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Allakaket Airlines
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    State of Denial

    Allakaket Airlines

    Allakaket Airlines
    Book III
    In the
    North to Alaska Series

    by Fleataxi
    Chapter 1 - New Kid in Town

    Ron moved Anne into Jim’s house, and moved into his new house on the hill. It was huge, cold, and lonely. The wood walls were over a foot thick, and the huge garage housed 2 pickups, including a brand new Ford F-350 4x4 turbodiesel, the older diesel truck, a snowmobile, and a used diesel Kubota L-48 4wd tractor with a front bucket and a backhoe. Even with all the new toys, he still had money left from the half-million his dad gave him. Bill Ayer called and asked him if he’d like to spend a week with him in Hawaii. It was the dead of winter, and Ron thought that a trip to a warmer climate would improve his mood, so he accepted. Ron drove his truck to the airfield, pulled the TurboGoose out of the hangar, preflighted it, then pulled the truck into a parking spot next to the hangar, and took his bags out of the cab. He jumped into the pilot’s seat, and finished the pre-flight, called the tower for permission to take off, and programmed the nav computer with the coordinates for Anchorage Alaska. Bill had told him to park in Alaska Airlines VIP lot, and he would be waiting with a Gulfstream II to fly to Hawaii. When he parked the TG, there was a Gulfstream II parked right next to him, and Bill was already in the pilot’s seat. He grabbed his gear, and locked the plane. After he tossed his bags into the Gulfstream, he walked forward; Bill motioned him to the co-pilot’s seat. “Bill, I’m not qualified to fly this plane!”

    “You’re not flying it, I am, besides, with your ATP you’re more than qualified to fly right seat. The company has a condo on Kauai, and I’ve booked it for a week.”

    “Are there any dive shops around there?”


    “I’m a PADI certified Open Water diver, and you wouldn’t believe how beautiful this world is underwater.”

    “Wanna Bet? I’ve had my Open Water cert for almost 10 years, looks like we’re going diving!”

    “Great, let’s get this show on the road!”

    Bill finished preflighting the Gulf Stream, taxied toward the runway, and got permission to take off, then he turned southwest toward Hawaii. He didn’t fly straight to Hawaii, but flew the Northern west-bound corridor, which added 100 miles to their trip, but reduced the chance of a mid-air collision, since all the planes in the corridor were flying west They landed at the private airstrip on Kauai later that afternoon, checked into the condo, which Ron was glad to see was a 2-bedroom suite, and dumped their suitcases and changed into their shorts. Not thinking, Ron had packed his SEAL shorts. Bill picked up on that immediately, and asked him how he got a pair of official SEAL swim trunks. Ron related his experiences with Bear at MacDill. Bill was impressed to say the least, because he had several SEAL friends, and they never told him to call them by their Team names, and these guys were really good friends! Bill picked up the Yellow pages, and quickly located a dive shop that could rent them not only the diving equipment, but a chartered dive boat for as long as they wanted it. Bill asked Ron what kind of wetsuit he wanted, and Ron told him a Men’s medium 4/3 suit. Bill ordered the suits, and 2 sets of tanks/regulators, etc. He rented cameras, lights and everything else they would need. The condo came with limousine service, and he called the front desk to reserve the limousine for first thing tomorrow morning to take them to the dive shop. They spent the rest of the afternoon goofing off pool side, then went inside for dinner. Bill liked this condo complex, because everything was informal. He liked the change from always having to wear a suit.

    The next morning, they rode in the limousine to the dive shop. Bill handed them his Alaska Airlines AMEX card, and signed the receipt. They showed their PADI dive cards, then were escorted to the boat, which was fueled and all ready to go. Since Bill knew all the hot dive spots in Kauai, he checked the GPS navigation system, and selected several sites they wanted to visit. Ron checked out the boat, and saw it was equipped for live aboard, and wondered why they got the condo. Ron thought he had seen beautiful reefs in Florida, but the reefs they dove over the next couple of days made them look like an aquarium. Ron shot dozens of rolls of film, as did Bill. They became even closer friends over the trip. On the way back home to Alaska, Ron asked Bill why he never married. Bill said he was married, but his wife ran out on him years ago, and he never got over it. He found out later that she had multiple affairs while they were married, and she had married him for his money. Since she had abandoned him and left the state, he was granted an uncontested divorce by the courts, and an annulment by the church, but never found anyone who would love him for him. He told Ron to pick his future wife carefully. Ron told him about the incident with the barracuda, and Bill laughed his head off then said “I would have paid big money to see the look on her face when you said that - I’ll have to remember that one! I’ll bet the rest of the barracudas will leave you alone from now on!”

    “I hope so Bill, my dad died recently, and I built a huge house on the hill above Allakaket, but without a wife and children, it’s a big empty museum.”

    “Don’t be in too big a rush to get married Ron, you might make the same mistake I did.”

    Ron told him the story about Samantha, and what she was doing now.

    “Ron, I don’t know if I would have exhibited the self-control you did. You really were a friend to her. You gave her exactly what she needed with no thought of receiving anything in return. She’s saved now, and going to become an ER doc. You could have done worse.”

    “Bill, it really killed me to let her go, I still miss her, and I’m still tempted to fly to North Carolina and ask her to marry me.”

    “Don’t, you’ll regret it. Even if she agrees, it will be all wrong, and odds are now that she’s into Medical School, she’s there to stay. If she says “No”, you’ll really be hurt.”

    “You’re right, but I’m so lonely I could cry!”

    “Believe me Ron, I know how you feel.”

    “I’ve got an idea. Let’s double date so we can get two opinions on our dates. I’ll keep you from getting trapped by a phony, and you can do the same for me!”

    “That’s brilliant Ron. The main reason I didn’t date is I was so lousy at evaluating women I was dating, but with a neutral 3rd party there, it would work, also that way the women wouldn’t feel so vulnerable and defensive like they do when they think some rich guy is trying to come on to them.”

    “Bill, I’ve got the entire winter with almost nothing to do. Why don’t I rent an apartment in Anchorage for the winter, and we can start on that list you gave me.

    “I’ve got an ever better idea. I’ve got a huge 4 bedroom house in Anchorage that feels like that house of yours in Allakaket. We could entertain there, or take them out to dinner, and that way I’d have a roommate, someone to talk to, and you could live in a nice place rent-free and it would be so much more convenient for me instead of sending the limo for you first, then getting our dates.”

    “Great, I can move enough stuff to stay the winter.”

    “Make sure you bring your guns!”

    They landed in Anchorage a couple of hours later, and Ron flew back to Allakaket, told Bill he was spending the winter in Anchorage, and left Bill Ayer’s number in case he needed to get in touch with him, and said that the other Goose pilot could fly any deliveries or emergencies that they needed over the winter. He went to his house, packed his guns and ammo, and enough clothes so he didn’t need to wash more than once a week, and drove back to the plane, loaded it up, and taxied back to the lake and took off for Anchorage. Once he was airborne, he called Bill’s office on his sat phone, and gave him his ETA.

    When he landed, he taxied to his space at Alaska Airlines private aircraft parking area, shut down the plane, and was met by a guy with a truck and a note from Bill to put his stuff in the truck, and he would meet him at his house. The driver knew where it was and could be trusted. The driver introduced himself as Sam, and was the Baggage Handling supervisor for Alaska Airlines. Ron thought Sam was big enough to pick up a 747 by himself. He handled the rifles and ammo cases gently, but you could tell that they were no strain on him at all. Finally when everything was loaded, Sam got in the driver’s seat, and Ron got in the passenger seat. Ron was still wearing his shoulder holster, and he could tell it was making Sam nervous, but he didn’t know Sam from Adam, and he had almost $50 thousand dollars worth of firearms in the back, and had no intention of taking off his holster. Sam didn’t say two words to Ron on the drive over. They drove through downtown Anchorage to the westernmost end. Bill’s house was a magnificent house on a bluff overlooking the Inland Sea surrounded by trees. It had huge picture windows to take advantage of the view. Bill greeted Ron as he drove up the drive, and Sam put Ron’s bags in his room. Bill gave him the grand tour. Bill’s house was huge, and definitely designed for entertaining. It had a huge floor to ceiling rear-projection screen with surround sound stereo system and a popcorn maker. Downstairs was a game room with a pool table, and a 10-person Jacuzzi/hot tub on the rear deck inside a screened gazebo. The kitchen looked like it came from a set of a cooking show, and the bathrooms were opulent with lavish fixtures, Jacuzzi tubs, and huge walk-in showers. Bill showed Ron his room, and it was on the opposite side of the house, with a separate entrance so Ron could come and go as he pleased without waking Bill. Bill handed Ron a set of keys and an alarm transmitter. Bill looked kind of funny at Ron, and asked him what in blazes he was doing wearing a double shoulder holster in Anchorage, it wasn’t the Wild West anymore.

    Ron explained that he always wore the shoulder holster and fanny pack when he flew, and explained why. Bill agreed that it was a good idea while flying, but portrayed the wrong image in Anchorage. Bill had an oversized soft-sided briefcase he could put them in if he wanted to carry them around. Ron decided to hang his holster in his bedroom closet, and switched to his P-14 Limited in the Bladetech IWB holster with the dual mag carrier. Ron was still armed, but Bill didn’t know it - out of sight, out of mind. They spent the rest of the day getting organized, then tomorrow was Sunday, and they had a social scheduled after church the 3rd Sunday of each month.

    The next day, they drove to church in the limo, and Ron was amazed when none of the Barracudas gave him a second glance. After church, Bill introduced him around, and he met some really nice women ranging from about 18-23 years old. Most of them worked in Anchorage at various entry level jobs. One of them was a junior programmer, one was a veterinary assistant, and the rest were various types of clerks trying to climb the corporate ladder. Ron made a short list of the women he was interested in, compared notes with Bill, then they went back and invited the most interesting prospects to dinner that night at Bill’s place. They felt much better when they learned it was a double date, and they would be picked up by Bill’s limo driver. Bill suggested they dress conservatively casual, and that dinner would be at 7:00pm. Ron found out later that Bill was a gourmet chef that loved Italian food. He made 3 different types of pasta, a vegetable dish, and even had time to make homemade Spumoni.

    Their dates arrived promptly at 6:30, and Bill thought they were dressed appropriately. They were both wearing long skirts and blouses in different pastel shades. Ron’s date was Nancy, a 20-yr old veterinary assistant, and Bill’s date was Sue, the 35 year old programmer. Over dinner, they talked and had a good time. At 10:00, Bill cut the evening short since he had to be at work at 0800 the next morning, and had the driver drive them both home. After the girls left, Ron and Bill compared notes. They both liked Nancy, but Sue seemed to be severely uptight. Ron decided that Nancy would get a second date later after the first round was completed. The next several weeks, they double-dated at least once a week. When they were finished, Ron found 6 girls he’d like to ask out again, and Bill had 3 since he was pickier. Ron noticed he had picked mostly blondes, and Bill had a redhead and 2 brunettes. All of Bill’s picks were divorcees, so there would be some additional baggage involved. All of Ron’s picks were single never-married girls. Over the course of the winter, Ron started dating just 2 girls, then just one. It seemed he and Nancy really hit it off. Bill had struck out, but had found some new friends, so when he wanted to do stuff, they wanted to go with him as friends. That would come in handy at business dinners, since showing up stag was seriously embarrassing.

    Ron and Nancy were spending more and more time together, and sat together at church. Nancy was a city girl that loved animals, had originally lived in Wisconsin and learned to hunt white tail deer there, but got grossed out at the process of skinning to the point that her dad often skinned her deer. She liked camping but had never lived outside of a city. Finally Ron took her to Allakaket to meet Anne. Anne approved of her, but Nancy was a little skittish about moving into the “middle of nowhere.”

    Anne explained to her that until she met Roy, Ron’s dad, she lived in Dallas and was a big-city nurse. She moved to Allakaket to help her brother out when he got assigned there as a doctor, and met Roy when a tree fell on him and broke his arm. Her bother wanted to join the Air Force, so he fixed her up with Roy as a private duty nurse, and they fell in love and were married. She spent the next 17 years living in a 2-room cabin that made Allakaket look like Anchorage. She said something very important “Home is where your heart is, I was in love with Roy, and Roy lived in a cabin, so my home is back in that cabin in the woods.”

    Nancy said “How Romantic!” Ron asked her if she’d like to see the cabin, it was another hour’s flight. She said yes in a heartbeat, and they boarded the TG after Ron kissed his mother goodbye. An hour later, he landed at the lake, and taxied up onto the beach, then they walked to the cabin hand in hand. Ron unlocked the door and they went inside. Nancy’s first comment was “It’s so small”, to which Ron replied “More like cozy and comfortable. In the deep woods like here, you heat everything with wood, so you don’t build big houses.”

    Nancy said “You’re not planning on living here are you?”

    “No, I’ve got a house in Allakaket, do you want to see it?”

    Nancy said yes, and they walked outside. Ron locked the door and they walked back to the plane. They landed in Allakaket an hour later, and Ron took the older truck. They drove for miles until they came to the end of a road. “It’s right up that road Nancy.”

    They got out and walked. Nancy was sure it would be another log cabin until she stepped into the clearing and saw the huge house made of logs, like a dream come true. “I could live here.”

    “That was the general idea. Want a tour?”

    They walked throughout the whole house, and Nancy knew she could live here. There weren’t any malls, shopping, or anything in Allakaket, but Anchorage was just over an hour away by air. “Ron, how many kids did you want?”

    “I’ve got a 4-bedroom house, so how about 4 kids?”

    “I always wanted a large family, and 4 kids sounds just about right.”

    “Did you want to home school them, there are no schools in Allakaket.”

    “Actually the way the schools are now, I’d prefer to home school the kids.”

    “Nancy, I already know you like hunting and fishing, but could you give up a social life, live in a small town and raise your kids?”

    “Depends on the father.”

    “Ok, how about a father that was home every night, and loved you to pieces, was great with the kids, and helped around the house, and most of all, was a God-fearing Christian Man?”

    “Where do I sign up?”

    “How about right here?”

    Nancy realized she had been neatly set up. Ron was barely 18, but a very mature 18. He wouldn’t have any problems supporting the kids, and he really was in love with her. She wasn’t sure how she felt about Ron. She thought that if he could meet her mom, that would give her an idea.

    “Ron, before I answer that question, I want you to meet my mom, she’s a real good judge of character, after all she married my Dad.”

    “What happened to your dad?”

    “He died recently just like yours.”

    “Where does your mom live?”

    “She lives in Seward with her sister.”

    Ok, the TurboGoose has enough range for that. I’ll have to gas up. Do you think your mom would mind us dropping in?”

    “This is all a little sudden, don’t you think?”

    “Well, you met my mom, I think the least I can do is meet yours, and I’ve got the time.”

    “Well if you put it that away, let’s go!”

    They got into the plane, and Ron taxied to the fuel pumps and filled the tanks as full as he could, then made sure everything was secure. Nancy liked riding in the copilot’s seat. She’d like to have her pilot’s license one day, but never told anyone, since they were too expensive to get.

    Ron found Seward in his navigation software, and was glad to note they had a fuel depot with Jet Fuel. He contacted the tower and received permission to take off, then headed south to Seward. It took 4 hours at 250 knots, then he called the tower, and landed the plane at the municipal airport. Seward was almost as big as Anchorage, he was glad to note. They called Nancy’s mom, and drove over to her place. It was near dinner, so she invited them to stay for dinner. Ron was IFR qualified, he was OK flying home after dark. They took a cab to Nancy’s mom’s house, and were met by a little old lady that Nancy immediately hugged and called Mom. When they broke their clinch, Ron stuck his hand out and said “Mrs. Henderson, I’m Ron Williams.”

    “My, my such nice manners. I was always hoping Nancy would meet a nice boy like you.”

    “May we come in?”

    “Why yes, where are my manners, come on in.”

    Their house was small but cozy, and there was one cat in the living room, sitting on her sister Ester’s lap. Ron walked over and introduced himself, then asked if he could pet her cat.

    “Yes of course, Old Thomasina loves company.”

    The cat was so mellow Ron could swear it was on Thorazine, but it seemed to enjoy Ron petting it. He remembered petting Lucky and quickly withdrew, shaking his head.

    “What’s wrong Ron?”

    “I just miss my dog Lucky.”

    “I know how you feel, when I’m working with the vet, and they have to put an animal down, I start crying too.”

    Nancy’s mother noted approvingly that Ron seemed to have a soft heart.

    “So where did you two meet?”

    “Mrs. Henderson, we go to the same church.”

    “Ron, please my name is Gertrude.”

    “Thanks Gertrude. Don at the FAA office invited me to his church the Sunday after I went to the Christian Businessman’s Prayer Breakfast on Saturday with Bill Ayer.”

    “You know William Ayer?”

    “Yes Ma’am.”

    “Mom, Ron’s being modest, he owns Allakaket Airlines. We flew one of his planes down here from Allakaket.”

    “Ron, you live in Allakaket?”

    “Yes Ma’am, I was born just 100 miles north of there in a small log cabin, and lived there all my life.”

    “Sounds exciting. I wish Sam would have settled in the interior instead of Seward.”

    “Gertrude, you know he got a job here, otherwise he would have.”

    “Right Ester.”

    Gertrude looked at her watch and said “I believe Dinner is ready.”

    “Do you need any help serving dinner or setting the table?”

    “You can set the table if you want Ron.”

    Gertrude was really impressed by Ron so far. Maybe Nancy found someone that she could settle down with.

    Ron set the table, then Gertrude said grace. Ron bowed his head and said “Amen” at the end. Gertrude had made stew for dinner. Ron thought it was delicious, and said it was. They talked for a while, then Gertrude turned to Nancy and said, “It’s getting late, are you OK getting home after dark.”

    “Mom, Ron owns a big Grumman Goose with a full modern instrument suite. He’s got his Airline Transport Pilot’s license, so he’s fully qualified to fly at night.”

    “OK, anyway you kids better get going.”

    “Mrs, Henderson, thanks for a lovely dinner, and I hope to see you again.”

    Ron turned to leave and Gertrude whispered to Nancy “This one’s a keeper, better get married before someone else grabs him.”

    “Thanks Mom, I needed to hear that from you.”

    Nancy kissed her mom on the cheek, and said “Bye Mom. See you later.”

    Just as they were walking out the door, the cab they had called showed up. He drove them back to the airport, except this time Nancy was much more cuddly. Ron paid the cab at the airport, and they walked hand in hand to his airplane. They taxied to the fuel depot where he filled the tanks up, then turned toward the runway. He set the nav computer up for Allakaket, and set the cockpit lights so he could see the instruments, he would need them to fly tonight. It was already dark and getting darker by the time they took off.

    Ron concentrated on his flying until they were at cruising altitude, and could engage the autopilot.

    “Nancy, I was really glad I got to meet your mother today, she’s a really nice lady.”

    “Ron, is that offer still open?”

    “Nancy, Are you sure you are OK with living in Allakaket? It’s pretty remote, especially during the winter. The upside is fishing, hunting, camping, and hiking during the summer and fall, and cross-country skiing or snowmobiling during the winter. If we want to socialize, I have a 4x4 diesel truck we can drive to the café, or we can take snowmobiles if the weather’s not too bad.”

    “Ron, remember what your mom said about home is where the heart is?”


    “Well I can tell you where my heart is, it’s with you. I wasn’t sure at first, but my mom cinched it. I’m a lousy judge of character, and I’ve been burned before, but my mom can smell either a Rat or 24-carat gold from a mile away, and she thinks you’re 24-carat gold. I really liked you from the start, but I’ve been suckered by some jerks before, so I’m very careful about giving my heart away.”

    “Nancy, will you marry me?”

    “What took you so long to ask?”

    Nancy gave Ron a kiss that made Samantha look like an amateur, then Ron said “Holding out on me? I didn’t know you were such a good kisser?”

    “Well you do now Ron.”

    “Are you OK with long engagements?”

    “6 weeks too long?”

    “Depends on how many times I see you in that six weeks Nancy. How would you like to learn to fly?”

    “I’d love to, but I could never afford to.”

    “Until we start having kids, the best way to spend the most time with me would be as my co-pilot. If you were fully certified, we could fly longer routes that necessitated IFR flying like now. If you were a paying passenger, I’d technically need a co-pilot since darkness is usually an IFR condition unless the moon is so bright you can see well enough to navigate by it.”

    “Great, when do I start?”

    “As soon as you want to.”

    Ron reached for his sat phone and dialed Bill Ayer. “Bill, I hope I didn’t wake you, but guess what? Nancy and I are getting married!”

    “Terrific, when’s the wedding?”

    “Nancy said 6 weeks if we can wait that long - she’s a good kisser!”

    Nancy gave him another kiss - just for luck.

    “Bill, we’re going to stay overnight in Allakaket so we can give my mom the good news.”

    “Ok, it will take me that long to arrange the Engagement party at my place tomorrow. Dress is formal, so wear your suit!”

    “Yes sir! Nancy, do you own a suit?”

    “Just my swimsuit!”

    “I don’t think that’s what he had in mind.”

    Bill was listening to the whole conversation, and started laughing. “Ron, you wear a suit, Nancy can wear a dress! NOT the other way around, this isn’t San Francisco!”

    “OK Bill see you tomorrow!”

    “I can’t believe it; I’ve finally found Mrs. Right!”

    “I thought your last name was Williams?”

    Chapter 2 - Engagement

    Ron and Nancy landed at Allakaket around 10:00 pm, and were met by a very tired mayor, who gave them separate rooms for the night at the newly remodeled inn. The next morning, they drove over to see Ron’s mom, who was so happy she was crying. Nancy received enough hugs to last a week. Anne said “I wish your dad was here to see this!”

    “He is Mom - I’m sure he’s grinning from ear to ear from his perch near St. Peter saying “That’s my Boy!”

    Anne gave Ron a big hug and told him to take care of Nancy. Ron said they lived just a couple of miles away, and could be there if she needed them, and Bill was just a phone call away.

    “Don’t you worry about me, I’ll be just fine!”

    They got back in Ron’s truck, drove up to his house, and Ron brought out several large Pelican cases and some big green boxes. Then he packed a couple of bags for each of them, turned off the lights and locked the door.

    “Ron, what’s in the cases?”

    “They’re a surprise. I promised Bill we could go long-distance shooting some time, and now seemed to be the best time, since we’re going to be busy planning a wedding, and getting you your pilot’s license. We also need to stop by a jewelry store on our way to Bill’s. It’s not really an engagement party unless you can show off your engagement ring.”

    “Ron, I don’t want a huge rock, so don’t buy me anything bigger than a ½ carat please!”

    “Your wish is my command!”

    “Just remember that when the sink is full of dirty dishes, and both kids need their diapers changed!”

    “Yes Dear!” <Like Father Like Son!>

    When they reached the TurboGoose, Ron lugged the cases into the passenger compartment of the plane, then he opened the door for Nancy and she sat in the co-pilot’s seat as he ran around and got in the pilot’s seat. He started the Allison turbines and taxied to the fuel pumps, and filled the tanks with fuel. He sealed the caps, did a quick walk-around, and climbed back in to do the pre-flight checks. Once everything was ready to go, he moved the throttles from idle and the propellers engaged and he taxied out to the lake. Once they were fully waterborne, he retracted the landing gear, and set the plane up for take off while programming the nav system for Anchorage. After receiving permission to take off, they were airborne and flying to Anchorage at 250 knots. Once they reached cruising altitude, he set the autopilot and gave Nancy a big kiss.

    “What’s that for?”

    “For saying you’ll marry me!”

    “Well in that case…”

    Ron was glad that he learned to hold his breath; otherwise he might have passed out from that kiss. They flew along in prenuptial bliss as the plane winged its way to Anchorage. When they were 10 minutes out, they called Anchorage for landing instructions, and were told to park the plane in Alaska Airline’s VIP section. Wondering what Bill had up his sleeve besides his arm, Ron taxied to the VIP ramp only to see Bill’s limo waiting for them. When they got out, the driver handed Ron a note.

    Ron, the limo is yours to use today, I’m sure you have some shopping to do. I took the day off to plan and cook for all the people I invited. Buy Nancy a beautiful dress on my card.


    Ron was holding Bill’s Alaska Airlines AMEX card.

    The driver wished he would have gotten one of the baggage handlers to help load these cases into the limousine. They barely fit in the trunk, and he had worked up a pretty good sweat by the time he was finished loading the limousine. He asked Ron “Where to Sir?”

    “Take us to the best jeweler in town, then we need to buy Nancy a fancy dress for the party tonight.”

    “Yes sir.”

    He opened the doors and they got in, giggling like school kids. There was a bottle of sparkling cider in an ice bucket with 2 glasses in the limousine.

    Nancy saw it and told Ron “Open it.” So he opened the sun roof and pried the top off the bottle. Good thing he opened the sun roof, because the cork went flying, and he poured 2 glasses. Before they drank, Ron proposed a toast “To Love!”

    Nancy’s smile could have lit up the Boston Gardens all by itself.

    15 minutes later, the limousine stopped in front of a fancy jeweler’s store. The driver got out, and held the door open for them. The owners of the store recognized the plate number, and were bowing and scraping and fawning all over them. Ron said they were looking for a half carat engagement ring for his fianc&#233;. She was shown several trays of half carat diamonds, and decided the marquise cut was the most flattering for her long thin fingers. She also preferred white gold to yellow gold. They showed her a dozen unmounted stones with their GIA certified ratings. Ron saw one that he knew she would love, it was a D color VVS1 stone that just looked like lasers were coming out of it. The owner liked Ron’s taste, and suggested a low-mount ring so she wouldn’t snag it on things. Ron liked the design elements, and Nancy liked the way the stone gleamed in the mount. Ron asked them if they could put a rush on it, they were due at Bill Ayer’s house that afternoon for their engagement party. The jeweler assured them it would be mounted, polished, and sized within 2 hours. He slid a set of trial rings down her ring finger until he found a perfect fit, then wrote the number on the work order. Ron handed him his Allakaket Airlines AMEX card, and the owner was back two minutes later with a sales receipt for Ron to sign. He handed Ron a claim check, and wrote RUSH on the order, and a due by time of 2 hours later. Ron hoped it wouldn’t take 2 hours to shop for a dress. He hoped Nancy was a more decisive shopper than Samantha.

    They walked outside, and the driver was waiting with the door open, when he closed the door, he drove to the most exclusive boutique in Anchorage. Ron was glad that Bill had volunteered to pay for the dress, because some of these dresses cost more than Nancy’s diamond. Finally after an hour and a half, Nancy asked Ron to come into the dressing room to see if he approved. She was wearing a baby blue dress with a non-existent neckline. Nancy looked stunning in it, and he realized that the dress was more modest than most of the swimsuits he had seen on the beach in Hawaii. Nancy was worried that the dress was designed to be worn braless, and she hadn’t gone braless since she was 12. Ron assured her she looked stunning in the dress, and it wasn’t too revealing as long as she didn’t bend over too far. Nancy had to laugh at that image, then made Ron swear that if she dropped anything while wearing that dress, he’d pick it up for her. Ron held her and gave her a big kiss, and told her she was the most beautiful woman in the world. That kind of praise can earn multiple brownie points, so she told Ron to amscray so she could get dressed, since they weren’t married yet! Ron made a hasty retreat, and when he looked back, Nancy blew him a kiss, and told him to wait up front for her. The dress was easier to get out of than into, and she also had to buy a special pair of panties to avoid any lines. She decided that she could dress like that for just one night, then back to her conservative mode of dress. The clerk picked out a pair of shoes that shaped and accentuated her calves. The clerk warned her not to walk very far in those shoes if she weren’t used to heels, or she’d get a Charlie horse. The clerk bagged her purchases, and hung the dress on a special hanger to keep it wrinkle free. She told Nancy that the dress was OK to wear tonight, and it should only be dry cleaned after that. Nancy knew she would never wear that dress again in her lifetime.

    She came out of the changing rooms back in her regular clothes just in time to make it to the jewelers. They paid for her purchases, and the Driver got them back to the jewelers within 2 hours and 5 minutes. The jeweler had a surprise for them. Bill Ayer had called them, and asked the jeweler to loan them a 1 carat Diamond pendant that matched the ring. The dealer made Ron put a credit card deposit for the value of the diamond, with a 24-hour return. When he saw how much the diamond pendant was, he decided to make darn sure that they were back at the jewelers first thing tomorrow to return it. He handed them the pendant in a leather covered satin-lined box. Then he gave Ron Nancy’s ring, and he slipped it onto her hand. She gave him a big kiss, then they had to get to Bill’s house. The driver had called ahead, and got one of the strongest of Bill’s employees to meet them at Bill’s house to unload the trunk. Bill met Ron and Nancy in the drive and said “Congratulations you two. Ron, put your stuff in your old room, Nancy can take the room between us. You’re both staying the night tonight.”

