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Welcome to Hell! – Fiction

"Rapidity is the essence of war: take advantage of the enemy's unreadiness, make your way by unexpected routes, and attack unguarded spots." – Sun Tzu

“The principle Chechen city defense was the ‘defenseless defense.’ They decided that it was better not to have strong points, but to remain totally mobile and hard to find.” – Timothy Thomas

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Susan Kignak sat at the counter of Archie’s Sport Fishing and Scenic Boat Tours thumbing through a three-day-old newspaper. She had already read it, but there was nothing else to do, so she read it again. Archie only had one boat out. There was no work for them until it got back.

The Navy continued to blockade the Strait of Malacca, trying to starve the Chinese of oil. Ahmadinejad made more grandiose announcements from his bunker somewhere in Iran. Qatar burned – the photos from there were awful. No matter how much we bombed the Iranians, they never seemed to lose interest in pummeling poor Qatar with more missiles. General Motors was presenting another restructuring proposal to Congress, trying to explain how, with 5% of the market, they were going to repay the $100 billion that the government had now loaned them. Paul Krugman was talking up President Obama’s latest stimulus package in the editorials – this one was sure to lift us out of recession. Blah, blah, blah.

It was all old news. Today was New Years Eve, 2011, and the paper had advertisements for all the big parties at the nightclubs around town. But Susan and her husband Jacque intended to spend a quiet evening at home together. They weren’t into partying. The same could not be said of their sixteen-year-old son, Jake, but he too was going to be spending the evening at home whether he liked it or not.

Snow drifted down outside, blanketing Anchorage, dark already at 3:00 P.M. At this time of year, they only got six hours of daylight. All that darkness was depressing – and the fog didn’t help either. The television and radio stations had been down for three days and there had been no newspapers delivered in that time. It was just as boring as shit!

“Quite a storm,” Susan thought, though in the back of her mind there was a nagging suspicion that something more than just that was going on. It had been quite a storm. But Anchorage had seen storms like this before. None of those storms had shut down all the TV and radio stations – even the AM stations that she never listened to were off the air.

“Hey, come out here and listen to this,” said Archie, from the door.

“What? It’s a secret?” asked Susan, “Zee valls av ears?”

“No. There’s a sound out here. Come outside and listen.”

Reluctantly, Susan pulled her heavy overcoat on and donned her beaver-skin cap – Jacque couldn’t afford to buy his wife a mink one – and went outside. She listened and there was a sound. A sporadic booming noise came out of the fog. It sounded like it came from far off the coast, though in the heavy fog she couldn’t be sure.

“What is it?” she asked Archie, who was peering intently through a pair of binoculars.

“Oh shit,” he said.

And then Susan saw it too. A ship – a battleship – appeared through the fog. It was on fire. Even through the mist she could see flames all along its deck. The little gun in its turret up at the front was firing at something. Suddenly, in a flash of light, a missile was launched from the burning ship and streaked off into the distance.

“That battleship, they’ve had an accident,” she said, “They must have accidentally ignited their powder magazine or something.”

“It’s not a battleship,” said Archie, who had been in the Navy when he was a young man, “It’s a guided missile destroyer – Arleigh Burke Class – probably the Milius, out of San Diego. I heard that they were in the area. I don’t think that fire is an accident.”

The ship, now clearly visible, was listing severely towards its starboard side. Black smoke poured out of a gaping hole in its hull. It turned slowly towards the coast and, a minute later, ran itself aground about a mile from Archie’s Boat Tours.

“I’d better get home,” said Susan, “My husband will be worried about me.” And without another word, she ran to her snow mobile and started the engine.

“That wasn’t an accident. Oh shit. That wasn’t an accident.” Susan kept repeating to herself as she bounced over the snow drifts. “That wasn’t an accident.”

“There was an accident,” announced Susan, as she burst into her living room, “A battleship – I mean, a destroyer – its powder magazine…”

Her husband and his best friend Bill were crouched on the floor in front of what appeared to be two giant up-side-down microphones. At least that’s what they looked like to Susan. They were tubes with a bump on one end like the head of a microphone and an odd bipod thing on the other end. But if it were a microphone, it would have been propped up the other way.

The two men were reading instruction manuals. Jacque leapt up and kissed her. “I’m so glad you’re here. I tried to call Archie, but the phones are down. The CB doesn’t work either – it just screeches – I think they’re jamming the radios. So I waited here for you.”

“What’s going on? What are those things? Where did you get…? Who is jamming the radios?”

“They’re Dragon – actually, Super Dragon – anti-tank missiles. Sarah Palin gave them to us.”

“But… What? Sarah Palin? The governor? What’s going…?” Susan stammered.

“She was standing at the front gate to Fort Richardson with whole pallets full of Dragons. The Army uses the Javelin now, but they’ve got lots of Dragons stockpiled. Palin is handing them out to anybody who will help her fight the Russians.”

“The Russians? The Russians are here? In Anchorage?”

“Yes. They’re here. They’ve invaded,” said her husband and, suddenly embarrassed, he added, “Um… I didn’t get you one – um – I forgot to ask Sarah.”

“But I’ve never fired… I’m not even trained – I mean – I guess they come with instructions? But…”

Realizing that she was babbling, Susan shut her mouth and breathed deeply through her nose.

“Where’s Jake?” she asked.

“He’s with his hockey team. Coach – er – Sergeant Armstrong commanded a Bradley Fighting Vehicle in Iraq, back in 2003. The soldiers at Fort Richardson let him have an extra one that they weren’t using. He’s training the boys in how to crew it.”

“The Army has a lot of equipment and vehicles stockpiled in Alaska, but few personnel – everybody has been sent to Iran,” Bill added, apparently feeling that Susan’s puzzled expression implied that more explanation was necessary.

Susan stood in her living room trying to visualize her son and his fellow Wolverines in combat. “It’s not a video game,” she wanted to tell him; “You can’t just hit the ‘play again’ button if you get killed.” But she guessed he knew that.

“I’ll get my rifle,” she concluded, “I’ve fired rifles all my life. I bought a set of Sniper Flash Cards on the internet. I’m really more familiar with… I mean, I’d rather… than these missiles.”

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