All Along The Fence Line

We’d seen them eyeing up easy targets. Passing strays of the four wheeled variety, even ones marked in red and blue livery, testing probes seeking a response. They got one. A disgruntled veteran with too much time on his hands and a chip on his shoulder. A dressing down was needed, dad’s army vanished shame faced into the shrubbery, a senior officer weathering the storm of tirades with forced good humour. Armaments were confiscated, stored against future proliferation. From our high ground deck we all watched this, considering. We knew they could see us, considered us weak, easy targets. Surely it was only a matter of time before the pygmy horde next door turned their attention on us. We discussed tactics, strategy, our sadly under equipped standing strength. An ageing military. But we had the high ground…

A decision was made, arms were purchased, defences readied. Reservoirs were placed on the primary bunker overlooking the contestable territory, secondary munitions of liquid retaliation were placed alongside the hydrogen-oxygen ammo drums, bolstering the primary and secondary waterbases, prominently displayed where the enemy could see them.

 

They were not missed. Junior members of the enemy force, scouts we suspected from their slight build and rabbit like demeanour, skirted the edge of our territory. They were armed but only lightly, eyeing our considerable reserves with avarice and speculation. They spoiled for a fight but clearly feared inevitable retaliation and a dressing down from their own high command. The enemy brain trust sent us a cleverly word message. “Don’t start something you can’t finish.” We considered this, and further bolstered our reserves, all within reach, within sight. A show of strength? More like an invitation. Come at us.

A day and a night passed. We waited, the enemy camp seemed deserted. But as the afternoon wore on patrols started to return, resting in their barracks of corrugated iron. But they’d made a critical mistake. They’d left their roller door defensive wall raised.

A single shot sailed out, striking short of unprotected bunks, staining the concrete. Teenaged faces, consternated with the male indignity of youth looked up in surprise. Then went down, content it was a one off misfire.

 

The second shot struck the building square. Shaking the corrugated structure to its foundation, spilling out to drip over the gaping opening. Eyes turned to me, incredulous at the sheer brazenness. I assured them it was deliberate.

The trio of enemy males gathered, conferred, eyes glancing askew at us, determining if more projectiles were incoming. We lined the walls our of mighty fortress, munitions in hand, biding our time. The next move was theirs. They found themselves woefully under prepared, outgunned, weapons still stashed in the storeroom. Across the drive. Across open, unprotected killing ground. One would have to be a madman to attempt that run.

 

They tried anyway. A brave, desperate sprint across that bare ground. Few of them made it, none of them dry or unscathed. The cries of young adults rang out on the air. We waited again, but not for long, they began to return fire, an unco-ordinated, sporadic response, poorly executed. We struck at their black rubbery construct, and its metal, springy frame, thinking it might be some malicious weapon of warfare, crewed as it was by several of their lighter infantry. It confirmed our suspicions as it absorbed our attacks, seeming to be only strengthened and enhanced by them, becoming more potent. We quickly expended our munitions chasing them from the field, surely we’d had more? Then we realised we’d been betrayed. Atwill was nowhere to be seen, deserting his post. Somehow he’d seen fit to treat with the enemy, exchanging a cache of precious munitions in the midst of hostilities. Levelling the playing field, he told us from the fenceline. We told him in force what we thought of his levelling, to the cheers of the enemy as we turned on our own. The fighting resumed, fast and intense, supplies dwindled to nothing and both sides withdrew. We congratulated ourselves on our mastery of the battlefield.

 

But not for long. We felt uneasy, Hodges and myself exchanged uneasy glances, remembering the prophetic warning. Don’t start something you can’t finish. Had we, like Japan before us, awakened a sleeping giant? The doomsayings of Brown suggested we had, calls for rearmament were made. Sceptics were quashed, pacifists were outcast. Deserters were conscripted back into the ranks, threatened with grievous torture if they strayed again. We watched the enemy camp, observed the call go out for reinforcements, supply chains being constructed. We were in trouble.

