The sense of our impending action weighed on me, but I couldn’t let it show. I refused to. We marched stead for hours in silence, no contact, no trails – just endless sand. Dune after dune and mile after mile, we bore down on the Caspian. My mind running through manoeuvres and drills for keeping my boys alive once me made it to Karakoyyn. With the Shining Light Army on the warpath we could run into them at any moment, if they had reached that far southwest. And even if they didn’t, the rogues at Karakoyyn Lake would need suppressing. One way or the other we were in for a fight, we just needed to be ready.
“Sir?” Junior whispered.
“What is it?”
“Sir, I’ve been thinking about this lake we’re coming up on and it’s gotta have some undesirables holed up there. It’s too remote, even for the Kazakhs. There’s bound to be some action up there. I want to volunteer for reconnaissance detail when we get near. Just put me in there and I’ll get the job done, Sir.”
“I have no doubts whatsoever that you will Junior. Thanks, mate. I’ll put your name at the top of the list. Just do me a favour and keep it to yourself for now. We don’t need a fight looming in the air the whole way out to this lake. Ok?”
“Yes, Sir. No problem, Sir.”
And there it was, the first of my boys had stepped forward and volunteered his services. This wasn’t uncommon, but more so it was the experienced soldier who could see the bigger picture and would be first to made such requests of their own volition. Junior did himself proud by being first to ask me if I’d use him. It wasn’t out of boredom or through seeking glory; he just wanted to protect his brothers. I remember when I was about his age I had done the same thing, it was the first time I’d stared death in the face. Back when I was just a private. I remembered then the feeling of how I felt before I approached my CO, knotted up about my perception of the probability some of us weren’t gonna make it back to base alive that night. I felt for Junior, knowing what he was going through, but I had larger issues at play and returned to running drills over and over in my mind as we moved on.
To be continued…
© Stephen Fahey