Monday, May 18, 2020

Quest: Slices

The defense of the buffer zone that Quinn Spackle's force was tasked with defending was organized in geographic “layers”.

The expectation was that the aggressors would attack from the east and drive due-west. That made all the sense in the world. The mid-West is flat and the roads are laid out in alignment with the points of the compass. Moving on-the-diagonal was both inefficient and fraught with chaos.

Another expectation is that the enemy would test the line at two points and pour through the point where the defense buckled first.

A third assumption is that one of the points where the line would be tested was Interstate 96. Why would the aggressors NOT test the one, best path into Ingham and Eaton Counties? With no other information about Quinn's forces, the aggressors would certainly bet a significant force that the opposition (Quinn) would be minimal and the invasion would be a sunny drive in the park.

The fourth assumption was that the second probe would be at least three miles south of I-96. Three miles is an hour's walk and that minimizes the defense’s ability to shift resources from one salient to the other.

Quinn used his newly-found ability to secretly move about  to infiltrating his own troop positions in-and-around I-96. He moved after dark, which lasted a solid fifteen hours at this latitude and time of year.

He listened. He watched.

Quinn saw things that he did not like. He was soldiers taking nips out of bottles as they stood around the campfires. He picked up the occasional whiff of weed. In Quinn’s mind, this close to the enemy everybody was on-duty all the time but that is hard for soldiers who have not seen the elephant to understand the need to maintain that degree of vigilance.

Besides, weed and booze were background issues. They were everywhere.

Quinn recognized that a fighter with a two-drink buzz can still aim and pull the trigger. A fighter who had just smoked a doobie can still drop mortar rounds down the tube. It is not optimal but it can be made to work.

Minor, low-level drug use was not what Quinn was looking for.

The people who were supposed to be carrying weapons were carrying them. In the dim light it was difficult to tell for sure, but they seemed to be carrying their full complement of ammo.

Fighters around campfires groused about the usual things. “The grub was no good”, “The officers are idiots”, “There were no women to date”, “The enemy was never going to show up”, “The weather sucked”.

Quinn would have worried if soldiers did not complain. He would have been tempted to take their pulse.

The next night he infiltrated the forces defending Dennis Road which was three miles south of I-96. The number of troops assigned to defend Dennis Road were one-quarter the number of the forces clustered around I-96.

From the campfire bull-shitting, it quickly became clear that the soldiers  expected the enemy to attack along Howell Road, one mile farther south. Given the deplorable condition of Dennis Road after almost three years of no maintenance, Quinn could see their point.

A couple of times Quinn heard comments that puzzled him. Given the 660 yard maximum range of the Capiche-standard mortar and the 400 yard effective range of the most common small-arms, Quinn expected most of the effort to involve practice moving off the roads and moving into prepared mortar nests 400 yards north of Howell Road.

Teams of small-arms would position a hundred yards closer to Howell Road to protect the mortar positions from ground attack while the mortars pounded the snot out of any enemies who dared move west on Howell road.

If the wisdom-of-the-crowd was correct, then forces south of Howell Road would do the same and any enemy forces pushing west on Howell road would take a dreadful pounding.

The disconnect was that the squad leaders seemed fixated on moving to within a half-mile, not a quarter-mile, of Howell Road and blocking the North/South roads. A half mile is almost 900 yards, way beyond the maximum range of the mortars.

That made absolutely no sense to Quinn.


Quinn continued his nightly infiltrations. He was unable to sleep more than two hours a night. Dysen worried about him.

Sammie was falling asleep on his feet as he worked days and rode Quinn’s motor bike at night. Fortunately, Quinn gave him permission to ride the bike, park it, move two-hundred yards into the pucker-brush and then sleep for six hours before riding it back in the dark. That was the only thing that allowed Sammie to function.

The next “slice” Quinn made was Iosco Road, two miles south of Howell Road. Several of the squad leaders seemed to have the same plan as the Dennis Road squad leaders: Move to within a half mile of Howell Road and hunker down.

The image forming within Quinn’s mind was that the leaders were timid about spending blood and ammo. That was a misconception he would disabuse them of, if it were it the case. The ENTIRE reason they were there was to spend blood and ammo and force the attackers to spend a hundred times more.

The next slice was Cooper, three miles south of Iosco Road and five miles south of Howell Road.

It was as if Quinn had stepped through a time machine. He could have been ghosting outside the campfires south of Dimondale two winters ago while Chernovsky was beating them into a fighting force and while they fretted about the tsunami of refugees...thugs really…that threatened their homes and families.

He heard the anxiety and frustrations. He heard the personalities, the friendships forming and the trust developing. He heard Mike “Pepperoni” and a younger “John Galt”. He even heard a gruff Squad Leader who sounded like Chernovsky and a simple, timid voice that reminded him of his cousin, Buddy.

Quinn even heard a complete jerk who reminded him of Duckworth.

Given the context it seem shockingly “normal”.

Quinn had been doubting his ability to judge. Before Cooper Road, Quinn wondered if he was the odd-ball. The behaviors of the other troops had been so far outside of his experience that he had unwilling to form opinions. The troops along Cooper Road grounded him.

Quinn visited the troops along Dansville Road the next night. They could have been twins of the troops along Cooper Road.

Based on what Quinn had seen and heard, the dissonance was most jarring between Dennis Road and Iosco Road. He still didn’t have enough information to bring the problem into focus. The thing to do was to cut thinner slices with a sharper knife. Quinn suspected the wellhead of his dis-ease lay somewhere between Dennis and Iosco.


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