I would not be using these, my Captain. They have betrayed us once already. I have been thinking, and it can be nothing else. The sunlight reflecting from the lenses . . .
The frenetic stammering of the machine-guns stopped abruptly and in unison, the sound sheared off as by a guillotine. The sudden silence was curiously oppressive, louder, more obtrusive than the clamour that had gone before. The gravelly earth beneath his elbows grated harshly as Mallory shifted his weight slightly, looked at the two men to his right, Andrea with his impassive face empty of all expression, Louki with the sheen of tears in his eyes. Then he became aware of the low murmuring to his left, shifted round again. Bitter-mouthed, savage, the American was swearing softly and continuously, oblivious to the pain as he pounded his fist time and again into the sharp-edged gravel before him.
His last words were caught up and drowned in the tearing, rapid-fire crash of the automatic carbines. With four machine-guns in their hands-two Brens and two 9 mm. Schmeissers-it was no war, as he had said, but sheer, pitiful massacre, with the defenceless figures on the slope below, figures still stunned and uncomprehending, jerking, spinning round and collapsing like marionettes in the hands of a mad puppeteer, some to lie where they fell, others to roll down the steep slope, legs and arms flailing in the grotesque disjointedness of death. Only a couple stood still where they had been hit, vacant surprise mirrored in their lifeless faces, then slipped down tiredly to the stony ground at their feet. Almost three seconds had passed before the handful of those who still lived-about a quarter of the way in from either end of the line where converging streams of fire had not yet met-realised what was happening and flung themselves desperately to the ground in search of the cover that didn’t exist.
What Loiiki told you
Jus’ daydreamin’, boss he said easily.Jus’ daydreamin’. He shook out his pack of cigarettes.Have one?
Miller studied the guns drawn up on the road behind the two trucks and cleared his throat.
Mallory stared at him, slowly released his grip on the glasses, nodded several times in succession.
I do not believe it, Andrea said flatly.You couldn’t make a mistake like that, my Captain.
Not only could, but did, I’m afraid. But we’ll worry about that afterwards. The middle of the ragged line of advancing soldiers, slipping and stumbling on the treacherous scree, …….