Victoria: Chapter 26

Back when we were establishing the armed forces of the Northern Confederation – just Maine at the time – I had sent one of our Christian Marines, Captain Rick Hoffman, formerly of the U.S. Navy, down to Portland to see what might be done about creating a fleet. Hoff had his work cut out for him, since our only ship was the LPH John Ross pirated when he came north.

I hadn’t paid much attention since to what Hoff was up to, partly because we hadn’t needed a navy yet and partly because he had a mission order and could be trusted to carry it out. I figured by now he ought to have done something, so I ordered him to our HQ in Worcester to help plan a naval battle.

“Waal, do we have a navy or don’t we?” I asked the good captain when he reported in, “I hope we do, because we sure need one right now.”

“We have a navy of sorts,” Hoff replied. “It’s nothing the old U.S. Navy would have called a navy, but I think it can fight.”

“Can it cut the Islamics in Boston off from the sea?”

“I think it can, if we use a combined arms approach,” Hoff replied.

“What do you have in mind?” I asked.

“We’ve developed two types of warships,” Hoff explained. “I should call them ‘warboats,’ because they’re pretty small. The first is a gunboat, armed with either a ‘Stalin organ’ multiple rocket launcher or a Russian 240 mm mortar. They are converted fishing boats, which means they can carry plenty of ammunition, but they’re slow. Our second warboat type is torpedo boats, converted from speed boats.”

“Did the Russians send us torpedoes?” I asked.

“No. They don’t have torpedo boats any more, and the experiments we tried shooting their submarine torpedoes from converted speedboats were not very promising: We’re using spar torpedoes.”

“Spar torpedoes?” I asked, not sure I’d heard right. “Hell, those disappeared with the Civil War. I’m all for Retroculture, but isn’t this taking it a little far? How will our crews survive ramming a torpedo on a stick into a Muslim destroyer?”

“We’re a little more modern than that,” Dick replied. “We’re up to about the 1880s. After the Civil War, in Europe, navies developed spar torpedoes that could be towed behind and off to one side of a torpedo boat. Instead of ramming the target, the torpedo boat could cut ahead or astern of it, and the towed torpedo would still hit the ship’s side. That’s the kind we’ve got.”

“Still sounds pretty risky to me,” I commented.

“War is dangerous,” Hoff reminded me.

“Well, you should have the advantage of surprise, anyway,” I responded. “The Islamics won’t be expecting a type of attack no one has made in more than a century. How do you plan to use your boats to cut Boston off from the sea?”

“There, I need some help,” Hoff answered. “We can’t do it alone. It has to be a combined arms operation – the old rock-paper-scissors trick. If we have surprise, and I think we will, I believe we can sink or disable the five warships the Islamics now have off Boston. Once the warships are gone, the transports are dead meat, and we can set up a blockade. What we can’t do is deal with the warships they will send to replace those we sink, because by then they’ll be on the lookout for our torpedo boats.

“The best answer to those ships are our F-16s. But they can’t operate near Boston so long as the Islamics have air cover out of Logan. So our navy needs to take out that air cover to allow our aircraft to keep their ships away.”

“Can you do that?” I asked.

“Yes, I think so,” Dick said. “I’ve talked to the Boys in Utica, and they’ll launch a massive feint toward Boston with every F-16 we’ve got at the same time we make our torpedo attack on the Islamic warships. That will make the Islamics launch their aircraft in response. Assuming our torpedoes hit, the way will be clear for our gunboats to blow the hell out of Logan airport. When the Muslim F-35s and F-16s get back, the only place they’ll have to land is in the ocean. After that, our F-16s will have clear skies to defend the approaches to Boston from any more ships the Muslims may send.”

“OK, you’ve thought this through well,” I said. “Combined arms is the answer. As always in war, the outcome is in the hands of Dame Fortune, but you’ve done everything possible to make her job easy. How soon can you do it?”

