Made some revision to the end of my last post, when I was blindingly drunk. I’m now, of course – it’s Saturday night – but at least I’m older not to write!
Local politics. I’ve no stomach for it, but Nichole has to have this out with the Mayor. Fret not: like all of Defiant, I cannot keep myself from killing people. This overlaps a tiny bit, to my last post, because I saw the wrong things.
“Perhaps I should go…?”
Johnson waved for her to stay as he rose from his chair. There was a noise of a motorcycle and skidding gravel just outside. Johnson opened the door to the study as a soldier opened the outside door. Yet another soldier, but covered in mud, staggered in, pulling his goggles up.
“Sir!” He handed a flimsy to the Mayor who took it but ignored it.
“Report” Johnson said.
“The Cannibal Army,” the messenger began, “they’ve taken the ell and see bridge; thousands of them. Sir.”
“Ell and see?” She asked.
“Lewis and Clark,” Johnson snapped at her. “The last bridge over the Columbia. Damn me for not blowing it!”
He snapped his fingers at his secretary.
“Alert my staff and get General Tessmer on the phone!”
She nodded and left at once, going further into the house.
“Tell me what you know!” Johnson yelled at the messenger.
With few words, the courier told the story: smoke and mortar shells; the second human-wave attack making their way to the Oregon side…
“Night was just falling and the local commander was about to lead a counter-attack, when some catapult they got across started tossing… bodies.”
“Bodies?” The Mayor asked.
“Sir. Partially eaten and barely alive bodies… almost all women and children.” He choked once, but finished. “The local militia panicked at that, and ran. There was no counter-attack.”
The man steadied himself.
“I was dispatched to report to you, right after that.”
“How long ago?”
“Just under an hour, sir.”
The door directly opposite the parlor opened. A civilian man she didn’t know came out holding an old phone with the line trailing along the floor behind him. Nichole saw several others in that room. Computers and electronics lined the walls with a large maptable in the middle. This house was a command post, not a home, she realized.
“Sir,” the man with the phone raised the handset to the Mayor, “the General.”
“Ron? You heard?” Johnson spoke directly. “Yeah… no, don’t apologize! I let you talk me into leaving the bridge up! Yeah… but calling up the City Militia in the middle of the night will be utter chaos… what if you get a screening force up there, and the Militia comes up in, say, forty eight hours?…”
“They cannot be allowed a bridgehead.” Nichole amplified.
“What?!” The Mayor turned back to her, irritated at the interruption.
My knowledge of history is vast, but I am not a soldier. Still.
“They will cross and consolidate. Once your munitions are exhausted, they will eat the troopers and then everyone in the City that does not convert.”
The soldier than was holding the door retched slightly.
“Mayor Johnson?” Her voice was as odd as her wide open, emerald eyes. “You’ve one chance to win. Right now. Counter-attack at dawn and blow the L&C by this time tomorrow.”
She heard something just out of her auditory range from the phone.
“Huh? Oh, her, Ron?” He did not look away from her. “A new advisor of mine… you do? Really?”
The Mayor lowered the phone a bit.
“He agrees with you,” he said with surprise in his voice. The phone came back up.
“You go ahead and get all your men moving. I’ll give you at least E Company of the Special Police… yeah, motorized.” He nodded a few times, listening. “I’ll still call up at least one militia, in case this is a feint. You get me that list of civilians you need; I’ll grab them and meet you as you come north on Thirty. No, thank you, General!”
He passed the phone away and motioned for Nichole to follow him into that room she’d glimpsed. There were six men and two women there, all surprised in varying degree to see a new face. Johnson saw it and ignored it.
With ease and confidence he issued order after order, no one speaking except to ask for short clarification. He was setting into motion many of the law enforcement units as well as requesting this and that person to be here and there…
“…Joe Kreeft and Phillip [name] to be at muster-point D in an hour…”
Friend Joe? Why was he…? Nichole said nothing. Instead, she turned her attention to the map on the large table in the room’s middle. There were blocks of various shapes, sizes, and colors. Ah! As the Mayor issued orders the woman responsible for the table would move the blocks corresponding to that unit and its destination… he moved to the table and picked up a blue, hexagonal block with a B embossed on its top.
“Lastly,” he concluded, “Mobilize Militia B, to assemble at the muster-point in Clackamas.”
He made a face as he set the block the block down onto the map.
“Don’t let me be wrong!” She heard him breath.
“Questions?” He called to the room. There were none. He made for the door, tossing his head for a moment at Nichole.
“Come with me.”
Outside, he pointed at the Lincoln’s left passenger door, he went for the right. The gunner/driver was still at the wheel, and the young man that had spoke to her was next to him.
“Muster-point D,” he said, slamming his door closed, “but stop at the base of the hill by the phone.”
“Sir.” The driver moved them out.
“How is it,” Mayor Johnson asked, looking at her from the corner of his left eye, “that a young, female, coder, from Japan, has such a grasp of the importance of bridgeheads?”
His tone was both generally curious but hedged ‘round but the dangers that beset his city. Nichole allowed herself to feel sad for her friend, to be raised by such a hard man.
“I know much history, Mayor Johnson,” she began. “Especially that of my homeland… and its disasterous war with your former country.”
She looked at him.
“The then-Imperial Army was light infantry, useful for keeping order in our colonies, not for a war to the death against a continental, industrial Great Power.”
“Given the casualties you inflicted on us, I’d tend to disagree – ”
She shook her head.
“The individual soldier was tenacious, yes, but High Command lied to save face and, worse, always committed themselves piecemeal; risk averse.”
She stared out her window at the darkness.
“Had we concentrated our Army and Navy at Guadalcanal, we’d have crushed the 1st Marines and pushed the end of the war back… perhaps over two years… and into a negotiated peace in our favor.”
