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Stellar Nights

In the Moment

James Bishop



Published by Pink Lotus Press at Smashwords

Copyright 2018 James Bishop



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Table of Contents

In the Moment

In the Moment

They always started the same, the mortars. Like war drums echoing across the shattered, stinking no man’s land, they beat their own off-tempo beat. Inshi Mey looked out across the pot marked earth. Sometimes, if they were the short ranged Shredder mortars, she could see the pinpoint flashes from the blast tubes. This time, she saw nothing. A dozen other heads poked out from various craters and trenches. “Where do you think its going?” Someone asked. Inshi knew that voice to be Draskel. He was the FNG and didn’t know better than to talk above a whisper while on OP duty. Ahead of Inshi’s pillbox, Sergeant Fawkes Stood, and his hand held ordinance detector. He cocked his head and stared at the horizon. Nothing but a soft wind. Inshi’s heart thrummed, the blood pumping in her ears. “Sergeant?” She whispered, “Sergeant Fawkes?” Damnit, answer me! She cried internally. The veteran Sergeant stepped back; once, twice, and then broke into a run, “Silent rounds!” he screamed, vocal discipline was no longer necessary, “Silent rou-.” The first munition impacted between Inshi and her erstwhile leader. The ground churned up, spitting shrapnel and the bones of the long dead in every direction. Inshi was flung back, landing hard on the planks of the makeshift floor. Her head wrung and the world tuned out like someone had stuffed cotton in her ears. Sergeant Fawkes was nowhere to be seen.

More artillery rounds impacted around her. Someone screamed far away, or close; Inshi couldn’t tell. Mud and filth rained down. Get up her inner monologist screamed, get up! Inshi sprang to her feet. Her helmet and the heads-up display were gone, but her rifle was mercifully close. Picking it up, she bolted for the rally point; a fallout shelter some fifty yards away through a crisscross of dilapidated trenches, craters and run down dugouts; an easy go of it for anyone who’d been on the line for as long as this unit had. Ahead of her, three of her squadmates urged her on. Inshi tried to make her legs move but the light went out in her head, and she stumbled, falling against a corrugated steel barrier that still held back dirt for a trench wall.

“Mey! Let’s go!” one of them, Draskel, shouted. He was a handsome young man, eyes so blue they practically glowed. Sasha and “Grumps” Xaph stood with him, weapons up in muscle memory readiness. A few more yards was all she had to push, she grumbled through the pain in her head and focused on moving one foot after the other. Almost there, you can do this. “Come on, Mey, we gotta-.” The ground around her comrades erupted. Flame and dust and hot metal singed and dirtied the air. Inshi was on the ground again. Various bits fell all around her. Something wet and squishy landed in her hand. She held it up, inspecting it like a jewel. It was an eyeball, so blue it practically glowed. The ground shook with more impacts. Inshi Mey closed her eyes, expecting the next one to take her too. It didn’t matter, either way, a Kahleeshi pride would be on them within the hour. The lizards never just bombed an area without moving in to check for trophies. Or food, the realization jolted Inshi. There were a lot of terrible things that could happen to a Vakonian on the front lines, but being served up buffet style to those fucking reptiles was probably the worst. A final explosion far past Inshi’s position signaled the end of the bombardment. Inshi laid still, muscles wound up like springs. “Go,” Inshi breathed deep, dust coated her throat, and the cordite in the air burned her nose, “go!” She sat up, using the steel trench wall and her weapon to get to her feet. A fresh wave of lightheadedness washed over her, Inshi leaned against the corrugated steel and closed her eyes while it passed. She reached for her radio, it was gone. Knocked from her body armor during the attack. “No HUD and no communications,” She sighed, “Guess I’m flying blind.” She moved wearily and slow. Sometimes the artillery carried small mines in their warheads. Nothing life-threatening, just enough to take a foot off to make one more comfortable to get too when the Kalheeshi arrived. She reached the spot where her three squaddies had been just a moment before. There wasn’t much left, only a blasted crater mere feet from the entrance of the shelter they had all been trying to get too. They stopped for me, she crouched in the hole surrounded by shreds of uniforms and flesh, huffing deep of the fowl, coppery air; fighting the onset of tears. They would be alive if I were faster. A tear rolled down her soot-covered cheek. She sniveled.


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