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Posted on Aug 21, 2006 in Armchair Reading, Front Page Features, TIAOW

The Incorrect Art of War [Episode 21] – Beat Me In St Louis

By A J Summersgill and Jim H Moreno

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Starring:

Doctor Sinister

Doctor Sinister. An evil Supervillain with an insane lust for power. Although his secret island base has seemingly been destroyed, the Doctor still plots to become future Emperor and Warlord of the planet Earth. Enjoys the company of cats and cloned genetically modified Dinosaurs.

And featuring:

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General Menace. Graduated from West Point Military Academy with honours, served for twenty-five years in the US Army, reaching level of 2-star General in command of training facilities before being recruited by Doctor Sinister to command his New Model Army of World Domination. Has a penchant for cigars. Narrowly escaped the apparent destruction of Sinister Island with his lord and master.

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EPISODE 21 – "Beat Me In St Louis"

Blazing sunshine beams down over a large riverside city, Sweltering songbirds wearily chatter to each other in the tall trees of a downtown suburban park as a hot but gentle breeze rustles through the leaves and bushes. Still wearing his khaki combat jacket, Doctor Sinister stands by a large wall overlooking the wide glistening river, watching the heat-haze ripple the air. As the Doctor half-heartedly licks at an ice-cream cone, a rattling train clatters over an old railway bridge spanning the river to his right.

As tourists meander past, sparing only casual glances at the eye-patch bedecked evil genius, the Doctor’s eye is caught by an enormous metal structure in the distance. A huge gleaming arch, as tall as a skyscraper rises from the riverbank, sunlight reflecting from its angled surfaces. Crowds of people gather around it.

Sweating profusely, General Menace finally appears from the other end of the park, carrying a large coolbox and more ice-creams.

General Menace: (Breathless) Sorry…for…the…delay…the Supermarket was three miles away and I had to steal a bicycle just to get there. Remind me again if you would be so kind my Lord, why I couldn’t take the Limo’?

Doctor Sinister: Because my cats need it to keep cool. I have it parked over there with the engine running at full pelt just to keep the air-conditioning working. The poor little things are really suffering in this heat.

(General Menace collapses on the floor in a heap) I can sympathise your Excellency. It was so hot, I forgot to buy myself some cigars.

(Looks down at the General who appears to be entering the early stages of heat exhaustion) Get up!

Sorry Sir. But we are in the middle of a serious heatwave right now. Are you sure one of our orbiting satellites isn’t altering the weather?

Well, it’s possible I suppose, although I had planned to melt the polar icecaps first.

In an attempt to blackmail the world with rising tides?

No, I just hate snow.

Given our current status Sir, I wouldn’t be surprised if something’s gone wrong.

Ever the optimist General…you know, these negative vibes of yours can get a little wearying at times.

I apologise your Excellency, but we’ve been in the US for some weeks now and we’re still no further forward to finding a new base or even deciding what we’re going to do. We just seem to be rather aimless right now. Do you mind if I sit down? It’s sweltering out here…

Yes I do mind. I’m thinking grand thoughts here and you’re worrying about a little bit of heat. We’ll get back to the car in due course.

Well, could I perhaps have one of your ice creams then?

Certainly not, I need them all myself. You know where the shop is…

Of course my Lord.

Just because you don’t have an Army any more doesn’t mean you don’t have to set an example.

(Wiping the sweat from his brow) Apologies, Master.

I should think so too, now give me a choc’ ice, I’m finding it hard to think with you nattering on so…

Here you go Lord. Perhaps you are being affected by the heat as well?

Nonsense, I have the constitution of an ox. Whilst I will admit that it is a trifle warm, there’s no cause to be falling all over the floor. My ancestors didn’t found the British Empire by being a bit scared of the heat…

I am truly ashamed my Lord. I don’t know what came over me. Except to say that I was born in Alaska where it’s somewhat cooler.

Mind you, it has occurred to me that if everyone in these parts turned off their air conditioning units, things might not be quite so warm. Pumping all that hot air outside can’t be doing the environment any good.

No, I suppose not…

And what was with that rain yesterday?

Magnificence?

It was raining, and yet my thermometer was still off the scale. Back where I come from, that’s just not normal. Perhaps the weather here is broken…

Erm, so, have you had any thought as to where we might be headed next?

Well, there’s a rather magnificent arch over there that I thought we could inspect.

Ah, yes, the Jefferson National Memorial Expansion.

So you’ve seen it too? Glorious isn’t it General?

Oh yes your Brilliance, it’s an incredible sight.

Where exactly are we General?

We’re in St Louis, Missouri my Lord, the Gateway to the West.

St Louis?