“It will take about three days to infiltrate our gunboats and torpedo boats into the Boston area,” Hoff answered. “Their weapons systems are concealed, so they look just like other coastal traffic, which the Islamics haven’t blocked. We want to attack at first light with the torpedo boats, when their warships will be silhouetted by the dawn and we can come out of the shadows. The gunboats will already be in Boston’s outer harbor, posing as the fishing boats they were. Utica is ready now, so let’s say we make D-day September 10th, four days from now. We need to move fast, or there won’t be any white Christians left alive in Boston.”

“There may not be any by the 10th,” I said, “The one thing Muslims seem to do efficiently is murder. Anyway, I’ll need that time to get our ground forces in position to attack. We should move when you do, and we’ll need to bring up artillery. A good artillery stonking should rattle them. But I fear we’ll still face heavy urban combat, which is the nastiest job on the face of the planet.”

“I’ll leave that part to you. I’ll be busy enough playing ‘Canoes vs. Battleships,’” Hoff said. “But I do have a question for you. All the attempts at forced conversion to Islam we’ve seen in Boston, and all the crucifixions, have been of whites, Hispanics, and Asians. What has happened to Boston’s black Christians?”

“Hmm, that is a good question,” I answered. “To be honest, I hadn’t thought of it. I guess I just assumed they were being left alone because they were black. But we shouldn’t assume that. Islamics don’t like black Christians any better than white Christians, as they’ve shown by slaughtering hundreds of thousands of them in Africa. I’ll look into it.”

***

After Hoff left for Portland to get his Navy moving south, I asked our intel officer, Capt. Walthers, what he knew about the fate of Boston’s blacks. He hadn’t asked the question either. But he said some blacks had fled through our lines, with the white refugees, and he’d see if he could find out what they knew.

I went back to work, writing the orders to deploy our forces close-in around Route 128 in preparation for the assault. The Islamics still had not attacked us with air, but I didn’t want their air recon to pick our movements up and tip them off something was coming. So we still had to move at night, on back roads, in small units. There were plenty of houses and barns to hide in during the daytime.

That evening, just after I’d finished giving the last motorcycle courier movement orders for the artillery, Walthers rang me up.

“Skipper, I’ve got someone you may want to talk to, a black fellow who got out of Boston just last night. He says he knows you, and he knows what’s happening to Boston’s blacks. His name is Matthews.”

“Shit, Gunny Matthews? Yes, I know him. Send him up to my office.”

“Aye aye, sir. He’s on his way.”

Mathews was the hero of the Christian Marines’ first battle, the Battle of the Housing Project. I’d lost touch with him since. Whatever the Islamics were doing to Boston’s blacks, it was great knowing he was still among the living.

My door was open, as usual, and I soon saw a very downcast Gunny Matthews standing in it. I got up to shake his hand and congratulate him on his escape. He wouldn’t take my hand, and he wouldn’t look me in the eye. That wasn’t the Gunny. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “Are you hurt?”

“Terribly hurt, sir,” he replied. “But I did it to myself. You don’t want to shake my hand, sir, not after what I’ve done.”

“Sit down,” I ordered. “Now, what’s this crap all about? You’re still a Christian Marine, and you’re still my friend. What happened to you?”

“No sir, I’m not a Christian Marine anymore. I’m not a Christian any more. I have some information I think you should hear, sir, but once I’ve told you, and told you how I got it, I’ll be gone. I’m not fit to be around decent people no more.”

“As your commander, I’ll be the judge of that,” I replied. “Tell me what happened to you, what you did, and most important, what you know about the fate of Boston’s black Christians.”

“Yes, sir. Well, sir, you know what’s been happenin’ to the white folks in Boston. Back in our churches, we wondered whether the Black Muslims would do the same to us. A few days after they started crucifying white Christians there on the Common for everyone all over the world to see, they began rounding up black folk, too. We all knew people who ‘disappeared.’ Some came back as Muslims. They told us they’d seen other blacks refuse to convert, but they didn’t know what happened to ’em.”

“So, sir, I decided to try and find out. I went straight to the Black Muslim’s headquarters in the State House and told ‘em I wanted to become a Muslim. I figured if I volunteered, they’d trust me more, and maybe I could find something out.”

