Lieutenant Martens might not have been the smartest guy in Livingston County, but he was not far out of the hunt.
He was certainly smart enough to know when he was being bent-over and about to be corncobbed dry.
He called for Corn Dog.
“Yessir. What can I do for you, sir” Corn Dog spouted.
For a guy who had fallen into an NCO position by pure, dumb luck, Corn Dog had picked up the military lingo and additude quickly.
“The Livingston County forces west of here are encountering heavy resistance.” Lieutenant Martens informed his NCO by way of prefacing the conversation they were about to have.
An emotion fleetingly crossed Corn Dog’s face. It was like the shadow of a gauzy cloud blowng before the gale.
“Our forces are winning but they are expending large amounts of ammunition.” Lieutenant Martens continued. “I have been ordered to collect all available ammunition and send it to the front in the next convoy.”
Corn Dog processed both what Martens had said and how he said it. Martens did NOT say “I am ordering you to collect all available ammo….”
“I am on it like a duck on a Junebug.” Corn Dog popped to attention, saluted, did an about face and almost ran into the warehouse.
Five minutes later, Corn Dog came back and deposited three rounds of ammo into Lieutenant Martens’ hand. “All available ammunition returned to Lieutenant Martens, sir!”
Martens’ face was impassive as he looked down at the three rounds.
“Sighting in the rifles consumed most of the ammo, sir.” Corn Dog said.
Technically, that was accurate if you were referring to the ammo that had been expended and not the amount issued. Corn Dog had used a couple of rounds to clobber a couple of enormous racoons out of a tree the other day. The fatty meat had been a treat for the men of his squad.
“Very well.” Lieutenant Martens replied. “Carry on.”
Martens knew that Corn Dog had not returned all of the ammo. He had taken great care to pose the information in a way that did not paint Corn Dog into a corner.
General Patrick and Rife were total company men. If ordered, they would probably commit suicide. Martens was not quite that committed. The tactical situation stank and was rapidly getting worse. The thought was not fully formed in Martens’ mind, but he was leaving some parachutes cached in a few strategically chosen places, just in case.
Martens’ last stop was in the extreme northeast corner of the Howell/Brighton AoO. “Hey, Strider, I have been ordered to collect all available ammo to forward to the front.”
Strider was not a NCO but he was a very capable grunt. So capable, in fact, that Martens habitually bypassed the official NCO and went straight to Strider. It was a matter of convenience. If Martens went looking for the NCO, Martens would find him. Then Martens would be forced to discipline him for being stoned while on duty. Then Martens would get his ass in a wringer because the NCO was in the protected class and was needed to “make quota”.
Better to just go to Strider.
“The ammo is locked in the safe. It will take me a few minutes to get the key from Sarge. Have a seat and a cup of coffee if you want.” Strider said as he glided out the door.
Most of the grunts moved like Frankenstein. Strider...well, he moved like a big cat.
Five minutes later, Strider handed him a heavily taped, cardboard box. Mentally weighing the box in his hand, Martens judged that it had a quarter of the ammo issued to the outpost.
Assessing what was going through Martens’ head, Strider said, “We had to send some of our ammo to the fighting group that was in the old State Police Post. They burned through a bunch of it the night they found that truck.”
Martens shook his head in the negative. “No worries, Strider. I have no doubt that when I tell you my orders, that you will do the right thing.”
Strider gave Martens a strange look. The language was so convoluted and indirect compared to Martens’ normal speech that Strider knew that it had to be in some kind of code.
General Richards was livid. The convoy was scheduled to leave at eight in the morning. At twenty-five miles per hour, it should have covered the forty miles in exactly 96 minutes.
The quartermaster on the east end of the line was intimately familiar with General Richards incendiary temper. He waited an extra half an hour, sure that the convoy would show up. After all, what could have happened to it?
After double-double checking to ensure that it had, indeed, left the dock in Howell at 8:00 AM on-the-dot, the quartermaster called General Richards’ aid. He did not expect it to go well.
The quartermaster was relieved of his position and placed into a line position. Richards was incandescent that he had not been informed IMMEDIATELY when the convoy did not show up at the designated time.
Richards personally called up Livingston County. He had no patience with the excuse about broken glass and punctured tires.
“Send another convoy.
I. Need. Water.
And I need ammo. Send the convoy out with brooms. How ‘eFFFing’ hard can it be to drive forty miles. MY entire fighting force made it here without a single flat tire.” Richards said, tearing strip-after-strip of skin off the unfortunate NCO on the other end of the radio.
The need for ammo was completely fictitious. There had been almost no resistance, a fact that Richards took to mean that they had won by intimidation.
Richards wanted to drain the little bit of remaining ammo out of Howell/Brighton because coups run much more smoothly when the other side cannot shoot back.