    “Bill, I have a little surprise in the trunk for you.”

    He looked past Ron to his employee taking the huge Pelican cases out of the trunk, and he knew what they were. He was glad he had his secretary clear his schedule for the rest of the week.

    “Bill, let’s go shooting at Elmendorf right after we return Nancy’s pendant. Here’s your credit card back, and thanks.”

    “Don’t mention it. Nancy is a beautiful woman, and she deserves to look like a princess tonight.”

    “Bill, I hope you didn’t invite the pastor, Nancy’s dress is kind of revealing, but no worse than anything we saw at the beach.”

    “He’ll be there, but he’s been to formal events before, and is used to women with braless dresses, since that’s the only kind of formal dress they make anymore for anyone under 60 years old. OK you two, I need some help in the kitchen, then we all need to take showers and get changed, the guests will start arriving in 3 hours.”

    Nancy said “Aren’t you cutting it a little close, I’m going to need at least 2 hours to put on the warpaint and feathers.”

    “We’ll let you start early then.”

    They adjourned to the kitchen where Bill was whipping up tons of appetizers and finger foods. In another hour the servers would arrive and start setting up the house for a large party. Large was an understatement in this case, more like huge. Anyone who was anyone in Anchorage Society was invited to the engagement party. He needed 6 valets just to park all the vehicles, and all the limousines in Anchorage were booked. When the servers arrived, Bill dismissed Nancy and Ron to get ready. Ron’s suit was hanging on a Dry Clean hanger. Evidently Bill had sent Ron’s suit out to be cleaned and pressed while they were out. He got undressed and got in the shower, then shaved and got dressed. When he went to get dressed, he noticed that his shoes had been freshly polished. He walked out to the main room with 15 minutes to spare. Nancy was no where to be found, and Ron knew she just wanted to make an appearance. 15 minutes later, she made an appearance, and Bill and Ron just stood there with their mouths open. Nancy looked like a Hollywood movie star with her flowing, shimmering long blond hair, the 1 carat marquise diamond pendant glowing between her breasts, and a matching set of diamond earrings in her ears. It turned out that she had a pair of cubic zirconia ear rings, but no one knew from looking, since the pendant was obviously real, as was the diamond engagement ring. Ron whispered something in her ear and she giggled. 10 minutes later the doorbell rang and the guests started arriving. An hour later, they were still arriving, and the room was getting crowded, so Bill opened the balcony doors and expanded the room by 50%. Everyone was admiring Nancy’s ring and pendant, and saying what a lovely couple they were. Nancy made sure she didn’t bend any further forward than she had to all night. By the time the last guest left at midnight, they were exhausted. Ron and Nancy went out on the balcony for some private time.

    “Ron, I love you so much, thanks for doing this for me, but I hope I never have another night like this as long as I live. Half the men were staring at my breasts instead of my face, and most of he women were so catty that I thought they had claws. I could never live in this society lifestyle, it’s so phony.”

    “Glad you feel that way. Hanging with Bill has been an education in more ways than one, and I agree I want no part of this scene. We’ll shop in Anchorage when we need to, and I’ll fly out for meetings with Bill, but I’m not going to do the social circuit, even if it costs me business.” Ron gave his future wife a big kiss, then noticed something.

    “Are you wearing underwear?”

    “All that I could wear with this dress without some embarrassing panty lines was a tiny little thong.”

    Ron’s hands drifted lower, and he said “I see what you mean!”

    “Ron if you don’t move your hands, we might not make it to our wedding date!”

    He slid his hands reluctantly back up to her waist.

    “Ron, let’s get married in Allakaket, otherwise Bill’s going to invite all his friends. I’d rather have a small wedding in the Allakaket chapel than a huge wedding in Anchorage.”

    Ron gave her a big kiss and said “I was hoping you’d feel that way, I wasn’t looking forward to the circus that a big Anchorage wedding would become.

    With that out of the way, Ron went to bed, but first he took a cold shower.

    The next morning they returned the 1-carat diamond pendant, and made sure they got the receipt, then they called the gunny at Elmendorf and made sure it was OK to shoot today. He said he would meet them at the gate. Ron said to watch for a limousine.

    1 hour later, the gate guards were amazed when a stretch limousine pulled up to the gate. They were even more amazed when the gunny told them to wave it through. It parked in the Security parking lot, and 2 Air Force Police loaded the contents of the trunk into Gunny’s Hummer. The driver was instructed to wait there, and the rest of the occupants piled like circus clowns into Gunny’s hummer and drove onto the base. The gate guards just shook their heads. When they arrived at the firing range, Gunny told Ron that he wasn’t expecting an audience. Ron told him that they were his Fianc&#233; and Bill Ayer, the CEO of Alaska Airlines. Gunny thought they would be OK, so he unloaded the Hummer, set the 2 huge rifles on the tables, and had a team of runners (he learned his lesson from the last time - one runner soon becomes a walker) to set up and pull targets on the 1,000 yard line. Gunny handed out eye and ear protection, then they uncased the rifles. Bill was practically drooling, and Nancy was so curious she practically knocked Ron over to see what was in the case. She didn’t realize what she was looking at but Bill did.

    “Ron, that’s not like any Barrett’s rifle I’ve seen in their catalog.”

    Gunny spoke up. “Folks, these are prototype weapons from Barretts that Ron has been doing an extended Testing and Evaluation program on. The one that looks like its barrel is 3 times the normal size is a new suppressed design. It doesn’t totally suppress all firing noise, so we still need eyes and ears when firing it. It comes with a daylight and a night vision scope. Since its broad daylight, obviously we can’t use the NV scope, so we will shoot the daylight scope, which is pretty huge itself. The other rifle is an older prototype with the conventional muzzle brake, which was built to test the new daylight scope. The recoil of that weapon is about what you would expect from a 12-gauge shotgun, but the muzzle blast is brutal. You don’t want to be within 12 feet of the muzzle brake and to the side if he fires it. Behind is safe. Further behind is even better. These rifles, and especially the new suppressed rifle, are capable of 12” groups at 1,000 yards. They are classified as Secret, so you can’t tell anyone you saw or shot these weapons. With that understood, let’s get down to shooting.”

    While Gunny was giving them the security lecture, Ron had set up the suppressed rifle, and was ready to shoot at the 1,000 yard target any time they were ready. Gunny broke out his spotting scope, and set another one up on another table so Bill and Nancy could watch too. Gunny and Ron put on their pair of headsets, and Bill and Nancy put on their hearing protectors.

    It took Ron a while to settle down, then he started reciting the 23rd Psalm. That always worked. The crosshairs were locked on the bullseye as if the scope were fixed to a block of concrete. He touched the trigger, and the first round went right through the center of the x-ring. Gunny was silent this time, because Ron had told him that the cheerleading wasn’t necessary, and might break him out of the zone. 5 shots later, when Ron had locked the bolt back, Gunny told him that he had probably shot his smallest group yet, and sent a runner to pull the target. He came back with the target, and the calipers told the story. He had shot a 6 inch group at 1,000 yards. Gunny just shook his head, there were maybe a half-dozen people in the world that could do that. Ron decided to take a breather and let Bill behind the controls. With Ron acting as shooting coach, Bill got in a comfortable prone position, adjusted the stock to fit him, then sighted through the scope. He couldn’t believe his eyes. The 1,000 yard target was bright, clear, and appeared to be no more than 20 yards away. When he was ready, Ron switched headsets with Bill, and explained how it worked. Once Bill was ready to go, Ron put on his hearing protectors and retreated back to the spotting scopes. Bill inserted the magazine into the rifle, and cycled the action. Looking through the scope, the target was wobbling slightly, but no more than when he shot that trophy Dahl’s Ram in the mountains a few years ago. It was a really long shot for him, 400 yards away with his Remington 7mm Magnum rifle with the Leupold scope. He had shot so much that he could anticipate his wobble, and shoot through it. 5 rounds later, he was amazed that all 5 rounds were inside the bullseye. He wondered how small his group was. 10 minutes later he found out that he had shot a 10-inch group. The gunny had a brilliant idea, and had a tape recorder out when he asked Bill to evaluate the rifle, since Barretts might be interested in the opinions of Civilian Shooters. Ron asked Nancy if she wanted to try it. After Bill reassured her that the recoil was negligible, she said she would love to. Ron acted as the shooting coach again. Nancy wasn’t as experienced of a shooter as Bill, but she listened, and did exactly what Ron told her. She got prone behind the rifle, adjusted the stock to fit her, then checked the image through the scope. She was amazed at how bright and clear the image was, she was looking at a target 1,000 yards away, and it looked like the image through the scope at the 100 yard range where her dad taught her to shoot. When she was ready to shoot, Ron handed her a loaded magazine, and retreated to the spotting scopes. She inserted the magazine into the rifle, cycled the action, and said a quick prayer, got behind the scope, and as soon as the image stabilized of the center of the bullseye, she touched the trigger. Ron was amazed when the first round was an X-ring shot through the center of the bullseye, since even Bill didn’t get an X-ring shot. When she had fired all 5 rounds, she locked the action open, and stood up. Gunny sent a runner to retrieve the target, and Ron walked up to her “How was that?”

    “Ron, you were right, the recoil was about the same as my deer rifle, I can’t wait to see the target.”

    “Nancy, I’ve got some good news, your first round was right through the x-ring, just like mine.”

    Gunny measured her target, and was scratching his head, this couldn’t be right, an inexperienced deer hunter had out-shot him and Bill. He measured her group at 9 &#190;” When Ron saw the number, he picked Nancy up and spun her around in his arms. “You did it, it’s amazing, but the calculator doesn’t lie, you shot a sub-MOA group from an unfamiliar rifle at 1,000 yards. Gunny made sure he got her impressions of the gun, then they spent the rest of the afternoon shooting, until they were tired. They packed the guns back in their cases, and Gunny drove them back to the limousine. The driver had taken a nap, and when he heard the Hummer next to him, he woke up and opened the doors, then drove them back to Bill’s house. They left the guns in the trunk of the limousine, and packed their bags for the trip back to Allakaket. On the drive to the airport, Nancy turned to Bill and said “I hope you won’t be upset, but I’d rather get married in Allakaket in the chapel, and just have a small service with family and friends. Of course you’re invited.”

    Ron looked at Bill and said “I need a best man, would you mind?”

    “Ron, I’d be honored.”

    “Bill, I’ll call you with the details. Thanks for everything.”

    They got out of the limo, and an Alaskan Airlines Baggage handler was waiting to load the heavy cases into their plane. Bill gave Nancy and Ron a hug, and told them to keep in touch, then he got back in the limousine for the short ride to the office. Ron and Nancy bounded up the stairs of their plane, and climbed in the pilot and co-pilot’s seats once Ron had secured the air stairs and the door. Nancy gave Ron a kiss, then he started the turbines, entered the coordinates for Allakaket, and called the tower for permission to take-off. He talked Nancy through what he was doing and why, and she was fascinated. She never knew a big plane like this could be so complicated. Ron received take-off clearance, and taxied to the runway. Minutes later, they were en route to Allakaket. Ron called the tower when they were 15 minutes out, and he made a textbook landing. Before he taxied up the ramp, he made sure to deploy his landing gear, then taxied up to the hangar and shut down. Between the two of them they were able to lug the heavy cases for the rifles into the bed of his pick up, and drove to Ron’s new house. Ron smacked his forehead after they had unloaded the truck “Nancy, I’m assuming you’re renting an apartment in Anchorage.”

    “Oh no, I forgot completely about that, I was supposed to be at work today.”

    “Nancy, is there any reason you can’t quit and live here with me, I’ve got this huge 4-bedroom house, and it’s like living in a museum when I’m here by myself.”

    “You’re not saying…”

    “Like I said, a 4-bedroom house - pick a bedroom, and we’ll sleep in separate rooms until we’re married. I want our first time together to be our wedding night. My mom and dad managed to keep their hands off each other, and they were living in that small cabin.”

    “I like that idea Ron, it gives us time to really get to know each other before we’re married.”

    “I guess this means we need to fly back to Anchorage to move your stuff.”

    “I’d like to get my stuff, luckily it was a furnished apartment, so the furniture stays.”

    “Also we need to see the Mayor, since he’s also the Minister.”

    Nancy said, “I’m ready if you are” and they got into the pickup and drove to meet Bill.

    “Bill, we’re getting married, and would like you to marry us.”

    “Great, when’s the wedding?”

    Nancy spoke up, “Ron mentioned 6 weeks, but I don’t know if we can wait that long”

    “Why’s that?”

    “Ron slid his hands down below my waist when he kissed me last night and I almost attacked him then and there!”

    “Nancy, every engaged couple goes through that, but you need to learn patience. Sometimes you’ll want to make love and it’s not the right time, like before you’re married, or say he had an important meeting the next morning, and he needs his sleep. You shouldn’t refuse each other for trivial reasons, but sometimes it’s best to wait. If I remember correctly Roy and Anne faced the issue of self-control as well, you might want to talk to Anne about it, and she can give you some pointers. Also, you need to schedule at least 4 marriage counseling sessions with me in the next 6 weeks. Are you ready to set the date yet?”

    Nancy said “Bill, let me look at a calendar, what Saturday is 6 weeks from today?”

    “That would be May 15th. Ron, is that OK with you?”

    “Sure Bill, it’s before my busy season so my schedule is pretty open until June or July.”

    “OK, I’ll write that date on my calendar. Ron did you get a best man?”

    “Bill Ayer said he’d do it.”

    “Nancy, anyone that can give you away, or act as a maid of honor?”

    “Just my friend from Anchorage. We both worked at the same Veterinary Hospital. I guess this means she’s going to have to find a new roommate.”


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    State of Denial
    Chapter 3 - Moving day

    The next morning they flew to Anchorage to move Nancy’s personal stuff. Luckily her roommate let them use her pickup truck, and her stuff was cleaned out of the apartment by that afternoon. The Veterinarian reluctantly accepted her resignation, and gave her a final check that included 2 weeks of unused vacation/sick time, and 2 weeks as severance pay/wedding present. Not that she needed the money, but she used the money to buy some stuff in Anchorage she thought they could use in their new house. She knew they would get a lot of stuff as wedding presents, so she only bought what she would need for 6 weeks. They loaded it all in the TurboGoose, and Ron was glad the TG was much bigger than the DeHaviland, or they might have to leave some of her stuff behind! Ron drove over to the FAA office, and checked into the required training for an ATP co-pilot. Dan gave him a list of requirements, to act as his copilot, the absolute minimum was a Private Pilot’s license with Sea, twin, and IFR ratings. He had all the books she needed to study, and she now had the time. While she was studying, he would clear the land behind their house and start a garden Nancy told him that she loved fresh vegetables, but never had enough room for a garden, except when they lived in Wisconsin. Ron said room would not be a problem, since they owned 100 acres of forest behind them for a total acreage of 110 acres. Nancy asked him why he bought so much land, then he said that they also owned all the wood on the land, and it was cheaper to heat with wood, and between the tractor and a chainsaw, he could cut a lot of lumber in a short period.

    When he got home, he realized he needed to buy a new chainsaw, since Roy’s saw had seen better days. He called Bill and asked him his suggestions for a new chainsaw. Bill recommended several brands and models while Ron wrote furiously. Next he suggested a dealer to buy them from. Ron was glad he had transferred his DSL service to his new house when he logged on the internet and found exactly what he wanted for even less than the dealer pricing, even after he paid for it to be shipped to Anchorage. He placed the order with his credit card, and left special instructions to contact him via e-mail when it was at the UPS office in Anchorage, since he would go pick it up himself. He received a reply that the price would be $20.00 less for FOB Anchorage. He could pick it up at the UPS office himself in Anchorage the next time he had to fly there. He also bought some sawhorses, a splitting maul, wedges, sledge hammer to drive the wedge, and a complete set of safety gear. He added a set of log dollies to the list, since he could pull several logs per trip with the tractor.

    Later when he was driving around town, he spotted an auxiliary fuel tank that was mounted on a pickup bed for sale, and stopped his truck and knocked on the door. He asked how much they wanted for the tank. They were reluctant to sell, but needed the money since work was scarce. Ron asked him if he could pay him to deliver diesel to his place once a month. He handed the owner a check for the asking price of the tank, and told him that he had just paid their delivery fee for 1 year in advance. The tank held 200 gallons, and Ron owned the town’s fuel tanks and the fuel in them, so filling his tanks at home would just be lost profit. Ron asked him to come to the house and get a passkey for the diesel and a receipt book. He explained that the pumps only worked on a passkey, and this one coded the fuel to his personal use account, he could keep 10 additional gallons of diesel as well as the delivery fee, but his accountant would review the delivery receipts turned in versus the numbers on the pump, and any discrepancy in excess of 15 gallons per delivery would be charged to his account, and if excessive would result in the termination of their contract. Being one of the more honest citizens of Allakaket, he promised Ron that there wouldn’t be any discrepancies beyond the 10 gallons allotted for delivery. They shook hands, and the contract was sealed. Later that day Bob, the owner of the tank, showed up and Ron gave him a passkey and a receipt book. Ron said each receipt had to be countersigned by him or Nancy only. Bob checked the level of diesel in Ron’s tank, and decided there was enough space to deliver some fuel tomorrow. He delivered 200 gallons, wrote a neat and legible receipt for the fuel, and Ron signed it and kept a copy, and gave Bob a $5.00 tip. He checked the tank after the delivery and it was full.

    Later, Ron received an e-mail that his chainsaw and all the gear he had ordered were in the Anchorage UPS office. He called Bill and asked him if he needed anything delivered to Allakaket, since he needed to go to Anchorage and pick his saw and stuff up at the UPS office. Bill said he had a load that needed to be flown from Anchorage to Allakaket, and he could have his delivery driver pick up the shipment if Ron could e-mail UPS and authorize the delivery company to pick it up. Ron got all the information from Bill, then sent an e-mail to UPS authorizing Bill’s delivery service company to pick up his shipment and deliver it to the Anchorage airport.

    The next morning Ron flew to Anchorage, and the delivery driver loaded his plane, and he flew back to Allakaket, where someone unloaded the plane and put his packages in the bed of his pickup. He drove back up to his house, and unloaded the packages into his garage. He walked in the front door, and Nancy was sitting there studying. He walked up silently, slipped his arms around her belly, and kissed the nape of her neck until she said, “If you don’t stop, I won’t be able to either. By the way, I like the way you say “Hi Dear, I’m home!” I’m glad we decided to have 4 kids, because if you keep that up after we’re married, I’ll have a real problem keeping my hands off you!” Ron was mentally counting the days. He decided that now would be a good time to take the tractor out back and remove some stumps while he had some self-control left. It seemed the more time he spent with Nancy, the more he loved her. One very pleasant surprise came when Nancy cooked dinner for him the first time. It seemed that Bill with all his training was an amateur Italian cook compared to Nancy. She finally told him that her mother’s maiden name was Romero, and she was a 2nd generation Northern Italian who learned to cook from her maternal grandmother who had all the recipes from the old country in her head. American-trained Italian cooks tended to drown pasta in sauce, instead of using it as an accent. Ron was glad he liked Italian food! Every night after dinner, he’d quiz her about what she had studied, and not only was she a quick study, she must have had a photographic memory like his. He checked with Dan at the FAA, and he gave Ron verbal permission to teach Nancy flight basics in the TurboGoose, but to go easy, since the TG could be a handful for a novice to fly.

    Ron asked Nancy if she were ready to fly. He told her that Dan said it would be OK if he taught her basic maneuvers using the TG for now, since Ron was an ATP rated pilot and his rating exceeded what was necessary for a standard VFR IP. Nancy squealed and gave Ron a big hug. He took that as a yes, so the next day, he filled the tanks on the TurboGoose, and while he was at the controls, talked her through the pre-flight checklist, radio procedure, and the take-off setup. She watched him like a hawk, and when he received permission to take off, he told her the trick was to push the throttles smartly to full, wait until the airspeed indicator read 80 knots, then to pull back on the yoke until the plane was at a 20 degree nose-up attitude according to the Artificial Horizon, and hold that until they were above 500 feet AGL, at which point, she could ease off on the yoke until the nose-up was a more sedate 10 degrees, and the turbines were throttled back to their cruise settings. Ron climbed to 2,000 feet, then called the tower. “Allakaket Airlines Number NA17539 requesting clearance for student pilot training.”

    “Roger, pattern empty below 2,000 feet.”

    “OK Nancy, I want you to put your hands on the yoke and your feet on the pedals, and just get a feel for what I’m doing with the plane.” Ron was doing exactly what Jim had done over 5 years ago with him - was it 5 years already? Ron performed the basic maneuvers without conscious thought, thinking of Jim. He looked up, and they were flying straight and level, but his hands and feet were off the controls, and Nancy was flying the plane.

    “Great job Nancy, you’re smoother than I was at this time. OK, now I want you to try some gentle turns to the right. Come to heading 180 without losing altitude or airspeed.”

    She remembered from her reading to hold the nose level, no more than 15 degrees of bank, and to add throttle if necessary. She came out of the turn at the same altitude, at a heading of 179, and the same airspeed.

    “Well done sweetie. You remembered everything you read, and now you’re applying it. OK, same turn to the left.”

    Either Ron was a better instructor, or Nancy was a better student, because she did everything he asked her to flawlessly the first time. She was fearless as well, because she had no problems flying the plane on the ragged edge of a stall. “let’s see” thought Ron “She can cook, she’s a good kisser, likes to fly planes, is a good shot, and likes animals - sounds like a winner to me.” After another half hour of Nancy flying the plane, Ron took the controls and returned home. After they landed, Ron turned to Nancy, “That was the best job of student flying I’ve ever seen, are you sure you’ve never flown before?”

    “Nope, just flying with you from the right seat, but I learned a lot watching you, you seem to have a very light touch on the controls, so I just copied what you did.”

    Ron leaned over and gave Nancy a big kiss. When they came up for air Ron taxied the plane back to the ramp, extended the landing gear, stopped at the fuel pumps and filled up, then taxied to the hangar.

    Ron spent the rest of the day with the tractor pulling stumps. When he was finished, Bill said he had a 10HP rear-tine rototiller that he could borrow, so he drove over there to pick it up, and came back home, rolled it down the ramps to the gravel, and out into the back yard. Whoever had cut the trees to build his house left piles of wood chips that Ron had distributed all around the garden plot, then he used the rototiller to turn them into the soil. It was too late in the season to plant this year, so he just left it so the chips would decompose and build up the soil.

    The next day, Ron got an e-mail from Steve telling him Barrett’s had another T&E project for him, and they needed him at MacDill ASAP. Ron replied, asking if he could bring his fianc&#233;. Ron thought “what a way to find out I’m getting married!”

    Steve replied “Sure, bring her along, Que Paso?”

    Ron replied “Oops - forgot to tell you I’m getting married in a few weeks.”

    Ron walked into the kitchen, and asked Nancy if she’d like to spend a week at MacDill AFB. The look she gave him told him that she needed more information.

    “Steve asked me to come to MacDill for that T&E project for Barrett’s, obviously they have some new toy for me to try out that they don’t want to get out of their control. Besides, they pay me $20K per evaluation, and they have given me 2 Barrett’s rifles and scopes worth over $50K total.”

    “Why didn’t you say so - let’s go!”

    Ron replied to Steve’s last e-mail telling him that they could be to Elmendorf whenever they wanted them.

    5 minutes later Steve said the JSOC’s VC-20 would be on the ground at Elmendorf and ready to go at 0900 tomorrow, and they could leave their rifles behind this time.

    Ron replied they would be there at 0900 and ready to go.

    Ron told Nancy that they needed to be wheels-up by 0730 tomorrow, since they needed to be in Elmendorf at 0900 to meet General Shepard’s VC-20 then for a ride to MacDill AFB.

    Nancy went into her bedroom, set her alarm for 0600 (she was starting to think in military time from hanging around all these pilots) and packed enough clothes to last a week. She packed every piece of lightweight clothing she had, since even in May, Florida can be hot. She packed a light windbreaker since it was light and reasonably water proof. Ron walked into his room, and did the same, then they set their bags by the front door.

    Nancy made a beautiful Italian dinner, and Ron said grace, then they ate dinner, laughing and joking. They watched a movie after dinner, and went to bed early. Their alarms went off at 0600, within a minute of each other. Ron was glad he had installed the 100 gallon hot water reservoir with a back-up heater unit. The heliostat outside was making more than enough hot water for them, and he considered putting in a Jacuzzi. They ate breakfast and were out the door at 0700. He pulled the TurboGoose out of the hangar, and while he parked the truck, Nancy started pre-flighting the aircraft and started the turbine start procedures. By the time he was in the pilot’s seat, the turbines were warming up, and as soon as the gauges were in the green, he advanced the throttles and the propellers started spinning. Nancy entered the coordinates for Elmendorf into the nav system, and was in the process of setting the controls to take off while Ron taxied to the water and rolled into the water. He retracted the landing gear as soon as they were totally waterborne, and advanced the throttles to fast taxi. Nancy had completed the pre-flight checks and had set the plane up to take off. Ron turned to her and said “Nancy, how would you like to handle the take-off?”

    She squealed like a school girl, and Ron called the tower, and received permission for Nancy to handle the take-off. He reminded her to let the plane get up to 80 knots, then pull the yoke back smartly, and hold a 20 degree nose-up until they were clear of the ridge and at 500ft AGL. They taxied to the downwind end of the lake, and Nancy turned the plane upwind with the rudder, since they had enough airspeed over the rudder surfaces. Once they were facing the correct direction, Nancy put her hand over the throttles, and said “co-pilot’s plane” and Ron took his hands and feet off the controls. Nancy moved the throttles to full smartly, and still had half the lake left when she was doing 80 knots, and did just like Ron told her, and the plane screamed into the air. At 500 AGL, she eased forward on the yoke, reduced throttle to the cruise setting, and turned toward Anchorage, all without being told. She even remembered to clean up the flaps as the plane accelerated to cruise speed. Since she needed the stick time, they didn’t use the autopilot. Ron sat back, grinning like the Cheshire cat. He could see Nancy really loved flying, and wasn’t faking it. She wanted the controls in her hands. Ron made the radio call at 0845, and as they approached the runway, he asked Nancy if it were OK for him to land the plane, since a wheeled landing in the Goose was touchy. She reluctantly agreed. Ron called “Pilot’s plane” and Nancy let go of the controls. Ron set the plane up for landing, with Nancy watching his every move. She noticed that he was going faster and flatter for a ground approach, and asked him. “Ron, the setup for wheeled landing is totally different than when you land on the lake.”

    “Nancy, for 1 thing, the runway at Elmendorf is almost 3 miles long, and we’d be taxiing forever if we landed at anything below 80 knots, so I hold it at 120 knots until I’m over the landing threshold, and retard the throttles until we land at 80. Watch me carefully.” Ron held a 10 degree nose-up until he cleared the landing threshold at 50 feet AGL, then retarded the throttles to 80 knots, and the plane sank to the runway, kissing the tires, and landing without a bounce. He let the plane roll, since they had almost 2 miles of runway left. A “follow me” truck was waiting at the end of the runway, when it activated its lights, and Ron followed him. They pulled up next to the VC-20 at 0855 and shut down. They grabbed their bags, exited the aircraft and locked it up, then walked over to the VC-20, where their ID’s were checked by the crew chief, and they were escorted aboard the aircraft. At 0900, they were headed toward the runway, and were soon flying to MacDill. They were resting in their VIP seats next to each other and holding hands. Later that afternoon, they landed at MacDill, and a much grayer Steve was waiting for them. Steve hugged Ron, and when he was introduced to Nancy, he hugged her too. Ron said “Sorry I didn’t tell you sooner, it slipped my mind.”

    “Well now I know what you’re doing instead of the Air Force.”

    “Steve, you’ve got it wrong, I was set to go right up to the point that Congress basically disbanded the Air Force, sent all their transport and cargo aircraft to the Army, and their strategic bombers to SAC as a separate unit, then divided their fighter wings between the Navy and Marines, but only half of them were taken, and the other pilots were RIFed. There was no way I was going to fly the Strike Eagle, and I was already worth 2-3 Million dollars by then, and starting my own Airline. I met Nancy when Dan from the Anchorage FAA office invited me to church after I attended the Saturday Christian Businessman’s Prayer Breakfast.”

