Monday, August 12, 2019

The Shrewd King 4.1: Chernovsky meets Denny Blastic

Red bow-ties are sites defended by Chernovsky's forces. Red circles are sites defended by local citizens. Blue bow-tie is bridge defended by City of Eaton Rapids. K, L, P and S are Kate's store, Luke's store, Prakash's store and Satish's store respectively. The bow-tie due east of Luke's Store is the Columbia Highway bridge.

Chernovsky was not favorably impressed with Denny Blastic the first time they met.

The Bunker Highway bridge across the Grand River was the last observation post Chernovsky populated along the eastern frontier. It was the most southerly bridge across the river, other than the Petrieville bridge which was not guarded by forces from the City of Eaton Rapids.

The Grand River valley was broad and flat at Bunker Highway. The bottomlands were marked by countless ox-bows and old river channels. The soil was layered gravel and sand and silt, muck and roots and logs. Soil scientists threw up their hands in despair and labeled the soil Shoals-Sloan loam.

What it meant to the initiated is that you could find almost anything when you stuck your shovel into the ground. But one thing that you were guaranteed was that mineral-rich water would ooze up due to artesian aquifier, stinking of sulfur and iron and long-dead, rank vegetation.

Even with the modest elevation of the road grade, there were a hundreds of downed logs, dry river channels and profuse vegetation that would shield stealthy attackers to within 40 yards of the bridge should the attackers choose to come over-land rather than march straight up the road. Even the open fields of grass quickly grew to six feet of height by mid-June

It was not topography that Chernovsky looked forward to defending.

Leading his fire-team of five fighters to the bridge, Chernovsky was surprised to find it already occupied by defenders.

It had been Chernovsky’s intention to survey the site, pick some possible defensive positions and then leave the team to dig in. It looked like that was not going to be necessary.

There were a few tense moments while the defenders in the “fort” sorted out that Chernovsky and his force were the good-guys. The team-leader, Trey Blastic called his dad, Denny Blastic.

Denny took his own sweet time showing up. When he did, he walked up with swagger and bombast.

By then, Chernovsky was sitting down in the shade. There is no point in standing when you can sit or sitting when you can be sleeping.

The elder Blastic crowded Chernovsky’s space as if to impress upon the interlopers Blastic’s large, physical size. 6'-4" and tipping the scales at 300 pounds even after the hungry winter.

Then Chernovsky stood up.

Chernovsky had shed almost fifty pounds from his prime but he was still a big, rangy man and he was “cut”, that is, every muscle rippled with definition.

Blastic might have out-massed Chernovsky but it was clear who radiated the most animal aggression. Chernovsky not only had Blastic on height and muscle mass, he was also fifteen years younger.

Blastic took an unconscious step backwards. Then, knowing he had an audience, took a half step forward as if to start a Sumo match with the new guy.

Chernovsky was not impressed.

Every man in the observation post was carrying a fire-arm. Chernovsky’s forces had carried their “hot”. That is, a round in the chamber and the weapons safed. Chernovsky had not directed his men to stand down.

It does not matter how big and how strong you think you are when the other guys are armed. Dominance games brands you as a rookie, like the bully in the seventh grade locker room.

“Your boy” Chernovsky said, jabbing a thumb in Trey’s direction “said that you guys got this.” nodding at the fort that was constructed with logs and sandbags smack-dab in the middle of the bridge span.

“He said” Chernovsky said “that you planned to guard this bridge and didn’t need any help.”

“I run things around here.” Denny Blastic said. “This is my property. The folks around here looked to me and I don’t appreciate people showing up trying to take my operation over.”

Chernovsky chewed on that for a few seconds. “No problem, pal.” with the slightest emphasis on ‘pal’. “I got plenty of places to put my men and you solved a problem for me.”

As the fire-team was walking away, Tobe the Team-leader asked “What was that all about?”

Chernovsky replied “Any enemy of my enemy is my friend. A guy named de' Medici said that.”

“What are you going to do with us?” Tobe asked.

“I could take you back and fold you into the Quick Reaction Force.” Chernovsky said, thinking out loud.

“But I think it will be smarter to have you double-up with the team on Columbia.” he continued. “That is the outpost you are most likely to reinforce and I might as well have you camp there.”

“Besides,” Chernovsky concluded “I am not entirely sure Blastic is my friend and I want to be loaded heavy next door, just-in-case.”

That was an amazing admission from Chernovsky who was supremely insensitive to personalities.

The walk from the Bunker Highway bridge to the Columbia Highway defensive position was an hours walk.

Chernovsky asked Todd Eadgar the youngest and least experienced member of the fire-team. “What did you make of that, Eagar? Did you see or hear anything back there that is worth sharing?”

Todd said, “Both Blastics are ass-holes.”

“How about you, Thomas?” Chernovsky asked Phil Thomas, the next youngest fighter.

“A couple things” Thomas said. “The only one with a magazine in his rifle’s magazine well was Trey Blastic. The other guys’ rifles were dirty and were just for show.”

Oddly, none of the other fighters, including Chernovsky, had picked up on that fact.

“And they put their fort in the stupidest place possible. Hangs out like balls on a goose and there are a dozen positions attackers can infiltrate and make it impossible for the defenders to reinforce the fort.” Thomas said.

That had been the point that Chernovsky had been fishing for.

Chernovsky nodded in agreement. “That is not the way WE do things. We give attackers something to look at and we put most of our punch in a place where they won’t notice.”

“So why didn’t you tell them that?” Todd Eadgar asked.

Chernovsky did not answer for a bit as they trudged down the road. Then, “Do you think they would have listened?” Chernovsky asked.

“And if they had listened and were attacked, do you think they would take responsibility for their failure or would they blame us?” Chernovsky asked.

“You will find there are times when I let you fail” Chernovsky said. “I will let you fail when I think that is the only way you will learn something. I will let you fail when it does not threaten the larger mission.”

“It is up to you to keep your eyes and ears open and to think things through, because you are the ones who will be sleeping without a tent if you fail. Not me. Not anybody else.” Chernovsky advised as the mosquitoes started whining around their heads.


1 comment:

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