Blue on Blue

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Blue on Blue

Post by John T Mainer on Tue Sep 04, 2012 1:54 pm

Liam had lost his the sight from his eyes, his left foot, and four of his best friends in one shattering mistake. He had trained all his life for the chance to go to war for his country, but during a field exercise outside their perimeter, an allied aircraft had reacted to their exercise gunfire without bothering to check where he was, or who he was targeting. A bomb that was built a scant two hour drive from his home had been flown half way around the world to kill his friends, and his career as a soldier.

Learning to live without sight, learning to walk on an artificial foot, learning to start out more helpless than a child in a land he had once championed, were all coming hard for the young soldier. His name had been Sgt Liam Anderson, of the Airborne company of the 2nd Battalion PPCLI. Now he was just Liam. Doctors told him he might get sight back in one eye, and he would get a new foot to learn to walk on. What he did have was rage at what had happened, and fear of a future he no longer saw a place in.

It was fitting day. The nurses were so happy about it. Honestly, they talked to him like he turned five or retarded when he lost his sight. It was hard keeping his discipline when inside he wanted to hit back so much against a world that took his friends and his hopes, not even through enemy action, but through a stupid mistake. Fitting day. An Airborne trooper who had climbed, crawled, rappelled, jogged and marched over half the planet was going to get a new foot, and might be able to stagger soon. Hard to care.

Liam’s routine was broken by the sound of heavy boots stomping in. He straightened in his bed, the regulation stamp of boots reminded him he was soldier, and a man. He turned sightless eyes to the newcomer. A voice that was harsh as any drill sgt, rumbling from a chest that sounded more like bear than physiotherapist rumbled an awkward greeting.
“Here for your foot. I make shoes, feet, even legs if I need to so you can walk again” He paused for a second, seemingly taking in the vision of the blinded one footed soldier.

“My father lost an eye, had an uncle lost a hand. I do feet though. Call me Viddar (sounded like wither), and I will see you march out of here.”
Liam and Viddar got to chatting, as two old soldiers often do. While Liam opened up, Viddar mostly listened and grunted, seeming to part with words like bartenders part with free beer. When Liam wondered what he was going to do now Viddar spoke the most he had since they met.

“The lame rides a horse, | the handless is herdsman,
The deaf in battle is bold;
The blind man is better | than one that is burned,
No good can come of a corpse.”

“You aren’t dead. You can still live, still find love, still dream, still make those dreams happen. They took one eye, maybe two. They took one leg, but I’m making you a new one. Wyrd weaves as it will; Norns didn’t kill you, so why are you lying down?

The nurses gasped to see the blind man slapped like that, even verbally, but soldiers are used to getting slapped down when they whine, so Liam threw his head back and laughed. Viddar chuckled grimly before announcing he had his measurements, he would be back tomorrow with another foot.

Liam lay there and thought about Viddar. Funny name that. Reminded him of something he read a long time ago, or maybe something from the stories his grandfather used to tell. The old stories were full of funny names, old gods and heroes back in the days before war was dropping bombs, or burying them. Lots of those old stories were about revenge too, he thought. Liam thought about the officer who dropped the bomb, who killed his friends. Lucky bastard never paid for it. I could use some revenge; because justice just isn’t good politics.

Day dawned; he could tell because the meal was steamed tasteless eggs, and that was a morning dish. It was all pretty much the same in the dark. At least Viddar was coming today, that made a break from the endless kindergarten voices of the nurses and physiotherapists. Honestly, if one more person talked to him like he was in diapers just because he was blind, he was seriously thinking of murdering them; gods he hoped that was still a joke. Sometimes he wondered.
Viddar stomped down the hall while he was doing his bed physio; using the overhead bar to pull himself up again and again, locking his core and holding it; getting used to the new balance with only half a leg. Viddar grunted by way of approval and told him it was time to go for a walk.


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Re: Blue on Blue

Post by John T Mainer on Tue Sep 04, 2012 1:54 pm

As the two old soldiers made their halting way into the hallway, the nurses called out, asking if he needed crutches, causing the young soldier to snarl, and the old one to grunt dismissively; this was the business of fighting men. Once the cold air bit at them, and the warm sun soothed them, the snarling soldier seemed to relax, uncoiling to release his tension and turn bound and sightless eyes towards sweet Sunna’s warm fire. As they stood, and took halting steps over the uncertain ground of the hospital garden, the soldier began to speak of his rage, of his loss, and the fear that justice was not done, that vengeance was required. Over the better part of an hour, as the pain from his leg wound turned his near shouts to quiet gasps, the silence of his stalwart companion drew the story and its poison from the wounded warrior. The occasional growls and grunts of his companion let him know that he was speaking to someone who knew what it meant to lose brothers in battle, to have suffered loss without balance or answer.

