Ever and Always
Chapter 27: Things that go bump in the night – April- June 2024
Copyright© 2015 by Banadin
When he got home, Rick set up the simulator software that accompanied the Snow Goose. He figured he had many hours of work to learn to fly the beast. He figured wrong. It was insanely easy to fly. The majority of the simulation time was for maintenance.
All he needed was the GPS co-ordinates of his target, and it would fly itself. There was a built in camera, so he could view the landing site to ensure there were no obstructions, after that built in radar set it down.
All he had to do was check the fluids, make certain there were no broken dangly bits, see all green on the control panel, enter the GPS points and hit start. The Snow Goose really was built for soldiers to use on the battlefield. This left Rick free, to consider its payload.
He had enough explosives in his bunker, but it all had to be accounted for. After some thought, he decided to go with a two-stage process. The first stage would be a shaped charge, which he would set down on the roof of his target.
He would set the charge down, lift up and away, and blow a hole in the roof. He would then lower the Snow Goose into the building and set the main charge off.
The main charge could be an old-fashioned fertilizer bomb. He had the fertilizer and diesel fuel. The shaped charge would be the problem. Dynamite would do the trick. He just would have to cut some trees, and then dig the stumps up, and clear the ground.
He would then show that he used dynamite to remove the stumps instead of digging them up. He figured that five pounds would be more than enough. Ten trees cleared would do it.
He told Marsha of his plan, and she had one question.
"What about the noise? If you used dynamite most of the valley would know it."
"Oops, I will do twenty trees and actually use a quarter stick on each for sound."
"That sounds like it would work. Now why are you clearing the land?" She asked.
"We need more storage close to the house?" Rick said quickly. He obviously had given it no thought.
Marsha gave him a wifely look and said, "That will do, so you had better buy a storage building and arrange for it to be put up."
That project took on a life of its own. He had to identify the building, which ended up four parking bays wide. He planned to put in a small machine shop with a lathe, metal break equipment, drill presses, a welding rig and all the support items that would go with it. He was far from expert with metal working, but he could get the job done.
It took him all of May to find a supplier in Chattanooga for his new out building, and to clear the land. Next he had a concrete floor put in, water, sewage and electricity run to the building. Then the building was erected, and the utilities connected.
Almost as an afterthought he had a small office put in. It was logical to put in a refrigerator, and to mount a fairly large-screen television on the wall.
Marsha said, "Good a man cave. It will get you out of my hair at times."
Rick took this as a license, so a keg cooler appeared then a popcorn machine, several recliners, and a pool table in the corner of the shop.
Between the new garage and the other outbuilding, he had two hideouts. Rick was of a mind that a man never could have enough get away spots. The thrill of having two hideaways was reduced when Marsha insisted that the home security system have cameras watching the interior and exterior of both buildings. It was as though she thought he might try to hide from some chores!
Actually, she worried about Rick working by himself in one of the buildings and getting hurt. This way, she could keep an eye on him.
Mary and Paul from across the way had come over when they heard the dynamite going off to check things out. From that point on Paul was involved in the building of the Cave as the women came to call it. The Sheriff on one of his routine stops had some good suggestions. The popcorn machine was his idea.
Ricks first real project in his new shop was shaping a one-inch metal plate that was about two feet on a side. At least, he tried to shape it. He found out he couldn't create enough heat or pressure to move the half-inch thick piece of steel plate. The welding rig would heat the plate up, but only in a small area. There was enough of a heat sink effect that he couldn't get the metal to flow.
He played with this for two weeks before it dawned on him that he wasn't trying to create a piece of art work. He then went to an industrial metal shop in Nashville and bought a sheet of half inch steel. He doubted the metal fragments could be traced, but he didn't want to make it easy.
He cut the steel plate into two-foot squares, then he cut a roundish hole in three of the plates. The first hole was eighteen inches in diameter, the second twelve and the third six inches. He then welded them to the original plate.
The largest hole was next to the plate with the smallest hole being on the outside. This gave him a crude bowl shape. The finished weight would be around one hundred and twenty-five pounds. This would limit his main payload to three hundred and fifty pounds, but that was more than enough.
His next issue was how to attach the shaped charge to the underside of the Snow Goose, then to release it. There were several hard points on the bottom of the drone so it would be easy to drill holes for fasteners. He came up with an eyehook to hang the device from. He could use nylon cable to lift the device.