“So I did it. I said the words, ‘There is no god but God, and Mohammed is his Prophet.’ I turned my back on Jesus Christ, sir, and I denied him. That’s why I said I can’t be a Christian Marine any more. Of course I didn’t mean it, it was a, what did you used to call it? Something French, oh, yeah, it was a ruse de guerre. But still I said it, so I guess I’m no Christian anymore.”

“But it worked, sir. They’d had a few other people just come in and volunteer, but not many, so I was something special. They gave me the rank of major in their Black Muslim army, and some Arab handed me a whole bunch of his country’s money. They put me on the staff that was overseeing the conversion of other black people to Islam. There, I found out what they’re doing to black Christians who won’t convert.”

The Gunny paused, whether for breath or for drama I didn’t know. “And what are they doing to them?” I asked, playing my part.

“They’re selling them, sir. As slaves, back in the Arab countries. When a plane or a ship arrives with Muslim troops or equipment, it doesn’t go home empty. It goes back filled with black Christians, sir, to be sold as slaves.”

“You’re sure of this?” I asked, realizing we’d just been handed a potent weapon if it were true.

“Yes, sir. I’ve got proof. I’ve got it with me.” Gunny Matthews reached into a canvas bag he’d been carrying and hauled out a bundle of hand-written notes.

“The Arabs, once they had the black folk who wouldn’t convert rounded up, told ’em what was gonna happen to them. They thought they’d get some more converts to Islam that way. And they did get a few. But most black Christians are strong folk, sir. They’re like the church ladies you remember. Unlike me, they wouldn’t deny their Lord and Savior, Jesus.”

“After they’d been told they were goin’ back into slavery, when I could be alone with them, I told ’em that if they wanted to write their families and tell ’em where they were going, I’d try to get the letters through. These are their letters. I’d still like to get them to their families, like I promised, sir, but I thought you might have some use for them first.”

“Gunny, you done good,” I said, with a grin on my face. “I think it’s safe to say I – we – will make very good use of those letters. Are you ready to go on the air, letters and all?”

“Sir?”

“Gunny, the forces of the Northern Confederation are about to attack, to liberate Boston. You have just given me the keys to the city. If you’ll do it, I’ll call a news conference where you will tell the whole world’s media what you just told me, and you’ll show them the letters. I’ll time it so it hits Boston right before our assault. I suspect every black in Boston, including the Black Muslims, will go for the throat of the nearest member of the Islamic Expeditionary Force as soon as he hears what his ‘allies’ have been up to. We’ll have those camel-drivers between two fronts and they’ll collapse in a heart-beat. You’ve given me the most powerful psychological weapon since Germany shipped Lenin to St. Petersburg in 1917.”

“I’ll do whatever you want to help my people, sir. All my people, black and white,” the Gunny replied. “I know I’m not a Christian any more, but to me, all Christians are still my people.”

“Gunny, listen to me. You’re still a Christian, as good a Christian as any and better than most,” I said. “Remember a guy named Peter? He denied Christ three times before the cock crowed, and he was the rock on which Christ built his Church. Christ knew what you were doing. I strongly suspect he put you up to it. Your idea was too good not to come from the Holy Spirit.”

“I don’t know what the one unforgivable sin is, but it surely isn’t using a ruse de guerre. Not only are you still a Christian Marine, when you get to Heaven, I suspect they’ll have a special big show when they give you your crown, with all those good Church Ladies belting out some Gospel number to shake the rafters. As I said, you done good. And you’ve helped save the lives of lots of other Christians, including my troops.”

I could see relief dawning in the Gunny’s face. Planting some hope was all I could do now, because we had a city to storm.

***

September 7, 8, and 9 were days of gut-wrenching tension. Our troops and “warboats” were moving into position. Gunny Matthews was briefing key members of the international press on the fate of Boston’s blacks, with release embargoed until noon on the 9th. The weather forecast for the 10th was good for our navy; some morning fog then clear, with light winds. Our infantry was deployed to attack, not on major routes, such as I-90 and I-93, but on all the back roads and minor streets. The Islamic Expeditionary Force had focused on defending the major roads, leaving the small stuff to their Black Muslim allies. I was relying on Matthews’ message to clear them.

