Chapter 14: Statistics

Gurdeaux opened his eyes and saw bright white lights blinding him. He squinted and began rolling on his side. Underneath his body was soft material and under his head lay a pillow. After getting on his right side, he opened his eyes to their fullest and on his right saw a green man, bandaged with blood and puss stains on his white cloth. His bandages wrapped around his body, only leaving his leg and a part of his arm open to view.

Sitting up in his bed Gurdeaux looked around and looked down both ends of his hospital wing. On each side were filled cots, stretching for hundreds of feet in both directions. Each cot contained a wounded soldier. From what he could see, few had minor injuries. Most were quiet, probably sleeping, with bandages on them. Nurses and doctors were everywhere, but it was peaceful. The men in the wing were silent as they waited for their pain to gradually diminish and go away. Morphine was a wonderful drug, even when abused.

Behind most of the beds lay glass windows. The sun beamed opposite of Gurdeaux, letting him see his body in every detail. The wing's walls weren't yellow as they should have been, but light blue. With the sun glowing and the men wearing white, it was as if the wing had become the sky with injured clouds scattered about it.

Glancing down at his arm and wrist, Gurdeaux saw that his injury had healed a lot over night. There was no bandage around his wound: only stitches that had closed the slit. The regenerating powers of plastic men were amazing. Although the women's regenerating mechanisms operated at a slower, more docile and in the end, safer, manor, the men could get shot in the arm in the morning and have a small scar before they went to bed.

He moved his fingers and flexed his wrist. Everything checked out okay. With his right hand, he felt the stitches in his skin. They were deep and plentiful. From the bottom of his palm, to about half way to his elbow, lay a line of woven thread.

Gurdeaux didn't have to worry about the cuts he had given himself. If any vein or nerve had been damaged the body would repair itself. The stitches would fall off or melt away and everything about his system would normal by the time he ate dinner.

He picked his head up and checked the rest of his body. He was still in his pants from the battle and his jacket lay at the foot of his bed. Both his boots remained laced and tight around his feet, but incredibly dirty as well. Not knowing how his face looked, Gurdeaux began getting out of bed and looking for the nearest mirror. But feeling sore all over, he slowly got out and off his sheets. His quick jerk of his body to jump from his bed was halted with pain. The soreness had accumulated all over his body and was telling him to take it easy.

Blood and black smears had stained his once white undershirt. Cleaning it was no option: Gurdeaux was going to need a whole new uniform.

After he lifted himself from his mattress, Gurdeaux turned to his right, seeing double doors at the end. It was many steps away but still not far enough for the veteran.

As Gurdeaux took his first step a muffled moan crept from behind his right ear. The man with the bandages covering his torso and face was speaking. Though not translatable, Gurdeaux took a shot at his words. "Are you speaking to me?" the sergeant asked. The body nodded, lifting his head gently and barely off his pillow. "Ger…doo…" said the wounded soldier.

Gurdeaux looked back down the wing so see if any doctors or nurses were coming to this poor man's aid. All were busy and preoccupied with other wounds, most of them less severs.

The sergeant bent over after walking to the bedside. "What is soldier?" Gurdeaux spoke. Inhaling a deep, wheezing breath the man started to talk but in small quantities. "Sir…gent…Ger…doo…" he breathed once more, "You…sabe…my…lipe…"

Gurdeaux watched the man's eyes squint with each word passing through his throat. His obvious pain was complete torture. "I saved you life?" Gurdeaux asked the man. Another gentle nod caressed the top of his pillow. "How?"

"I…was…" another breath, "fy-ting…a Tan…when…you…drobe…by…and," another breath, "slip…hit…throw." Gurdeaux went back in his mind to recall the incident. He got the picture of driving the jeep with Kaiz by his side, hauling tail through the cement ground. He hit many Tan men, hitting them off the jeep's frame and sending their fractured bodies into barrels, bricks and LEGO pieces. One of the Tan soldiers he hit must have been performing hand-to-hand combat with this eventually unlucky Green soldier.

"But if I saved you from the Tan guy whom you were fighting with, how did you end up like this?" "A hella…copter…crashed next," another breath, "to me…and…I…was hit…by…a…flaming…piece…they…fond…me…un" another breath, "consis…"

That would fully explain the burns sustained by this poor man. Gurdeaux knew from experience how a burning man, no matter how engulfed or surrounded by flames, tried his dear best to escape the inferno.