    “Sorry Ron - I guess I figured this all wrong. Anyway you did the right thing. If I weren’t in a Special Forces Command, I might have gotten RIFed as a junior Colonel, since there were dozens of Colonels in the Air Force with more seniority than me getting RIFed right out of fighter wings and Supply commands. Congress is really making a mess of the military, and if it weren’t for George Bush’s attraction to small mobile forces like Special Forces, MacDill might get closed too. You don’t need to worry about Elmendorf, it has way too much strategic value for even those idiot politicians to even think about closing it.”

    “How’s Bear Doing?”

    “You mean Chief Simmons, he put in his retirement papers. He’s a senior Chief, and he’s not going to get promoted, and he already has his 20 years in.

    “Is he still on base?”

    “He has to wait for his replacement. He’s still on base.”

    “So what’s Barrett got up their sleeves this time?”

    “You’ll have to see it to believe it.”

    They got in Steve’s Hummer and drove to the VIP quarters, where Steve had arranged a 2-room suite since they weren’t married yet. Steve didn’t say anything, but he thought Nancy was prettier than Samantha. After they had checked in, Steve asked Ron if he wanted to see what all the secrecy was about. The 3 of them got into Steve’s Hummer again, and drove to the shooting range, where this big huge thing was covered by a tarp. The range master came out to greet them, and told Ron “You’ll never guess what Barrett’s is up to this time!”

    They walked over to the tarp, and Gunny removed it with a flourish. A huge gun was mounted on a 10x10 cube of reinforced concrete. The barrel looked like it was a foot in diameter, and the camera mounted to the top of the barrel had the biggest telephoto lens Ron had ever seen.

    Being a big movie buff, Gunny said “I give you Robo-gun!”

    When the chuckles died down, he explained that the military was so impressed with what Barretts did with their 50BMG rifle, they wanted to see what they could do with the Bushmaster 25mm Autocannon. This was the result, a suppressor and a precision traverse and elevation mechanism that could withstand the recoil energy of the 25mm round, and hopefully had the accuracy of the BMG-50 Barrett’s rifle. That’s where Ron came in. In this case, his sight was a TV monitor, and his control was a joystick/trigger combination that looked like it belonged on a video game. That wasn’t too far from the truth, the military took the Flight Stick, and asked the manufacturer to change it slightly and ruggedize it to Mil-spec standards. This was the result. It had a cage over the trigger, because the trigger was set to less than 2 lbs. of pull, and the vernier ratio of the controls could be set from anything between 1:1000 and 1:1. They installed it in a bunker to protect the gunner for testing, and it would replace the Bushmaster in the Bradley and other US vehicles if they could make it work. It would take Ron 2 days just to read the manuals and learn to operate the controls before they did any firing.

    They walked over to Gunny’s office, and he had 3 huge manuals, and a smaller thin paperback that he said would be the most useful. The other 2 were highly technical manuals for engineering, maintenance, and repair. Ron read the cover page and the table of contents. He was amazed at the level of technology, this gun was truly a point and shoot gun. It had a laser range finder/designator, ballistic computer, image and barrel stabilization system capable of compensating for travel over rough ground at up to 60mph, and a T&E mechanism that could track and fire at 10 separate targets per minute. All the gunner had to do was put the target in the crosshairs, and squeeze the trigger, sending a pulse of laser energy to the target, and as soon as the computer had calculated the trajectory, the gun fired, destroying the target. Or, the mode that he was most interested in was the long-range precision fire mode in which case it behaved more like the Barretts light 50, and fired a single round at a target over a mile away with a 95% or better probability of kill. According to the manual the camera system was an integrated day/night system capable of 100x magnification in either day or night mode, with an infrared laser illuminator/designator/rangefinder that selected its transmission power based on whether it was being used as an illuminator, as a designator for a laser guided weapon, or as a rangefinder for the gun. This was one smart gun. If the suppressor worked as well on this gun as it did on the Barretts, the only clue the enemy would have when they were being shot at would be when a BMP blew up. Enemy Generals would have to watch their step as well, because Barretts was attempting to make the Bushmaster 25mm Auto cannon sniper accurate out to a mile. Even enemy tank commanders would be forced to button up, or risk getting shot by a hidden Bradley with the new cannon. Ron finished the paperback manual, and asked Gunny what the T&E protocol was this time. He told Ron they would have 2 days of day testing planned, 2 days of night testing, and then 2 days at a moving target range where they would test the gun’s ability to engage multiple targets. Ron said he wasn’t qualified to perform the last test, but Gunny disagreed, since they wanted someone with minimal familiarity with the gun to try to engage multiple targets at various ranges, because the average gunner wouldn’t have thousands of rounds to practice with the gun either and it had to be extremely user friendly. They adjourned for the rest of the day, since the Barretts tech rep wasn’t there until tomorrow morning. Ron asked Steve if they could meet Bear. He pulled out his cell phone and made a phone call. Then he handed the phone to Ron. “Bear, I’m here with my Fianc&#233;, sure I’d love to go diving, but I wanted to ask you if Nancy could come too - OK” (covers mouthpiece and asks Nancy what size swim suit she wears - Medium in a one piece) “Bear, she wears a medium in one piece if you’ve got one. The commissary does - great, I’ll buy her a suit and we’ll be right over.”

    “Nancy, how would you like to learn how to scuba dive?”

    “You’re kidding Right?”

    “Nope, Bear, excuse me Chief Simmons is a SEAL diving instructor, and also a PADI dive master and diving instructor. They’ve got a boat all set up to go, and if you can swim, we can start in the ocean and skip the pool stuff since I’m a certified diver too.”

    “Great, let’s go.”

    “Steve, we need to buy Nancy a one-piece swimsuit at the commissary. Since you’re the only one here with privileges, we need you to come with us.”

    Steve drove them to the commissary, and Nancy spotted the perfect suit. 10 minutes later, they drove up to the dock. Bear was waiting for them, and gave Ron a bear hug, and when he introduced Bear to his Fianc&#233;, Bear said “Well let me be the first to kiss the bride” and swept her off her feet and kissed her lips. When she came up for air, Nancy was laughing “that tickles!” evidently Bear’s fu Manchu mustache went up her nose. She grabbed her suit out of the Hummer, and they made their way aboard. Steve drove back to his office. Ron and Nancy went below to change. Ron changed first since it only took a minute to put on his trunks. When Nancy came out, Ron had a hard time breathing. The suit fitted her like a second skin. Ron said “I think we better get a dive suit on you right now, or else we’ll never make it to the wedding.” He handed her the 4/3 suit Bear had selected for her. The suit still was form fitting, but at least she didn’t look like she was wearing blue paint and nothing else. Ron considered taking a cold shower before Nancy kissed him, and then he really needed one. He started to blush, and Nancy laughed when she realized what had happened to her fianc&#233;.

    When she got a good look at him she said “Maybe we better make that 6 kids!”

    Ron put his suit on as well, and was glad to see it had the desired effect. He would be glad to get into the cold water. Once they were all suited up, they came up on deck, and Bear’s chin nearly hit the floor when he got a look at Nancy. He refrained from giving her a wolf whistle since her fianc&#233; was standing there, and they were his friends. He set the autopilot on the boat now that they were out of the channel, and they went below to the galley were they could sit in comfort, and he could give Nancy her basic diving instructions. 2 hours later they arrived at the shallow reef they had first dived, and Bear took out the aqualungs, and Ron suited up by himself. Bear was pleased to note his confidence and expertise, and asked him about it.

    “I went scuba diving with Bill Ayer last winter in Kauai, we spent a week diving the reefs, and I got a lot of practice.”

    “That must have been fun. Bill Ayer, were have I heard that name before?”

    Nancy said “He’s the CEO of Alaska Airlines. Ron owns Allakaket Airlines, and they just became a feeder airline to Alaska Airlines.”

    “Ron if that’s true, you must be rolling in the dough.”

    “I’ve got more than I need, if that’s what you mean.”

    Ron and Bear helped Nancy into her BC and tank assembly, and showed her how to attach everything. Ron did the hands-on stuff while Bear did the talking. Once they were suited up, Bear put on his gear, then Ron and Bear checked each other out as a final safety check. When they were ready to go, Bear stepped off the end, then Ron and Nancy, who made sure to hang onto her facemask and regulator as she went. She finished her step, which drew her legs together and stopped her descent as it was supposed to Bear and Ron were close by, but she seemed at ease in the water so they let her get used to the equipment. After swimming on the surface, she spotted a fish and dove down to check it out, with Ron at her side. She sat there motionless admiring the fish, and breathing underwater like she had been doing it all her life. Finally Ron could stand it no longer, and gave her the “surface” sign. They both took their regulators out of their mouths on the surface. “Any thing else I need to know about you?”

    “I used to go skin diving years ago when we lived in Florida, so Scuba is no major difference, except I can breathe under water.”

    “OK, follow me, just make sure you don’t hold your breath, and if your ears hurt, stop and clear them before diving deeper.”

    They put their regulators back in, and Ron gave Bear the OK sign, and the “down” sign. The trio all dove and slowly swam for the bottom 30 feet below. Nancy’s dive computer was strapped onto her left forearm, in the “beginner” position so she could monitor her air at a glance. They stayed down an hour admiring the fish. Ron pointed out some bigger reef fish, and Nancy was impressed, since as a skin diver she rarely got this deep, and wasn’t able to stay down more than a fraction of a second. An hour later, Ron looked at his gauge, and it was getting low enough that they should surface. Ron got Nancy’s attention, and he looked at her gauge, and she had way more air than he did, but since he was getting low, he looked at Bear, and gave him the “surface” and “air” signs. Bear nodded, and the 3 of them slowly ascended to the surface. When they got to the surface, they swam to the boat. Bear climbed the boarding ladder first, then Ron and Nancy. Bear helped Ron, and they both helped Nancy. Once they had their tanks and gear off, Ron and Nancy went below, and Nancy gave Ron a bear hug. If he hadn’t been wearing a wetsuit, Ron might have been embarrassed by his reaction, instead he held his fianc&#233; and told her he loved her. “Nancy, I just figured out what we can do on our honeymoon?”

    “Besides this?”

    “We can do that all you want, but I think you really like diving. We can go diving anywhere in the world whenever you want.”

    “OK, let’s get out of these wet suits and back into civvies before I give you a heart attack.”

    “You noticed?”

    “Ron your heart was racing when I was holding you, and when I walked out in that swimsuit, you looked like you weren’t going to wait for the wedding.”

    “Sorry dear, it’s just I didn’t realize you had such a stunning body.”

    “What about when I was wearing the dress?”

    “That was different. Your swimsuit was skintight - literally.”

    “Now I know why you wanted to get that wetsuit on me so fast - you poor dear.”

    “Even still, you almost gave Bear a heart attack when you walked out on deck.”

    “OK, Ron, I’ll shower and change first, then I’ll make sure to leave plenty of cold water for you!”

    Ron hugged Nancy again, then smacked her bottom and told her to get in the shower while she still could. She scampered into the bathroom and locked the door behind her.

    “What a woman!”

    15 minutes later Nancy came out much more presentable, and gave Ron another hug and a deep soul kiss.

    When they came up for air, he said “What was that all about?”

    “I just wanted to give you a reason for the cold shower you’re going to have to take - they’re out of hot water.”

    “Now you know why I installed that 100 gallon tank at the house.”

    Ron got dressed and they headed back to the dock. Bear called ahead, and Steve was waiting for them. Before they left, Bear gave Nancy another hug and kiss, and Ron a big hug. Ron pulled one of his Allakaket Airlines cards out of his wallet, and made Bear promise to call him when he got out of the Navy. Bear looked like he was about to cry, so Ron turned to leave, and walked with Nancy to Steve’s Hummer. He took them back to the VIP quarters, then left since he had a ton of paperwork to fill out.

    Chapter 4 - Robo-Gun

    The next morning Ron and Nancy ate breakfast, and Steve drove them over to the range where Gunny and the Tech Rep from Barretts were waiting for them.

    “OK, Ron, we’re all set to do the preliminary daylight tests of the gun. We had Lake City make a special batch of match ammo that matches the specs of the military 25mm round, but with a solid bullet instead of High explosive. I’ve already set up a target at 1,000 yards. It’s your job to take these rounds, and see if you can shoot as small a group as you did with the Barretts.”

    “Gunny, I hate to tell you but last week at Elmendorf I shot a 6 inch group at the 1,000 yard line with the suppressed Barrett!”

    The tech rep was all over Ron asking him questions, it seems no one had managed to shoot a group that small yet with ANY Barretts rifle. His tape recorder was spinning, recording Ron’s every word for later analysis. Finally they led Ron and the rest of the group to a bunker and stuck Ron inside a cubicle. Gunny said they were inside a sound and explosion-proof bunker for their own protection, since if the gun blew up in testing, it could kill everyone in a 30 foot radius, and the gun was electronically aimed and fired so there was no reason for the operator to be anywhere near the gun. Ron agreed, but still preferred to pull his own triggers, not let some machine do the job. Then he remembered Robo-gun was totally a machine, not a rifle. He remembered something from a Bruce Willis Movie called The Jackal. He used a 25mm auto cannon just like this to attempt to assassinate the First Lady. He asked the Barretts tech rep and he admitted that they got the idea from the movie, but their weapon had several features the gun in the movie didn’t. The tech rep inserted a key and turned it, and Robo-gun came to life. The screen lit and Ron experimented with the joystick controls Just like the manual said, he could control the sensitivity of the stick from a 1:1,000 ratio to 1:1 by turning a knob on either the azimuth or elevation control. Ron was amazed how steady the gun was even at the 1:1 setting. It slewed and stopped on a dime with no overtravel. He was running the gun in “sniper” mode so it didn’t track targets but it increased the accuracy of each shot by using the stabilization software to eliminate all vibrations in the system. He focused the camera on the target, then dialed up the zoom ratio until it was maxed at 100:1 At that point, the target looked like it was 10 yards away. He carefully centered the crosshair image on the center of the target, pressed the ranging/lock button, then uncaged the trigger and as soon as he touched it, the gun barked, and a 25mm hole appeared right in the center of the target. When the smoke cleared, Ron noted the crosshairs were still centered on the bullseye, and he triggered the gun again. Once the smoke cleared, he noticed there was only 1 hole on the paper. Either this gun was super-accurate, or way off. He hoped the former. Just to be sure, he tripped the trigger until he had fired the gun 5 times. The Tech Rep reached over, switched off and removed the key, disabling and safing the system. Once he was sure the system was off, Gunny sent a runner to pull the target. They almost fell over in amazement when there was just one hole in the center. Gunny laid the target on a light table, and examined it using a 10x magnifier. He could see the evidence of multiple tears in the paper surrounding the hole, and theorized that all 5 rounds had gone through a 28mm hole at 1,000 yards. The Barretts Tech Rep was jumping up and down yelling, then he called Ronnie Barrett, “Mr. Barrett, yes Ron Williams just test-fired Robo-gun, and it works perfectly. According to Gunny, it just shot a 28mm 5-shot group at 1,000 yards! That means any deviation from that number from here on out is probably a function of platform instability, since when it’s bolted to a 10x10 block of concrete, it shot a one-hole group. Now all we need to do is test the software to see if it works in the other modes. Yes, thank you Mr. Barrett.”

    “Ron that was Ron Barrett, the owner of the company. I think he’s dancing a jig about now, and he told me to tell you well done. It will take us a day to move and reset the gun to their moving target range, so we’ll see you at 0900 tomorrow at the moving target range.”

    Ron had Bear’s cell number, so he called it. “Chief Simmons, this is an unsecured line.”

    “Chief, its Ron. We have the rest of the day off, feel like going diving?”

    “Sure, just tell your fianc&#233; that the doc upped my BP meds thanks to her!”

    “I know, she’s a hottie - Ok, see you in half an hour.”

    “Nancy, that was Bear, if you want to we can go diving again today. By the way, he said the doc had to up his BP meds after yesterday!”

    “Poor Guy!”

    They walked out of the bunker and Gunny must have called Steve, because he was waiting for them. “Steve, I’m sorry you get stuck playing chauffeur to us, but I really appreciate it.”

    “Ron, don’t worry about it; General Shepard just got a phone call from Ronnie Barrett, it seems that your first test was an amazing success. News like that puts him in a good mood, which makes my job easier. Besides this way I get to spend some time with you. So you guys set a date yet?”

    Nancy spoke up, “Steve it’s May 15th, hope you can make it because you’re invited.”

    “Wouldn’t miss it for the world. I’ll make sure the general’s VC-20 is available.”

    “Good thing Bill doubled the size of the Inn, we’ll probably need all the rooms for out of town guests. That reminds me, what about your family Nancy?”

    “I lost touch with most of them, but I’m sure my mom can track them down, or is still in touch with them. I was the youngest of 4 kids, and everyone else is much older than me and scattered all over the US.”

    Steve drove them to Bear’s diving boat, then told Ron he would see them later.

    Bear hugged them like long lost relatives, but didn’t kiss Nancy this time.

    “Bear, I’m sorry I almost gave you a heart attack. I didn’t know the suit fit so well.”

    “That’s OK Nancy, it just reminded me my heart still works at 100% rpm.”

    They all laughed at that, and they walked aboard.

    “Nancy you better get dressed by yourself this time, or we might not make it to the wedding.”

    Bear spoke up, “Nancy, I hope you don’t mind, but I switched your 4/3 suit for a 6/4 suit, I don’t think I can handle any more excitement!”

    Ron joked “Well Bear, I am a Certified Paramedic in Alaska!”

    “That’s great Ron, but I don’t have a defibrillator.”

    “That’s OK, I’ll just use a couple of spark plug wires.”

    Nancy took the opportunity to duck into the forward stateroom and change. She spotted herself in the mirror after she put her suit on, and was amazed that Ron didn’t attack her on the spot the first time. She quickly stepped into her wetsuit and zipped it up. She looked in the mirror again, this time she still looked curvaceous, but not too revealing. She’d have to make it up to Ron later. When she finished dressing, she opened the door and Ron was standing there.


    “Much better Nancy, now poor old Bear won’t have a heart attack.”

    “Sorry Ron, I got a look at myself in that swimsuit, and I’m amazed you were able to keep your hands off me!”

    “Just wait until our wedding night, I’ll make it up to you.”

    “Ron, take it easy, I’m already up to six kids.”

    Ron and Nancy had a good laugh, then she left the room to Ron so he could get dressed. 5 minutes later he was wearing a pair of SEAL trunks, but it was Nancy’s turn to ogle him since he hadn’t put his wetsuit on yet. All those years hauling wood and stuff must have paid off because his upper body just rippled with muscle. He didn’t look like a body builder, just like a man in peak physical shape. She handed him his wet suit, and soon they were ready to go. They walked up on deck, and Bear told Nancy “Much better - you better wear a 6/4 suit from now on.” They both had a good laugh and Bear told them they were about an hour away from their dive site. They spent the time training Nancy for her PADI cert, and giving Ron some refresher information. When they got to the site, a shallow wreck Bear and Ron had dove before, they suited up and checked each other, then jumped in the water. The three of them swam around the whole wreck, and Bear kept an eye on his dive computer, because they didn’t want to exceed their no-decompression limits. When his computer said they had 5 minutes to surface, he got their attention, and they rose to the surface. They both had air in their tanks, but Ron realized that Bear didn’t want to make them decompress by staying down too long, and they could go diving again tomorrow. Ron and Nancy got changed, and then they met in the galley after Bear had pulled up anchor, and set the autopilot for home. They continued Nancy’s training in the galley, and Bear told them that after a couple more sessions, Nancy would qualify for her open water cert as well.

    The next morning, Steve drove Ron and Nancy to the moving target training area, and told them he’d drive them over to the dive boat when they were finished. Since they knew the gun was safe, they didn’t need the bunker, and used a plywood enclosure to duplicate the conditions inside a vehicle. Ron had been reading up, and as soon as the tech rep activated the system, Ron configured it for moving target, stationary vehicle shooting, and he told the gunny he was ready. He had the display zoomed out wide enough to ID targets as they appeared, and he slewed the crosshairs onto each target as they popped up, and pressed the trigger, designating them. The gun tracked the targets independently and destroyed them in the most efficient pattern. There were over a dozen targets moving at once, and the gun lagged behind Ron by 3 targets, but the target never needed to be re-acquired, and each hit was deemed a kill based on location. Ron thought this was just like the video games he used to play on his computer, except he was firing real bullets. 5 minutes later, the Gunny halted the scenario, he had run out of targets. Gunny checked his display and Ron had scored a perfect score, all targets from 100 yards to a half-mile had been engaged and destroyed.

    Gunny and the Tech rep were incredulous, and grilled Ron. He explained that it was just like the video games he played growing up on his computer, except this one fired live bullets. The basic eye hand coordination was something any 14-yr old video addict developed naturally. All this scenario needed was some sound to make a good video game. The good news was the gun definitely worked. Now all they had to do was try this at night. The tech rep told Ron to be back at 2000 for the night test. Gunny called Steve, and an hour later they were aboard Bear’s dive boat headed to another cool diving spot. Nancy only needed 2 more dives and to pass the written test to get her open water cert. They got home later that afternoon, and Ron had to get right to bed because he had a long night ahead of him. At 1930, Steve knocked on his door, and they drove to the moving target range. Ron ran the same scenario with the same results. The camera worked the same day or night, and Ron had no problem designating and engaging targets. They spent more time writing up the report than he did shooting. He was home before 2200, and back in bed. The next morning they met in Gunny’s office to write the report, and then the Tech rep for Barrett presented Ron a check for $50 Thousand. Ron Barrett thought the extra was a well-deserved bonus, and Ron didn’t complain. The rest of the test had to wait for another prototype to be built and installed in an existing Bradley. Ron made a couple of suggestions that the Tech Rep took extensive notes on, like how to stabilize the Bradley IFV for long-range precision shooting. He thought if they used outriggers like a crane used, but smaller and lighter since all they had to do was keep the vehicle from rocking while the gun was firing. He said if they used high-speed hydraulic rams, like they used in low-riders, the outriggers could be deployed and retracted in less than a minute, and the gun would then be able to “shoot and scoot” and engage targets at a much greater distance than previously thought. All they had to do to extend the range of the gun to over a mile was to install the stabilizer outriggers. The gun was capable of pin-point accuracy out to over a mile, and the software worked, all they needed to make it work in a Bradley was to work on the gun/vehicle interface. When they finished, Gunny called Steve, who brought Nancy with him, and they spent the next 2 days diving, and Bear gave Nancy her PADI open water cert after she passed her written test, since she flew through the skills tests. When they left, Bear gave each of them a bear hug, and Ron made him promise to call him when he got out, he had some ideas that Bear might be interested in.

    When they got back to the dock, Steve was waiting for them. They were scheduled to fly back to Anchorage at 0800 tomorrow. They could have flown tonight if they didn’t go diving. Ron told Steve that Nancy got her PADI open water certificate as well.

    “I can guess where you guys are going on your honeymoon, someplace you can go diving.”

    “That and someplace with big comfortable beds and air conditioning.”

    Steve drove them back to the VIP area, and ate dinner with them, then they walked over to their room, kissed each other goodnight, and went to bed.

    They were up at 0600, dressed and packed, then they went downstairs for an intimate breakfast by themselves, since there wasn’t anyone staying in the VIP quarters right now besides themselves. Steve showed up at 0745 to take them to the VIP terminal for their flight back to Anchorage. They breezed through security, and boarded the aircraft. 2 minutes after they were seated and belted in, the plane taxied and took off. They slept through the flight. Ron found out Nancy’s shoulder made a pretty good pillow. They put the arm up between them so they could be comfortable, and it worked. They landed in Anchorage around noon, and taxied right next to Ron’s plane. They boarded the aircraft, and Ron asked Nancy if she wanted to take it off.

    “You mean the plane of course?”

    “No, I thought we’d join the mile high club, of course the plane!”

    Nancy did just as good of a job preflighting the plane as Ron did, and he called the tower to get take-off clearance. She taxied to the correct runway, and when they got clearance, she advanced the throttles, and pulled back on the yoke once they were going fast enough. Since there were no obstructions, she eased the yoke forward and cruise climbed to 2,000 feet and flew to Allakaket. Ron decided to let her handle the landing, and she did it perfectly. Bill was waiting for them, and he almost fainted when Nancy told him she landed the plane. Ron handed him a check for $50 thousand and asked Bill to put it in their account. Bill said “Not bad for a week’s work!”

    “More like 8 hours, and 4 days of goofing off and diving. Nancy’s got her PADI cert now.”

    “Not bad. Ron, Slim died while you were gone. Ordinarily I wouldn’t need to tell you except you were the only person mentioned in his will. He owns a huge chunk of land, and he had half a million in his bank account left over from that gold strike on his land way back when.”

    “Bill, what are you trying to tell me?”

    “Slim owned several dozen square miles of land, and its prime real estate he bought back when land was cheap out of the proceeds of his gold mine. The land’s worth millions, and he had another half million in the bank. You could retire today and never work another day in you life and your lifestyle wouldn’t change.”

    Nancy hugged Ron and said “Oh My God, I never expected this!”

    “Don’t worry Nancy, the money won’t change me Matter of fact, I have a couple of ideas that I want to bounce off of you. Remember Bear, well he always wanted to retire to a nice spot, and he told me he might want to start a survival school or a dive shop. Bill, can I use your phone?”

    They walked over to Bill’s office and he handed Ron the phone, He dialed Bear’s number from memory.

    “Chief Simmons, this is an unsecured line.”

    “Bear, it’s Ron - You might think this is a bad joke, but I have an offer you can’t refuse. As soon as you can, get yourself up here. How would you like to run a Survival School in Alaska?”

    “You’re kidding Right?”

    “Nope, that old miner my Mom and I saved a couple of years ago died and willed me almost 50 square miles of prime real estate and half a million in cash. I figure the land might just be big enough to run a first-class survival school. I’ll take care of all the start-up expenses up to $500,000 in exchange for 50% of the profit.”

    “Ron, you’re an answer to a prayer. I couldn’t find anything worth doing when I got out, and running a dive store for a bunch of snotty rich yuppies that I wouldn’t trust with a mask and snorkel wasn’t my idea of a fun retirement. Does Nancy have any sisters?”

    “Sorry Bear, but they’re all married, but there’s some really pretty and nice women in Anchorage, and a whole bunch of single Eskimo women in Allakaket!”

    “How many teeth do they have?”

    “You mean between all of them?”

    Ron and Bear laughed themselves silly.

    “Bear, can you make it up here by the wedding on May 15th?”

    “Just try and keep me away. If worse comes to worse, I can always swim there!”

    “Keep in touch Bear!”

    “Hasta La Vista Ron!”

    “Bill, you’d like Bear, he looks just like a big Grizzly. He’s a Naval SEAL Senior Chief. He’s about to retire, and the news about Slim couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m going to set Bear up in business running a Survival School. Allakaket Airlines can fly his students to and from the school, and we’ll make money on both ends.”

    “Ron, for being just 19, you’ve got quite a head for business.”

    “That’s one thing I have to be thankful to Bill Ayer for - he helped me develop my business sense. He also showed us on the night of our engagement party that we want absolutely nothing to do with Anchorage’s Society scene.”

    They drove home, and after a long cuddle session, they were both ready for dinner and bed. Even Nancy’s leftovers were good. She made Lasagna by the full-size cake pan full, and they ate leftovers for quite some time. They retired to their separate bedrooms, dreaming of their wedding day.

    The next day Ron started cutting and stacking firewood. Between the chainsaw and the tractor, he made short work of dropping a bunch of trees and sawing them to length. Splitting them was hard work, but like his dad said, “No one ever drowned in sweat.”

    Later that afternoon, he came in, took a shower, then Nancy treated him to a back massage since he ached all over. He’d have to split wood more often if he got a massage every time.

    Nancy called her mom, and asked her to send a list of all her relatives that could make the wedding. They’d fly them from Anchorage to Allakaket, so all they had to do was get to Anchorage, except her, they’d fly down and pick her and Ester up.

    A couple of weeks later, Ron was flying into Anchorage when his satellite phone started ringing, He picked it up since very few people had that number.

    “Hello, Allakaket Airlines, this is Ron Williams.”

