I remember the Battle of the Dome. Of course it was in Peking, back in 2046. We had spent months fighting across China, city by city. We had already taken down North Korea, then the Russians, India, and the Japanese helped us invade China from the South and East while the Brits and Europeans came in from the West. The cyber war shut down everyone’s nukes and most of the bots, drones, and satellites, so fighting was back to old school land, sea, and air.
The thing about fighting in China is it’s big. There’s a lot of land, different terrains and climates, but also a lot of people. Most of the people in the outlying areas were just poor civilians. They didn’t give us a lot of trouble, but they were still in the way and some did resist. The cities were where the real action was. Solidly fortified, and the first few cities were tough. Fighting in them was long and hard. But later in the war, they fell faster and were hardly fortified at all. It was so easy we started calling them “rice paper cities”. Still, the main goal was Peking, and we had the feeling the main Chinese force was falling back there for a final stand.
By the time we arrived outside Peking, we were seeing little resistance. Old men with pistols and hand grenades that could have been used a hundred years earlier, in the Second World War. We joked the guys had been stationed there since then, waiting for the western invasion. We came across famers fighting us with their farm tools and dogs, distracting us with their pigs. Then, closer to the city, nothing. Finally, we saw it for the first time. From a hill about 20 miles outside Peking: The Dome.
We saw it as a black dot on the horizon, like a big button or a gum drop. What it was was a giant barrier covering all of the city, not letting light or sound in or out. A day later we were there, scanning it, looking at it. It appeared to be an amalgam of metal and plastic, the likes of which we’d never seen, and it scared the Hell out of us. To the best of our knowledge, the entire Chinese army was inside, armed to the teeth, and if that dome opened up, we were in for the fight of our lives, and we already saw plenty in the first weeks of the war.
For three weeks we sat around that thing on all sides, watching, planning, analyzing. Radar bounced off of it. So did x-rays and heat imaging. Ultrasound detected nothing inside other than occasional movement. In-ground sensors showed vibrations of things in or under the city, but with so many troops and vehicles around there was no way to know anything. So we watched and waited. For three weeks.
I was on the South side of the dome with my infantry unit. We were all bored and edgy. More than ever, this war was an example of periods of action breaking up long stretches with absolutely nothing to do.
Suddenly, a stir went through the unit – all the units. Seismographs were picking up vibrations inside the dome. Something big was moving in there. We all got ready. I picked up my field glasses and looked at the surface of the dome. My heart pounded. At once, on four sides of the dome, North, South, .East, West, long vertical openings began to form and a rumble could be heard.
Cooper, our company CO cried out, “Get ready!”
I focused my glasses on the opening. I saw dim light, but nothing more. Then movement close to the ground. Something poured out in every direction from each of the openings.
Dogs. Shih Tzus, Pugs, and Pomeranians. Hundreds, thousands of them coming out in endless streams, yipping and yapping. Falling down, climbing over each other, coming right at any troops they could see.
“Open fire!” Cooper roared. “Don’t let them touch you!”
In my unit, DeChantal, held her fire. “But they’re puppies!”
Hugo, our medica, shouldered his weapon and squeezed off several rounds. “Don’t be stupid, they could be bio weapons. Plague dogs. They work better than any missile. You don’t want to hug a missile.”
Wave after wave of the dogs poured out of the dome, like a warm, furry river. Some soldiers fired, some refused.
“Goddammit!” Cooper screamed. “You three – stand in front and fire in sweeping arcs, full automatic. You four, take positions behind them. Grab shovels, fix bayonets, use your boots, take out any that get through.” He pointed at me. “You – Masterson. You and DeChantal man the rear, keep feeding ammunition to those in front. Feynmann – over here, we have to coordinate with the other units. Each of those dogs needs to be treated like a bomb!”
We fought and fired for 15 minutes straight. 15 minutes of dogs coming out of the Dome. 15 minutes of DeChantal, tears streaming from her eyes, handing clips to the men in front. After 10 minutes I saw one guy, Richards, big huge guy, just start stomping shih tzus like cockroaches. He’d stomp them and kick them aside. The ground looked like it was covered with wet red toupees.
Finally, Cooper and the other Cos got smart and moved the tanks in right up to the edge of the Dome, where they used flame throwers to burn out anything that was inside. No more dogs came out. It felt like there were no dogs left in the world.
Richards’ boots and legs were red. DeChantal was sobbing. Hugo just kept telling us not to touch anything.
In my time in the army, I killed a lot of men, some women. But that day showed me the world was far stranger and more bitter than I ever knew. There were no Chinese in the Dome. They had escaped underground long before.
About the author
Gene Lass has been a writer for more than 25 years writing and editing numerous non-fiction books including the Senior Dummies line of books and five books of poetry. His short story, “Fence Sitter” was nominated for Best of the Net 2020.