A Glibertarians Exclusive – The Watchtower III
The Knik River Bridge: July 2033
Governor Begich was in the observation tower, looking south across the bridge, and Terry Hopp was beside himself in a paroxysm of nerves. “Governor,” he had pleaded, “s’pose they have a sniper over there recognizes you? Wouldn’t put it past those assholes to take a shot, pardon my French, sir.”
“You’ve been here almost every day, exposed to anything they have, since last fall,” the Governor pointed out. “How can I worry about being up there for a few minutes? Besides, some things you must see for yourself.”
So now he was in the tower, examining the People’s Army positions through the big marine binoculars, and “Sergeant” Terry Hopp fretted.
“So, what’s under the big tarps?” Governor Begich called down.
“We don’t know,” Terry called back. “They brought something up at night, a few weeks ago. The overnight shift said they heard a big Diesel engine coming up but couldn’t see what it was, just some kind of big, tracked vehicle. They brought them up when it was as dark as it gets this time of year, which ain’t much. But it’s hard to see when the sky is still light, and the ground is dark. Anyway – they had ‘em under the tarps when it got a little brighter. They reported it in, but since we can’t see them now…”
“I understand.” Terry breathed a sigh of relief; the Governor was descending from the tower at last. He was quickly surrounded by this security detail – three former Alaska state troopers – who appeared as nervous about the Governor’s coming down to the Knik River as Terry was.
The Governor chatted with the troops for a few moments, then he and his security detail climbed back into the old Hummer taken from Ft. Wainwright and headed off back towards Wasilla.
The next morning, just after Terry’s team had taken over the watch from the overnight shift, things began to get interesting.
“Hey,” Ginger Anne called from the tower; it was her turn to keep an eye out to the south. “They’re uncovering those things under the tarps.”
“Can you see what they are?” Terry called.
“They’re Type 8 Armored Fighting Vehicles,” Ginger Anne said. “Bad news. At least two machine guns, one medium, one heavy. And they’re firing them up.” From across the river, the growling sound of powerful Diesel engines was clear. “One of them has a ‘dozer blade on the front. Bet you anything they’ll be trying to push the Jersey barriers out of the way.”
“People’s Army vehicles?” Terry asked.
“Chinese.” Ginger Anne was still watching through the binoculars. “Looks like People’s Army pukes crewing them, though. Guess the Chinese gave them a couple of presents. They’ll be trying to cross the bridge.”
“Check the demo circuit again,” Terry called out to Frank Tippen, who was nearest the detonator.
“We’re good,” Frank called back after a moment.
“OK, you stay right there by that detonator. Ginger Anne, can you see anything else from up there in the tower?”
“Whole mess of People’s Army grunts about a hundred yards back from those two Chink vehicles. Maybe a hundred of them. No other vehicles.”
“OK. I have to call this in.”
“Tell them we need more warm bodies with guns up here, right the fuck now,” Ginger Anne advised. “Shit’s about to hit the fan.”
“Gotcha. Bob, Frank, look sharp. Get on those rifles.” He grabbed the mike from the stand holding their shortwave radio. “Whiskey Six, this is Knik Romeo,” he said. “We got a situation here. We have two Chinese armored vehicles and about a hundred infantry, looks like they’re going to try to cross. We need more guns up here right away.”
“Knik Romeo, armor, you say?”
“Yes. Two vehicles. Wheels, not tracks, but they’ve got guns.”
“Twenty minutes,” the disembodied voice said. “We’ll have about forty rifles up there in twenty minutes.”
“Might be too late,” Terry replied, “but we’ll do what we can. What if I have to blow the bridge?”
“Your call, Romeo.”
“Thanks a lot,” Terry said without toggling the mike. “Heads up people – we’re on our own for twenty minutes.”
“Twenty minutes?” Bob Phelps demanded. “Four rifles against all that, and we’re supposed to hold for twenty fucking minutes?”
“Here they come!” Ginger Anne shouted.
“Bob,” Terry called, “keep that damn detonator handy. Don’t anyone shoot until I do.” Across the bridge, the lead Type 8 was using its ‘dozer blade to push the Jersey barriers aside. Its turret turned and began spitting machine-gun bullets.
Ginger Anne, rifle slung, slid down the ladder and jumped behind a Jersey barrier as bullets started to hit the observation tower. There was a whistling sound, and a short, sharp bang came from a puff of black smoke about twenty yards ahead of the blockhouse. “Pricks got a mortar,” Bob Phelps observed.
Terry leveled his rifle on the bunker’s firing slit and looked through the scope. The lead Type 8’s driver had his head out of this hatch, watching the blade as he pushed aside the final Jersey barrier on the south side of the bridge.
“Hold on,” Terry repeated. “Don’t shoot yet.” Both vehicles started across. “Let the grunts get in behind them.”
“You sure about this?”
“Yeah. Let them come.” The lead Type 8 was still spitting bullets, but most of them went high. The gunner clearly didn’t know his business.
Terry watched though the scope. He could see the “infantry” lining up behind the armored vehicles. They were starting across. Another mortar round went off, this time uncomfortably close behind; Terry heard fragments whistling.
“Frank,” he called, “get ready on that detonator…”
The heavy vehicles, encouraged by the lack of incoming fire, pressed ahead. They were half-way across, well over the silt-laden waters of the Knik, with the grunts close behind…
“Now! Now now now! Blow it!”
Frank twisted the handle on the old detonator. A series of sharp cracks came from the bridge, accompanied by puffs of black smoke, as the charges went off. The deck of the Knik River highway bridge, the last connection between the Matanuska-Susitna Valley and the airport and seaports at Anchorage, shuddered and fell into the river, bearing the two Chinese vehicles and at least half of the People’s Army grunts with it.
