Friday, April 17, 2020

Quest: Formidable Women

“Donut” Wolhfert had no problems with the physical demands of the training program Quinn Spackle laid on recruits from Livingston County.

Donut grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. His family burned wood and his dad took on odd jobs. One of them was rebuilding transmissions.

Between cutting and hauling firewood and wrenching, yanking transmissions out of trucks and SUVS and reinstalling them, Donut was a hell of a lot stronger than the average seventeen year old.

Donut wasn’t named for his physique. Rather, the Wolhfert family had a tradition of sharing home-made donuts and fruit preserves on special occasions. Most of the male Wolhferts in Livingston County were nicknamed “Donut” at some time in their lives.

All of the fighters in Donut’s squad thought he was a simpleton. In fact, most of the fighters within a four mile band, north-to-south thought Donut was a simpleton. Donut didn’t give it much thought. The other fighters were sons of doctors and dentists, lawyers and store managers. They were used to compromises and ambiguity and shifting alliances.

Donut’s people were simpler than that. There were two kinds of people: People you could trust and people who would stab you in the back.

The people you could trust kept their word, even if they lost money on a promise, even if the person they made the promise to was somebody they disliked. The people who would stab you in the back had very short memories when circumstances changed and they might lose a penny on a deal.

As a general rule, Donut used to believe there were five back-stabbers for every person who could be trusted. He later decided that he had been an optimist.

If Donut had to be told what to do every two hours, it was only because Donut had seen the teller throw somebody under the bus once and Donut didn’t trust the durability of what he had been told just a few hours prior.

Donut’s leadership considered him a moron. From their perspective, he could only be trusted to execute the simplest and most direct of commands.

From Donut’s perspective, he had been thrust into an organization where everybody was a backstabber and nobody could be trusted.


Quinn was starting to get a dribble of real-time intelligence.

Dmitri had miniaturized the seismic sensors to where they were the size of a spool of thread. Like the seismic sensors used to detect earthquakes, they provided direction, range and amplitude information.

Data was loaded to memory and dumped via “up periscope” radio bursts every 27 minutes. Tiny solar panels were mounted vertically on convenient trees, typically just above where a branch left the main trunk vertically.

Sam, a nerd who had a knack for electronics and knew enough about electronics and signal processing that he could argue with Dmitri, had started clandestinely planting the sensors on the roads that led west from Howell to the buffer zone Quinn was tasked with defending.

Quinn now had ears from his easternmost defenses to ten miles east. Furthermore, the seismic sensors could hear traffic far beyond where they were placed and their span meant that Sam could quickly triangulate where that traffic originated and, in time, determine where it was going.

That provided enough warning that Quinn's fighters could be fully engaged in training.


Wilder, Salazar and Chernovsky were discussing Capiche’s defense against the impending assault. Wade Hawk was a special guest.

The three met on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and weekends as necessary. Specialists were brought in as required. Results were shared. Assignments were handed out. Salazar’s rule-of-thumb was to hand out assignments that were aggressive enough that there was a fifty percent chance the assignee would be able to complete the entire package before the next report-out date.

“How are we doing?” Wilder asked Chernovsky.

“Some things are on track. Others are not” Chernovsky said.

“Will we be ready?” Salazar asked.

“No army is ever ready” Chernovsky answered, cryptically. “We will fight with what we have.”

“Yeah, I get that. But do we have a chance of winning?” Salazar asked.

“If they attack tomorrow? No.” Chernovsky admitted. “But I don’t think they will attack tomorrow. They bit off a big chunk when they took over Livingston County. I think they will need a couple of months to pacify them and incorporate their fighters into their military. Then, it will make sense for them to wait until mud season is over.”

Salazar shook his head, gloomily. “That is when we should be out planting the fields.”

“They have warehouses filled with supplies. They aren’t to the point of having to think about getting their hands dirty and planting. That is why they will be attacking us. If they win, they won’t ever have to think about that. They will just take it from us” Chernovsky said.

Looking over at Wade Hawk, Salazar asked “What can you tell us about hot-air balloons, drones and planes?”

The men were used to Hawk’s abrupt manner. He did not waste time candy-coating bad news.

“Hot-air balloons ain’t gonna work. I talked to Jeremy VanDeusen. He said that a manned hot-air balloon is a suicide mission and he said that an un-manned balloon is a waste of time because you cannot aim cameras from the ground” Wade Hawk said. “The balloons spin and there is no way to point them where you want.”

“How about gliders?” Salazar asked.

“I talked to Doug Hoffstedder. He said there are no up-drafts at least once you get away from the dunes along Lake Michigan.”

“In the day, in the spring, maybe one-day-in-four will have good updrafts” Hawk continued relentlessly.

Salazar could tell by Hawk’s tone of voice there was no good news. Still, forms must be followed.

“Drones?” Salazar asked.

“I found a photographer in Dimondale who is into drones. He paid $1500 for a top-end drone. It has a 40 minute flight time and can go 8 miles” Hawk said.

“That doesn’t sound too bad” Chernovsky exclaimed.

“Eight-mile round trip” Hawk clarified. “And it cannot glide. You push it a little too far and it lands behind enemy lines. Headwinds...cold batteries...somebody hacking the signal. A bunch of things can kill a drone.”

“Planes?” Salazar asked wearily.

“I found one” Wade Hawk said. “She insists that she is the only person who can fly it.”

The other three men perked up.

“What is wrong with that?” Wilder asked.

“She is damned near seventy years old and is the most unreasonable woman I ever met” Hawk said. From the tone of his voice it was clear that he preferred women who were less….formidable.

“She says she needs 400 gallons of aviation gasoline just to get started” Hawk continued.

The men winced. 100 gallons of gas was a lot of gasoline and she wanted four times that...just to get started.

“Why does she need so much?” Chernovsky asked.

“She said that her plane burns five gallons an hour and she needs at least sixty hours to sort things out.” Hawk said.

Wilder did some quick calculations in his head. “That is only three hundred gallons.”

Hawk mumbled something.

“What was that?” Wilder asked.

“She is training another pilot, too.” Hawk said.

“Who?” Salazar said, mystified.

“My niece” Hawk said.

“And another thing she demands is the Infrared Video Camera that the Eaton Rapids Fire Department has” Hawk said.

“What infrared camera?” Salazar asked. He prided himself on being on top of things and he had never heard of this camera.

“She said that she and her husband...they used to own D&D Insurance in town...donated $500 to help buy the camera. She said she saw it with her own eyes.” Hawk said.

Salazar sighed. “I will ask Paul Seraph about it.”

Looking over at Wilder he asked “Do you want to talk to Benicio about getting our hands on 1000 gallons of gas? I don’t see that we have any other choices and you know this isn’t going to stop at 400 gallons.”

And then the meeting moved on to other things.



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