Meanwhile, all I could do was wait and gulp down Maalox. Bill Kraft reminded me of what von Rundstedt did when he got the word that the Allies were landing on the beaches of Normandy. He went out into the garden and trimmed the roses. He had already done all he could, and anything more would just get him into his subordinates’ knickers where he shouldn’t be. It was a good lesson, but it didn’t untie the knots in my stomach.

The first action opened on schedule at noon on the 9th. At a massive press conference with reporters from all over the world, Gunny Matthews told his story. We beamed it into Boston, live, on radio and television. Then, the Gunny read, over the air, all the letters he had brought out with him. We knew they would authenticate his account in the minds of our Boston listeners, because the names and family events mentioned in them would be recognized. Those who heard the words of their own wife, husband, child, or grandparent would tell others the letters were real.

By the evening of the 9th, Boston was crackling with light weapons fire, and the deeper reports of tank guns and RPGs were starting to be heard. Boston’s blacks were turning on their Islamic “friends.”

At first light on the 10th, among the fog banks drifting outside Boston’s harbor, the lookouts on the five Islamic destroyers and frigates spotted some small boats messing about at low speed. Some were fishing boats, others the kind of speedboats used to run hashish between ship and shore in a trade both sides made money from. Nothing seemed unusual, on a blockade that had never been challenged. The lookouts knew the infidels had no navy, and besides, it was time for morning prayers.

Precisely at prayer time, the speedboats gunned their engines and turned sharply toward the Muslim warships, on courses that would take them across their bow or stern. The spar torpedoes ran about 20 feet outboard of the torpedo boats and 100 feet astern. The morning calm was broken by the deep booming of underwater explosions as 250 pound charges blew truck-sized holes in the Prophet’s war galleys.

At the same time, the Islamic air controllers at Logan Airport picked up a mass formation of incoming Northern Confederation F-16s on their radar. Within minutes, Saudi F-35s were scrambling to intercept, followed by everything else that could fly. No one noticed that on the fishing boats near the end of the runways, crewman were taking the canvas covers off tubes planted amidships. The first rounds from our gunboats’ mortars and rocket launchers began impacting the runways and support facilities at 06:40. There were no Islamic warships to interfere.

Our zoomies badly wanted to get into furballs with the Islamic fighter aircraft, but I had forbidden it. Our pilots were better, and I was sure we would win, but I was also sure we’d take some losses. Never fight an enemy you can destroy without fighting. True to their orders, our F-16s turned tail and fled west when they picked up the lead Saudi F-35s closing on them. The Islamic aircraft turned back also, jabbering on their radios about how the Christian dogs were hopeless cowards. They got back to Boston to find Logan a burning heap of wreckage. Some tried to land anyway and became one more wreck amid the potholed runways. Others tried putting down on highways; the ones that made it were captured by our advancing infantry. Most ditched in the bay.

With the Muslims’ air force wiped out, our F-16s launched a second strike, this time for real. They finished off two Islamic warships that had remained afloat after our torpedo attacks, sank the Islamic transport ships and strafed and cluster-bombed the Muslim armor and artillery.

Our ground assault had also kicked off at first light. Our infantry walked into a city-sized civil war. Everywhere, blacks were fighting troops from the Islamic Expeditionary Force. Militarily, the result was to open the door to us, since the blacks had gone after the Arabs, who were mostly on the main roads. The back streets were clear.

Without any direction from General Staff headquarters, our forces moved to encircle the regular Islamic units. That made me proud, because it showed that the concept of achieving a decision through encirclement had taken hold. The effect in this case was a double encirclement: first a ring of blacks around the foreign forces, then an outer wall of Northern Confederation forces around the blacks.

The question was, how would the blacks react? Would they fight both us and the foreign troops? Or would they welcome us as friends and liberators? Around noon on the 10th, I realized this would be the decisive question. It was not something I could determine sitting in an office in Worcester, no matter how good the comm (and ours was good, thanks to using Radio Shack gear and not the garbage the old U.S. forces had bought through their Soviet-model procurement system). I had to be there to get a feel for it. So I grabbed the chopper we kept ready at the door, and had a motorcycle recon squad meet me at Waltham. I took a soldier’s bike and the rest of the squad led me into the city.

