Chris Pearl heard the detonation of the satchel charges from his position in Howell, ten miles to the east.
He attempted to contact Wokes-Cold with no success.
“Bitch!” Pearl said. Relations between Pearl and Wokes-Cold were not harmonious. He knew she was capable of not responding so any future hiccups could be blamed on his falling out of the agreed-upon cadence of invasion.
Pearl looked at his watch. He still favored a dedicated timepiece strapped to his wrist. His troops that it was an affection. Frankly, he found it far more functional to look at his wrist than to fish a phone out of his pocket and to have to push buttons to drill through to the time functions.
The detonation was five minutes later than the target time but still within the planning window.
Pearl raised his hand into the air and made the motion to get the stragglers into their trucks and to get the invasion underway.
David Greene was not entirely sure he wanted to be in the lead truck.
It is one thing to talk crap about the Buffer-Zone’s capabilities in a bar when the boys are buying you beers. It is another thing when you are invading in an enemy uniform.
Ann Arbor had ten times the technology and resources of the Buffer-Zone, but Spackle was one mean-sneaky son-of-a-bitch and Chernovsky was on an entirely different plane.
Greene leaned forward and looked into the right-side rearview mirror. Greene was not driving. He was riding shotgun. He took comfort from the fifty-odd trucks following the two lead vehicles.
It never occurred to Greene that Ann Arbor did not even trust him enough to let him drive a vehicle. Nobody trusts a traitor. The traitor who sells out once finds it just that much easier to do it again.
Greene was the designated decoy.
The four trucks at the front of the convoy were up-armored to deal with opportunistic bandits or any soldiers who escaped their barracks after be demolished by the commandos.
The next four trucks were filled with ground troops in case the front four got pinned down and needed troops to flank attackers and neutralize them.
The remaining trucks were filled with “immigrants”, or that was the narrative fed to the press. The invasion was a Trojan Horse.
Fifty trucks with fifteen-to-twenty “immigrants” each was an invasion force of almost a thousand fighters.
The plan was to drop two trucks off the back end of the convoy every five miles to secure that section of interstate. Just east of Lansing, the convoy would laager in a defensive position and await reinforcements.
Once brought back to full strength, another commando strike would ham-string Benicio’s organization and the remainder of the “immigrants” would flow into Delta Township and secure all assets.
The method was well tested. Remove the brain. Part out the body at leisure.
Fully one-third of the Buffer-Zone’s strength was positioned within a one-mile band that paralleled I-96.
A significant portion of that third was arrayed along Wallace Road, 400 meters west of the bridges that spanned the West Branch river.
The convoy was not taking advantage of the fact that there were four usable lanes on I-96; two westbound and two eastbound lanes. They were all moving in the two westbound lanes.
The sun had not risen so there was little risk of optics reflecting back to the attackers although that would change in the next twenty minutes.
Two ‘Little Howies’, 2.6” howitzers were deployed on the Wallace Road overpass. One was north of the I-96 westbound lane while the other was south of the eastbound lanes. The were, obviously, on the west side of the embankment where they were shielded by the road grade.
Spackle had been tempted to direct the defense of the Buffer-Zone personally. He knew that he could do so more capably than anybody on his staff.
He was tempted, but he resisted. If he took over the defense of I-96 then all the troops south of I-96 would be left twisting if the winds of war blew their way
He let Urdie run the show.
Five hundred meters east of the bridge spans, Urdie tripped one boobie traps. The small charge pelted the lead vehicles of the convoy with clods of dirt and a smoke charge obscured the roadbed.
The lead vehicles stopped. A fighter got out of the passenger side of one vehicle. He didn’t seem very eager to leave it, but then he gingerly inspected the exteriors of the two lead vehicles.
The other vehicles in the convoy slowed down but did not stop.
The inspector hopped back into his vehicle and the lead vehicles proceed westward more slowly than they had been traveling.
When the lead vehicles were two hundred meters east of the bridge spans, Urdie had his demo team pop another boobie trap.
Even as the vehicles were slowing down, the fire control officer on the Little Howies was pushing the button on the universal remote.
Janelle had determined that yanking a lanyard degraded the accuracy on the little gun. Universal remotes were everywhere and the IR signal was extremely robust. It was just easier to convert to “remote” firing with a manual back-up.
The boost in accuracy was notable. Even a middle-of-the-road Little Howie could hit a five gallon bucket at four hundred yards. The most accurate ones were scary accurate.
The eight pound shell sped downrange at almost 1600 feet-per-second.
The four ounce high-explosive charge fragmented the casing into six-hundred fragments traveling in excess of 4000 feet-per-second.
Individually, each individual fragment was too small to damage hardened targets, but wiring and computers and hoses were not hard. Nor were the men in the cabs of the trucks.
Since the guns were offset from a pure enfilade position, the crew could see the vehicles stacking up behind the disabled, lead vehicles.
Two more rounds were sent down-range within a fraction of a second of each other. The next two vehicles in the convoy staggered to a halt.
The remainder of the convoy was slowing down but since the lead vehicles were stopped, the spacing between the vehicles closed up.
When Urdie judged the trailing vehicles were thinking about throwing their transmissions into reverse, he called in a mortar strike to hammer the lid of the coffin shut.
Mortars are inherently less accurate that Little Howie, so Urdie opted for overkill. He called for twenty rounds of HE mortar fire on the tail end of the convoy.
Then, he called for mortar fire to walk from the rear of the convoy to the front.
Bottled in, some of the vehicles attempted to cross the median but found themselves bogged down in the mud.
The only vehicles that came close to escaping were a couple that attempted to use the police vehicle turn-around. Urdie’s demo teams had taken the precaution of mining the turn-arounds and the maneuver did not end well for the trucks.