Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Shrewd King 15.2: Communication is hard

A single candle can be seen from three miles way, across a wilderness lake. It helps to have a beer-can reflector but it is not exceptional.

The lack of light pollution and the clear line-of-sight make it possible.

So it was with radio communication after Ebola. No longer were there millions of wireless devices reaching out and shaking hands. No TV stations transmitting. The only radio stations were low Wattage and had short antennas.

Dmitri was a ham radio operator. He was also a trained engineer. Dmitri could have whipped up a directional antenna by looking in handbook and cutting wires to appropriate lengths. Wires sag without support so Dmitri would have made a skeleton from PVC tubing to hold the conductors in place.

But it was just a whole lot easier to “lift” antennas and transmitter/receivers from various back-up generators.

The challenge was to find somebody to hold up the other end of the network. Gladys was over-burdened with the day-to-day CB traffic. There was no way she could monitor the “military” network 24 hours a day.

It couldn’t be just anybody.

It wasn’t the kind of job somebody could hold down in addition a regular job. Nor could it be somebody who was a heavy sleeper or somebody who regularly spent the nights with a significant-other.

Ideally, the listener would have spent time in the military. If the balloon went up, the listener would have to piece together a dog’s breakfast of sensor information, human intelligence and reports from the observation posts. Then he would have to “activate” local resources to respond.

Dmitri made the point that the best network in the world was useless if the information it generated is filtered to conform to a preconceived narrative or is totally ignored.

Dmitri also made the point that the worst time to plan was when the shit was hitting the fan. Radios had a place but are not an efficient way to activate the entire community. People are way from their CBs when working in the fields and they did not always respond when the radio chirped in the wee hours of the morning.

There was little point in installing sensors and tranmitters when there was no plan on the receiving end to trigger action based on the signal.

It is not enough to generically aim the antenna at Capiche. Depending on the actual location of the receiving antenna, the target could be as much as 85 degrees off.

At a more practical level, the person who manned the station would have to be identified because the antennas for the sensors had to be aimed.

The only way Dmitri could stretch out battery life was to use very efficient, directional antennas. How efficient? The most efficient lobe was 20dB or 100 times more sensitive than the flattened side and rear lobes. The price of that efficiency was that the efficient lobe was only about 20 degrees wide. In other words, mis-aiming the antenna by more than ten degrees meant that the signal would not get through.
Elevation profile from Tim's location on left to sensors on Vermontville Highway exit on I-69. Note that much of the distance is over the Horner Swamp.

Elevation profile between Tim's location on left to Cedar Street exit on I-96
The other consideration was elevation, of the sending station, the receiving station and the rolling hills between the two.

The only viable candidate for the operator was Tim. Tim had been in Armor and picked up a load of shrapnel from an IED when he was riding in a Hummer in the big Sandbox. The shrapnel severed various nerves in his left leg as well as giving him dimples in many interesting places. He had been on disability before Ebola but there was nothing wrong with his ears or his tactical sense.
Tim's house at 906ft elevation. Potential sites for antenna masts at 916ft elevation and 918ft elevation marked with triangles. Left edge of image is road and Kate's store is just west of the 918ft site.

The only thing that made Tim the less-than-perfect choice was that he lived two-hundred yards northeast of Kate’s new store. Kate’s store had attracted raiders once and it was a prime target. There was much of reservation about putting the Capiche command-and-control center so close to a target.

In the end, Wade Hawk’s opinion carried the day. “If the raiders come to Kate’s store then her neighbors” here he jabbed his thumb toward his chest “are gonna have to pin them down until the young bucks arrive. We need to make them think they hit a hornet’s nest and convince them to keep their heads down so they don’t go poking around.”


Manuel needed to talk to Chernovsky and Gimp. Donnie insisted that they leave the bodies exactly where they were. He also insisted that Manuel not pull wallets and look for ID. Miguel stopped arguing when Donnie said he could take it up with the brass.

Chernovsky and Gimp listened to what Manuel found. Chernovsky’s glance darted to Donnie who said, “Hear him out.”

Manuel concluded with “Those people were murdered and who ever did it needs to be punished.”

“You know” Chernovsky’s voice rumbled after a few seconds of thought “we might tell you to do the same thing...kill men and women...and yes, even kids.”

