May 10, 1942
The dome of the Arkansas State Capital Building was modeled upon that of the old United States Capitol Building, before the capital had moved from Washington to Chicago. The wings of the building had been hit by artillery and morning air strikes, but the dome remained intact, towering over the city as its highest structure.
Colonel Stalworth looked out from the dome at the ruined city and the carnage evident in its suburbs. The line of furthest American advance into Little Rock was marked by languid smoke rising from flattened buildings, wrecked buildings, and ruined buildings. The destruction formed an uninterrupted ring on the western perimeter of the city.
Beyond the broken structures of the city lay a gruesome still parade of American trucks and tanks. Within the city, the Valentines had taken out American tanks at about a three-to-one ratio. Outside the city, the First Armored Corps counterattacking from the southern flank had inflicted casualty ratios of somewhere between ten and a hundred to one. The Razorbacks had been skillfully handled to protect their lighter-armored flanks, and their high-velocity 57mm guns had been able to pierce the American frontal armor at medium range or less. The pre-staged Mammies full of ammo for the armor had made a significant positive difference.
The Second Armored Corps’ Crusaders had done less well on the northern flank, but they had still done well enough. The Americans, out of ammunition and surrounded, had surrendered in the afternoon. The numbers were not yet certain, but tens of thousands of well-trained soldiers—and hundreds of tanks, artillery pieces, and anti-tank guns—were now captured by the Confederates.
Now the day was ending, the sun dipping down to the
Western horizon. This was, Colonel
Stalworth knew, even bigger than Galveston.
The Negro Brigade had been the anvil upon which the American hammer had
spent its energy. Between its rifles,
machine guns, hand grenades, Roman Candles, Molotov Cocktails, and, most
importantly here, its supporting Valentines, it had held the city for a crucial
night against impossible odds. Morning
had brought air strikes, too little, too late, for the Americans. There were rumors that one of the Dutch
pilots had scored two dozen kills in three flights before the American air
assault had been stopped due to losses. On
the ground and in the air, the Americans had had the numbers. On the ground and in the air, the Americans
had lost decisively. The supporting
armor and infantry had never reached the city.
Colonel Hutcheson appeared beside Colonel Stalworth. He said nothing. He looked out upon the ruined, burning city with the much-younger Negro man, understanding how terrible the price of victory had been.
Neither one spoke.
May 11, 1942
“They’re searching the trucks!” whispered Hiawatha.
Captain O’Brien could see that. He was thinking as fast as he could. The briefing had suggested that trucks were rudimentarily searched, if searched at all, coming from Quebec to the United States. Border patrol officers were digging deep into the cargo of the trucks ahead of them in line.
“I know. Let me think.”
Satisfied, the border patrol waved a truck through. They moved forward. They were third in line.
Behind the seat of the truck were three machine pistols and a Boys Rifle. Each of the machine pistols had a second magazine cemented and masking taped to the first for rapid reload. Hidden, but also within reach, were six hand grenades, the middle four fragmentation, the other two white phosphorous. Either the grenades or the machine pistols were accessible in less than two seconds.
Concealed by his jacket, Captain O’Brien’s pistol was holstered upon his chest. The combination of a pistol and a throttle was not trivial, but the operation required more than survival of a border crossing checkpoint. Surviving and driving through might save their lives, but it would destroy the mission. He had to get the truck and its load, intact, into the United States without suspicion. Intelligence had said that the searches were perfunctory with random exceptions. Today that was not the case.
The truck at the border pulled into the United States. The truck ahead of him pulled forward. They were second in line.
“What are we going to do?” hissed Hiawatha.
“Give me time!” Captain O’Brien shifted into gear, pulled up not-too-close to the truck ahead of him, and thought.
“We don’t have time!” murmured Hiawatha. Dekanahwideh grunted.
“We have two or three minutes,” said Captain O’Brien. He watched exactly how the border patrol officers approached and talked to the truck driver. One of the two then took three other men back to search the back with the driver while the lead agent stayed at the cab. Two other visible agents remained at the small office. Four others, as best he could tell, were working the line of automobiles. At least eleven border patrol officers were manning the crossing. They would have to kill them all to get a chance of passage into the United States without pursuit.
A one hundred percent kill would be challenging. The four at the adjacent station were the greatest challenge. Dekanahwideh, in the window seat, would have to take the lead in that, killing four men in under five seconds. Captain O’Brien was unsure the Iroquois warrior could do that.
The officer who had spoken to the truck driver remained on the ground in the rear. The other three all mounted the bed and inspected the load. The one furthest to the right ripped back the boxes three deep to see what might be hidden. Satisfied, he raised his hand to his fellow officers before restoring the load. The other two in the truck bed helped him set it straight.
