Sunday, October 30, 2011

Preview of New Material

As I mentioned earlier, I was working on additional material for War Plan Crimson, A Novel of Alternate History for inclusion in the upcoming paperback edition. I feel that this new material, while not changing the plot, will add more dimension to it. It's also my way of saying thanks to those of you who've waited while I've worked out the bugs in the novel.

The good news, is that while the financing situation remains a little elusive, my edits for the paperback (and e-book) editions are almost complete. When this is done, I will relaunch the ebook version of Crimson with the new sections in it.

I've decided to share one of the new sections of the book for you. I think this has the effect of adding more action while taking a particular character's story arc to its logical conclusion:


“Well that's it, isn't it?” said Billy Higgs, raising his binoculars. The Mountie focused on the train chugging through the narrow valley below them, trailing a black stream of smoke from its stack.
“Sure is.” Deborah Rudd nodded under her broad-rimmed Stetson. The chestnut mare whinnied and steadied itself under her. “Rogers Pass.  That's the rail line the Yanks use to send reinforcements across the Rockies into British Columbia. They couldn't take Vancouver from the front, now they're trying from the back.”
“And they go through every day like that?” Higgs focused his binoculars on the train below him. He could see flat cars loaded with canvas-covered field guns and tanks. The engine sounded a shrill whistle that echoed across the valley.
“One a day, every day," said a third man, easing his horse forward from beneath a stand of pines. Leo Muswaggon frowned. “Like clockwork. You can almost set your watch by them. That bastard Cray did say he would make the trains run on time.”
“Can we stop them?” Higgs lowered the field glasses.
“That's what we came here to do ain't it?” Deborah smiled, a fringe of blonde hair visible under her hat. Her face was tanned by the wind and the prairie sun. “If we blow the train, maybe we can at least buy our boys in Vancouver some more time.”
“It would buy them time,” agreed Higgs. He looked around at his new partners. Higgs has met up with them after riding solo up into the Rockies, about a week after his friend Andy Hyrukla and the others had been mowed down by the Yank fighter planes.  They had all one thing in common despite their different backgrounds: a burning desire to hit back at the Yanks. The woman, Debroah was from ranching territory near High River; all that Higgs knew was that she couldn't go back home again while the Americans occupied the area. The Browning Automatic Rifle that rode under her saddle was mute testimony. Muswaggon, the burly M├ętis trapper was another story: whatever grudge the normally silent broad-shouldered man bore against the invaders was his own.
“We certainly brought enough TNT to do the job, anyway,” said Deborah. She nodded back to the three pack mules burdened down with wooden crates of explosives borrowed from a mining camp. “And the rest of our boys will be here by then, too.”
“Tomorrow then,” said Higgs. He raised the binoculars again. The train was receding towards the west. I’ll stop them for you, Andy.

