Chapter 45

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Bait

Lt. Simmons lay prone on the lee side of the ridge, peeking over its crest with her field glasses. “That is one squared away column,” she said.

Lying next to her, Sergeant d’Vane said, “I heard a rumor once.”

“Oh yeah, what about?”

“They say General Kim has his troops do calisthenics every morning before chow.”

Simmons smirked as she studied the foot patrols strutting along the perimeter like toy soldiers. “That include pushups?”

“Oh yeah. And pullups. Real exercise.”

Simmons twisted a knob on the side of her field glasses and tapped d’Vane on the shoulder. Her field glasses showed an electromagnetic flux ripple out from one of the carriers. She pointed at the vehicle and said, “There. One of them is starting up.”

“And they’re folding back their panels. Looks like Second Brigade’s getting ready to head out.”

Simmons scanned the carriers from the rear of the column, then swept her glasses forward up the line. She stopped when she saw that only the last third of the column was starting their vehicles. “Not quite,” she said. “I see 18 regular tracks, a command track and a coms track. But that’s it.”

The carriers eased back from the rest of the column and then turned in a single movement to form a line abreast. Simmons twisted the knob again and saw the shimmering red outline of their drivers through her heat detection filter. Even though she knew they couldn’t see her, she couldn’t help feeling that all those eyes were boring right through her. Two platoons of four tanks each rode up and took position on the flanks, completing the firing line formation. The tanks slowed but did not stop as the carriers surged forward.

Simmons lowered her field glasses and stared at the nearest end of the formation. Realizing the path of the tanks would edge up on the slope of her ridge, she said, “This is going to be close.”

“Maybe we should displace,” d’Vane said.

“Too late. Just hunker down.” She pulled back from the crest of the ridge and lay as flat as she could as the rattle of tank tracks floated over her from the other side. Billows of dust boiled up and washed over them as the tracks passed just feet from their position.

After the dust settled, Simmons tapped her headset. “Enforcer Six, Badger. Immediate. Battalion strength carriers plus two platoons tangos south from grid 617 528. Out.” She rolled over and grabbed d’Vane’s arm, pulling him to his feet as she stood up. “Now we displace.”

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©2016 Michael J Lawrence