Paul Seraph was just finishing up his meeting with the river development committee.
Eaton Rapids is blessed with two, very small hydro-electric plants. One is in the middle of town and the other is a mile-and-a-half southeast of downtown. One of the critical items in the development plan was to flesh out a plan to protect the power lines from the outlying hydro turbine.
The other developing issue was to have a plan in place to harvest the maximum amount of protein out of the Grand River as possible. There are twenty miles of open river downstream of Eaton Rapids. Fish that migrated upstream to spawn would stack-up at the State Street and Spring Brook dams.There had to be a fair way to give everybody access to the resource.
Paul’s next meeting that morning involved “precincting” Eaton Rapids into self-policing sub-units. The leading citizens in East, North, Downtown and Southwest were waiting outside the conference room when Paul got the call on his portable CB.
“Hey, Paul. Something is happening in Kate’s Store. I think it might be important.” the caller on the other end informed Paul.
Paul exited the meeting. The secretary would handle closing the meeting. It was not the first time Paul left a meeting early.
Paul retreated to a corner and tried to connect with Gladys in Kate’s Store and was met with a barrage of calls and people stepping on each other. Remembering Kate’s Store protocols, he tuned in to 37 and met another impenetrable thicket of jibber-jabber. That got his attention.
He dialed up to 41 and encountered moderately heavy traffic. He was able to cut in. “This is Paul Seraph in Eaton Rapids. Can somebody connect with me on channel 7 and give me a quick update?” Paul said.
Channel 7 was Paul’s “native” channel.
One of the voices said. “Yup. Just give me a minute.”
Paul turned the channel selector to channel seven and waited.
In a minute he got the call. “Hey Paul, got your ears on? This is Kelly Carney.”
“Yeah. I hear you fine. What's going on?” Paul said.
“Bunch of thugs got the drop on us.” Kelly said. “They showed up in Humvees and box trucks. They are wearing uniforms that look like Michigan State Police and Ingham County Sheriff uniforms. Said they were ‘supplementary’ troopers.”
As a point of fact, Eaton Rapids is in Eaton County and warrants issued in Ingham County have no standing, even if the Lansing, the state capital happens to be in Ingham county.
“They are stripping Kate’s store of everything that is not nailed down.” Kelly said.
Paul looked at the clock. It read 2:15 in the afternoon. There were more than three hours of light left.
The geography around Kate’s store was very defensible. That meant that there was little point in riding to the rescue if the bad guys already had possession of the high ground. Three hours of light meant that they would finish up at Kate’s Store and then push into Eaton Rapids city. That was not something Paul would tolerate.
“Thanks for the heads up.” Paul said. “I know you have a lot of balls you are keeping in the air, but if there is any chance you could tip me off if they turn south after leaving...the information will be very much appreciated.
“Is there anything else I ought to know?” Paul was effective because he knew there was ALWAYS more to the story.
“Yeah.” Kelly said. “Word is going around that Nyssa saw blood blisters on at least three of the thugs. Sure-as-hell they are infected.”
That certainly changed the complexion of things.
Paul shooed the Water Resources board out and ushered in the next group.
“The shit is hitting the fan at Kate’s store, right now, even as we speak.” Paul said.
“Sure as God made little green apples, they are going to come this way when they are done.” Paul said. “That means we are going to meet them at Slocum’s drain.”
Then Paul started issuing directions.
“Tell the shooters to bring a full load-out of ammo. Laser the ranges. I want full magazines and a round in the chamber and the weapon safed. We will use channel eleven to coordinate the shooters.” Paul said. “Go!” and Paul gave Ray a brisk swat on the ass.
“Dale.” Paul said. “We are going to see if your idea for spinning the logs works. Get it done.”
Dale had come up with the idea of balancing large, straight maple logs on blocks. The logs were aligned on both sides of the road and parallel with it. Dale claimed that the maple logs could be spun to close the road. When critics said the logs could be just as easily swung to un-block the road, Dale responded that logging chains would prevent that.
Dale demonstrated his concept with four, twenty foot maple logs that averaged 24 inches in diameter. A single man could not swing them but any kind of powered vehicle or two men with pry-bars could. Oh, and he was right about the logging chains. Paul was about to shut down one of the main arteries into Eaton Rapids.
“Rachel, what am I forgetting?” Paul said.
“I am not sure, boss. But what is to stop them from just backing up and trying a different way into town?” Rachel asked.
After a moment of thought, Paul called Willy's Auto Repair. "Hey, Justin, is Chernovsky there with you?"
"Yah." came back Justin's slow, laconic drawl. "No customers. We were just sitting here drinking stale coffee and countin' dead flies."