By the time the sun rose over the snow-covered peak of nearby Mount Carroll, which loomed over the Rogers Pass like a silent guardian, the rest of the partisan band had arrived.  Billy Higgs watched two soldiers – veterans of the retreat from Calgary he gathered by speaking to them – set up a heavy Vickers machine gun they had packed in on their mules. They had chosen a part of the pass where the rail line had sliced between two rolling hills ahead of a steep gorge. He smiled. The hills were still high enough to work for what they had in mind. Across the way, a couple of Cree hunters were setting up an ancient Lewis Gun on its bipod mount, complete with a dozen drums of ammunition, that they had managed to scrounge from somewhere. 
“We’ll have’em in a pretty decent cross-fire,” said the one of the soldiers manning the Vickers.
Higgs nodded and surveyed the group of eight men digging foxholes on either side of the rail line. Their motley collection of weapons that ranged from hunting rifles to captured Thompsons matched their owners. Down below he could see that Deborah Rudd and Leo Muswaggon had finished setting the TNT charges beneath the train tracks and now were connecting the wires to the detonator. Muswaggon waved at them. Done.
Just then they heard the soft, mournful whistle of the train in the distance. Higgs looked at his watch. It’s just as well, he thought watching Rudd and Muswaggon run up the hillside to join them, the train’s running early.
“That’s the reason the train’s running early.”  Deborah Rudd passed the binoculars to Billy Higgs. “Look.”
  “Goddamn!”  Higgs focused the binoculars. Sure enough this was a different train. And it was enough to make the bile rise to his throat. It was a train but that was were the similarities stopped. It was pulled by two big  engines  – Baldwins if Higgs had to guess – puffing out black clouds of smoke and painted a dull green. Before the engine, it looked like the Yanks had simply taken a tank’s turret, complete with its 37mm main gun and had put it on a special armored boxcar, its sloping sides bristling with machine guns every which way.  He was willing to bet there were more of them behind those big Baldwins, as well.
Leo Muswaggon lowered his own binoculars and whistled. “It’s an armoured train.  Just our dumb luck.”
“Must’ve sent it ahead of the regular supply train to make sure the way was clear,” said Higgs. “We’d better lie low and let this one pass. This is one train we don’t want to catch.” The armoured train was now close enough they could see it without binoculars.
And that was where their troubles began.  The turret gun on the forward boxcar boomed, dropping a shell right on the Lewis Gun position manned by the two Cree hunters, obliterating the men and sending rocks and debris flying.
“We’ve been made!” shouted Deborah, preparing to stand. “Let’s get out of here!”
“No!” yelled Higgs, grabbing her by the arm and pulling her down as another shell thundered overhead and landed, this time long of their positions. He looked at her. “We can’t go now: we’ll be cut down if we try to run. Better stand here.” 
Deborah nodded and picked up her BAR and began to return fire towards the oncoming train. Higgs opened fire with his Winchester, furiously working his rifle’s lever, but the armored colossus kept hurtling towards them, if anything faster now, the train whistle a demonic scream. Higgs heard the big Vickers open up, the heavy .303 gun chattering death. And then the bow tank gun boomed again, its shell rumbling towards them. Rudd looked up.
 Higgs threw himself on Rudd, forcing her into the dirt. “Get down!”
The shell landed a few yards away, raining rock and debris down on them. Rudd and Higgs looked up. The two soldiers and the Vickers gun were dust; all that marked their position was a shallow blackened crater.
“They- they’re gone,” she gasped.
He nodded. Just like Andy. Higgs looked over and saw the men start to stand up out of their carefully prepared foxholes. They’re going to run. “Stay down!” But the men were past listening; the machine guns on the train were close enough now to sweep away the men as they stood.
“Billy!” shouted Deborah.
Higgs picked up the BAR and began to fire from a kneeling position, feeling the rifle’s recoil pound his shoulder. He could see his rounds strike the train’s armoured hide, only to bounce off.  Useless. But we can still blow up the train. He looked over towards Leo Muswaggon last stood, only to see the big man lying dead beside the detonator, hand on the plunger. Wires look intact. He shoved the rifle back into Deborah’s hand. “Cover me!”
Higgs scrambled across the uneven rocks to Muswaggon’s last position even as the ground behind him exploded with machine gunfire from the train. He felt a sharp hot stab in his back that sent him sprawling hard into the ground face-forward. I’m done for now, Andy. Higgs tasted the warm salt of blood in his mouth as he crawled towards the plunger. The train’s demon whistle-scream resounded in his ears as he put his hands on the plunger’s T-handle, his hand overlaying that of the dead man’s. With all of his remaining might, Billy Higgs pushed down on the plunger. So sorry I couldn’t do better.
He saw the flash, felt the heat on his face and then felt the ground shake. He heard the screaming and rending of metal and the explosive hiss of steam as the juggernaut went off the tracks and plummeted into the gorge below. Before his eyes closed for the last time, Billy Higgs managed a smile.
The train to Vancouver would not be going through today.

###

In the meantime, you can always pick up the ebook version of War Plan Crimson, A Novel of Alternate History, by Michael Cnudde here for $2.99, or free to try.

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