"It's going well," said Colonel Abrahamson, watching the bank of monitors set up in the main conference room of the R.J. Reynolds Corporation.
With the security of the north bank of the James questionable, corps command had relocated south of the river and the Reynolds company had graciously offered its facilities. The fact that the building was now the most heavily defended in south Richmond was surely besides the point.
Whatever the rationale, the logistical and information management facilities were top-notch, befitting a Fortune Five Hundred company. The administrative employees who had shown up were immediately press-ganged by the various corps staff to handle the massive management headache involved in creating the Richmond Defense from scratch in the midst of a "murthering great battle."
John Keene had gotten a start on that early by calling in the top five engineers involved in Richmond's previous defense design and winning them over to the new plan. Despite their personal desires they could all see the rationale of the plan and they were as familiar with the terrain as could be hoped.
He gave each of them a specific task to organize, and blanket authorization to dragoon anyone and anything they felt that they needed to accomplish it. One of the corps Chief of Staff's planning officers was slated with the unenviable task of managing the flow of materials. Working from the same office complex in Shockoe Circle where Keene and Mueller had paused in their survey, he set to work coordinating the flow of personnel, equipment and supplies to the various projects.
A radio and television appeal for anyone with construction or demolition equipment had generated massive response. Five assembly points in and around Richmond were designated and practically before the police traffic control could get set up, jams of lowboys with front-end loaders, backhoes, power shovels and earth movers were at each site.
Along with them came concrete and dump trucks, construction personnel and virtually anyone who felt that it was time to volunteer. Some of the volunteers—those who somehow impressed the military and civilian personnel arriving to inventory and segregate the response—were immediately put to work sorting out the sheep from the goats. Within two hours, starting from scratch, the complicated task of receiving the equipment, determining what was where and determining where it should be was running smoothly. In the meantime the engineers had called upon their engineering firms and other firms for support, and by the time that the requested equipment was arriving at the construction sites, the engineers had sketched out plans and movement paths and were surveying the areas to be graded and cut.
It was from this appeal that Amanda Hunt, the volunteers stringing claymores and the grading contractors who had dug the cavalry positions had sprung.
It was quickly determined that the biggest time factor was not going to be cutting out embankments to make walls or backfilling the mile-long floodwall—there was enough heavy equipment in surplus to backfill it twice over in six hours—but rather rubbling the three newer concrete factories along the James and turning the rubble into a hasty wall.
The preferred method for rubbling a factory was to lace it with explosives and drop it in one piece. Unfortunately all the personnel who were adept at that task were either rigging the bridges over the James or laying the ambushes on the roads to the north. The civilian specialists on the ambush teams were about to be called back when a junior officer on the corps staff had a brainstorm.
Less than an hour later a brigade of the Seventy-Fifth Armored Division rolled across the Mayo bridge and through Schockoe Bottom. Since it was also determined that the two- and three-story brick buildings would offer far too much cover to the, hopefully, trapped Posleen, the brigade paid little attention to roads.
After nearly a hundred seventy-ton M-1E tanks rolled, literally, through the area, there was hardly a building left standing. A couple of the bars were intentionally spared in case they still had liquor in them.
When they reached the area of the concrete factories, each battalion singled out a building. Each tank was given certain points to take under fire and clear fire lanes. The area around and behind the factories was evacuated and the brigade opened fire.
High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) rounds were used for breaching lower floors, while senior NCO tank commanders used Discarding Sabot Armor Piercing Rounds, "silver bullets," to destroy key structural members. These members had been thoughtfully highlighted by the engineering group with orange spray paint.
Under the pounding assault the buildings gave way, finally crumbling to the ground like slumping giants. One of the factories retained much of its structural integrity even after the lower floors gave way, but that was dealt with by a few rounds and a battalion road march, right center, front. Satisfied with the start to their day, the brigade rolled back across the James to their laager point and a chance to get some rest before the big game.
The furious pace of work continued throughout the night of distant battle and a new day dawned on Richmond transformed.
The towering interstate and highway bridges that loomed over Schockoe Bottom were either mined, ready to blow, or had had their concrete surfaces cut in such a way that cranes, standing by with lift cables in place, could lift them up, leaving a bridge of only narrow concrete beams for the Posleen to cross.
This late idea was suggested in the hope that the bridges could be salvaged. There were over twenty bridges that would have to be cut and the cost of replacing all of them after the conflict would be staggering. Although the Posleen could cross such a structure, they could only cross in a trickle, one line of centaurs to a beam, making them easy meat for the human defenders. Afterwards the bridges would have to be repaired, surveyed and recertified, but that was far less expensive than the cost of replacement.