A major pocket had been closed just south of Waltham, along I-90, between Newtonville and Route 128. In it was most of the Islamic armor, which had been put there to block an armor thrust by us that never happened. We’d blown bridges on I-90 before and behind the armor, so it couldn’t move. On the other hand, we didn’t have the heavy weapons to take it out. Tactically, it was a Mexican stand-off, but operationally they were toast because their shipping was gone.

John Ross and his Marines had led the column that created this pocket. I found him on I-90, just west of the blown bridge that cut the road back to Boston. In our army, he wasn’t surprised to find the Chief of the General Staff arriving on a dirt bike.

“How’s it goin’, John?” was my formal greeting.

“It’s goin’ good, best I can tell,” Ross replied. “From what I hear on the net, the rest of the Arabs are either caught in pockets like these guys, or are running for the harbor, where they’ll find their ships sunk.”

“It’s over for the Islamic Expeditionary Force,” I said. “All that’s left is for us to cut up their U.N. blue berets and use ’em as toilet paper. But it’s not them I’m worried about. It’s the local blacks. How are they reacting to you?”

“None of them are shooting at us, and I’ve made sure we don’t shoot at them,” John answered. “The black civilians have welcomed us and given us some good intel. Of course, most of them are Christian. You notice the markings on our vehicles?”

I hadn’t. John took me over to the Dodge pickup he was using as a command vehicle. Painted on the side was a white shield with a red Crusader cross. “You’ll find this on just about every vehicle in our army. The men came up with it on their own, as we waited in our jump-off points,” he said. “The cross tells the local Christians we are friends.”

“But the black troops are Black Muslims,” I said.

“I think most of them are galvanized Muslims,” John replied. “And they all know what their Muslim ‘brothers’ have been doing to fellow blacks who wouldn’t convert. I think many of them would come over to us, if we could talk to them.”

“Why don’t we try?” I suggested.

I broke a whip antenna off a vehicle, tied my handkerchief to it and started walking forward. John Ross came with me, as did a Catholic chaplain, Father Murphy.

The Black Muslims had built a small barricade of trucks and overturned cars between themselves and us. Beyond it, further west on the pike, they had a larger barricade built the same way between themselves and the Arabs. Periodically, the Arabs sent a tank shell into it, and the blacks responded with light weapons fire.

As we approached the smaller barricade, we could see weapons pointed at us. “Stop,” a voice called out. “What d’ya want?”

“We want to talk with you,” I replied. “A white flag means parley.”

After about a minute of silence, another voice called, “Who do you want to talk with?”

“All of you,” I answered.

Again, silence. Then someone in cammies carrying an AK stood up on the barricade. “OK, come on,” he said.

We climbed over the barricade and found a couple hundred Black Muslim militiamen gathered in front of us. Their faces showed uncertainty, not hate. They were caught between one enemy and one might-be enemy, which was not exactly a comfortable position. The man who had told us to come on said, “I’m Captain Malik al-Shawarma. What do you have to say to us?”

“What’s your real name?” I asked.

He hesitated a moment, then answered, “John Ross.”

Our John Ross grinned, then said, “I’m John Ross too. Glad to meet a cousin I didn’t know.”

That got a few chuckles, which was a good sign. “Captain Ross, I’ve got two things to say to you and your men,” I said. “First, you’ve been had. You’ve been conned, you’ve been swindled. This “Islam” stuff is crap. You’re not Muslims. And the whole Black Muslim bit itself is just Father Divine and the Reverend Ike and the Kingfish all over again – a few folks who get rich by selling you their shit.”

“Most of you, maybe all of you, became Black Muslims not because you believed it as a religion, but as one more way to ‘get Whitey.’ Well, it’s been a long time since Whitey sold you as slaves, as your Islamic ‘friends’ have done with your real friends and family members. In your hearts you know that what your mother or grandmother taught you is true; Jesus Christ is Lord. He’s the One sitting up there, the One we’ll all meet some day. It’s not some damn camel-driver who sits at the right hand of God.”

“We all get conned on occasion. I got conned by a car company once. I bought a Saab, which is what you do when you own one. You got conned by Mr. Farrakhan and a bunch of rug merchants, and you bought a false religion. Once you realize that and dump this Black Muslim garbage, we have no quarrel with you, nor you with us.”

