The Lorelei Signal

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A Fine Body

Written by Ray Daley / Artwork by Marcia Borell

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Suddenly there it is, back again like an old familiar friend, the rapid clicking in my ears. “Comms is back up. This is Zero Alpha, radio check, over.”

 

“Alpha One, voice received, test Morse, Sarge?”

 

I have to catch myself not to shake my head, even after all these years of doing the job. They never will give us the helmet cameras, far too expensive. “Negative. All other stations, check in.”

 

Then one by one, my boys make themselves known.

 

“Alpha Two, voice received.”

 

“Alpha Three, voice received.”

 

“Alpha Five, voice received.”

 

Hang on, something wrong there. “All stations hold. Wait one. Alpha Four, come in.”

 

Static.

 

“Alpha Four, come in. Any other station have eyes on Alpha Four?”

 

“Alpha Ten here, Sarge, I do. Off to my three o’clock, about two hundred metres, sleeping like a baby. You want I go make a wake-up call?”

 

“Not in person, Ten. You know the rules. Every station remains isolated until we reach the objective. You got your suppressor on?”

 

“That’s an affirm, Sarge.”

 

“One round, two feet in front. In your own time, go on.”

 

I already know Ten will fire right away. “Radio check, Alpha Four. How me?”

 

It’s a tired sounding voice which then replies, “Solid green, Sergeant Beck, voice received and ready for Morse, how me?”

 

“No names on the net, you should know Op Sec! Sounds like you were asleep on the job, Alpha Four, and we aren’t doing Morse. Which you’d know, if you’d been awake. Consider yourself under close arrest. Don’t you dare get killed before Endex, you feel me?”

 

Verstehen, Zero Alpha. It won’t happen again.”

 

“Once is already one too many, Four. All stations from Alpha Five, resume radio check.”

 

“Alpha Six, voice received.”

 

“Alpha Seven, voice received.”

 

“Alpha Eight, voice received.”

 

“Alpha Nine, voice received.”

 

“Alpha Ten, voice received. Last man, Sergeant!”

 

I try not to grin. “Okay, men, you all know your targets. We’ll begin to move at oh eight hundred. My watch reads oh seven fifty in five, four, three, two, one, mark. And try to stay awake through the shooting, Four. The last thing I need is to have to write your mother, telling her how you got yourself killed, sleeping on the job.”

 

I orientate myself. From my position I can see Alpha Three and Alpha Eight. Good lads, solid under fire. They won’t flap if we get incoming. Which we will. Because I know they’re expecting us. I just wish that HQ would let me tell the lads. It hadn’t been a particularly long conversation, when I’d asked the boss for permission to share the Intel. “Come on, Boss-man, it’s a shit mission already. Don’t make it worse by making me withhold Intel from the boys. It’s a need to know thing.”

 

“And they don’t need to know, Sarge. You know, they don’t. This kind of Intel is above their pay-grade. Unless you fancy sharing some of that bonus with them?”

 

“With all due respect, sir? Get fucked.”

 

“Thought as much, Sergeant. You know the mission at hand. Now crack on! HQ out.”

 

~ * ~

 

The hand on my watch sweeps around faster than I ever remember it doing before. I have to double check the time on my HUD. Yep, it’s right. “Okay, men, moving in three, two, one, go!”

 

As the first pair move, everyone else gives support. No-one’s firing at us. Yet_ That doesn’t mean they won’t though. We know they’ve already been promised big bounties for taking any of us out.

 

The second pair move into position, diving onto their faces into handy bushes for cover. Alpha Six has picked some nettles. Ouch, that’s gonna sting! “Drop a stim, Six. NRR.” Ah, military jargon. The world of TLA’s or three letter acronyms. NRR means no response required. In other words, do what you’re told and don’t bitch about it.

 

With the stim rapidly dissolving, Six won’t feel anything. Pray you get shot, Six, those stingers are gonna come back to bite you hard when we’re done here. If we live.

 

Which we might.

