Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Installment 5.2: Game time

Ridges circled with red are primary targets where drones are expected to gain altitude.  Green M are mortar crews.  Green "O" are observation posts.  Blue M with green background is a fall-back position.

“Kenny, I want you to pick somebody and to man the southeast post.  Beanie,” Chad said as he pointed to Jillian, “you and I will man the northeast post.”

“Remember you are not just there to watch, you are there to keep us all informed.  Report in and remember that good reports include Who, What, How, Where, When and, if you know it, Why in as few words as possible.”

“Now get to your outposts and try and take turns trying to catch a few winks.  Today was a long, long day and tomorrow does not look like it is going to be any better.” Chad ended.

Beanie was a husky, farm girl of about thirty.  Her forearms were completely tattooed.  Frankly, Chad was willing to admit that Beanie was a better long range shot than he was.  He figured that her ability to dope out distances and wind would come in handy.  He also let Beanie pick the wrinkle in the landscape for their post.  Being young, she had much better night vision than he did.

“Wanna flip to see who gets first watch?” Chad asked.

“Nope.  I got this.” she said.

“OK, wake me in a couple of hours.” Chad said as he wrapped the blanket around himself and immediately went to sleep.  The periodic booms of the harassment rocket fire from the SoCal irregulars did not disturb his slumber in the least although the fact that the Cali forces were not returning fire would have intrigued him had he been more awake

Beanie woke him at two in the morning but not to change off watch.

“We have a lot of movement in the Cali camp.” Beanie said.

“Define a lot.” Chad said.

“Lights.  Motors starting.  Vehicles, lots of vehicles moving all over camp.” Beanie said.

The buses seemed to be queuing up at the west end of camp and the view was obscured.  Then the queue started moving.

“Damn!” Chad said.  “I can’t get a count or see what they are doing.”

The team in the northwest observation post transmitted.  “Dulce and Freddie reporting in.  Buses leaving the camp at 2:05AM and heading west toward Maricopa.   Over”

Chad transmitted, “How many?”

Dulce transmitted back “A bunch.”

Chad transmitted, “I need a better number than that.  Have Freddie watch the clock and you count the number of buses for exactly six minutes.  Then multiply by ten.  We will use that as an estimate for how many buses per hour.  Call back when you have that estimate.”

Six and a half minutes later, “We estimate that 120 buses an hour are heading out to Maricopa.” Dulce transmitted.

“Are they all buses or are they also moving artillery?” Chad asked.

“All buses.” Dulce responded immediately.

“How do you know?” Chad asked, honestly puzzled.

“They have their lights on and they are strobing.” Dulce said.

Chad sighed a sigh of exasperation.  “Is there anything else worth telling me?” Chad asked.

“Yeah, there are a butt-load of buses lining up behind the strobing buses but they are running with just amber lights.” Dulce said.

“I need a wild-ass guess.  When will the first bus with just the amber lights hit I-5.  Just a guess.” Chad asked.

“I dunno.   Maybe 20 or 25 minutes.” Dulce said.

“Thanks.” Chad transmitted back.  He switched to the command-central channel.

“Izzo-to-Pitoitua.  Izzo-to-Pitoitua.  Come in.” Chad transmitted.

“He is sleeping.” came the reply.

“Wake him up.” was Izzo’s reply.  “Now!”

“Pitoitua here.” about thirty seconds later.

“Diversion in progress.  120 buses per hour westbound to Maricopa.  No artillery.” Chad transmitted.

“Anticipate main invasion will launch from Grapevine between 2:20 AM and 2:30 AM.  Anticipate NO drones will be launched and will reconfigure to  optimize secondary mission.  Out.” Chad transmitted.

“Main invasion to launch at approximately 2:20 AM.  Copy.” Pitoitua transmitted.

“Damn, they never did night operations before.” Pitoitua transmitted.

“Pretty smart, really.  They wanted to control the pace rather than react.  Gotta go.  Chad, over.” Chad said.

He switched his hands-free over so he was talking to all of his teams.

“Teams, this is Chad.  Looks like it is game time.  Rub the sleep out of your eyes.  Walt and Billy, are you awake?” Chad asked.

“Ready to rock-and-roll, boss.  Whaddya need?” Walt said.

“Walt, you have the ping-pong paddles for the next twenty minutes.” Chad said, referring to the paddles Signal Officers held when directing jets when landing on aircraft carriers. 

"In the next twenty minutes I need to have half the teams dialed in so their rounds are detonating 300 feet above I-5.  I want you to dial in every other team.  The ones you don’t dial in can crib off their neighbor’s settings until we have time to dial them in.  I am going to keep listening but be silent while you run the show.” Chad said.

“Chad to teams: Walt is running the show for the next twenty minutes.  If you were sleeping through the briefing remember that you can adjust the burst height with the adjustment screw near the tail of the round.  Oh, by the way, don’t energize the capacitors on the round while dialing them in.  We want this to be a surprise.  Chad over.” Chad said.

“Got it, boss.” the teams chimed in up and down the line.
The explosive charges in the projectiles had a small amount of powdered zinc added to the composition so they produced a faint of luminescence at night…just enough for a spotter to see.
The first team took longest to dial in.  They transmitted their settings to the rest of the teams which they then used for their starting points.  Dialing in went faster after that.

After about ten minutes, Chad tight-lined to the observation northwest observation post.  “Please give me an update on when the first vehicles running just amber lights will hit I-5.”

The observation post responded “Ten or fifteen minutes.  Hard to to give you a better answer than that.”

Chad replied, “That is good enough.”

Chad switched to all-teams mode.

“How is it going?  It is about ten minutes before the kick-off. ” Chad asked.

Each team was outfitted with a 2200 Watt Honda generator that fed the capacitor charging station.  The sequence for charging the round involved placing the round in the charging cradle for a minimum of 10 seconds and then immediately fire the round.  Frankly, the charging system sucked.  Generators make heat, they make sound and they make exhaust.  Also, the teams were scared shitless of touching the charging lugs after the rounds were energized.

Such is the nature of first generation weapons.

“We have every other team dialed in and we are about half-way through the teams we skipped the first time through.  I don’t anticipate any problems if we have ten more minutes.” Walt said.

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