    “Ron, its Bill Ayer at Alaska Airlines. Did you make any honeymoon decisions yet?”

    “No, but Nancy got her PADI diving certificate when we were at MacDill, so it’s going to be a diving location.”

    “Great, because I was thinking what to get you for a wedding present, and I remembered that the corporation owned several condos at some major diving locations. We’d fly you round trip on the G, and all you’d have to pay for was the cost of renting the equipment and the boat.”

    Bill, that’s great, but I’ll have to talk to you later after I discuss this with Nancy.”

    “Ok, I’ll e-mail a list of properties we have, then you can discuss this with Nancy.”

    “Thanks Bill, God Bless, Gotta go!”

    “Talk to you later Ron.”

    Ron wondered what that call was all about, he hadn’t seen or talked to Bill in weeks, and all of a sudden he calls up and offers the use of his G and the corporate condo at a diving location. He would definitely talk to Nancy about this.

    Chapter 5 - Wedding Bell Blues

    Ron flew home to talk to Nancy, and when he got there, she had already read and printed his e-mail with a note written in red “We Need to talk!”

    He found her on the bed crying, and he walked in and asked her “Nancy, what’s wrong! Bill sprang this on me out of the blue; he called me on my satellite phone, and asked me. I told him I had to talk to you first.”

    “You did? This e-mail sounds like a foregone conclusion. I don’t like him being manipulative like this. He could just give us the cash and let us do our own thing, instead of using the “Company Plane” and “Company Condo” - I tell you I don’t trust this guy, something’s not right here!”

    “Nancy, I agree, it’s like he’s trying to suck us into his world, and I don’t want any part of it. I went with him to Kauai before I knew you, and the only good thing out of hanging with him was I found you - and I don’t want to do anything to mess that up!”

    “Ron, if it’s all the same to you - I’d like to have our Honeymoon right here - I get the distinct feeling we won’t get out of bed for 3 days anyway - at least!”

    Ron pounced on her and started tickling her, and she returned the favor until she found out he wasn’t ticklish. Finally she yelled “Uncle” and gave him a big kiss. With that disagreement settled, he sent an e-mail to Bill saying “Thanks but No Thanks - we’re staying right here for our honeymoon! We want to make our life in Allakaket, and what better way to do that then to spend our honeymoon right here.”

    Ron showed Nancy the e-mail before he sent it, and that got him a kiss and a backrub. He was glad he was 19, or he might need some Viagra!

    Bill wasn’t happy when he got the e-mail, but he understood. He had noticed that Nancy was really uncomfortable with all the “Society People” ogling her in her slinky dress. Maybe he was hanging around the wrong crowd. Funny, he seemed to remember his ex-wife was a party animal, and he met her at a company party when he was an up and coming VP. Maybe Ron had the right idea. He called his realtor and put the house up for sale. Then he sent Ron the following e-mail:


    I’m sorry, but I think I might have led you astray. I’m glad you turned down my invitation. I’ve found the Anchorage social scene the totally wrong scene. I’m considering re-locating to a small town and settling down. I think you have the right idea, and have your priorities straight!

    God Bless,


    When Ron got the e-mail, he praised God, then showed it to Nancy. They held hands and prayed that God would open his eyes, and get his priorities straight. Ron asked Nancy how many relatives she would need rooms for, and she cried and told Ron that the only people on her side that had confirmed with less than a week to go were her mom and her aunt. It seemed all her other relatives were too busy to send anything other than a card and a check. Ron held her tight until she felt better. “Nancy, I promise I’ll never take you for granted. You’re the love of my life, and hopefully soon, the mother of my children. I’ll always put your needs first, then the kids, then mine.”

    Nancy looked in Ron’s eyes and cried again. She had been hurt so many times before it was hard to trust, now here was the real thing, her Knight in Shining Armor. She melted into his arms and just held him. Finally she looked into his eyes “Ron I love you more than life itself, and I want to spend the rest of my time on earth with you, and I’d love to be the mother of your children. Together, we’ll do our best to raise them right, and raise them to love God and their country. I talked to Steve, and up to 6 months ago, you were going to dedicate your life to your country, then come back and live the rest of your life here; then the government got stupid, and destroyed the very institutions that protect it in the name of Social Equality. I just hope their foolhardiness doesn’t come back to bite them or us! Anne told me about the cabin in the woods, and if things got bad in the rest of the USA, we were to grab everything we could carry and bug out in your plane to the cabin, and stay there until it was safe. I used to be a city girl, but I’ve always had an independent streak, and I’ll never let some despotic government destroy my freedom. We have the resources to prepare and plan just in case the worst happens, but I don’t want that fear to run our lives either.”

    “Nancy, I can see you might have been raised in the City, but you’re not a City Girl, you’ll fit right in here. I can’t wait until Saturday!”

    “Me either, so you better keep your distance or the Minister is going to be mad at us!

    “I can still kiss you - right!” Ron laid a big kiss on Nancy and swept her off her feet like Bear did.

    When they came up for air, Nancy said “My Hero!”

    Ron laughed so hard he almost dropped her, she did a fairly believable “Scarlet O’Hara”!

    They kept busy the next couple of days, and on Thursday, they had their final Marriage Counseling session with Rev. Bill. “Ron, Nancy - you’re ready to get married, and in my opinion one of the best prepared couples emotionally for the life-time commitment of marriage. Just remember to keep the lines of communication open.” Ron and Nancy spent the next couple of days flying her mom and aunt in from Seward, and getting everything else ready. Nancy had picked out her dress, and Ron’s tuxedo arrived with the last delivery from Anchorage. Bill Ayer flew his Catalina Flying boat to Allakaket on Friday, and spent the day with the two of them. His realtor had no problem selling his house on the hill for a cool $1.5 Million, and he had 30 days to find another house. Ron suggested another piece of property in Allakaket that was for sale, and he could get a beautiful log house built for around a quarter million on 10 acres, or if he wanted the additional acreage for wood for the fireplace, it would cost him $300,000.00 more or less. They drove together into town for the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, and afterward Bill Ayer talked to Rev. Bill about buying a large piece of property on the opposite side of Allakaket from Ron’s place. Bill quoted him a figure that he could easily afford without any additional cash. He decided on a house similar to Ron’s but with a kitchen 3 times the size of his, and 4 bedrooms. At the rehearsal dinner, he met a beautiful young widow with two kids, and they had hit it off. He realized that he was looking for love in all the wrong places. The next day was the wedding, so everyone went home early. Bill and Ron stayed up talking, and Ron told Bill that he knew the woman he was interested in, and she was a sweet Christian lady, whose husband died in a logging accident last year, and had two young children that needed a good Christian father. Bill realized he could run Alaska Airlines from Allakaket as easily as from Anchorage with modern communications gear, and checked into installing a microwave relay that could handle broadband satellite voice and data transmissions. Even with the extra cost, he still had money left over since his house sold for $1.5 Million to another wealthy Anchorage social climber. Ron and Bill had both stepped off the treadmill, and were out of that rat race.

    The next morning was their wedding day, and since they were living in the same house, they decided that the old wives tale about not seeing the bride before the wedding was not only silly, but impractical. Bill had set aside a room in the inn for Nancy to get dressed, so Ron dropped her off with a suitcase full of “girl stuff” and drove to the chapel. Bill Ayer was waiting for him, and they got dressed with 10 minutes to spare. Ron handed Bill the wedding rings, and then at 12:00 sharp, they walked out into a crowded chapel. Ron could see Bear and Hunter in the back row, and his mom Anne in the front next to Steve, with Nancy’s mom Gertrude and her sister Ester on the opposite side of the isle. At 12:05, Nancy marched in to the strains of Mendelssohn’s Bridal March. When she reached the altar, Ron was looking into her eyes, and had to be nudged by Bill Ayer to get the ceremony going. The whole ceremony was a blur to him, except the part where they exchanged their vows. He suddenly felt the solemnity of the moment. He wasn’t just making a promise to Nancy, but to God. With that moment past, he slid the wedding ring on her finger, and she on his, then Rev. Bill said the immortal words, and they kissed. When they turned to walk out the isle, Ron held tightly to Nancy’s hand, and realized he never wanted to let go of that hand. Outside they were pelted with rice, then after a brief walk to the Inn, they sat down for their reception. There was a beautiful 3 tier cake in the corner, and in the other corner was a stack of presents on a table. Some of the larger presents had been delivered to their house, and there were cards on the table for those. Bill proposed a toast, they cut the cake, and ate, and finally it got to the good part - getting home and their honeymoon. The truck was loaded with presents, and they drove to their new home, and Ron picked up Nancy and carried her over the threshold and set her down gently. Then she said “Race You” and they didn’t leave the bedroom for at least 3 days. It seemed Ron had anticipated his wife and had stocked coolers full of beverages and food that didn’t need cooking in the house. One of the guys who was responsible for delivering the presents moved them to the master suite while they were gone. They hung a “Do Not Disturb” sign that Nancy had borrowed from the Inn on the bedroom door before closing it.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    State of Denial
    Chapter 6 - The Morning (Week) After

    When Ron and Nancy had finally worn themselves out, Ron opened the master bedroom door, and lay back in bed. Nancy lay next to him and said “Dear, I think we need a room addition.”

    “Why’s that?’

    “As much fun as we had the last couple of days, we’ve only got a 4 bedroom house, that leaves 3 bedrooms for the kids and if we keep this up, they’ll all be doubled up. There’s plenty of room on the north side of the house for a large room addition. That would give us another 2 bedrooms plus a bunch of storage. If you build it with a shed roof and make it the full width of the existing house, the snow will slide off and you’ll gain at least 3 or 4 big usable rooms, plus some attic storage. I’d dig a basement underneath it first for even more storage. Good news is we won’t need it for a couple of years, so we can do it right.”

    “I’m a lucky man!”


    “Beauty, Brains, and she can cook - what a package!”

    Nancy rolled over and kissed Ron. Later that afternoon, they finally had to get out of the bedroom - they had run out of food! Nancy went to go fix something to eat while Ron prowled around the house, looking to see what the guys had delivered for presents. He saw a tarp-covered object in his garage that wasn’t there before. He removed the tarp, and 2 brand-new snowmobiles were there with a note from Bill:

    Ron & Nancy:

    Instead of the trip, I decided to buy you something extravagant but way more practical. I also had a 500 gallon tank of Avgas installed next to your propane tank, there was plenty of room, and the installer said it was plenty safe since the propane and gasoline don’t vent inside the building. I’ll have to remember that when I build my house in Allakaket.


    Once Bill’s house in Anchorage closed, he put everything in storage, and rented a small apartment in Anchorage to use when he had to stay in Anchorage for business, and started construction of his new house in Allakaket. He and Sally (The widow at the reception) had been steadily dating since then, and even her kids liked Bill.

    Meanwhile Bear and Hunter had stayed in Allakaket, and forgot all about Anchorage when they went to the Moose Caf&#233; and met several middle-aged Eskimo women who had all their teeth. They seemed to spend all of their time with 2 women who were raised in an Inuit village way north above the Arctic Circle. When they moved to Allakaket as adults, they took English names, since everyone had problems pronouncing their Inuit names. Bear’s girlfriend went by Mary, and Hunter’s went by April. Mary had just turned 40, and April was the “spring chicken” of the foursome at 35. Bear had just turned 50, and was in no hurry to raise any more kids, which suited Mary just fine; but Hunter, who was in his late 40's, decided he wanted to have as many kids as possible, which suited April just fine. They were living together shortly after the wedding, and as soon as Ron popped up on the radar after his honeymoon, Bear got with him about the Survival School. Ron flew the 4 of them out to Slim’s property, and the 2 women loved the area. Bear and Hunter surveyed the room only like a SEAL could, and discovered a hidden compartment in the floor with maps, paperwork, and a suspiciously heavy bag. Bear dumped it into his hand, and it was full of gold nuggets, several ounces of gold that Slim had stashed away for a rainy day and forgot about. Bear handed it to Ron, But Ron told them to keep it. Bear handed it to Mary and told her to put it someplace safe. The 4 of them agreed they would rather live out here than in town. Ron said he would take care of all the construction costs, and the start-up costs for the Survival School up to half a million dollars in exchange for 50% of the profit. Bear was more than happy with the deal, he could do a lot with a half-million to set up a first-class Survival School, especially since their wives were raised in the traditional ways, and knew a couple of tricks the military never taught them.

    The 4 of them flew back to Allakaket. Once on the ground, Ron asked Bear point-blank if he were sleeping with Mary. Bear almost told Ron to mind his own business, then remembered he had half a million riding on his answer, and admitted that he was. Ron highly suggested both couples visit Bill and they marry their wives legally and morally. Bear talked to Hunter, and they approached their wives, and the resulting kisses gave them the answer they needed. They marched over to Bill’s office, and he took the 5 of them to the chapel and married Bear and Mary, then Hunter and April in a simple ceremony, then handed them blank marriage licenses which they filled out. April and Mary included their native names on the forms as well. Ron told them to make a list of everything they’d need to open the school, and prioritize it since everything would have to come by air. Bear said they would be staying in town until the houses were done since Mary and April already had houses in town, so they would be easy to get hold of. Ron reminded them that if they needed to order anything over the internet, Bill had a high-speed connection in his office, and since he was his business manager, he could help them with this project as well. Bear gave Ron a bear hug, and told Ron to get back to his wife, he’d take care of everything. Ron drove home to Nancy’s warm greeting. She had dinner ready, but decided dinner could wait!

    The next day, Bear and Hunter had a preliminary list, and they gave it to Bill. It included construction equipment, some of which they could borrow, some he’d need to order. Bill called Bill Ayer and asked him if he knew anyone who owned a heavy lift helicopter that had enough lifting capacity to lift a backhoe from Allakaket to the new survival school. BA (Bill Ayer) asked Bill if he knew how much the backhoe weighed. Hearing their conversation, Bear interrupted, and told BA that a Chinook with a lift hook ought to be able to handle it easily, since Chinooks used to sling-load M-113s all the time in Vietnam. BA made some phone calls, and found the prefect setup, a helicopter pilot that worked for a logging company and owned his own Chinook, but wanted a different job, since he wanted to be home every night. BA called Bill back, and told him his idea. He called Ron, and he approved. They would need a chopper in Allakaket enough to make it worth making him and his air crew employees and buying his helicopter. BA called the pilot, and he jumped at the chance. 2 days later they flew to Allakaket and interviewed with Bill and Bear, then met Ron. Since there were plenty of vacant houses in Allakaket, Jim (the pilot) was told he could live in Allakaket rent-free for 90 days, then only pay market on his house. Since it was just him, his wife and 6-yr old son, it didn’t take them long to move.

    The day after they were settled, he started flying supplies up to the construction site, and carried Ron’s tractor to the site. With the lifting power and maneuverability of the Chinook, the construction project went much quicker, and they erected two large cabins, 1 for Bear and Mary, and 1 for Hunter and April. They erected a huge lodge in the center of the compound with a separate room with bunk beds. Bear had a well drilled to supply year-round water to the compound, and they cooked on wood stoves and heated with wood. They installed a huge septic field so they could have flush toilets and showers, both of which Mary and April really appreciated. Designing the system to work in the winter was a major headache, but they got it right. They cleared out enough space when they felled trees for building materials for the 3 big buildings to build a 300-yard shooting range with 6 lanes, which could be used for pistols, carbines, or long rifles. It backstopped into a mountain over a mile away, so they were OK. The rest of the space was a huge garden that Mary and April tended during the summer, and canned. Bear and Hunter found a huge clearing that should have caribou in the fall, so they ordered 2 7mm Magnum hunting rifles with Leupold scopes.

    During his next visit, Ron strongly suggested they purchase 4 .44 Magnum revolvers, since there was bears in that area, and he gave Bear the contact info for the knife maker that made his knife and Ulu/hatchet. Mary and April really liked the Ulu/hatchet, and could use Ron’s like pros since they were raised using a real Ulu to cut and skin everything. Ron watched them use his Ulu/hatchet, and wished his dad could see them work. They skinned rabbits they snared in a matter of minutes, and didn’t damage the pelt, or waste any motion. Ron tried one under their watchful eyes, and learned how to hold and manipulate the blade properly, and while he wasn’t as fast as Mary or April, they nodded approvingly when he successfully skinned a rabbit much faster than he previously had done. They liked his Bowie knife and asked him why the blade was so long, and in reply Ron told the story of his dad and the Grizzly Bear. To say they were impressed was an understatement. They had legends in their village of great hunters that had fought bears, but most had died in the process. Ron explained that Roy hit the bear in the chest with a .54 caliber ball from a flintlock first, and they nodded knowingly. Mary said the flintlock probably saved his dad’s life, since the wounded bear might have been more ferocious, but severely weakened. Ron made a present to the newlyweds of a bearskin each, since he had several spares. By the way Mary and April reacted, you would have thought he just gave them the Crown Jewels. When they finished crying, Mary explained how revered bears were in their culture, and a bearskin given as a wedding gift was a bond of friendship for life. It was Ron’s turn to cry, and explain his relationship with Bear. Mary had heard part of this story, but was amazed by the rest of it. She couldn’t understand why a man would willingly dive into the deep ocean, but thought it was very brave. When he told them that Nancy had done it too, she rose several notches in their eyes. These white people were brave.

    Since it was now getting into their busy season, Ron and Nancy flew together every day, and soon she had enough stick time to earn her commercial ticket. She passed the test for the Commercial, Sea and Instrument ratings with flying colors. Dan said “Congratulations you two, you can now legally fly passengers for hire at night” and handed Nancy her commercial license including endorsements for Sea and Instrument. Ron swept her off her feet and gave her a big kiss. Dan joked “Hey you two want to get a room?” and all 3 of them laughed themselves silly. BA had baseball caps made with the Allakaket Airlines logos, and the titles Pilot and Co-pilot embroidered on the front, with scrambled eggs on the bill. Nancy had to tie her hair into a pony tail to wear the ball cap, and Ron liked the look. After he was done kissing her neck, she asked “Do we have any passengers on the return flight?” with a big grin on her face, and he told her “Sorry, the flight’s too short for us to join the Mile High Club!” and they both giggled.

    Later that day they delivered a bunch of supplies to the Survival School, and Nancy met Mary and April for the first time. They gave her a gift of a small dream catcher made into a pendant. From living so long in Anchorage, Nancy knew the significance of the gift and they had some quality “girl time” while Bear and Hunter showed Ron the operation. The good news was they had only spent $300 thousand, and they were almost ready to open for business. Ron asked if there was anything they needed for the school that they hadn’t bought already. Hunter mentioned that if they added weapons training, they could just about double their income since they now had a 300-yard range. Ron agreed, and asked what they would need to have a first class weapons school. Bear handed him a list that totaled about $100,000.00, since they were under budget Ron approved immediately. The list was mostly hardware, target stands, reactive targets and shooting benches, as well as audiovisual gear for the classroom segment. They included 2 spotting scopes, and eye and ear protection. Ron asked them about insurance, and they admitted they missed that item. Ron pulled out his cell phone and called his insurance agent. He was glad BA had installed the Cellular network as part of his Communications setup. The phone connected to a repeater at the school, which boosted the signal and connected to the cellular tower on his cabin property, which connected to the tower in Allakaket. Other lodges were setting up towers and joining the network as word got out.

    A couple of months ago, when BA thought of installing a communications link from Anchorage to Allakaket, one of his board members suggested spending the extra money to set up a privately owned phone company to handle voice/data/cellular for the region, since the only existing service was a single line from Anchorage to Allakaket. BA crunched the numbers, and the potential return on investment made his board members vote unanimously to approve the expense. Alaska Air, Inc. (the parent company of Alaska Airlines) was now in the phone business. The people of Allakaket were happy, and BA made sure he installed switches and gear sufficient to carry any foreseeable increase in load. They really appreciated the cellular network, and reserved the radio network for emergency communications, or if one of the cell sites went down in the winter. BA made sure the cellular service contracts contained a clause that indemnified the carrier for any loss of service. For his bigger customers, he included a rider for refund of monthly fees for loss of service of more than a day. He set his service fee so low that everyone signed up within a couple of months, and most of the residents of Allakaket who owned computers signed up for Internet service with his Internet Service Provider. He provided coax cable connection to each house in town, and outlaying houses like Ron’s paid to be connected to his coax backbone. The phone and internet service could be carried through the same cable, reducing costs, and increasing speed and bandwidth.

    Ron got in touch with his Insurance Agent, and negotiated an all-risk insurance policy for Alaskan Survival Inc. as a subsidiary of Allakaket Airlines. He made sure the agent knew the company offered firearms training to experienced users only, and 2 retired SEALs were in charge of the company. The agent realized that most of the clients would be Federal or State Law Enforcement, so he gave them a huge break on the normally astronomical insurance rates for firearms instruction. Ron almost choked when the agent gave him a quote on costs, and thought the insurance companies were trying to run firearms related businesses out of business (Some were), but knew the money would be well spent. He had the agent e-mail him a rider, and activate the policy. Then he told Bear and Hunter they were now in business. Bear realized that Ron was a smart businessman, since their business would feed income to him on both ends, their students would fly Allakaket Airlines to and from the school, and Ron also received 50% of their profit, but Bear and Hunter would be making around $100K a year each according to Ron, which was 2-3 times what they received from the US government, but less than they could have earned as “Security Consultants” to some rich Arab oil sheik. Bear and Hunter were computer savvy enough to make it worth having an Internet presence including a professionally done web page with all the information, and a password protected site for Federal and Law Enforcement only information. Within weeks, bookings started rolling in, and they were in business. One of their first customers was Bill Ayer, who had money to burn, but virtually no survival knowledge, and he realized that if he was going to live in Allakaket, he would need to know a whole bunch of survival stuff. Bear and Hunter spent 2 weeks with him on a crash course, and at the end, he felt he could survive just about anything, and wrote a glowing review in the airline magazine, which was picked up and copied all over the place. Soon Alaska Survival Inc. would be busy year round, with Firearms training during the spring and summer, and survival training all winter. Soon the federal government was sending LEO and military people to check out the program, and they agreed it was top-notch. Within the first year, Bear had to hire additional instructors from the Special Forces community that included skills like Field medicine, long-range shooting, E&E training, and several specialized courses that were taught on a contract basis. They expanded the compound to handle the extra volume, and soon they were making almost as much money as Allakaket Airlines.

    BA had moved full-time to Allakaket and commuted 3 times a week for meetings. Eventually, he got down to 1 or 2 trips a week. With his house completed, he had been dating Sally long enough to know that she was the woman for him, and she was in love with him too. Her son and daughter called him Dad on occasion, BA talked to Bill, who agreed to marry them the next weekend in a small ceremony. That Saturday, BA and Sally, her kids, Ron and Nancy, Bear, Mary, Hunter, and April gathered at the Chapel for BA and Sally’s wedding. It was a simple affair, but very solemn. Bill cried when he recited his vows, and Sally cried too, but because she thought briefly of her dead husband, and knew he approved of BA. The reception was at Bill’s house, and was more of a housewarming party than a wedding reception, except they had a simple wedding cake. Ron was glad that Bill had finally kicked the “Socialite” lifestyle and settled down. When Ron wasn’t flying, he had a long list of “honey-dos” to tend, including cutting a couple of more cords of wood, and getting the house ready for winter. He made sure the propane and diesel tanks were kept full, and the 500 gallons of Avgas was stabilized. Nancy occupied her time decorating the house, cooking fantastic Italian meals, teaching BA at trick or two about “real” Italian cooking, and studying for her ATP rating. She needed thousands more hours of air time, and she got it every time they flew without passengers. By the end of the season, Anne had more landings and take-offs than most commercial pilots with twice the experience she had, since they flew every day. Ron talked to Bill the other day, and he was amazed at how much money they were making between the lodges and the Survival School Bear was so busy he wished he were twins. Mary and April were busy canning vegetables for the winter when Bear and Hunter came back with 2 caribou each. They were really happy to see their husbands, and now they had provided a kill, which was the final test of a husband in some tribes. Some time later, April told Mary she was pregnant, and they celebrated. Mary thought she was too old, but figured Bear could probably still manage to get her pregnant too. As it turned out, she wasn’t too old, and Bear said the dumbest thing in his life when he asked Mary “How’d that happen?”

    With the onset of winter, things settled down in Allakaket, and the airline business shut down for the winter except for deliveries and emergencies. Ron was glad that he didn’t have to put skis on his plane since the flying boat could land on snow as well as water until someone suggested he might need skis attached to the wheels. He called the maintenance chief at Elmendorf, who got hold of the chief at 19 Wing, who said the plane did take skis over the wheels in the winter, and he had several sets there along with the hardware to install them. If he hurried they could put them on while his runway was still dry enough for them to land conventionally. Ron asked them how long it would take, and he said they could do it in a couple of hours. Ron asked if they could do it first thing tomorrow, that he would take off from Allakaket at first light, and bring both of his planes. If they would copy their manuals so his mechanics could remove and install them, he’d pay them for the copies. The Chief said that they should have a copy in the manuals they gave them with the plane, and he read Ron the number. Ron wrote that number down, and said he’d call them back. He called the Allakaket airport, asked to talk to the Mechanic, gave him the manual number, and asked him to pull it. 10 minutes later, the mechanic said he had it right in front of his face. Ron called the chief at 19 Wing, and told him they had the manual. The Chief told him that since they would be already there, it would be safer to install them in Vancouver instead of risking another landing without them and installing it in Allakaket. He said he could do both planes for $100 total, and fill them up with fuel for cost. Ron took him up on the offer, and called Steve, his other pilot, and told him to prepare for a long overwater flight tomorrow to Vancouver BC and back. They were actually closer to Vancouver at Allakaket then at Anchorage, so it was only 1,000 miles each way instead of 1200. Ron walked in to Nancy and told her they were flying to Vancouver Island in BC tomorrow to have them install the skis on their TurboGoose. Nancy asked how long they were going to be in Vancouver, and he said just a couple of hours. Nancy wanted to see the town but knew better than to ask. She packed an overnight bag for each of them just in case.

    The next morning at first light both TurboGoose airplanes were winging to Vancouver Island. Nancy had made muffins and coffee for the long flight. As soon as they were at cruising altitude he set the autopilot and asked Nancy if she wanted to join the Mile High Club. She didn’t have to be asked twice. Several hours later, they decided to check the controls and make sure they were still on course. The autopilot performed perfectly, and they were on course and schedule, at their assigned altitude. They called Vancouver for landing instructions, and landed an hour later. After the planes were towed to the maintenance facility, Steve came up to him and whispered, “Ron, I’ve never seen a plane fly without anyone in the cockpit. I called twice, and when I got no answer, I cruised on up and saw the cockpit was empty. I guess that flying with your wife has its benefits!”

    “Sorry Steve, we decided to join the mile high club, it won’t happen again.”

    “That’s OK; just let me know by blinking your clearance lights twice so I won’t disturb you, too bad my wife doesn’t like to fly!”

    2 hours later, the chief came out and told them the skis were installed, and they included some spare hardware since the nuts and bolts took a beating each season. Ron looked at his plane, and it looked goofy with the skis surrounding both wheels. He hoped they were aerodynamically neutral, or they would have problems. The Chief explained that the skis were aerodynamically neutral, and they added negligible weight, and the wheels still worked fine with the skis on, but they needed to land flatter on a wheel borne landing with the skis on. Ron didn’t think that would be a problem, since he almost always landed flat at Anchorage. They taxied to the fuel depot and filled both planes to the max, since it was a long flight. As they were getting ready to get back aboard, Steve couldn’t pass up a chance to rib his boss and told him to remember to blink twice. Nancy didn’t understand what was so funny, and he didn’t explain either. Nancy was hoping for a repeat of the flight down, and didn’t understand Ron’s sudden inhibitions. Finally she lay back in the seat and went to sleep. When they got home, Ron got to try out the skis, and they worked perfectly, except a snow landing was considerably rougher than a water landing. He could feel the skis helping out as the plane slowed, and he brought it to a stop at the far end of the lake. He turned around and taxied back to the ramp and stopped at the pumps. Once the plane was in the hangar and they were home, Ron finally told Nancy that Steve knew they weren’t at the controls, and it embarrassed him. He said he would make it up to her if she liked, but she was too tired, so they fell asleep cuddling instead.

