Galatea

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GALATEA

The very salty water of the Great Bitter Lake provided a good deal of buoy- ancy, so swimming was easy. The stragglers of Bravo Battalion followed Del out about a kilometer off-shore, where she flipped on her back and kicked lazily, waiting for the Galatea to pull up and spot them. The ship was loaded with Israeli soldiers. They fished them out of the water. Rifles were lowered again when they recognized their catch. The nineteen men and women with Del, standing there soaking wet, started to laugh as they real- ized what was happening. Eleven hundred and eighty-five men and women of Del's Bravo Battalion, the half che left behind in Eilat, were aboard this cargo ship, including Ariel and Victoria.

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 her, where she showered and caught up on the classified message traffic that quite rightly was kept off the Swarm. Del wanted to know what was hap- pening with the war.

The antimatter burst had destroyed a column of about 700 Egyptian battle tanks and about 400 Armored Personnel Carriers which had crossed from Sinai over the 1949 Armistice Line into the Negev Desert. This was the old boundary of Israel. Shyla's strike killed an estimated 8,000 Egyptians in- stantly. So the main prong of the enemy attack had been blunted, and there wasn't any evidence of radiation that could be used to cry Foul.

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 pontoon bridges south of Lake Timsah. Only now, af- ter these pontoons were in turn destroyed, did they realize they had ne- glected the unglamorous but vital supply of water, for drinking and for their vehicles. The latest Israeli intelligence 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 and the bene elohim gathered in the wardroom for supper 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 pe- trol. 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.

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 personal phones. Ariel, I'm counting on you lighting up the theater in the way you do best. The parts that aren't lit up, Victoria, that's where you'll do your thing.

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 fra- gility of the thread on which the entire war now hung. The neglected sup- plies 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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