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PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2016 1:37 pm 
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He drove the bus east on Interstate Ten, wondering why the National Command Authority needed empty buses in Flagstaff. This was the second day of driving around doing nothing. Yesterday he’d driven from LA to Visalia and back, to no purpose that he could see. Stupid army, how long was it going to take them to beat down these monsters? He wanted normal life back.

The predawn twilight made it just possible to see the bus in front and the bus behind as they crossed the desert at forty-five miles an hour. They had orders to avoid bunching up while driving faster than usual. No one knew why. They did know that dispatch sent other buses toward Las Vegas. He’d heard that some of them carried new troops from the training camps in LA toward Las Vegas. At least he wasn’t going to a combat zone.

Shortly after crossing the state line, as the sun came over the horizon, he stopped for gas. An MP, with his arm in a sling, handed him a map and told him to take a different, smaller road toward Flagstaff.

“Why?”

“Beats me. The captain gave me this stack of maps and told me to hand them to you guys as you came through. So that’s what I’m doing. I’d rather shoot monster, but this has to heal first.” He held up the injured arm as he spoke. “Got shot north of Las Vegas a week ago, so they put this arm band on me and said I’m a cop.”

“Many buses coming through here?”

“One after another.”

The driver shook his head, climbed into his seat, started the engine, and continued his mission, whatever it was.

**

Invasion Day +196 promised fine weather as the dawn advanced across the Great Plains. General Brunwald’s Army, roughly handled over the previous two days braced for more fighting. Soldiers in the rear echelons appreciated the arrival of fresh recruits, even ones with little training. But were the buses and trucks delivering them arriving half empty?

Vehicles clogged the roads dropping off a quarter of the number of men they could carry and promptly headed back east. One rumor suggested that they were waiting behind the lines to carry wounded from the day’s expected fighting. Another said the high command expected the invader’s surrender at any moment.

To the south and west of Brunwald, James Kitt received a call from Salt Lake City just as the sun came over the horizon. HQ told him to conduct spoiling attacks north of the city to try to close off the network of roads leading to Interstate 70. The attacks would divert Thumpph resources from major attacks in other locations.

Over the mountains to the west, thousands of USV soldiers prepared to attack in force.

**

Tom Rancic nodded in satisfaction at the reports. For the first time in its existence, the Army of the Wasatch stood close to its nominal strength. True, many men had the barest of training, however almost all of his regimental commanders had combat experience. All of his brigade and divisional generals were veterans. The new men would learn quickly if they paid attention. Ammunition and food were also on hand in adequate amounts.

Before dawn he called the various commanders involved, making sure they didn’t have any questions. When he presented the plan to General Thorne, he’d said “sounds good, I think its time to take it to the enemy.” Rancic’s worried that advancing units would lose contact with those around them, he cautioned his officers to watch their flanks.
The plan seemed simple enough. Carlson’s XVI Corp had the north end of Bear River Valley. Roswell’s V Corp would attack up the valley, leaving two divisions just north of Bear Lake to protect the rear of the advance. With luck, they’d crush a large force of Thumpphs caught between the two Corps. He hoped they’d find Nicky’s division holed up somewhere safe.

Roswell’s four divisions, packed into a valley where Highway 36 emerged from the mountains, began to advance as soon as they could see well enough to shoot. The Corp’s small artillery battery did not fire a preparatory barrage. They Corp staff decided surprise was more important. The troops advanced for fifteen or twenty minutes before running into the first Thumpphs.

They two adversaries exchanged shots, within half an hour a full scale battle erupted as reinforcements arrived. The 17th and 44th divisions formed a blocking line, allowing the 12th and 31st to pass behind them and advance north. So far, the plan seemed to be working.

