Major General Ras Qahira was squatting in a disgusting trench. It wasn't worrying him, though. He had more important concerns. He looked to his right. There was a nod from the man directly next to him. He looked to his left. The woman there also nodded. That was the signal that everything was ready all the way down the line. The Egyptian general smiled and checked his watch, the one with the ankh on it. Slowly he lifted his flare gun into the air, and, when the time was right, fired.
The flare gave off a large explosion, but it was instantly dwarfed by a hundred other explosions going off immediately afterward in a long chain reaction. All down the lines of trenches, artillery gun after artillery gun was going off. Even with advanced ear plugs they still hurt the major general's ears.
The sounds were actually that of the artillery recoiling. The shells were not actually exploding. That was because each shell was filled with a few liters of liquid Bloody Wind. The shells were fragile enough to shatter on impact with the ground, releasing their deadly payload, but strong enough to survive being fired from a cannon.
The shells streaked through the air, leaving criss crossing streams of smoke all throughout the sky. They began to fall behind the Alliance lines, and the screams of Germans, Frenchmen, and Englishmen soon added to the din.
"Ready yourselves!" Qahira screamed.
There was an almost simultaneous metallic click as thousands of rifles and machine guns, and even the occasional captured AS gun, were brought to bear. They were all pointing up, towards the top of the trenches. Then it began.
As though the gates of hell had opened and furious demons were screaming out, enemy troops came flying into the African trenches. They were all crazed madmen, their eyes wild with fear of the deadly gas which had fallen into the trenches behind them. They were the troops which had been in the foremost trenches.
Terrified, most of them had left their weapons behind in their trenches. Their mass exodus was halted immediately by the prickly porcupine whose spines were the Rhino's conventional guns. Hands flew into the air. They all felt blessed to be captured rather than face the chemical atrocities behind them.
"Surrender or die, Boche dogs!" one of the Rhinos who spoke German screamed, at Qahira's prompting.
Similar demands were made in French and English moments later. Many of them lay down in the mud, to show that they weren't trying anything. Qahira pointed at one of his captains.
"You," he said, "Lead them back behind the lines to the prisoner transports. Take enough men and women to guard them."
The African captain did as he was ordered, and slowly the Alliance troops were herded behind the Coalition lines like cattle. The major general gestured with a wave of his hand.
"Let's continue to move forward!" he ordered.
The newer batches of Bloody Wind were growing more potent and the effects were not as lasting. After a few minutes the chemical, nuclear, and biological poisons would be rendered neutral. Troops could almost instantly occupy territory hit by Bloody Wind. The Rhinos marched forward into the enemy trenches.
Green skeletons and less inviting sights awaited them there. Many of the younger Rhinos purged themselves. Qahira could understand. He had done the same thing the first time he had occupied a trench which had been ravaged by the terrible weapon. They continued to press forward through the charnel house.
"I wonder if the Spanish are having the same...luck?" an Algerian colonel asked, hesitating to use such a positive word for such a deadly event.
"I'm sure they're doing as well, if not better, than we are," Qahira replied.
The Spanish troops had followed the Alliance troops into Morocco from the north in order to cut off their supply lines. In this way the far superior Alliance force was being plagued from both the north by the Spanish and the south by the Africans. It had hardly hastened an end to the Standstill in Morocco.
"Look!" exclaimed a private who was taking the point.
Qahira looked in the direction where the private was pointing. Specks of troops could be barely seen off in the distance. They were moving forward.
"More Allies," the colonel said glumly, "It looks like we have more fighting to do. Well, at least we gained some ground."
Qahira squinted, fighting the sun to see just who was coming. Suddenly his face broke into surprise and pleasure.
"No," he said, "Not Allies. Those are Spaniards. We've finally met up with them. We've cut through the entire Alliance force! The Standstill is over! We've won!"
"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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