Damn, that shelling was heavy! My squad had just hunkered down in a little lane between two hedgerows. It was June 9, 1944, and we were somewhere in Normandy. That somewhere was well advised, because our platoon sergeant was the one with all the maps, and they had been blown to shit along with him, yesterday, when that mortar round landed on top of him. MSgt. Oliver Hopkins had been the acting platoon leader ever since we got half way up Omaha beach, and he had been doing a damned good job of it, too. Lt. Sawyer had taken a line of slugs across his belly from an MG42 before he had hardly gotten his feet out of the water. I hope he was dead before he hit the ground, considering how much morphine he would have needed just to last until the medics found him.
My squad was very damned lucky—we had lost only one man, Jerry Anson, and I hoped that I could keep the rest of my boys alive until we could get rotated back to where the bullets didn't fly so damned heavy. There were seven of us, now: five riflemen, a BAR man, and me with my Tommy Gun and .45 automatic. Shit, I got tired of carrying that heavy Thompson, but it did have a hell of a stopping power, so I just put up with the weight.
Anson had been our bazooka man, and that bullet that killed him had also ruined his weapon, so we were in a pickle if we ran into a tank. Neither the .30 nor .45 caliber stuff we had, nor the grenades, would do us any good against a tank, or even a halftrack.
The Krauts were holed up in a cluster of trees about 100 yards down this lane, and I knew that it was up to us to take them out. The trouble was, they had at least one MG42, and that was no machine gun to take lightly. They were well dug in, and the only reason that we had spotted them was we saw that MG42 in action against a squad of GIs just 10 minutes ago. Well, like it or not, it was up to us to clear them out.
OH, SHIT! Here comes a Panzer IV down the lane we're on. It's so God damned wide that it's rubbing the hedges and trees on both sides. It's behind us, so we are pinned between the tank and the MG42. We've got to get our asses in gear right now! We can't get through the hedgerows along here, they are simply too dense. "OK, Guys, follow me as fast as you can run! Our only hope is to get passed that MG42 before he wakes up that we are here. Bring just your weapons and your canteens, drop everything else and run like hell!"
Luckily for us, the Krauts in the tank hadn't seen us yet, so we just might make it. It only took a couple of minutes for us to be ready. "COME ON!" I ordered. We jumped up and ran as hard as we could go. We got about 15 yards down the lane when there was a deafening noise and a red and white flash.
I came to in what looked like a foxhole back in the North African desert. The main difference was that this sand was green! I looked around and saw that my whole squad was there, complete with our weapons and packs, just as we'd had before we dropped the stuff to run. It seemed to be high noon, and it had been mid-morning in that lane. What the shit was going on!?! Then I heard a voice in my head.
Good day, Sgt. James Haggerty. Welcome to the planet Augsen. I am talking to you through a kind of mental telepathy. You are the most intelligent human in your group, so I am sure that you are the leader. I know you are wondering how you got here. We picked you up just before you died from that German 75mm tank cannon round that hit your whole squad. We repaired all of you and placed you here for our amusement.
You have a new job. I will provide you with a map showing where you can find food and water. You are to fight your way to those provisions or you will die of thirst and starvation. Nothing on this planet is compatible with your body chemistry, so you humans will die a painful death if you try to eat or drink anything you find. You have no choice but to follow our orders.
The weather is relatively dry and temperate, by your standards. Therefore, you will not need extensive protection from heat or cold, but the sun has enough ultra violet rays to cook your skin if you do not make liberal use of the protective lotion that you all have been issued.
You have one additional incentive to perform as we desire. If you do a good enough job entertaining us, we will provide you with women to relieve your sexual pressures. Remember, a poor job means no women!
Lastly, we have modified your weapons so that you will never run out of ammunition. Don't worry about how that was done, you could not make use of the technology if you did know the details.
Look in your shirt pocket, and you will find a map and device to show you where you need to go. Oh, I should also tell you that nothing on this planet is your friend. Any animal will delight in killing you. Those that might try to eat you will die, but that is their problem.
Study your route to food and water, when you are ready, you can wake up your companions by calling their names. Good bye and have fun, you have no other choice!