Liam stumbled, and the iron arms of his companion caught and lowered him to a nearby bench. The young man whispered:
“I would give anything to get the bastard. Ally or not, he killed my friends, and needs to die”
The silent one looked at the angry, wounded young man, and did what was hardest for him; he spoke.
“I tell you a story once. A family story. I had brothers once. One of them was the best of us all, always smiling, always there to help, first in battle, first in song. He was our heart. I had another brother, Hod, he was wounded like you, lost his sight. This was years ago, no one had the toys they do now to give it back, like they are trying with you. He had been a good shot, one of our best, but war leaves none of us the men that we were, and it was hard for him to have lost that. Uncle Luke thought it would be a great game if we tried our old bows and target arrows against our brothers new plate-carrier armoured vest. What harm could it do? Target points can’t punch through even a soup can, let alone a plate carrirer, so why not.”

His voice went harsh and cold, and the young soldier unconsciously drew away from his companion as he continued.
“We all tried, then old Luke decided it would be good for my poor blind brother to have a turn, only Luke didn’t give him a target point, he gave him a pile head, an armour cutter. My brother laughed loud and long, so our blind kinsmen Hod could have his turn. Hod really had been a good shot, he drew smooth and swift, loosed right to the heart of the laughter and punched right through our brother’s chest and heart.”

The old man’s voice was hard and cold as death on the ice, his words grated like broken bone.
“We didn’t have much use for law in those days, we settled things ourselves. When my poor blind brother could not bear what he had done, and stumbled away in shock, I chased him. He was sightless and slow, and I was blind as I was fast. My blade spilled my younger brother’s life on the same mountain as my elder brother.”

His voice now had an ugly, hateful almost hungry quality to it, as it lingered like a slithering serpent over the last word.
“Vengeance!”
His voice now a whisper.
“Neither one of us can take it back now. He made a mistake, and I killed him for it. He never intended to kill my brother, but I did. The law stayed out of it boy, done is done.”

They sat there in silence. Liam thought about the airman who made the mistake. He didn’t train for years for the chance to kill his own. He came to fight the same foe, and in one terrible mistake, killed his own instead.
Blue on Blue; that’s the army slang for friendly fire. He couldn’t bear the thought of facing his buddies families and girlfriends; the bitter truth that they had gone to war to fight an enemy, and been killed by a friend. Somehow he didn’t think sticking a knife is a blind brother had fixed things for Viddar, and another Blue on Blue wouldn’t help his dead brethren either.

Tears worked their way into the bandages of his sightless eyes. An iron hand closed on his shoulder silently as he wept for his fallen brothers. Letting go the need for vengeance left him only grief at his loss, and a gaping wound inside him that could now begin to heal.
When the bandages came off, he asked after Viddar, but no two descriptions were the same. He was old, young, tall, short, thin, hugely muscled. All agreed he was silent and grim. None on the staff knew who assigned him, but no one questioned his orders. Viddar remained a silent mystery.

John T Mainer.
To all of those who have suffered or lost loved ones through the greatest tragedy of war; accident, or friendly fire. Those who have offered themselves to the service of the folk are equal in honour, if they fall to enemy action, to mischance, or the tragedy of friendly fire.

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Re: Blue on Blue

Post by John T Mainer on Tue Sep 04, 2012 2:01 pm

Author's note:

For those who know anything of the lore of the North, the tale told by Viddar is that of the killing of Baldr, and the revenge killing of Hod. While much of the lore of the north revolves around vengeance killings, they are as much cautionary tales as celebrations. Many of the acts of vengeance are misdirected, and lead to more suffering for those families they were meant to aid.

For those who know anything about war, Blue on Blue, or friendly fire incidents are far too common with troops of less than perfect training, or when multiple allied troops are working with varying degrees of integration and coordination in a shared battlespace. When allied troops are involved, the politics come with them. There is a need for blame when friendly fire incidents occur, and if it is not one of your own but an ally, it goes from being seen as a tragedy for all involved, to a crime needing punishment. It is not logical, or fair, but emotions seldom are. In the end, war is not safe, and mistakes in that trade bear consequences that no other human endeavor will know.

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