Friday, 11 May 2007

Chapter 53: The Only Difference

The night air was still and cool, easing the heat within the soldiers’ uniforms as they carried out their tasks before the arrival of the extraction team. Captain Stein stood on the front steps, barking orders at everyone. Most of the soldiers were running around, gathering together as much of the outpost’s equipment as they could.

Far away on the horizon, two gunships were just visible, approaching from the mountains to collect the inhabitants of the outpost and take them to the regional headquarters where they would be better protected. Captain Stein and his contacts at the regional headquarters all suspected there would be an attack. The question was: could they get out of there in time?

Three tall wooden structures stood in grassy clearings. They were lookout towers, each holding a supply of ammunition and sun block, which every soldier hoped would be enough to deal with any attack.

The remaining soldiers were climbing ladders into the wooden towers with their rifles and silver-plated swords strapped to their backs. When each soldier reached the top, they pulled the cord above them to illuminate the protective ultraviolet lamps and adorned themselves with standard-issue wraparound sunglasses.

The fact of the matter was that with the exception of Captain Stein, no one else at Hartley House had participated in a major battle. A lot of them had never even seen a real vampire.

Private Brown stood at the top of his tower and checked that his rifle was loaded. Then he picked up a bottle of sunscreen, squirted a big dollop into his hands and rubbed it into every exposed area on his body. He then checked his rifle again.

Don’t worry
, he told himself, this is an exercise just like any other. I’ve watched over dozens of extractions and they’ve all gone perfectly smoothly. There’s no reason why this won’t go according to plan.

Private Brown cast his eyes around the grounds and saw the one thing that made this exercise different. Doctor Owen appeared on the front steps of Hartley House.

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