The squad-leader had the good sense to see that Thibodeaux was the one guy who could make him successful.
Thibodeaux came from an environment where time and space and the human capacity-for-work were the coin of the realm.
Thibodeaux would have been lost in a Zoom meeting where participants argued for hours about the nuance of competing adjectives or the emotional content embedded in various shades of ‘blue’ paint. On the other hand, he would have found the challenges of ordering music groups performances in a festival to be utterly trivial.
Bruner asked him “How the hell do you know this stuff?”
“I don’t know dis stuff” Thibodeaux said. “But I know dat mose people make one of two mistakes. Dey either change nuttin’ or dey change eberythin.”
“How do you figure?” Bruner asked.
“I doan tell nobody to do nuttin. I ‘suggest’ dat dey do one ting differen. Den I watch dem. Some times tings get better. Some times dey get worse.”
“What’s to know?” Thibodeaux asked. “We have to get da people out of their dare hole. Some of dem might shoot back. Den we gotta get dem to da trucks.”
“Yeah, and so?” Bruner asked.
“No point in wasting a ‘shooter’ to haul dem folks back to da trucks.” Thibodeaux said.
“Doan need twenny shooters to pop dem outta da house. Dey eider come out when we ask dem or dey come out after da building is on fire” Thibodeaux continued. “Don’t care which. But it doan take twenny shooters.”
"Doan need twenny people watching a house burn, neider.”
In fact, Thibodeaux had it down to four shooters and a doorman. By his stop-watch, the people either came out in thirty seconds or they didn’t come out. He was a generous man, at heart. He gave them sixty seconds before the Molotov Cocktails went in.
The Political Officer demanded that empty houses be ransacked for supplies. After losing two men to a booby-trap, Thibodeaux said "Screw dat shit."
Thibodeaux had two men who liked to start fires. They broke into the empty houses, broke windows on the east and west sides. They busted up chairs and piled them on the couch in the living room. There was always a couch in the livingroom. Then then removed interior doors from their hinges and stacked them on top of the busted chairs.
The last thing they did was bust holes in the drywall in the ceiling above the couch with a 6’ length of 2-by-4 and on the opposite side of the room to expose the floor joists or roof trusses. If it was a two-story, they busted some windows on the east and west sides and opened interior doors.
A quart of transmission fluid or other accelerant was poured on the couch, a lit match and then they were on to the next building. Elapsed time, about ten minutes. That compared to the other squads taking two hours becaue the entire group watched to ensure the building was fully-involved before moving to the next building.
That was a big deal when 90% of the homes were not inhabited.
By the middle of Day Two, Thibodeaux’s squads were moving eight times faster than the next fastest squad. He had even had a guy volunteer to barbecue some of the chickens they were collecting. It took Thibodeaux about thirty seconds to decide that was a great idea.
The volunteer used to run a food-truck in Detroit and was a miracle worker with food. Thibodeaux trusted him more with BBQ tools than a handgun, that was for sure.
Thibodeaux had the cook always roast a couple of extra chickens. Thibodeaux gave those to the guards. “Jus lemme know if you be hearing anyting you tink I ought to know about” Thibodeaux told the guards as he handed over the chickens.
On the third day, the Political Officer re-tasked Thibodeaux’s squads to the road closest to the river. It had more houses, subdivisions and cul-de-sacs. Frankly, Thibodeaux’s squad was embarrassing the ones that were supposed to be excelling. The Political Officer hid that fact by reporting aggregate statistics.
It was impossible to hide the columns of smoke. The Buffer-Zone could see them inching closer. Dot and Tory both reported that Sayed’s forces were “sanitizing a route” north of the Red Cedar river.
Spackle had his hands full.
Sayed’s troops had found four avenues through the toxic landscape where soldiers could infiltrate without being overcome by the VX gas. The four avenues were widely enough spaced that Buffer-Zone mortar teams could not switch from one avenue to another without moving positions.
Dmitri had miraculously whipped up a sensor package that could withstand the rigors of being shot through a mortar and then the intense deceleration of landing. The downside of the sensor packages is that they had no solar power. They transmitted until their batteries were dead. Furthermore, the VX was dissipating and the avenues of approach were slowly growing wider, giving the attackers more room to maneuver and avoid mortar barrages.
Peter Mészáros poured the power to the throttle of his TBM 940. The 850 shaft horsepower and the five-bladed propeller made the plane leap forward.
If Dot's Zenith 801 was a 1978 Ford Bronco then Mészáros' plane was a 2020 700 series BMW.
Peter could barely see over the long nose of the aircraft but the top-end avionics package could launch and land the plane with minimal human input.
Nearly every pilot and plane had been pressed into service to defend Ann Arbor from future attacks.
Peter and his plane almost didn’t make the cut. His plane was a fuel-hog. You can’t make 850 horsepower by sipping fuel. On the other hand, the turboprop didn’t use aviation gas and Peter was “connected”. Peter’s parents and grandparents (now deceased) had not just been multi-millionaires. They had been knocking on the door of being billionaires. And, like many very, very rich people, they were very generous with pre-tax dollars when it bought them the ears of politicians and diverted riots and looters toward their competitors.
Peter had rolled his eyes when he was forced to “train” under an old guy named Bob. Peter would have bet money that Bob was going to give him that tired, old line about “...old pilots and bold pilots...”
Peter would have won his bet in the first five minutes.
Peter nodded and grunted in the right places. Bob knew he was being ignored but manfully tried to teach Peter what he was going to need to know to stay alive while flying above battlefields.
Peter did everything but roll his eyes. The 940 had a service ceiling of 30,000 feet, a top speed of 330 knots and could carry almost a ton of gear. He could fly three times higher, three times faster and carry four times as much weight as the competition.
Even as he endured Bob’s attempts to train him, crews were installing a pair of M-60 light machine-guns to hardpoints that had been added to the bottom of the fuselage.
He was going to be LeBron James playing pick-up ball at the local middle school playground. It is good to be rich.