Notes Productivity has suffered in the last few days as I’ve been flu-struck. I’m certainly not going to hit the NaNoWriMo target of 50,000 words, but I’ll keep going until the end of the month then take what I’ve got and use it as notes for the full novel.
We smelt the bodies and the smoke long before we spotted the tanks. It came to us on the wind wafting down the valley. We checked our guns and cut away from the road toward higher ground.
We’d been following the ripped up road and other damage that a column of tanks leaves behind ever since seeing what they had done to a village nearly fifty miles away. They’d skirted the farmhouse near the bottom of the valley. The farmer had heard them go past and, later, the distinctive rocket roar and explosions of a missile attack. We didn’t have a plan for what we would do if we caught up with them, but it sounded like someone had done what we would have wanted to.
As we climbed up the hillside and headed up river the tree line came down to meet us. Up ahead the valley narrowed so that the floor was only the width of the road and river and trees came down to the edge of the tarmac. I lifted my hunting rifle and stared through the scope. A ridge line still obscured some of the valley floor and smoke haze broke up the shapes, but as I scanned left to right I could see the shape of a tank. It was as if the sharp geometric shapes resolved from the soft curving ones of the trees.
The wrecked tank blocked the road at the valley’s narrowest point, its gun drooping and hatches open. The top half of a body was sprawled out of the turret hatch. Another tank had tried going around the destroyed tank, only to slide down the bank into the river and become stranded.
As we climbed the ridge more and more incapacitated vehicles came into view. There were seven tanks, three armoured personnel carriers and a number of soft skinned vehicles. The soft skins had been torn apart with heavy gunfire whilst the tracked vehicles had all been hit by one or more missiles. Bodies fanned out across the valley away from the choke point, cut down as they ran.
We crouched, and eventually crawled, to keep from being too conspicuous atop the ridge. We used sights and binoculars to survey the carnage, looking out for movement. “What do you think?” I asked Jean Luc, leader of our little band.
“I think they met someone with far better weapons than we have. I did not know the army was operating in this area. Start checking in the trees to see if there is movement up there.
I did a sweep of the tree line from the pinch point along the valley towards us. It wasn’t until I swept back that I saw the soldier sat on a tree stump staring through binoculars. He was wearing a French uniform, so I was merely creeped out when he waved at me. I pointed him out to Jean Luc, who studied the apparition through his glassses. “We shall go and talk with him.” Jean Luc announced.
“All of us?”
“You and I, I think.”
“It will give you something to blog about, will it not?”
We slung our guns over our shoulders and climbed to the top of the ridge. This was when our trust would be most tested, when we presented a full target to any lurking snipers.
We weren’t shot when we stood up, which was nice, so we walked along the contours toward the figure at the tree line. “It would not be beyond the Americans to steal a uniform to lure us out.” Jean Luc opined.
“You say the most cheerful things.” I spoke a mish mash of English and French with the rest of the squad, but Jean Luc liked to practice his English with me.
“I am trying to be more like you. Considering all the possibiliies.”
“I think too much?”
“Peut etre. Francais, oui.”
As we neared the French soldier I decided to keep quiet completely rather than try to convince him of my Frenchness through speaking his mother tongue. Jean Luc raised a hand in greeting as we got closer. The soldier nodded and went back to opening the American rations he had requisitioned.
“Good afternoon. I take it you are local militia.”
“Not so local any more. We were following those murderers. I take it you were as well.”
The French captain nodded, “We had been tracking them by satellite and set up the ambush. We thought we would hang around and see who you were as well.” He eyed me for a while then, pointing with his knife, asked, “So. Who are you?”
The captain waved and there was movement back amongst the trees. “We have an English man! Robert Jones!”
Jean Luc and I exchanged a look. This was an interesting development. The captain went back to his meal and we waited.
After a couple of minutes another figure emerged from the tree line. He too was wearing the uniform of a French Army captain, though he looked a little out of place, a bit larger than some of the other soldiers, maybe a little tougher. He saluted the captain and looked from Jean Luc to me. “Robert Jones?” The accent was pure Midlands.
“I have some information for you. Come with me.”
We headed into the trees, where the air was cooler and sat on a downed trunk. “Are you SAS?” I asked.
“Yes, I am. I do a very convincing French accent when I’m speaking the language.” he had dropped into French for the answer. I had hardly even noticed, I’d been in the country so long. He returned to English, with accent, to carry on, “I also have a photographic memory, so everything I need to tell you is in my head.”
“I wouldn’t have thought I was important enough to have messages sent to me.”
“You’d be surprised. There are a few dozen Brits at large in Europe that we have messages for as well as our main missions You’re important because a lot of people read what you post. You’ve become a trusted source on whats going on over here. One of the messages I have for you is that the British government supports you. Your site has been subject to dedicated denial of service attacks and other attempts to take it down. The government has, shall we say, taken you under their wing. You now have more bandwidth and upgraded security.”
“I’m not sure I want to be a propaganda tool for the British government.”
“That’s almost exactly what the briefing said you would say. I was told to let you know they’re not censoring or editing you and you keep all rights, if you stay alive long enough for that to matter. What you’re doing is quite useful. The message is- keep it up.”
“Oh. Right Somehow I don’t think they sent an SAS officer to France so they could tell me ‘Jolly good show, keep up the good work.’ You’re working with the French, obviously. I thought Britain was neutral.”
“Of course it is. That keeps the Americans from sending their troops through us to the continent. And it keeps a lot of them in Britain whilst their government decides whether to ship them back to the States or pull the same stunt with us.”
“Is that likely? They must be pretty stretched.”
“If you’re not with us you’re against us. Remember that? And the rest of the world is not with them. Most of their own population isn’t with them. This is the lunatics taking over the asylum in the worst way possible. So the British government is helping ship weapons to the Europeans and helping wipe out the Yanks in any way they can. All the satellite data this lot use came through me.”
“All of this, of course, is not for blog.”
“Absolutely. They told me you’re good at compartmentalising- their word- and said to mention Sachs.”
“They know more than I thought. Is there anything left down there to scavenge?” I nodded in the direction of the valley.
“Let’s go and have a look.”