Tuesday, March 10, 2020
Sell job (fiction)
“What is the catch?” Quinn asked as soon as the doors were closed.
“Have you noticed that the attacks against Capiche are getting closer together?” Milo asked.
“Yeah, sort of.” Quinn said.
“And have you noticed that the number of fighters thrown our way keeps getting bigger?” Milo added.
“Wilder and Salazar think we are seeing a consolidation or shake-out of the warlords who are running the areas that survived the plague. They are all fighting for dominance and we will have to deal with whatever spills out.” Milo said. “If Wilder and Salazar are right, we can expect to see continued pressure from the east.”
Quinn said “I don’t see what that has to do with me.”
“You might have noticed that most of the bridges across the West Branch were dropped.” Milo said. “Same deal for bridges over Doan Creek.”
“Chernovsky thinks the strip of land between West Branch and Doan Creek could be just the buffer we need to take the edge off future invasions. He wants you to assess what it will take to make this a viable barrier to future invasions.” Milo said.
His interest piqued, Quinn asked “How big of an invasion are you talking about?”
“The last one was 3000 fighters and they were incompetently led. The next one might be 5000 with better mechanized support.” Milo said.
Quinn shook his head. “Never happen.”
Misunderstanding, Milo said “No, really. We might see 5000 fighters push through here next time.”
“No. I mean, there is no way to turn this into a barrier. Five-thousand fighters would go through here like a knife through a slice of Velveta.” Quinn said
"You know, just having advance notice of an invasion and an effective rear-guard action to hamstring the resupply would be valuable. Even better would be to seriously bloody their nose on their way through." Milo said.
“What would it take to do that?” Milo pushed.
“Well, for one thing, you need a hell of a lot more fighters than I see around here. There never were very many people living here and then Ebola took 80% of them.” Quinn said.
“We have been interviewing the Livingston County fighters who surrendered" Milo said. "By ‘we’ I mean I have been helping. We have seven-hundred fighters who are willing to relocate here as long as they can bring their families over once they have their feet on the ground.”
“Yeah, that is fine, but who is going to train and lead them. From what I saw, Livingston County was bottom-of-the-barrel for both.” Quinn said.
“We have somebody picked out to lead them. Basically, we sorted through the list of candidates and there was only one person who we trust and who the fighters from Livingston County are willing to follow.” Milo said.
“Who is that?” Quinn asked.
“Somebody named ‘Corn Dog’.” Milo said.
Quinn started to speak but Milo put up his hand to stop him.
“It took us a few days to put two-and-two together. A slow-talking country-boy who showed up about the time you disappeared. Limped because his left ankle was locked up. Was able to take Livingston County rejects and humiliate General Richards.” Milo said.
“By the way, everybody hated Richards and you are a legend with the rank-and-file, Livingston County soldier.” Milo said.
“You have the wrong guy” Quinn said. “Give me a squad...ten men...and I am your guy.”
“I would love to.” Milo said. “But we need you for more important things.”
“Look, there are lots of real military guys in the Livingston County force, guys who were Marines or in the Army. Pick one of them.” Quinn said.
“No doubt. Last time I looked we had about twenty of them penciled in to come here. But the thing is that Chernovsky doesn’t know them. He doesn’t trust them” Milo said.
“He trusts you. And he knows that you have a level head. If one of the twenty have a good idea, he trusts you to recognize it and implement it.” Milo said.
“But we are getting ahead of ourselves here” Milo said.
“Will you and Dysen take a couple of weeks to explore the area? That is why I brought the motor-scooters. You need wheels. The only thing is that if you go north of I-96 you need to take guards.” Milo said.
Quinn sighed. Mid-to-late October is a beautiful time of year. “Sure. Sounds grand.”
“So what are the boundaries of this strip of land?” Quinn asked.
“West Branch on the east. Doan Creek on the west. The Red Cedar river on the north and M-36 to the south. It is about seventy square miles.” Milo said.
“And you want recommendations.” Quinn said.
“We need a punch-list. The first thing, second thing….quantities, locations...the works. Even if we can’t talk you into running the show, make the list as if you were going to get stuck with it.” Milo said
"Writing ain't my thing" Quinn said.
"I bet Dysen would be more than happy to put your thoughts down on paper" Milo countered.
“Do we have enough gas to run the scooters that far?” Quinn asked.
That is when Milo knew Quinn was hooked.
“You have twice as much gas as you need.” Milo assured him.
Quinn continued to stare out the windshield. Everything was distressingly normal...for now. Chickens were scratching and pecking. Starlings were starting to roost in the trees for the afternoon. Boys and men on errands scurried in and out of Tyler's farmhouse.
"I am going to need a lot of help." Quinn said after a minute. "These boys don't know how to shoot. They don't know how to move. They don't know how to think."
"Winter will be clamping down pretty soon. I don't think we will have any invasions until the roads dry in the spring. From what I hear, you are our top expert in winter training" Milo encouraged him.
"I gotta think about it." Quinn said. "I am not ready to lock-in. There are too many things I don't know or never had to think about."
"And if I take the job, I mean to keep it" Quinn said. "These guys have been jacked around enough and I am not going to add to it."