At midnight a blizzard of calls came across the radio net. Battles had broken out across the Buffer zone.
Several sectors were out of radio-contact.
Quinn, for once, had not gone walk-about that night. Consulting Sammie, the seismic sensors east of the Red Cedar River showed no vehicle movement.
Quinn wondered if he had been wrong in discounting commando strikes by the Washtenaw and Livingston County forces.
The night was chaos.
A temporary bridge was thrown across Doan Creek and half of the forces that were deployed along 1-96 were dispatched to backstop the sectors that had gone off-line. Rushing into an active gunfight when communications are down is a recipe for blue-on-blue casualties. By inserting between the buffer-zone and Capiche, Quinn hoped to slow down any invasion that might have slipped through the seismic sensors
Quinn disliked being so dependent on the sensors. Technology is suppose to aid decision-making, not replace it or complicate it.
He prayed to God that the net had not been hacked or the sensor-net spoofed.
He called Chernovsky and Gimp. Capiche went on Red Alert.
Chernovsky and Gimp called Benicio and Delta Township and the parts of Lansing under his control went on Red Alert.
It was mid-morning before it was mostly sorted out.
One of the LT-s called Spackle. “I need you at the corner of Howell Road and Risch Road. I have something you need to see.”
Howell Road was the center of the chaos. Quinn had screwed up.
The Armory for the Howell Road section had been housed near the corner of Howell and Risch. In retrospect, it was a poorly chosen location. For one thing, it was too close to the eastern border.
There were bodies scattered in front of the armory. Clearly, a battle had occurred.
“The Armory is secure, sir” the lieutenant informed Quinn. Quinn could not remember the Louie’s name for love nor money.
“Thanks” Quinn said.
Looking at the wounds, it was clear that the bullets had been complete pass-throughs. The exit wounds were ghastly.
“Have they been identified?” Quinn asked.
“Not yet, sir” the Louie said.
“Roll this one over” Quinn said. The body was notable for the fact that he was wearing a new coat. It's brown unfaded. The fabric hard and crisp.
Something about the man seemed familiar but was hard to tell based on half a face...one that had distorted due to fluids puddling in the portions in contact with the frozen ground.
“We were trying to maintain the crime scene, sir” the Louie said.
“You can roll him back after I look at him” Quinn said.
The lieutenant had one of his privates roll the body over. Quinn looked at the man. His parka was partially unzipped. He was wearing body-armor, for all the good it had done him.
It was Smitty, one of the squad leaders who had been banished from the buffer zone.
It was a cold, bleak, windy winter day.
“How many people in the Howell Road sector deserted?” Quinn asked. There should have been time to do a quick nose count.
“All of them sir. Every soul” the Louie said.
Quinn looked at the snow. The Louie had done a respectable job in maintaining the scene. By not focusing on the details, Quinn was able to pick up the narrow, fan-shaped patterns of lung and brain tissue the tumbling rounds had sprayed on the snowy ground. The stringy boogers of tissue were drying. The dark red showed up clearly on the white ground. Whatever had hit these men had significantly more energy than a .22 LR.
Looking up-range, Quinn saw a stand of trees...presumably a rock pile...nearly a quarter mile away.
“No, Lieutenant. Not all of them” Quinn said.
Then Quinn started walking across the field toward the rock pile.
“Wait, sir. I cannot guarantee that this sector has been pacified” the Louie said.
“You can’t. But the guy sitting on that rock pile is all the guarantee I need” Quinn said.
Quinn found Wolhfert posted up with a full mag and the bolt locked-back.
“Whatchya got?” Quinn asked.
“I kept them out of the weapons but I am pretty sure they jerked the fuses from the IEDs before they left.” Wohlfert said.
“I look into it” Quinn said.
Quinn paused a second than asked “Have you ever considered becoming an officer?”
“Never happen” Wohlfert said.
“Why?” Quinn asked.
Wohlfert’s eyes narrowed a bit. He was clearly weighing how honest he could be with Quinn.
Then, after a second Wohlfert said “Mostly because I never met a Squad Leader who was worth a shit.”
“Actually, I was thinking you should be a Lieutenant” Quinn said. "You would be working for me."
“I ain’t qualified” Wohlfert said. “I barely made it out of high school.”
Quinn looked back at the Armory and the Louie who was wringing his hands.
“There are ten men down there who gave me the best recommendation you can possibly have” Quinn said.
“There are only four people standing down there” Wohlfert said.
Quinn said “I wasn’t talking about the ones who are standing. I was talking about the traitors you killed.”
“The other advantage you have is that I can remember your name” Quinn said. “That lieutenant down there...not so much.”
"But most of all, because I can trust you" Quinn said.
A sense of who Quinn was began to jell in Mark’s mind. The Quinn he met in the tower had morphed from a pleasant officer who had not been a stickler for chicken-shit details to an officer who demanded perfection on the critical jobs to a person who valued loyalty and action far more than pretty words.
In other words, a man who was much like Mark Wohlfert, himself.
“I will give it my best shot on one condition” Wohlfert said.
“What is that?” Quinn asked. He was not to keen on bargaining. In his mind it was an all-in or all-out proposition.
“Nobody calls me 'Donut'.” Mark Wohlfert said.
Nearly three-hundred fighters had deserted, almost all on a squad-by-squad basis. The band around Howell Road had seen the greatest attrition. Quinn also lost two Lieutenants, Greene and the one on Denis Road, one mile north of Howell Road.