Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Stub 10.10: The rats and the sinking ship

It took Zev a full week to move to his new area of operation.

His industrial experience taught him that the price of extremely robust systems is that failures accumulate and the system failure is systemic, unexpected and catastrophic.

Consequently, his factories used feedback and buffers that were staggered and only partially coupled so failures were progressive and imminent system failure was telegraphed well in advance of catastrophic failure.

Political systems lagged industrial thinking. Politicians and civil servants are incentivised to fully insulate their constituents from the consequences of their decisions and actions.

Resources were coupled together with rigid linkages so deficiencies and shortcomings in one system were subsidized by drawing from another account. Those cross-linkages allowed dysfunctional systems to merrily grow and draw greater and greater amounts of resources from those systems that are productive.

Zev’s gut feel was that catastrophic collapse of Cali was imminent. The fact that the fraying was visible to even the most obtuse observer suggested that free-fall would soon follow.

Given that Zev’s resources were miniscule, he needed to be placed with great precision if he was to influence events. He deduced that should events transpire as he feared, the power elite would choose to flee Cali with whatever assets they could carry. Since air travel was easily tracked and there were stringent weight restrictions, Zev determined that they were most likely to flee Cali the same way he had, by water.

From there the decision tree was very straight forward. Putting himself into their shoes, what marina was most accessible to Sacramento? What marina offered the straightest shot at the Straights?

Unfortunately, that marina was at the far end of the Bay and he had to move, by foot, from Redwood City to Vallejo Yacht Club, a distance of 120 miles by land. At less than twenty miles a day it took him seven days.

The tactical situation at the marina was non-optimal. There were no decent overlooks. Zev had to settle for a flat-topped building 200 meters from the parking lot. Zev’s logistical situation was also tenuous. Sometimes he was able to get a kid to run to a cart and buy him a “cookie” and fill his water bottle. Sometimes he had to do it himself. He was on pins-and-needles whenever he had to leave his post.

Zev positioned himself so he could take the line between the parking lot and the two most ocean-worthy vessels under fire.

Fortunately for Zev things “went down” the third night he was on-post.

A dozen heavily loaded SUVs came tearing into the parking lot an hour after midnight with a screeching of tires and a swaying of springs.

Passengers came boiling out of the rear doors of the vehicles and started heading toward the fifty meter super-yacht as heavy-bodied men went to the tailgates and started unloading cargo.

That was the yacht Zev had tagged as most likely means of egress for the Cali elite. At $30 million, US, there were very few in Cali who could afford her...and Zev knew it was not owned by any of his fellow titans in industry.

Zev made an executive decision. By then he had fabricated another “can” for the end of his rifle. He checked to see if he had a round in the chamber. Then he picked one of the heavy-bodied men and pumped a round into him from two hundred meters.

The heavy-bodied men quickly deduced the most likely places for a sniper and started returning fire. The passengers, as Zev had tentatively identified them, sprinted to the yacht.

Zev got into the rhythm of fire-rack-reaquire target-fire. The low powered rounds and the ‘can’ made it impossible for the body guards to accurately return fire.

The engines of the yacht fired up with an audible growl. The captain chose to not pull in the mooring lines. He gunned the engines and yanked the cleats out of the deck as he powered off the line.

Zev dropped the magazine of low-powered, quiet rounds and seated his single, partially depleted magazine of full-powered 855, steel-tipped rounds.

Firing those created a muzzle flash that was visible to the defenders. The return fire immediately became more accurate as it was not diluted between the three positions that might logically hold a sniper.

Zev ignored the return fire. The passengers were in the 160 foot long yacht and his scope was not dialed in for the more powerful ammo. He had twenty-three rounds to fire for effect. He guestimated where the engine bay was based on his familiarity with his own yacht.

Yachts that size have twin props. Zev fired 12 to the left and the rest of them into the right, angling down to where he would expect the engines to be positioned. Twenty-three bullets, each little more than five millimeters in diameter are feeble projectiles to bring a $20 million yacht to a halt.

The captain pushed the yoke to the stops. The bow rose in the air and the ship sprinted away from the docks like a rocket in defiance of the No Wake signs.

Zev moved forty feet from his previous position. He dumped the empty magazine and reseated a magazine filled with the low power rounds. Then he re-engaged the body guards.

The body guards who were still mobile quickly moved to two of the SUVs and left the parking lot with a squeal of tires.

Zev considered his mission a partial success. At least the bodyguards had been unable to move the loot from the SUVs to the yacht.

Unknown to any of the parties, one of Zev’s bullets had creased a piece of tubing in the engine bay.

Shortly after clearing the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the fuel rails on the forward, port 2600hp turbocharged diesel (one-of-four) developed a crack due to the excessive vibration. Normally, tubing flexes along its entire length and the stresses are therefore distributed. Zev’s bullet had put a crease in the tubing, and like the perforations in a roll of toilet paper, that crease said “fail here.”

The common fuel rail was pressurized to 2000 psi and the fuel immediately aerosolled filling the air with explosive mist. Except there was no ignition source.

The mist crept through every passage and wetted the high tech polyester impregnated, fiberglass reinforced panels and magnesium spars.

Finally, the mist encountered one of the first-stage turbo-chargers which had been left uninsulated for ease of maintenance. After forty-five minutes of running like the hammers of hell, the housing was glowing red.

Fifteen nautical miles west of the Golden Gate, the yacht lit up from bow-to-stern with fire. The over-pressure from the near-instantaneous heat up blew hatch covers off, fore and aft. At fifty knots the apparent wind caused the ship to became a 165 long blast furnace.

Originally the ship had been fitted with a fire suppression system in every passage. “Scientists” had determined that some of the chemicals in the system caused birth defects in marine mammals, consequently the system had been deactivated pending the approval of alternative chemicals. It had never been reactivated.

The captain managed to turn the ship and start heading back to shore.

The heat weakened hull collapsed while plunging into the base of a swell twelve nautical miles west of the Cali shore. The 10,400 horsepower drive engines drove the boat down, into the swell forcing the shell of the boat to engorge on cold, Pacific seawater before the captain could react.

There were no survivors.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks for reading and thanks for your kind words.

      Best regards


  2. Replies
    1. I wonder what happens to the booty that is sitting on the pavement in the parking lot.....

      Steady Joe...we are not going there.

      The nice thing about fiction is that karma never misses. Sadly, we are turning into a third world country with regard to maintenance and shooting ourselves in the foot with stupid regulations.

      Maybe that will turn around.

  3. An interesting read - I'll miss it now that it is over. Too bad these stubs won't be expanded into a book...

  4. Holy cow, ERJ! I just spent two-and-a-half days bing reading Calexit and the stubs. This is marvelous stuff.

    What I found most impressive, and oddly least realistic, are the strong networks of capable people ready and willing to organize and act. It's like Massachusetts in 1775, when 14,000 men converged on the Concord Road in one day to fight the British army. In today's atomized society, I don't know many people who could organize 100 friends to take action, even with all the social media and cellphone communication.

  5. This would sell. Neat yarn.
    Just got done binge reading your whole post-CalExit storyline.
    I would hope there would be lots of potential readers here in CA, not to mention TX and others.

  6. Whelp, I was a working man when you wrote this. Took a shot to the head in '20, and one to the lungs in '21. Last year was touch and go with too much happening. I went back and read this over the last two days. Very well done. Your knowledge is wide ranging. And the ideas you have about management mirror my own, and pass far beyond as well. Thank you for putting this out, and keeping it available. I learned a LOT.


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