Hold the line

Captain Ryan Hold had a feeling nothing would happen by the end of the day. It was unusually quiet, the dull grey of the sky compressing the atmosphere, making everything move a little more slowly than usual. There was no wind to rustle the leaves and no traffic on the dusty cobblestone roads. They were all closed for the parade. The discrepancy between the din expected of a public holiday and the reality of the still barracks life made Ryan feel like he somehow did something wrong, performed his morning rituals and did his chores incorrectly. He struggled to remember what might have caused this.

The soldiers had already left before Ryan arrived this morning. He wished he hadn’t moved up the ranks so quickly. He missed his friends, he missed performing the same tasks everyday in company, laughing at the same jokes and mocking those in higher ranks, not because they were bad, most of them were quite good, but because it was part of subalterns’ duty and the professional way to show affection. He was one of the higher ranks. And he mostly spent his time on paperwork, running inspections, attending meetings, and waiting for the phone to ring.

After lunch he went for his second patrol of the day, duty he had with all the soldiers being away. He finished the round and entered the communications office. It mostly served for respite and as a log book deposit since phones had been installed all over the base.
The old telegraph machine came to life and filled the room with a sense of urgency conveyed using simple tones:

BeepBeep…BeBeep…BeepBe – and carried on.

Having had Morse code drilled into his head in military school, Ryan didn’t miss a single thing, even while trying to figure out why anyone would be telegraphing in this day and age.

’Man with a gun’, the message read.

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