Tweet of the Day: Romance Fail #1: Lust as a Plot Device
Asiago, Asiago Province of Vicenza, Repubblica italiana, 16 February, 9:18 hrs GMT +1
Capitano Salvatore Andretti, 65th Company, 7th Alpini Regiment, held an orders group in the storage room of an abandoned restaurant. Track marks on the floor marked the place of food boxes cleared away to feed the multitudes of refugees en route to the the Austrian border. His militia “liaison”,a nineteen year old named Giovanni, spoke in hush tones.
“Capitano, the last of the refugees cleared the enemy artillery range. My boys report that they have guns and rocket launchers on the heights south of us,” he said. Andretti looked at the young man green eyes, dulled by the obliteration of his country. He cradled an enemy weapon in his right arm, some sort of Kalashnikov knockoff.
Andretti knew what would come next. He followed the same drill for the last seven days. Hold a position until enough refugees passed then pulled out before the enemy gained a decisive firepower advantage. For all the training of his men and the bravery of men like Giovanni, the enemy was too numerous for them to fight in the open terrain. Buildup areas offered less protection from an enemy willing to obliterate every building and flood every street with an endless supply of manpower.
“Thank you Giovanni, have your people join the column, we will hold the rearguard,” said Andretti. Giovanni nodded and ran out the back door. “Sergente, load up the vehicles, we are pulling out as well.” The company sergeant gave his commander a quick salute and left. Andretti followed him. He mounted the last Land Rover. The driver floored the accelerator the moment. Explosions drowned out the chatter from the command radio. On the left wing mirror, Andretti observed an all too familiar sight. Enemy howitzer swept the length and breath of Asiago with 155mm fire followed closely by a heavy shower of rocket fire. Buildings disintegrated in rain of explosives. Then came the what his men called the Greek Balls, giant fireballs that set everything aflame. Anyone lucky enough to survive the artillery barrage would suffocate under the extreme heat of the incendiaries.
Half an hour later the command group reached the next defensive post. The Sergente waited with binoculars and a bottle of water in hand. The winter cold made men forget the need to hydrate. Andretti downed the bottle in one long pull. He focused the binoculars on the valley below. Asiago’s funeral pyre added its ashes to the corrupted skies beyond. The air vibrated with the thump of helicopter rotors. An Austrian Bell OH-58D landed nearby.
Andretti greeted the new arrival with a sharp salute, “Ober, welcome to Italy, or what is left it.”
“Capitano Adnretti, I wish we were meeting under better circumstances. My government has authorized me to oversee the humanitarian operations in sector,” replied the Austrian colonel in crisp Italian.
“What about mobilization?” asked Andretti.
“We are taking the necessary steps to secure the border,” said the colonel.
Andretti handed the binoculars to newcomer, “That,” he pointed down hill, “was my country. A week ago I only had to worry about the next company exercise. In a space of a week I’ve lost over one hundred men dead and three times as many wounded or missing. Since my radios are useless in this weather, as far I know, I am the senior surviving officer of my regiment. I may be the most senior field officer south Alps. I suspect my men and I have killed ten times as many of the enemy and yet they are still coming.”
The Austrian colonel swore in his native tongue, “What in the world is that?”
“Is it carrying a recoiless rifle the size of a howitzer and trampling everything underfoot like child playing with toy blocks?” The colonel nodded, “That is the face of the enemy. And once they are done obliterating the town, they will come after us, again. Once they are done with us….”
“I see. I’ll contact my superiors and have them reinforce the border,” said colonel.
“There is no border, Ober. There is no country south of yours. Those people,” he pointed at the long line of refugees, making their way along the alpine road on foot, “they are what is left. I hope and pray to all mighty God that I may one day reclaim my homeland, but I’ll be lucky if I see tomorrow. Tell your superiors to order a full mobilization. This is a war of annihilation.”
The Austrian exhaled a long plume of steam into the bitter alpine air, “Very well. One more thing, we made contact with other Italian units, some paratroopers among others. We will do all we can to coordinate with them.” The pilot of the helicopter motioned to his superior. He handed him a radio headset. “Capitano, I’ve just been informed that Brussels has authorized a field commendation for you. You are now a Colonello. The 7th Regiment is officially under your command. Congratulations.”
Newly minted Colonel Andretti called another conference with his officers. Whatever the Austrians did was immaterial now. In a few hours the enemy would fall upon them.