The north-side floodwall had been backfilled, its gate controls reversed to lock from the river side and the riverside road regraded and reinforced for heavy vehicle traffic. Mayo Island had been transformed into a command bunker by piling and interconnecting prefab concrete slabs and covering the temporary structure with dirt and rubble. The upper portion overlooked the whole floodwall and it was from this location that the Forty-Ninth and Sixtieth Infantry Division commanders would maneuver their troops.
The island also now held the reserve—a brigade of the Sixtieth Infantry Division—that would respond to any breaches of the wall. It was anticipated that eventually the defenders of the wall would have to retreat, and the Mayo Island forces were also intended to establish a base of fire to enable a safe and secure escape route. The Mayo bridges, both to the north and the south of the island, were also mined and ready to drop.
On the east side of the city, all along the I-95 corridor through Richmond, road embankments had been joined and rubble had been piled creating a continuous wall that would be well-nigh impossible for the Posleen to climb. To make it even more difficult, angle iron welded with sharpened rebar, saw blades and anything else sharp and metal that came to hand had been piled in front of the embankments and laced with concertina wire.
Above these embankments temporary "Jersey" walls, easily recognized as the low temporary walls seen around highway construction, had been emplaced, creating a continuous barrier from behind which the infantry and armor of the Seventy-First Infantry Division could pour fire into the passing centaurs with relative impunity. While the three-millimeter railguns and HVMs of the Posleen would easily breach the wall, the majority 1mm and shotguns would bounce off. Although there would be casualties, the defenders had an excellent position.
With two brigades of the Seventy-First "up" and one back as reinforcement, any temporary breaches in the lines would be easy to fill. All along the route, the towering buildings overlooking the defenses held snipers, their .50 caliber rifles zeroed onto the interstate. Their job was to dispense with any God King that might try to overfly the defenses.
On the north side of the city the roads and buildings had been blockaded with a physical barrier of cross-piled Jersey walls and stacked cars. Thousands of personal automobiles had gone into creating virtually impenetrable multivehicle-deep barriers. Buildings had been sealed and faired over or had concrete slabs piled in front of them to prevent any entry by the Posleen on that side.
The Sixty-Fourth Infantry Division awaited the Posleen in this sector, bunkered into second-floor rooms with heavy sandbag emplacements.
The roads leading out of Schockoe Bottom had been blockaded using all of the previous methods and, in addition, engineers and armored fighting vehicles of the Forty-Eighth ID had dropped the James Monroe building across Broad and Franklin Streets. The multistory government building formed a massive barrier of mangled concrete and steel which was further laced with concertina barbed wire. The building demolition had not been the precision undertaking usually associated with such an endeavor. In fact, it had impacted against the Consolidated Laboratory building. If the city survived, that building might have to be replaced. But better to replace a building than a state.
Despite the obvious structural damage, the Lab building along with the Corporation Commission, the Ferguson building and the DOT annex was packed with the troops of the Forty-Eighth Infantry Division. With a perfect view of Schockoe Bottom and plunging fire, the unit was poised to pound the Posleen as soon as they came into view, while their armored fighting vehicles manned the barricades. The joke among the troopers on the Lab building was that since the morgue was just downstairs, they would not have far to go.
Around the perimeter of Schockoe Bottom other tanks and engineers had been at work removing the construction efforts of the last few decades to create hasty fighting positions. The James Center, the First Union Bank, Riverside Plaza and even the Federal Reserve had given of their structures to create a wall of rubble around the heart of the city. Behind them, troops from the Seventy-Third Infantry Division held a long, light line, designed to pin the Posleen in place for destruction by the troops along the floodwall.
At Riverfront Plaza, the wall finally necked off, joining with the end of the floodwall. The "neck off" point of the defenses would probably come under heavy attack, so it was reinforced with tanks of the Seventy-Fifth Armored Division in the heaviest revetments possible to construct. Although the Posleen could spread onto Browns Island, all of the foot bridges but one had been removed. It was intended to act as a bleed off for their forces.
The main reserve for the defense, the majority of the Seventy-Fifth Armored, was laagered at the Ethyl Corporation building, overlooking the island. From those positions they could pound the Posleen with direct 120mm canister fire, effectively sweeping the area like a broom. The sole remaining footbridge led all the way across the James and was defended by a battalion of the Twenty-Second Cavalry. The idea was to lure the Posleen into thinking they were getting across the river, while simultaneously setting them up like ducks in a shooting gallery. The battalion had been issued extra manjacks, just to make sure.
