The Egyptian general Ras Qahira commanded the "Rhino" Division of the African Coalition Forces. The Rhinos were heading towards Morocco now, to face off with Allied forces.
Qahira didn't have any particular feelings about being in the Coalition, or fighting the Alliance. He was just a soldier. The politicians were paid to have feelings one way or another. He never particularly cared about politics (except when some politician was screwing him over). He was paid to fight - and win.
So far he'd been doing rather well at both. Of course, so far he hadn't faced much opposition. Most of Africa was neutral or Coalition, which meant he was basically free to go where he pleased. But Morocco, ah, Morocco was a battleground.
British, French, and German troops were coming into Morocco from the north by sea. The Moroccan army wasn't really much of a threat, and there was already an informal sort of armistice between Morocco and the Alliance, though Morocco still pledged it's allegiance to the Coalition.
This left the Allied troops open to fight with Spanish troops, who were entering Morocco from the North across the Strait of Gibraltar. In order to stretch the Ally lines even further, Qahira had been ordered to take The Rhinos and attack the Alliance from the south.
Qahira had studied Rommel's tactics in Morocco. Qahira had found that Rommel had used a variety of cunning tricks to outwit his British opponents. It was more difficult to pull such things off in the age of scanners and leapers, but Qahira imagined there were a few things he could do.
The Rhinos had been traveling through northern Africa for weeks now. The Libyans and Algerians, who were Coalition aligned, had been giving him reinforcements, fuel, and supplies as they passed through their territory. His army was still small, but it was quite respectable.
One day, one of Qahira’s aides came up to him. He was holding a typed piece of paper in one hand.
“Sir, I have an official communiqué from General Igoumensita for you.”
“What does the Greek want?” asked Qahira incredulously.
Qahira took the piece of paper and unfolded it.
“‘Qahira - new orders. Return to Egypt. Leave Morocco to the Spanish. I will aid the Spaniards. Go to pyramids. Specific location top secret but will be given to you when you reach Egypt. Orders: find ancient Egyptian weapon called “Sword of the Sun” (rough translation). Sword of the Sun could be turning point of war. Good luck. General Dimitri Igoumensita, commander of Eastern Army.’ What the hell is this? That Greek wants me to go back to Egypt on some wild goose hunt?”
“I spoke with Cairo, sir, when I received the communiqué. They want a brigade at least to return to Egypt as per the general’s request. You’re supposed to lead the rest of us on to Morocco.”
Qahira growled angrily. His army wasn't exactly bursting with reinforcements. Orders were, however, orders.
"Send the 16th. Tell them to pare down their forces as much as possible and attach their best and brightest to the other brigades. But keep it quiet. I don't want them walking in there with a skeleton crew."
The aide ran off. Qahira sat down to gather his thoughts. A single brigade would move a lot faster than the division would. If the 16th really hustled, they could reach Egypt, do whatever crazy shit the Greek wanted done, and then be back by the time the rest of The Rhinos reached Morocco. Of course, it would never work. He was trying to delude himself.
That damn Greek! Battalions may have seemed unimportant to another general, but Qahira was too smart for that. He knew every brigade counted, hell, every platoon counted. He'd have to do without the 16th's support.
He checked his watch. It was a watch that had been given to him for twenty-five years in the service. It had an ankh on it's face. The ankh was the ancient symbol of life, but now was just a sort of good luck charm. Qahira wished at that moment he was more religious. He could use divine help.
He checked the skies, perhaps for a sign. None came.
"All right, let's move!" he yelled out.
Almost instantaneously, every soldier was in a rank or a tank, preparing to march or ride onward. The camp was packed up and put away, perhaps to be used on some later date. Slowly, laboriously, they ground forward, while one brigade fell behind. The 16th fell further and further behind until it was gone.
"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov
Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."
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