The assembly-line delivering invaders to the departure point didn’t stop.
The flood of fighters was unstoppable.
They pushed open a salient along Howell Road into the Buffer-Zone. Squads defending the Buffer-Zone flowed back and to the side.
The invaders pushed to Doan Creek, the western boundary of the BZ and the defenders dropped the portable bridges.
The invader's moved their mortar crews west to the West Branch as the Buffer-Zone crews were push out of the way and out-of-range of the previous positions.
And then the salient stalled due to lack of logistical support. The fighters were hungry and nearly out of ammo. They dug in and waited for the supplies they had been assured were on the way.
In the first light of morning Shelly noticed that a convoy of trucks were assembled on Nickerson Road, two miles east of West Branch river. Ann Arbor was about to reinforce the salient and push through.
It took a second for Shelly to estimate the length of the convoy as slightly longer than a quarter mile. The trucks were parked nose-to-rear bumper in the most anal of military traditions. A man was excitedly gesturing with his arms to the two lead trucks.
Tomanica was right. The entire line of charges detonated sympathetically.
Deprived of food, clean drinking water, ammo and fresh troops, the salient collapsed as the Buffer-Zone troops were able to attack with no logistical constraints.
Bicklebaugh was following events minute-by-minute. As the line collapsed, Bicklebaugh called Sayed’s political officer and directed her to activate the go-to-hell plan.
Pickup trucks with lightly loaded pallets in their beds left a parking lot that was a mile northeast of the main marshalling area. They first headed south and at each major east/west road, one of the trucks peeled off the back of the convoy and headed west toward the West Branch river some 12 miles west.
The trucks moved at a very sedate 20 mph.
Events along the former invader salient were turning into a rout. Fighters were throwing down their rifles and surrendering or were sprinting for the river.
The defenders were gobbling up lost territory at a rate of 1.5 miles per hour.
The Buffer-Zone defenders had a very healthy respect for the invader’s mortars. The best way to defend against them was to be able to counter-battery, move and then counter-battery again.
Consequently, the leading elements of the Buffer-Zone mortar crews were more than two miles closer to the West Branch river than the invader’s crews expected.
Nobody was more surprised than they were when the Buffer-Zone crew dropped a round right in the bed of the pickup truck, detonating the munitions it was carrying.
Fifteen minutes later, Shelly asked Tory to drop a little bit so she could get a better look at things.
In an ever-widening swath that extended downwind from the demolished mortar installation and pickup truck, the fields of tall grass were littered with dead and convulsing fighters.
Climbing for elevation, Shelly asked “What do you think that is?”
“I am not sure, but I sure as hell know I don’t want them dropping that on our guys” Tory said.
“Eats-to-Dmitri, Eats-to-Dmitri. We gotta problem.” Tory transmitted.
“What’s biting you?” Dmitri asked in his heavy, Romanian accent.
“Not what is biting us. What is gonna be biting you.” Tory said. Tory was not privy to Dmitri’s physical location. Security measures.
“We have evidence of toxic fumes from a truck that was delivering munitions to the invader’s mortar site near Denis Road.” Tory said.
Dmitri made a non-committal “Hmmm.” sound.
“Are there trucks delivering to any of the other sites?” Dmitri asked.
Thirty seconds later Tory confirmed “Yes and Yes.”
“How quickly can you call the EXACT location of those trucks?” Dmitri asked.
“I guess we are going to find out” Tory responded. She was near the north end of the Buffer-Zone.
The maximum, safe speed of the Zenith listed in the handbook was listed as 85 miles per hour. Throttle all the way forward and flying at 5000 feet, Tory clocked the little plane at 105 miles per hour. She was able to cover the fifteen mile front in a skoosh over nine minutes.
Seconds after Shelly, Tory’s spotter, called off the coordinates of the pickup truck the Little Howies started barking. Hither-to-for, the 2.6” howitzers had not been a factor in the battle. In every case, the mortars had more throw-weight and more rounds-per-minute.
After giving Dmitri the coordinates of the trucks, Shelly made minor corrections to the points-of-impact as Tory made a more leisurely northward. When Shelly was calling the impacts, all of the Little Howies except for the closest one ceased fire and Shelly called it into the truck.
Whatever was in the shells in the pickup trucks was picked up by the gentle wind out of the southwest and pushed back into the invader’s avenues of approach.