This still feels to me as if it will be at least a novella. I’ve already two pages of notes about the Russian army (organization, tactics) and I’d hate that to go to waste. And, as I said in the last post, I’d really like to blow things up again. At least for a little while.
I’ve no intention of serializing the entire work but thought, maybe, at least the first chapter. That way, if there is any comments, suggestions, or criticism, it will come early so I can make course corrections as needed.
“Saint Peter save us!” Sergeant Konev spat, looking at the orders on the piece of paper handed to him by a rider from Headquarters. The men closest to him of his twenty-man patrol looked up from whatever they were doing. He lowered the paper.
Twenty-five-year-old Sergei Konev tried very hard to not tear the paper into tiny pieces; it would not be becoming an NCO. He picked up his helmet and seated it on what little white hair of his buzz-cut was left before standing.
“We’re moving out in fifteen minutes,” Konev announced to his corporal. “I’ll tell everyone once we’re on the road.”
His corporal, Zais, half-Itelman and looking like one of the local indigenous people, jumped up and began shouting orders to their unit. As the sergeant was something of a stickler for training, they were ready in ten.
They had just been to the south in a small copse of pines in an area called Southesk, about twenty klicks west of Brooks on the Trans-Canada Highway. Konev thought the name recalled home so it seemed a good place to hole up until orders came. Which they did. Back up onto the southern two lanes of the four-lane highway, his men were ten on each side. No talk, no rattle of gear.
While I would like to think it is my training, well, some of it is, when Tolstoy got promoted and handed his over-strength squad to me, they were already one of the best units on this continent.
He looked around and the flat, endless expanse of absolutely nothing. Anyone but a Russian or Mongol would have wondered what in the hell they were doing here.
Konev trotted across the road to his corporal.
“Remind you of home, Zais?” he asked with what passed for a smile for a Slav.
“Apologies, Sergeant,” he replied. “While my family was not close enough to the sea, we could still look west to the mountains and volcanoes of Kamchatka. Land such as this…?”
“I feel as if an eagle shall swoop down and carry me off at any moment!” his corporal admitted.
Konev nodded and returned to his side of the two columns.
Two weeks ago he and his men had been despatched north to Edmonton to see if a regiment should be peeled off the brigade to advance in parallel with the main force. Twenty kilometers south of that city of once one-and-a-half million, they were in fifteen centimeters deep in snow. Closer, enough to see the tallest buildings of the city, the snow was deeper and the ice was thicker. Slogging their way up a massive highway interchange, they looked north.
The snow and ice were at least ten meters thick. The city was dead. The Maunder Minimum claimed another victim.
When Konev gave his report to higher-ups, he wanted to ask, what’s the point? Why are we here? We need to go south, not east! But, being a soldier, he kept his mouth shut, hoping someone knew what in the hell was going on.
Back in the present, they were just to the interchange of the tiny town of Brooks, off to the south. And there to the south was a gas station – with no benzene – but lounging out front…
Son of a bitch…!
“We’re taking a break!” he called to his patrol. “Get something to drink. No alcohol!”
His men fell out instantly. Konev walked slowly to where the other six Russian troops were sitting about at the non-gas station.
“Sergeant Akunin,” he tried to be polite. The fellow with his legs up on the chair opposite him took a moment to pretend that he didn’t know there were others about him. Spetsnaz bastard.
“Konev. Back from Edmonton already?” Akunin asked without moving.
“That city’s dead,” he replied. “Nothing to scout; nothing to report.”
“Must be nice.”
“Not as nice as sitting about doing nothing before an offensive,” Konev said. That they were of the same rank kept him from being arrested.
“We,” Akunin finally opened his eyes, “are conserving our strength before the upcoming decisive defeat of the Canadian mongrels.”
He swung his feet down and sat up.
“I know it’s hard for you regulars to grasp, but Special Ops do not follow a clock, the sun, or even, sometimes, command.” He narrowed his dark gray eyes at Konev. “Spetsnaz are given a task. We complete it. No questions asked. By anyone.”
“Of course, sergeant,” Konev allowed to this arrogant shit. Unless he only answers to… One never knows. “I was…”
There was a rumble of trucks coming down the road from the west. A ride!
“On me!” he shouted to his little command.
He trotted back to the highway and waved the lead of five trucks to a halt. While not pleased, the driver knew to not piss off combat soldiers.
“Yes, sergeant?” he asked, leaning out.
“I’ve twenty headed east,” Konev said. “Can we bum a ride for however far you are going”
“That’ll be about forty kilometers if you and yours don’t mind sitting on Symtex and mortar shells.”