Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.


North of Wall, SD, Late June 2030


CPT Tim Dugan had just hit a steel human silhouette target at one thousand yards. He worked the bolt on his rifle and fired a second shot.


Smiling inwardly, he worked the bolt again and fired a third shot.

“Impact! Now you’re just showing off!”

Dugan got to his feet and began collecting his gear, “Nah! Just confirming zero.”

Up and down the line, there were shooters aiming at similar targets. Don and Earl were both standing by the cleaning area. As Dugan approached, they nodded towards him, “Did you hit anything?”

“More than I missed. How about you two?”

Earl spoke up, “I’m dialed in. Don’s not only dialed in, he got come-ups for his AK out to six hundred.”

“Six hundred with an AK? Who do you think you are? Chris Kyle?”

Don smiled, “I’m just trying to get current with my main weapon.”

Dugan looked at Earl, “What about you? Did you sight in your AK, too?”

“Yep. I only went out to 450, though. Don’s shooting a 74; my 47 goes subsonic at 500, so I just stayed within that.”

“So, I guess we’re all ready for….whatever.”

September 2030

CPT Tim Dugan was tired; more tired than he could ever remember being. He was tired in both body and spirit, having just attended the funeral service of his oldest son, Mark. The report said that he had just landed troops into a hot landing zone when a rocket hit right into the cockpit. The funeral had been closed casket. His wife had been frighteningly stoic during the service, having cried herself out during the prior two days. His Daughter-in-Law stood next to them, sobbing through the whole ceremony. She held her son and daughter’s hands, and held them as they sobbed uncontrollably. When they started playing ‘Taps’ he had broken down himself.

Afterward, having composed herself, she approached Dugan and his wife, “They said I had a couple of months before I had to leave base housing. I can’t stay there. I was wondering if the kids and I could stay at the house up in Belle Fourche for a while?”

Sarah Dugan stepped forward and put her hand on her Daughter-in-Law’s face, “You can stay for as long as you need to. I’ve been working at the hospital during the day, but it seems so empty at night. Please, consider it your home.”

He saw his younger son, Joseph, in his Class ‘A’ uniform and motioned him to come over. He still looked gaunt from having just graduated from the Special Forces ‘Q’ Course. This was a final stop before he went to his new assignment. He walked up to Tim, “It’s good to see you.”

Tim said nothing, he just gathered him in an embrace. He held it for a minute, and then reared back to look at him, “Good to see you, too. So you’re a Green Beanie now, huh?”

“Yeah. I figured I could have more control over what I do. Big Army is too bureaucratic.”

“Always has been. Just do your job and be careful.”

“Always. How’s Militia life?”

“The same. Underpaid, under-supplied, and no respect because we’re not ‘military.'”

“Anything I can do?”

“Yeah, win the war and come home in one piece.”

Late September 2030

CPT Dugan, making his evening rounds, stepped into the access trench leading to the trenches that surrounded the airport. Built in a zig-zag pattern that he himself had plotted, the trenches had an outpost at every outward facing point, with a command bunker every one hundred meters. It had been decided to create a trench system as opposed to sandbag bunkers and fighting positions for two reasons; the first was because it allowed freedom of movement with minimum exposure to incoming fire, and the second was out of consideration for the average age of the men and women manning the positions. It was easier for older people to go up and down ramps and ladders than it was to climb in and out of foxholes. The protests created by digging the trenches and tearing down and moving fences came from the airport hierarchy who were worried about damage and aesthetics. When the salty, seventy three year old Marine that was the militia commander explained how much worse the airport would look if the Chinese attacked it, the complaints stopped.

Being as the airport was built almost entirely on top of a hill, it was an easily defendable position. Each outpost was manned by two riflemen, and each bunker had a machinegun team in it. Dugan smiled inwardly as he recalled the look of consternation on the face of the Feds when the militiamen unpacked their machineguns; a dozen air and water-cooled Browning .30 caliber machineguns with tripods and all of the accessories, two MG-42’s that had been somebody’s war trophies, a half dozen M-60’s, and no less than twenty others of various makes and models. Dugan’s favorite was an ancient .303 Lewis gun set on a bipod. The big drum magazine on top made it look more like something out of a Steampunk novel than a weapon of war.

More than that, there were a dozen or so members of the militia whose main battle weapon were full automatic, ranging from Smith & Wesson M76 submachineguns to one stout individual who carried a vintage Browning Automatic Rifle. His suspicion was that, when the war was over, there was going to be a huge market, black or otherwise, in surplus Chinese weapons.

