Per the first post of this possible novel, tossing chapter one out there for feedback, if anyone would care to contribute.
Have any of y’all ever been in southern Alberta? It makes North Dakota look mountainous.
“Infantry never turns down a ride,” Konev almost smiled. He waved at his team and they swarmed aboard the first three trucks.
“I didn’t know,” Konev said about ten minutes later, next to the driver of the lead truck, “that we had units so far forward.”
The driver gave him a look.
“We’re to park and wait,” was all he would say.
Ah. Mobile pre-placement of material. Once things were underway, other units would take what they need as they passed. Until then, if necessary, these trucks could retreat in the face of any possible resistance.
Forty ended up being thirty as the driver, increasingly nervous about his trucks being the only thing on the road – and visible for a hundred miles from the air – decided to stop at what the rusted signed proclaimed as “Suffield.” It appeared to be deserted but there were some abandoned hulks he could park next to, confusing any possible observation.
“That’s it for us,” he said, opening his door and lighting a cigarette as he climbed down. “You and yours are on your own now.”
Not wanting to be churlish, Konev thanked him and got his men back into their two columns pointed southeast toward Medicine Hat.
“How far, sergeant?” one of his called forward.
“About another twenty. With the ride,” he waved at the trucks they were leaving behind, “we should be there in the late afternoon rather than early evening.”
“Do we know if anyone is still there?” Zais voiced across the road.
“No clue. It’s our job to find out and let the bosses know,” Konev replied. The men fell silent. Some looked skyward but most just around at the endless, flat expanse.
What are we doing here?
The suburb of Medicine Hat, Redcliff, was not far to the northwest of their target. Appearing completely empty, Sergeant Konev decided he did not want to take his full scout group across the South Saskatchewan River in twilight so they set up a small camp in a wooded area that had once been a golf course.
“But that means, Zais, I’ve work for you and your team,” Konev said to his corporal, putting a hand on his shoulder.
“Us again?” Zais shook his head.
“Your team of six is the best of all of us; that’s why you have the IR and night vision equipment.” Konev knew his second knew this too. “Rather than crossing the highway, where the power plant is, just make your way into the part of the town on the north bank. See what you find there and if you hear or see anything on the south side. That was the old heart of the city.”
“If you encounter any resistance, fall back,” he went on. “We’re scouts, not an assault company.”
“Not like when we were in Anchorage, then?” Zais not quite smiled, recalling when they first set foot in North America.
“No. And try to be back by twenty-two hundred. I’ll be waiting for your report. Good luck, corporal.”
With no more and a nod, the other stood and in a quiet voice got his small team together and back toward the road.
It was not quite thirty minutes after ten o’clock at night when the team returned. Given the open-ended nature of his directive and that there were technically in an enemy country, Konev just sipped his tea, filled out reports, and waited.
Zais squatted next to his sergeant who immediately passed him some tea as well.
“We followed the rail line in,” the scout began without preamble. “Didn’t want to get into an urban or suburban setting, knowing nothing. That line goes due-east before turning south to cross a bridge right into the heart of the city. Only saw a few lights on the north side, and they were all within three blocks of the river.”
“What kind of lights?” his NCO asked.
“Both; electric and candles.”
“Troops? Trucks?” Konev took a breath. “Armor?”
“The only people we saw was a pensioner couple walking their dog. They did not see us.”
“Get any intel from across the river?” was his last question.
“More lights. Looked electric. Smelled horses and mules and heard no engines,” Zais said, finishing his tea.
“Is there no one here? Military? They have to know we’re coming…” Konev wondered aloud. “I refuse to believe after all this time we have strategic surprise.”
“We bloodied their noses, bad, at Brandon last year,” Zais said, handing his cup back and standing to find his bedroll. “Maybe they’re spooked and staying closer to their bases?”
The sergeant shrugged. Realizing his corporal couldn’t see that, he just said, “maybe.”
“Will be up and move out an hour before dawn,” he carried on. “And will follow your path in. Our orders are to take a look at Medicine Hat, not bypass it, so I’ll send your preliminary report now and a fuller one tomorrow evening.”
His corporal took a step.
“And Zais? Thank you.”