Shit, I didn't know what the hell the voice was rattling on about. I never heard of a place called Augsen, but this sure as hell was not like any place I had ever seen before. Hell, I guess I better take the voice's word for things right now until I find something different.
There was something in my shirt pocket that was not there before. I looked and found a map and a funny looking thing that looked like a glorified compass. It had a dial with something on it looking a lot like a compass rose. At the edge of the dial was a flashing red light. I guessed that we were supposed to go in that direction.
The map showed that we had to follow a path that wound among some low hills until we reached a cave. If I read the map correctly, the cave was about four miles away in a straight line and about seven miles away if we followed the indicated route. Well, if the day is the same length here as what we were used to, we needed to get started immediately. If we had to do much fighting, we could be late getting to the cave.
I woke the men and gave them the story I had heard from the voice that had contacted me. Joe Connolly nodded his head sagely and said, "OK, Sarge, I get it. We have been picked up by aliens and they've transported us to another planet away from Earth. I know that sounds crazy, but we can't argue with what we can see."
I had to admit that Joe had some good points, and he did keep his nose stuck in his science fiction magazines, so I mentally appointed him an expert on any monsters we might meet. It was time to go, so I said, "OK, Boys, saddle up and lets get a move on. Keep your eyes open for anything that might twitch. If it does, shoot it, and we'll wonder about it later." That brought some chuckles, but I wondered how funny it would seem when we met our first monster.
We had gone only about 200 yards when we saw our first monster; at least, I guessed that's what it was. Off on the sand to our left was a rippling motion along the ground. We watched closely, and we could see the edges of something that was kind of oval shaped. We were squatting down and perfectly still when a something or other came running across the trail we were following. It ran up onto the thing that was rippling along the ground, and there was a sudden convulsion, sort of like a handkerchief being pulled up by the edges.
The thing must have been 15 feet in diameter, and it sort of rolled the little "animal" up inside of it. We watched in fascination as the sheet-thing moved around a little bit like it was chewing, and then we heard something that sounded like a big burp. There was another convulsion of the thing, and some bones went flying. Shit, that thing was hard to see, and we sure as hell didn't want to step on one accidentally, or, on purpose, for that matter. Its top was an almost perfect match for the green sparkling sand, and we never would have seen it if it hadn't moved. For lack of a better name, we called it the Rug Monster.
We couldn't find a head, so we didn't know what to shoot if we needed to kill it. Maybe a grenade would do the job.
The rug monster made no effort to attack us, maybe something had to step on it to trigger it into action. If so, I sure as hell was going watch where I put my feet. We almost tiptoed passed it, trying not to draw its attention. I guessed that was as good an object lesson as we were going to get.
We were walking along in single file with a couple of yards between us. We didn't expect to get shot at, but that kind of good habit died hard. Suddenly, there was a scream from the rear of the column. "Harly" Davidson was battling with some thing that had grabbed his leg and was trying to pull him to one side. It looked like a big tentacle nearly four inches in diameter. Harly took a couple of swings at it with his rifle butt, but he couldn't get a reaction. He pulled out his bayonet and tried to cut the thing, but that didn't help much either.
Suddenly, a big mouth that looked like mostly teeth opened up, and Harly was being dragged right toward it. Charley Winslow, the next man in line seemed to have the perfect solution to the problem. Quick as a wink, Charley pulled the pin on a fragmentation grenade and tossed it into the mouth of that thing. A few seconds later, there was a dull thump that came from underground, and the thing seemed to wilt. The tentacle wrapped around Harly's leg relaxed and Harly pulled free with no apparent damage. That thing got the name of Dr. Teeth.
Suddenly, nobody wanted to pull the duty of walking drag. I could understand that, but somebody had to do it. Harly was still a bundle of nerves from his experience, so I told Hank Borders to take his place. There went the last bit of our complacency.
We marched on for another 15 minutes and I called for a 10-minute break. That's when Harly got his second scare of the day. He walked to the side of the trail and pissed into a pile of sand. Only moments after he had put himself away, there erupted from the pile of sand a tremendous scream of pain, and another Dr. Teeth burst from the ground.