Yes your Eminence, it was named after a French King. (There is an uncomfortable silence) I’m sorry my Lord, my mind slipped there for a moment, probably the heat, I know that I have just said one of the unutterable words. Knowing how you feel about the nation in question, I should perhaps correct myself, the city was named after no-one in particular.

Interesting. And this triumphal arch, what battle is it meant to represent?

Erm, no battle your Excellency, it’s a representative monument to the westward expansion of the early American pioneers.

Oh. That’s very dull, I was expecting it to celebrate some important victory.

No, it’s not. I’m sorry about that your Magnificence. There have never been any major battles fought in these parts.

Never mind, once I am installed on my throne, I shall rename this tower and have my name inscribed on the top.

As you say Excellency. I suppose that would make you an arch villain. Eh? (Another silence) Argh, I apologise your Eminence, I am truly sorry, my mind is wandering today…

General, your mental incompetence this afternoon notwithstanding, I think, in fact, that this Arch may be useful to our plans!

It might?

Oh yes, you might recall "Project Brainwarp". We were going to install massive resonating brainwashing devices atop the tallest buildings around the world to hypnotize the world to do my bidding – this arch would fit the bill nicely.

It would, Sagacity, except that everyone else involved in the project was killed when our island base was destroyed.

Ah, yes, I forgot about that. Oh well, we’ll just have to shelve that idea for now. Maybe we’ll have to consider a more conventional conquest. If, as you say, the locals in these parts have never fought…it’ll be a walkover!

Well, that’s not strictly true, I mean, there was the American Civil War or course.

I see. And what was that all about?

Well, it’s complicated Excellency, but ostensibly it arose as a result of eleven southern states seceding from the Union to form the Confederate States of America.

And why did they do that?

Amongst other things, they rejected the will of the Federal Government to eliminate slavery.

What’s wrong with slavery? Before we lost the island, we had thousands of slaves, you know that…

Well, yes, but this was somewhat different. The vast majority of what was the USA disagreed with the practice. The result was a bloody civil war that lasted for five years. Approximately ten thousand military engagements took place during the war and there were thousands of casualties.

But you said there were no major battles around here?

Missouri was an odd case your Superiousness. The state had slavery, but they remained loyal to the Union and they did not secede. However there was a bit of an argument as to their status, both sides claimed the state for themselves and for a time there were two competing State Governments. Eventually, the arsenal here was used to build ironclad warships for the Union.

Ooh, that sounds exciting.

It was your Magnificence, during the Civil War, both sides had ironclad warships, perhaps the most famous engagement being that of the Battle of Hampton Roads.

These things ran on roads?

No, my Lord, that was just the name of the area in which the battle was fought.

I knew that, carry on.

Well, the naval battle lasted two days, but the part that everyone remembers was the duel between the two ironclads, the CSS Virginia and the USS Monitor. The battle was inconclusive in itself, but the whole world took notice and after that, all the navies that weren’t already building them rushed to convert their navies to ironclad warships.

And they were built here?

Some of them were, yes.

You really are the font of all knowledge aren’t you General?

Well…

I want to know more about these ironclads, it strikes me that this river might come in handy for ferrying troops in our invasion. Ironclad warships might be just the thing we need.

Errr, I would hasten to add that the design is rather outdated, and totally outclassed by modern designs and weapons…

(Oblivious) Yes, I can see it now. A thousand, no, TEN thousand ironclad warships steaming down the river, disgorging troops at every town, troops marching in the name of Sinister! And I shall be stood atop the Gateway Arch, taking the salute of my loyal soldiers, basking in the glory of cheers of the crowds below. Master of the world! Master of the universe! (Looks around) General? General? Don’t you want to hear my plan for the conquest of America? (Cellphone rings) Hello?

(Over the ‘phone) My Lord, sorry, I had to run, it’s really too hot out there, I’m in the car.

Dammit General, I was busy eulogising my future Empire.

Well, perhaps you could do it in the car your Excellency, we might draw a crowd.

Good point, well made.

And I have got an idea as to where we might head next.

Really?

Yes my Lord. Instead of thinking about past technologies, why don’t we look to the future?!

And what do you have in mind?

A small tract of southern Nevada….

I’m headed to the car General, tell me more…

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Just what is in southern Nevada that has General Menace so interested?

And will the limo’ rental company object to having to clean off the cat hairs from their seats?

Will Doctor Sinister ever get his own arch?

And will we ever find out what’s causing the heatwave or will that all be forgotten by the next time we meet?

Find out in the next suspenseful episode of…The Incorrect Art of War!!

A J Summersgill

andrew@armchairgeneral.com

If you want to talk more sensibly about military history from any era, don’t forget to visit the ACG Forums.

Visit the Incorrect HQ for more episodes!

St Louis Time Portal

St Louis and the Civil War

Battle of Hampton Roads

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