Thursday, June 18, 2020

Quest: Things come together

The ammonia synthesis system came together at 8:47AM on February 20.

The five catalyst beds were fully up to heat and pumping out 2.3 kg of ammonia an hour, twenty-four hours a day.

2.3 kg is about 5.1 pounds-an-hour. Each pound of ammonia fixes enough nitrogen to make 2.5 pounds of ANFO high-explosive. That added up to about 300 pounds of high explosive every day, seven days a week. Simply put, the first day's production doubled Capiche and Benicio's supply of high explosives.

Suddenly, Capiche went from a famine of high-explosives to swimming in it.

Jannelle got the first ten pounds a day for weapons development. She quickly developed a propellant package that extended the black-powder powered mortars out to a range of almost three miles. The only adjustment to the mortar tube had been to restrict the gap in the flap-valve. The first round had blown the previous geometry out the side of the tube.

The next two-hundred-fifty pounds were mixed into a slurry and stored in 2l, plastic pop bottles which were shipped to “the front” daily. There were four hundred fighters in the buffer-zone and each squad was challenged to deploy their allotment in ways to cause maximum disruption to the enemy.

Twenty pounds of hastily installed ANFO per bridge had been sufficient to completely demolish the bridges at the start of the conflict with Livingston County. The forces in the Buffer-zone were now receiving enough explosives every day to demo twelve bridges...and they had the time and lack of distractions to optimally place those explosives.

The remaining forty pounds per day were distributed to other chemists for experiments in productionizing the manufacture of nitro-cellulose, the foundation for smokeless propellants and to populate secondary caches west of Doan Creek in the eventuality the invaders should punch through the Buffer-zone and the fight would move closer to Capiche.

The allocation of where the explosives went varied as the invasion became more imminent. Mortar shells shifted from Air:Fuel to HE because A:F explosives are sensitive to wind. More -NO3 was diverted to nitrocellulose later on.

But the crude catalyst beds and cobbled-together equipment never churned out less than 4 pounds of ammonia an hour, 24 hours a day, up until Ann Arbor launched their first attack.


The hairs on the back of Steve’s neck rose when the Pink twins came into his store.

“I thought the deputy served you notice that you cannot enter my premisis for a week” Steve said. Steve slipped the secondary lock off his holster, just in case this was going to turn ugly. It would not be the first time he had been in a situation where he had pointed his gun at a “customer” who intended to intimidate or take advantage of him.

“Yes, Mr Steve. We know that. But Deputy Killillea said we owed you an apology” Stewart said. Or maybe it was Spenser.

Steve’s cynicism was not reduced.

“Sure he did. So apologize and come back in four days.” Steve said.

“We ain’t too good at apologizing” Stewart admitted. “When pa apologizes to ma, he always brings her something.”

That was when Steve noticed the other boy had a box in his hands.

“Like what?” Steve asked. Later, he remembered about cats and curiosity and the rest.

“Well, he brings her flowers or lacy things” which caused the boys to blush “but we didn’t think you would be interested in those things. So we brung ya some things we ‘found’.”

Steve beckoned them up to the counter. “What do you have?”

It turned out they had a couple of high-end, Yaesu all-band transceivers and two gross of rechargable batteries.

Steve fixed the boys with a baleful glare. “You know I cannot accept these if you stole them in Capiche!”

The boys about fell over themselves assuring Steve they had not been stolen in Capiche.

That was one time when Steve could pretend to be unaware of the subtlties of the English language. The boys never denied the transceivers had been stolen. They merely affirmed that they had not been stolen in Capiche….the area Deputy Killillea protected.

There were a bunch of ways Steve could have handled it. He chose to graciously accept the apology gift. A gift graciously received is a gift given in return.

The boys just sort of wondered if Steve might be willing to pay for merchandise "they found" in the future.

Steve admitted that he would be willing to pay for quality goods….provided they had not been illegally obtained in Capiche. Steve did not want to fall under Deputy Killillea’s suspicion, either. In fact, Steve was willing to pay 20 cents on-the-dollar vis-a-vis his retail price. Steve paid in silver, on delivery.

That was twice as much as most fences paid. The twins were thrilled.

Steve’s competitor who was east of the river and had sponged up 40% of Steve’s business was not. Many days, his ‘shrinkage’ exceeded his sales.

He complained to Deputy Killillea. Grant was adamant. “I was deputized to enforce the law in Capiche. If you are willing to collect sales-tax, I can help you. Otherwise, you are outside my jurisdiction.”

The merchant north of Pete saw the handwriting on the wall. He could pay 10% to Capiche or 25% to Benicio. He chose the 10% tax rate. That act effectively extended the northern boundary of Capiche two miles north.

The merchant east of the river refused to pay any taxes.

He lasted two more weeks. Steve offered him a paltry sum for the remainder of his goods and he capitulated.

Steve’s business rebounded. The war effort stimulated the economy. His sales volume was fifty percent greater than it had been before the competitor east of the river had complicated his life.

Steve got to thinking. He had a nephew who was almost 23. The problem with the store east of him is that it was just across the river and cannibalized his business. Steve left the store in the care of the afore-mentioned nephew and took a ride east along Bunker Highway and then made the return leg on Columbia, two miles to the north.

Four miles east of the river he found the perfect site for another store on Columbia Highway. It was a full five miles east of his store so there would be almost no cannibalization. He told his nephew that he was willing to provide him with stock and a tiny bit of capital to start the store. After that, it would depend on his nephew to make a "go" of the venture.

Steve had two stipulations: That Steve receive 5% of the revenue and that his nephew pay sales-tax to Capiche. Steve saw more clearly than anybody that stores were going to pay taxes to SOMEBODY for protection. Far better to pay tribute to an entity that was both efficient and whose protection was vigorous.



  1. In the early days of smokeless there was an alternative called either 'amidpulver' or 'amonpulver' made by blending ammonium nitrate with carbon. It had equivalent power to double base smokeless, took a higher ignition temperature but burned cooler and was flashless. The minor flaw was that it absorbed humidity, the major flaw was the NH4OH crystals change shape at summertime temperatures, causing the prill to come apart. I wonder if you could counter both by instead of mixing with carbon, you encapsulate the prill
    with the fuel. Cellulose Acetate would give a relatively thick coat and still be oxygen surplus for a flashless propellant.

  2. "Steve saw more clearly than anybody that stores were going to pay taxes to SOMEBODY for protection."

    Something a bunch of people are learning (will learn) firsthand these days. Applies to everyone. Not just stores.

  3. A mortar range of almost three miles is a potential game changer. If the troops in the buffer zone can channel the invading forces into certain corridors, the mortar teams might be able to shell them from a substantial stand-off distance. That kind of range also gives the mortar teams greater ability in engaging the invading columns in unexpected locations.