Tory had moved into Dot’s house a week before the expected invasion date. Shelly lived a quarter mile from Dot.
Shelly had all of the attributes of a first-class observer.
She had learned “birding” at her grandfather’s knee. She had a high-end set of Nikon binoculars and knew how to use them. Furthermore, she weighed less than a hundred pounds. The fact that her grandfather had been murdered by mauraders looking for food and trinkets made her a highly motivated observer.
It was Tory’s day to fly. Dot and Tory alternated lead pilot days.
A call went to Shelly. She showed up in slippers, jammies and a hooded sweatshirt. The key point is that she didn’t even stop to brush her teeth. She was at the hanger seven minutes after receiving the call.
Tory and Shelly pushed the Zenith 701 out of the hanger. Dot had already hopped into the support truck and was heading toward the field ‘strip’ they had set up.
Tory went through the checklist, started up the Zenith and launched into the air.
Shelly wrote down and translated the codes related to the developing hostilities.
Trimming out at 3000 feet, Tory headed due east. They crossed the West Branch river six miles south of the hostilities unfolding along I-96. Tory had no intention of running into a decending mortar shell. That kind of thing could ruin a girl’s whole day.
The black shell burst were visible from 3000 feet.
She could see the vehicles attempting to make their way back to Howell.
Traveling at her quietest RPM and airspeed, Tory and Shelly drifted ten miles to the east and orbited Howell.
There, Billious Hook’s OCD painted a clear picture of the coming invasion.
While the first wave was approximately fifty vehicles, the second wave was approximately 200. Billious had carefully segregated them by wave and ordered them by planned departure.
Half of the second wave appeared to be empty flat-beds and the force seemed to be re-ordering itself to drop out fifty of those flat-beds.
The inclusion of two firetrucks was puzzling to the young ladies but they didn’t try to figure it out.
They watched for fifteen minutes, long enough to see the first trucks being staged on the eastbound lanes of I-96.
They had transmitted what they could in code. The shortcomings of codes quickly became apparent. It was just not well suited to reconnasciance where novel circumstances are encountered.
Nevertheless, they transmitted what was easy to encode. The size of the force, its location, its apparent path and a guess at the estimated-time-of-arrival. The code did have enough flexibility to include the lanes of I-96.
Ann Arbor fighters were still oozing out of the carnage the Buffer-Zone mortars had wreaked on the leading wave of the Ann Arbor invasion.
The edge of the pancake-of-shrapnel that was rising mostly rattled to ground some 1200 yards distant. The chunks of nodular iron were far from aerodynamic.
The shrapnel that was angled downward had a different fate.
Projectiles that ricochet off of pavement and hard surfaces tend to leave the surface at an angle of 1-to-10 degrees regardless of the incident angle of impact. Most of the ricochets are in the 4-to-7 degree range and are tumbling with a ferocious buzz-saw snarl.
Because of the low angle, a great many of the Ann Arbor force sustained wounds to the abdomen, groin, legs, ankles and feet.
Most of the wounds to the abdomen and thighs would ultimately be fatal. The ricochets picked up traces of horse shit when the impacted the pavement and the tumbling, chunky pieces of iron created horrific wounds.
Wounds to the knees, lower legs, ankles and feet were incredibly painful and likely to leave the wounded solder a cripple but were not necessarily mortal wounds.
It was a slow, pitiful parade of these wounded who were leaving the wreckage of the invasion force.
Urdie had a plan.
The the second wave approached the Buffer-Zone, driving west in the eastbound lanes, Urdie had his mortars launch an extended volley but with the settings that matched the most eastward extent of the previous engagement. That is, the mortars with a range of 6000 yards dropped their rounds a thousand yards east of Wallace road.
Since the convoy was still a quarter-mile east of the 1000 yard mark, it was not difficult for them to come to a halt 1200 yards east of Wallace road.
The leader of that wave decided to reduce the Wallace road defenses with mortar barrages. He would volley for five minutes and then wait for counter volley to determine if the target had been sufficiently softened up.
What he could not know was that the mortar crews shielded by the earthworks that raised Wallace road were buttoned up tight. The return volleys were not from the Wallace road mortars but were from the mortars a mile south of I-96. The rounds from those mortars also hit a zone 200 yards west of the invading force. It was by design of course.
Volley, counter-volley. Volley, counter-volley. Every fifteen minutes or so Urdie passed word to the crew south of I-96 to slow the cadence to mimic another crew member being lost.
After two hours of mortaring the fighters of Wallace road, the leader of the invasion decided he had reduced their capability to a level that would produce acceptable losses.
By then, nearly all of the vehicles of second wave had pressed in tightly. Clearly, the Buffer-Zone mortars were only capable of a range of 1000 yards.
The leader was not too worried about operational security. The force mounted in plain sight of the Wallace road defenders. They moved westward toward Wallace road….
And the defenders rolled them up just like they had done with the first wave earlier in the morning, except this time it was one-hundred-fifty vehicles rather than fifty.
Miles to the south, Wokes-Cold's thighs were crushed between the dashboard and the seat of the ladder truck. Cold bog water had infiltrated the cab but had not reached her...yet. She heard the intense shelling to the north and concluded that Ann Arbor was still contesting the I-96 corridor, a route that would have been a walk-in-the-park if her commandos had been successful.
Wokes-Cold had failed and failed spectacularly. No amount of responsibility shifting could hide that fact.
Gretchen Wokes-Cold unholstered her 9mm and looked at it with disgust. It was filthy. No matter, Wokes-Cold had put a lot of disgusting things in her mouth to get where she was. She had only one more thing to do. She would only taste it for a second.