"Hang in there. In less than a month your skin will be back 100. You'll run and jump and fight just like you did yesterday," said Gurdeaux. "It…hap…end…yes…day…"

Puzzled, Gurdeaux accepted what he heard. All the action happened yesterday, which Gurdeaux stayed over night in the hospital. The morning sun was what was illuminating the hospital wing.

With a small farewell Gurdeaux stood straight, feet together and saluted his comrade. Though handicapped the man would have definitely done the same. Gurdeaux turned away from the burned soldier and started walking past the remaining wounded men on his way to the exit.

As his legs moved, he began counting the rows of cots he passed, just for curiosity. While counting, he also looked at the men. Most were asleep and those who lied awake were receiving treatment from the medical personnel. The staff was so busy with the other severe injuries they practically saw Gurdeaux as invisible, letting him walk away to fight another battle.

The injuries sustained by the Green soldiers ranged from burns and cuts on limbs and the face, to stab wounds and amputations. Legs were blown off and arms appeared to have been ripped out. Gurdeaux could see the stab wounds on one man as he wore no bandages. One was visible on his cheek, while two more could be seen on his stomach. His shirt was missing and he only had underwear and socks on. He was asleep and bleeding. Although he may have known about the blood that was running down his face and onto his pillow, he probably didn't care anymore.

The amputees were of the most concern. While regeneration occurred in every single plastic person, the rates were not always the same. Sure the men did so at a faster rate but genetic anomalies could cause amputations to become permanent. There was no reversal to the imperfection. If one was born with the trait and lost a leg, the only way to compensate for the disaster was with a replacement: a wooden, metal or clear plastic appendage. Metal was the preferred choice amongst soldiers.

When Gurdeaux finally reached the double doors, he had ended up with forty-two. He had walked through forty-two rows of cots, with two on each side, and having begun midway 

through the wing, it meant that in this wing along were 1767 injured men, excluding him of course.

Although Gurdeaux knew that GB 14 had eight hospital wings, he couldn't imagine over 1,300 men were lying wounded in beds, waiting for medical treatment. And if so, there weren't enough doctors to save let alone help each single soldier.

Pressing his hand on the left door, Gurdeaux walked out of the wing and into the morning sunshine. He squinted again from the new amount of light but caught a glimpse of the action around him. On all sides of him were soldiers, walking in every direction with tools, guns and food. The fight from yesterday must have taken a heavy toll on all of them but war didn't stop for anyone. It was the only machine proven to keep going under any circumstances.

But as Gurdeaux stood out, catching the sunrays and becoming warmer with the radiating heat from above, the men who walked or marched by him took long looks at him. He, all of people, had survived but shouldn't have. These men may not have known the whole story at the time but Gurdeaux would have bet that they would have known the events surrounding his wounds. Gurdeaux's combat record was now one of the few things these young men were clinging on. His service and history was a legend that pounded away at their hearts and brains that drove them to keep moving.

"Sergeant Gurdeaux," said a voice to Gurdeaux's left. Turning and seeing Colonel Toole, Gurdeaux replied softly. "Yes sir?" "How are you?" I'm good sir," the sergeant answered. The men going by the two tried to listen to their conversation, but their constant and loud walking didn't help. Gurdeaux watched them but started to have a blurry vision as dust picked up from the marching feet.

"General Malist would like to speak with you at once. Follow me, if you would," Toole requested. Gurdeaux nodded and started to walk with the colonel. "I see you guys won yesterday," said Gurdeaux. "Yes we did win, at a cost. We lost more men then when we defended Sector 2 but still, it's all statistics. After a while, when so many men die, it doesn't become sad or worth mourning about. It just becomes what it was meant to be looked at: statistics," said Toole. He didn't look at Gurdeaux as he stated his philosophy. His eyes were focused on the soldiers on his side. None of them looked at him or saluted.

"Well, would you mine telling me about the battle? I left early and you were there and…" Gurdeaux began but was interrupted. "Gurdeaux, you didn't leave early. You left at the right time." "Sir, how did you know where I was?" asked Gurdeaux. Toole looked up at him and then forward to make sure their path was clear. Though it had only started, their conversation had already taken them a great distance to the general's office.