"Hey, Chernovsky, do you want a chance to prove you are as big a bad-ass as you tell everybody you are?" Paul asked.
"Beats being bored." Chernovsky said. "Whatchya have in mind."
"Meet me on the ridge just above the water-plant." Paul said. "Easier to show you than tell you."
An hour and a half later Paul was standing at the log barricade that made the bridge across Slocum’s Drain impassible. Soft mud to the east and west made bypassing the bridge unlikely for the Humvees and impossible for the trucks.
Paul waited as the convoy whined its way south. He had a ten minute heads-up because Kelly had given him a call. Paul used the time for a few last minute tweaks to the plan.
The lead vehicle went right up to the barricade and tried to push through it. The vehicles behind the lead vehicle packed in tightly behind it. Paul thought that was particularly dumb move on the part of the convoy leadership.
A man got out of the passenger side of the lead Humvee.
“Clear this bridge” the man demanded from the other side of the maple logs.
Paul beckoned the man to the west side of the road. “Come here.”
The man said, "You come here."
"I ain't moving. You wanna talk, you gotta come here." Paul said.
The man strutted to the logs, looked them over and realized it would be impossible for him to maintain his dignity climbing over the filthy logs.
The man had to negotiate the blockade by traversing the steep slope outside the guard-rail as the maple logs and logging chain also made the road impassible to humans. His shoes were not well suited for the task.
Paul met the man before he climbed back up to the level of the road grade. “State your business.” Paul said.
“I have warrants to serve.” the man said.
“Let me see them.” Paul said.
The man handed the warrants to Paul. Paul was nonplussed to see that he was the subject of one of the warrants and the other warrant “impounded as evidence” all of the liquid petroleum fuel of the convenience store on the north end of town.
“I’ll take care of it.” Paul said. And then Paul very provocatively balled up the documents and pitched them into the drain.
“Waste of time, hay-seed.” the man said. “I can always print up more. Now, you either move these trees out of my fucking way or I will jam them up your ass.”
Being called a “hay-seed” shouldn't have irritated Paul, but it did. What the pompous ass could not know was that as a former police officer from Dearborn Heights, Paul spent most of his career patrolling neighborhoods less them five miles from the Brooks and Mackenzie neighborhoods of Detroit and exactly five miles from Dearborn, home of ISIS-North America. Evil does not respect invisible lines on a map.
“I suggest you turn your clown parade around and return to whatever hole you crawled out of.” Paul said, icily.
“You and what army?” the man said.
Paul had been running his mic hot. The shooters were deployed in two-man teams. When they needed to communicate team-to-team, one of the team could easily switch to another channel.
“The army that is about to shoot out your hazard lamps.” Paul said in a simple, conversational voice.
“Men, on the third blink starting...NOW.” Paul said.
The cocky man could not help but turn and look. He was sure that the skinny, old man standing in front of him was bull shitting. Waiting another three seconds would not change the outcome in any material way.
In three seconds a rolling thunder rolled across the north side of Eaton Rapids. The teams had been deployed along the brow of a ridge that gave them forty feet of elevation looking out over Slocum Drain. The laser range finders indicated that the “targets” were two-hundred, sixty-five yards from the shooter’s positions.
Shooting from a bench-rest, most competent shooters with a modern, scoped rifle can turn in a two-inch group at a hundred yards more than half the time. Sure, every once in a while they will luck into a one inch group but realistically you cannot count on that.
Paul’s defense group were not shooting off sand-bags and bench rests. They had hurried to the site and some of them were still huffing and puffing. Two inches in one hundred yards would be five inches at 260. The fire teams fell woefully short of that mark. Most of the first volley missed the hazard lamps, as did the most of the second, third, forth and fifth volley. Cumulatively, though, most of the hazard lamps were disabled by the fifth volley.
What Paul had not anticipated were the effects of the high powered bullets after they passed through the cheap plastic and thin metal on the front end of the trucks.
The hunters brought 30-06s and .270s and 7mm and .338 Magnums; rifles capable of taking moose, bison and brown bears. The bullets blew up automotive hardware near and behind the hazard lamps. They exploded batteries and punched through firewalls. In one case a bullet shattered the right kneecap of one of the drivers.
One hunter was careless with his trigger finger and launched a round that ricocheted off the pavement near Paul and whined off over the horizon.
The lack of expertise in execution was more than masked by the enthusiasm with which it was delivered.
The electronics on the vehicles with the damaged batteries started acting "weird". Motors raced. Dashboards burned out.
“I got thirty men in those trucks.” the man sputtered. “What is to stop me from lighting your men up?”
The impact of the man’s challenge was deflated by the shrieks of pain from the driver whose kneecap had been hit by a round from one of the mangums.