This time, it did not try to attack Harly, but bounced around on the ground like it was having convulsions. It took about 15 seconds or so to die, and it looked like an advanced case of curare poisoning, or some such. Each of its four tentacles was curled in all kinds of crazy directions, and its head seemed to us to be wildly distorted. It looked like every one of its muscles had tried to contract all at the same time. I don't know exactly what killed it, but I did remember the voice saying that the locals could not tolerate us any better than we could tolerate them. I made a point of reminding my men what the voice had said about us not trying to eat the local stuff. We all agreed, though, that this gave new meaning to the expression, "piss on it."
We didn't see much on the rest of our march. We did detect some movement in the distance a couple of times, but we didn't see anything very close to us. You can bet it wasn't from keeping an eye out, though.
We were nearly at the end of our day's march when we ran into our last monsters of the day. The first thing was sort of like an overgrown rhinoceros. It was about eight feet tall, and also colored in that sparkling green to match the sand. At first, it ignored us, and we were not about to insist on meeting it. However, when we had progressed far enough for it to see us all, it must have gotten alarmed. Maybe it thought that we were all one animal.
For whatever reason, it suddenly turned and charged at us. It had six legs and a horn backed up by an awful lot of those damned teeth. I yelled at Chester Mason, our BAR man, to shoot at its left legs. I figured that breaking a couple of its legs on the same side would, at least, slow it down if not stop it. Meanwhile, the rest of us shot at its head.
Chester managed to turn its left front leg into hamburger pretty quick, and our bullets blinded all four eyes, so we were not quite as bad off as we had initially been. Nevertheless, the rhinoceros was not deterred in its charge. We dodged out of the way and let it run passed us. Chester returned to trying to shoot at its legs, and managed to destroy its left rear knee. It collapsed and rolled when that happened, and it was obvious that it was not going to be able to attack us any more. I didn't have a whole lot of sympathy for something that had tried to kill me and probably eat me, but I didn't want to let the thing suffer.
I had some Kraut binoculars that I had picked up, and they were damned good ones, too. Anyway, I studied the beast for a bit, and realized that it either had to have a damned small brain or it's brain was not in its head. The next question was: where was its brain? I figured that it must be near the front of its chest, so I asked Sam Edwards, one of the two best shots in the squad to shoot at its chest between its two front legs.
Sam put a bullet where I told him, and the rhinoceros died almost immediately. That had to mean that its brain was in its chest, and head shots were pretty much a waste of time, except to blind the beast. We were still contemplating the best way to kill the rhinoceros when a second one showed up.
This beast was charging at us from the first moment we caught sight of it. I wondered if we had been dealing with the local equivalent of a mated pair of the beasts, because this one was a shade smaller than the first rhinoceros, and its color was slightly different. This one now charging us was a slightly duller color and did not have as much sparkle to its skin. I wondered if it could be a situation similar to birds on Earth where the male was much more brightly colored than the female. Well, the question was somewhat academic, especially since either one was surely large enough to crush us without batting an eye.
I asked Chester to aim at the legs again while the rest of us tried to shoot it in the brain. Chester's automatic weapon could pour out a lot more bullets than could one of our rifles, but when you match five rifles against one BAR, the differences kind of even out. Chester had shredded one leg and was working on another when the beast dropped, probably from someone actually putting a rifle bullet where it would do the most good. I had not yet fired my Thompson because the beast was still out of effective range. I did wonder if the fabled stopping power of the .45 slug would hold true on this planet. I was sure that I would get the chance to find out before long!
It was too bad that we couldn't go examine our kills close up, but that was simply too dangerous in view of our limited experience. We still didn't know very much about how to spot a hiding monster, so any step off the trail could be a fatal one. For that matter, we could not even be sure that a step on the trail was all that safe. I sure hoped that we didn't have to find out the hard way!
We came in sight of the cave at last. There was nothing to mark it as special, it was just the only cave in sight from the trail that in any way could be the one marked on the map. Between the map and the jazzed up compass, this certainly looked like the proper cave, so I was willing to accept the evidence and trust the aliens not to be playing silly dirty tricks on us. It seemed to me that they had spent a hell of a lot of time and effort on us to kill us off by leading us to the wrong cave.
On top of that, we could hear the sounds of Glen Miller's orchestra coming from the cave!