The façade of maple syrup was exactly one case deep.
“All right. Do nothing unless I say ‘beans.’ If I say ‘beans,’ go for your machine pistols. Dekanahwideh, you take out the four agents at the other crossing. Use grenades if they take cover. Hiawatha, fire through the windshield at any men in front of us. I’ll take out the men to our left.”
“Yes, Sir!” murmured Hiawatha. Dekanahwideh nodded acknowledgement.
“But do not speak a word! No matter what, do not speak a word! Understood?”
The truck in front of them pulled away. Both Iroquois nodded.
Captain O’Brien did not pull forward. Instead, he beckoned the border patrol agents back to his truck.
Somewhere about four rigs back, a horn blared.
The officer apparently in charge just cocked his head as if Captain O’Brien were crazy. The officer who had led the search team walked back to where Captain O’Brien had stopped, refusing to move. Two other truckers started leaning on their horns.
The border patrol officer reached the truck. “Pull forward, please,” he said.
“Yeah, but we’ve got a problem, Sir. My Indians—you have to hire Indians because they own the sugar maples—anyway, they forgot their passports. Now, can you let us all across on my passport?”
“No, of course not.”
“I understand. But we’ve waited our turn in line. Can you just search our truck here, I’ll turn around, we’ll come back with our passports, and you can just wave us through? We’ve already waited in line. It’s not fair to make us wait twice.”
“Look, it’s not my fault you forgot your passports…”
“I didn’t forget my passport! I’ve got it right here! My Indians who are too dumb to speak English forgot their passports! That could happen to anybody! Let’s just get the search out of the way so that when we get back…”
“We’ll search you when you get back.”
“But it’s not my fault…”
“Rules are rules. Look, drive to the crossing if you’re going to cross. You’ll all need passports. Turn around if you’re going to turn around. But either way, move your truck. Listen to the horns! You’re blocking the border crossing!”
“Can’t you just search my…”
“Move forward, turn around, or I will arrest you!”
“All right! All right! No need to overreact! I’ll just turn around!”
Captain O’Brien shifted into gear. He pulled the truck around, slowly and sharply, and returned to Quebec. After a few hundred yards of driving, the sounds of the angry horns died.
“#@+%,” said Dekanahwideh.
May 11, 1942
“Good afternoon, Admiral,” said Commander Adams, leaning on crutches at the entrance to the inner office.
“Thomas! Come in!” said Vice Admiral Alden. The crippled officer limped his way on crutches to his dedicated chair to the admiral’s right hand. “I’d thought that you were resting and…recovering…today.”
“No, Sir, Admiral,” said Commander Adams, pivoting and falling into his seat. He set the crutches aside with his hand. “I couldn’t stay in my quarters. Neither could you.”
“No, you’re right, but I always have things to do. I thought that Wayne had essentially absorbed your duties?”
Commander Adams exhaled. “My work, yes, my duties, no. I spent the last few hours looking at the North Atlantic convoy issues.”
“Good!” replied Vice Admiral Alden. “Where do we stand?”
“The first anti-submarine submarine—the first ‘killer’ sub, or SSK—is actually ahead of construction schedule in Portsmouth after the conversion directive. The requisitions were all priority one, but the large passive array ringing the bow is in place with high expectations of success. The homing torpedoes are working in prototype. Somewhere between four to eight weeks from now we’ll have an asset ready for a workup cycle.”
“We don’t have time for a workup cycle. We need to get that sub operational to learn what we can from action.”
“Yes, Admiral,” said Commander Adams. “That will be…difficult. The submarine community and Admiral Vaughn may not be receptive to that idea.”
“So you’ll have to use your charm!” laughed Vice Admiral Alden. “You still have influence.”
“You have more influence than I do, Sir. I’m just a half-forgotten wounded warrior.”
“I don’t think so,” chuckled John Alden. “But that’s for another day. Where is everybody?”
“Edna is with Roberta in her quarters. Roberta’s pretty shook up, Sir. You know she saw Paul take a full burst point-blank in his torso, right?”
“We’ve both seen worse, Sir, but she was just a secretary half a year ago. She wasn’t ready for that.”
“At least she had the presence of mind to close and lock the door.”
“Agreed. You know she saved your life.”
“I know,” said Vice Admiral Alden. His focus shifted from close in the room to distant far beyond the walls as he spoke those two words.
“Channah is with Samson at the Naval Hospital. He fractured his hand badly killing the last American soldier.”
“Is it ruined?”
“No, at least for everyday use, which is all that he needs given his vision. You know he actually addressed the American instead of hitting him from behind to get a clearer visual picture before he hit him.”