“But that is just to play with counter-factuals.” She looked back to him. “There are likely thousands of the cannibals across the bridge now; thousands more will come tomorrow. You don’t have the men nor ammunition to counter something like that. Every minute stands against you.”
“Ah. That’s why Tessmer agreed with you. I’m sure, as a professional, he’s been trained on those lines.”
“I’m sure,” she echoed. “Please, take his advice, not mine!”
“I try to listen to everyone.” He smiled thinly as the car slowed. When it stopped, he got out, leaving the door open. Just near a burning barrel and its detachment was a pole with a phone.
“Any updates?” She heard him ask into it.
“He did? Well, of course give it to him. Get it started downriver right now!”
He returned to the car, pulling the door closed.
“A barge?” She heard him mutter.
As they came out of Willamette Heights in the dark of early night, Nichole’s eyes could just see the arch of Fremont Bridge to the east. Her first – and she hoped, last – taste of war.
“When General Tessmer gets here with his vanguard, I’ll be turning you over to him,” Johnson said as the car picked its way through a largely deserted manufacturing district, headed vaguely northwest.
“Miss Clarke,” he spoke absently while writing some notes onto a pad of paper, “I’ve laid several of my cards down and have seen none of yours. You’re the one claiming…”
He trailed off, scribbling furiously.
“Sorry! Claiming you’re here to help… let’s just say, based upon what Captain Gunzou didn’t, that I am in no way questioning your truthfulness…”
He closed the notebook as the car slowed.
“I’m asking you to demonstrate it.”
He opened his door and got out. She did the same from her side. They stood in an open area flanked by multiple rail lines. Score of POL storage tanks were arrayed in ranks to the northwest, sprinkled with a surprising number of armed men. She could just see the dark strip of water that was the Willamette River less than two hundred meters to her right.
“The northern edge of Port Terminal Number Two,” the Mayor said, seeing her look. “Our fuel reserve. Tessmer’s force is going to top off here – muster-point D – before his dash downriver. We, ah, obviously try to safeguard it.”
“Of course.” There was a rumbling of trucks coming up the road from the south east.
“That will be my E Company.”
‘Your?’ That, she thought, was a dangerous statement for a non-royal to say.
“Not to be rude,” Nichole pitched her voice up and younger, “you did mention something of Special Police?”
He looked at her sharply.
“What does my daughter call me?”
“Any dictator,” he looked at the arriving six arriving trucks and waved. “Needs secret police.”
Lowering his hand, he glanced at her.
“Your Empress’s kempeitai, for example.”
Nichole was too young to say anything.
“They’re the only men of mine with organic transport; the only one’s who can keep up with – ”
There was a deeper rumble from the darkness south. Armored but not tracked vehicles.
“With the General’s forces.” Johnson concluded.
Three very large 4-wheeled light armored vehicles pulled up in line, stopping next to the Mayor’s car. Even before it came to a full stop, the man standing upright in the open top leaped to the ground and saluted.
“General.” Johnson properly returned the salute.
“When will the rest of your force be here?”
“Twenty minutes,” a smile played about his eyes, not his mouth, “unless everyone wants a reduction in pay!”
Nichole considered the man responsible for the land defense of the City. Not particularly tall, say five ten, his grey hair kept to a stubble on his head. A head with a weather-beaten face of nearly sixty times four seasons. From her quantum level up, Nichole liked him already.
“What about the engineers? I want that span down in less than twenty four hours!” Johnson asked.
“They’re coming last; we’ll have to take it back, first.” A significant glance. “While we disagreed about blowing it, the fact you did let me pre-position with explosives is how we’re going to win this one. Is that barge…?”
“Already being pushed by two tugs.” Johnson made a wry smile. “Thank you again, Ron, for being so polite about my stupidity!”
Tessmer waved at the air.
“Those civs I wanted?” He asked.
The Mayor looked sharply at the man who’d been sitting next to the driver. He’d kept an old, large Motorola military radio to his ear most of the drive.
“Also twenty minutes.” He replied.
A nod from the General.
“They can come along with my main force, then. I’m off to recon things myself tonight.”
“Shades of Rommel and Stonewall,” Johnson smiled hard at him and extended his hand. “Just don’t you dare get shot by your own men!”
“Or yours!” Tessmer took his hand. “And, thanks for the heavy weapons company; I’m going to be putting them to good use straightaway!”
He turned to go.
“One more thing, Ron.”
The General looked over his right, eager to be on his way. Johnson put his left onto Nichole’s shoulder and pushed her just forward.
“She’s going, too.”
Nichole noted the various physiological cues from Tessmer. That he kept his fury completely hidden she found amazing.
A curt nod. He walked away. Nichole observed how he climbed the AFV. No orders to the contrary, she followed. She stood as still and quietly as she could in the cupola. The General put his headset on, but said nothing. He rapped the metal twice with his left knuckles and made a gesture in the air with his right. His three cars moved out, with the six trucks falling in behind them. Headed north into darkness along old US 30.
It was five minutes before he spoke.
“Why,” she could just hear him over the engine’s rumble, “am I taking one of the Mayor’s secretaries into battle?”
“I am not his secretary,” she disposed of the irrelevant first. “But you did receive an order from your civilian CINC. Just as I received an Order from mine.”
She noted that even after so little time of the Breakup, how quickly the trees and bushes grew into the road. The slit lights of the AFV showed only a 3-meter clear width.
Two miles went by.
“And who is the man stupid enough to send a woman into combat?”
Shades of Gil’s harsh reaxion at the Battle of the Bridge!
“Her name,” Nichole emphasized, “is Togame.”
That, at last, seemed to provoke a response: a furtive look over his left shoulder at his unwanted passenger.
“Is… isn’t that the name of – ”
“She is my Empress; and I, her loyal subject!”