissance did an excellent job on this ridge; too bad they did not say just how to take the position.

The past couple of days gave him a lull in combat. The enlisted men were far from relaxed, but their duties lightened up. Officers– as much as the enlisted man enjoyed grousing about officers, those grunts had a few good breaks. One of the responsibilities of an officer was to record the dead. It was one Arnold did not like. He could think of no officer who liked the task. Despite the lull, he sent out pickets to patrol for weakspots in the Tories’ lines. Three of them did not return.

Three more telegrams. Three more families about to receive the worst news. No, Arnold suppose it was not the worst. Those were the cripples. Still young, Arnold would rather lose his life than his limbs. At least dead, he would not have to live with it. He knew his own mother was one of the millions of mothers across the country waiting in fear for the Union Express. Arnold thought he should write each of the letters himself, but it was not the army way. Telegrams were easier to mass produce.

Arnold rubbed the throb within his temples. Here he was, sitting in a dirty trench, the summer sun pounding down upon him, with certain death waiting the moment he stuck his head out of the trench, and he was stressing over telegrams. Some officers would just let the system deal with it. Arnold felt he owed it to those families to personally write the telegrams. No, they were not letters, but the way this war was starting to drag on, the efficient way would prevail. He only hoped that the losses ahead did not callus himself to the point where he no longer bothered.

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