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In the Heat: part 3

In the silence of the street the sound of the sand shifting on the wind was the only noise for a minute of eternity.

They listened to the wind and the world for a few heartbeats.

George was trying to figure the next step. He could see her mind rapidly firing through possibilities and scenarios as she formed her plan. ’Her brain must be exhausting,’ he thought.

Things were easy for him, stick to the basics. Since plans were always changing, it was pointless to make them. It was far better to just know the end you wish to reach and do whatever was needed to achieve that goal. William waited, his job was still the same, keep the Combat engineer operational.

Keep things stupid simple. Be ready to move, keep Blackwell alive, and do what she tells you.

Georgina’s brain was different. She was wasted as an engineer. She should be in some strategy room with top brass telling them how to win this war; not in muck with grunts like him.

Last time the Lieutenant was dumb enough to allow George near a higher ranking Officer she ended up on restriction for a month and busted down two ranks. William smirked inwardly. Yeah she got shit, but that asshole was the infirmary for a week.

That prick has really pissed George off. It was a good thing their LT had gone to bat for her.

George was making a quick inventory check and trying get the radio working while William reminisced and kept watch. He heard a whipper whistle as a figure moved into range. It was the squad leader Franklin making his way to their location.

He hurried and slid into their hole and looked around over the edge.

“You got Coms?” He asked hurriedly.

Will shook his head. “Negative, we are jammed. We didn’t copy the last transmission. What are the orders?”

The Franklin looked at Will and then at George, swallowing for a moment. “Hold this street. Mendez and I are going to move forward towards the main line. No one crosses that bridge.”

In unison Williams and George replied, “Copy!”

The Franklin dropped a bag at George’s feet before scrambling out of the whole again. He crouched and moved through the street with Mendez. They were strange tan shadows, leap frogging and two stepping down the waste land street.

William kept his eyes on the two as they turned down a street to the west and out of sight.

“I got a bad feeling Blackwell.” He said seriously he didn’t even realize he had slipped back to her last name.

“I know…” she said as she checked other pieces of equipment.

“The drones are gone.” He said his voice low and urgent.

“I know…” she said again as she tried something else, her hands flying across her dials and switches, putting pieces together trying to boost her signal, getting nothing but the rhythmic static again.

“The howitzers have stopped.” William looked up again his ears straining to hear anything in strange eeriness.

“I know…”She was ready to snap his head off but froze as she processed something. “Why would the howitzers stop?” She whispered.

William frowned as he looked back at where she was crouched. “They didn’t run out of ammo. They had about 40 minutes of bombardment time; possibly the enemy is out of range or maybe friendly fire? Or they were destroyed.”

Their eyes connected as the implications of the silence settled over them. William felt the fire burn in his lungs alerting him he had been holding his breath. He blinked his eyes and took a deep breath forcing his heart to slow down. He turned his eyes back to the road.

The hawk cried out somewhere in the sky and he focused on the sound. He took a moment to flex his muscles starting at his toes in his combat boots, and then his feet, ankles, calves, thighs, hips, back, chest, shoulders, biceps, forearms, wrists, hands and fingers. The forced clench and release insured that his body was relaxed and ready. He rolled his neck last, blowing out his breath.

“Stupid-motherfucking-piece-of-shit!” She burst out with a string of profanity.

Not her best.’ He considered it sub-par really. When she was seriously agitated she would invent whole new phrases. Some had even been taken up by others. His favorite was still, a penguin ass-spelunker.

“What?” He asked over his shoulder.

“The G.P.S. is down too. Whatever took down the drones has us blind. That’s probably why they stopped firing.” She said finally taking her position back. “We might be here a while.”

He nodded and grinned. “I guess I owe you five bucks then.”

She blinked giving him a confused look. “For what?”

He smiled and shrugged. “You said: “Bet you five that Intel is wrong and this whole thing turns into a shit-show.”

She looked at him and a big grin stretched over her face flashing her dimple and easing the tension in her forehead. “Yeah, you do. I will get it back at the barracks.”

He nodded and looked back at the road glad to see her calm restored. “Yeah, do you think we should put out any more mines on the road?”

She considered and nodded. “Better to have them and not need them, than need them and not have them.”

“Like a condom.” He replied in that fast paced automatic response of repetition. That was practically their motto in life.