    Chapter 7 - Winter of our Discontent

    The winter of 2005/2006 was long and cold. Allakaket received a record snowfall, and business crawled to a halt since the storms made flying too dangerous. Even Bear and Hunter shut down due to the weather when they had recorded temperatures way in excess of minus 100 including the wind chill, which was cold enough to turn survival training into a real-life survival situation, and the risk to the trainees was too great. They had plenty of wood, water, and food, so they snuggled into their beds with their pregnant Eskimo wives and hibernated. Ron was experiencing a major case of cabin fever, since all the stuff he liked to do was outdoors. Ron and Nancy wound up sleeping more and more, or at least spent time in bed. BA and Sally were head over heels in love, and still in honeymoon mode. Before the weather turned bad, he filed paperwork with the Municipal court in Anchorage to legally adopt Sally’s children, Mike and Jill. Sally knew that BA was there to stay, and was secure in her relationship with BA. Mike and Jill were old enough to home school, so BA and Sally spent part of their days teaching them the basics including reading, writing, and arithmetic. BA had a real head for math, and was an excellent teacher. His spelling left something to be desired, since all his writing was filtered through a secretary even if he wrote and spell-checked it himself, since it wouldn’t do for Alaska Airlines documents to go out with grammatical or spelling errors. Between the 2 of them they made sure the children got a well rounded education. Sally was their primary teacher, since BA still had an airline to run, even if 1/3 of his aircraft were grounded by weather. Alaska Airlines took advantage of the situation to get caught up on their maintenance. Ron thought that was a good idea, and asked the Mechanics if there was any scheduled maintenance they could do in advance on the 2 TG’s. He reminded them not to put them both down at once, so they worked on 1 plane at a time. Nancy realized that Ron needed something besides her to keep him occupied, and called Bill, who checked around and called her back. During a break in the weather, she told Ron they were running an errand in town, and to get the truck warmed up. 15 minutes later they were driving into town when Nancy told him “Stop here!” Ron slid to a stop, and she told him they were here; so he got out, not knowing what Nancy had up her sleeve. When they opened the door of the house, they were mobbed by Husky puppies, and Ron knew why they were here. He guessed Nancy realized how much he missed Lucky. She told him, “Pick one.”

    His task was made much easier when one of the puppies tried to jump up on him. Since Ron was an adult, he wasn’t having much luck, but when Ron picked him up, he proceeded to give his face a thorough licking. Ron said “I guess this one picked me, any ideas for a name?”

    “How about Sitka?”

    “How about Samson - nah, I’d probably call him Sam, and that might remind me too much of either my first dog or Samantha.”

    “I remember you telling me about her - what’s the story with her?”

    Ron gave her the rest of the story, leaving out the gruesome details, and telling her that she was studying to be an ER doc in North Carolina.

    “Ron, you really have a good heart. You went out of your way to help that poor girl, asked nothing in return, even when she was throwing herself at you, and now she’s studying to become a Doctor.” Nancy gave Ron a big kiss, then asked the owners how much they wanted for the dog. They said $200 each, so Nancy wrote a check, and they took the dog. She realized they had no dog food in the house, so she called Bill to see if they had any puppy chow in stock at the store. Knowing that they were going to buy a big puppy, he had already checked, and told them to drive on over, they had 3 bags waiting for them. Ron thought “3 50-pound bags, how much does this moose eat?”

    Then he figured out the dog’s name “Honey, let’s call him Moose!”

    “Well he’s definitely big enough - Ok, Moose it is!”

    Nancy had hidden a bearskin behind the back seat, and when she got in the truck, Ron put the skin on her lap, followed by Moose, who curled up and was fast asleep within minutes. When they got home, Ron was glad he spent all that time with big logs, since the bags didn’t feel as heavy as he thought they should. Moose was too tired to play, so Ron and Nancy decided that a nap was a good idea too.

    A few days later, the weather cleared, and Ron decided that enough was enough, and told Nancy they were going visiting on their snowmobiles. They got into their snowmobile suits with clothes underneath them so they could take them off when they were inside. Ron laid a bowl of food and water in front of Moose, and he didn’t even move. This dog could sleep through anything! Finally they were ready to go, and Ron insisted they strap on their fanny packs, and he wore his shoulder holsters. Nancy couldn’t get used to carrying 24/7, so he decided that if she flew with him between his guns and the SU-16, they were covered. She had a Para-Ord P-14 she carried when she was alone or out of the house without Ron. Ron was glad BA had splurged and spent the extra money on the electric start, and the heater system. It still had a back-up recoil start, but he hadn’t needed it yet. He’d called BA and Anne to make sure they were home and OK to have company. Since Anne was closer, they stopped there first. Ron was worried about his mom, since he hadn’t seen or heard from her since the wedding. The first words out of Ron’s mouth were “Mom, are you OK?”

    “Why would you say that Son?”

    “Well for 1 thing, I haven’t heard or seen you since the wedding.”

    Anne started laughing “Ron, I think we’ve got a role reversal here - that’s supposed to be My line!”

    When the laughter died down, Anne told her son what she had been up to. She was working part time at the clinic as the nurse. She received enough money from that so she didn’t have to touch her savings, and it gave her something to do. After all, she was still under 60 and not ready for retirement. She spent the rest of the time working on her garden, reading books, or crocheting. Evidently there was a Craft Club in town that taught the younger women in town how to knit, crochet and other lost arts. Anne really liked Crochet, but could knit with the best of them, and had already made scarves that she was saving for presents. She said the only downside to knitting and crocheting was she had finally broken down and bought a set of “granny glasses” since she couldn’t see the tiny needles she worked with on some projects. Ron told his mom that they got a new puppy, and she’d have to come over some time and meet him before he got big enough to knock her over. Nancy chuckled and told Anne that Ron had named him Moose, because Bill had set aside 3 50-pound bags of dog food for them, and Ron thought “How much does this moose eat?”

    “Ron, he’s in good company, According to Roy, Oliver was a chow hound, and I know Sam and Lucky were too.”

    Now it was Ron’s turn to laugh. A couple of hours later, they reboarded their snowmobiles, and drove to BA and Sally’s place. BA met them at the door, and welcomed them. He had an inner foyer where they took off their snowmobile suits, and left them on hooks. Nancy noticed Sally was positively glowing, and the next words out of her mouth confirmed her suspicions. “Nancy, we’re expecting!”

    Nancy’s heart was in her throat, because she had been trying ever since they were married, and now she was the only lady she knew in town that wasn’t pregnant except for Anne. Still she felt like congratulating Sally. Mike and Jill took that moment to make their appearance, yelling at each other like brothers and sisters do. “Excuse me - looks like they need a referee” and Sally went to settle the dispute before stuff started getting broken. “You know, these two can be a handful sometimes. I could really use a tranquilizer!”

    Horrified, Nancy said “Wouldn’t that be bad for the baby?”

    “No, it’s for them - they need to settle down, this pregnancy is taking a lot out of me.”

    “Maybe instead of tranquilizers, you ought to invest in Duct tape?”

    Sally laughed her head off and said “I never thought of that! Maybe if I keep a roll in plain sight, and just tap it on the counter when they misbehave, they’ll settle down.”

    “Either that, or we’ll have a bunch of neurotic kids that will sue the heck out of us as adults for “mental abuse” or some other BS.”

    “Now, Bill, we won’t have that problem unless they become Lawyers!”

    That evoked a good belly laugh from the foursome.

    “I swear sometimes I’d like to walk into my Legal department with an Uzi, except I might need them to protect me from someone else’s legal department!”

    “Bill, if you don’t enjoy it anymore, why don’t you retire, you’re worth what maybe $10 Million?”

    “Last time I counted it was almost $12 Million!”

    “You could retire and live comfortably in Allakaket off the interest.”

    “What would I do, I’m too young to retire?”

    “Bill’s seriously considering stepping down as my Business Manager, he says it’s too much work for a man his age.”

    “Ron, If I ever seriously consider chucking it all, I’ll definitely keep that in mind. I know you can’t pay what I’m earning now, but knowing how generous you are with your employees, I’m sure it would be enough to live comfortably in Allakaket and not touch my savings.”

    “Bill, I know this is a bad time to talk business, but how does $100K per year grab you? The Mayor just wants to go back to being the mayor and his small side business including the bank and deliveries. His bank is making money hand over fist with the $10 million dollars in deposits between the two of us. He’s a really smart investor, and he’s made some very good loans with the funds we deposited.”

    “One Hundred Thousand per year up here, I could live like a king and never touch either the principal or interest of my deposits. When do you need to know?”

    “I need to know by April 1st, since that’s when things get busy. One thing, if you do, you better make sure you appoint a successor that won’t try to screw Allakaket Airlines, or I’ll lose enough money to hurt.”

    “If I do jump, I’ll make sure they draw up long-term contracts for Allakaket. Matter of fact, I’ll do it anyway, since it’s in Alaska Airline’s best interest to keep Allakaket Airlines as a feeder line. You realize that our profitability has gone up 30% since you signed up?”

    “No wonder why you’re worth over $12 Million, your stock options probably jumped 30%!”

    “If I do step down, I’ll divest totally just in case he runs the business into the ground.”

    “I’d just divest enough to cover yourself just in case. Trust me; you’ll still want to be a major stockholder.”

    “Got something up your sleeve?”

    “Just a couple of ideas.”

    They talked and visited for a couple of hours, and finally Ron said they had to get home before Moose decided he couldn’t hold it any longer.

    “Who’s Moose?”

    “Bill, we got a new dog, and trust me, the name fits. You’ll have to come over later and meet the moose.”

    “Ok Ron, you’ve got a deal.”

    Ron and Nancy said their goodbyes, got dressed in their snowmobile suits, put their helmets and gloves on, and started their snowmobiles. They were home 20 minutes later, and Ron let Moose out. He searched the house, and couldn’t find any accidents. He came outside just in time to see Moose watering some nearby trees. When he finished, Ron picked him up and praised him lavishly “Good Moose, you’re such a good boy!” Nancy got his ball and they played fetch for a couple of minutes, then Moose made it clear that he wanted back in, he was tired. Ron let him back in, and he padded over to the bearskin rug, and as soon as he had made himself comfortable, he was sound asleep. Nancy made dinner, and after a while, they decided to call it a night as well.

    The next day Ron called Bill, the mayor, and told him that Bill Ayer might be willing to take over. Bill was ecstatic, since the stress of running this huge business was getting to him. Between keeping his side businesses running, and handling everything for Allakaket Airlines, he was working 60 hours a week, and couldn’t take another season of it.

    BA and Sally talked about it, and they agreed that he didn’t need to run Alaska Airlines anymore, that if he wanted to slow down and raise a family, he needed to be home more, because even one days worth of meetings meant he had to spend at least 2 days away from his home and family, and he really didn’t want to fly the PBY during the winter.

    BA got with Ron, and they talked for hours about Allakaket Airlines, and what Ron wanted to do, and what Bill thought it should do, and they came to an understanding. Ron was impressed, with BA as his business manager, he would keep the costs low, the seats filled, and handle all his negotiations. Ron really hated the business side of the Airline, and preferred flying over negotiating any day. His favorite quote was he’d rather be flying blind through an Alaskan Blizzard than have to face a board of directors, or negotiate a contract with a vendor. BA made sure that the recommended contracts with Allakaket Airlines were in effect, then contacted the board, and notified them he would be resigning effective April 1 to become the business manager of Allakaket Airlines. He felt he couldn’t in good faith continue to run Alaska Airlines and only visit Anchorage 1 day a week, and Ron had offered him the position recently vacated by his retiring business manager.

    Bill was floored when his Board Chairman told him they were thinking along similar lines, and were hoping that something like this would happen. He asked Bill to submit a short list of recommendations to replace him as CEO. The Chairman suggested they stay in touch, just in case Alaska Airlines needed him to rebuild it again. The board thought he did an excellent job rebuilding the company, but now the company needed a fiscally conservative CEO to keep things running, not a hard charger that could fix things. Bill asked the chairman if they had any problem with him divesting enough shares to still be a major shareholder, but not have a controlling interest in the airline. The Chairman said the board would buy any shares he was willing to sell at 20% above market since they felt the shares would increase in value by 20% in the next year, and that increase would be the results of his hard work. Bill was sad to go, but realized they were giving him one heck of a golden parachute. 20% over market, if he sold on an upswing to private buyers, wouldn’t affect the market at all, and he’d net another couple of million on the markup. He figured he’d sell 6 million worth of stock and net out 7.2 million, plus a little over $2 million he had in the bank, he’d have almost $10 million in the bank. The interest alone on that would be between $300 and $600 thousand per year. If Ron kept paying him $100 thousand per year, his house was paid for; his monthly expenses were between $1 and $2 thousand per month, and would be less if he stopped paying someone to cut his wood for him. Even at 2 grand per month, that was $24 thousand in expenses vs. $100 Thousand in income. He’d clear $75 thousand per year that he needed to reinvest. He thought the stock market would be the best place for that kind of money. Since it was over and above his expenses, he could invest it in aggressive growth funds to make it earn even more.

    BA called Ron, and they had a long talk, the gist of it was that Bill would accept Ron’s offer to become his new business manager, effective April 1 at a salary of $100 thousand per year. Since Allakaket Airlines was earning almost a million a year in profits, Ron could afford to pay his major employees well. Ron also took a salary of $100 thousand per year, leaving over $600 thousand per year of profit to reinvest into the business, or sit in the bank earning interest.

    Bill and BA spent several days a week together getting BA up to speed on the business. Bill was sure the business was in good hands, since BA had years of experience running a big business, and his was all OJT. Bill would be glad to slow down and take it easy. The money he made over the years at Allakaket Airlines had been carefully invested, and he too was now worth over $2 Million. He could literally stop working today and retire on the interest, but wanted to stay busy, since fishing all the time didn’t appeal to him. On April 1st, Alaska Airlines and Allakaket Airlines issued a joint statement about Bill Ayer stepping down as the CEO of Alaska Airlines, and becoming the Business Manager of Allakaket Airlines. The next day Alaska Airlines announced the appointment of a new CEO, and it was Bill’s first pick. He was really smart, and had the right personality to manage the airline during this period of stability.

    Bear had called Ron and suggested he fly up to the Survival School, they needed a face to face talk, and he should bring Nancy. When they got there, Bear gave him the bad news. The Special Forces were hearing rumblings within Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries that would be bad news for the rest of the World if they came to pass. He highly suggested buying guns and ammo now while they could, and storing them at the Survival School, since it would be a perfect cover for just about anything they wanted. Ron told Bear to make a list, and he’d approve it. Bear reached in his shirt pocket and pulled out the list and handed it to him. He basically wanted at least 50 cases each of 5.56 and .308 ammo, as well as a dozen AR-15’s and M-1a’s. He noted “Springfield National Match” next to the M-1a’s, and also had enough Leupold scopes for them included. Ron joked “What no Grenade Launchers or TOW missiles?”

    “Not from this supplier, but I’m working on acquiring some stuff you really don’t want to know about.”

    “Well in that case, don’t tell me. How much is all this going to cost?”

    “Including the stuff you don’t want to know about, I’d guess about $300 thousand.”

    Ron wrote a check for $500 thousand and made it payable to Alaskan Survival Inc. and coded it to operating expenses and equipment.

    Bear said “Thanks Ron, we’re going to need the backhoe for a week, and then you really should consider buying extra tanks for JP-5 and diesel, at least a couple hundred thousand gallons, because if my info is correct, it will either be really expensive or unavailable within a year. We’re talking about a 10-100 times increase in fuel costs. Even if this doesn’t totally happen, the instability could double or triple fuel costs.”

    “Ok Bear as soon as you’re done with the chopper and the backhoe, I’ll put the backhoe to work clearing land for the tanks, and digging holes.”

    “Boss, for the size of the holes you need, you’d be better off drilling and blasting, I’ve done enough to qualify for EOD” said Hunter, “and what you want is a bunch of ANFO, dynamite, and det cord to break the rocks and loosen the dirt. That’s what we did for the basements. It’s much faster and easier on the equipment then digging it out using backhoe power only.”

    “Hunter, if that’s the case, I want you to order a sizeable quantity of explosives, at least 3-4 times what we need for this job, in case we need to blast some more holes later.”

    Bear spoke up “You know Slim had a mine up there, I’ve just barely gone inside, but we could get a blasting permit for the mine and order as much explosive as we want.”

    “Great Bear, find out how much that all would cost, and get back to me. By the way, if you’ve got time you might want to carefully check out that mine, and find out if it would be profitable to re-open.”

    “I was planning on using it next season to practice caving, rappelling, and high-angle rescue techniques. While I’m in there, I’ll take some samples and look around.”

    They hiked back to the compound, and Nancy had just finished her visit with Mary and April, so they said goodbye to everyone, and climbed aboard the TurboGoose and flew back to Allakaket. Ron met with BA and told him what Bear had told him.

    “That’s funny, I’m getting the same scary messages from my contacts, seems there’s some bad Juju going on in Saudi Arabia. Word I’m getting is someone is setting themselves up to depose the royal family and install a radical Muslim theocracy like Iran there. If that happens, they’ve threatened to cut off all oil to the West, and that means the airlines are in a world of hurt. Even if the Royal Family isn’t deposed, the resulting civil war will greatly reduce oil imports and drive prices 2-3 times what they are now. Stocking up now is definitely a good idea. I’d get somewhere between 500 thousand and a million gallons of JP-5, maybe 500 thousand gallons of Avgas, and 500 thousand gallons of diesel, since the Inn is totally dependant on diesel fuel for their generator.”

    “What would it take to re-roof the Major Buildings with those thin-film solar panels, buy some wind generators, a battery bank and an inverter capable to taking the load, and using the generator to charge the batteries if there’s no usable sun or wind. Also, if the price is right, we might want to do that to our houses as well, I mean after all it’s only money, and we’re rolling in it!”

    “Right Ron, I’ll check into it, the money won’t do us any good in the bank if we’re sitting at home in the dark freezing and out of fuel! Also, we might want to stock up on food. I’ll talk to Bill and tell him what we know, and ask what needs to happen to make the town ready for this. We owe a lot to these townspeople, and we’ve got enough money to do certain things that will improve their chances of survival, or their quality of life if my information turns out bogus.”

    “I highly doubt it’s bogus Bill, because I just got the same info almost word for word from Bear, and I know you didn’t get it from the same sources, since he’s ex-military.”

    “Exactly, my sources are highly placed civilians in government, and I’m sure Bear got it through the Chief’s network, which in some ways puts the CIA and the DIA to shame. Their humint is rarely wrong since the USA has military bases all over the world, and the Chiefs have an ear to the ground all the time, and they talk to the locals.”

    “Bill, I’m convinced, let’s go to the Mayor and tell him everything we know.”

    They drove over to the Mayor’s office. Bill was looking much better now that his stress level was much lower. Ron broke the bad news “Bill, BA and I are both hearing the same thing from two completely different sources, and I think you need to know so we can prepare the townspeople.”

    “If you’re talking about Saudi Arabia, I’ve heard that too from multiple sources, so what do you suggest?”

    “Bill, between BA and myself, we’ve got over $15 Million in the bank, and we’ll never spend all of it, so we wanted to do whatever it took to get the town through this crisis. We can’t be dependent on fuel for electricity or heating, since it either won’t be available shortly, or will be so expensive that we can’t afford it. What I’m suggesting is taking the entire town into the Alternative Energy setup. Let’s find out what the electric demand of the town would be, and the cheapest non-oil way to produce it, and we need to get started NOW. I’m going to install million gallon fuel tanks in the fuel farm and keep them full, and BA and I are installing whatever we have to that will make us energy independent. Since we can’t put solar shingles on every house, we need to come up with a community-based power system that will make year-round power.”

    “Ron, you’ll never believe this, but the town is situated right over a deep geothermal pocket that can produce enough steam to drive huge turbogenerators, and still have energy left over to heat houses. The reason no one’s ever utilized it was they estimated it would cost $5 million to exploit it, drill the holes, and install the hardware. The geologist who discovered it 30 years ago said it could generate at least 30 Megawatts for 100 years.”

    “BA, he said $5 million, you want to split the cost?”

    “Ron, I’m in if you are - what do you want to call our new business?”

    “How about Allakaket Power and Light?”

    Ron turned to the Mayor, “Ok, Bill, let’s make this happen. You’ve got $5 Million to do it, if you need more, just ask!” Ron and BA were happy because they were able to power the entire town, take a loss for tax purposes, and still have power to burn.

    After they left, the Mayor found the feasibility study that the Geologist had done as a favor. This geothermal site was a hydrothermal or wet site, so they could use older technology, drill into the hot water, and recirculate it using 2 wells, a production well, and an injection well. Since the water from the wells was likely to have a higher mineral content than normal, he suggested a heat exchanger so the hot water could heat the working fluid, which would be much less damaging to the turbine blades than the hot mineral water. He also suggested opening a huge indoor public pool/spa to utilize the excess hot water, and act as a reservoir for the wells. The hottest water would be pumped into a huge Jacuzzi/spa, and then into the pool as it cooled to below 80 degrees. The hot water would be between 100 and 120 degrees, with a safety system to prevent scalding, and a display indicating the current temperature of the water. The extra cost for this would only be around $100 thousand, and the Mayor felt he could donate the money himself. Bill got busy getting quotes from the manufacturers of the equipment, and contractors that could install it.

    Chapter 8 - Allakaket Power & Light

    Bill couldn’t believe his luck. He located a 10MW Steam turbogenerator through a surplus dealer who said it had belonged to a small utility co-op that was forced into bankruptcy by deregulation, and the big power company that bought them out didn’t want anything that small, so they stored it, and he bought it for a song. It had been running for just over a year, and had over 20 years left in it, and was rebuildable for 1/3 the cost of new. 10MW turbogenerators were going for $500 Thousand new, and he would sell it for $250 Thousand plus shipping to Alaska. The whole turbogenerator weighted 10,000 pounds, so the Chinook could easily carry it and enough extra fuel to make the trip. He located the drilling equipment, and it was cheaper to buy than rent it, so he got a quote for buying a conventional truck-mounted drilling rig capable of boring up to 5,000 feet, and up to a foot in diameter. Next he got a quote on the pipes and pipefitting necessary to connect the wells to the powerplant. Finally, he located a concrete batch plant to make enough concrete, gunite and other materials to make all the concrete they would need. An Alaskan Steel-building manufacturer gave him a quote on 2 of his largest insulated Steel buildings, with roofs designed to handle the snow load. Once he put together the quotes and added the numbers, he was right between $3 and $5 Million with plenty of room left over. He got separate quotes for digging and constructing the pool/Jacuzzi complex, with changing rooms and plenty of patio area between the walls and the pools. This figure was right around $100 thousand, so he called Ron and BA, and they agreed to meet in his office.

    “Ron, BA, you’re not going to believe this, but I located a good used 10MW 10KV turbogenerator for $250,000 and they are normally $500,000 new. It’s light enough that the Chinook can carry it and I’m pretty sure it will either fit inside, or he can safely sling load it from Anchorage to here. Here’s the rest of the numbers I crunched, and it looks like the entire project would come in at around $4 Million.”

    “Bill, what’s this line-item at the bottom “mini-Olympic pool with Jacuzzi/sauna/spa”? We didn’t order a pool?”

    “BA, you’re right - I had a feasibility study done years ago by a friend of my who’s a State geologist. He suggested a community pool/sauna/Jacuzzi would be a good use for the waste heat, you can’t exactly inject 100 degree water back into the ground. It has to be below 80 degrees for the hydrothermal system to work properly.”

    “Ok, there’s still the cost of the building and the pool.”

    “I know - I was going to contribute $200K to the cause, but it seems the costs were lower than I thought, and it will only cost $100K.”

    “Bill, I had an idea - do you remember reading an article in Mother Earth News about aquiculture and greenhouses. If I remember correctly, they said the ideal water temperature for Tilapia is around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the waste water coming out of the pool would be just about right.”

    “Ok, Ron, but one slight problem, the water in the pool will be chlorinated, or the Health Department will have a cow.”

    “We could put them on separate loops off the heat exchanger. One loop could heat the chlorinated pool water, and a smaller one could use the leftover heat to heat the Tilapia/greenhouse water. We could build a huge greenhouse and grow vegetables year round, including stuff we can’t grow now like corn. If the fuel prices are going sky-high, then commercial canned food and fresh meat will either be expensive or unavailable.”

    “Yikes, I never thought about that - we better tell any mothers with babies to stock up, and we had better stock up on anything we need to bring in from outside like soap, paper products and everything else - guess we better make a list and start buying stuff. Ron, BA - we might need some more money to buy stuff and store it. Since you’re the only ones with that kind of money, you’re nominated. Power is kind of useless if you can’t eat, wash clothes or anything else.”

    Ron turned to BA and said “Looks like we’re going into the General Store business.”

    BA suggested to Bill that they call a town meeting to discuss the problem. Meanwhile he saw no reason not to put their plans into action.

    Bill spread the word, and everyone in town gathered at the Moose Caf&#233;. It was crowded but they all fit. Bill called the meeting to order.

    “Ladies and Gentlemen, We’ve heard some disturbing news you need to know about. Several highly placed sources in the military and government have heard that there is a very good possibility of a coup in Saudi Arabia. If it is successful, they have threatened to cut off the oil to the west. Even if it is unsuccessful, it would mean doubling or tripling fuel costs due the unrest. Everyone’s livelihoods and very lives are dependant on cheap fuel up here. Even if you’re a primitive homesteader, you still have goods delivered by plane. What Bill Avery and Ron have proposed is to stockpile enough supplies to keep us living for 5 years, and they have offered to build, install, and run a geothermal generating station capable of producing 10 Megawatts of power cheaply. They are paying for it out of their own pockets, and all they are asking is those of you who can afford it, to pay monthly bills that would reimburse them for their expenses over 30 years, including their start up costs, and the cost of rebuilding the generator as needed. This would cut your existing power costs in half, and also provide several things, including a community 25-meter swimming pool, a 50x50 Jacuzzi and a sauna/steam room. The extra heat will also keep a huge community greenhouse working year round with a combination of vegetables and a Tilapia aquiculture setup. Anything you used to buy from Anchorage or elsewhere will shortly either have to be stockpiled or produced here, or do without. I’m passing around papers and pencils. You need to list what you’d need to live fairly comfortably for a year, and we will tabulate and correlate the lists, then extrapolate them out to 5 years, and stockpile it. Ron and BA have something very important to add.”

    Ron spoke up. “These items will not be free, we will charge fair market value for them, at the prices we paid when we bought them. Those of you with outside incomes that can afford to pay cash - we would appreciate it. Those of you who will be probably unemployed by then will be offered jobs at Allakaket Airlines to earn sufficient funds to afford supplies. Those too elderly or infirm to work, we will support you, and make sure you are safe and taken care of. Any questions?”

    A lady in the back stood up, “How sure are you?”

    “Ma’am, nothing is sure but death and taxes. In either event, we are proceeding with our plans. If we are wrong, you’ll still have jobs, and a local supply of goods to purchase at the same cost as before. We plan on hiring the storekeeper so she won’t be out of a job. We are ordering a huge supply of fuel to store in case. We feel strongly enough about this to be spending $5 Million each on plans to get us through this crisis. With your help, we can make it.”

    Bill spoke up again, “Friends, let’s not panic here, or start a panic by spreading rumors far and wide, that would start the very panic we are hoping to prevent. We have over a year according to our sources before this crisis could erupt, which gives us plenty of time to stockpile and prepare. Any other questions?”

    “What about friends and relatives - what should we tell them?”

    “Good question, Tell them to prepare and stockpile, but don’t panic. Treat it like any other Civil Emergency, it’s just this time we have some advance warning. Please don’t go spreading wild rumors, or you’ll only be making things worse.”

    When the meeting broke up, Bill reminded BA and Ron that they would need a huge building to store all this stuff in. Bill thought he could contact that Steel Building manufacturer in Anchorage and ask him if he had a 3rd building in stock, since if they were building 2 they might as well build 3 the same size and get a better price. BA figured the building was twice as big as they needed, but better too much than too little.

    Between flying passengers, freight and stuff they were stocking up on, Ron was busier than he had ever been in his life. Both his TG’s were flying non-stop 6 days a week. The Chinook pilot was working like a madman, but wasn’t complaining since he was getting major overtime, and the community needed what he was flying. It wasn’t like he was flying prime old-growth timber from the forests to the ports for export to Japan; he was flying essential materials into the town. As soon as Bear and Hunter were finished with the backhoe, Jim flew it to Allakaket and they got started earthmoving and blasting. Hunter was as good as he said, and never overshot or undershot by much. In 6 weeks, they had the holes for the tanks dug, and Jim flew to Anchorage then flew back with a huge fuel tank slung under his chopper. He did that 6 times, then the fuel delivery company started flying non-stop fuel deliveries to fill those massive tanks. Jim flew components of a concrete batch plant that could make concrete and gunite to Allakaket, then flew huge pallets full of concrete mix and gunite mix., then a concrete truck, and a concrete pump, and a gunite sprayer. He carried the turbogenerator, the pipes and the controls in separate flights. By the time he had finished, they had erected 3 huge buildings and had assembled the geothermal power plant.

