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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."

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 41

General Ras Qahira fired a single shot into the air. The flare exploded in flames up in the atmosphere. The flare was accompanied by rigorous shooting from the Allied lines, but Qahira’s men had gotten the signal.

Qahira leapt out of his trench along with the rest of The Rhinos. He grabbed a canister from off of his belt, and palmed it in his left hand. He held his tommy gun in his right hand and took off at a run. He and the rest of The Rhinos charged forward towards the Allied trenches.

The air suddenly filled with the staccato burst of machine guns, AS guns, and artillery, punctuated by the occasional grenade. The Rhinos dropped like flies. Qahira gently shook his head at the terrible waste of life, but he knew it was necessary.

Qahira reached he Allied trenches seconds before he had been expecting to. He nearly stumbled and fell into the trench nearest him.

“Drop!” he screamed at the top of his lungs, “Drop now!”

Qahira let fly the canister he was holding while spraying the area with fire from his tommy gun to discourage the Allies. He saw a puff of greenish smoke waft out of the Allied trench where he had thrown the canister. There was a loud scream, and Qahira knew the drop had been successful.

Quickly scanning the surrounding area, while still firing with his Thompson, Ras saw that the others with canisters had completed their drops as well. That was it.

“Pull back! Pull back!” yelled the Egyptian general.

Scrambling like crazed beetles, The Rhinos began to leg it back to their trenches. None of them wanted to get caught in the cross breeze. They knew what was happening to the Allies in the trenches. Knowing that, it was little surprising that the Germans and Britons weren’t still shooting at them.

The gas was code named Bloody Wind. It was a biological weapon, a more potent and deadly variety than had ever been produced before. It was being produced in massive quantities in Zaire. Qahira and The Rhinos had received word from Zaire about how the Bloody Wind was supposed to affect a person.

First it caused human flesh to bubble and boil into almost third-degree burns. If any skin survived, it would probably fall off in patches. Muscles would melt, and bones would become brittle, snapping at the slightest exertion. The inner organs would then begin to disintegrate. The brain would die off last, so a person would be aware of the agony he was going through.

It’s main thrust came from being radioactive. Luckily it had a half life of only a few minutes, so it would be rendered essentially inactive after an hour. An hour was enough.

Ras Qahira peered warily out of his trench. In the mad scramble away from the canisters no one had bothered to check which trench they were diving into. By the luck of the draw Qahira had ended up in the same trench as his communications officer.

“Let me have your binoculars,” said Ras to the comm officer.

He gave them up.

“Certainly, sir,” the commo chief said, but Qahira wasn’t listening.

He was watching the insane spectacle over at the Allied lines. Men and women were leaping out of their trenches, tearing at their clothes and their skin, screaming and begging for help. He watched the Bloody Wind eat away at them gradually, until only blackened skeletons remained, if that much.

“We can cross the lines and occupy those trenches,” said Qahira to his comm officer, “In three hours. Spread the word to all of my unit commanders.”

Qahira handed the binocs back to the man, who nodded and got on the radio and the phone. An hour was all the time it took for Bloody Wind to be useless, but the commander of The Rhinos didn’t intended not to take any chances.

A thin smile crossed his lips. He had a sudden sense of hope. He hadn’t felt hopeful since he had arrived in Morocco, however many months ago. With this new weapon, they might begin to make progress, maybe even push back the Allied lines. The Standstill in Morrocco might start moving sooner than expected.

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