George grabbed the demolition bag and climbed out of the hole. William moved to just outside their shelter to help provide cover as she started placing the last of the claymores and trip wires.

She left a small corridor through certain death, marking the way with coded of sprays of paint. The corridor she left open put who ever followed it out in the open so that they would be exposed to gunfire.

It wasn’t just set up to hurt people trying to come down the road, it also would blow out walls that would collapse and create blockades on the street.

She kept down low moving swiftly from point to point. She was like a little desert mouse scurrying from one safe spot to the next hiding from the hawk circling above.

Their old drill sergeant would have been proud. They worked efficiently and by the numbers, and they were back to their hole in under 6 minutes and 32 seconds. She had even set up a small black disc at the end of the street.

It was set and tilted in such a way that they could now use it too look around the corner. It was made of specialized glass to keep down its glare. The enemy would probably see it and shoot it out, but that would still give them a warning that something was coming.

The sun baked the earth and caused the world to waver and dance as heat waves warped their vision. Time stretched and pulled like melted taffy, clinging and sticking to match their nerves was they waited. Only the sounds of shifting sand and the screeching of that hawk above marked the difference between one moment and the next.

Sweat rolled down William’s brow and trickled down his spine, the breeze cooling it. The sun shifted in the sky as they waited.

“Franklin or Mendez should have been back by now.” George’s voice did little to push against the oppressive quiet.

William glanced over to where she looked though her hand scope. “Something must have delayed them.” He felt something sickly and grotesque crawl up the trails that sweat had left on his spine. Fear caused his stomach to tighten and he swallowed against the coppery taste in his mouth.

He took a deep breath, ignoring his natural instincts to move, and rolled his shoulders slightly. He wanted to run, forward or backward. He didn’t care which, he wanted to take action. The immobility was like being buried alive.

He turned his eyes to George. “Let’s move. Let’s recon the area and assist.”

George never stopped looking through her scope. “Negative. We have our orders” she said. The calm in her voice felt like sand paper grating against an open wound. Anger flared up to combat the fear inside.

“That’s when the situation was containment. We know something happened! They could be dying out there! We should find out what is happening and do something!” He was speaking fast, words tumbling out of his mouth, as a sense of urgency filled him.

“We both heard the L.T. say engage! We need to move!” He shouted over his shoulder.

He didn’t realize he had started moving until Georgina grabbed him hard, yanking him off balance so he fell back into the hole that he had already climbed half out of. The air in his lungs escaped in a whoosh as he hit the ground and she shoved her rifle across his chest to pin him.

“STOW THAT SHIT JAMES!” She shouted with her face inches away from his. “WE HOLD this position.”

He blinked staring into her eyes, realizing in the moment her eyes had little flecks of green in the brown. He slowly came back to his senses. He realized he had been fighting against her, struggling to get away. Panic had seeped in, disguised as urgency. She was still speaking low and heated. He could see the fear in her eyes too, but it just seemed to make her more determined.

“Wounded could be evacuating to this location as we speak, praying, desperate, hoping against hope, that we kept it clear. WE WILL NOT FAIL THEM. SO HARDEN THE FUCK UP!” she shouted.

‘Up, up, up.’ echoed down the concrete box. It broke through the strange din of silence that had been pressing in on his ears. His vision cleared complete and the knot in his stomach unclenched.

He sucked in a deep breath. “Copy that” he said finally and laughed a bit. She was panting softly and then laughed a bit too. Then they both laughed in relief of the broken tension. She sat back propping herself a bit with the butt of her rifle as she tried to regain her breath.

He slowly sat up between laughs he said, “You sounded like a freaking movie, George.”

She shook her head laughing at herself while she slowly stood up. “I know… I think I have been watching too many in the rec room.”

He finally regained his feet, his body feeling a little heavy after the surge of adrenaline had made him lighter. He shook it out the best he could, taking a moment to breath. Waiting was always the hardest thing to ask of a soldier.

He looked at George who was taking a long drink off her canteen. He could out run her, out shoot her, he was physically stronger than her in every way, but he knew she was the better soldier. She knew how to wait, how to plan, how to see the whole battle, how to hold when everything screamed to move. He envied that. “Hey George…” He said quiet.

She didn’t glanced up from stowing her canteen. “Yeah?” she responded automatically.

Even he wasn’t sure what he was about to say, but it remained unspoken as they heard the explosion down the street. The perimeter wire had been triggered.

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