Thursday, February 13, 2020
There are no civilians (fiction)
“Why don’t you grow a set of balls for a change!” Kate spat at Rick Salazar, her husband.
Rick jumped back as if a rattlesnake had popped him in the kneecap.
Kate lost her temper with Rick about once every five years. She was overdue.
Rick was always completely oblivious to Kate’s distress when she blew up. She sent signals. He missed them. She sucked it up.
Until she couldn’t.
“Why don’t you fight for what is ours?” Kate asked. “Why do you passively stand by and let us, let ME, be violated?”
“Instead of fighting, you roll over like a female collie” Kate said. And then she spat into the bushes outside the pavillion that served as Kate’s Store. She could spit like a stevedore when she set her mind to it.
Rick rewound the conversation in his mind to see what had set her off. He came up dry.
“Look, all I said was that Chernovsky expects us to be invaded in a week to two months. I suggested that we strip as much stock out of the store and that you have a plan to skeedaddle” Rick said. “It is the prudent and logical thing to do.”
“And a MAN would say, ‘Not one inch without blood.’” Kate said back.
“This will be the fourth time invaders will have destroyed my store. Do you need to be swatted up-side the head with a clue-bat? You know where they are coming from. You know where they are going” Kate said.
“Rather than shrugging like a helpless eunuch and GIVING them MY store...you should be digging trenches and spiking the roads. Make THEM fight for every inch.” Kate said.
Then Kate crossed her arm, turned around and walked away before she said things she would really regret.
Rick was a thoughtful man who saw connections. He rarely did things in haste nor was it often that he moved in a straight line. He stood still for a full minute, his mind turning at a furious rate.
He did not chase after Kate. She had thrown down the gauntlet. Winning her approval did not involve hugging or pretty words.
When something you considered a variable becomes an immutable constant, then the universe of possible solutions changes. Some potential solutions will fall outside the “permissible” region. Other solutions that had been dismissed out of hand float to the top, and if accepted as necessary, open up an entire new universe of optimum solutions.
Rick walked over to the CB and whistled up Chernovsky. “We need to talk, face-to-face. Tonight.”
Rick went to Chernovsky’s house. Chernovsky was Rick and Kate’s honorary son-in-law. Chernovsky was married to Janelle who had been brought into the Salazar house in her early teens as a foster child. Janelle aged-out while still with the Salazar and everybody thought of her as Rick and Kate’s child.
Rick had never traded on that relationship until today when he demanded an audience with Chernovsky.
“What’s up, buddy?” Chernovsky asked Rick as Chernovsky handed him a tall glass of lemonade.
“Kate pointed something out to me that deserves your attention.” Rick said.
“Yeah, what's that?” Chernovsky asked. He knew something was up. Rick was one of the elders of the community and he had virtually BEGGED to come over.
“Livingston County needs agricultural land to feed themselves. It is far easier to steal than it is to develop for themselves. The last time they invaded us they made bee-lines to the stores.” Rick said.
Chernovsky nodded. Rick was not telling him anything he didn’t know.
“They took over the stores for two reasons. One: That is where the food was so it was the fastest way to load up their trucks and Two: The easiest way to starve a vassal state into submission is to hijack their distribution system” Rick said.
Chernovsky wouldn’t have said it quite that way, but what Rick said certainly fit.
“So what did Kate say that got your attention?” Chernovsky asked.
Rick wasn’t going to tell Chernovsky THAT.
“Kate said, if we know where they are coming from and we know exactly where they are going...then we should make them bleed for every inch of the way.” Rick said.
Rick leaned back and took a long, slow sip of his lemonade. He was giving Chernovsky time to chew on the idea.
It took Chernovsky about twenty seconds to wrap his mind around what Rick was saying.
Wilder had turned Chernovsky into a reader of history. Chernovsky’s mental model of what Livingston County would do to Capiche was formed by Sherman’s ride through Georgia and South Carolina. Sherman's men created a fifty mile wide swath of destruction. It was not focused or aimed. It was intended to destroy the South's ability to feed itself and to destroy its ability to continue to fight.
But Rick made a lot of sense. Livingston County’s last raid had been very successful...for a while. Chernovsky did not know how much additional information Livingston County had, but it seemed likely that field reports of the easy penetration and initial successes would have made their way back to headquarters.
“Obviously, you have had more time to think about this than I have” Chernovsky temporized. “Give me the skeleton of a plan.”
“Put up decoys where Pete and Steve’s stores used to be to draw in the raiders.” Rick said. “Salt the road with IED so they cannot retreat. Put spike strips in the roads where we have maximum elevation advantage and then mortar and shoot them to pieces.” Rick said.
Chernovsky liked simple.
“What about Luke and Kate’s stores?” Chernovsky asked.
“They are deeper in Capiche” Rick said. “I think there might be time to flood the muck-fields the way Hawk is doing over by Webberville.”
“Get the raiders stacked up on a stretch of road going across a muck field, blow the roadbed in front of them and behind them. Then kick the snot out of them. It is not like they have anyplace the can run or hide.” Rick said. “With any luck they will never get within a mile of Kate or Luke’s stores.
“You know there is risk to civilians when we start putting out IEDs” Chernovsky said.
Rick looked him in the eye. “Since Ebola, there are no ‘civilians’. And there are work-arounds. I think we should ‘push’ four weeks of food to every household in Capiche. It is not their choice. They have to take it because the roads might be impassible for that long.”