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.