"I know, excuse me, knew General Kaiz," Toole said taking a quick look back at Gurdeaux, "and I've known about his acts of torture for a long time. I know what kind of tools he used and in what building he always did it in. You were lucky, remember that. He's tortured some of my men before. I lost a few couriers and drivers to him and he always let me know what exactly happen. When Malist told me you had survived the first fight with the scientists and needed an evacuation, I assumed Kaiz would either find you or kill you. And seeing as you always manage to survive, I guessed you'd be in that building. So, I made sure that at least one chopper checked the contents of the building. When we saw a speeding jeep race through the carnage of the garage floor we guessed it was Kaiz. And when it flipped on its side we landed to make sure our guess was correct. Fortunate for us you were on board as well, making both our problems disappear."

"Why didn't you tell me about Kaiz at the Homewrecker briefing?" Gurdeaux asked the colonel. "Malist didn't deem it vital information or necessary to know," the colonel answered. "If I had known that Tan barbarian was commanding that house I think I would have made more of an effort to fight to the end instead of give up and surrender myself to his forces." "Gurdeaux you did well, accept this fact and move on."

There was a brief pause in their conversation but Gurdeaux picked it back up. "So tell me about the battle strategy," Gurdeaux asked. "For starters," Toole started, "we were supposed to go in by the garage, get you out and then hold the place; that was easy. Then, our orders were to continue our advancement to the insides of the house while maintaining our new territory. We lost more men inside then in the garage, but when the 8th Division came in from GB 13 out of Sector 3, we were finally able to surround the house and take full control of it. I was informed this morning right before I left the garage that our units are now flushing out the last Tan troops from the basement bathroom and the upstairs rooms. They're cornered but fighting stronger than ever."

"What are the total losses?" Gurdeaux asked Toole. Toole remained silent and kept walking alongside Gurdeaux. "Sir, what are the losses?" he asked again. This time, he could not remain silent. Gurdeaux couldn't tell but there seemed to be the formation of a tear in the colonel's eyes as he looked away and then faced him. "Tan losses amount to 220,000 while ours are at about 36,000 troops, 450 tanks and ground vehicles, and about 60 aircraft." "Did Vare and Ickry go home like I told them?" "Yes. We interrogated them for a few hours, gave them a meal and sent them through the portals. They arrive in Fier about six hours ago and we received a message from the personnel on the other side that they had indeed crossed Tan borders and were heading home."

The sergeant breathed a silent side of relief. Finally a real action, involving a true heart, had been accomplished and by the man he thought could never do such. Toole had finally made Gurdeaux's wish of a thoughtful leader come true.

"Malist agreed to let them go and off they went." Gurdeaux didn't respond as he took more steps. He turned away and looked at the men standing along the sides of the pathway. Toole stopped and looked at Gurdeaux. To his left and only a few dozen yards away was Malist's office. He took a view of Gurdeaux, then of the office but went back to eye the man in front of him.

"Sergeant Gurdeaux, because of your invaluable valor, I believe you are to be rewarded. I can't exactly tell you the true reward for I only heard this through a private, making this probably a rumor, but I hear it's great. I don't want to disappoint you if it's not true, but I just want you to look at something positive from this horrible experience."

Standing silent with his lips shut and eyes peering at the ground, Gurdeaux didn't know what to think. After the battles, torture and grotesque things he witnessed, he didn't know if he wished to receive his prize and go on with the war effort. Gurdeaux was beginning to question if there was ever enough for a soldier to go through. He lifted his head and looked at his commander. "Sir…." he started, trailing off as he took a glance at the office ahead of him, "let's just go see Malist."

Toole nodded and let his hand come away from his body, opened and leading the way for Gurdeaux to walk. The two made the short trek to Malist's office and spoke no words to one another. All around them soldiers were running with gurneys, stretchers and boxes. They seemed as though preparing for another attack and at the same time recovering from the previous one.

Gurdeaux couldn't believe, even after fifteen years in the service, the constant and vigorous life styles all of the men. Even he took part in these lively activities when he was of a lower rank, but when he had reached sergeant, his daily rituals of stocking ammunition, making foxholes and training men had subsided.

