The Sirens Call
Screaming alarms brought the young soldier out of her fitful sleep. Shrill as a banshee’s cry they scattered the dreams that had dared to approach her where she sat huddled in her greatcoat. she didn’t bother to move however, the sirens were nothing new and until the officers started to join them there was nothing truly urgent near this post.
Only three days at the front and already jaded to the perils elsewhere along the line. Shae would have shaken her head in disgust were she not so exhausted. Only three days and already it felt like a lifetime. Footsteps splashed towards her from the direction of the dugout. Evenly paced and heavy. Lieutenant Frasch then. She allowed herself a small smile as the big man rounded the corner, stooping to keep his bald head below the level of the trench. He was the only man in the unit tall enough to need to hunch over, but he’d never complained about it within her earshot.
“On your feet corporal, the Captain will be along in a moment and you know what he’s like about soldiers who sleep on duty.” His gruff voice held more than a hint of sympathy, but Shae knew better than to push her luck.
“Sir” was all the response she needed as she climbed out of the groove she’d been wedged into.
The sirens had faded to their normal keening moan at the edge of her hearing, allowing the sounds of battle to filter in from somewhere down the line. The crack of rifles retorted against a backdrop of artillery explosions. At this distance she couldn’t hear the screams of the dying or the crackling roar of the fires, but her mind supplied them anyway. “Do we know what we’re up against this time?”
The Lieutenant shook his head, his thick lips pursed thin. “Enemy like this, could be anything out there. You’re free to take a peek if you’re curious.” He gestured to the lip of the trench with the barest twitch of a smile.
Gallows humour, it was all that really survived in a war like this. It had been going on for so long that Shae couldn’t remember a time when anyone had spoken about anything else. The front line hadn’t moved in almost a decade, the enemy attacks were just too devastating.
“No thank you Sir, I’ll just sit here like a good girl and wait for orders.” She gave him a slightly haggard salute. It was tricky with her rifle slung under one arm. The weapon might not have caused her so much trouble if it had been crafted to fit her, but as with everything in the military stores, it was set to a regulation scale. At just over 5 feet tall, Shae didn’t quite fit that scale, which lead to baggy uniforms and a weapon that reached her shoulder when she stood it upright.
At half again her height and a career soldier, the Lieutenant was an impressive sight. She wagered he likely doubled her mass, but had never had the guts to ask.
He nodded to her and began to move off down the line, exchanging words of encouragement with some soldiers and rooting out any others who had decided that they might actually be able to sleep again before their next leave. He never shouted, that’s what sergeants were for, but with such an imposing physique he’d never need to. Only a fool would argue with a man who could hip-fire a bipod mounted rapid-caster.
Shae turned back to her own caster-rifle and checked it hadn’t become jammed in the hour since she’d last checked. Nope, the bolt still slid, the magazine was still loaded and ready to send its supply of spell-laced ammunition into the face, chest or whatever else she could hit of the next wave of monstrosities to come shambling, running or leaping towards the Kastinian lines.