Chernvosky flatly stated, “We cannot defend against attacks from the east.”
“Why?” Benicio asked.
“Terrain is everything.” Chernovsky said. “The terrain for the next forty miles east does not favor the defender.”
“Explain yourself.” Benicio said. “How is that terrain different than here” he said, gesturing to the south. “Didn’t your force of fifty fighters destroy four times that number?”
Chernovsky made a conscious effort to not roll his eyes.
“Capiche has the Grand River curling around most of it. The river is a natural barrier. It forces the attacking forces to funnel through known, defensible choke-points” Chernovsky said.
“The other thing is that Capiche is small enough that we could shift fighters and mortars around to where they were needed. The area you are talking about is fifty times larger than Capiche, the distances are correspondingly larger and the population’s leanings...well, we cannot know which way they will jump” Chernovsky said.
“So you say it is impossible.” Benicio summarized.
Chernovsky nodded his head in agreement.
“Then you might as well slit your throat right now.” Benicio said. “Either do that, or try harder.”
That stung. Chernovsky had never been accused of not trying hard enough. He was always the last to leave the weight room. Benicio had a gift for getting under his skin. It was not an accident.
“If you decide to not slit your throat and are committed to winning” Benicio said with a slightly kinder voice “get some other eyes and ears. They will see and hear things you cannot.”
The next morning, Chernovsky rode his bike out to Quinn’s new farm. He timed it well. “Cookie girl” and Quinn looked like they had just rolled out of the sack. The coffee was brewing and the bacon-and-eggs were frying. It was ten in the morning.
Quinn invited Chernovsky in. Chernovsky accepted a cup of coffee but declined the breakfast. As an afterthought, he accepted a sweet roll. Dysen was a very fine baker.
Quinn and Dysen were bursting with plans. The current big project was the dam and sluiceway for the sawmill. The dam was two-hundred yards upstream and eight feet higher in elevation than of the proposed mill location.
Work was going slower than anticipated and it did not look like they would have everything in place to take advantage of the fall rains and the spring snow-melt.
Chernovsky cleared his throat in preparation to say something. Quinn recognized it as a prelude to a command he was NOT going to like.
“I can help with that.” Chernovsky said. “I can have a crew of fighters over here tomorrow morning but it comes with one condition.”
Quinn waited for the other shoe to drop.
Dysen, not recognizing the signs said “That’s great! What is the condition?”
“I need to borrow Quinn for a little while.” Chernovsky said.
“How long is ‘...a little while…?” Quinn asked.
Chernovsky looked uncomfortable. “I am not really sure.”
“What would I be doing?” Quinn asked.
“Scouting enemy territory.” Chernovsky said. There is no point in polishing a turd.
“So, I wouldn’t be home at night while on assignment” Quinn stated as a non-negotiable fact.
Dysen vigorously shook her head “NO!” “You aren’t actually be thinking of doing this, are you?” Dysen asked.
“Let’s hear him out.” Quinn said. “We owe him that.”
“Between Capiche and Eaton Rapids, there are probably a thousand people who survived the plague and grid-down. Benicio, up in Delta Township has another fifteen hundred. Amish-land has somewhere between five-hundred and a thousand.” Chernovsky ticked off on his fingers. That is a minimum of three thousand people who are bootstrapping their way back to ‘normal’ just like you.”
Benicio has sources of information. The force that raided us from the east was just a foraging party. The people east of here contacted us and demanded our surrender” Chernovsky said. “Basically, that would mean stepping aside and letting them have everything we salvaged and have worked for.”
"Our best guess is that there are over twenty-thousand survivors in Livingston County and another ten-thousand in Genesee county. If they squeeze really hard, they can put five-thousand fighters on the field."
“No way.” Dysen said.
“Bullshit.” Quinn exploded.
“I don’t see how to stop them before they get here. They won't send two-hundred, half-asleep fighters, they will send one or two thousand. Even if we can stop them once they get here, I don’t see how we can avoid hundreds, maybe even thousands of casualties” Chernovsky said. “That is why I need Quinn. He is a genius at seeing potential.”
“So how far would he have to walk?” Dysen asked bitterly. She stared pointedly at his shattered ankle.
Chernovsky pulled out a map. “It is about forty miles to Howell. We need to sweep east of it and then come back by a northern route. Maybe a hundred miles, all told.”
Dysen’s face clearly showed that she was not in favor of the trip. The saw mill would be finished when it was finished and losing one year of revenue was not a make-or-break proposition.
Quinn looked thoughtful. “Give us a couple of days to think about it.”