“I heard that.”
“Raymond Spruance sends us good men.”
“Two so far.”
“That one last American could have easily killed the rest of us.”
“That’s why they only sent four. Do we know yet how they got here?”
“No. No, Sir. There’s no sign of landing or paradrop. There’s no boat on the shore of the base.”
“Did they just drive in? Did they take a taxi?”
“That…that seems to be it. They may have taken a taxi onto base and changed into uniform before engaging in combat.”
“Have we reacted?”
“Taxis are being searched. Passengers are being identified. And, as you know, we have a dedicated cordon of infantry around the perimeter of our building.”
“I know. They were uncertain about letting me in.”
“It’s their first day.”
“I know, Thomas. Where’s Wayne?”
“I know he saw Channah this morning to make sure that she was all right. I think he went to get message traffic at the Comm Center after that, and that he’ll be back here soon.”
“Thomas, what do you think of Wayne?”
“Permission to speak freely, Sir?”
John Alden raised an eyebrow. “Of course.”
“Wayne is better at this than Noah Watson and, honestly, far better than you, Sir. Captain Watson was always a bit odd, and if he could memorize faster than anybody else it didn’t mean that his sense of conflict modeling was spot on. Admiral, the more I know Edna, the more I understand how much she made his reputation. But Wayne…wow. Wayne won Oahu, Wayne carried Jake Eliot, and now Wayne runs our command. I try to offer wisdom. You do a superior job of holding our very unusual team together. We both offer Wayne support getting help outside our command. But Wayne is the heart of this command, and he has been from the day he arrived. The rest of us combined are less than Wayne Crandlemire.”
John Alden nodded. “So you think we should keep him?”
Thomas B. Adams laughed out loud. “Oh God…Admiral, this is why I decided to survive to come back to work for you.”
“And thank you, Thomas. Of all of us, you don’t have to be here at all.”
“If you say so, Sir.”
“I understand. By the way, Admiral Vaughn ordered us all to carry weapons at work. What will you want?”
“No, we don’t have a choice. You don’t have to go with a service standard sidearm. He recognizes that we’re very different in size and ability. What would work best for you?”
“Nothing. I choose not to kill.”
“That’s not an option.”
“It’s always an option. I’ve caused enough death for this lifetime. I choose not to kill. If you don’t like that, you can fire me, imprison me, or kill me. I shall not carry a weapon.”
“You could carry a weapon and not use it.”
“I am an Adams, not a hypocrite.”
“Yes,” said Vice Admiral Alden. He looked at his Deputy. He considered the words. “What would you carry?” he asked.
“Something that would not kill. Flowers, I suppose. Young puppies. They could distract attackers with love.”
“Well, that’s a start. What about a smoke grenade?”
“A smoke grenade?”
“It has military use. It could cause a distraction. It couldn’t kill, at least in your hand. Samson could club forty Philistines to death with one, but for you…”
“Yes. Understood. I would happily assist in defending our command with one smoke grenade. I shall wear it on a chain as if it were a pendant. That shall be my contribution.”
“A white phosphorous grenade? They make lots of smoke.”
“Don’t push me.”
“Why, if I may ask, do you participate so willingly in our simulations?”
“Because if New England wins we want peace. If the United States wins, there will be blood.”
Vice Admiral Alden looked from behind the big desk at Commander Thomas B. Adams, the representative of the Royal House in his command. The war with America had swiftly come to this, the threat of genocide spoken by the greatest pacifist among the ranks of the New England Royal Navy. The crippled royal was right. America had demanded genocide time and again on the frontier as retribution for imagined slights by Native Americans whose lands had been stolen. New England’s sins, real or imagined, were greater by orders of magnitude. This was more than a war of national survival—this was a war of survival, plain and simple.
“And fewer deaths are better?”
“And loyalty to your nation has nothing to do with it?”
Thomas twitched to the side. “Pardon. I may be biased.”
“Forgiven. Some call it allegiance.”
“I rather prefer…” began Commander Adams.
Lieutenant Commander Crandlemire burst into the inner office. “Sir! The Americans have crossed the Ohio River!”
“Where?” asked Vice Admiral Alden.
“Louisville? Is the line breached at Louisville?” demanded Commander Adams. “That would offer the best road network for exploitation.”
“Everywhere! Every point that once had a bridge from Cairo to Pittsburgh! The American Army outnumbers the Confederate Army grossly. They’re taking the casualties for a broad-front breach of the line. They are across the Ohio at fourteen places, at least. General Patton is trying to coordinate resistance.”
Vice Admiral Alden had no answer to the challenge.