He then rigged up a simple propane torch that could be radio activated, when the torch came on it would melt the nylon so the charge would stay on the roof when he lifted the drone.
While all that sounded simple, it took him another month and hundreds of tests before he felt that the device was reliable. Of course when he invited Marsha out for a demonstration, the torch had slipped and the flame wasn't directed at the nylon.
It took him another week and hundreds more attempts before it was reliable. He remembered his Army days, when they would get new equipment to field test. He was getting a better appreciation for what the designers went through.
His next step was to select a launch site. Since the Snow Goose would lift off from the trailer, this wasn't a large problem. All he had to do was pull up, undo the bindings; lock the blades in place and go. It would take all of ten minutes at the most.
After practicing a dozen times he had it down to five minutes. Then Marsha informed him she would be going along. Between them, they could launch within three minutes of stopping.
He used Google earth to pick the launch site. Near Pelham Tennessee, there was a small private airport named, Krashinski Airport. He had to use it with a name like that.
He drove over and checked it out. It was right next to the road. He could turn into it without being seen from the highway. There was no gate. It would be easy to drive into, launch and drive away.
The only problem he could for see was the night of the launch as he turned into or out of the airfield that a sheriff's car might drive by at that time and question what he was doing at the airfield.
Some further investigation revealed between the state police and sheriff, there would be at the most five cars on the road in the entire county at night. One phone call would take care of his problem.
It was June before everything was in place, and the weather was to be clear and dry for several days in a row. On Tuesday of the first week in June, he modified the laptop that contained the simulator software he had been using.
He removed the hard drive and replaced it with another he had purchased for just this event. He took the hard drive with the software and the supporting paper documentation and CD disk into the shop.
Fifteen minutes with a welding torch and there would be no recovery. The hard drive was a piece of slag, the papers burnt to ash and the CD a molten blob of plastic. He placed them all in a trash bag.
Next he put the stolen plates on the truck and trailer. In this day and age, there would be cameras in the strangest places, even in the country. He then changed the tires on the truck and trailer. From high tech cameras to low tech tire tracks, he and Marsha spent many an evening discussing the possibilities. He placed magnetic signs on the side of the truck and back of the trailer.
They were for a horse farm up in Kentucky. He found them in the same junk yard as the extra wheel rims.
He then went out to his excavator and dug a hole in the corner of his compost pile about eight feet deep. He dropped the trash bag in but didn't cover the hole. Rick loaded the Snow Goose which was mounted on its carrying frame onto a trailer.
Wednesday night he and Marsha drove the fifty miles to the Krashinski airport. When they were about five miles out Marsha made a phone call to the Sheriff's office. Using a throw-away phone she reported a robbery with gunshot fired at a gas station across the county from them. This took care of them being surprised by any police at the airfield.
They pulled into the airfield, and their practice paid off. They were out of the truck and had the Snow Goose launched on its preprogrammed course in under three minutes.
It would take them an hour to get home; and the drone that long on a straight line to get to Watkins armory. Rick programmed in loiter time of fifteen minutes. Furthermore, if new instructions weren't given because he wasn't in position to control the bird it would just fly back to its home barn.
The trip home was no problem, and they made it with five minutes to spare. There was one problem that Rick hadn't anticipated and that was when he got home he had to pee so bad it hurt. This took three minutes of his time cushion, but he made it.
He radioed the new instructions to the drone. These were to the GPS location of Watkins armory. After twelve minutes flying time, the drone was in position.
Through the camera, he could see that the drone was almost perfectly centered on the roof of the correct building. It was simple but nerve racking to lower the drone to the roof.
Next Rick lit the propane torch. It took fifteen seconds in all his tests to melt the nylon. He allowed thirty seconds before he raised the drone back up. He moved it to a height of two hundred feet and offset from the roof at five hundred feet and set the drone to hover.
He then made a phone call that he agonized about. He killed many in war, both in hot blooded fights and cold-blooded ambushes. That had been a long time ago, but he finally decided that he was back in a war. He was just getting in the first blow.
From the burner phone, he called Watkins. "Major you had better check out your armory."
He then set off the shaped charge which was on the roof.
From the camera mounted on the bottom of the Snow Goose, he could see a flame on the roof. It didn't jet straight up. It bloomed out from under the metal plate. When the glare was gone, he could see a gaping hole in the roof.
As he re-centered the drone over the hole from the wide-angle lens he could see a figure running up to the building.