Thursday, May 3, 2018

Installment 4.5: Drive shafts and Universal joints

Chad Izzo and Kenny Lane sat in the early morning shade of the massive air conditioning unit on top of the industrial building.  They were using their binoculars to watch the I-5 north of their location.  They were the main command-and-control team and were hardwired to laser communicators on the far side of the AC unit.  The communicators were aimed at approximately twenty  teams scattered over 30 square miles of land immediately south of Sacramento, California.

Kenny was muttering into his hands-free, “Ya, Carlos, I know you want to put a hurting on them but this is a team sport.  If you drop the hammer early I’m gonna kick your ass so hard you’ll have to lift your pony tail to take a crap.”

Chad looked over.  “We all good?”

Kenny said, “They been hearing those choppers coming for the last twenty minutes.  Its gotta be like sitting in a bass drum, waiting in those warehouses.”
There were five mortar teams set up to hose the six miles of road from Sacramento city limits to Franklin.  But they could not get into action until the choppers had been neutralized.  That looked like it was going to be a problem because there were twenty choppers and Chad only had twelve MANPAD (Man Portable Anti Aircraft weapons, aka, Stingers) teams deployed.  Things were definitely going to get sporty before the mortars would be able to come into play.

Intelligence suggested that the California Guard’s order-of-battle was essentially a parade starting at University of California, Davis ten miles west of Sacramento.  The “parade” was to swing through Sacramento and additional troops would be packed on to the buses.  
White "stars" are choppers or "vampires" later in the battle.  Yellow dashed line are buses carrying soldiers.  All Izzo's teams to the east, right side as shown in image, of the chopper formation.  Orange dot is the position of Carmelo's team.

Intelligence claimed that a wedge of slow moving helicopters was to form a narrow V at the head of the column to “sanitize” the route and to impress the yokels.  Expected spacing of 700 meters between the birds and an elevation of about 200 meters.

So far the intelligence appeared to be spot on.  The only fly in the ointment was that Chad only had enough seasoned people to man 12 MANPAD  teams.

The plan was simple.  Knock the birds out of the sky and then mortar the heck out of the busses and support vehicles packed into the six miles of road leading south out of Sacramento.  If the assignment appeared to be less than fifty percent achievable, the secondary plan was to let the convoy roll past and redeploy to chop at the logistical tail.

All it required at this point was discipline and execution.

One week earlier…
“Shit, shit, shit, shit!” Frank shouted at the phone (after carefully breaking the connection). 

A large part of supervising is theatrics.

“What’s up, boss?” one of the mechanics at the SD-LA bus garage asked.

“Those DRMFs in Sacramento want to take all of the busses we got back on line.” Frank said.

“Say what?” another mechanic asked.  While he liked the overtime pay he had really invested a bunch of emotion in getting those old pigs back on the road.

“Sacramento says that we have excess number of running busses, at least compared to the rest of Cali.  They ordered me to send two hundred of our most newly serviced busses up north for some military exercise.  Don’t that suck?” Frank said.

The next morning a small convoy of 21 busses left the SD-LA bus garage.  Twenty of the busses were going to Sacramento and the twenty-first bus was to shuttle the drivers back home.  If anybody noticed the five pallets of “pipes” in the shuttle bus they did not bother to mention it.

The twenty busses showed up at the appointed staging area with the shuttle bus showing up an hour later, just enough time for the drivers to compete the paperwork.

The only excitement occurred when Kenny Lane was driving.  He was heading for the off-loading spot when a cop noticed an SD-LA bus driving down a street where it was not supposed to be.  He was suspicious, particularly when he saw that half the seats had been removed and there was a bunch of cargo.

“What’s that?” he asked Kenny, pointing at the pallets of mortar tubes.

“Those are drive shafts.” Kenny replied.

The cop looked at the manifest which was written in Korean.  “Why isn’t it in English?”

Kenny rolled his eyes.  “It ain’t like we can buy them from Cleveland or Detroit anymore.  ‘sides, plenty of people in the bus garage can read Korean or Farsi or whatever.

The cop considered himself a “gearhead” and something just did not seem right.

“They look way too short.”  He said as he visually assessed the length of the bus.

“These buses have a two-piece drive shaft, an’ ‘sides, they telescope.” Kenny said in his most off-hand, bored manner.

“What are those?” the cop said, pointing at the pallets of 81mm mortar ammo.

“Those are universal joints.” Kenny said.

The only reason this explanation was even remotely plausible was because the mortar rounds did not look like shells.  They resembled precision machinery with their 12, precision ground facets running the length of the exposed metal and the mirror polished aluminum coating.  The aft portion of the projectiles were plastic sabots that trapped high pressure gasses when launched and forcibly detached themselves once clear of the barrel.  Unencumbered with surfaces that had been in contact with the propellant and with a radar defeating shape, mortar teams were fairly safe from smart-gun’s counter-battery fire.

“Sumbitch, you gotta lot of them!” the cop said.

Kenny leaned toward the cop in a conspiratorial manner, “It’s the damned grease.  Fucking biodegradable, soy-oil based grease doesn’t work for shit.  We go through them like a teenager goes through a bucket of popcorn at a movie.”

The cop nodded sagely.  It wasn’t anything he hadn’t heard a hundred times before.  Newer, better, environmentally friendly just didn’t work as well as the old stuff.

Fifty pallets of military goods is not trivial and the Cartel had a lot of experience in purchasing and moving contraband under far more difficult circumstances. 

It was Chad and Kenny’s job to get the most mileage out of those fifty pallets of material.

Next installment

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