Dugan was privately impressed by how well the project had turned out. Between the airport maintenance crews, civilian construction people, and the South Dakota National Guard, the entire system had evolved into a semi-permanent structure, complete with drainage and toilet facilities. In effect, it was a modernized version of the nightmarish trenches so reviled in everything he had read about World War I.

His private reflection was interrupted when the sound of Ellsworth Air Force Base’s alert siren sounded. Only twelve miles away, the base was the main B1 and B2 Bomber base in the Continental United States. Upon hearing the siren, Dugan broke into a run and made his way to the nearest command bunker. There, he inquired as to what was going on. The Radio Operator on duty filled him in, “Word is that there are Chinese aircraft to the south. We don’t know what type, but the Air Force is sending everything they have.”

“How did they get this far without anyone detecting them?”

“No idea sir. Probably came in under the radar.”

“Send the word out that we’re at one hundred percent security. Keep me posted as things develop. You’ve got my cell number?”

“On the roster, sir.”

Dugan stepped out of the bunker and made his way down the line to insure that everyone in his company was accounted for. It was just after nightfall, and he felt in his gut that something was going to happen. Looking out over the rim of the trench, seeing that, with the airport in ‘Blackout Mode’ visibility was almost nil, his apprehension grew worse.

A noise and a flash to the south caught his attention as several fireballs appeared in the sky. He prayed that those weren’t American aircraft that were burning. While he watched, he was further distracted by headlights that were headed towards the airport. Whether it was someone from Ellsworth, or someone looking for a safe haven, he couldn’t tell, but his gut told him that it was something important.

He continued up and down his line as his men filed in and took up positions along the wall. He came upon the inseparable pair of Don and Earl, of which, Don was busily attaching an awkward-looking optic to the rail on top of his rifle.

“What have you got there?”

“Night vision scopes, sir. Forward-Looking Infrared; I used to use it for Coyote hunting. We thought it might come in useful.”

Dugan thought for a moment, “Okay then, if you see something, say something. If you can positively ID it as an enemy, shoot it.”

“Yes sir.”

He continued on, checking in with each of his men, exchanging pleasantries, joking, and generally making sure they had what they needed for a long night’s vigil. He was about to make his way back to the command bunker when his cell phone rang, “Captain Dugan.” He answered.

“Sir, this is Sergeant Callahan. Colonel Weaver needs you at the TOC ASAP.”

“On my way.”

Dugan made it there in a few minutes. He walked in to see the Colonel talking to several men who appeared to be members of the Lakota Tribe. The Colonel, upon seeing him enter, waved him over, “Tim, I want you to hear this. This is James Runninghorse. The other two are Fred Big Bear, Bob Two Feathers, and Albert Johnson. Go ahead James.”

“We were out roaming our sector on the North end of the Pine Ridge by The Badlands when we heard the sound of aircraft. We looked around to see an air drop of paratroopers and supplies. Looked like at least a battalion.”

“Are you sure?”

“I was in the 82nd Airborne. Two tours in Iraq; I know what a battalion-sized mass ‘tac looks like. They’ll probably be here by morning.”

Dugan looked at the Colonel, “Shit. I’m assuming they’re headed this way?”

“No doubt about it. They’re probably headed for Ellsworth, but we stand right in their way.”

“Alright, I’ll tell my men. Mr. Runninghorse, thank you for this.”

“No problem. Right now, if you’ll excuse us, we have to help get our people out of harm’s way.”

The Colonel stuck out his hand, “Thank you for taking the time to come here and warn us. I wish we could help you.”

“We’ll be okay. The Lakota People know this area like we know our own skin. We’ll fade into the prairie where they’ll never find us.”

The group walked out to where there was a battered Chevy crew cab pickup truck. The Lakota men climbed in, with James Runninghorse in the driver’s seat. The engine started and idled with a throaty rumble. Dugan smiled at James, “Sounds pretty good.”

James smiled back, “I like to think I can get out of trouble faster than I got into it.”

With that, he shifted into gear and rolled away.

The Colonel looked at Dugan, “A battalion of professional infantry against a reinforced company of geezers? We’re in for a rough one.”

Dugan forced a smile, “Well sir, as one of my men pointed out to me when we arrived, you won’t see us running away, because we can’t.”


Join us next week for the conclusion…