Melbourne and Kanishka stood outside the cave overlooking the valley below. The sun was coyly rising over the still-wet plains. The mirage had already set in—rippling and distorting the Tigris.
“Good thing the rain has stopped, as it would appear that the scout reports are accurate.” Kanishka announced, one finger pressed to the side of his goggles.
“How do you know?”
“Telescopic lenses.” He removed the goggles and handed them over. “See for yourself.”
Melbourne carefully held the contraption, pulled them on and let the elastic band snap against the back of his head. Instantly, Ottoman troops rushed forward and sat beneath his nose.
“Use the side knob to adjust the view.” Kanishka’s voice sounded beside him. Melbourne obeyed, but accidentally switched to night view. He turned and stumbled in doing so, Kanishka an indistinguishable blob before him. The goggles were pulled from his head with a laugh. “I’m afraid they don’t have a manual.”
Melbourne’s eyebrows rose, he shook his head. “From the look of those troops--”
“I know. We will have enough. It may not look like it here, but I sent mech-pigeons out last night to relay to the scouts and allied gangs that The Queen was in need of their assistance.”
As if on cue, a loud sizzling noise penetrated their ears. The earth began to shake beneath their feet. Kanishka smiled while Melbourne dropped to the ground to take cover. Ophelia rolled around the corner from a nearby rock formation. A copper phonograph speaker, which Melbourne had not seen before, perched atop the tank singing Ride of the Valkyries. Melbourne stood slowly, marveling at the sight.
Ophelia stopped abruptly. The hatch was thrown open to reveal Nettie clothed in a leather Snoopy cap, goggles, and an oversized British-Indian army jacket. Where military insignia had once been above the breast pocket now sit several pinned cameos of varying size and color. Nettie gingerly climbed to the barrel of the gun and let her knee-high leather heeled boots dangle over the side. “Ophelia is mine today, sorry little brother.”
Kanishka threw his fist into the air in jest. “Come on, Nettie! You take the carriage!”
“No, you take the carriage. Melbourne and I will take Ophelia.” She pushed her goggles onto her forehead and looked pointedly at the Captain. “You do know how to operate a tank?”
“I’ve had some experience.” He grinned, climbed onto the tank, and offered his hand to Nettie as she returned to the hatch.
“We approach from the south, my men are awaiting my signal. See you on the other side, Kanishka.”
- - - Nichole Beard is in the process of earning her MFA in Creative Writing at Rosemont College. She is a little too obsessed with Star Wars and most other things deemed nerdy. She is working on her first novel, a historical fiction piece.