Stand Against the Light — 8

“You!” he shouted.  “Halt immediately!” The objects continued their advance.  “Detachment!  I am firing a warning shot. Do not open fire!”  He drew his QSZ92-5.8 pistol.  The load was 20 rounds of 5.8x21mm armor-piercing rounds, the bottle-necked case being a triumph of Chinese military technology, at least so far as he was concerned. He pointed the pistol skyward, released the safety, and pulled the trigger.

The report echoed across the surrounding terrain.  The objects continued their advance.  The background rustle became louder and louder.  Qian told himself he was not afraid of a few balloons and the unseen drone pushing them.  He lowered his pistol to point at the lead object.

“Halt at once or I will open fire.”  For once he wished he knew Tibetan beyond what was needed to negotiate with Tibetan bartenders and changji, those few Tibetans who would voluntarily speak with a PLA soldier.  OK, he thought, time to pop your balloon.

He took a proper wide-stance with two handed grip and began shooting.  Sparks showed his armor-piercing rounds bouncing. “Detachment!” he shouted.  “Open…” He never finished his last words.  A lance of incandescent violet light struck out. His body was smashed backwards.

Not waiting for Qian to complete his order, his detachment opened fire.  Rifle fire was entirely ineffective. Tracers from the vehicle mounted machineguns zipped across the space between the EQ2050s and the objects and ricocheted.  A loud crump! was the PF98.  Its warhead slid across the smooth curves of the object, deflected into the ground, and exploded. More violet rays struck the two EQ2050s, which promptly detonated, and swept across the three infantrymen.

In a few instants Private Wu was the only survivor. He had dropped behind the rocks and was now doing the fastest low crawl he could imagine, away from the gunmetal gray horrors into the dark Tibetan night.  Which way was Post Eight? he asked himself .  He thanked the gods, who as  a good Communist he knew did not exist, that he had grabbed his heavy pack with sleeping bag, rations, and water.  Perhaps, he thought, he would do better to find a crevasse in which to hide and go to sleep.  Yes, he told himself, I am a good supporter of Communism, and someday if I work very hard may be elevated into the ranks of the Party.  After all, when we have leave in Lhasa, my comrades spend their time drinking, gambling, and whoring, but I spend my time studying the thoughts of Chairman Xi and Chairman Mao. If, he thought, he tried approaching Post Eight while it was still night, he would likely be shot by mistake.  He would be better off getting lost until dawn.  A glance at his wrist GPS and magnetic compass revealed he had a good reason for being lost.  The GPS was jammed, and the compass was meandering left and right as though there were no magnetic field here.

Headquarters watched on video as Qian died, his men opened fire, and a flash of blue light was followed by a loss of signal.

“Bring base to combat status,” Battalion Commander Miao shouted.  “We are under attack!  Sheng!  Link my phone to radio to Army Headquarters in Lhasa!  I must report immediately!”

The wail of sirens and screech of alarm horns echoed across the base. Sheng turned to his control panel, working swiftly under Miao’s lambent gaze. 

“What is wrong, Comrade Sheng?  What is taking so long?” Miao asked.

“Comrade Battalion Commander,” Sheng answered, “I am unable to raise Lhasa.  We appear to be being jammed.”

About George Phillies

science fiction author -- researcher in polymer dynamics -- collector of board wargames -- President, National Fantasy Fan Federation
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