Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Seven Skinny Cows: Planning for Battle

Scale of map is approximately three miles N-S and four miles E-W. Close-up is shown later in story is slightly north of Squad 2 Camp near center of image. People who live near Dimondale will notice slight liberties were taken.

There were three roads that Chernovsky had been tasked with “observing”.

Only one of those roads was likely to have much zombie traffic. That was the paved road that started twelve miles north of Dimondale and ran south, straight as a laser south into Eaton Rapids. Additionally, that paved road ran through the middle of Markle Estates Mobile Home Park a scant mile north of the northern frontier Chernovsky was tasked with "observing". MEMHP hosted four-hundred units.

The other two roads, one a mile to the east and the other a mile to the west, were gravel. The one to the east started at the outskirts of Dimondale and meandered to the east a bit before making up its mind and turning south. The one to the west of the paved road started a mile north of the point where Chernovsky chose to “observe” it. The road to the west jiggled and jogged like it could not make up its mind before settling down and heading south into the heart of Pray Church.

Chernovsky’s professional assessment was that Squad Two, the one with Quinn and Donnie as team-leaders was head-and-shoulders above the other two squads, even though the squad was running a man short.

So Chernovsky tasked Squad Two with observing the paved road and gave the road to the east to Squad One and the road to the west to Squad Three.

Then Chernovsky gave Quinn the task of selecting the four best positions on the paved road from which to observe, and attack, south-bound zombies.

Furthermore, Chernovsky required that Quinn pick at least two defensive positions within a mile of the northern frontier and two that were further back in the event that the zombies blew past the two primary defensive positions.

Black lines are 850 ft elevation lines. Red lines are 870 ft elevation lines. Green arrows are approximately one hundred yards. Gray rectangles are wooden-trussed pole barns. Brown rectangles are houses. Approximate scale three hundred yards N-S and four hundred yards E-W. Again, real location with slight liberties taken.

Quinn and the team had just walked Chernovsky and the other four team-leaders through their choice for the northernmost post on the paved road.

“Spackle, that plan sucks.” Chernovsky said.

Quinn was immediately defensive.

“The only other defensible place in the first mile is Observation Post #2. Quinn said.

“Your set-up as too many holes in it.” Chernovsky said with the emotion of a man stating that a dropped set of car keys will fall to the ground. It was a simple statement of fact.

It stung all the more because Quinn knew that it was 100% true.

The only two positions that had a view of the road were separated by two hundred yards and there was a huge, gaping hole in the observer’s fields of vision where hostiles could disappear. Forty yards might not sound like much but a forty yard blind-spot a hundred yards from an observation post is a problem.

The site did offer an exceptional elevation advantage. Over the eons, Silver Creek dug a channel that was a solid twenty feet below the plateau that overlooked it. The challenge was that an ambitious developer built three pole barns between the most favorable ‘observation’ sites and the road. Those barns interrupted the view of the road.

A second factor that played into the suckiness is that the plan was to lure the invading gangs, or zombies, into the honey-pot houses. Once inside the houses the invaders would find AMPLE supplies of booze and weed. Chernovsky’s stated plan was to send in a team after dark and to...well…execute the incapacitated invaders.

That plan would crap-out if the observers could not identify exactly how many invaders went into exactly which houses. Hence the excruciating pain caused by the blind-spots.

An aspect of leadership that is rarely commented on is the element of theater. Oft times the leader will have a very precise picture in their head of the optimum solution.

Sometimes they are wrong, but often they are right.

The easy path is to simply direct the underlings to create the leader’s vision. The easy path is not always the best path.

If the underlings do not OWN that plan, then they are not invested and will have little incentive in making the plan work. On the other hand, it is a well known fact that people with investment in a plan can make a concrete canoe float.

“Suppose” Chernovsky said, primarily addressing Quinn and Donnie but also mindful that the other team-leads were listening “that you were designing a video game and you were given this map.” he said waving his hands at the landscape.

“Now suppose you are designing level 6999, the one that nobody ever gets to because it is way too hard.” Chernovsky said. “How would you change the houses or the pole barns to make it so fiendishly difficult that the players...the invaders coming from the north...will all die and nobody will ever make it to level 7000?”

“I’d get rid of the pole barns.” Donnie said without hesitation.

“No, I would make the pole barns holograms.” said another team leader. “So the observers could see through them and the hostiles could not.”

“I would put bottomless-pits-to-hell in the pole barns so anybody who went into them would fall to their doom.” said another.

Chernovsky let them thrash around for about ten minutes. He could not fault them in their enthusiasm for video games.

“OK, Spackle. From all of the ideas you heard, what would you do to make this the perfect killing field?” Chernovsky asked.

Collapsing the barn roofs allowed all potential observation sites to have unobstructed view of the road. Southernmost observation site is in near-enfilade position for columns advancing south on the road while the other two positions are in defilade positions.

“I would leave the pole barns standing but collapse the roofs so the observation posts had clear fields of vision. I would remove the door handles on the insides of the barns and put wire mesh over the windows. And I would fill them with barbed wire.” Quinn said.

“Why not get rid of the barns?” Chernovsky asked. He had his own opinions but wanted to hear Spackles.

“We might have to start shooting at the zombies. If we get rid of the barns then they will figure out the only place the shooting could come from is our observation posts. If we leave the shell of the barns standing then they will probably figure the shooters are in the barn.” Quinn said. “I would rather have them shooting into empty barns than have them shooting at an observation post where they might get lucky.”

“Is there anything else you would do?” Chernovsky asked.

“Yeah, I would put something outside the doors of the honey-pot houses so I would know if the doors had been opened. Maybe a two-liter pop bottle with some water in the bottom. It would get knocked over if somebody opened the door to the house.” Quinn added. “Then I could do a quick walk-by and would know if there might be zombies in the house.

Chernovsky was impressed. He had not thought of that.

"Your plan to let the hostiles into the barn sucks." Chernovsky said. "Once they are in there you lose sight of them. You need to rethink that part of the plan."

“Is there anything that you need help with?” Chernovsky asked.

“Nope. I think my squad can handle this.” Quinn said. “We will cut the bottoms of the trusses and the snow load will take care of the rest.”



  1. Hate to see the barns go, but that makes sense.

  2. The roof material can be salvaged and taken further into the defensive area, and either utilized for new buildings or kept in storage for re-roofing needs.

    That is, if the pole barns have the usual metal roof panels.