We turned the truck around and loaded it up with our gear, then filled the tank to capacity. There were still a few fuel cans left over so we loaded them too. Once the truck was readied we swapped clothes with as many of the clowns as we could and tied them together with a knot they would eventually get out of, but not any time soon. As my men prepared the truck I spoke to L2 and Tony about my plans.
“We all know this next five to ten miles of beach is the perfect area to station reserve forces, Sir. But I couldn’t see any from the peak.”
“Anyone not barracked in Atyrau will have their guard down out here, but there’s still probably a couple of hundred men between us and the city.”
“Now we have transport again, Gents, we either head inland and then north or straight up the beach. There’s fuel enough for to get us about a hundred miles, but our chances drop with every mile we move north. In this ragtag gear and this truck we should be able to get through any encampments, but our faces will betray us up close. If we move by night we stand a better chance. So, although it’s more dangerous, we’re taking the beach. It’s quicker and nobody knows we’re here.”
“Sir. If it kicks off will we keep the columns?”
“We will. If and when we make contact we’ll ride that truck until it drops. Once our boots are on the ground though we’ll fall back north in a rolling retreat through the dunes. We can’t sit still though. Not for one minute.”
“Let’s get on the move.”
And so we left the patrol base. The old Thornycroft rumbled along under the weight of all of us and our gear like a horse with a broken leg, but it went. It felt fantastic to have transport again, even though we were packed in on top of each other like kippers in a tin. Moving up the beach as close to the dunes as possible to try and stay out of sight, we all held our breath. A night time patrol wasn’t expected to be on the beach itself with the water and land patrols active. And if we came into contact with anyone then we would have had our backs against the water, but it was the fastest possible route and we were ready for anything.
It didn’t take long before we came up on more ragtags. After about two miles we saw four men loitering on the sand a few hundred yards ahead of us. They looked like they were off duty, just sitting and talking around a small cooking fire.
Getting out of truck I walked around to the back, “Right, Gents. We have a few stragglers on the beach ahead of us. Longshot, take Grubber and watch our backs at fifty yards.”
“L2, Bacon, Baldy and Tyk, on me.”
In our ragged wears we cut the image of Serik’s boys at a distance but that would only get us so close. I knew we would have to take these men with stealth, and although we all despised their leader, I didn’t want to have to give the order I was about to give.
“Gentlemen, we have no choice but to take these young men. I want knives only, but keep your side arm unclipped, just in case.”
“Sid, if shots are fired I want you to move the truck up, but don’t stop. Just crawl alongside us and we’ll bail on. Once we’re in though I want you to open her all the way up.”
To be continued…
© Stephen Fahey