BOOTLICKER

Fire in the Sky

2008-11-20

Bertrina’s eyes never moved from Plel as he stood up from the couch, and delved his hand into the inside pocket. He then stopped, staring off into another world - like Bertrina knew so well - and removed his hand from his suit.

“You know, I’m sorry Bertrina, I’m sorry I’ve been so bad to you,” he mumbled, walking toward the window-paned double-doors they had entered through. Bertrina couldn’t find Plel for the rest of the night, it seemed he had left that very instant.



Everything was done during the day. The wind-swept gravel road before the makeshift command-centre beared an expected arrival. Brass pipes buzzed, hummed and chattered whilst nips scratched on large, immaculately drawn maps.

“Captain,” a swift, assertive salute. “Communication from Up There.”

Up from behind his desk in the half-light, an aging man with a neatly trimmed beard extended his arm thoughtlessly, retrieving a metal capsule from the arrival. He used a mirror on his desk to reflect light invading the dark room from through the hut’s blinds onto the opened capsule. The arrival stood respectfully erect, unmoving, until the dreaming Captain remembered:

“Oh, at ease - please, please.”

“Sir.”

The arrival found a comfortable seat before the desk, this uncommon leniency was to be enjoyed. For a while, the lengthy message was studied in silence.

“Private… Jelligop, is it?”

“Mmm-”

“This came from who?”

“Lelly.”

“Where was he?”

“Which regiment on the front line, you mean?”

“The front line?!”

The arrival cast a worried eye at the Captain greedily leaning over this desk, “Yes…”

“Shit, this changes everything…”

The Captain leant for a brass pipe running from his desk, winding an alarm handle for the operator,

“Hookus le grou?”

“I want the First and Second Divisions.”

“You mean the Field Marshals?”

“Yes, I want them.”

“We’ve been asked to limit heavy confidential correspondence betwee-”

“This is important, I need the two front line Divisions, I have information from High Command on secret reconnaissance.”

“Who is this?”

“Captain Opu, Third Line on the Great Plains.”

“Oh yes, we were expecting you - hold on.”

The pipe then erupted in a chorus of ear-wrenching metallic noises, before two voices were emitted.

“Hookus le grou?”

“Field Marshals?”

“Yes?”

“I have your scheduled report here from High Command Recon stating the West end of the front line is totally devoid of Republic forces.”

“Good God!”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, his hand and wax.”

*

As the Green Men marched in on the West, their ranks were met with totally unexpected bloodshed. The smoke they had spied in the sky was thought to be the burning ruins of a surrendered town, not the evidence of a military installation with heavy guns and keen marksmen.

Needless to say, after the decimation of the First and the retreat of the wounded Second Divisions from The Plains, along with the Third, Fourth and Fifth, the scared Gremanese thought those from the North had an army a hundred times larger and faster than they had previously anticipated.

Weeks later, they would find the mutilated remains of their expected arrival buried in a shamefully shallow grave deep in the desert. The real Private Jelligop had had every limb broken in three places, dragged for miles, been then decapitated and disposed.

There had been an ignored report of a strangely dressed man - common green pants with stolen headcloths - defecting within hours of the defeat in the West.

The Republic had taken back The Plains before any sized group of soldiers could be mobilised to counter the enemy.

*

Harkoff vomited for hours. His chest heaved and his stomach threatened to leave his liver behind with his spleen. Every pore on his skin erupted with sweat, his eyes writhed with white and red waves of utter fury. That evening, the purged man was released from a dripping cell pooling with rose-coloured fluids, was cleaned and dressed, then made a guest at a party.