    The pool had to wait for the first 2 buildings to get done, since they were taking the full capacity of the batch plant to pour the basement and the pre-stressed concrete and steel deck for the main floor so they’d have enough room for 4 turbogenerators if needed. Once the power plant was up and running, Bill started filling the pool. There was enough hot water left over to heat all 3 buildings, the Inn, the hangars, and provide enough heat and hot water for a 40,000 square foot weatherproof greenhouse with a dozen Tilapia tanks that had thousands of Tilapia fry. Once they were big enough, they’d sort them into Male and Female, and keep them in separate tanks, except for breeding purposes. The idea was hot water entered the tanks, kept the water at 80 degrees, which went into the hydroponic tanks where all kinds of produce were grown including exotic varieties that would never grow in Alaska, and the plant refuse was fed to the fish. The natural sunlight was supplemented by banks of florescent lights. Bill had read that if you combined a 48-inch cool florescent tube with a 48-inch warm florescent tube in the same fixture, you approximated normal sunlight for a tenth of the cost of incandescent grow lights, between buying and running them. The light fixtures were raised and lowered as the plants grew to keep them at the correct distance from the plants. They bought cases of bulbs, fixtures and ballasts, and cases of Non-hybrid seeds. Ron wished they would have shipped the liquid fish emulsion as a sling load under the Chinook, but it came with the rest of the stuff instead. It took a week to get the smell out of the plane. Finally, right before winter they were done, and Ron took a week off to relax and spend time with Nancy and Moose, who was getting huge. Moose had gained 30 pounds in his first year, and was definitely living up to his name. Ron loved playing with him, but Moose really got attached to Nancy.

    Bear had a very busy season, and made Ron another half-million in profits not including the extra money spent flying. This offset the half-mil he gave Bear, so he was happy. Ron flew up to their compound, and Bear took him for a hike to show him something. 2 hours later he was looking inside the mine that Slim’s family had started in the 1800’s. Bear explained what he was looking at in the powerful lights, and took a sample. Ron flew it to Anchorage to an assayer, who told Ron he had located some high-grade gold ore, but it was very small particles. Ron did some checking and located used mining equipment, laid-off miners, and hired townspeople as their business shut down as word spread of the pending crisis. Ron was glad they had secured all the fuel they would need for several years, and were 100% energy independent, and had stockpiled 5 years worth of staples, fabric, paper products, and other necessities. The storekeeper had so much stuff she needed a computer to track all of it.

    As the first of the year got closer, the crisis deepened. The Saudi Royal Family was losing control, and CNN speculated that they were looking for a country to bug out to. When Germany agreed to take them, they left the kingdom, and took their wealth with them, leaving the once great nation destitute and at the mercy of its neighbors. Arabic memories make the Europeans seem like amnesiacs, and several of their neighbors used this opportunity to settle old scores, and reclaim territory. The entire region destabilized, and no one was capable of safely delivering the massive amounts of crude oil necessary to keep the rest of the world running. The UN attempted to arbitrarily settle the issue, as the European powers had done centuries before. The effort was doomed from the start, since the UN had no military, and the various European nations were fighting each other for control of the region. Finally the US Navy was forced to militarize and organize the Persian Gulf, since pirates and terrorists roamed the waters collecting tribute from the few oil tankers that were able to find sufficient quantities of crude oil to make the trip worth it. The Small Boat Navy was reinvented, since the best defense against a small fast lightly armed boat was a small, fast more heavily armed boat. Thousands of mothballed PT boats were pushed into service. Some were barely seaworthy, and after some disasters caused by obsolete equipment, the Secretary of the Navy was standing in the Oval Office threatening dire consequences unless George Bush got off his duff and signed the Executive Order militarizing the Coast Guard, and authorizing a crash program to build 100 copies of the Mark V boat the SEALs were using. It was perfect for coastal defensive operations, yet some Idiot at the Pentagon never authorized a large purchase, probably because JSOC had bypassed NAVSEA in the procurement process for the ones he did get. The Secretary had spoken to General Shepard, who told the Secretary that he bypassed NAVSEA because the last time they had an original idea a Cutter was a sailing ship, and they were a dumb plodding bureaucratic SNAFU waiting to take an original idea and FUBAR it. The Secretary agreed, but the only fast way around NAVSEA was an EO, but George was reticent to sign an EO for a huge order for a new ship, when an aide stepped into the office, turned on CNN and showed another bunch of pirates hijacking an oil tanker, and beheading a member of the crew. George ordered the TV turned off. He asked the Secretary how ordering 100 Mark V boats would stop this.

    “Mr. President, our destroyers can escort a convoy of tankers, but they can’t be everywhere at once, and these pirates sneak up while the destroyers are off chasing someone else, and capture the tanker. Once they have the tanker, they rig it with explosives and threaten to blow it out of the water unless they are paid off. The Mark V has a top speed over 50 knots, and can accelerate to that speed in a matter of seconds. It has a 25mm autocannon in the bow and a 7.62mm GE Minigun in the stern, plus it can carry several 6 man SEAL teams and their equipment. That’s a lot of firepower in a small boat. The destroyers we are using are WWII technology, top out at about 30 knots, and can’t keep up with the pirate’s boats. The plan is to let the destroyers escort the convoys while the Mark V’s roam the likely areas where the pirates hide, and damage or destroy their boats before they can attack the tankers.”

    The Secretary knew that GW loved Special Forces, so he made sure to include that element in his argument. The President signed the EO, and the boat manufacturer received a rush order for 100 Mark V’s. They had 20 unsold units in stock, and they immediately delivered them to the US Navy for outfitting and arming. As soon as they were ready to go, they were packed aboard C-5 Galaxies and flown to Diego Garcia. The huge guns on the 20 boats had a telling effect, and piracy slowed to a crawl, but didn’t solve the basic problem of supplying the world’s oil. Since the US was the only viable armed force in the vicinity, the UN authorized the Marines to secure the refineries and oil fields. Any funds for oil would be deposited in an UN administered trust fund. Slowly over a period of 2 years oil deliveries approached 80 % of normal, but there was still a huge shortfall. Finally the Environmentalists woke up to reality when they discovered their 50mpg econoboxes still needed oil to run, and allowed GW to re-open closed sections of the Alaskan oilfields. This meant an immediate need for cargo planes to fly men and equipment to the oil fields, and Jim was busy again choppering in equipment. Even BA got in the act with his Catalina, flying a long round trip once a week. For the money that the oil companies were offering, and the huge savings in fuel promised, it was worth it. Since they had an oil field contract, Allakaket Airlines had access to and pre-crisis pricing on any available fuel, and Ron took advantage of the situation, and refilled all their fuel tanks in case fuel supplies were disrupted again. Their contracts with the oil companies, and the gold they were mining quickly refilled the coffers of Allakaket Airlines, and he was soon back in the black. The geothermal power plant was making enough power for the entire town, and had to be throttled back to avoid overproduction. Several oil companies decided to locate offices in Allakaket due to the improved infrastructure, and soon the power plant was back up to 80% of capacity. The Greenhouse was a co-op, and people earned vegetables and meat by working at the co-op greenhouse or other projects. Inn guests were amazed that they could serve fresh corn on the cob in the middle of winter.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    State of Denial
    Chapter 9 -Just getting by

    Things did not bode well for Allakaket Airlines. GW was now a lame duck President, and the Republicans didn’t have anyone decent to run. Kerry was still eager to become the next president, but he was afraid Hillary Clinton would throw her broom into the ring. The oil supply never really stabilized, and Congress did what it was best at, talking the problem to death. There were millions of people eager to point fingers, and very few with real solutions. We weren’t out of oil; it’s just that politics made it difficult to secure our oil sources. Most Right Wing Republicans said we should annex Saudi Arabia, kick the towel heads out, and pump it dry. Others blamed the oil companies and there was a mad scramble for any quick-fix, until some smart person pointed out that electric cars were powered by electricity generated by either coal or oil fired generators, and hydroelectric only provided a small percentage of our power. The Democrats were in a jam as well, since the only viable alternative to replace oil was Nuclear power, and they hated Nuclear power even more that Big Oil!

    Allakaket Airlines was still in business, except now they were flying and training Survivalists who thought the end was near. Bear was just glad to have the clientele even if they reminded him of a cross between Rambo and Walter Middy. The hunters couldn’t afford flights that cost 3 times what they cost before, but for some reason everyone who could afford it, or even had to mortgage the house to afford it was signing up for Alaska Survival Inc’s Survival school. Since foodstuffs and supplies were available, Ron and BA were plowing all their money back into keeping their store stocked. Their gold mine was profitable, and with some equipment borrowed from nearby oil fields, they were able to transport the ore down the hill to their smelting and processing facility. Gold was so valuable that they could afford to fly in several tankers a week full of diesel and fuel oil for their equipment and generators. They had a small hydroelectric system from damming a river, but the bulk of their power was generated by fuel oil powered steam generators. They would have killed for a geothermal hot spot, but the geologist said it was too deep to take advantage of. They were as energy efficient as possible, and took full advantage of the short summers to make photoelectric power, but it was ridiculously expensive compared to even the high price of diesel and fuel oil. They installed a huge heliostat, but it only ran 6 months out of the year, and had to be repaired each year due to winter damage. Even with their astronomical cost of doing business, with gold over $2,000 per ounce, they were making money hand over fist, and had managed to employ most of the townspeople who were unemployed due to the energy crisis.

    Finally, Nancy was pregnant. She announced the good news to Ron when he came home from work after fixing an extravagant dinner, and giving him a massage. Finally she sat down and told him. He didn’t ask “How’d that happen?” since they had been trying for a while. Ron walked to this wife, gave her a big hug, and cried. She was wondering what he was crying for, when Ron told her he thought that he might be sterile. She told him that she saw the Doc, who switched her prescriptions for her asthma and gave her some different vitamins, and voila! 9 months from now, they would be parents. Nancy had sworn Anne to secrecy, but now she was sure to get in some quality Girl Time with her mother-in -law. Nancy really liked Anne, and liked the way she gave advice. She never said “If I were you” or pontificated. They just talked like Nancy was her daughter.

    Things were heating up in the Middle East, with various Radical Mullahs stirring up the people and claiming they weren’t getting the income from the oil production when in reality, they were getting 2-3 times more of the money than when the Royal Family was in power. GW had made some inquiries about seizing the assets of the Royal Family when he heard how much money they had absconded with. Problem was he didn’t have a legal leg to stand on. It seems that ripping off the citizens of your country and absconding with the loot wasn’t illegal, and they had no jurisdiction anyway. The UN refused to act, surprising no one. Ron took a rare break to fly up to check on Bear and their operation. Ron was getting worried about security, and Bear assured him that it was taken care of to a level he would never believe, or needed to know about. Ron and BA, and most of the people in the town who could afford to placed a huge group order for ammo. The load was so heavy the BA and Ron had to fly the Catalina to Anchorage to pick it up. The delivery driver decided to deliver it in a huge cube van with a lift tail instead of making 4 trips in his usual truck. BA’s Catalina had been highly modified from the original and thoroughly de-milled. The Waist Gunner’s compartment had been replaced by a huge cargo door, and they were able to easily transfer the pallets from the truck to the plane. They located the pallets along the centerline of the plane for safety reasons, and tried to balance the load front and rear. Tying the pallets down was probably overkill, but you never knew when you might be forced to execute a negative-g maneuver to save the plane. BA performed a very gentle take-off, and didn’t try to climb much or climb fast. He set the PBY down on Allakaket Lake as if he had a load full of nitroglycerine and taxied to the ramp. Once they were stopped, the townspeople helped them unload case by case, forming a human chain to handle the heavy load. They loaded it into several pickups and delivered it that afternoon. Most of the townspeople had ordered a case of their favorite ammo. BA finally realized that guns had more uses than just hunting, and had bought several. With small kids in the house, they were either on his person, or in the safe. Ron had convinced him of the necessity of carrying at least a .45 everywhere he went, so he bought a Para Ordinance P-14 Limited like Ron’s and learned to shoot fairly well with it. He finally stopped wearing suits, and realized jeans and flannel shirts were much more comfortable. Ron bought him a Bladetech IWB holster and a double-mag carrier to match.

    The next morning BA was watching the news on his Satellite TV when the feed was suddenly cut from CNN in New York. He tried the other channels, and all he got was an EBS out of Anchorage with no further info. He called Ron and gave him the news. He started searching the internet, and finally Reuters broke the news 2 hours later that several small nuclear explosions had gone off in the business districts of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. There were hundreds of thousands of fatalities, but the real damage appeared to be to the financial centers themselves. Al Quaeda took credit for the attacks, stating they had destroyed the Great Satan once and for all. What they didn’t know was the effects would be temporary due to what was known as real-time data back-ups. Millions of people in the United States panicked, thinking the banking system was wiped out. The first thing GW did was get the networks back on line so he could tell the people that everything was OK, and their money was safe, it would just take a couple of weeks to restore all the backed up data.

    The oil company executives weren’t convinced, and demanded to be flown back to Anchorage later that day. Ron hoped they wouldn’t come back, since they had been disruptive as soon as they moved in, and BA was tempted to resume his Socialite ways until Sally put her foot down, and that was that.

    Two weeks later, the banks were open as GW had promised, and he had located a probable target for retaliation. This time he wanted Congress’s backing, so he called an emergency closed door secret session of Congress, and barred cameras and reporters.

    Later that day, he addressed Congress:

    “Ladies and Gentlemen of Congress, we have been deliberately attacked by an old enemy who had attempted to destroy our financial systems. Luckily for us, they didn’t really understand our systems were fully redundant, and they would have to destroy the back-ups, and the backups to the backups to cause the financial crisis they were attempting to foment. They did cause us some losses, including several million dead from the demolition of the buildings, radiation, and accidents caused by the panic attempting to flee. They caused at least 10 million injuries, some severe, and they caused us Billions of dollars in damage. I called this secret emergency session, because what I’m about to reveal may never leave this room, but I need your support for several retaliatory strikes.

    First of all the Saudi Royal Family has supported Al Quaeda since before the first Desert Storm, and I’m passing out documents that prove that. All copies have been numbered, and must be returned before the doors are opened. The Saudi Royal Family has absconded to Germany with over half a Trillion dollars of stolen oil revenue. What I plan on doing is to seize all their assets by blocking transactions of the affected banks until they agree to return the ill gotten gain to its rightful owner, after we take 20% of it as payment for the damages caused by the attack they paid for. All of our percentage of the funds will be disbursed to actual victims with legitimate claims, and NO lawyer’s fees will be paid out of these funds. I don’t want 2/3 of the money going to a bunch of people who weren’t victims of this attack, but still benefit financially. Our first priority will be to rebuild downtown New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Since the Insurance Companies have invoked their “Acts of War” clause, no one has been able to rebuild. Once the United States had paid for the losses and rebuilding expenses of big companies, I’ll sign an Executive Order declaring this a Terrorist Attack, and basically order the insurance companies to make good on the smaller losses by rate payers who paid their money all these years, expecting the insurance company to actually pay for a loss, and not run and hide behind an obscure definition of an “Act of War”.

    Second of all, we have several locations that we’re pretty sure belong to Al Quaeda or sympathizers and major supporters based on intercepts in the days before and after the attacks. Any of you who breathe a word of this will face a National Security Act arrest.

    Therefore, I’ve ordered all of our precision bombers to load up with JDAMs and fly to these targets. They are in the air now, but I want a voice vote of approval for these strikes because there might be repercussions. The United States cannot be attacked and then seen as weak by the world, or the sharks will close in, and the vultures will be there to pick off the scraps. My final act as President of the United States will not be to sign our surrender to terrorists. Every time the United States was attacked, like in Pearl Harbor, we counterattacked and defeated that enemy. There are those of you who want to appease all our enemies. I’m here to remind you that Neville handed Churchill a peace treaty signed by Adolf Hitler the same moment the Battle of Britain started. Appeasement never worked, and never will. Now I’m asking for a voice vote to approve the actions we as a nation are about to take. Our Nation has been attacked, and our response is measured and responsible, and aimed at those who attacked us, not innocent civilians.”

    Dick Cheney, as the President of the Senate, called for a voice vote. Except for a few Ultra-Liberal members of Congress, it was an overwhelming majority and almost unanimous in their approval of his actions. GW knew that offering to fix NYC and Chicago had silenced most of his critics, since they realized it was a package deal. George walked over to a desk, and signed the EO authorizing the missions, and a hundreds of bombers that were orbiting just outside of radar range of their targets were given the GO code, and all over the Middle East it was raining JDAMS. Some were laser drops due to the proximity of civilians, and some were GPS drops. An hour later, every known member or supporter of Al Quaeda, including all the pesky radical Mullahs had a suddenly unexpected encounter with God. All over the world, transactions were frozen for entire banks that the US suspected of harboring Saudi Royal Family loot. After a couple of days, the presidents of the banks realized they could not operate at all with all their transactions blocked, and sent private notes to the US government asking why they were being blocked, and what they had to do to resume transactions. The US reply was an encrypted transmission listing all the deposits in their banks that must be surrendered to the US government as stolen property. Most European banks complied immediately, but some Bahamian banks needed more persuasion. The US government got its way when they threatened to send the US Marines in and seize the bank and the entire country if necessary. No Bahamian government could stand for a minute against even a small detachment of Marines, so they knuckled under.

    The next day King Faud was rudely awakened by German GS-9 troops sent by the government to evict him from his villa, and seize every asset in his possession. His greatest indignation was when they seized all his Mercedes limousines, and he was forced to walk through the gates of his villa into the clutches of the media. Seems the Germans weren’t too happy about having several German banks’ transactions blocked, and decided to evict the cause of their grief. Since no other EU nation wanted him, and the Saudis were seeking extradition, the German Government took the easy way out and declared the King and his entire entourage Persona Non Grata and deported them back to Saudi Arabia. They even made him fly commercial. His entire entourage was arrested upon landing in Saudi Arabia.

    George Bush and the senior members of Congress held a joint news conference announcing the seizure of $500 Billion is Saudi Royal Families assets, and the return of the bulk of those assets directly to the Saudi people to rebuild their infrastructure, open schools, rebuild mosques damaged in the recent Civil War, and generally make life better for the average Saudi citizen. 20% of the money was being withheld to rebuild damages to New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles, since we had evidence the Saudi Royal Family had financially supported Al Quaeda for decades, and Al Quaeda had claimed responsibility for the bombs.

    Overnight GW’s popularity soared in the polls, and if he could have run for a 3rd term, he would have won by a landslide. Seeing the polls, the Democrats decided now was not a good time to attack GW, and a Republican, fiscally conservative Congress and a moderate Republican were elected in 2008. His first act as President was to strengthen border security, and erect a fence between Mexico and the US, and deport all Illegal Aliens, with liberal amnesty for any illegals who had lived here over 10 years, and could prove it, and could pass a NCIC background check. The amnesty clause kept most of the Mexican voters from rebelling, and the Wall was erected. Within months, hospitals in border states reported a huge drop in number of deliveries, and Emergency Room admittances.

    King Faud spent his last days in a common prison cell near “Chop Square” in Riyadh. The irony of the situation was not lost on the king, who could see his palace out of his prison window. His execution was a foregone conclusion. Theft on that scale warranted death according to Islamic Law. What the Supreme Council debated for months was how far the executions should spread. Several Imams wanted to execute the entire entourage, and some wanted to free anyone who wasn’t a member of the Royal Family. A brilliant compromise was reached. Anyone in direct line for the throne would be executed to prevent retaliation if they should ascend the throne, the others would face a decision of execution or publicly denying their royalty and throwing their badges of royalty on a dung heap before the TV cameras. They knew this would result in forever destroying the monarchy, and frankly they were tired of the excesses and some embarrassingly public displays of behavior forbidden by the Koran from younger members of the Royal Family.

    King Faud was delivered the news that he would be executed the next day and a note from Ex-President Bush at the same time. Since the King read English, it was left un-translated and unopened.
    Dear King Faud:

    If you hadn’t been so greedy you would still be in Germany today living a life of luxury instead of facing execution. If you would have kept it under $10 Billion, we could have looked the other way, but absconding with over $500 Billion and taking all your country’s liquid assets was too much, and we had to bring you to heel.

    Enjoy Eternity!

    George Bush

    The next day at high noon, dozens of members of the Royal family were chained together as common criminals, and forced to walk to Chop Square in the blazing 100 degree plus heat. A cleric was provided, but none were willing to confess. The King was the first one in line, and before he was executed, he was publicly humiliated by being stripped of his throbe and regalia and was executed as a common thief. He nearly fainted when he saw the huge razor sharp scimitar wielded by the Executioner. He was tied to the block, and as the blade descended a roar erupted from the crowd “Allah Akbar” and the King’s head rolled away from his body. That day was henceforth celebrated as Saudi Independence day.

    The next day there was a big ceremony carried live on Saudi TV and broadcast to the world of the cousins of the royal family throwing their regalia and throbes onto a dung heap and publicly renouncing any ties to the Royal Family.

    Over the weeks and months under pressure from the US and Britain, the Saudis adopted a British-modeled government, with the upper house dominated by the clergy, and the lower house dominated by the new middle class of entrepreneurs. It was an eclectic blend of Islamic Law and a Civil Government.

    Ron and BA followed all this, and realized the US had just bought some time, that any remaining members of Al Quaeda would be back seeking revenge. They hoped that the measures President Hatch had taken would keep them out of the United States.

    Chapter 10 - Al Quaeda

    Unfortunately GW didn’t target all the Al Quaeda sympathizers in the Middle East. Most of the Iranian Republican Guard were staunch supporters of Al Quaeda, and when they received news of the JDAM strikes, they were furious, especially when several popular (to them) mullahs were killed along with their families. The Republican guards by themselves had no means of retaliation, but they began the process of rebuilding Al Quaeda, and planning their revenge.

    After the strike, oil production in the Middle East and the rest of the world rose sharply. Several news sources attributed it to fears of attack by the United States, but it really was due to the re-activating of several thousand wells in Texas and California as the price soared high enough to make them profitable. The glut of oil drove the price of a barrel of crude back under $50, and they began shutting down again. By then the entire Alaskan oil field was in full production, and the terminal in Valdez Alaska was operating around the clock, transferring oil to new double-hulled supertankers and mega-tankers for delivery to both coasts of the United States. Several US Senators had approached President Hatch with an idea to build a new set of locks next to the original Panama Canal that were 5 times the size of the original, and could take any oil tanker envisioned in the next 20 years. President Hatch looked at the costs of building a canal just for supertankers, the security risks and cost to defend the very valuable and highly vulnerable supertankers while in transit, and told them the bloody tankers could go around, he wasn’t spending more than the national debt on a canal just to lower the cost of crude oil by $2 per barrel. He had also seen secret CIA reports that Latin American Insurgents had plans to attack the existing canal and hold the ships hostage. If they held a supertanker hostage, they would have a real bargaining chip.

    He thought about that idea, and decided to put a heavily armed Marine guard force aboard every tanker that left US waters in transit armed to repel boarders and equipped with Stinger Missiles to take out any attempt to board via helicopter. The Commandant of the Marines liked the idea, since the Marines’ original job was to protect US ships from pirates, and in a way they would be doing that again. He pointed out to the President that it meant militarizing the vessels, since Posse Comitias prohibited Military use for civilian law enforcement. President Hatch fixed that with a single EO, and for the duration of the emergency, the US flagged oil tankers would be considered US Military ships under civilian control and ownership. The practical matter was that a Naval Officer would be on the bridge 24/7, but since the Navy Captains weren’t experienced with ships that big and unwieldy, the civilian captain made all navigation decisions, and the naval officer was in charge of security. Word soon spread of heavily armed Marines on the Oil tankers, and several Latin American Terrorist organizations decided to pick easier targets. The sight of Ma Deuces on pintle mounts port and starboard, and twin 40mm Bofors guns mounted on the bow and stern became a common sight. They also mounted a military radar system on every supertanker that could detect any object bigger than a barrel from 0-25 thousand feet within a 50-mile range from the ship.

    With the drop in oil prices, hunters came back to Alaska with a vengeance, hoping that there would be some prime trophy caribou available, since they hadn’t been heavily hunted for several years. That season several Boone & Crocket records were established. When word spread, every hunter who could afford it tried to get to Alaska. Alaska Airlines, Allakaket Airlines and the lodges were operating at max capacity. Even the Inn at Allakaket was booked for the entire season by hunters who wanted to hunt by themselves with a guide. Every house and cabin was rented for the season by pilots and guides, and business was booming. Knowing it couldn’t last, Bill, BA and Ron socked away all their profits, kept the fuel tanks full, and did everything they could to make sure the entire town would be self-sufficient in case the boom went bust. Nancy delivered her son, named Jake, and Ron was a proud new father. Unlike his dad, he didn’t have to deliver his son and good thing too, since he was flying back from Anchorage when he was born. Ron really wanted to be there, but knew he would probably be in the air between Anchorage and Allakaket when it happened. He said “That’s OK, I was there for the important part!” and Nancy had to laugh. Anne was Doc Miller’s nurse, so Nancy did have a family member there in the delivery room. Just over 9 months later, she was pregnant again. BA guessed they were in a hurry to get it over with. Actually Ron and Nancy couldn’t keep their hands off each other, and the result was additional kids, which was OK with them, because they wanted at least 4. Nancy was a full-time Mom, and loved it. Having 2 kids in diapers would be interesting, but she knew she was up to the challenge. Ron spent as much time home as he could, but she realized that he had a seasonal business to run, and did most of the flying himself. They were now so busy that both TG’s flew 2 round-trips between Anchorage and Allakaket each day full of passengers. Sometimes Steve flew a 3rd trip for cargo. BA was glad he switched to Ron’s business manager, because he was sure he would be going out of his tree trying to manage Alaska Airlines now that he was working between 40 and 60 hours each week just taking care of Allakaket Airlines and their subsidiaries. The gold mine was at full production during the warm season, and was making enough money that the airlines could have shut down and the entire company would still be in the black. Ron took advantage of the situation and ordered more fuel tanks installed at Allakaket and at the mine site. Jim was as busy as anyone else flying his CH-47. The mine would have a 6-month supply of fuel on hand when they finished, and the airport at Allakaket would have a year’s supply for the airline and the town. The geothermal plant was producing between 4 and 5 megawatts each day, so the demand for diesel generators was just about zero, but everyone had switched over to diesel vehicles at Ron’s suggestion, since the diesel was easier to store long-term than the avgas. The snowmobiles and chainsaws still used avgas, as well as the bush planes, but in an emergency they could do without them. They had millions of gallons of JP-5 in storage, easily enough to last a year at their current rate of use, and if they cut back, it would last several years. The Survival school was still going like gangbusters between new Fed and LEO customers, and the occasional civilian with $5K to spend learning survival for a week in the Alaskan wilderness. Bear and Hunter still ran the Survival Business, and Ron hired a full-time mine manager with seasonal crew for the warmer months, and a year-round maintenance crew that lived at the mine site to keep it up during the winter shut-down. The seasonal crew made so much money during the warm season that they didn’t have to work the rest of the year, which suited them just fine. Several bought cabins in the area around Allakaket and moved their families to Alaska since they knew that it was just matter of time before TSHTF again.

    Al Quaeda and the Republican Guard were in the process of planning their attack on the oil pipeline. They realized infiltrating the US would be next to impossible via Mexico, so they checked Canada out, and it was wide open. Toronto would let anyone in, and there were no travel restrictions. Their only difficulty would be getting from the Yukon Territory to the oil pipeline. They would have to fly, and started training pilots and looking for planes. The area was snow-bound almost year-round, so they needed a ski plane, and winter survival training for the operatives. Several of them applied to Alaska Survival Inc, and Bear refused their applications, and forwarded the info to Homeland Security. He hoped the HSD was better run than when Bush was President, or they were in deep kimchee. The rejected applications and the requests for background clearances for new pilot training went to separate desks, so no one put 2 and 2 together until much later.

