“Hey. Aren’t you supposed to be writing?” My wife asked, per our agreement. I’d spent a few minutes looking at ‘ground view’ on Bing Maps of the north side of the Lewis and Clark Bridge, followed by a few minutes of resting my chin in my hand.
“Yeah. But I can only write what they show me.”
She nodded at that and returned to her studies. She learned years ago that I watch a scene unfold in my mind as if I’m sitting in a theater. When the reel stops, I just write down what I saw. I’m more a reporter than a writer.
Laying flat, he shook his head slightly, as if trying to dislodge that new memory. Nichole had told, well, ordered, he guessed, him to lie down about fifteen feet back from where the chain-link fence ended. Joe knew there was a half platoon of Regulars ahead of him in the cover of the trees on the left and right. Not being one, he was to shoot anyone who might luck past them.
Behind him, on the bridge, there were nearly 200 yards before the bridge was actually over water. He wondered where the engineers pre-placed explosive were. This side? The other? Both? It couldn’t be the middle; that would impact ship traffic. He shuddered to even consider the City being cut off from trade.
The shooting behind him seemed to reach some crescendo before dropping off quickly. He hoped that was a positive development. He flinched badly as someone skidded to a halt in the gravel to his right. A soldier threw himself partly over Joe’s right –
“Friend Joe!” Her voice under her helmet was jarring. “I’m so pleased you’re not dead!”
“Yeah,” he managed. “Me, too. What’s happening back there?”
She shifted off him, their shoulders and hips still touching while she looked ahead.
“The bridge is ours,” she declared, looking this way and that. She froze, looking at the warehouses far up on the right. She tilted her head a little.
“I hear something…” She was instantly up on a knee. Joe spoke quickly.
“How long to the engineers need – ”
“Not sure. Less than an hour, I hope!”
She ran off in a crouch. What now?
Nichole had never been worried before. About herself. She always gave thought to her friends and family, but while humans were fragile, watery things, she was not. She stopped her dash forward, slamming her back against a pine tree on the left side. There was a soldier just opposite her; like Joe, he was startled by her sudden appearance. She gave him a grin and a thumbs-up. He nodded and looked north.
No, this time, it was personal. For the first time in her life, she was at less than twenty percent. The one time at Somi she’d hit twenty four, during some complex training, they’d stopped immediately and produced an unnecessary wheelchair to take her to a charging bay. She understood and had not objected. She was, after all, a multimillion yen investment of the company.
With a flick of her head, she took in the view – and sounds – to the north. Nothing moving, but she heard something in and behind that storage building off to the right, just over ninety meters ahead. The remnant of 3rd squad was no more than thirty meters further on; eleven men when they stepped off the barge; eight now. She ran.
“Sergeant Filks,” she cried softly, throwing herself down next to him. Why did everyone always seem surprised to see her? “Situation?”
“Quiet now,” he breathed. “I’ve three doing a quick, short, recon forward.”
He spared her a glance, hating to see a girl at the tip of the spear.
“They seem to’ve pulled back.” He allowed.
“I’d thought to the houses to the subdivision, due north,” she said, “but I hear something about that warehouse, there.”
She nodded with her chin, as she’d seen others do.
Filks immediately put the index finger and thumb of his right hand to his mouth. A short whistle. Nichole caught the motion of his three men as they reversed and started back –
She heard hollow pops from behind the suspect building.
“Incoming mortars!” She yelled. They scattered and dropped.
There were two small explosions. She saw the three get up to a crouch…
And fall over. Motionless. Oh, no.
Nicole created a negative pressure and took in an air sample.
“Gas! Gas!” She amplified. “Mask up!”