**

General Parker swore and threw the reports on the floor. Most of his units had arrived at the correct locations for the dawn attack around Grand Junction. But “most” was not “all.” Companies, regiments, and even one brigade were miles from their assignments. Getting them to the correct location might take hours. He took a look at a map, and decided to reassign the missing units. Moving them between commands on paper would be a lot faster than physically moving them.
High on a hill south and west of Grand Junction, the scouts set up an observation post where they could report the progress of the attack back to Corps headquarters. Several other scout teams had set up in similar positions. There was no place to see the entire battlefield, the generals would have to rely on reconnaissance teams. There had been little fighting here because of the lack of roads. Now, that fact hampered the counterattack. In the distance, a dark patch in the silent valley marked the location of Grand Junction.

Bright lights provided easy location of Thumpph encampments, believed to be way points for the truck convoys moving food from the Great Plains to the warrior hatcheries in northern Nevada. The best intelligence indicated the encampments held more slaves than soldiers. The radioman reported they were in position, and gave the coordinates of the lighted encampments. As the eastern sky brightened, the troops moved into their final jumping off points.

After receiving confirmation that most of his force had reached the correct location, Parker gave the order to advance. One corps would cut the Interstate about seventy-five miles west of the city and establish a defense line almost directly south of the tip of the Finger. The other would split into a multi-pronged assault on Grand Junction. Scouting had revealed a large concentration of Thumpphs in the Grand Junction area. Parker hoped to catch them and kill them.

He gave the order to continue proceed with the attack. Now he had little to do but wait.

**

Abraham Lee, commanding the XXVII corps watched his troops move forward to attack Grand Junction.

“This is crazy,” he said to his adjutant, “I’m named after President Lincoln and the General he
fought, I’m an officer in the Army of the South, and I’m African American.”

“Not any crazier than the fact that were fighting invaders from outer space.”

“True that.”

The two men watched the nearest division move into place, then begin its advance toward the highway. The offensive was underway.
Scouting groups had found safe roads, the men traveled most of the distance in open trucks. After dismounting, they prepared to attack on foot. The first men to charge forward leapt from one hiding place to another as they led the way to I-70. After advancing two or three miles, they walked onto the pavement without firing a shot.

“Well that was anti-climactic.”

**

Silas tossed the message form in front of Jesse. “We should have attacked from the south long ago.”

“With what?”

Jesse read the message. “I see what you mean, but my question is still valid, I think. We couldn’t divert troops, and until now we didn’t have enough trained soldiers anyway.”

Joshua Abramson laughed, “also no food, no guns, no ammunition, and without the razzle dazzle going with all the empty transports we couldn’t have gotten them there without being noticed.”

“I don’t think it’s going to go on long without a fight anyway. They need that highway. How are Harvold and Burton doing? We’re going to need to keep pressure on them if we want to hold the ground there.”

Silas rushed off to find the latest reports from the Armies of the Sierras and Colorado. Somebody needed Joshua’s help with ammunition resupply. Jesse stood and studied the map table, waiting for the enemy reaction. He didn’t wait long.

**

“They’re coming out!” The cry, and variations like ran up and down the line of men in the trenches. From the top of slightly higher ground behind his men, Matt Carlson watched Bear River Valley fill with Thumpphs. Dear God, where did they all come from? Yesterday, his troops slaughtered them in job lots, today they were back as if nothing happened.

Behind him, the cannon and heavy machine guns opened fire. He felt proud of the riflemen, who held fire until the enemy approached the line. Then a storm of rifle fire broke out. The roar became deafening. After a short sharp exchange of gunfire, the first wave of Thumpphs dropped back. But a new wave took their place. This second attack advanced slowly, making better use of available cover. Carlson nodded, the first wild rush tested his line, when it failed to break through, they steadied down for lengthy battle. It was going to be a long day.

As the firing slowed down, he became aware of new sounds, the moans and screams of his own wounded, and the piercing whistles emitted by wounded Thumpphs. He hoped his men didn’t waste ammunition on the latter. He noted the medical department moving, even under fire, to care for wounded soldiers.

An aide handed him a note. “Heavily engaged about twenty-five miles south of you. Have large alien force trapped between us. Roswell.”