    Luckily, foreign applications for pilot training for anyone of Middle-eastern descent were automatically denied unless they were Israeli, setting their plans back over a year while they scrambled for another training site. Finally they located a French company that didn’t give a rip what nationality their students were, just the color of their money. Many 3rd world pilots received their training there, as did many potential terrorists. The French didn’t see terrorism as a French problem yet, since they were so busy appeasing the terrorists that they hadn’t bothered to attack yet. 2 years later their pilots were given Commercial tickets with multi-engine ratings, and began searching for planes. They knew that C-130’s flew around and near the Arctic Circle year-round, and could carry a bunch of gear, including the plastic explosive charges they would need to sever the oil pipeline. The easiest solution came from a mole in the RCAF who said they could just steal a winter-equipped RCAF C-130. By the time they missed it, the mission would be accomplished. They decided to skip the survival training since this would be a one-way mission anyway, and make up the time they lost trying to find pilot training facilities in the US or Canada.

    Bear was hearing rumblings through the grapevine that Al Quaeda was up to no good, and it would involve an attack on the US. He e-mailed a friend of his at HSD and asked him if they ever investigated the applications for Survival Training. When he said they didn’t, Bear gave them the names, and they came up on a hot sheet, which immediately got the HSD working on cold-environment attacks. They issued alerts to all cold-weather military bases, and just through dumb luck, a copy filtered down to the people responsible for the Trans-Alaska pipeline, and they immediately increased their security patrols, and changed their weapons from AR-15’s to M-1a’s. They increased the frequency of radio checks as well, and since the checks were for the benefit of the guards, they actually appreciated it. By the time Al Quaeda was ready to attack, the alert had expired, but being creatures of habit, the pipeline company never stood down the extra security along the pipeline.

    Several weeks later Al Quaeda infiltrated Toronto International and breezed through the non-existent security with false passports. They drove west to the Yukon Territory to a base that was close to the border with Alaska, scouted it for a few days to establish the guard’s pattern, and snuck up to him and killed him, hiding the body were it would take weeks to be found. The mole had already ID’d the plane they needed to steal. It was already fully fueled and prepped for a mission that was mysteriously cancelled later that afternoon. They stole the plane, took off and flew below the radar until they reached the pipeline. The pilot didn’t land the plane as smoothly as he had practiced, probably since he had been up for 18 hours, and snow viewed in the early morning light looks deceptively flat. No one was seriously injured, but they were forced to abandon their schedule. Unknown to the attackers, the schedule was set to ensure that no guards would be near the sections they were going to blow. Their delay meant that guards would be either nearby or right on top of the sections they were to blow up.

    They made it to the sections OK, but while they were placing the explosives, the guards appeared, and realized there was no scheduled maintenance on this section of pipe, radioed in the Attack Alert, and jumped out of their trucks and sought cover. In their white coveralls, they blended right into the snow. Through their binoculars they could see the terrorists were fixing explosives, and they had no time to waste. They sighted on the terrorists with the scoped M-1a’s and commenced fire. Hearing gunshots, the leaders pressed the detonators while they could. Since the charges weren’t fully placed, the pipes were severely damaged enough to force a shut-down, but not ruptured as the terrorists had hoped. All up and down the line, the Security force went on high alert, and 6-man Strike teams were sent to the pipes while they checked the remainder. When the smoke cleared, it was apparent there were only 2 teams of terrorists, and they quickly backtracked and located their plane. They notified the RCAF that they were missing a C-130, and RCAF checked and thought the guard had deserted his post until they found the guard’s body a week later. The news that the pipeline had been attacked made it up the chain of command, resulting in a Flash message being put in the hands of President Hatch. While he was grateful that the pipeline had survived and was intact, he was so mad that he could have nuked the entire Middle East right then and there.

    President Hatch was given continuous updates. When they found and translated papers found at the crash site and several of the bodies were ID’d then ran through the system, and their nationality was known, President Hatch vowed to finish what President Bush started. Before he could do anything rash (like nuke the entire Middle East) his Chief of Staff had a word with him, and suggested a much better solution. Like his predecessor, he would address Congress, and then drop a MOAB on Tehran. Several were based in Diego Garcia, and he authorized the loading and readying of the plane. He called an immediate closed joint session of Congress, and gave them the news. Most of the Ultra-Conservative Republicans and several conservative Democrats wanted to nuke Iran and get it over with. President Hatch agreed, that was his first solution, then told them his Chief of Staff suggested a much better solution that would do as much damage as a small nuke without the radioactive or political fallout.
    “Ladies and Gentlemen, the solution he came up with was to drop a MOAB on Tehran Iran. I have the appropriate plane being loaded as we speak, and I need a voice vote authorizing the attack.” Since the Ultra-Liberal wing of the Democratic Party found themselves without a constituency, and out of office; the vote was unanimous, and President Hatch signed the order. The C-130 with a heavy fighter escort and a fuel tanker took off, and later that afternoon, a single huge bomb rolled out of the C-130 and fell to earth. Just above ground, the detonator fired, and 18 Thousand pounds of TNT turned Tehran into a wasteland.

    President Hatch went on National TV right after the attack to break the news to the American Public.

    “Ladies and Gentlemen, it seemed Al Quaeda didn’t get the message the first time and tried unsuccessfully to attack our oil pipeline in Alaska resulting in minor damage. From what we know, the Terrorists received primary pilot training from a French company, stole a RCAF C-130, killed the guard, and flew below radar coverage to the pipeline, where they crash landed. The landing threw off their schedule, and they ran into the guard force, which prevented them from setting their charges and blowing the pipeline. Subsequent forensic testing and documents found at the crash site and on the bodies proved beyond a reasonable doubt that this branch of Al Quaeda had close ties to the Iranian Republican Guards. Between that and evidence the Iranian government is going forward with their illegal nuclear weapons program, I would have been justified to nuke the entire country. Instead I decided to show mercy and drop a 20,000 pound MOAB on Tehran. Right now the entire city of Tehran is as flat as a pancake. I have a message for the rest of the Moslems in the world. We can be the best of friends, or the worst of enemies. It’s your choice - Attack America again, or American interests or citizens again, and you will reap the whirlwind. Consider this your final warning.”

    Ron and Nancy were watching the TV, and caught the President’s speech. They turned the TV off when the talking heads came on and babbled for an hour. Ron turned to Nancy and said “He’s definitely got a set of brass ones!”

    “Ron, it also might invite other attacks!”

    “I doubt it - I’m pretty sure the next attack if there is one, will generate a nuclear response. No government in their right minds would allow anyone to encourage the US to nuke their entire country. They’ll rein their terrorist organizations in fast. Some might even ask for US help, and I’m sure we’ll give it. That message wasn’t just for the Moslems - it was meant for every country in the world that wishes us ill, or covets what we have. As long as Hatch is President, even Russia and China will watch where they step.”

    Chapter 11 - Moose on the Loose

    By now Moose had grown from a small puppy into a medium-sized Moose and decided to help Nancy baby-sit Jake, sometimes literally. More than once, Nancy walked into a room and found Moose sitting on Jake. Since he was still breathing she didn’t freak out. Jake made up for it by using Moose as a Jungle Gym. The two of them got along great, and Moose kept Jake out of trouble more than once by woofing and ratting out Jake when he was doing stuff like trying to climb over the baby barricade. They played together, napped together, and Nancy even caught Jake trying to drink out of Moose’s water bowl. She thought that was a little too much togetherness, and put the kibosh on that. Often during naptime, she’d find Jake curled up with Moose on Moose’s bearskin rug on the floor. Ron was home one day and spotted them, and almost broke down in tears remembering when he used to do that with his old dog Sam. Nancy picked that moment to give Ron a hug, and she couldn’t understand why he was crying so hard. When he finally stopped and explained, she joined him. A couple of months later, Nancy had their second son Josh. Jake was too busy with Moose to miss the intimate time with his mom, so there was little sibling rivalry between the two, at least for now. Nancy was confused, She was a blonde, and Ron had dark hair, yet Jake was a blond, and Josh definitely took after his father. She wondered what a girl would look like.

    The next season was busy for Allakaket Airlines as well. BA’s replacement had suggested to him that if Allakaket Airlines could pick up the slack, he’d appreciate if they would pick up the Fairbanks to Northern Alaska routes. BA realized that would involve building two new TurboGoose, and he didn’t know if they had enough parts available. Ron called the Maintenance Chief at Elmendorf and asked if he could locate some more Allison Turboprops. He suggested Allakaket Airlines contact Allison direct, since if they still had the plans, they could build several of them at the same time, and they would be brand-new turbines, and more reliable than surplus turbines. Ron did just that, and found out that Rolls Royce had bought the company in 1995, and located the Rolls-Royce website for Allison turbines. The e-mail he sent made it quickly to the Director of the Allison Engines Division’s desk, and he was incredulous - they thought those turbines had been destroyed long ago. A telephone call to Allakaket verified that not only did the turbines survive, but 4 of them were powering TurboGoose airplanes that had been flying for years. The Director called the head of the Engineering Department, and it took some convincing before his Head Engineer realized that the Director wasn’t pulling his leg, and 4 of their old turbines were flying in commercial aircraft. He located the 70-yr old engine designer in a retirement home and the two of them convinced the designer of the turbine that it was installed and running in an aircraft. They immediately booked passage to Anchorage, and met Ron at the airport with one of his TurboGoose aircraft. It took hours for Ron to explain the parentage of the aircraft and turbines, and the designer practically cried when he saw that his beautiful babies were actually installed in a commercial aircraft. Ron invited them aboard, and offered the designer the right seat. The flight back to Allakaket was a very emotional experience all around. The engineer marveled that these 50-year old turbines were still good enough to fly in a commercial aircraft. He was impressed by their power and how quiet they were. The landing at Allakaket was spectacular because Ron showed them the STOL capabilities of the aircraft. The designer saw the sister ship of the TurboGoose, and was speechless. Finally Ron asked him to build some more turbines. Ron thought the designer was going to cry when he asked him. The Director said they could build as many turbines as they needed, at which point Ron called the maintenance chief at the RCAF base and asked him how many flyable Grumman Goose airframes he had in the mothball fleet. He said about half of them could earn an airworthiness certificate with some work, and that was about 20 planes. Ron called the new CEO of Alaska Airlines and told him he had 20 more airframes available for conversion. How many did he want on the Fairbanks to Nome and points north route? He said he needed 4 aircraft because they were flying in and out of there all day long, and 8 flights per day would just about handle the volume. Ron asked “How about winter?”

    “Ron with the new exploration and drilling going on up there, I can imagine you could work that route year round, maybe cut back to 2 planes in the winter. It’s not like you can’t find pilots.”

    The CEO was right, the Air Force hadn’t recovered from the blow dealt to it by Congress and the ex-President, and was still a shadow of it’s former self. Ron could have his pick of experienced Transport pilots. Ron asked the Director of Allison to make enough turbines for 4 additional aircraft, and enough spare parts to keep the fleet of 6 flying for 20 years. They went into BA’s office and hammered out the details while the engineer and designer pored over the turbines and marveled at the installation job the RCAF 19 Wing AMS did. The WWII airframe, the 1950’s turbine, and the 21st century avionics were blended seamlessly. The engineer got a few ideas from looking at the installation, talked it over with the designer, and they agreed. They walked into the meeting and gave Ron the good news. “Ron, we can design a new turbine using 21st century technology that will fit inside the same space, accept the same mounts and everything, yet has 30% more horsepower, 50% better fuel economy, and is more reliable. The best news is it won’t cost you any extra. Matter of fact, we’ll make 4 additional turbines at no charge in exchange for the 4 in the planes now, since we’d love to tear them apart and find out why they’re still running after all these years.”

    “Are they still safe to fly?”

    “Don’t see any reason why not - we’d just like to have them back for testing.”

    “Well, in that case, make the other 8 turbines first, we’ll get those 4 planes in the air, then we’ll work on the first 2 during our downtime this winter.”

    They agreed, and left with a signed contract for the 8 turbines, plus 4 additional at no charge in exchange for the old turbines. The engineer contacted the Maintenance chief at 19 Wing and they discussed some modifications they wanted to make to the planes to bring them up to 21st Century specs, including full computer engine control. The maintenance chief said he would have no problems with the new design, since they worked on the C-130 that used the same equipment all the time. The RCAF chief asked the Engineer if they would be interested in the other airframes to retrofit them for use in Canada. He told the Chief if they could find a buyer, that Allison could make enough turbines for the whole fleet.

    Since Allison needed 3-4 months to make the turbines, the RCAF Chief had some time to pick out his 4 best airframes and get them ready for the new turbines and avionics. The mechanics stripped them back to the bare frames, replaced the old military fuel tanks with new FAA approved tanks that held 4 times as much fuel and put them back together. They located all the necessary running gear and parts. When the turbines and avionics came in they were very busy indeed. They got the planes finished, painted, and certified in time for the last month of the busy season. Ron took immediate delivery and the 4 new pilots he had hired were flown down to see their new planes. Ron noticed several differences and asked the Maintenance chief about them. “what happened to the pitch control?”

    “The engineer called and said the new turbines required the modern prop design. The computer selects the prop pitch based on turbine RPM, airspeed, and a couple of other factors. You still have a fully reversible prop, all you have to do now is idle the turbines, and flip a switch while the turbines are idling, and you have full reverse available. It’s much quicker and safer than the manual system.”

    Ron had to agree with their logic, but he liked having manual control of the plane, then he realized that just that one feature could improve fuel economy 10-20% since it would set the pitch to the most efficient setting automatically. All of the new pilots were ex C-130 pilots and didn’t see what the big deal was; the C-130 was way more automated than the old Grumman Goose. Their tanks were filled, and they flew around the base to make sure everything worked, and landed to top off and report any deficiencies. There were a couple of gripes but they were minor, and after they were fixed, Ron signed for the planes, and they flew back to Allakaket. Ron missed Nancy on these long over-water flights, but she was at home with their sons and probably wasn’t interested in joining the Mile High club again.

    2 months later, they took the 2 older TurboGoose planes out of service for the winter, and flew them to Vancouver, where the mechanics installed the new turbines and controls. When Ron got his old plane back, he noticed the extra power, but still had to fight himself when he wanted to monkey with the pitch control and it wasn’t there. The extra horsepower also meant more capacity for loads, and even with 8 passengers, they could safely carry over 1,000 pounds of baggage or cargo in the rear of the craft. Since it was a multi-use plane, it didn’t have a bulkhead between the cargo area and the passengers, just a very strong net made of Kevlar and Spectra straps tightly woven together and attached to secure mounting points built into the frame of the aircraft. The new pilots loved the plane, and quickly took advantage of its unique characteristics. The Fairbanks to Nome route was one of their most popular routes, and Ron planned to base his 4 planes in Fairbanks next season, so he called Alaska Air and spoke to the new CEO, Bradley Whinton III.
    “Brad, I was wondering about basing 4 of our TurboGoose planes in Fairbanks next year - we’re wasting huge quantities of fuel flying back and forth to Allakaket each day with a basically empty plane.”

    “Ron, I agree, and we were just discussing it. I can let you have ramp space next to ours at our terminal, which will save us the cost of transporting luggage from one terminal to the other. I’ll get with BA to discuss costs.”

    “Thanks, talk to you later.”

    Ron called BA, “BA- Ron, Just talked to Bradley, he’s going to discuss basing our 4 TurboGoose planes in Fairbanks next year, he said something about discussing costs. Make sure you get the best deal possible for us, since we’re sending them a lot of business.”

    “You mean he was going to charge us? Why that little Pipsqueak!”

    “Easy BA, nothing’s written in stone yet!”

    “Except his epitaph if he expects us to pay him to base our planes at Fairbanks next to his - which by the way it will save them Millions!”

    “OK BA, be nice - I don’t want his blood all over our carpet!”

    BA calmed down just in time for Brad to call.

    “BA, it’s Brad, did Ron tell you about his idea to base Allakaket Airlines planes at Fairbanks next to ours?”

    “Yeah he mentioned it.”

    “We need to talk dollars and cents.”

    “Brad, first of all, if you think Allakaket Airlines is going to pay money for ramp space when the agreement will save Alaska Airlines more than double the usual basing fees, you’re nuts!”

    “Excuse me Bill, I never said that!”

    “Ron said you were going to call to discuss Costs - that sounds to me like you were thinking of charging us. Before you go any further, you better discuss this with the board.”

    “OK BA, I’ll do just that!”

    Several hours later a very contrite Bradley Whinton III called BA back.
    “BA, sorry about the misunderstanding. I talked to the Chairman of the Board, and his kindest comment was “Are You Nuts?” I guess I’ve got more to learn about this business.”

    “Bradley, you were my pick as my successor, but don’t let it get to your head. I knew you were competent enough to run things, and I didn’t really want the job anymore. However, if you want my advice from time to time, as long as it isn’t a conflict of interest, feel free to ask me.”

    “Thanks BA; Alaska Airlines would be more than happy to base 4 of Allakaket Airlines planes in the ramp spaces next to ours for no charge. You understand you’re still responsible for your own ramp services and fueling. We’ll handle baggage to and from to the plane, and ticketing, but you need to hire someone to load, fuel, clean and maintain the aircraft.”

    “Brad, what contractor is Alaska Airlines using in Fairbanks for ramp services?”

    “The same one we always did - why?”

    “I’m going to contact them and see if they’re interested in offering services to Allakaket Airlines, if that’s OK.”

    “Sure, I was just about to recommend them.”

    “OK Brad, please e-mail a copy of the basing contract to my attention ASAP.”

    “OK, I’ll get them there in an hour, Bye BA.”

    BA had to laugh, Brad was a predictable little pup - he would always try to pull a fast one, then act all nice-nice when you called him on it!

    “Ron - BA, I had a very interesting conversation with Brad. We get the ramp space next to them for free, but we have to provide our own baggage handlers to load the plane, and someone to clean and fuel the planes. I was planning on getting a bid from the company Alaska Airlines uses in Fairbanks - OK, talk to you later.”

    Ron was busy between running his business, spending time with his wife and two boys, and getting chores done around the house. He hired the guy who delivered his diesel to help cut wood. Since he was rolling in dough, he could easily afford to hire someone instead of doing it all himself. Between the two of them, they had all the wood cut, split and stacked within a week. Ron was glad for the help, because it would have taken him a month to cut and split 4 cords of wood with the time he had available, and it meant he could spend some more quality time with his family. BA met him several weeks later, and he showed Ron the figures for the 2 months the planes had flown between Fairbanks and Nome. At this rate, the Fairbanks/Nome route would make more money than the Anchorage Route. Ron asked BA if they should send some more planes to Fairbanks, but BA suggested getting another TG based in Allakaket to act as an emergency relief plane, which would be able to fly unscheduled trips. Ron thought it was an excellent idea, and made arrangements to get a 7th TurboGoose. Ron had insisted that every one of his TurboGoose pilots become trained as an Alaskan Paramedic and it had paid off more than once. All his Bush Pilots were trained to EMT I or II, and the state paid for upgraded medical kits for everyone completing the First Responder or better course. The state was rolling in oil money, and put it to good use instead of squandering it with more luxurious state building and offices. One expense that Ron did agree with was for the entire state to get a brand new computer system so all the far-flung offices could talk to each other via e-mail or VOIP and remote videoconferencing for groups that had to meet face to face to discuss ideas instead of flying. While Ron could have used the business, he felt that the savings would reduce his taxes even further. Bear was slowing down and delegating more and more of the instructing to much younger men, and instead focused on managing the huge business. He didn’t like it, but he couldn’t keep up with the younger kids anymore. He still taught the parts of the course that didn’t require hiking 100 miles a day over mountains and rappelling down cliffs. Mary was glad he did slow down, because their son needed a father, and Bear swore he was going to be around to see this one grow up instead of somewhere in a 3rd World country making the world safe for Democracy. Hunter was still young enough to do most of it, but April managed to keep him around the house more and more lately.

    DELTA had sent a contingent to Alaska Survival Inc. for training, and they asked if Ron Williams was available, they had heard the legends as well. Bear called Ron and asked if he wanted to do a shooting demonstration. Ron asked him how long his shooting range was. Bear said they had managed to make it 600 yards long. Ron said that he would bring his Browning, since 600 yards was a chip-shot for the Barretts, and he didn’t want to discourage the Delta shooters. The next day he showed up with his Browning in a really slick drag bag that combined a case and a shooting pad, which he had bought from Brigade Quartermaster. Several of the Delta operatives recognized the bag, and knew that either Ron was a well-informed wannabe, or they were in for a shooting demonstration. They walked to the range, and Ron set up while everyone else put on hearing protection. One of the youngest Delta operators was sent down to the targets to put a target up on the 600 yard line. When he got back, Ron was ready to go. He hadn’t shot for quite a while, but still flew every couple of months to Elmendorf when he had time to keep in practice. He loaded the rifle, flipped off the covers, and got into a military prone position. Several operators couldn’t believe their eyes, no one shot 600 yards military prone unless they were at Camp Perry. Ron doped out the wind, adjusted his scope, and turned to Bear, who gave him a thumbs-up. Ron cycled the action, steadied his breathing, and soon was so in the zone he didn’t remember firing 5 times. When the rifle clicked on an empty chamber, he looked back and took off his ear protection then saw and heard an entire group of Delta operators yelling and cheering. Bear had broken out his 100 power spotting scope, and every operator that looked through it was amazed. His entire group was inside the 3” X-ring. The youngest operator was sent to fetch the target, and Bear took out his calipers, and the group measured 2.98” after subtracting the diameter of the bullet. Bear asked Ron to sign his target, and told Ron he would put it in the lodge if it were OK with him. “Sure Bear, but that’s not my best group - One of the Delta people could tell you the group I shot at MacDill when I was 14.”

    “ So what, you shot a .5 MOA group almost 10 years later! And I know you haven’t been able to practice as much as you’d liked lately.”

    Ron signed the target, and put his drag bag back together, then talked to Bear and walked back to his plane - the Delta people had some shooting practice to do, and he had to get back to work. Ron started the plane, and was in Allakaket an hour later. He drove home and spent the rest of the day with Nancy and his two sons. Moose made sure he was greeted properly, and Ron was glad that he wasn’t any bigger. Later that evening Ron and Nancy made up for lost time during the busy season. She said “Dear, we still have 3 or 4 bedrooms empty” and he took the hint. The next morning, it started snowing heavily, so Ron decided to work from home, but didn’t get much work done. As the weather permitted, he got his chores done, but nothing that couldn’t wait until Spring. BA called him at home, and said the 7th TG would be ready in the Spring in time for next season. He thanked BA and went back to bed. The way Nancy was reacting to him, he thought he might have been neglecting his duties at home, and decided to take care of that problem.

    Later that day, Nancy made brunch, fed Jake and Josh, then made sure Moose was fed. Ron took Moose out for a walk, and the poor dog had forgotten how to walk in snow, and got buried several times until he got the hang of it just in time, because he needed to water a tree real bad. Moose did much better loping back to the house. Ron dried him off, then they played tug-of war, which Moose won. Ron sat down and petted Moose for a while, then they went inside because they were both cold.

    Nancy had hot cocoa waiting for Ron, but Moose had to make do with dog food, but he didn’t seem to mind. They went into the living room, lit the fire in the fireplace, turned on the stereo, and cuddled in the warmth of the fire. Jake and Moose sacked out on Moose’s bearskin rug in front of the fire, and Josh took a nap too. Ron enjoyed his domestic bliss.

    Back in North Carolina, Samantha had finished most of her medical school, and was now an Intern in the ER. She learned to live on caffeine and total sleep deprivation. She spent what little personal time she had at church functions at Doc’s church. She was teaching Sunday School when she got a Sunday off, and attending the occasional bible study. She was amazed at her transformation in less than 10 years; it was like she was a new person. She didn’t date, since she didn’t have time, but had several doctors and interns she was friendly with. Doc was impressed with her since she graduated in the top 10% of her class, and was accepted into the University of North Carolina’s Medical School on her own merit, without any help from Doc. He hoped she could complete her studies and become an MD with the specialty of Emergency Surgery she wanted. She definitely had the hands for it. When he showed her how to suture using a pig’s foot, she got it right the first time, and he checked her scalpel cuts, and she was pretty good with a knife, only cutting the tissue she had to - she had real steady hands, which was a surgeon’s stock in trade. He wished she would follow him into Neurosurgery, but she didn’t express any interest. She apologized, but said she could do much more good working in a big city ER saving lives while specialists like him tackled the very delicate specialty of Neurosurgery.

    Truth be known, she liked the action and excitement of Emergency Surgery instead of the minute detail of neurosurgery where every single move was planned weeks or months in advance. She was hooked when she assisted a resident with a gunshot wound to the chest. He was in and out in 15 minutes, and repaired all the damage, and saved the patient’s life. The resident explained later she should prepare herself for the eventuality of a patient dying on her, since Emergency Surgery was very risky, but the patient would die anyway without the surgery. She told him that her faith in God would get her through the ones that didn’t make it, since God was the final arbitrator of who lived and died. He couldn’t argue with that, since he knew of cases where the patient should have died, and somehow managed to live.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    State of Denial
    Chapter 12 - Don’t Bug me!

    Washington DC, Later that Spring

    “Mr. President, we have a crisis on our hands and we have to shut down all interstate travel until we get a handle on this outbreak.”

    “Doctor Hughes, do you have any idea what this will do to the economy?”

    “With all due respect Mr. President, do you know how many fatalities this outbreak can cause if we let it spread. Assuming 1 million infections, between 10 and 100 thousand people will die depending on age and health. The mortality rate for this strain of SARS is almost 100% for the aged and infirm. In healthy people, it kills 1 out of 1,000. It’s airborne, so if it gets into the nursing homes, it could solve our Medicare funding problem in a month!”

    “Doctor Hughes, That was NOT funny!”

    “Sorry Mr. President. You need to act NOW, tomorrow might be too late. Congress will debate this to death like it always does, and if it runs its course with no intervention by the CDC, between 1 and 10 million Americans will be dead by summer.”

    “OK you’ve made your point Doctor; I’ll sign the EO grounding all US Airlines until further notice.”

    Later that afternoon on National TV

    Ladies and Gentlemen:

    As President of the United States, my first responsibility is to the safety of our citizens. The Director of the CDC informed me today of an outbreak of a new strain of SARS. As of 0800 tomorrow, all US air travel and interstate non-commercial travel will be stopped for the duration. We know there are millions of people needing to get home, so immediately following this broadcast will be local information on where to purchase or obtain an N95 or N100 filter mask and pick one up. No one showing flu-like symptoms will be allowed to travel via common carrier until medically cleared. National Guard units will be putting up checkpoints to make sure everyone is wearing a mask, and isn’t sick. Those showing symptoms will be detained for medical evaluation. I’m sorry I have to go to these extremes, but if we took no action, between 1 and 10 million Americans could die. This will run its course by Summer, so the Emergency will only last 90 days. All airlines not involved in returning passengers to their homes are grounded, as are all international flights. Foreign visitors will be allowed to return home only after a medical examination.

    Please return to your homes in an orderly fashion. There is no reason not to work once you are wearing the proper filter mask. We have ample stocks, and will distribute them as quickly as possible. After this broadcast, your local CDC or Health Department representative will tell you where to go to pick up a mask, or where to go if you have flu-like symptoms.

    Good Night and God Bless America

    15 minutes after the address, BA’s fax machine spat out several forms. The first one read:

    All Domestic and international passenger flights are grounded as of 0800 tomorrow morning. Written permission is required for each flight returning people to their homes. NO non-essential passenger flights will be allowed. Aircraft flying returning passengers must be thoroughly decontaminated between flights using a CDC approved disinfectant.

    The second notice read:

    From: Alaska Airlines

    To: All Carriers

    Re: FAA Notice to Flyers

    Alaska Airlines will fly a limited schedule to return passengers to their homes starting tomorrow. All passengers must be wearing an approved mask prior to boarding, and cannot remove it during the flight for any reason. We will have masks available starting tomorrow. Please do not use the telephone for further information. We will notify you of any updates as we receive them, including a schedule of flights.

    Bradley Whinton III
    CEO, Alaska Airlines

    BA called Ron, “Ron, we need to recall all our planes until they get this thing ironed out. I’ve cancelled all outbound flights from Anchorage and Fairbanks until we hear from the FAA. If we have Alaskan residents stranded at those airports, we’ll have to fly them home. Also, I can imagine all the hunters would probably want to go home as well.”

