Just before dawn, the last-watch guard entered the downriver commander’s tent and fired his shot-blaster into the commander’s snoring face. One of the other guards dragged the commander’s corpse through the mud to the river bank, waded in until he was chest-deep and the corpse floated in the current, and released it to float downstream.
The other men began to wake up, one by one, and tended to their personal needs. They ate in silence after which they started to move upriver and homeward.
The STU beside the downriver commander’s cot squawked in high pitched tones to the emptiness of the tent.
The upriver commander called his commanding general on his STU to report that his troops had sustained a 75% loss of personnel and materiel against superior Rat forces deployed along the river bordering the Uncharted Areas. The commander surmised that the Rats had superior technology, including the ability to control the local weather to their advantage and to use lightning as an accurate and effective weapon. He recommended to his superior officer massive reinforcements to overcome the enemy and make them rue the day they were born. The commanding general explained there were no more troops available. It would take months to draft and train them.
“Sir, in that case,” the upriver commander said to his superior, “I recommend falling back with our remaining forces to defend our home sectors from an expected Rat counter attack.