**

Ben Willis marched east along the side of the highway, following in the footsteps of the lead scouts. The rest of the regiment formed a line behind him. He’d gone from sergeant to colonel in two days, when the Confederate division broke up to provide leaders for the new Army of the South. He didn’t have time to enjoy getting out of the hellhole around Denver.

It had not been an easy transition. He knew his brigade commander only by reputation. That didn’t bode well for the command setup. The rumors said the outcome of the war hinged on blocking the highway. He was just thinking that he would a chance to kill more Thumpphs when he realized that time had arrived. The scouts were running back, yelling about Thumpphs pouring out of Grand Junction. To the left and right he could see other scouting teams running back. He quickly ordered the regiment to deploy to the right flank and take cover.

The regiment barely managed to take up a proper fighting position when the shooting started in earnest. As it was, one company lined up out of order, Willis didn’t have time to worry about it, he had his hands full getting his inexperienced troops to fight. He’d been aware that no amount of talking about it would prepare the men for the sight of nine-foot-tall, four-armed aliens attacking.
Although obviously scared ****, his soldiers managed to shoot and reload steadily. They would calm down in time, if they lived.

The roar of gunfire echoed off the hills on either side of the road leading into Grand Junction. To his front, all he could see was monsters.

**

South of Grand Junction, another division moved forward out of the hills directly toward the city. They needed to hold the flank and prevent the enemy from using Highway 141 to get behind the main attack. Even more to the south, the corps’ last division advanced into a valley south of Montrose. Normally flat, irrigated farmland, the land showed no signs of spring work starting. Indeed, it no longer showed much sign of human habitation. Most of the houses and outbuildings destroyed, their inhabitants gone. They did find aliens however. But these did not shoot, most of them simply stared blankly like cattle until they were shot.

As soon as a few died, the rest of the towering monsters sat awkwardly, crouching down and holding all four arms straight out. A message went out, from division, to corps, eventually reaching USV headquarters in Salt Lake City two hours later.

“What do they mean, Thumpphs don’t surrender!” Jesse snapped, “something weird is going on. It’s a trap.”

“Tick Tock and his buddies surrendered,” Silas reminded him.

“So they did. Have Hapsburgher ask them what’s going on.”

A few minutes later, he had his answer. The surrendering Thumpphs were slaves. “They might fight
if there are warriors directing them, but they’re considered unreliable and used only as a last resort. Fundamentally, why should they get themselves killed? It doesn’t make any difference who’s ordering them around.”

“So it doesn’t mean much that they’re surrendering?”

“Only that there’s no warriors around to make them put up any fight at all.”

Jesse nodded and watched the staffers moving markers around on the map table. It showed two large pockets of Thumpphs, both nearly cutoff by Volunteers. He smiled, after months of static warfare, the USV suddenly had a means of mobile warfare.

“Phil,” he called out, “I think our razzle dazzle with the transport worked. Get as many vehicles as you can up to the front. I want to be ready to start moving in a hurry. We may have a chance soon to break this deadlock.”

Phil grinned, saluted and started giving orders. Next, he gave orders to Ken and Joshua, all guns and their crews needed to get into action, no matter their training status. He told Ken to focus on machine guns, they were easier to move rapidly and were at least as useful as cannons. If his ideas worked, the men were going to go through a lot of food, fuel, and ammunition. Keeping supplies moving was critical.

“Boss, can you put out a call for doctors and medical supplies,” Darla asked, “these last few days have my medical corps exhausted, and it sounds like you’re going to give us extra work.”

“I’ll call the President. An appeal from her will get out faster.”

Jesse turned back to the map table. Parker’s army had the enemy supply line on Interstate 70 cut, if he could hold it. Two corps of Rancic’s Army of the Wasatch threatened the alien advance into Idaho. Two more Corps from the Army of the Colorado pushed into southern Nevada and Utah against slight opposition. He expected that to change soon, as they approached the alien stronghold. He ordered additional attacks around Reno, Twin Falls and in the Upper Great Plains.
He sensed that now was the time to press the enemy, and keep him off balance.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2016 9:00 pm 
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Reaping the whirlwind...

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