 

Now the men are moving in waves of two, every other minute. I move with Alpha Eight, keeping a nice solid body between me and any potential in-coming. By the time we’re in position, Alphas One through Six are already laying down a solid blanket of suppressing fire onto the target.

 

“They’re sending them out! The bastards are sending them out!”

 

“This is Zero Alpha, maintain correct RP lads. And no TX without ID.” That’s just me telling them not to swear, to keep up correct radio procedure, and not to transmit without giving their call-signs either.

 

“Alpha Two, Sarge, sorry. I’ll see the Provost when we get back.”

 

Good lad, performing self-discipline. Do I even need to be here?

 

“This is Alpha Two, we’ve got incoming. Shots fired from the upper floor, looks like they’re sending out the women first, Sarge. But they’re not armed. Advice please?”

 

“Drop ‘em, son, leg shots if you can. They know what they’re doing. See if anyone can take out those roof positions.”

 

“Alpha Four, one done, two remaining. Got a clean bead from my O.P, Sarge. Good to go.” They’re visible from that position. Good.

 

“Fire at will, Four. I might even reconsider that charge. Head-shots if you can, son.”

 

I move into my final position and start firing at their snipers. They can’t see me. With the prevailing gusts it takes me three shots to take out the first one. I see her hair billowing in the wind as my round exits the back of her skull. More women again? Was our Intel duff?

 

Then I hear the synthesised shouts of pain over the network. “Man down! Man down! Alpha Seven, may require casevac!”

 

“Hold fast if you can, lad. We’ll get you on the way out. We’ve still got a job to do yet. Do you need cover?”

 

“Negative, Sarge. I’m good. I can sit up, got the wall to my back and good angles of fire too.”

 

“All call-signs excepting Seven. Move in, you know the drill.”

 

Alpha Seven gives me a thumbs up as I go in last. Not that badly injured then. You big girl!

 

Over the comms I can hear various call-signs taking out their assigned rooms. I make my way to Command and Control. Their officer already has her hands up, when I get there. “Looks like you were expecting me then? So where are the assets?”

 

She flicks her hair, hoping to distract me with her feminine wiles. A blonde? Yuck! Sorry sweetheart, I’m not that way inclined. Give me a good honest redhead, any day of the week! I take her gun and order her to make the surrender. “Red Troop, Red Troop. This is Major Miles. Stand down. This is not a drill. Stand down.”

 

I can hear the booing of my men even with the comms turned right down. Heart breakers and life takers, that’s my boys. “All Alpha call-signs, not you, Seven, you big girl! Take whatever prisoners are left alive. Then a thorough search for the assets, the Major isn’t being much help on that front.”

 

I try to make her talk again after sending my message. “Okay then, Major, exactly where will my men find the assets? We already know they’re here.”

 

She stares into my polarised face-guard. Nice try, lady, but you can’t see through them. The only way you’re seeing my face is if I take this thing off. It doesn’t stop her trying to bait me though. “The air is safe to breath in here, Sergeant Beck, isn’t it? Call-sign Zero Alpha?”

 

Wow. We have got a serious comms problem then, if she knows my name and my bloody call-sign? Thank god we use the voice synths. “I don’t suppose you want to share who your mole is, do you, Major?”

 

She shakes her long silky blonde hair again. That’s still not working on me, sorry, Major. “No? Didn’t think so. We’ll have to see if one of your girls is a bit more helpful.”

 

She lets me cuff her and goes willingly to the transport that has now landed outside. Then I catch myself, about twenty feet away from boarding. That was a little bit too willingly. Especially for a Major. “Stand still, Major. Got to search you for concealed weapons.”

 

She looks me up and down. “You know the rules of war, Sergeant. You’ll need a woman for that.”

 

Then I take off my helmet and utterly piss on her party. “Hello, Mary.”

 

“You... you’re...” but Major Miles can’t finish her sentence, and nor will she ever. Because I’ve just taken her breath away.

 

“A woman? Yes, Major. Unless you’d prefer another of Alpha Troop to search you? I can ask Seven here, if you like?”