As Gurdeaux inspected the action around him Toole opened the dark brown door and padded Gurdeaux on the shoulder. Gurdeaux nodded with politeness and walked into the office slowly. His feet were dirty and bringing in outside materials onto the freshly cleaned hardwood floor, but he didn't care.

General Malist sat in his chair, reading a paper he held in one hand. His left hand lay on his desk, fiddling with a pen. The ink began to tap on the papers below, making faint marks. There was a tiny yet thick stack of documents in front of him. The general looked busy but Gurdeaux knew he would soon talk.

Malist didn't look up until Toole closed the door and walked over to his desk. "Sir, he is here," Toole said loudly. "I know that colonel, I could tell when the door opened and shut, and two men came in. If you'd please have a seat, I'm trying to go over data that came out of our world."

Malist's voice was low but firm. Gurdeaux and Toole looked at each other and each took seats. They sat with their backs up straight against their chairs and waited for their leader to speak.

With a heavy sigh, Malist let the paper fly to his desktop and brought his hands together. The pen fell down. His demeanor suddenly changed. A smile came out between his cheeks. "It seems our forces aren't doing so well in our world. They just lost some ground in the Grinn 

Desert and in the Yuto Mountains," said Malist. His smile faded and his eyes looked down. Gurdeaux and Toole did the same but quickly brought their attention back up.

Gurdeaux knew the Yuto area and if they were lost so would the war. They separated the north and north-western borderline of the two nations and extended deep into the Tan's territory. On a map the area looked like an arm, reaching out around the northern ridges of the Green frontier, posing the most conceivable imminent threat.

The snow-capped mountains were high, some reaching fifty thousand feet, becoming a thorn in the nicely laid cloth of clouds. If the Tan forces captured outposts and bases on either side of the mountains it would mean another long campaign to get them back. Gurdeaux was part of the original campaign, the Felix Campaigns, back when the war began.

Stationed in the Hork Forest, the warzone that sat alongside the base of the mountain range and then engulfed the territory in its vicinity, Gurdeaux fought to capture the mountains and did valiantly. It took a year but it led to the Green Army and Air Force keeping control of it for fourteen years.

The Tan most likely captured the northern Green bases, cut their supply routes and took over the stations, then barraged the north-western bases with missiles and gunfire. It was inevitable for the Tan forces to move south and keep the attacks coming.

"Well good morning Sergeant Gurdeaux. I trust your wounds and pain have decreased dramatically since yesterday morning? It looks like you've prevailed once again," said Malist. "You're glorious record will now be updated and honored with more praise from people in our army than you could ever imagine," Malist told him.

Gurdeaux nodded politely but kept his composure so he wouldn't seem flattered or nice about his commander's generous comments. As far as he knew he failed miserably, leaving several men behind, including two live soldiers: Dachun and the pilot Doer.

Malist then backed from his desk and rose off his chair. He started walking to Toole's side, near the window and reached into a little metal box. It was shiny and gold colored but small. It gleamed with all its sides brightening the room with the already illuminating sun.

Opening it gently, Malist checked out the contents inside, smiling at what laid in the encompassing walls, and then pulled out a little finely polished silver colored metal object. It had bright blue and red ribbons: two red streaks on the edges, another in the middle and then two blue stripes on both sides of that. Malist tossed it above his hand and caught the item, closing his fist tightly around everything. Gurdeaux knew what it was and got up. Toole followed and watched Malist as he came over to hand Gurdeaux his medal.

Malist walked slowly, almost pausing to see Gurdeaux's facial reactions as his palm opened up to reveal the object. His right hand stood straight out in front of him and didn't shake.

"On behalf of the Green Nation Army, I am proud to give you this medal, signifying your promotion to Major." Gurdeaux looked down as Malist opened his hand. Gurdeaux examined his new boggle and placed his hand directly atop the medal. The cool pieces touched his palm and Malist's fingers caressed his finger tips as it lay ever restful in his hand.

Gurdeaux took the piece and brought it closer to his body. A work of art, the medal had finally landed its way into Gurdeaux's life. On the piece were two crossed green swords, sitting behind a small silver M. The entire medal was silver and weighed a lot for its size; it was no bigger than a wallet, if that.