“That’s the second thing I have to say,” I continued. “We don’t want to fight you. And I don’t think you want to fight us. If you do, you’ll lose. The whole Islamic fleet is on the bottom of the bay. Our aircraft will sink any new fleet that comes within 250 miles of Boston. You’ve got no way out – except to join us instead of fighting us.”

“What do you mean by ‘join you?’” one militiaman asked.

“First, renounce Islam. Then, turn in your weapons and go home,” I replied.

“Most of us know we was had by Islam,” Captain Ross said. “Anything that makes slaves of black people is our enemy. But we want to kill these Arabs. They sent my own grandmother into slavery. Can we keep our weapons until that’s done?”

“No,” I replied, “because we don’t want to kill the Islamic Expeditionary Force. We want to capture it, then trade it for the black Christians who chose slavery over renouncing their faith.”

“You mean you’re gonna get our people back?” Captain Ross asked, amazed.

“That’s exactly what I mean,” I answered. “Anyone who is strong enough to accept slavery rather than renounce Christ is someone we want as a citizen. We don’t care what color someone is. We care about what a person believes and how they behave. The black Christians of Boston are our people too, and we want them back.”

The militiamen looked at each other in astonishment. They’d been told what the “white devils” wanted was to put every black they could lay hands on in the kind of camp where they only came out through the chimney. Now, we were saying we wanted to bring back blacks someone else had gotten rid of.

As usual, the moral level of war was the strongest. A voice came from the crowd, “You got a deal.” The rest nodded their agreement.

“OK, start stacking your arms over here,” I said. “I need volunteers to team with my men and talk to the rest of the Black Muslims in this city. Our deal is open to everyone. Who’s willing to help?” More than one hundred hands went up.

After tossing his AK on the pile, one militiaman came up to me. “When we accepted Islam, or thought we did, they had us say, ‘The only god is God, and Mohammed is his Prophet.’ What can we say now to become Christians again?”

I turned to Father Murphy for an answer. “You’ve already been baptized, son?” he inquired. The militiaman nodded yes. “Well then, you’re still a Christian. Jesus Christ sees into your heart. He doesn’t need any magic formula to know you are His.”

“Isn’t there anything we could do to give up Islam?” asked another from what had become a growing group around the priest.

“Well, I suppose there is,” Father Murphy replied. “Are you willing to take Communion from a Catholic priest?”

Again, the nods said yes. And with that, Father Murphy took some crackers from an MRE and a half-drunk bottle of Ripple found among the rubble and said Mass. As he intoned the Words of Institution, more and more of the former Black Muslims gathered around him, until he had them all. Both John Rosses and I knelt with them to receive the Body of Christ. I still don’t know how the crackers from one MRE provided the Host for all those people, but they did.

***

The battle was over in one day, and thankfully, our casualties were light, as was the damage to Boston. By the 11th, the encircled elements of the Islamic Expeditionary Force knew their fleet was destroyed and their exit closed, so they asked for terms of surrender. We assured them they would be treated as POWs and exchanged for Boston’s blacks, provided they left their equipment undamaged. They agreed, and we inherited a huge park of the latest tanks, artillery, and air defense weapons. For real war, most of it was inferior to the older, simpler gear we already had, but we still found ways to use it. 70-ton tanks work fine as coast artillery.

With the revelation of the Islamic trade in black slaves, the Black Muslims ceased to exist. The vast majority turned Christian, and were welcomed back by the church ladies as prodigal sons. “General” al-Shabazz became Willy Welly again, and took up his sax in the cause of the WCTU. Some people wanted to hang him, but the consensus in Boston was that the Martyrs of the Common would rather have a convert than a corpse.

Boston again became the capital of Massachusetts, and Massachusetts, shorn of its long-standing liberal illusions, was accepted into the Northern Confederation. Connecticut and Rhode Island came in, too, giving us a solid, defensible block of the old northeastern United States. Again, I had hope of demobilization and peace.

But our war wasn’t over yet. The next battles would be against poisons within. favicon