“And I expect you to do it without thought or hesitation.” he finished.

Manuel looked stunned. “What?”

“Suppose we had squatters living in a swamp a few hundred yards from your family. No big deal, right?” Chernovsky explained.

“Now suppose somebody brought Ebola to that camp. They are refugees, right, they come from everywhere. It is still out there. It is in every house where somebody died. It is on coyotes and possum and wild dogs, crows and buzzards.” Chernovsky said.

“What if they did not leave when we told them to move out? We cannot have them polluting Capiche. They cannot stay. But what if they refuse to move? Do you want them living two hundred yards from your mom and dad, your sisters, brothers and cousins?” Chernovsky said. “Do you think a dad WOULDN’T break into your house to steal blankets to warm and comfort his sick children and wife?”

“So you are saying it wasn’t murder.” Manuel said.

“No, I am not saying that. I am giving them the benefit of the doubt because I don’t have resources to deal with it. We are a thin line and you have to stay focused.” Chernovsky said.

“If you ask any of the fighters Donnie fought with, they will tell you they shot and killed men, women and teenagers. Did you ask Donnie how many people he killed without 'fair warning'?" Chernovsky asked.

"No." Manuel said with a small voice.

"Donnie, by your count, how many people did you shoot?" Chernovsky asked.

"Eighty-three or eighty-five. I sort of lost count." Donnie said.

"And you might ask Donnie to tell you about John Gault and what happened when he hesitated.” Chernovsky said.

"So you are saying there is nothing we can do." Manuel said, bitterly.

"Nope. That is not what I am saying." Chernovsky said.

"You can tell your family...your parents, your brothers and sisters...to never become refugees. Tell them do do whatever it takes, to prepare, to harden their house...but to never, ever become refugees." Chernovsky said. "Because this is what happens to refugees."



  1. Perhaps the best episode you've written, and 100% correct IMHO. Refugees are unloved everywhere. I'd rather die defending my home than be on the run, afraid and hiding, the last few miserable weeks of my existence.

    1. Miguel's anguish is understandable. He doesn't believe the refugees had a chance or had a choice.

      As a younger person, he doesn't want to believe that decisions can have consequences long after they are made. Many times, those consequences are not explicit when the decision is made. The young person might hear "That is a bad idea" but is likely to ignore that advice unless every bad outcome and the attendant odds are laid out. And even then, they are likely to ignore the advice.

      The doctors and lawyers, lobbyists and others chose to live wherever they came from for many reasons. Those places were not viable options when the grid went down.

      They could have had a "cabin" or bought income property like the Wilders with the money they spent for vacations. Those were not choices they made. Those are "chances" they could have had but made other decisions.

  2. I think Chernovsky is wrong to dismiss out of hand several dozen bodies of people who were shotgunned to death. Yes, there might be occasions where he and his community are forced to kill 'innocent' people who wittingly or unwittingly are a threat to the community. Having to gun someone down at one of the roadblocks because they will not obey the Ebola screening criteria would be a good example.

    But it is wrong to assume these people were an existential or even potential threat to someone and were justifiably taken out. Something like this must be looked ibto, just to make sure. Having a wanton murderer in the community also represents a threat. It would not be all that hard to assign a few people to quietly and discreetly start asking a few questions while going about their business in the communities.

    1. Who?

      Blastic's Demesne is hermetically sealed from Capiche. It is like North Korea or Cuba, essentially a sovereign nation. Infiltration would be almost impossible.

      I agree that it would be desirable to investigate, but who would do it? The fighters are spread too thin and are rotating. Plus, they are young. Seraph has his hands full because he is a micromanager.

      Hunger makes a lot of things look like luxuries because hunger is constant.

      In the context of the story, Chernovsky is at least 50% sure the massacre was not justified. If Ebola had been found in the refugee camp, it seems likely that word would have filtered out through Steve's store.

      While it would be comforting to think that some super-authority would quickly re-form after societal collapse, no betting man with a knowledge of history would bet his own money on that horse.

    2. All valid points, Mr Joe. Blastic is like a little Kim J ong un. His slaves do not (are not allowed to) interact with the surrounding communities.

      As with many tyrants, one can only hope that contained within Blastic's evil deeds are the seeds of his own undoing.


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