"Thank you sir," Gurdeaux replied, lifting his head back to its normal level. He closed his hand and dropped it to his side. Malist brought his hand to his forehead, and then Gurdeaux with his empty hand. Gurdeaux dropped his hand and the Malist did the same. Bringing his left hand back up to his waist, Gurdeaux opened his palm and allowed Malist to take the medal back.

"I'm sorry but you know the protocol we implement: all medals are deposited into your own vault box back in Fier. You'll see it and all the others when you go on leave." Malist's words only put more doubt into Gurdeaux's already gloomy mind. Leave was something one got right after promotion. Now Gurdeaux would have to wait until the end of the war or worse until he ended up in a body bag.

The ceremony was finished and Gurdeaux's military career was now known to be extended. Upon promotion to major, a soldier was guaranteed active duty until a combat situation was over, plus another year of service to the military to train new recruits and future majors.

Malist walked back to the box, tossed the medal back in the box like an empty soda can in the trash, and went back to his desk. He sat, landing on his chair with enough noise to be heard outside, and placed both his hands atop his desk, crossing his fingers over each other. The intertwining made veins in his old knuckles and wrists pop out into visibility.

"I have two more things to say as well. First, I am relieving you from this base. In five minutes I want you on my personal chopper on Pad 2, the one outside my office, and you will be brought over to GB 19 in Sector 12. You will assist in their campaigns for now, until I say otherwise. You're new uniform and insignia patch will come to you shortly. Most likely they will be on your body when you wake up the next morning."

Gurdeaux stood silent, aside Toole and the emptiness of the isolated barrier of Malist's office. "Sir if I may speak, what have you heard on the condition of Dachun and Doer? Has there been any confirmation on their rescue or discovery?"

Malist sighed. "I have heard a report from a chopper that your downed heli was spotted in the kitchen, just as said it crashed, but there has been no discovery of bodies. We're still encountering opposition as more of our forces go into the building but the kitchen and dining room, where Professor Crustov and his men worked, has been completely secured. When I hear more information I will make sure it reaches you."

Gurdeaux nodded but was in no way pleased. Dachun and Doer were hurt badly and if not found immediately they were just as good as dead, something Malist would like for lighter paperwork.

"And finally Major Gurdeaux… doesn't that sound nice?" Malist said, breaking his train of though. "Yes sir," replied Gurdeaux, "it sounds intimidating." "Ah yes, well I also received a claim from the pilot of the chopper that rescued you that General Kaiz may have given you something?"

"Yes sir, he did. As he lay in my lap dying I saw one his shirt pockets opened with a paper sticking out. I took it." Malist nodded in a relaxing manor. "Excellent Major, may I have it?" "Certainly sir," the major responded.

Gurdeaux took a step towards Malist's desk and reached into his shirt pocket. Out came a crumbled, bloody piece of white paper, folded into many squares. "Thank you major. When I fought Kaiz at the beginning of the war he was always full of trickery and sneaky moves, sometimes in the littlest detectable way." "I understand sir," said Gurdeaux, "you can never be 

too sure of even the tiniest of parts. Every piece of the puzzle matters." "Exactly Gurdeaux. I'll inspect it as you leave and decide if it's relevant to anything."

Malist politely took the paper from Gurdeaux and held it with both hands. "Well, I guess that's that. Now…. you are free to go." Malist turned smiled at Gurdeaux. He returned the gesture and made his way past the chairs, the standing colonel and went out the door. Toole slid down and sat in his chair as the major went away.

The door closed quietly as the major left. "Do you think he liked being promoted?" asked Toole. Malist looked him straight in his eyes and sighed. "I believe he did, but like many other boys he would have preferred a leave or a simple discharge. There's no better gift than a discharge from the army, or, at least that was what use to be the case…" Malist's voice faded as his eyes slipped into viewing his door.

Malist unfolded the new document and read it to himself. "What does it say sir?" asked the colonel. "In capital letters it says, 'ALL TAN SOLDIERS, EXCEPT THOSE INVOLVED IN 'THE EXPERIMENT' AND THOSE ON ROOF GUARD, ARE TO REPORT TO THE GARAGE AT 1200 HOURS FOR A BRIEFING ON THE GB 14 ASSUALT, TAKING PLACE TOMORROW AT 0000 HOURS. ALL IN THE HOUSE ESCEPT THOSE MENTIONED ABOVE WILL BE TAKING… it's useless. Probably just another hint from Kaiz that he's lost his mind."