 

Seven uses the wall to stand up, then pulls off her bulky helmet. “You need me, Sarge?”

 

Major Miles can’t process what she’s seeing. “But you... I thought? You said ‘men’? And ‘boys’? And ‘lads’?” Sally can look quite pretty after a fire-fight, but she’s not at her best today though, what with the leg wound and all. “Just standard terms, Major. You won’t find a man amongst the men of Alpha Troop. Now then, where are those assets? Or do I have to ask Sally here to put a bullet into one of your legs? They are quite nice legs, I’d so hate to ruin them.”

 

Then Miles gives me those eyes, burning with hate. “Sub-level two, room ten. It’s coded to my fingerprint though.”

 

Behind her I hear Sally ripping a length of duct tape. She sticks the Major’s fingers to it, then rips it off, fast and hard. And painful too, because she can be a right cow, when she wants to be. Then she presents me the tape. “Fingerprints, Sarge. Or is it the other hand, Major?”

 

Miles shakes her head and I send Alpha Four down to open the room.

 

I search Miles thoroughly, a little bit more than she expects me to, from her reaction. I find the gun I expected to find, and the knife. I also find two more knives, both well hidden. “Anything else, Major? Don’t make me have to fist you.”

 

“Derringer. Should be within finger grasp,” she mutters.

 

She takes her underwear down herself, I retrieve the offending item. Gun in the vagina? I guess you really _do_ see all sorts in this job! I check her hair and I’m thankful for my gloves when I find something sharp. Then I hustle her to the transport where the Load-master is stood waiting for us to arrive.

 

“Take those shoes off too, Major, before you get on. You might want to give her new clothes. I can’t promise she isn’t still armed. And that’s after checking her vagina.”

 

The Load-master strips Miles down to her skin then runs a detector over her from head to foot. She’s clean now, no more weapons. Nice ass too. Must try to get on her interrogation team. Purely for research purposes, you understand. As I said before, I really don’t care for blondes.

 

The Load-master already has itchy feet, wanting to get out of the combat zone. “Good to go, Sergeant?”

 

“We’ll have the others out here in five. You okay to hold fast until then?”

 

The Load-master smiles. She’s a nice girl. Millicent, I think her name is. I seem to recall training her in Boot. “You’re still a bad-ass, Sergeant!”

 

Then I’m getting the call from Four. “Sarge, you need to come down here and see this.”

 

That doesn’t sound good.

 

Because it isn’t. Room ten is full of dead bodies. Still warm. Dead men aren’t any good to us. We needed live men. Why the hell did they kill all the men? Women are ten a penny these days. Men are valuable. A true asset.

 

I take pictures and shoot them back to the Boss-man. She is going to be super pissed off at this FUBAR. Look that one up yourself. Trust me, it’s worth it.

 

She’s on my case minutes later, having had time to react to the pictures. “You promised me live bodies, Sarge!”

 

“I promised you nothing, Boss. And I’ve got one man wounded, thanks to your bloody need to know policy. And just so you know, because you need to? I’m going to have your arse for that. We’re loading the prisoners now. Send us another transport, a freezer. If you make it here quick enough, I think there might still be a chance, the medics might be able to salvage something from the bodies.”

 

Outside, the other surviving prisoners are now all stripped and changed into their orange jumpsuits. It’s such an unflattering colour. I’m yet to meet a prisoner who can carry it off. Why orange, I’ve always wondered? I must look that up, when we get back to base. Someone’ll know back there. They always do.

 

Then I gather my lads together to finally move out. A fine body of men. And not a penis between them. Well, not a real one at least.

 

Perhaps one of these days we will find some actual living men. Maybe even try and get the species going again. I pity them, if we do. Poor buggers.

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Ray Daley was born in Coventry & still lives there. He served 6 yrs in the RAF as a clerk & spent most of his time in a Hobbit hole in High Wycombe. He is a published poet & has been writing stories since he was 10. His current dream is to eventually finish the Hitch Hikers fanfic novel he's been writing since 1986. Tweet him @RayDaleyWriter