Professor Bicklebaugh was a rich man by almost any measure.
His wealth had not been a sudden thing. It certainly wasn’t because of the wages he commanded as a professor in the Social Sciences. Nope, it was due to his insight that knowledge is power and power is wealth.
Bit-by-bit he bought property along Catherine Street in Ann Arbor. One property owner needed a loan. Another had been caught in a compromising situation. A third land-lord was in trouble and a grad-student told him in confidence the details of the embarrassment.
The rents the properties commanded more than paid the mortgages. And let’s get it out of the way, Bicklebaugh purchased the properties at VERY favorable rates.
Location, location, location. In time, Bicklebaugh owned all of the properties on both sides of Catherine Street between Division Street and Fifth Avenue. The monopoly allowed him to charge even higher rents since Bicklebaugh was biased toward renting to grad students who exhibited a certain...moral flexibility and wouldn’t call the cops if the sounds of sexual “play” got a bit rowdy or alarming.
Bicklebaugh never rented to people with less than impeccable references. The cachet of Catherine Street was enough to ensure he never had a vacancy longer than it took to paint the walls and install new carpet.
Bicklebaugh lived on the second floor of a brick house on the corner of Catherine and Division. The house looked kitty-corner across the intersection at an elegant and imposing church. Bicklebaugh saw no irony in the juxtaposition between his enterprises and the church.
In his mind, they were not all that different. He constantly fiddled with the offerings he placed on the market and he saw the church across the street also continuously adjusted what they preached from the pulpit with an eye toward maximizing revenues.
Bicklebaugh was on the rolls of the church and even made very nominal contributions about four times a year. Bicklebaugh was exquisitely attuned to politics and optics. Being a member of one of the three oldest churches in Ann Arbor projected a shield against certain, causal questions.
He had been offered a seat on the board of elders. The other elders thought it would be good “window dressing” to have a Professor of Psychology on the board.
Bicklebaugh did not tell them that he would rather have a root-canal then have to endure the endless simpering where the elders contorted themselves to appear empathetic and...woke.
Bicklebaugh lived on the second floor and the first floor was populated with security and what he referred to as “comfort staff”. Even before Ebola, Bicklebaugh had written off the majority of the expenses of his personal dwelling as “business expenses”.
Bicklebaugh and his cronies were the intellectual hub of the Washtenaw County political apparatus.
Aimo Koivun was one of Bicklebaugh’s closest associates. Bicklebaugh almost considered Koivun to be his intellectual equal but in the rigid caste system of the University Koivun would always be his social inferior.
Koivun was an associate professor would never make tenure due to his absolute inability to read the back-eddies and subsurface currents of politics. It was a skill Koivun was absolutely devoid of, and it was a skill that Bicklebaugh was a master of...having achieved full tenure at the tender age of 33.
Koivun was an associate professor of history and had outlined how Washtenaw County could replicate the Roman Empire, thus assuring a very select, very small group of men the comfort and perks they were extremely fond of.
The Koivun proposal was modeled on multi-level marketing. An ever-expanding circle of conquest that would spread from Ann Arbor. Resources would be looted from outlying areas and used to reward faithful minions and traitors from the other side.
The model had some shortcomings. In time, the administrative overhead would grow faster than the expanding wave-front of conquest could pillage and loot. Furthermore, as the wave-front moved farther from Ann Arbor the transportation costs would increase and at some point the Empire model would be an energy sink.
Koivun was confident the model was solid for the remainder of his natural lifetime. He was forty-seven and didn’t expect to live past seventy-five. He did not come from long-lived stock and that may have influenced his bent for immediate gratification.
After a few drinks, Koivun would always compare empires to the Dresden firestorm. Massive Allied bombing with incendiary bombs had ignited a large portion of Dresden. The conflagration produced such a powerful draft that ground winds sucked hay-stacks, trash, buildings and people into the fire. For a short while, the positive feedback loop caused the fire to grow without bound. Eventually, the fire faltered and then went out as the fuels that were most easily transported by the wind were exhausted and the fire encountered natural barriers.
Bicklebaugh was ten years older than Koivun and he had no concern beyond the next thirty years. That would be somebody else’s problem.
The intellectual committee was having to deal something they did not have much experience with: Internal conflict.
They had expected the conquest of Livingston County to be a huge windfall. Livingston County was the fourth richest county in Michigan and the victory had come at a very low cost. There should have been plenty of resources to feed the Empire.
In fact, the amount of loot had been much, much smaller than expected. Furthermore, the decision had been made to buy compliance at the start of the occupation by not immediately confiscating and shipping wealth back to Ann Arbor.
The fact that the majority of the Livingston County military and police force had been elsewhere during the conquest made the take-over easy. The fact that they were gone also meant there was a vacuum as there was no existing political structure to intimidate into submission.
The slow and methodical inventorying of resources indicated that Livingston County had far less fuel in their tank-farms and abandoned vehicles and less grain in their warehouses than the committee had assumed.
Some of the committee were less surprised than others. Bicklebaugh, for instance, knew where some of those assets had gone. He had been buying them on the black-market and squirreling them away for his own purposes. There was a distinct lack of trust among some of the committee.
“We will simply have to move up the time-line for invading Ingham and Eaton Counties” Koivun said.
Bicklebaugh said, “How much sooner?”
Koivun said “Our original plan was to invade next fall. Vassals don’t protest too much when they know you can take their firewood and winter is coming. They tend to go with the flow.”
“We will have to move in this spring” he continued.
Bicklebaugh nodded in agreement. Momentum was something they could ill afford to lose.
One of the other professors asked, “I never understood the point of the ads you insist on running.”
Bicklebaugh fixed the other prof with a snake-like glare. “People are sheep. They FEEL. They have to feel like they are in the right and on the side of goodness. And then they will agree to anything we tell them to do.”
“Besides, it sews the seeds of dissent on the other side. It dilutes their support”
“The more aggressive timeline for the attack on Ingham County means we will have to accelerate our ad campaign” Bicklebaugh said.
He knew some African-American actors who would be more than willing to “emmigrate” to Ingham County. He already had the “after” video footage. In hindsight, S&M play had been a great source of viscerally compelling images.
People were so stupid. Pavlov was a genius. Years of conditioning on college campus had trained most Americans to turn off all critical thought processes after they hear the words 'homophobic" or 'racist' or 'sexist" or "privilege". It was time to start pushing those buttons.