Excerpt from "A Bridge Just Far Enough"
The injured officer lay upon the beach, watching the waves line up one by one to kiss the shore with shy affection then, as each kiss left the shore unmoved, to retreat, humiliated, and be swallowed up by the sea. Neither had the bridge left any impression upon the sand. It had vanished once it was no longer of use. That is the nature of magical things. It had saved the soldier's life by facilitating her escape to this abandoned strip of nowhere. Then, to all appearances, it had left her here to die. The past twenty-four hours, if that's how many there'd been, felt like a dream. They'd had a dream's surreality, and all the horror of nightmare. The war was over. The troops had been returning home. None of it should have happened. Granted, the ambush made a certain amount of sense. Generals sign treaties, commanders declare truce, but the message takes time to propagate. This is especially true when harsh sanctions rob the occupied citizenry of rapid communication technology. The party that had lain in wait for Lt. Carhide and her crew, maybe they just didn't know that hostilities had ended. Or maybe they didn't care. Maybe they were just waiting to express their displeasure with what the occupying troops had done to pa's back forty, or to the cattle that had been grazing there, or to pa himself, or to pa's little girl. Of such atrocities, Lt. Carhide had tried to keep clean any hands over which she had authority. It's important to be able to think well of yourself after carrying arms into foreign lands. You have to be able to justify to yourself every time you pulled the trigger. So it was deeply unfair that her troop should be the one to get ambushed, after all she'd done to enforce their best behavior. Still, as far as the ambush party was concerned, the invasion itself was a deeper injustice. Someone had to be punished for it. Any representative of the occupying force would do. She barked orders into the comm unit. "Hold your fire. Hold your fire! Divert course to--" The carrier reversed, back-pedaled, U-turned. Lt. Carhide herself covered their retreat, armed with nothing but a handful of rocks. She was hoping that the gesture would count for something. Maybe it did. Everyone in the troop got away, except for her. __ Full-length Fictionette (1472 words) in PDF format available to Patrons here: https://www.patreon.com/creation?hid=1807104