 

Half of us went, the supply depot was far away, there was the chance of encountering the enemy along the way, staring each other down from other sides of the tills. Worse was the thought that they might empty the merchant reservoirs before we had a chance to rearm ourselves. Myself, Hodges, Thompson and Atwill went, half our reserves but we judged it necessary. But all was quiet, we began to rearm in earnest, four fold what we had before. Mackintosh assumed the role of quartermaster, doling out munitions as fast as they could be manufactured. Production only increased as we watched vehicle after vehicle arrive and disgorge tiny terrors, rushing to faucets to prepare for war. Our paranoia had served us well, we’d missed the enemy by mere moments. Waterarms were laid out at strategic points, reserves filled, heavier munitions were prepped. We debated briefly about our ace in the hole, weapons of mass deluge, but decided to keep these in reserve. For now.

The enemy fired first, Green drew their fire while we finished our preparations. As before we struck back with overwhelming force, content to bunker in our impregnable fortress. But the enemy had learned, devious munchkins that they were they had developed new strategies. The Brown brigade called out to us in warning, we were being flanked, the secondary fortifications were in danger, the enemy was bring the fight to us, those furtive, lightly armed and armoured skirmishers were crossing the borderline. The Browns cried out again. Breach! We rushed to shore up the defences, battening hatches against the incoming deluge, protecting critical electronic infrastructure. The enemy was sheltering under our own fortifications, devious imps, while the heavier troops stayed back beyond the fence line, keeping up their barrage. We turned it though, catching their own munitions, turning them back.

 

Enemy below! There was one, sandy haired, face filled with malicious glee who had sheltered directly beneath us. We feared they were weakening our supports but couldn’t reach them, they appeared only briefly to fire at point blank range. Valuable munitions were expended trying to clear them out. Then an innovation, such as often happens in warfare. The floor below us was not solid, second storey that it was. We doused our own foundations, pouring liquid through the boards to those tresspassers below. We heard cries, knew we’d struck them well. The enemy retreated.

 

But as before, not for long. The same scouts, tiny and shrill of voice, ranged into our territory again. We thought we had their number, targeting as we were certain individuals in livery of red, or brown, or black who had so far eluded our retaliation. As we picked them off we were blind to our peril. That feral child from before had found our secret, safe as she was below our lines, she rained up at us with our weapon of mass deluge, hosing us, as it were. Our strategy of catch and return had been vilely twisted back upon us. Munitions and watearms alone weren’t enough in the face of such waterpower. Someone would have to descend below, outside of our defences. This was going to cost us.

 

Brown and I went, him sheltering at the lower interior defences, munitions at hand. Go, go, go! The door slid open, a rush to the weapon, a twist to its power supply and the weapon was wrested away. Once unleashed it could not be put away and by itself it was enough to hold off half the enemy force, to chase them from the grounds.

Above ground they were still holding strong. We’d had a lucky break, their general himself was down, lying prone upon the hot ground, doused and pummelled repeatedly, crying out for a medic. We showed no mercy as we expected none in return. The stakes raised, the enemy replied with their own weapon of mass deluge. Even some from their side thought this too much, there were calls for restraint, referring to the arms we had given them, both before and during this current exchange. Yes, we had rearmed them once again, but it had been a joint decision, and the weapons had not been live, merely empty casings needing to be filled.

There was a lull as an older civilian sought to escape the dangerzone, flying the white flag of sacred underpants upon their bike. We let the old man go, knowing we had his progeny encircled. Encircled around us, perhaps, but encircled nonetheless. Other bikes tried to follow, but lacking the white flag we denied them a clean escape, knowing they might return to haunt us.

 

The battle raged for what felt like hours. Because it did. Unrelenting but ever turning in our favour as our superior tactics and armaments bolstered our inferior numbers. Time and again their lighter troops would foray into our territory and time and again we would drive them back. Finally the call from senior officers went out. Armistice. The enemy was expended, our reserves were few but we displayed them just the same, as we had before the first enfilade. We were battered, soaked and weary but if they came at us again we could still draw water. But the fragile peace held and we turned out attention to picking up the pieces. Amongst ourselves we recalled the valorous deeds of ourselves and the enemy, noting the names we had heard called out in the midst of the fighting.

 

And come the following morning we received a message from the enemy. A message touching in its simplicity. And all was good along the fence line.

Hi



Comments are closed.