The most southern column of the Hard-Timer’s invasion was not lagging the others because of leadership incompetence. Quite the contrary.
Angelo Marino had taken time to collect the people and materials he needed to make an extended, cross-country movement and arrange logistical support. He referenced maps and determined that the Ann Arbor airport was south of Ann Arbor. He also determined that the Willow Run airport had to be approached from the south unless he wanted to drill through miles-and-miles of congested, urban areas.
Marino preferred to jog to the south through Hard-Timer held territories. Then to head east.
Marino’s competitors were more impulsive. And they were competitors more than collaborators. The African-Americans and the Pecker-Heads and Marino’s gangs were in a complex equilibrium. No one set of gangs was sufficient to withstand being ganged up upon by the other two.
Having started his eastward penetration much later than his competitors, his column had not penetrated as deeply which is why Mészáros left their column until last.
Now, Mészáros would never get to them. Mészáros impact had bent some of the diagonal bracing of the high-voltage power-line tower but the impact had shredded the plane and Mészáros.
The only flying in Mészáros’ future was feeding them.
Approaching the intersection with Zeeb Road, the lead element halted. Marino put smart people in front for a reason. He expected them to use their eyes and their brains.
There were bodies in the intersection.
Willie radioed back to the control center. “Hey, boss. We gotta problem up here.”
“Burn one of the prisoners” Marino directed after Willie explained the hold-up.
One of the Ann Arbor defense forces who had surrendered to Marino’s forces was pulled out of the back of a van.
Two of Marino’s forces prodded the Ann Arbor deserter with the muzzles of the gun.
“Walk up the road” the shorter man directed the deserter.
The man blinked in the bright sunlight. “Sure, Bro. Whatever you want” and he started walking east through the intersection. He didn’t make it to the other side.
If the man thought calling Marino’s forces “Bro” would endear him to them, he was wrong. That is what the African-American gangs called each other. It was tone-deaf in the extreme.
Prisoners were expendable. There are only two things that have currency within the gang structure: Loyalty and results. Those who surrendered demonstrated they were not capable of either.
Marino did not want to back-up to find another route. It would be a goat-festival trying to turn around. He made a note to himself to send scouts out ahead of the main force once they worked their way out of this issue.
Looking at the map, Marino saw that there were sub-divisions to the south of the intersection on both sides of Zeeb Road.
“Grab some more prisoners and send one across about two-hundred yards south on Zeeb. If he doesn’t make it, go another two-hundred yards. He was willing to waste a few prisoners to see if Ann Arbor had used area denial continuously or had merely hit the major arteries.
Thibodeaux was running out of options.
Thibodeaux had gotten the whistle from the north observation post that he was needed.
It was a thirty minute evolution for him to slip from one side of Howell Road to the other. He hoped it was worth the effort.
Bruner got right to the point. “One-eyed-Mike is sick.”
Thibodeaux could see that. One-eye was panting and seemed pale. For that matter, Bruner wasn’t looking all that hot, either.
“What do you propose?” Thibodeaux asked.
“I think I need to take him back tonight so he can be looked at.” Bruner said.
Thibodeaux made some quick decisions. “Take Davis and Conner with you. You stay with One-eye. Davis and Conner can bring back the batteries and food.”
Then, as an after-thought Thibodeaux said “D’Koda and D’astion, go with them and make contact with the group north of us. See how they are making out. Then come back here and report out.”
The next morning, the North camp was deserted. D’Koda and D’astion had not come back from their meeting just one mile to the north. The others who had stayed behind had slipped way during the night.
That left him and Andi watching Howell Road. They had a little bit of hardtack, a radio with nearly dead batteries, two rifles and a hundred rounds of ammo between the two of them.
On the positive side, they had plenty of water and Thibodeaux was able to strip the core out of some of his paracord. Young bunnies were easy to snare. They would be OK for a little while, yet.