In addition to their personal weapons, fighting vehicles and automatic weapons teams, every fire team in the various divisions had a Protean manjack. Accepted only the year before, the Proteans were the brainchild of Hester L. Jacobs, a man well-hated by Ground Force procurement officers everywhere.
Ground Forces had intended to field manjacks, automated infantry weapon systems, all along, but that was where the process had stymied. In the truest fashion of every light weapon developed by a committee, the procurement system finally developed specifications for the manjacks that transformed them from the original concept of a light, relatively simple automatic weapon on an automated tripod, into a virtual mini-tank.
Jacobs, on the other hand, already had developed a weapon system that met the original concept. Sure of his product, the former Marine gunnery sergeant had launched an all-out assault on the Ground Forces procurement program. Jacobs visited numerous infantry field officers and NCOs and, in violation of a slew of regulations, demonstrated his system for them and got written suggestions and testimonials.
In a short time, from the point of view of hundreds of infantry lieutenants, captains, first sergeants, sergeant majors and colonels, he had perfected a battlefield weapon system.
With those testimonials, and presentations on the cost difference and what it meant to production numbers, between his system, already up and running, and the systems being developed by the major corporations, behind schedule and over budget, he pigeonholed congressmen and senators night and day, to the point where those elected officials nearly had him arrested for harassment.
But his arguments finally started to sink in and, in a rare burst of logic. The Congress overrode the military procurement bureaucracy and ordered them to accept the Jacobs Industries Protean Manjack as it was.
The manjacks were heavy, bulky and awkward to carry in their large formed-plastic cases, but they might be the weapon that turned this tide. Each manjack consisted of an M-60F machine gun, the newest version of the venerable platoon automatic weapon that had first seen service in Vietnam, and a removable automated firing system. The firing system contained a mechanized tripod and a simple autotarget system. Place the weapon on a vector, let it "read" the area—get a laser picture of the zone of fire—and if the "picture" changed, if anything broke the continuously sweeping infrared lasers, it would fire down the broken vector. The weapon could be produced for one-third the cost and in a fifth of the time of the first "correct" version to be fielded. Already, in less than a year's time, there were sufficient manjacks for all the forces and more were being installed in the fixed defenses.
Since the M-60F contained the latest in barrel technology, the barrels actively dissipated heat. Thus the weapons could continue to fire as long as the ammunition held out. To assist in that, each team had hooked the machine guns up to a "battlecase," boxes preloaded at the factory with twenty-five-thousand rounds of 7.62mm ammunition. The boxes were backbreakingly heavy, one hundred rounds of M-60 ammunition weighs seven pounds, and awkward to maneuver into some of the manjack positions, but once in place they gave every team three times the throw weight of fire they could otherwise expect. In addition, the boxes could be ganged together, so that if one box ran dry, the weapon would be fed from a second. The joke went that if you used up two boxes, fifty thousand rounds of ammunition, you were officially having a bad hair day and could take the rest of the day off.
But the armor, the infantry, even the manjacks, were really only there to hold the Posleen in place.
To truly make the Posleen's day miserable, and for the long-term defense of Richmond, over fifty percent of the construction equipment had been detailed to the Mosby and Libby Hill defenses.
The two hills towered over Richmond, dominating the landscape at least as much as the city skyline, and loomed doubly over the Schockoe Valley that separated them from the city. While the sides towards the James and Schockoe Bottom were extremely steep, far too steep for the quadrupedal Posleen to negotiate, the north and east sides were another matter. Among other things they had roads leading up to the numerous homes and monuments on the hills.
All of the roads were initially left in place, but demolition of the slopes began immediately. Where a slope was merely steep, it was made vertical by a combination of explosives and graders. The many abandoned buildings again went into the defenses, the rubble used to create hasty fighting positions for the cavalry troops detailed for security. The cavalry, in the meantime, began covering their front with antipersonnel mines, concertina barbed wire and "tanglefoot," barbed wire stretched tight at knee level, designed to slow the advance of ground troops. Between the slopes and the obstacles, assaulting Posleen should be effectively stopped, sitting ducks for the heavily armed defenders. Their cavalry fighting vehicles were well back to avoid taking fire, but they were ready to go if ordered to sally. The line would be held by troops with rifles, grenades, machine guns and the ubiquitous manjacks.
The outer edges of the defense boasted a brigade of cavalry. Then in the next ring was the massed artillery of the infantry divisions. Over one hundred tubes of 155mm artillery were packed on the hills. In a few cases, the artillery was placed so as to cover straight open steep roads, such as Broad Street, which ran through downtown Richmond, through Schockoe Bottom, and up into the Montrose Heights area.
