Thibodeaux spent the night in one of the shabbier cabins on the complex. The others objected to his smoking cigars. Thibodeaux was one of those individuals who didn't need company. In fact, he usually found company to be a burden. It mattered little to him if he racked out in a room of forty people or in a hammock ten miles from the nearest human.
Morning chow consisted of granola bars and water. Thibodeaux stirred some of his instant coffee into his water. He didn't need it to stay awake because nobody seemed to be in charge and people were still sleeping at 8:30 in the morning. Thibodeaux had rolled out of the rack at 6:30 like he did every morning.
The drivers refused to approach Thar-be-Dragons, so their NCO marched them there.
Thibodeaux was stunned to learn that several of the soy-boys were scared of the dark. That may account for why the squads approached their first house at 10:00 AM, a full four hours after sunrise.
Two squads were working together, a full twenty people. Thibodeaux thought that was a horrific waste of manpower unless they were training, but the squad leaders were essentially clueless. It was the first time they had ever led armed troops.
Since nobody told him where to stand, Thibodeaux took it upon himself to stand on a tiny patch of high-ground with the sun behind him. Thibodeaux was 95% sure the house was empty. There were no traces of people passing through the tall grasses surrounding the house. Surely they would have bent over the burgeoning seedheads during their passage.
It took fifteen minutes to ascertain the house was empty and another ten to torch the house and the outbuildings. The leaders insisted that the crew watch the fire build until the house was fully involved and they were sure there were no rebels could possibly be hiding in the buildings. And then it was on to the next house.
Thibodeaux didn’t get any static regarding where he had posted-up so he repeated his performance for the next seven houses.
It was 13:30 in the afternoon before they ran into the first house that was inhabited. Things went sideways right from the get-go.
Thibodeaux made sure he was not on any of the well-worn paths that snaked outward from the house. The other troops had no such inhibitions. Thibodeaux was sure they didn't even see the paths or at least it didn't register in their minds. They had been picking ticks off of themselves since they started...mid-June being prime-time for ticks in Michigan and were loath to stand in tall grass.
Thibodeaux was wearing long pants with the cuffs tied tight to his ankles. He was wearing a long sleeve shirt and a straw hat. He was the only one dressed that way. He had no fear of ticks.
The squad leader directed two of the troops to start collecting the chickens.
A woman came boiling out of the house.
The soy-boy who had traded the Mauser to Thibodeaux tried to use his weapon to “bunt” the woman as she came charging down the path he was standing on.
The cheap, injection molded plastic stock fractured right behind the trigger guard and suddenly, out of nowhere, the woman pulled a butcher knife out of her apron and plunged it into the soy-boy’s gut.
More people came charging out of the house.
Troops started indiscriminately shooting at the residents.
Thibodeaux tried to get a sight picture on the residents but Ann Arbor troops kept getting in his way.
A runner broke free of the shit-storm and started running west.
The squad leader shouted “Shoot him!”
Thibodeaux was the only person in a position to have a good look at the runner.
He pulled up his Mauser, took the slack out of the trigger and then squeezed off a shot. The runner staggered but regained his balance and resumed running.
Thibodeaux racked in another shell. The well-worn, case-hardened innards of the old-gun moved as slick as greased glass.
Thibodeaux’s next shot rolled the runner.
None of the rebels/residents survived the encounter. Two of Thibodeaux’s team suffered gunshot wounds and were sent back for medical treatment. The soy-boy who had been stabbed was a goner.
Based on the runner’s size, Thibodeaux judged the runner to be a boy of about 12. Shooting or not shooting was not Thibodeaux’s call. He had seen what happened to troops who bucked the system. He would bide his time.
As the troops moved toward the next house, Thibodeaux sidled up to one of the more excitable troops and asked to see his weapon. The man handed over his 9mm Glock.
Thibodeaux ejected the magazine and racked the slide to ensure there was not a live round in the chamber. “I’ll give it back if you don’t fuck-up the rest of the day.”
Two of the man’s buddies were walking behind the pair and objected to Thibodeaux’s confiscating the magazine.
“Yo, mudder-fucca. Where you get off, taking a brudda’s clip?” the larger of the two buddies challenged.
“Yo, you see any of dem gomers holding a gun?” Thibodeaux asked. “No, 'cause dey not have one.”
“Dem two guys who got shot was shot by yo brudda. Da next guy he shoots might be one of you. I’m tinkin we gibs him a bat an den when he cools down, I gibs him back his clip.” Thibodeaux said.
Approaching the next house, Thibodeaux had a word with the guys carrying combat shotguns. He had them standing fifteen yards from the door.
One crazy mo-fo knocked on the door and told the residents they had five minutes to leave the property. Regardless of whether the residents stayed or left, Molotov Cocktails were coming through the windows in five minutes + one second.
Then everybody backed up five yards and let the residents exit the house.
Thibodeaux kicked anybody’s ass who was within five yards of a trail. He did NOT want the residents to feel trapped. The residents had to go to the re-education camps, but that was not something they were going to learn until after the flames were licking through their home, their castle. They were not allowed to travel deeper into Thar-be-dragons.
By 15:30 the troops were whacked. They were not used to the sun. They were not used to standing for hours. They were not used to holding a weapon. They were not used to drinking water whether they were thirsty or not.
Thibodeaux told the squad leader it was time to bag-it.
The squad leader insisted on burning vacant houses until the ran into one that was inhabited. He had picked up from Thibodeaux the fact that houses surrounded with tall grass that didn’t have any paths through it were most likely uninhabited.
Walking back to the camp, the squad leader was trembling with fear. The Political Officer had insisted that each set of squads had to clear two miles of road of all hostile assets. The two squads had barely managed to clear a half mile and the two squads had lost one more fighter when he had an accidental discharge of his firearm and had shot himself.
The squad leader’s concerns were unfounded. Thibodeaux’s squad had done better than most.
That night, two of the men from Detroit decided the Army life was not for them. They were shot by the guards that Sayed had posted around the camp. Those two were not the only two who made the chicken-run and died.
Ann Arbor was no longer your father's Progressive paradise.