"When did he fall it to dementia?" Toole asked the general. "I think it was about four years ago. I fought with him numerous times and he always had this peculiar chivalry. I remember when some of my assistants were captured from a supply route he treated everyone nicely, but shot one of the poor boys because he refused to speak his name."

"The guy is, excuse me, was a moron. It's kind of nice he fell ill and had his brain turn into spoiled milk. If he hadn't pulled all his forces out of the house, we would have never had a chance at seeing his, excuse me, our newest creation."

"You seem pretty confident that we can use his device in warfare?" Malist asked. "I firmly believe that it is a repugnant attempt at dismantling the civilian societies within our borders but if we need to do the same to his people, I think using this device would be at no lost to us," replied Toole.

"I'm glad you look into the future so optimistically, but it's no longer the future," spoke Malist. Toole became confused by Malist's sentence. "What exactly do you mean?" Keeping his eyes at the door, Malist spoke. "The Tan Air Force has just started bombing cities, in violation of the Civilian Code. The report I read said that the Yuto Mountain bases we lost have given them supremacy in the air in the northern sector, so they decided to kill our women and children. Eight cities have already been hit and the death toll in is the thousands, probably tens of thousands."

Toole sat stunned at the alarming wave of new information. "Those sick jerks. Well we need to counterattack and do the same to them, whatever the cost to our people." Toole's body sat up more and became filled with pumping, raging blood. "I will not sit in this office knowing full well we have families in jeopardy and we aren't doing our part to make those bastards' families miserable. Call the president and make him sign a high order!"

"Colonel Toole, be calm. The report dished out other information as well. We have a new president: some guy named Tyner. He has secretly signed a war bill giving the Air Force Commander General Silt power to bomb any Tan city he wishes."

Malist let out a big sigh as his hand relaxed and flattened out on his desk. "This war has become what all other nations have wanted." Malist blinked and let his head fall back. He recovered his position and looked in Toole's worried eyes.

Toole wiped sweat away from his forehead. "The other nations want us to destroy each other. Without either one of us, they will surely be able to claim back their land from old times. We're screwed, aren't we?" he questioned his commander.

Malist sat up with both his elbows on the desktop. With his hands raised and both his index fingers stretched out, he pointed to the door. "Not if that man stays with us," he said. Malist readjusted himself on his wooden chair and slid down. "If Gurdeaux keeps fighting alongside us, we still have a chance of winning. This report mentioned one last thing as well. Tyner has asked for a proposal to invade the Tan Nation."

Toole squinted in disbelief. "The president wants an invasion? Does he know how many men will die if that happens?" Malist began nodding. "I bet he does. But what I bet he doesn't know is that an invasion has been planned since the start of the war. It's just that we never thought it would lead to such a thing."

"I'm pretty sure we designed the invasion strategy on day one of this war. I was there, remember?" Toole remarked. Malist nodded once again, turning in his chair back to the front of his desk.

Toole and Malist, and even the late Oaken, had appeared at a briefing some fifteen years ago to discuss possible invasion tactics and control strategies once inside Tan lines. The conference ended with a well drawn out plan, along with signatures of all who attended, signifying agreement of the contingency plan. It was never used but almost designated as the primary operation when the war began. Though seen as infallible, the generals and others in 

charge quickly dismantled the troops and battalions who were practicing invasion maneuvers and stuck with the defensive course of war.

"I remember. But now I think it may actually happen," Malist answered. "When?" asked Toole. Malist shrugged and both his hands flopped on top of his desk. His unknowing gesture left Toole to look outside at the scenery. "I hope it's soon," he said. "With Oaken gone we won't hear any opposition should a conference be held again. Our way will be the only way."

Toole sighed and asked "What if they find out about Oaken?" Malist eyed him with disappointment. "I don't know why you still worry about this. My reports said they found his body, buried under some wreckage of a blown up helicopter."

Malist's voice had deep conviction. "You seem to have a lot of reports sir," Toole said. "When you become a general there's nothing more important than reading documents and reports. Wars are fought through men but learned through words, whether written or spoken."

Meanwhile Gurdeaux kept walking from the office, never looking back and breathing quite calmly. He had a little smirk on his face as he approached Malist's personal chopper. The blades roared like a cornered tiger, wrestling the sound barrier and echoing in every neighboring ear.