“Teams on the west, shoot out their side windows and rear tail lamps.” Paul said.
The teams on the west were a scant 100 yards away and had thirty feet of elevation on the targets. They took care to ensure that the drivers were not immediately downrange when they aimed for the side windows.
Drivers were showered with glass splinters as side windows exploded. Bullets hit windshields from the inside and split them asunder. The men in the bus cowered as bullets ripped through the rear end after striking the tail lamps
“You know, I ought to...” was what the man intended to say but he found himself pushed up against the bridges guard rail with the muzzle of a pistol jammed up into the juncture of his chin and throat. The pain was breath-taking.
Paul never found out what the strutting peacock though he ought to do.
Many men carry handguns. Most of them carry semi-automatics. Most semi-automatics have a “rail” beneath the barrel to mount accessories. Most men mount lights or lasers on that rail. Paul Seraph had “Dilyeu’s Dork”* mounted on the rail of his SIG 229.
“Shut. The. Fuck. Up.” Paul said, enunciating very carefully into his ear. “Get your sorry ass into your clown car and go back to whatever hole you crawled out of.”
|Chernovsky is the yellow diamond. Blue boxes are Humvees and trucks. Hostiles are heading south-to-north.|
"That is why I picked you. You are a mechanic." Paul said.
"S" curves are common on north-south country roads. Some of them are due to the lack of precision in older surveying methods. Most of them are due to the fact that it is not possible to lay a grid of square-miles on a sphere. The curvature of the earth's surface adds up and it must be reconciled every 30 miles or so.
Paul had given Chernovsky his own, personal AR. Chernovsky slinged it up and rode his mountain bike the mile north of town to the S curve.
Chernovsky counted ten vehicles that passed his position as they headed into Eaton Rapids. Thirty rounds in the magazine. Even a gym-rat like Chernovsky could do that math. Paul had given him two magazines but Chernovsky didn't want to dick around with changing out magazines when he needed to be shooting.
The first driver heard the shots and saw the muzzle flashes as he entered the first S-curve.
The driver was not a soldier. He was a truck driver with the Department of Management and Budget. He delivered copy paper, carpet, desks and such. The closest he came to crime was when he trucked evidence to the vaults. He did what any bureaucrat motivated by forty easy hours a week and a pension that was almost within his grasp would have done. He floored the gas pedal.
The other drivers followed his lead.
Chernovsky put three rounds into each radiator. He kept the rounds low because Seraph said his rifle was dialed in to hit two inches high at fifty yards. Chernovsky hit the radiators low because he wanted to completely drain the engine. He had never done the math, but there was a one-chance in three that any one of his bullets would sever one of the tubes in the radiator. The other 2/3s of the space was filled with fins which did not carry coolant.
The two Tahoes did not have heavy-duty transmission oil coolers and there was a 70% chance of being disabled by the three shots. The box trucks and bus had discrete transmission coolers and there was a 90% chance that one of the three bullets would sever at least one tube in either the radiator or transmission oil cooler. Total loss of coolant or transmission fluid would was enough to immobilize the vehicle.
The first vehicle dropped out three miles after the S curve. The others vehicles stopped to render aid and puked in quick succession. The vehicles that suffered a catastrophic loss of tranny fluid lost the ability to "clutch up" into gear, that is they were stuck in Neutral. The vehicles that suffered catastrophic coolant loss were shut down by their computers. Vehicles with exploded batteries would not start once turned off.
Chernovsky had been following the caravan on foot. He saw great swaths of orange coolant and red transmission fluid in the dim light of the late afternoon. He knew that at least some of them were not going to make it back to Lansing. Looking up the road he saw the disabled vehicles.
Chernovsky radioed back to Seraph. "I got some of them. You might want to call Kate's Store because they stalled out almost where the road leads into there."
Paul got on the horn to Kelly Carney. Several of the young bucks grabbed their guns and hauled ass to keep an eye on things.
They were amused to watch the strong backs completely unload the one working box truck and then all of the men getting into it to ride back to Lansing.
By chance, the one working truck was the one carrying the radio equipment. Nessel had the men stomp on the delicate electronics, urinate on the bags of flour and shoot the jugs of oil to drain them.
Dan Nessel originally planned to ride in the cab of the truck but shards of glass were embedded in the fabric of the seat from the blown-out side window. That, and it would be as cold as hell.
The worst part of the ride back, for Nessel, was that the "strong back" next to him kept leaning against him and kept drooling down Nessel's arm and hand.
Somebody in the truck was wearing aftershave that made Nessel's eyes burned. He rubbed them.
Outside, the snow started falling.