He informed the Lieutenants who had been least crippled by desertions that they would have to give up one squad, each. “And don’t try to scrape your weakest squad off on me. I am not asking for the best, just one in the middle. But, if you try to jerk me around I will come back and TAKE your best.”
Quinn also demanded, and got, two seasoned squads of fighters from Capiche.
The squad led by Donnie Galligan was installed on Denis Road and Donnie was promoted to Lieutenant.
The squad led by Mike “Pepperoni” Prestigacomo was installed on Howell Road.
Quinn took Pepperoni aside and had a chat with him. “By rights, I should promote you to Lieutenant but I can’t, yet.”
Quinn could see by the mulish set of Pepperoni’s jaw that Pepperoni really though he should be the Lieutenant now, not some chubby kid who looked like he needed to shave once-a-week.
“Looks like a kid, doesn’t he?” Quinn asked. Dysen’s near perfect grammar was starting to rub off on Quinn.
“You know, he killed at least ten rebels” Quinn said.
Pep was silent. By his count he had killed at least eighty invaders the spring after Ebola crashed into Lansing. Pep was not impressed.
“He shot them at 400 yards. I paced it off myself” Quinn said.
Quinn could see the wheels turning. Pep had documented kills at that range.
“Two of them were head shots. They were using an ammo shed for cover and that kid didn’t want to risk blowing it up. Figured he would need that ammo later” Quinn said.
That got Pep’s attention. While Pep had killed at 400 yards and, theoretically could hit a head at 400, he had not actually done so.
“At night. With them shooting back” Quinn concluded.
In fact, Mark Wohlfert had used the bloom of the muzzle blasts as his aiming point. If somebody is shooting at you, then the head is immediately behind the bloom. It is a simple optics problem as long as you don’t flinch as the incoming bullet whines past your ear.
And with that, Pep recognized that Wohlfert was a warrior and not a fuzz-faced kid.
“OK. He is the Lieutenant” Pep conceded. “But I am going to call him aside when he screws up.”
Quinn nodded. “Do it privately. He is still learning the ropes.”
"One reason I am putting you with Lieutenant Wohlfert is there are a lot of things he is clueless about. I am counting on you to help him figure out which squad should be placed in which position. That takes a lot of maturity. I am asking you to manage your manager" Quinn said. "I have a lot of confidence in you."
“Oh, and one more thing...if you hear anybody call him ‘Donut’, that gets a ten-mile motivation run for the whole squad. That includes you” Quinn said.
While Pep could run ten miles, it was not his favorite thing. Quinn was willing to bet that nobody in Pep’s squad was EVER going to call Lieutenant Wohlfert ‘Donut’.
Quinn called Tomanica up. “I need an expert. Are you available to come on-site and review our plans?”
“Chernovsky said the plans are in the shitter” Tomanica said.
“Yeah. But it is where we are starting from” Quinn admitted. “My hope is you have some sneaky ideas that we can use.”
"How soon can you break free?" Quinn asked.
Tomanica agreed to spend the ten days in the buffer zone. He couldn’t promise anything but he was delighted to have a challenge other than teaching soldiers how to dig holes and set fuses.
Chernovsky and Janelle were having some pillow talk.
“It looks bad, real bad, for Quinn” Chernovsky told his wife.
“I thought you said there was good news regarding getting more ANFO.” Janelle said.
“Well, that is what I thought. But then there were a lot of details that made it no-big-deal” Chernovsky admitted with a regretful sigh.
“Like what?” Janelle asked.
“Well, like they can barely run five or six hours a day because they are limited to solar power” Chernovsky said.
“I thought you said they were going to get steam power” Janelle said.
“I thought so too, but there isn’t a steam engine in Eaton County” Chernovsky said.
“Bullshit!” Janelle said.
Chernovsky went up on one elbow. “Do you KNOW where there is a steam engine?”
“Tell me how big a steam engine you need and I bet I can find one in a month” Janelle bragged.
“Twenty horsepower would be perfect, but ten-to-thirty would work” Chernovsky said.
Chernovsky was thinking that they might not have a month.
Janelle got out of bed and put on a robe. It was cold in their small house.
She started writing letters. She had little assurance that the people she was addressing them to were still alive but she included (or next-of-kin).
She went through a “phase” when she was a regular fixture at the Steam Engine shows in Buckley and Mason and even a few of the shows in northern Ohio and Indiana. The old farts called her “that snot-nosed kid” even though she was almost twenty. The term, the way they used it, was a term of affection.
The old men were watching their hobby, their love, die for want of new blood. Not only was Janelle young, but she was handy. Need a bronze bushing machined to some odd-ball dimension? Janelle not only could do it but she didn’t charge an arm-and-a-leg and she usually had it in the mail within a week.
The old men were more than happy to overlook that Janelle was as pretty as a mud-fence. Janelle had developed a fondness for the huge, hot, smoky, ground-shaking machines although it never became a “love”.
And then Janelle moved to the west coast and other things grabbed her attention.
Janelle was counting on old men having long memories.
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