Gurdeaux reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. It had a Tan stamp mark, possibly made of wax, and was folded so nicely that the corners were sharp enough to draw blood if pressed into skin.

He stepped closer to the chopper and then grabbed onto the outside frame. Inside were the pilot and copilot, chatting away, almost oblivious to the fact that their cargo was about to hop in.

Gurdeaux wrapped his fingers around the metal frame and leaped himself into the belly of the heli, pulling all his weight on a single hand. Once inside he sat down on the floor and looked at the backseat of the copilot.

Out of view, the pilot began switching buttons and control panel instruments into their proper position. The chopper began to levitate It rocked from side to side but quickly regained a steady balance. It moved higher and higher into the air until the people and buildings of GB 14 were nothing more than bite size specs.

Gurdeaux began to wonder if he'd get a vacation for his bravery and exceptional performance in the heat of danger. Single handedly he almost brought into the hands of the Green Army one of the most feared and ruthless generals known in the history of the war. Instead there was just a corpse, somewhere in a freeze, waiting to be examined, processed and then either sent home or kept for a later exchange: perhaps for Gurdeaux's body.

He wasn't mad at Malist, but just wanted a vacation. Even a day from this world would have been all he would have needed to stay stable. But now, knowing that he had more battles to fight with other men, he started to ponder if he'd even survive to see the end of the war. The entire mission contained so much action a movie could not capture its glory and essence. All the sights Gurdeaux witnesses were nothing short of pure action. From the small crash of the helicopter in the chimney, to the TEG battle in the closet, followed by the helicopter crash and brief dog fight, and ending with the climactic garage invasion by Toole and Malist's men, it was an awesome ride.

Getting his attention from the previous hours and days Gurdeaux looked back at his paper and opened it. The ink was black with no smears and yet still looked fresh. Gurdeaux didn't know what to expect, if anything at all, from Kaiz letter.

His eyes went to the top of the page and began reading the finely typed print: From: GGM - To: TGK – Sir, we have prepared our troops. The ball is in your army's court. Make the first move. Play as you wish but in the end you know what you will gain. The odds are in our and your favor. Play smart and we'll see you at the finish line.

Gurdeaux didn't understand the message. The letters next to the words To and From didn't ring a bell. GGM and TGK didn't seem like titles or names. If anything they were abbreviations or acronyms. GGM? Gurdeaux pondered on these letters, but then returned to the message itself.

There was no stationary at the top of the letter, no signature or impression of a signer at the bottom. This was a very secret message, almost too confidential for Gurdeaux's taste.

GGM? TGK? The only man he knew off the bat with a name with the letter K was Kaiz, but what could the T and G stand for. T must have meant "The" or "Tan" or… Tan… maybe that was it. Gurdeaux examined the letter more closely and started a reel of flashbacks in his head.

Moving pictures lit up in his eyes: helicopter rides, bombs going off, fireballs, guns being shot, men falling, men dead on the ground, Tan and Green soldiers running at one another with bayonets. But he still couldn't get the letters T and G to really sound the alarm.

If T stood for Tan, and K for Kaiz, then the G must have been his first name, or title of General: Tan General Kaiz… that made sense. And the GGM would have meant Green General… Malist.

Gurdeaux dropped the paper but caught it in midair. Kaiz and Malist had communicated with one another. Malist's eagerness to know what Kaiz had handed him, the way Kaiz shifted 

his eyes to his open shirt pocket, the way he constantly reached for the same pocket that held the note.

Things were getting simple and solved, and at the same time scary. Malist had no reason to talk to Kaiz, that was what a logical person would say, but now that they had all logic had to be thrown out the window.

Gurdeaux brought his free left hand to his face and massaged his cheeks and lips. He thought hard on what was in front of him and looked back at the note. The words "Make the first move" signified a beginning, a beginning to what? The fights that occurred in the past days? An attack from years ago? That made some sense but surely it couldn't have been something miniscule as a battle between the two foes. A confidential letter such as thing had to signify something of great importance. But what?

The chopper began turning to the right and was now over the streets of the New World. Down below were blue, green and red cars, parked silently against the grey sidewalks that concealed them in this gigantic neighborhood.

