Hey Readers. I was kicking back this morning and I wondered what to post this week. Well… I’ve gotten a fair bit of feedback about this short in the new alternate history series; so I thought to share it with you all.
To give you a taste of what is to come. Here it is, the non-spoileriffic short.
“Fuck you, sir.”
Second Lieutenant Wayne Haskell of the 180th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion of the Virginia Army Guard covered his eyes for a moment. He wanted to scream. He wanted to be anywhere but here, the westbound exit off of Interstate 70 onto state route 65. It was a major logistics route into and out of the Baltimore and Washington DC area, and right now it was a nightmare of fleeing cars, many of them filled with those stricken by the Plague, the Crud, or what-the-fuck-ever.
His platoon, equipped with heavy bulldozers, was tasked with keeping I-70 westbound clear, no matter what. His company commander hadn’t left any room for doubt; Wayne had written orders in his pocket.
Deadly force was authorized; usually one wouldn’t think of bulldozers as deadly. In this situation, they were.
Wayne looked at the pile-up of hopelessly entwined and burning cars before him. People were trying to help others that were trapped. Someone, or someones, were screaming. Screams such as he had never heard; high pitched keening, hoarse shouts.
Someone was burning to death.
The driver of the bulldozer, Sergeant Vogel, was a good man and soldier. Experienced. A veteran of Afghanistan, he had run the Ring Road looking for bombs. When he tired of the Regular Army, he had gotten out. After a while, he missed the service, and as with so many veterans, he found the Guard.
And now the Guard had found both soldiers, and their mission was clear. Keep Route 70 free for traffic, by any means necessary, no matter what.
Wayne’s mouth set in a grim line. He was a brand new officer, and here he was, in one of those fucked up situations they had warned him of in OCS. His instructors pasted a bland term on such moments. This was a “leadership challenge.”
Bad enough, thought Wayne, to be a black man in a unit with a heavy Confederate lineage. But now I have to face down one of my best NCOs. A man I admire. A solid soldier, father and husband. Jesus. He shook his head.
Wayne spoke, he pitched his voice over the dozer’s idling engine and the screams.
“Sergeant, this isn’t an option. It’s a direct order. Push the wrecked vehicles off the road.”
The man’s face contorted into a rubber mask of anguish.
“Sir, there are kids in there! Babies! They are trapped. If I push these cars they fuckin’ die!”
Wayne rubbed his face. Vogel was right. But as an Army officer with a clear mission, Wayne was more right, if that made sense. It was time to either use reason or his M17 pistol, either or.
Lieutenant Haskell decided to try reason first.
“Vogel, look left.”
The Sergeant looked. There was a traffic jam as far as the eye could see. There were thousands of cars.
“Now look right.”
The westbound highway was empty.
“Clear the cars, Vogel, or more people die.”
“Sergeant Vogel, this is on me. Not you. Put the dozer in gear, clear the jam.”
The NCO let a string of profanity loose, but he acted. With a crunch and a roar, Sergeant Vogel followed orders.
Both men wept as he pushed, crushed, the wrecked autos aside. The rumbling diesel and the screech of tortured metal almost blotted out the screams.