By Carol Sandford


Chapter 19


"I make fifteen. What about you, Tang?"

The two men were huddled down behind a craggy outcrop, the jagged rocks surprisingly sharp despite being mostly made out of sand, the tiny, gritty particles already ripping at their noses and throats making them splutter and grimace against the invasion on their tender, dry, membranes, their eyes, smarting as the tears tried valiantly to wash away the grit.

Tang quietly coughed away another mouthful of sand before speaking, "I count nineteen, sir. From this angle I can see the shadows inside the tents, and there is at least another four besides your fifteen."

Will grimaced with dismay. Even though the Federation party outnumbered the Sindareen almost by double, they were still at a disadvantage. He figured it was why the Sindareen had put themselves exactly where they had; Only one way in, and only one way out - and they were sitting right in the way of either.

Will squinted, trying to focus his eyes not only against the sand that was totally intent on getting behind his eyeballs to cause even more grief than it already was, but the dying sun too. It was almost eleven o'clock and there was still a lot of daylight left to die. He figured it was going to be at least another good hour before the tangerine ball settled down for the night, leaving them shadowed enough to move in.

Sergeant Tang scuttled nearer to Will's position so that he could converse with his leader, which made Will smile a little considering that even though Will out-ranked Tang, he had heaps more experience, and enough balls to let a younger man take the lead in a situation that he'd been in more times that he'd care to remember. Knew that even though he was a military man through and through, he was more than aware that he was an ageing military man who's reflexes were somewhat diminished with age, and his strategy tactics were in dire need or modernizing.

And Tang was more than happy to pass the reins over to him.

"What's the plan of action, Sir" Tang murmured, his eyes never leaving the scene below, watching for the tiniest of movements that would have them either scuttling back out of sight, or worse still, have them hurting down the hill at them like an avalanche in full unstoppable flow.

Will quietly studied the encampment below, watching one of the mongrels mooching around, looking for kindling to light a fire before the last of the sunlight to vanish and plunged them into midnight blackness.

His eyes moved further around. Another tent began to go up, this one bigger than the others. Will surmised it was the command centre. It sure as hell wasn't the latrine as his gaze moved on to another solitary figure standing apart from the others, his stance typical of a man relieving himself.

Somehow that thought stuck in Will's craw; having to think of them as men with the same bodily functions and needs. Unwillingly, his mind drifted back to Deanna, sitting back in her house, undoubtedly worrying her beautiful little head off, unaware that a creature that could stand there taking a piss like a man, could also fuck like a man. Fuck his Imzadi

The thought made the bile rise in Will's throat and he had to swallow convulsively to shift the bitter taste and thought, shaking his head to dispel the image that swam through his head.

Tang caught the movement, spotting the tightly reigned in anger that caused his blue eyes to sparkle in the moonlights first beams. "You alright, sir?" he asked, deep lines furrowing his already tired ageing brow.

Will cursed himself for allowing himself the moments lapse to let Deanna back into his head, forcing him to lose himself to her rather than what lay ahead. He inwardly moaned as yet again, just saying her name allowed the damn picture that he kept tucked away in the corner of his mind to wave in front of his eyes and torment him for another fraction of a second.

Damn it, Deanna, get out of my head or I swear, I'll bloody strangle you!

"I'm fine!" he growled, making the mistake of glancing at the older man and seeing the worry in his eyes, impelling Will curbed his bitter attack, "I just want to get this done and get out of here in one piece."

Tang nodded thoughtfully, and then quietly turned his eyes back to the encampment below. Will followed suit, surprised that he hadn't made a remark, and then after a moment when he though he was home free, Tang muttered, wisdom softening his advice, "Leave her at home, son."

Will's chin dropped to his chest, his eyes closing against the pain that flared through his soul as he silently thought to himself as he struggled to get himself back together, and back to the present,

I'm trying, Tang, but it's bloody hard.

Tang didn't answer his silent, but no less desperate plea. Instead, the two men and the rest of the landing party focused their attentions on the scene down below, watching and learning about the men that they were going to kill, one way or the other. The only thing they had to decide was whether it was going to be now, or later.

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