Gurdeaux brought his attention back to the letter. A big event had happened in the past. The major began to recall Malist's words: "When I fought Kaiz at the beginning of the war…" The lights flashed and the final horse crossed the finish line. It all made sense now.

Kaiz and Malist had started this war with each other, having an agreement installed before any combat could occur. There was a mutual, unspoken contract between the two. But if these two, men of great importance to their nation's army and military strength, could have gotten away with such an abhorrent negotiation, then others must have been involved, for if Malist had been caught he would have been hung by now.

The war Gurdeaux had fought for the past fifteen years was now a futile display of secretive measures, taken by the men put in charge of everything that went on the battlefield. Anyone could be involved at this stage. In Gurdeaux's mind Toole had to be a suspect. Any other men working for Malist had to be involved and needed to be charged in an instant to protect any further soldiers from dying in a worthless act of greed and lust. What Malist wanted Gurdeaux didn't know, but what was for sure was Malist's acts.

He had started a war for no reason and was now using it for gains, but what? There were no resources in the Tan Nation not already in the Green Nations. The only gain would be land, territory and security from other threats. Gurdeaux could see this as the only possible explanation for the vile actions of Malist.

Kaiz and Malist had maliciously placed the lives of millions of people for their own benefit. What else had Malist done? Gurdeaux recalled Oaken's chopper being blown up, twice. Malist made no mention of this. Could Oaken have been silenced to protect the plans of Malist and the others?

But surely Gurdeaux was over thinking. He had known Malist for over fifteen years and had become almost like a son to him. There was no way a general as refined and reliable as Malist could start a hideous war with such a monster like Kaiz.

Gurdeaux shrugged off the notion of the war being started by them and folded up the note. This was something important and he didn't want to lose. He stuffed it deep into his pocket and put his hands back on the handles next to him. Malist was a good man, not a traitor. Oaken's chopper blowing up twice: probably just a mortar. The major put a smile back on his face and kept thinking, "It's not for me to know. He'll tell me one day but not now."

Though it was drilling deep into his mind to know why Kaiz wanted him to have this note and why Malist was so interested did seem askew and intriguing. But the trick Gurdeaux had played with Malist back at his office was futile and didn't do anything except make things more complicated. Gurdeaux understood the role of leaders. Sometimes they had to make agreements with the enemy to survive or to what they wanted. It was common in the old wars, unheard of now, but the practice may have been getting a rebirth or new growth amongst the higher ranks. Gurdeaux closed his eyes and kept his smile. Everything was okay, complex, but nothing to worry about. He drowned out the notions of Malist performing wrong doing and turned his attention back to thinking about his next possible assignment. And to top it off Malist had sent home Vare and Ickry, so Gurdeaux thought. If that were the truth than there was no way Malist could be involved in something so despicable.

Before Gurdeaux could think more on the new mission, his chopper landed. Gurdeaux got up and let his legs hang over the side. As his chopper approached the base, he hadn't bothered to look down. It wasn't big but it had huge buildings. They were all skyscrapers and long. Four of them stood, with guard posts in between them, towering over the tallest of men. Gurdeaux saw few soldiers on the dirt ground or conducting any sort of activity. However, there was a man coming toward him, and he had a cap on.

Gurdeaux jumped off the chopper and walked to the man. He was almost as tall as Gurdeaux, thin and pale but still wore a cap. He was of high importance, probably the leading superior of the base.

When the two came within a foot or two of each other, the unidentified man stuck out his hand. Gurdeaux did the same and shook. The grip was strong on him, but Gurdeaux counteracted and squeezed the man's hand tightly.

"I'm General Lief and welcome to GB 19," said the man, still holding on to Gurdeaux's hand. Lief let go and smiled. "Almost everyone is being briefed on the tomorrow morning's mission. You will be too sergeant."

Gurdeaux didn't make any facial expression as he looked into the Lief's eyes. He didn't frown or smile. All he did was keep a straight face and a tall stance. "It's major," he said to the general. "What?" Lief responded. "I'm Major Gurdeaux. I'm not a sergeant," Gurdeaux replied. The general raised his eyebrows. Gurdeaux didn't know whether he was embarrassed or confused. The word of his promotion had not gotten out yet, but in a short amount of time everyone around him would know his new rank.

"So general," began Gurdeaux, "what am I doing tomorrow?"