Tuesday, January 14, 2014

See How They Run

Nothing good ever happens after midnight. While that may not have been actually taught to the soldiers of the Rodent Confederation’s Clandestine Operations Group (RCCOG), it was nonetheless true.

In concept, Operation Stockpile was an audacious and, admittedly, risky gambit. With the temperatures growing colder every night and rations become ever more sparse, the need for audacity was clear. Without additional food to supplement the moldering scraps the quartermasters provided, many of the soldiers would likely not survive the coming winter unscathed.

From the cover provided by the tall grass, Major Nigel P. Twitchwhisker  surveyed the darkened farmhouse with guarded caution. If there was anything he’d grown to hate in his years with RCCOG, it was going into an op with insufficient intelligence. When he’d complained of such, following the initial mission briefing, he’d been chastised by his superiors most harshly. The lads in Intel were, he was told in no uncertain terms, doing their level best. It was not seemly for the line soldiers to cast aspersions on their work.

A fortnight later, cold and tired and hunkered down in a muddy ditch, Twitchwhisker was no less disgruntled. There were just too many variables in this for him to not feel so. He checked his chronometer and frowned. The three men he’d sent ahead as a diversionary tactic were overdue. He was beginning to sorely regret having sent them into the unknown essentially blind.

With no forewarning of anything amiss, the silence of the night was broken by screams and uproar. Moments later, Corporal Liam Cheddarbreath and his companions, Privates Ray Gorgonzola and Bucky Crumbsnatch, burst out the door of the house. From his hidden vantage point, Twitchwhisker could see they were being pursued by an immense, hulking form. From the way his troops were moving, it was clear they had sustained significant injuries and might not be able to successfully extract to the rally point. He could spare no concern for them as the remainder of his force deployed. The best he could do for his men’s sacrifice was to ensure it had not been in vain.

He was back at base for nearly three days before the major could bring himself to visit his wounded trio of scouts in the base infirmary. While Operation Stockpile had achieved its objective and the specter of hunger put to rest, it had come at a heavy cost. No one had anticipated the wife of the landholder would defend against their intrusion so vehemently. While his men were seasoned fighters all, they had little experience of facing a wild-eyed opponent wielding a knife with such ferocity. They would bear the scars of that battle not only within their hearts but for all the world to see in the terrible disfigurement they had suffered at the hands of their foe.

Entering the intensive care ward, he could scarcely imagine how traumatic it would be for those poor souls to face going through the rest of their lives…without tails. It just wasn’t right.

This story was written for the Finish That Thought flash fiction challenge prompt phrase: Nothing good ever happens after midnight.

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