Gretchen Wokes-Cold watched the men practice the evolution with barely concealed contempt.
It was the third attempt at the maneuver and Lt Karl Menkey was taking the brunt of Wokes-Cold’s ill-temper.
Karl had “suggested” that the maneuver first be attempted on flat, dry pavement to minimize complication. Then, shortcomings in the apparatus and procedures could be more quickly identified and remediated.
Wokes-Cold’s rebuke had been brutal. Wokes-cold was all about optics.
In her mind, she was already showing the Ann Arbor brass a real-time video of the AAFD ladder truck skidding up to the washed out bridge and unloading of the articulating bridge sections. Then, fifty seconds after the start of the video, the video shows the three truck convoy passing over the bridge out-of-sight into enemy territory.
As a political officer, she found numbers were boring. She expected results and if Lt Karl could not get her the footage, then she would replace him with somebody who could.
The fact that the hydraulic system was sized to perform the task in four minutes rather than less than sixty seconds was irrelevant to Wokes-Cold.
Wokes-Cold’s direction was that it all be performed from the cab of the lead truck. The first attempt resulted in the forward roller-nest missing solid structure and the entire truss structure twisted and fell into the River Raisin.
Karl was a practical man.
He had the truck slowly back up and fished the span out of the drink.
He personally inspected each spar of the trusses. From an engineering standpoint, light-weight structures are optimized by having every element stressed at the maximum possible level. There is almost no “margin” if some part of the structure...like the supports beneath the roller nests…are less than perfect
Lt Karl and Wokes-Cold had butted heads on the bridge-span. Karl Menkey wanted tubular steel. Steel is stiff which is what you need for the portions of the truss that are in compression. Steel is easy to work with. Anybody can weld steel. Wokes-Cold demanded aluminum because aluminum looks and sounds "High Tech". The span was made of aluminum.
It had been the same for the truck. Lt Mankey favored a simple flat-bed that could be turned around and backed up to the bridge site. Wokes-Cold demanded the fire truck.
Mankey could tell he was skating close to the edge so he folded. Instead of a 10,000 pound flat-bed the span had to be designed for an 80,000 pound fire truck. It made no sense to Mankey but, by some calculus that even Wokes-Cold couldn't explain, it made perfect sense to her.
If she had been more introspective, it was because she intended to lead the commando thrust into the Buffer-Zone and she was going to do it from the commanding height of the driver's side of the lead truck.
His crew cut out the damaged one and replaced with new. They used the project’s full complement of spare parts but those would be replaced.
Wokes-Cold “went off” on Karl when she realized that the daylight would be gone before the next evolution was completed. That would screw-up the video.
Even though there was ample artificial lighting to continue the training and equipment shake-down, Wokes-cold pulled the plug on the operation.
They would continue in the morning as soon as the light was suitable for videotagraphy. Sadly for Lt Karl, the now Corporal Karl was transferred to a unit slated to deploy as a peace-keeping force in what the enemy was called the Buffer-Zone. As a corporal, Karl would be assigned “Point”, the most dangerous position in a patrol.
He would rotate out of “Point” after he was issued the new uniform with a 90” zipper; that is, a cadaver-bag.
You did not want to offend Officer Gretchen Wokes-Cold. She was going to make her name and find her fortunes in the Buffy-Zone.
She was relieved that the first titration was an anomaly. The number seemed way low. She mixed up fresh reagents and ran the titration two more times.
The second two titrations suggested that the clay Steve and Sally Straeder brought back from Iowa was between 1150 and 1200 parts-per-million selenium.
That was just a skoosh more than one-tenth of one percent.
The Merck Handbook of Vetrinary Medicine indicated that mineral salts formulated to containe 60-to-90ppm were indicated for animals in areas known to be deficient in selenium.
Eaton County was one of those deficient areas. Dr Wilder made an executive decision. The ewes had been bred to start dropping their lambs on the first of May. That is when whitetail deer started dropping fawns in southern Michigan. Good enough for Mother Nature, good enough for the Moe Pockets.
However, for the past year, the ewes had been given plain salt. Without a goodly dose of selenium, the lambs would pop out of their mothers with their muscles locked up in a full-body cramp. They would be unable to stand and nurse. They would die.
Given the fact that the sheep require large amounts of selenium and that the ewes had depleted their normal reserves of selenium, Dr Sam decided to mix 9 parts salt with 1 part clay to yield a selenium enriched salt of about 120 PPM. She hoped it was enough. The lambs would start hitting the ground in two months.
Lieutenant Wolhfert was walking around his area-of-operation with a highly-uncharacteristic smile. It was almost as if he was a kid thinking about Christmas.
Wolhfert had recently come back from Tomanica’s “Familiarization” class on Little-Howie, the 2.6” howitzer that was a new weapon in the Capiche forces arsenal.
The first thing Wolhfert noticed was that the carriage was fitted with a pin that prevented the muzzle from being raised beyond 10 degrees of elevation.
Wohlfert was not the only one to notice. Tomanica brushed off their observations with the brusque reply that the carriage had proven unequal to the task of firing at higher angles and “the smart guys” were working on a solution.
Wohlfert was not convinced. Shooting at a higher elevation should put less stress on the cradle, not more. When he had a minute, he looked the cradle over. The barrel swung freely on a four-bar type linkage and could be adjusted for elevation independent of the linkage. The linkage mechanism swung freely for about an inch-and-a-half before contacting a buffer that had clearly been a McPherson Strut in a previous lifetime.
Telling, to Wolhfert, was the fact that the pin that restricted the elevation was designed for quick and easy removal and the buffer system did not care about the elevation. Ergo, Management was sandbagging on the system capabilities and when the balloon went up, the intelligent application of a pair of pliers would vastly increase the weapon’s range.
Another thing Wolhfert noticed was that the paint did not match where the equipment tag was screwed to the carriage.
One of the perks of rank is that Wolhfert had his own, private room during training. If he wanted to go for a walk at midnight, then nobody was there to gains-say him.
It only took thirty seconds to remove the wingnuts that secured the equipment tag to "Little Howie". Beneath the tag was a simple, 3”-by-5” tag with rows and columns of numbers written on it.
Wohlfert recognized the columns of numbers as trajectory tables. The maximum elevation listed on the trajectory table was NOT 10 degrees and the maximum range was far greater than 2.5 miles.
Wohlfert had first-hand experience with the treachery that existed within the ranks of officers, he highly approved of Capiche upper echelon holding their cards close to the chest.
Tomanica told Wohlfert that he was slated to receive Little Howie, Serial Number A-004 and to have three positions picked out to install them.
A lot of people were going to be surprised when the balloon went up.