Terry looked through his scope. Across the river, one of the surviving grunts was waving his hands and yelling orders. Terry took careful aim and shot him.
In the space of a breath, all four Alaska Militia members began picking off the People’s Army soldiers who, demonstrating a distinct lack of motivation, turned and ran. Some of them even dropped their weapons. The unseen mortar crew spat out one more round that fell twenty yards long, then the mortar went silent.
A half-hour later, their relief arrived. The young militia Major who showed up didn’t look happy at losing the bridge, but after hearing the story, admitted it was the right action.
“We’re sure as hell cut off now,” he added. “Nothing more from Anchorage. We’re stuck with what we can grow or make ourselves.”
“So, nothing’s changed, then,” Terry observed. “Not like we were doing any trading with those people anyway.”
“True.” The young Major looked at Terry. “Your people will probably get a few days to rest, then I expect you’ll be sent up the Valley. No way they can cross here now, but they’re landing people by boat all up and down the Susitna, from KGB to Deshka Landing. It’s gonna be a hot summer.”
“Reckon it will be.”
Terry looked south. A wind was rising, blowing in from Cook Inlet, blowing the last wisps of smoke away from the remains of the Knik River bridge.
All along the watchtower, princes kept the view
While all the women came and went, barefoot servants, too.
Outside in the distance a wildcat did growl
Two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl.
Huh… if they’ve been sitting there in fixed positions before a bridge, bringing up heavy equipment and letting it sit in tarps for weeks… pardon me for wondering, Animal (and no knock on your writing, I’m enjoying it as usual) — but why the hell don’t they have some zeroed in artillery ready? If they don’t have any / don’t want to risk counter battery fire over this, I would have expected them to have brought up some mortars at least — cheap / easy to make, light enough to move after firing / still should have been able to have known shots up and down the bridge and far enough back to hit those vehicles as soon as the tarps were off and all.
Just puzzles this completely armchair quarterback is all.
Why had the People’s Army not re-conned the bridge? Seems like a choke point.
Alaskan Indigenous National Guard (on the friendly side) would have knowledge of the laws of scarcity.
In my head, any People’s Army led by General Levine (oh, brother. Typing that gave me an uncontrollable eye twitch) would be way more interested in being gender inclusive than actually being competent at their job. Maybe the People’s Army is made up of the bottom ten percent, people too stupid to kill people or blow shit up, and the only reason they have had any success is because the Chinese military is carrying most of the load. I’m looking forward to the next chapter.
⬆. Completely incompetent troops.
Think of the tweets following this event.
I meant why didn’t the Alaskan Guard bring up arty or mortars, not the People’s Twips, actually. Sorry for any confusion.
That would assume they have those things and that they are not needed somewhere else.
Mortars are pretty easy to make from what I understand, hence why I was thinking at least that if they didn’t have full fledged artillery sitting in a Guard depot.
Granted on the “somewhere else” option if they were assuming they’d probably end up blowing the bridge anyway. Just seems weird to me to just sit there for weeks (if not months) knowing you’re going to be moved on and not have anything in place for that beyond the demo charges is all.
Unless somebody (the Russians?) are supplying the Alaskans with ammo, I wouldn’t expect there to be much in the way of mortar (or other) ammo.
Here’s what I was thinking as I wrote this (bear in mind also that there is a “keeping between the lines” when you’re writing a story based on song lyrics.)
I kind of envisioned this being the end of a multi-year conflict. The military has been debased to the point of uselessness. Most of the usable equipment and munitions were stripped to equip the units loyal to the Imperial government, which became the People’s Army, but most of that equipment has been ruined by misuse and poor maintenance, thus the requirement for help from the Chinese.
As far as waiting to the last minute to blow the bridge, well, I could just admit that it was a plot device to further the story, but I could also claim that Alaskans would be reluctant to destroy the last road link to the state’s only major airport and sea-port until it became absolutely necessary.
I could probably make a book out of this, but 1) it’s been done a million times, and b) I’m on the hook for enough fiction work already.
I thought it was perfect
Well, that north country is going to get pretty primitive, pretty fast.
Good stuff as usual.. Thanks Animal.
Thanks, Animal, always enjoy Monday mornings, I have something to look forward to. Quarterbacking from a computer is easy (and safe) but not effective.
Real, shit has gotten.
Hit the fan, even.
Thanks for sharing Animal. Guessing they don’t have a whole lot of manpower on either side.
“A wind was rising, blowing in from Cook Inlet”
Who controls the refinery? Inquiring minds and all
I like it.
Off to the cellar to make mead.
Thanks, Animal. Finally caught up on this, and am very much liking it. I see that Wasilla is a hotbed of insurrection, who woulda thunk it?
I was thinking the demo charges weren’t going to work – too long in place, Chinese spec ops cut the wires, something like that.
Cool story. I envision the Alaskans going Finnish on the Peoples’ supply lines and chopping them to pieces on cold winter nights.
USC continues to amaze me with the best offense and absolute worst defense in college football.
Score more points than the other guys.
Snow machines and dog teams for the win!
Back in the Soviet days there were only two Regular Army brigades to defend all of Alaska. The Army expected it would have to retreat to the interior and fight asynchronously relying on arctic warfare training and indigenous support.
6th ID (Light) (Arctic) – “Too light to fight too heavy to run.”
best offense and absolute worst defense
Lincoln Reilly team there.
Snipin’ on the beach should be a song based on smokin’ in the boys room.
Happy New Year, Animal. Thanks for everything you do for us.