I awoke to the sound of yelling. People were rushing by in the hall right outside my quarters. As I sat up, an alarm began to wail, waking the rest of the men in the room.
An emergency. This couldn't be good.
I sprang out of bed and ran into the hall, joining the chaotic throng. Being a soldier was tough, but especially for Literacii. Literacii was a hard country to defend, with so many enemies attacking so often. From the teenage Poets of the Middle-School Mountains to the eastern Texter Tribe of the Why-the-hell-don't-you-just-type-it-out-fully-you-have-a-whole-damn-keyboard Plains, Literacii was surrounded by foes.
I ran into Commander Nown as I rushed into the situation room. He was the wartime strategist, and had a brilliant tactical mind. His ability to understand and negotiate with people was invaluable, as was his vast knowledge of the surrounding terrain. When he wasn't advising Literacii's wartime council, he was in the engineering department, working to fix the Apostrophe Cannons and the Dictionarapults. As he put it, "I'm good with people, places, things, and ideas. I just can't handle the action."
Handling action was where General Vurb came in. He was from a military family, all the way back, and action was all he knew. His son, Addius, had even joined up, much to his father's approval. General Vurb led the troops in battle while his son acted as a sidekick, streamlining the war effort and describing his father's exploits in detailed reports.
We all settled into the situation room, which was a sizeable, open area with the feel of an amphitheater. It was large enough for the whole company to fit inside, and was commonly used for briefings. The front of the room was dominated by a large table for the leaders of Literacii's war effort, and was occupied by Nown and Vurb, among others. A nervous buzz filled the air as General Jerand stood at the head of the table.
Jerand was an retired soldier, grizzled in both appearance and demeanor. He had once been just like General Vurb, concerned exclusively with action, but was now in a roll more similar to Commander Nown's. He acted as an adviser and an unofficial leader to the council. He could often be heard complaining that if he was made the official leader of the war effort, it would be over by now, victory assured. "The Predicate's only interested in passing laws and picking leaders to keep the action going," he would say to anyone who was near during one of his rants. "They should be listening to me. I'm famous for seeing, acting, reacting, and doing. I'm an -ing kind of guy. That's what they need to finish this."
This time, however, General Jerand was not ranting, or any of his other -ing hobbies. He stood at the head of the council's table, face grim.
"I have bad news, gentleman," he said, pacing. "Our enemies are joining forces. A collaborative assault is what they are planning, and they'll be attacking from all sides. Man your stations, men. The enemy plans to wipe us out, and I'm meaning to stop them. Good luck in the battle ahead, and know that your people and county are proud of you. May Webster be with you. Go."
Stunned silence filled the room after his pronouncement. I shook the lethargy from my mind and sprang up, rushing out of the room, followed by the rest of the soldiers. I headed to the roof of our fort, where my battle station was located, and prepared to make my last stand against Literacii's assailants.
I jumped into the seat on my Apostrophe Cannon and powered it up. I aimed it towards the plains, where I could already see columns of Texters advancing.
"To the east, ladies! Commander Nown's just sent up the battle plan! Dictionarapults fire first, high and into the mass of their forces. Apostrophe Cannons will wait until they march closer, then focus on the flanks; that's where they keep the most thirteen-year-olds. We have Spell-Checkers positioned in the towers to take out any OMG fire," Our combat adviser, Captain Adam Jective, shouted. It was his job to interpret, and most importantly describe, Nown's strategy. Nown had a tendency to be a bit heavy-handed and technical with his phrasing, as a genius, and it was Ad Jective's job to describe Nown in a way we could get. He did this by focusing on what kind of plan Nown had, how many objectives we needed to pay attention to, and which one was most important. He had trouble with Nown's plans himself sometimes, and could often be heard chanting, "What kind, which one, how many," under his breath.
"Ad, sir!" one soldier yelled. "The enemy's countering with a ridiculous amount of text speech. I can see the ur's and l8r's from here! The Dictionarapults can't handle it all!"
"Fire faster, then!" Ad roared.
"We're givin' 'em all we got, Captain!" another soldier yelled.
"Watch your mouth, soldier, I only accept originality in my platoon! And just keep firing!" Ad reached for a communicator clipped to his side, and spoke into it urgently. "Yes, this is Jective. Yes- I know our weapons are proving ineffective. Release the Shirley."
There was a collective gasp from every man who heard him. The Shirley was an eldritch abomination, and Literacii's deadliest weapon. It was feared by all, used only in the most dire of circumstances.
"Sir," one of my fellow cannoneers said, "the Society for the Use of Better Judgement Encompassing Combat Tactics outlawed the Shirley years ago!"
"SUBJECT can shut the hell up," Ad said eloquently. "I have permission from General Vurb, who received permission from Predicate itself. These are dire times, son. We must act appropriately."
The man was cut off the Shirley burst from the doors at the base of the fort. It was massive, blue and white, the stuff of nightmares. It leapt into the sky and flew towards to oncoming Texter force. It shrieked, and every man in and on the fort shuddered. "Preposition, preposition, starting with an 'A'," the beast howled. I felt like it could be heard for miles around. I don't think I'll ever sleep soundly again, I thought.
Captain Jective nodded, satisfied, until a man ran by, shouting, "Seventh Graders, to the west! They're writing poetry!"
"Dear God, Webster in heaven," Ad muttered. "Get the Comma Brigade out there!Apostrophe Cannons, attack! With aplomb!"
"But sir," one man shouted, "they don't know what that means!"
"Graah! Just FIRE!"
I swiveled my cannon to the west and opened fire, releasing pure, grammatical fury onto the onrushing waves of Seventh Grade poetry. I lost count of all of the were's and theyre's I slaughtered mercilessly, let alone the dont's, wont's, and cant's.
"On the western front!" I shouted. "They keep using the same adjective over and over!"
"UNFORGIVABLE!" Ad roared. "Thesauchets, forward! Tear them apart!"
The battle went on for what seemed like forever to me. No matter how many we defeated, there were always more to take their place. On the ground, our foot soldiers were getting torn apart. The Comma Brigade had been decimated, and Punctuation was being overrun by sheer numbers.
Mid-battle, Ad got a call on his communicator. His face drained of all color, and he nodded grimly.
"Gentleman," he said after ending the call, "our early warning system's just informed us. The enemy's launched a Seventh Grade term paper at us. We have minutes, maybe, before it strikes."
"Webster..." one man muttered. The rest were silent, myself included. The sadness was palpable. We had lost.
"So this is how it ends," Ad said. "Done in by a Works Cited page."
"Well, sir," I said, "I wouldn't exactly call what they wrote a Works Cited page, per se..."
Ad laughed. "Quiet, soldier. I want to go in silence, at the end. Nobly."
And so he did. As did they all. The men died in noble silence as the explosion from the disaster referred to loosely as a term paper tore through their base. They died with a complete lack of commas, and with all continuity or thought thrown to the winds.
And that, kids, is how the internet was born.