One after another they jangled as they skittered across the ground. The hours of blasting percussion had all but stolen his ears, yet the sharp metal tinkle of brass on stone still wormed its way inside his helmet. The belt ran empty; the mechanical feed continued to whir. He unclenched his glove and let his thumb off the steel butterfly. The silence, once it finally arrived, was uncomfortable. It was nearing noon and an unrelenting blaze flooded down from the white-hot dome of the sky.
Kenneth leaned forward to seize the next belt from a line of a half-dozen metal canisters stacked in a neat row beside him. Four of the green tins were already empty. His knees trembled slightly as he fed the brass track into the hungry Browning. He had been seated behind the beast most of the day; his feet tingled and the back of his pants dripped with perspiration. He smacked the charge handle and let it spring forward with an unflinching metal assurance. He licked his lips. He should have brought a second canteen.
Somewhere on the far side of the scorched valley his opposite number waited. A shower of exploding gravel had met Kenneth’s last attempt to leave the cliff. A scope; he had a scope. Kenneth retook the handles of the Browning and scanned the naked crags, at least a mile away, with his open sites. He thumbed down the butterfly. The shell casings returned to their skittering dance. Kenneth continued his search.