The conscripting and arming of Sayed’s foot-soldiers was a hurried thing.
Most of the firearms that had been collected when Bicklebaugh took power had been destroyed.
Most of what remained was a hodgepodge of cheaply made “jam-o-matic” handguns, single-shot shotguns and .22 “farm guns”. The officials who were handing out the guns had not even test fired them.
No ammo was handed out. The logistics of feeding the huge variety of weapons was still being worked out. Besides, giving surly conscripts ammo would undoubtedly result in “friendly fire” incidents with a large portion of those wounds being inflicted on officers.
Training consisted of providing the conscripts with a sturdy pair of shoes if their current footwear was not suitable.
The first hundred were driven to within three miles of the West Branch river and herded toward the front. The people doing the herding were the conscripts who had shown the most sadistic tendencies.
They used TASERS and when the troops got too kinetic for TASERS to be effective, the sadists DID have live ammo for their firearms. Pepper spray had been considered but rejected. The goal was to either deliver “effective” troops to the front or to leave corpses on the ground. Pepper spray would slow the advance or would leave live malcontents in the wake of the attacking troops.
It was a culture shock to the troops who had been civilians three days earlier, civilians who had grown up getting participation awards for simply showing up.
Dmitri had been following the trucks since they left Howell. He had been tweaking the limits on the sensors and had them dialed in to where they were +95% reliable to pick up engine noise. That was the nice thing about software; it can be updated.
General Spackle had come to the conclusion that Sammy had gone into overload.
Sammy was no longer at the front so Spackle could no longer keep an eye on him and steady him down when he got frantic. Sammy had been moved to an abandoned Ingham County Road Commission facility two miles west of Doan Creek. Doan Creek was the western boundary of the Buffer Zone.
The fifteen acre facility was on Howell Road and had an abundance of buildings, water and even piles of gravel. The facility was devoid of trees that might otherwise shade solar panels and it had a perimeter fence in good repair.
Not only had Sammy taken up residence there but that is where Dot decided to stage the fuel and other expendables for the reconnaissance plane. The site was almost nine miles from the front which Dot judge to be distant enough to make noise discipline a moot issue but close enough to launch the plane and have it overhead were needed in a reasonable timeframe.
Spackle reasoned that if Sammy could work remotely then the other “signal analysts” could do so as well.
The other analyst had been assigned primary responsibilities that were slices of land with the long way oriented north-south. Since there was no fighting going on in the two western slices, those analysts were under-worked.
Spackle decided that was a criminal waste of talent, especially since Sammy was prone to locking-up when stressed.
Spackle assigned Sammy the northern portion of the Buffer-Zone, a section that included I-96. Spackle assigned the middle section to Dmitri, a section that included Howell Road. And Spackle assigned the southern section to Dinglehoffer, a section with degraded roads that were not well suited to supporting heavy traffic.
Dmitri was puzzled by the vehicles stopping three miles short of the frontier. He had alerted Spackle and the three Lieutenants most likely to be affected.
Spackle had the recon plane launched.
Fifteen minutes later, Dot reported that the vehicles were three school buses and she saw “squads” crossing a field heading west toward the frontier. By then, the squads were within a mile-and-a-half of the West Branch river.
Spackle asked Dot how much loiter time she had. She responded that she was good for another couple of hours. Spackle did some quick calculations in his head and “suggested” that she refuel and then get back into the air.
Wohlfert wanted to hit the invaders when they bunched up crossing the river.
Dmitri could pick up the noise of the squads as they bushwacked cross-country. The fact that the sadists occasionally needed to shoot a straggler was a boon to Dmitri. The sound of gun-shots is a very distinctive, broad-spectrum signal and is easy to pin-point given enough sensors. Dmitri had more than enough sensors to follow the unruly lot.
Same as before, the attacking squads bunched up east of the Kane Road crossing. One soldier waded across and tied a rope to a tree on the far side.
That is when the mortar crews in the Buffer-Zone lit them up.
The Ann Arbor plane that was orbiting at 2000 feet reported the coordinates of the mortar crews.
Ann Arbor mortar crews who had set-up while the foot-soldiers were straggling fired in counter-battery. The foot soldiers had been decoys to reveal where the Buffer-Zone mortars were.
It was a messy affair. The Ann Arbor mortar crews were not very precise. Most of their first rounds missed which gave the Buffer-Zone mortars time to button up. Most of the first rounds missed but not all.
The observer in the plane was so busy “walking” rounds into known mortar positions that he did not see other Buffer-Zone mortar crews activating.
Dot and her observer were able to pin-point the location of the offending Ann Arbor mortars and the Buffer-Zone made short work of them.
But, unfortunately, a significant number of the invading foot soldiers had crossed the West Branch.