When, inevitably, the Posleen charged up that street, they would eventually be met by batteries A and B of the One Hundred Ninety-Third Artillery, firing 155mm canister rounds into them from revetments at point-blank. If they were able to overcome the defenses anyway, the road was mined to blow out a crater large enough to make the approach impenetrable.
In the inner ring were better than half of the infantry division's mortar platoons, set up in their tracked vehicles. Since they were invisible to any reasonable angle of fire from the Posleen, the feeling was that they might as well stay in a mobile configuration in case they had to move off the hills for some reason. They were behind the artillery because mortars have no direct-fire capability. However, as John Keene had pointed out, mortars carry more explosive-weight-to-size than rifled artillery. Because the mortars were fired from smooth bores, they did not have to be able to withstand the rotational force placed on an artillery shell. A 120mm mortar round has the same explosive power as a 155mm artillery shell.
Mortars are a lot of bang for very little buck and there were over one hundred packed onto the hills. In addition, the mortar vehicles, unlike the unarmored mobile artillery vehicles, were designed for close defense. And the mortarmen who crewed those vehicles were trained and heavily armed for it; a mechanized mortar platoon had twice the throw weight of a mechanized line platoon, including just as many manjacks. If the Posleen penetrated the outer defenses, penetrated the cav and the depressed artillery's point-blank fire, they would still have to penetrate the band of mortar infantrymen and women to take the command and supply facilities.
Libby Hill, Mosby Hill and Montrose Heights were a seething fortress of artillery, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the centaurs. Troops in the open are the artilleryman's meat and drink.
While there were heavy defenses along the north and east, the west side of the city was virtually undefended; only scattered cavalry units were there as sentries. The defense plan depended on the Posleen turning towards the east and Schockoe Bottom. Barriers were being erected along the I-95/U.S. 1 corridor, designed to physically and visually distract the Posleen away from the westerly route. And when the Posleen approached, all of the roads to the west would be cratered by the heavy charges being emplaced. General Keeton was prepared to move the Seventy-Fifth Armored up in defense if small numbers moved in that direction, otherwise—if the Posleen did turn westward en masse—the "good" plan would have to be scrapped.
The alternative plan was to use the Libby Hill defenses to create a curtain barrage along the Posleen axis of assault. While the barrage would kill many Posleen, it would not be nearly as effective as the slaughter possible in the fire-trap. Deception and luring plans, some of them wild, others reasonable, were being designed to draw the Posleen in the more favorable direction.
For the inevitable moment when the north or west flank was turned, the Corps had worked out precise and simple retreat routes to the south side of the James. The heavy road infrastructure and plethora of bridges helped. Each unit had a designated route which was color-coded; city road crews had worked through the night putting up the new signs.
As the primary defense points came on-line, the freed construction crews hurried to the south side of the James and began construction of fighting positions designed to maintain a permanent assault on Posleen in the Richmond area. Craters and trenches began sprouting throughout the south Richmond area as many of the people in the refugee enclaves came forward to help.
Ramps and scaffolds began to sprout behind the south floodwall for direct fire from infantry and even tanks. At the same time pits for mortars and larger positions for artillery began to form throughout the city, wherever there was any sort of angle of fire. In many cases abandoned buildings were demolished to both improve angle of fire and donate their material for the defenses.
There were three tiers of defense, and every one had written its signature on the skyline of the city. As Keene had said, the city was writing a new chapter in her history. But she was also getting a facelift.
"I can't believe it is going as well as it is," said the corps commander.
"Well," said Colonel Abrahamson, scratching his head before redonning his Kevlar. "I don't know exactly how to put this. It's complex but not complicated. Every individual action either is something the military has trained for or is being done by civilians who are experienced and highly motivated. With the exception of my battalion's job, it should be a simple, set-piece siege. It's the poor bastards in Tenth Corps I feel sorry for, sir."
"Yes, I would have liked a little longer to prepare, you're never prepared enough. But this is effectively a World War I scenario. Easier really, there's no artillery for us to worry about. But General Simosin's divisions are about to get hit by a blitzkrieg, and they have no time to prepare."
"The President shouldn't have ordered them so far forward, General," the cavalry commander commented in a voice so neutral it was gray.
The corps commander nodded his head. It was the first overt comment he had heard in the negative about the President's decision. "Possibly. I suppose ordering them to defend before Alexandria made sense, some sense, but he should not have ordered them to set up almost on the Posleen's door." He shook his head again. "God save their poor brave souls."