Stand Against the Light 10

Dai finally remembered to plug his headphones into one of the ubiquitous data ports.  “Post Eight Forward, reporting,” he said.  He had silence for a response. He could hear but not see the explosions as the battalion’s 120mm mortars engaged the praying mantises. The creatures swept to the south around his position.  After a while, their fire was joined by direct fire weapons from the base.  He heard rifles, machine guns, antitank weapons,… all very noisy.  In not too long, the fire slackened and stopped. “Post Eight Forward, reporting,” he spoke into his headphones, to be greeted with silence.

Eventually the brightening dawn sky swallowed the dimmer stars. Private Dai surveyed his surroundings.  Post Eight was reduced to a pile of wreckage.  If his telephone had a line signal, it was that he was tied into the line well below the former location of the post.  However, when he called he received no answer.  He looked over the side of his bunker.  Posts Seven and Nine had also been smashed to flinders.  The sky was well brighter than first light.  His relief should have arrived several hours ago.

What was he to do?  He was supposed to remain on watch until relieved, which he had done.  He was also supposed to report enemy activity, but was unable to contact base to make his report.  Sitting here was useless.  He would go to the base, make his report, and return unless relieved.

“Hello?” The voice came from behind him. “Hello, Post Eight?”

Dai turned around, his rifle carefully pointed skyward. “Who goes there?” he called.

“It is I, Comrade Private Wu.  Is that you, Longwei?” Wu asked.

“I am indeed Dai Longwei. Please come out so I can see you,” Dai answered.

Wu emerged from his cover. “It was terrible,” he said. “My patrol was wiped out.  My compass and GPS stopped working, so I was lost.  I had to wait for daylight.”

“Your patrol was wiped out?” Dai answered. “So was this watchpost.  And I have no contact with base headquarters.  They don’t pick up their phone.”

“I tried my cell phone.  There are no bars.” Wu was downcast. “At least my compass and GPS are working now.”

“We must report this,” Dai said. “Have you eaten yet?”

“No,” Wu said. “My ration packs fell out in our EQ2050, which was destroyed.  A beam of blue light hit them, and they exploded.”

“I have extras,” Dai said. “Let us eat, quickly. This post is not manned in daylight.  Once the sun is up I can leave here without getting into trouble.”

An hour later, the two men were back to Force Base 137’s main fortifications.  The perimeter wire was torn open.  Roofs had been blown off bunkers.  Communications antennae were cut down. Vehicles looked as though they had been stomped by a giant.

“Hello!” Dai shouted. “Who is here?”

He was answered by silence.

“There is something strange here,” Wu said. “There was a big battle. Where is everyone? Where are the bodies?  There aren’t any.”

About George Phillies

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