The satchel was passed down the ravine and trip grenades set across the widest gaps. By twos, the squad pulled back to the level of Kess’ sniper perch. The young marksman, meanwhile, had been putting sabots through the fuel tanks of the exposed softskins.
The troops down by the road hadn’t noticed the spreading fuel. They had taken up positions in what little cover the drainage ditch afforded them and were holding back until the flanking squad caught Lensman’s men in a cross fire. In all the shooting they hadn’t heard the fire fight in the woods and didn’t yet know they were waiting in vain.
Kess was about out of rounds for his long rifle, he had scattered his spare bag when he was shot. So he was, reluctantly, ready to abandon it. But, before that, he wanted to experiment. There was some tracer ammunition in his bag from a heavy autogun that was almost the same calibre. His original plan had been to experiment and make up a long range incendiary. He would mount them in one digit shell casings and wrap them sabot style so they would seat correctly into the rifling. But he didn’t have the time for that now. He wrapped the shells and casings in thin bandages, knowing it could jam in the barrel and destroy the gun.
“We do not have much time, young man.” Lensman reminded Kess.
“Three shots. I promise to make them count.”
Kess lined up on the fuel tank of the middle truck. He didn’t know exactly how the bullet would fly, but hoped aiming for the middle of the tank would allow him enough margin of error. The sound of the shot was totally different to normal and flaming wadding expelled from the barrel and gave his position away. He cycled another round in as quickly as possible.
Down by the road everyone caught sight of the high speed firefly. They followed its path to the truck where it exploded in a shower of white sparks. The fuel lit, flames rushed away from the truck and its canvas cover darkened and set fire. Another tracer came from the forest, flying high and wide. It didn’t matter. The fire had spread to the other trucks. In the middle truck, ammunition began cooking off. Explosions sent shrapnel and flaming debris flying in all directions. The soldiers huddled deeper into their cover and hoped that it would keep them safe.
Kess examined the remains of his beloved rifle. The second shot had shattered the barrel. He threw it away into the trees. “Well done.” Lensman congratulated him, “But now we really must leave.” Kess was helped up and given a branch to use as a prop. He wasn’t the only injured member of the squad, which dropped its speed to accommodate them.
The gully narrowed even further, forcing them to make their way by hopping from rock to rock. Halfway up this ravine they heard explosions behind them, the first of the trip grenades. They lightened their explosives load by packing satchels full of charges under overhanging rocks and leaving them on timed fuses.