Contemporary short fiction, poetry and more

‘The Companion’: chapter 47 (content warning: violence and boy’s stuff)

Apart from Le Roi himself, I am the only commander on the field of battle who has men and women in every unit on our side.  I am the commander of the “Wall of Noise”.  Soon it begins.  I have all my forces in readiness.  The preparation has been arduous, but the discipline and devotion to duty has moved me to tears.  It has been such a change from the shambolic behaviour of the members of the company when we were on our journey here.   I told them to breathe more deeply and they breathed.  I told them to make their foot-movements neater and more geometric and they did.  I told them to stand up and perform as if their lives depended on it.  This drama we will only get to perform once, but whatever happens will be recorded in history.

The heart of the orchestra is a classical ensemble who are playing the Leningrad Symphony.  They are accompanied by African drummers, blues bands, punk bands, ska bands, Scottish pipers, South American pan-pipes, West Mongolian throat-music, a kazoo band, a ukulele band, an accordion band, and an unaccompanied choir singing mainly heavy metal songs. 


Name: Sunil Chandra.  Rank: Lance Naik.  Serial number: 2981.  I am the King’s batman.  I polish his boots, iron his uniform, maintain his kit, cut his hair, and drive his car.  The only military tasks I do not perform for him are to clean his rifle and sharpen his bayonet and his kukri.  He does these for himself, as you would expect any soldier to do. 

Since the fighting started, I have been seconded to the Gurkhas, even though I am Indian, not Nepali.  That is why I have the Gurkha rank of Lance Naik rather than Lance Corporal.  During this battle, I am acting as a runner, delivering orders to the units.  My unit is being led by Colonel Gurung, and is on our left.  The other Gurkha detachment is on the right, and is being led by the recently-promoted Major McCann. 

I was brought up as a Hindu, and I am still true to my religion.  I believe that our King is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.  I know that sounds ridiculous.  I thought it was ridiculous myself when the thought first occurred to me, but the evidence is mounting.

He had us doing weapons training and target-practice when we were still on the spaceship, before any of us even knew that we were going to land here alive.  Why?  He knew that this war would happen.  He saw it all.  He has the capacity to see the future.  I have asked him many times how he can predict things, but I have never understood the explanation, because I am mortal. 

Before we started opening the crates full of old rifles, he said to us that the bayonets would say, “Made in Sheffield” on them, and they did.  He had never opened any of the crates, and never seen any of the bayonets, and yet he knew what it would say on them.  Either he had seen one in a previous life, or he can see through walls. 

His blood cured us all of the disease which afflicted us a few months after we landed.  His blood is healing. 

I know he is going to lead us to victory.  Bullets will bounce off him.  He is immortal.  When he impales an enemy with his bayonet, it will not just kill: it will cut the enemy’s soul to ribbons. 


I am well-chuffed to have been chosen by Kelvin – King Kelvin – to be on his staff for the big battle.  “Waverley,” he said, “Waverley, I want you to be one of my staff officers.  What rank are you?”  I told him I was a corporal.  He promoted me to captain on the spot. 

We are in a trench, over-looking Hardboard City.  The parapet has been reinforced with concrete.  Kelvin is looking at his watch, and looking through the periscope, working out when to give the order.  He keeps listening to his walkie-talkie. 

He is listening to something that no-one else can hear. 

‘Commence Operation Vesta,’ I hear him say.  That is the signal for the artillery to begin firing.  I have seen the orders for this operation, and they read like this. 

A creeping barrage is to be put down, beginning at the far side of Hardboard City, and moving towards our position at the rate of 100 yards per minute.   This barrage will use only high explosive shells, and will stop as soon as the whole built-up area of Hardboard City has been shelled.

Another barrage will then commence, this time using only incendiary shells.  This may be aimed at any targets that the artillery officer deems appropriate, and should continue until the ammunition is exhausted.

Another barrage will then commence, this time using shells containing poison gas.  This should continue until the ammunition is exhausted.

Finally, the artillery officer may direct fire as he sees fit, by using iron balls. 

The idea is to get the enemy’s troops to move forward, behind a dune that they are supposed to think will provide them with cover.   I don’t understand it, but some kind of trick seems to have gone into producing what looks like earth, but in fact will not stop our bullets.   

And then we are going to massacre them. 

I can hear the guns.  The creeping barrage has started. 


I have just ordered the artillery barrage to begin.  I can hear Shostakovich’s Leningrad symphony through the PA.  The idea is to deafen them as well as blast them out of existence. 

The only thing to do now is to wait, and to see if they behave the way we expected them to behave. 

The poison gas is only chlorine.  We do have reserves of sarin, but it requires an executive order from me to release it.  The chlorine is only because it is very easy for us to make, and I thought it would frighten them. 

The wind has changed slightly, and I can hear the music better now.  I can hear both the barrage and the music.  I am glad.  I had given specific orders that they should be executed at the same time.   The cacophony within the music reinforces the dissonance with the sound of the barrage.  I don’t just want to kill them: I want any survivors to be traumatised and incurably insane. 

I won’t even begin to think about relaxing until the incendiary barrage begins.  Hardboard City will go up like a roman candle.  Even so, I will feel easier when the poison gas barrage is finished, and I can lead the infantry in. 


This should not be happening.  I was given misleading information.  Before I came here, I was told that the colonists were degenerate and embarked on a downward spiral resulting from their own racial inferiority.  We are now being bombarded.  I am not sure what sort of weapon is being used against us but, whatever it is, it is quite potent.  I have a white, Anglo-Saxon army, equipped with support weapons and assault rifles.  I should be able to defeat any racially-inferior force which attempts to get in my way.  This should not be happening.


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