The two weeks after the destruction of the lead elements of Cali’s invasion of SoCal were uneventful for the SoCal forces staged along I-5.
Even though international investors watched the extravagant use of foreign reserves the interest rate of the benchmark 10yr bonds drifted down to 6.5% as nothing “newsworthy” happened.
Civil unrest escalated in the Bay Area and Sacramento. Government buildings were torched. Government officials were assassinated. Suspects were apprehended and summarily executed. None of it made the papers.
One outcome that was only noticed by sociologists doing field studies was that gang members started gaining status in Northern Cali by destroying tires. It used to be that gang members could move up the hierarchy by murder, armed robbery or other thuggery. Suddenly, the highest status coup was to slash the sidewalls of the inside tires of a semi-tractor or trailer. The driver would check the outside tires, take on a load and then find himself stranded on a desolate highway when the outside tires puked.
On the fourteenth day, everything changed.
Shortly after daybreak, three columns of vehicles started south out of Sacramento. The main column was on I-5 and the other columns were on surface roads that paralleled I-5 two miles to either side.
The lead vehicle was a truck with three heavy machine guns bolted to the bed. One pointed forward and the others pointed to the sides.
The second vehicle was a bus. It was driven by DeTroy Williams by personal directive of Bona-Brown.
After that was a Hummer that bristled with antenna.
Four features were notable of the movement.
One was that the buses were much more widely spaced than the last time. This time the buses were two hundred feet apart and were all driving in the right-hand lane.
The second feature that was notable was the leisurely pace of the columns. They were moving at a scant five or six miles an hour.
Another feature was the deployment of the mobile artillery. Half of the Godzillas parked while the other half sprinted ahead in the left lane to their next station. The parked units alternated pointing left and right. The sprinting units pulled in beside the unit that had been ahead of it and it leapfrogged ahead.
The final notable feature was the total absences of air cover.
The defense forces had deployed with the expectation of the column moving at thirty miles per hour. The forces were deployed east of I-5 close to Sacramento with the expectation that the sun would be at their backs in the morning. Forces 150 miles down I-5 were deployed on the west side of I-5.
Chad watched the columns creep toward his force’s positions. Their response was going to be complicated by the fact that the column that was east of the main column would be traveling close to his team’s positions and that they would be engaging at noon, thereby losing the advantage of having the sun at their back.
Another complication was that his forces were not in an urban area. There were far fewer good “hides” in the rural region twenty miles south of Sacramento.
Chad communicated to his teams, “Bogeys are incoming slowly. They have howitzers to counter-battery. I don’t see any air cover. I want to take this slowly. Maybe we can get them to tip their hand and see what they have.”
Chad let that sink in for a minute. Then, “I am going to ask for a team to volunteer. They are leap-frogging their howitzers and I want the team to try and hit them when the howitzers are side-by-side. I don’t know how effective they can counter-battery and there is only one way to find out. Any volunteers?”
Lindsay popped up with, “Hey, Pops, we got this.”
Chad looked over at Kenny, who was smirking.
Lindsay was a red-headed, hard-body who liked to be the center of attention. She was chafing at being the leader of Team Epsilon, the team that was the furthest south and would be last to have targets to engage.
Chad said, “Permission granted. Everybody else stand down and become invisible until we see what we are dealing with.”
The wait seemed interminable. Team Epsilon’s spotter was five hundred yards from the mortar team and offset to the side. The SoCal defense forces had learned from Carlos’s death to not have the spotter too close to the mortar team.
Lindsay’s team was located in a dry wash that was about 12 feet deep, a far cry from the 80 foot tall buildings that were available in urban areas.
Finally, the spotter started to give them a count-down as it became apparent that a Godzilla was sprinting forward to replace a unit that was already parked in the mortar’s optimum beaten zone. “Five, four, three, two, one..fire.” and the mortar crew dropped the stealth round into the end of the mortar.
Nothing happened for three seconds as the mortar round ascended and then three of the parked howitzers adjusted their azimuth and elevation and fired. The fifty pound, high-explosive shells obliterated Team Epsilon’s position as they burst above the dry wash.
Chad and Kenny were stunned. What happened next was even more amazing. Up and down the line the parked howitzers took turns slowly and methodically firing a round. Rounds that did not fall within 100 feet of Team Epsilon’s former position were followed up with a second round which invariably fell much closer.
Kenny was the first to speak. “What the fuck are they doing?”
Chad said, “It looks like they are calibrating their ranging computers but damned if I can see where their spotters are.” In a moment of carelessness, they had been transmitting on the open channel.
“Hey guys?” one of the teams responded. “Look up. I think they are using drones.”
Chad and Kenny started glassing the air 300 to 1000 feet in the air and the smudges they had automatically dismissed as buzzards were, indeed, drones.
“Christ-on-a-stick!” Kenny swore. “That’s why they are moving so slowly. They don’t want to outrun their eyes in the sky.”
The more Chad and Kenny looked, the more drones they saw. Fifty, maybe even a hundred of them. Swarms of drones.
The interest rate of the 10yr bonds continued to drift downward and settled at 6.0%.
Cali was winning.
Cali was winning.