Tourmaline: Promoted to Exile (conclusion)
But he would do this thing, bag a prisoner…if it meant knocking one of them, the Hidtha scouts, over with a grappling hook. The G.R.A. general staff liked full circles, things brought to a fitting conclusion, a kind of Brothers Grimm, or biblical, apt punishment for error. They would like it—he hoped they would—if he found Anton and brought him back. Herward would deem it apt, himself, if they were then stuck deciding what to do with Anton.
“A sledge. You could do more than one thing with a sledge…good in case you had wounded. Or if you caught one, you could tie him on. And then it could work like a ladder…”
These sentences faded, to a meeker and quieter conclusion. The soldier had thought, as he’d asked her to, and was afraid now of having broken with the others.
“Good,” he said.
“A flame thrower.” A sporting edge to this voice.
“Private Kent, I’ll let you requisition one.”
They used snowshoes. The terrain up here could be thin where rocks jutted, and then in pockets, meters deep. You couldn’t tell where the field of white was divided by a drop, bowls of soft snow could strangely invert themselves in the way they reflected light without shadow. So no one ought to be skimming along on a pair of skis. Herward had them stay in visual contact, spacing out in a line, the two outflanking members going to a distance of 100 meters, then maintaining it, as the next two advanced. He put himself in the center of four expanding south; Byrnes, four going north.
For hours they prodded along with their poles. They reassembled and returned to base.
Under the Jocelynist regime…well…
Herward considered that first of all, such an outpost would not have existed. They had not been at odds with their minority. Some Hidtha Utdrife launched commuter train bombings, attacked churches; but the Ftheorde had kept the old entente between their nation and his within it, disavowing the extremists. This zone that separated the mainland from the peninsula was a product of the G.R.A. occupation.
And the phenomenon of soldiers, stationed before monitors, looking at pornography, had got worse in those days when Jocelyn’s experts had shouted down the discomfited. The premier had liked his uniform and medals, thus had let his army carry on without scrutiny.
“This is real life. This is the way it is. Sex is natural,” they would say, making a point beside the point. Jocelyn’s naturalism, his state-sponsored strip culture, had lent gravitas to the ponderous socialism of the alliance.
(2017, Stephanie Foster)