P5

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P5 - GALATEA

Salt water is more dense than fresh water, and the very salty water of the Great Bitter Lake provided a good deal of buoyancy indeed. Swimming was easy. Nineteen soldiers followed Del out about a kilometer off-shore, where che flipped on hez back and kicked lazily, waiting for the Galatea to pull up and hopefully spot them.

The ship, it turned out, was loaded with Israeli soldiers. They fished them out of the water, and rifles were lowered again when they recognized their catch. The men and women with Del, standing there soaking wet, started to laugh as they finally understood what was happening. The 1185 other men and women of Del's Bravo Battalion, the half che left behind in Eilat, were aboard this cargo ship.

There were towels on hand, and fresh uniforms waiting for them below deck. As the ship continued to steam north, Del retired to a stateroom reserved for hem, where che showered and caught up on the message traffic. Che want- ed to know what was happening with the war. The antimatter burst had de- stroyed a column of 680 Egyptian battle tanks and about 400 Armored Person- nel Carriers which had crossed the 1949 Armistice Line into the Negev Desert, over the old boundary of Israel. Shyla had killed perhaps 8,000 Egyptians instantly. The main prong of the enemy attack had been blunted.

Del noted that the Egyptian boys had gotten their fanciest toys, their tanks and APCs, across the canal first on the Ismailia bridge. Then after the bridge was destroyed, again by Shyla, they sent over fuel and ammuni- tion for their toys on hastily erected pontoon bridges south of Lake Tim- sah. Only now after these pontoons were in turn destroyed did they realize they had neglected the unglamorous but vital supply of water, for drinking and for their vehicles. The latest Israeli intel traffic reported that the Egyptians were now trying to correct their oversight with a desperate lo- gistics operation at Deversoir just north of the Great Bitter Lake.

Del's officers gathered in the wardroom for evening chow, and she used this opportunity to outline hez plan. Everyone will be armed with one laser rifle and one very old, portable, wire-guided Anti-Tank Guided Weapon. But they shall not be used against tanks. Do not waste them on ammunition trucks or fuel trucks either. The Egyptians can't drink petrol. All I want you to do is hit water trucks. Or water tanks. Or water pipes. Thirst is our weapon. That's phase one. Phase two, we run south and raise calamity in the Egyptian rear at Fayid.

What formation do you have in mind for the attack? Brand asked hem.

None. Everyone stays in squads. No more of this bunching up nonsense. We fight the battle loose, the way we've trained so many times before, with everyone talking on their micros.

Tactical planning then turned to what would happen after Deversoir. Bravo Battalion never rested on its laurels. After each soldier fired their round, Del ordered an exhausting night-time run north over fifteen klicks of loose sand to capture the crossroads town of Fayid.

Around midnight the ship came to a halt on the northwestern shore of the swollen lake where a long ridge of piled up sand contained the risen lake and kept it from flooding the town. Planks were shoved out from the ship and dug into the face of the sand, permitting her troops to debark. In the darkness the forces of Del's shrunken battalion edged up over the top of the dike and surveyed Deversoir, or Duweir Suweir as the enemy called it. The canal-crossing operations were intense. Egypt knew the fragility of the thread on which the entire war now hung. The neglected supplies of water were now their top priority. But running out ahead now was Ariel as a brilliant point of white light, like the antimatter airburst but in jen shape, and far ahead of hem was Victoria crossing the night sky like an unseen bat, dropping grenades on Egyptians and generally raising hell.

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