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datatime: 2022-12-04 07:09:45 Author:FDCiPFhf

I do not believe it, Andrea said flatly.You couldn't make a mistake like that, my Captain.

The frenetic stammering of the machine-guns stopped abruptly and in unison, the sound sheared off as by a guillotine. The sudden silence was curiously oppressive, louder, more obtrusive than the clamour that had gone before. The gravelly earth beneath his elbows grated harshly as Mallory shifted his weight slightly, looked at the two men to his right, Andrea with his impassive face empty of all expression, Louki with the sheen of tears in his eyes. Then he became aware of the low murmuring to his left, shifted round again. Bitter-mouthed, savage, the American was swearing softly and continuously, oblivious to the pain as he pounded his fist time and again into the sharp-edged gravel before him.

I was only sayin' what Louki told me, he said defensively.

Also a mortar, Mallory explained.A five-barrelled job, and very nasty. TheNebelwerfer or Moanin' Minnie. Howls like all the lost souls in hell. Guaranteed to turn the knees to jelly, especially after nightfall-but it's stifi the other one you have to watch. A six-inch mortar, almost certainly using fragmentation bombs-you use a brush and shovel for clearing up afterwards.

Ah, well, mebbe I was mistaken, Miller said magnanimously. He squinted again at the guns, forehead lined in puzzlement.That first one's a mortar, I reckon. But what in the universe that other weird looking contraption can be-

Abruptly Miller's smile vanished and he nodded.

Ah, well, mebbe I was mistaken, Miller said magnanimously. He squinted again at the guns, forehead lined in puzzlement.That first one's a mortar, I reckon. But what in the universe that other weird looking contraption can be-

Abruptly Miller's smile vanished and he nodded.

Mallory touched his arm.What is it, Dusty?

I would not be using these, my Captain. They have betrayed us once already. I have been thinking, and it can be nothing else. The sunlight reflecting from the lenses . . .

I was only sayin' what Louki told me, he said defensively.

Won't try again, huh? Miller was already sliding his gun around the rock in front of him when Mallory caught his arm and pulled him back.

It would be all of that. He risked a quick peep round one of the boulders, eased himself back again.Eight, mebbe ten of them still down there, boss, he reported.The poor bastards are like ostriches-trying to take cover behind stones the size of an orange. . . . We leave them be?

They will, Mallory assured him.Just as soon as we fire and they find out where we are.

That's right, Miller gowled.Cheer us all up. But he was grateful to the New Zealander for trying to take their minds off what they had to do.Why don't they use them?

Any second now, Mallory said softly.I only hope that our friend Turzig isn't among this lot. He reached out for his field-glasses but stopped in surprise as Andrea leaned across Louki and caught him by the wrist before he could lift the binoculars.Whats the matter, Andrea?

The frenetic stammering of the machine-guns stopped abruptly and in unison, the sound sheared off as by a guillotine. The sudden silence was curiously oppressive, louder, more obtrusive than the clamour that had gone before. The gravelly earth beneath his elbows grated harshly as Mallory shifted his weight slightly, looked at the two men to his right, Andrea with his impassive face empty of all expression, Louki with the sheen of tears in his eyes. Then he became aware of the low murmuring to his left, shifted round again. Bitter-mouthed, savage, the American was swearing softly and continuously, oblivious to the pain as he pounded his fist time and again into the sharp-edged gravel before him.

That inhuman bastard that sent these poor devils up that hill, Mallory said quietly.Make a wonderful pietare seen over the sights of your rifle, wouldn't he?

We leave them be Mallory echoed emphaticaliy. The thought of any more slaughter made him feel almost physically sick.They won't try again. He broke off suddenly, flattened himself in reflex instinct as a burst of machine-gun bullets struck the steep-walled rock above their beads and whined up the gorge in vicious ricochet.

Just one more, Gawd. The quiet voice was almost a prayer.That's all I ask. Just one more.

Miller studied the guns drawn up on the road behind the two trucks and cleared his throat.

Abruptly Miller's smile vanished and he nodded.

Miller studied the guns drawn up on the road behind the two trucks and cleared his throat.

Not only could, but did, I'm afraid. But we'll worry about that afterwards. The middle of the ragged line of advancing soldiers, slipping and stumbling on the treacherous scree, had almost reached the lower limits of the blackened, stunted remains of the copse.They've come far enough. I'll take the white helmet in the middle, Louki. Even as he spoke he could hear the soft scrape as the three others slid their automatic barrels across and between the protective rocks in front of them, could feel the wave of revulsion that washed through his mind. But his voice was steady enough as he spoke, relaxed and almost casual.Right. Let them have it now

His last words were caught up and drowned in the tearing, rapid-fire crash of the automatic carbines. With four machine-guns in their hands-two Brens and two 9 mm. Schmeissers-it was no war, as he had said, but sheer, pitiful massacre, with the defenceless figures on the slope below, figures still stunned and uncomprehending, jerking, spinning round and collapsing like marionettes in the hands of a mad puppeteer, some to lie where they fell, others to roll down the steep slope, legs and arms flailing in the grotesque disjointedness of death. Only a couple stood still where they had been hit, vacant surprise mirrored in their lifeless faces, then slipped down tiredly to the stony ground at their feet. Almost three seconds had passed before the handful of those who still lived-about a quarter of the way in from either end of the line where converging streams of fire had not yet met-realised what was happening and flung themselves desperately to the ground in search of the cover that didn't exist.

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