    “BA, I’ve got a couple of N100 filters in my kit, and my plane is the easiest to decontaminate since it’s got a simple multi-use cabin with removable seats. I’m not too keen on spraying bleach solution on the seats, so I hope the CDC has another disinfectant we can use that won’t bleach the fabric out.”

    “Ron, I’ll check and get back to you!”

    “OK, BA - go ahead and recall all our planes, and we’re grounded until further notice except to fly people home, and those flights will be very limited.”

    BA called Bill, because he had duties as the Mayor of Allakaket, and needed to know so he could tell the people of Allakaket. “Bill, its BA. Did you hear the speech? OK, here’s the skinny. Allakaket Airlines will be shut down for 90 days with the exception of flights to return people to their homes or emergency flights. You might want to tell the people so they can prepare. We’ve got over a year’s worth of food and supplies in stock at the General Store, and we will extend credit to anyone who is laid off due to the emergency. Our diesel and avgas tanks are full, so we have several million gallons of fuel. Unfortunately this will also mean that you’ll have an empty inn for 90 days. OK, don’t worry about the fuel and energy bill; we’ll work it out later. Take care Bill.”

    All over the United States, the CDC sent a notice declaring a Medical Emergency which drafted all Doctors, Nurses, and health care professionals for the duration. Samantha was just coming off a 12-hour shift when the Hospital Administrator gave her the bad news. “Sam, you can’t go home. The CDC has issued a Health Emergency due to this SARS outbreak, and we’re recalling all doctors, nurses, and even interns. Here’s an N100 mask and the rest of your gear. Go in the changing room and get into it, then report to the resident. From here on out, treat all patients as if they were infected. This bug is airborne, and will either make you real sick or kill you, so don’t take any chances. You just came off a 12-hour shift, so after you check in, go take a nap in the doctor’s lounge. If we get busy we’ll call you.”

    In Anchorage, Dan was having a major Excedrin Headache. He had to ground all flights by 0800, and still get passengers home. His phone was ringing off the hook, and the entire office was in an uproar. He wished the CDC would have given the FAA a heads-up so they could have gotten ready for this. He was trying to rearrange flight schedules, recall essential personnel, and answer questions from the media and the airlines. It was times like these that he wished he would have stayed a Bush Pilot.

    The next weeks were chaotic as people scrambled to get home. Fortunately there wasn’t much panic, and people proceeded homeward in an orderly fashion. The NG Checkpoints weren’t very intrusive, more like the Border Patrol checkpoints that allowed most of the vehicles through at a pace slow enough so the guardsmen could see everyone was wearing a mask, and wasn’t visibly ill. The main thrust of the containment was a complete lock-down at nursing homes and hospitals, where there were no visitors allowed, and all elective surgery was cancelled. Several cities with major international airports had reports of outbreaks that were quickly contained by the protocols in place.

    The travel and airline industries were hardest hit, since they had just gotten over the fuel crisis a few years ago, and several smaller airlines went bankrupt when they couldn’t make their loan payments. They asked Congress for relief, but none came soon enough to matter. Most of the bigger airlines had enough capital to weather the storm, and survived. The net result was a return to the pre-80’s Big 3 airlines flying almost 95% of the routes. The conservative Congress decided to let market pressures determine the pricing of tickets, and refused to get involved. Ron breathed a big sigh of relief, since any extra regulations usually meant lost profits. He knew that if there was demand, someone would fill it, and eventually the cut-rate airlines would be back. By the time summer rolled around, the outbreak was controlled, and the virus was burning itself out. Slowly the public resumed flying again, but Ron knew that they were in for several lean years until the traveling public went back to their usual routine.

    With the extended down time, they took care of maintenance and any other projects they had in the works. Ron decided to install a 5,000 gallon tank for JP-5 at the cabin and chop down just enough trees to allow the TG to taxi up closer to the house. Since the CH-47 was on down time as well, they were able to remove the old hangar, build a bigger pad, and install a larger hangar. Ron also had them dig a root cellar, even if he didn’t have any root vegetables to put in it. He told Bear he wanted enough firepower in that root cellar to defend the cabin in the event that TSHTF. Bear said he would take care of it. Ron decided that while he was at it, he might just convert the root cellar to a storm shelter, and added a few extra things to it, and dug it 3 times the original size. Funny thing was, there never had been a tornado in that part of Alaska in recorded history, but no one pointed that out to him. When he got back home, Nancy told him she was pregnant with their third child. He realized that Nancy got pregnant every time he had a couple of weeks to kill. He hoped he’d be a little busier in the future, or they would be able to field their own Ice Hockey team. Jake and Josh were getting bigger, and Jake was to the toddler stage, and Moose wound up being his portable support, but he knocked him over as often as he helped. Nancy was glad that Jake had a well-padded bottom. He was now big enough to wrap his arms around Moose’s neck and hang on for dear life when he was losing his balance.

    Ron went back up to the cabin to check on the progress, and discovered Bear had gone a little overboard with the “root cellar” It was now bigger than the house, and almost as big as the hangar. The steel doors had a wood veneer that made everyone think it was just a root cellar until you opened it. The walls, floor, and roof were waterproofed and reinforced concrete 6 inches thick, and the roof was reinforced to the point that it could survive a near miss by a large bomb. The floor was almost 20 feet underground, and the roof had 6 feet of earth on top. In one corner was the largest gun safe he had ever seen, with several scoped National Match M-1a’s, several M -16/M -203 combinations, his older Barrett rifle, and cases of ammo. He saw something he didn’t even want to know about marked 40mm, so he closed the safe. There were cupboards full of canned food, medicine, water, seeds, and paper products. Ron estimated that a family of 6 could live on those supplies for almost 2 years. On his way out, Ron noticed the doors had 2-inch bolts to secure them once the door was closed, and a security lock on the outside to keep unauthorized personnel out. There was a caretaker that lived on a nearby lake who came by once every couple of months to check on the place. He flew a small Cessna Amphibian and remarked more than once that HelpmeJack lake was one of the smallest lakes he had ever landed on. When Ron told him he landed the DeHaviland and later the TurboGoose on that lake, he said “Either you’re the biggest liar this side of the Mississippi, or you’ve got 3-pound brass ones.”

    One day he was tending the place and heard the roar of Ron flying overhead getting ready to land the TurboGoose. He dashed out to the lake to watch. When Ron landed, Earl shook his hand and asked if he needed suspenders to keep his underwear up. Ron didn’t bother to tell him that the TG landed a lot shorter than his Cessna thanks to the reversible pitch props. When he got ready to leave, Earl helped him tow the TG out of the hangar with the 4wd ATV that was still in the garage where he left it next to the snow blower. Once Earl was clear, he started the turbines, and taxied out to the lake. With the huge tires and high wing-mounted props, he was able to taxi faster, and soon was in the lake heading for the downwind end. Minutes later he took off, and Earl followed minutes later. Ron flew home to Allakaket. Nancy met him with the good news that they were having a daughter. Ron was just glad the baby was OK. He spent the rest of the afternoon playing with Jake, Josh, and Moose. After playtime came naptime, with Jake and Josh sacked out with Moose on his bearskin rug. Ron and Nancy crashed on the couch, glad for the break.

    Finally, when the CDC declared the crisis was over, Samantha put in for vacation, and was granted 1 week of vacation as “comp time” in place of 30 hours of overtime. Since she had almost 100 hours of overtime due, she wasn’t worried about the money. She asked Doc where she should go on vacation. She didn’t feel like flying because it still was a royal pain, so Doc suggested she spend it at home and around town visiting friends. Samantha thought that was a good idea, and spent the next couple of days getting caught up on her sleep, then getting caught up with her friends. Soon the vacation was over and she reported for work in time to assist on the backlog of elective surgeries. She assisted a Surgical Resident with a routine hernia repair surgery. She was amazed at how fast he was. He told her later that speed was a premium for surgeons, but never to sacrifice accuracy and thoroughness for speed. Opening a patient twice was worse than taking more time and doing the job right the first time.

    Slowly but surely, business picked up at Alaska Airlines and Allakaket Airlines. It took several years to get back to where they were before the virus, but both airlines were in position to ride out the turbulence with minimal upset, since BA had enacted an austerity program at Alaska Airlines when he was CEO, and got the bills paid down to the point that they could weather 3-6 months of little or no business and not go out of business like some other smaller carriers who were in debt up to their eyeballs, and had to keep flying to pay their enormous bills. Nancy had a baby girl they called Sarah, and now they had 3 children. Nancy was getting used to the Mommy routine, and with the airline business slow but steady, Ron had more time to spend at home with his wife and kids. Anne was working at the State Clinic in Allakaket as Dr. Miller’s nurse part time, and spent the rest of the time as Grandma to her 3 grandkids.

    Chapter 13 - Closure

    Samantha knew there was an upside to the medical emergency when she met all the other interns and residents in the course of the 90-day emergency, and decided she wanted to get to know a 1st year resident named Ralph. She didn’t know his last name yet, but they met in the Doctor’s lounge and between crises, they got to talking. He was from Louisiana and like her was a Southern Baptist, and had been home schooled. She thought she was from the Middle of Nowhere until he started telling her that he grew up in the middle of the bayou. She ran into him later, and he asked her if she’d join him for a cup of coffee at the diner a block away that served the hospital and businesses in the area. She checked with her Supervisor, who told her that she could take half an hour. Ralph checked with the Chief Resident. Since it was slow, he told him OK, but to make sure his pager was on. Ralph checked his pager, and turned it on, then found Samantha and asked if she were ready. They walked to the diner, and on the way found out Ralph’s name was Raphael Lacombe, and was a Cajun who didn’t speak more than a couple of words of the dialect, but his grandparents did while he was growing up. She let him do most of the talking, and on the way back, pulled him aside, and told him the truth about her background. “Look Ralph, I like you, so I’m going to level with you. I’m not related to Doc Richards. My real name is Samantha Stone, and I’m from Alaska.”

    “Ok, but why the big secret?”

    “It’s a long story Ralph.” Seeing that they weren’t going anywhere and she had the time she gave him the short version of the story.

    “Sam, you’re amazing - nothing’s ever happened to me in my life. You’ve survived 2 horrible incidents, and now look at you; you’re a sweet woman and a Christian to boot.”

    “Ralph, what do you mean?”

    “Sam, sometimes people blame God for bad things that happen to them, and they stay mad a God, when really they’re mad at the one person who can help them!”

    “Ralph, at first I felt that way, but then Ron and Pastor Whitaker talked to me and straightened me out, and set me on the right path.”

    “I’ve heard of Pastor Whitaker, I’d like to meet Ron and thank him.”

    “Then you’d have to fly to Allakaket Alaska.”

    “Did you say Allakaket?”

    “Oh, I forgot, Ron’s a Bazillionaire and the owner of Allakaket Airlines. Doc met him when Doc went hunting in Alaska. Ron’s married with 3 kids.”

    “How old did you say he was?”

    “If I remember correctly, he’s in his early 20’s and his wife’s a couple years older.”

    “It’s not like I’ll have the time anytime soon, but I’d like to find Ron and thank him, for more reasons than 1.”

    “What’s the other reasons?”

    “Well for one thing, without him getting hold of Doc Richards, I would have never met you!”

    Sam gave Ralph a friendly hug and a kiss. When he recovered, his first thought was “WOW”. He took her hand, and they walked back to the hospital. Samantha had found a friend. It was too soon to call him a Boyfriend, and she realized she had all the time in the world to get to know him. When they got to the door, Ralph turned and said “Sam, I had fun, I’d like to do this again!”

    “Me too Ralph, but we have to cool it, since we’ll have to work together for the next 4 years at least.”

    “You got it Sam. I appreciated the kiss, but it was something special that we should definitely not try at work!”

    “I agree - these people can gossip worse than a bunch of old women. See ya later Ralph.” Sam walked through the door, and a minute later, he walked through and checked in.

    The rest of the day was hectic, and she didn’t see Ralph again for the rest of the day. She drove her Carmen Ghia home to Doc’s place. “Doc, Bert I’m home!” Bert walked in to greet Sam “Doc had to fly to Atlanta to perform a risky brain surgery, he’ll be back in a day or so.” Sam dumped her stuff in her room and fired up her computer. 5 minutes later she screamed “Oh My God, It’s HIM!”

    Bert ran into the room, and Sam was pointing at the screen. Ron had sent her and Doc a clipping from the Anchorage newspaper. It was an article about a shooting death in Anchorage. An alumnus of the TKE house at University of Anchorage was shot attempting to rape a blonde jogger in a secluded park just outside Anchorage. She was carrying a .357 Magnum in her fanny pack and shot him once through the heart when he attempted to rape her. What got Samantha to scream was the file photo from the University of him wearing his TKE sweater. “Bert that’s the guy who slipped me the Mickey, then raped me. The story says he tried to rape a blonde jogger in the park, and she shot him dead. I’ve managed to put it past me, but I always wanted justice, and now it seems his case has been appealed to a higher authority.”

    “So it seems dear. Let’s go out for dinner tonight, I’ll call Nelson to bring the car around.”

    They drove to their favorite restaurant, and Bert did her best to keep Sam’s mind off the e-mail. Sam told her about her day, and when she told Bert about Ralph, Bert was smiling.

    “Sam, I knew you’d find a nice young man here. Just take it slow and easy, you’re going to be at the Hospital as an Intern, then as a Resident before you could even think about relocating. He’s a first-year resident, so he’s going to be here a while too. I’m really happy for you. If you want to bring him by for Dinner sometime, I’m sure Doc would like to meet him too.”

    “Bert, I told Ralph the truth, I think I can trust him.”

    “I hope you’re right dear. Remember lose lips sink ships!”

    “Speaking of which, he’s a pretty good kisser too!”


    “Relax Bert, it was just a friendly kiss, I’m not ever going back to what I was before! According to him, he’s Southern Baptist too!”

    “Good for him! I can’t wait to meet this gentleman.”

    “Bert, we’re just friends - maybe later.”

    They made girl talk the rest of the night, and when they were ready to leave, the Matre de called Nelson on the car phone, and he was waiting out front with the limousine. They drove back home, and Sam told Bert she had a wonderful evening, but she was beat and needed to get right to bed.

    She saw Ralph several times over the next couple of weeks, but never had enough time together to say anything more than “Hi” finally they had a rare day off together, and Sam asked Ralph if he wanted to go to church with them. When he said yes, she told him to meet her at Doc Richards’ house at 8:45 Sunday morning and the 4 of them could ride over in the limousine. Ralph had that “deer in the headlights” look, Sam had neatly trapped him, and he knew it. Doc Richards was one of the most famous alumni of the University of North Carolina. He was one of its biggest contributors as well. Ralph was glad he had bought a suit and tie, because he was sure that Doc and his family would be dressed that way. Ron drove his Honda Accord up to the gate, and was admitted at 8:40. He parked off to one side, since the limousine was already in front of the house. He walked up to the door, and Doc Richards answered. “Ralph, we’ve been expecting you. The women will be down in a minute, let’s have a seat in the parlor.” Once they were seated, Doc Richards started asking Ralph questions. “Ralph, Sam tells me you’re a first year resident in Emergency Medicine?”

    “Yes Sir!”

    “Ralph, please call me Doc when we’re alone like this, or just the 4 of us. At School or the hospital, either Sir or Doc Richards will be ok.”

    “Yes Sir, I mean Doc!”

    “Ralph, relax, this isn’t the Spanish Inquisition, just a friendly chat.”

    “Doc, I beg your pardon, but you’re one of the most famous people at UNC, and I’m just a first-year resident.”

    “I understand that Ralph, but I was once a first-year resident too. So relax and enjoy yourself today. I hope you don’t mind going to lunch with us, I’ve taken the liberty of making a reservation for 4.”

    “Thanks Doc, I’d appreciate it. Sam’s said a lot about you, and I really think highly of you.”

    “Ralph, you don’t need to butter me up, Sam’s not my daughter. If I remember correctly, she said she told you her story.”

    “Frankly Doc, I’m amazed that Sam has turned out to be such a sweet loving woman.”

    “She’s had a lot of help, plus she always had a good heart. She was a little naive and sheltered from growing up in Allakaket. I’m glad you and her are such good friends.”

    “Doc, I’ve only been able to see her once since the virus scare, and that was for coffee at the diner. I’d like to get to know her better, and really be friends with her first before I even consider any serious dating.”

    “I’m glad to hear that, between your attitude and the fact that you’re a Southern Baptist, I’m glad you met Sam.”

    Bert and Sam decided to make an appearance, and Ralph thought to himself, “Saved by the Bell!” Except he mentally spelled it Belle when he got a look at Sam in a dress. She was wearing a long dress, and was stunningly beautiful. They made their way to the limousine, and they were seated, Bert and Sam sat across from Ralph and Doc. Sam thought that Ralph looked pretty hot in his grey suit. They drove to the church, and when they were seated in the pew, Sam made sure that Ralph got to sit next to her. They shared a hymnal, and she found out he was a pretty good singer, she had learned how to read music from her time at the church. She had a good singing voice, but until the choir director showed her how, she couldn’t read a lick of music. Ralph was a natural Baritone, and she was technically a Contralto, but usually sang Soprano on the lower songs, since the melody line was easier to read and sing. Most of their songs were performed on a beautiful modern reed and pipe organ that cost more than some people’s houses. The choirmaster directed a 100-voice choir, which was about right for the size of the building. The Congregation sang as well, except for one song per Sunday the Choir did by themselves in 3-parts. Doc thought the choir sounded beautiful, and Sam wished she had the time to sing with them, since the choirmaster insisted that you had to practice with the choir to sing with them. With her hours at the hospital, she was lucky to be able to attend Church once or twice a month. When the service was over, Sam introduced Ralph to Pastor Whitaker, except she introduced Ralph using his full name, Raphael Lacombe.

    “Lacombe did you say, I know a bunch of Lacombe’s from Louisiana.”

    “Well Sir, that’s where I’m from, like the CCR song, I was born on the Bayou.

    Reverend Whitaker stunned them all when he started speaking in Cajun.

    “Sorry Reverend, I only caught the first couple of words, but I’d love to learn if I ever have the time.”

    “Young man, there’s no shame in being born poor, after all Jesus was born in a stable!”

    “Amen, Reverend.”

    “I’ve got some tapes you can use to learn Cajun that I can loan you.”

    “Merci Beaucoup R&#233;v&#233;rend!”

    “I thought you couldn’t speak Cajun?”

    “Sam that just sort of slipped out.”

    “Young man - your patois was perfect, you speak Cajun like a native, all you need to do is re-learn the language. I’m sure you heard it all the time growing up.”

    “Reverend, my grandparents mostly spoke Cajun, but understood English.”

    “There you go, you’ve still got the programming, you just have to recall the program.”

    Later, when they got back in the limousine, Sam turned to Ralph “That was amazing, it seems you do know how to speak Cajun, you just forgot that you know.”

    “Sam, I’d love to get those tapes from Reverend Whitaker, if I could speak and understand Cajun, imagine all the good I could do. There are thousands of square miles of bayou, and thousands of bayou people who can’t speak English who desperately need medical care.”

    Doc spoke from the back of the Limousine, “Ralph, I thought you wanted to be an ER Doc?”

    “I still do Doc, that doesn’t mean I can’t take a summer off and volunteer to serve in Louisiana with the people I grew up with. Just being able to speak the language as a native would put me way ahead of anyone coming in without it, since they don’t trust outsiders. Once I make contact and gain their trust, we could build clinics and have the state assign a permanent doc down there. Even if it took a year to set this up, imagine all the lives we could save, not to mention improving the quality of life in the bayou.”

    Sam was so proud of Ralph that she would have kissed him if Doc weren’t there. Instead, she squeezed his hand and smiled.

    “Ralph, if you’re serious about this, I’ve got the connections to set it up.”

    “Doc, I’m dead serious. I lost a brother and sister to diseases that could easily have been cured with modern medicine, and I don’t want to see anyone else go through that heartache.”

    “Ok, Ralph, you learn Cajun and complete your residency, and I’ll set it up with the state of Louisiana.”

    “You got a deal Doc.”

    They spent the rest of the day between the restaurant and their home making small talk. When Ralph announced he had to go, Sam volunteered to walk him to the car.

    “Ralph, I’m so proud of you, and if you want to see me again, I’d look forward to it. Here’s my number here if you want to talk to me.” Sam leaned over, gave Ralph a hug and a quick kiss. Ralph reached into his pocket, and extracted a “calling card” with his contact info on it.

    “Ralph, a Calling Card - kind of old-fashioned isn’t it?”

    Ralph said in his best Ret Butler impersonation “Ma’am, that’s what us Southern Gentlemen do!”

    Sam floored Ralph when she tried out Scarlet O’Hara “My Hero!”

    They both laughed themselves silly. Ralph said goodbye to Sam, got in his car carefully so as not to get his suit dirty, and drove home. Sam walked back in giggling. Bert asked her what was so funny. “Ralph, he’s such a character. He handed me a calling card, talk about old-fashioned.”

    Doc overheard the conversation. “Sam, actually Ralph is formally asking to “court” you. It means he’s serious.”

    “Whoa Doc - what’s this.”

    “Southern tradition. When a man wants to date a woman seriously, he meets the parents, and if they approve, which we do, and she expresses interest, he hands her a “calling card” if she accepts, they are officially courting. Kind of what you would call “going steady”. There are formal rules for courting, mostly to protect the woman. They can only be alone in a public place, or in her parlor. As long as you are courting, neither of you can date anyone else. But either of you can officially call it off and date someone else. The repercussions of that are serious, because calling it off means you no longer want to see Ralph again as a suitor.”

    “Doc, I really like Ralph, but I don’t want to marry him yet.”

    “That’s not the point Sam. He’s just being “courtly” and I approve. It’s how we do things here in the South. Just be glad he’s not going all out, he would have greeted you with a cutlass and pistol in case you had another suitor, and was challenged to a duel.”

    “You’re kidding Right?”

    “Sam through the 1800s, dueling for the affections of a prize Belle was still fairly common.”

    Sam was going to say something, but bit her tongue. She might not understand the local customs, but she wasn’t raised here either, and she was a guest in their home. Besides, she thought it was kind of cute. She did and internet search for more information, so she would know what to expect.

    Chapter 14 - Vacation

    After Sarah was weaned, Anne called Ron and Nancy, and suggested she could watch her grandkids for a week or two and give them a needed vacation together. Ron asked Nancy where she wanted to go, and since it was hunting season, she told Ron that she always wanted to hunt a Caribou. Ron told her that there was a huge herd of them on their land up near the HelpmeJack Lake. Nancy thought it would be fun to spend a week in a real log cabin. Ron called his mom back, and said they would take her up on it, that they wanted to spend a week or so up at their cabin by the lake. Anne thought that was a good idea, and volunteered to give Nancy her Browning A-bolt rifle since she was too old to hunt anymore, and she hadn’t used it in years. Ron thought that was really sweet of his mom, and told her he would be over to pick it up in half an hour. Anne told him to pick it up when they dropped off the grandkids instead. Ron asked if tomorrow morning was too soon. Anne said that would be great. Ron spent the rest of the day getting ready, and Nancy packed 2 weeks worth of stuff for the 3 kids. With 2 of them in diapers, she wondered if Anne knew what she was up against. She remembered Moose, and had Ron call her back and remind her about the Moose. Anne told them she could handle it, she wasn’t an old lady yet, and she knew that Jake and Josh would miss Moose terribly if he weren’t with them. Ron remembered they usually took their naps with Moose, so he agreed and threw a bag of dog food into the stuff they were bringing to Anne’s place.

    Early in the morning the next day they drove to Anne’s place, dropped the 3 kids and Moose off with a huge supply of baby food, diapers, dog food, and clothes. Anne told Nancy she must have packed enough stuff for a month, then laughed thinking she would have done exactly the same in her place. Anne handed Nancy her Browning A-bolt and the rest of her .308 Match ammo, then handed them another large package, and told them to open it when they got to the cabin. Ron kissed his Mom, then Nancy gave Anne a hug and kissed her cheek, then they were going out the door. Nancy bid a tearful goodbye to her kids, who were too busy with Grandma and Moose to notice. Ron wrapped his arm around Nancy and gently led her to the truck, telling her they were in good hands. Nancy put the gun case, ammo and the present in the bed of the truck, and drove to the TurboGoose. They loaded their suitcases and packages into the plane, and Nancy sat in the co-pilot’s seat. Ron was glad to have his wife up front with him. “Just like old times!”

    “Except this flight is too short to join the mile high club.”

    Ron had to laugh at that, then he said “I think we can wait until we get inside the cabin.”

    An hour later, they landed at the lake and taxied up to the hangar. Since the door was closed, Ron opened the hangar doors, then towed the plane inside using the 4x4 ATV as a tractor. Once the plane was secure in the hangar, Nancy got out and they unloaded the plane. The interior of the cabin was dusty, but not too bad. An hour later, they had the cabin swept and cleaned up. Nancy asked where the bathroom was, and Ron said that the bathroom was outdoors. Nancy looked at him a little funny, and he said “We had an outhouse here ever since Mom and Dad built the cabin. It gets too cold in the winter to have running water since we used the lake as the water source, so they never installed indoor plumbing except for the sink.”

    “Ron, Bear and Hunter have indoor plumbing, and if you want me to stay here more than a week at a time, I think we should too - it’s not like we can’t afford to dig a well.”

    Ron had to agree with Nancy, and added it to his “to do” list. He figured while they were at it, they might as well install a full bathroom with a shower and a flush toilet. He walked outside and checked. If they moved the garage, he could add a “bathroom” to the cabin, but it would be small and cramped, since the far side wouldn’t have 6 feet of clearance due to the slope of the roof. He called Nancy outside and explained the problem to her. He’d either need to totally rebuild the cabin, or else have a small and cramped bathroom. She threw up her hands and walked back in. Ron let it drop.

    The next morning, Nancy said she wanted to go hunting. They could easily ride double and still bring back 1 whole caribou or 2 tanned skins and the prime cuts of meat. He didn’t want to waste the meat, so before they went hunting, he made sure the canning supplies, and Anne’s canning book was still in the cabin. They were all sitting where they had left them. He easily had enough jars to can 2 caribou, and enough boxes with dividers to haul it all back to Allakaket. He found Nancy and explained to her that if they went hunting, they also had to skin, gut and butcher the caribou, and then can the meat when they got back to the cabin. It was smelly, hot and sweaty work. She said “OK, what are you waiting for?” He checked that there was plenty of wood for the stove, and the water was connected, then he said they were good to go. He strapped on his fanny pack, and turned it around front so Nancy could comfortably ride behind him, then put on his shoulder holster and picked up his daybag full of water, and they walked out to the ATV. He hitched the trailer to it, handed her a helmet, then lashed the rifles and backpack to the trailer. He checked the gas and oil, then started the ATV and climbed on, then told Nancy to climb on back and hold on tight. Nancy took him literally, and feeling her body crushed against his back made it hard to concentrate on his driving. He drove slower than usual since he had a passenger, but they still made it to the hunting grounds in a couple of hours.

    They hiked over the hill, and there were literally hundreds of Caribou in the meadow below them. He showed Nancy where to set up, handed her a pair of earplugs, and set up his own rifle. Since they were going to take 2 large caribou, he wanted Nancy to get the first shot, and told her to shoot a big bull in the heart-lung region right below the shoulder. Her rifle had a bipod, so she was able to easily hold on the heart-lung region of a big bull. They quickly stuck their earplugs in their ears, since the caribou weren’t going anywhere, and when they were ready, Nancy shot first, and as soon as her bull was down, Ron fired, and his dropped too. He walked over to her and gave her a big hug and a kiss “Great Shooting Sweetie - now let’s go get the ATV and the trailer so we can skin, gut and butcher these big brutes.” They unloaded the SPBT ammo, and put the rifles back in their cases. 15 minutes later, they were riding the ATV and when they entered the clearing, the herd spooked. Ron drove right up to the two downed bulls, and quickly skinned and gutted them. He cut the heads off the bulls, and cracked the skulls to brain tan them. Nancy got one whiff of the contents, and decided to stay upwind and start butchering the one bull. She wasn’t the most skilled at butchering, but did it correctly while Ron washed the skins, and mashed the brains into the hide while mixing it with water to make a paste. When he was finished, he walked over to Nancy with Caribou brain matter dripping from his hands and said “How about a Hug?”

    “Ron Williams you stay away from me - you STINK!”

    Ron knew he shouldn’t push his luck- she had his Bowie knife. He walked to the pond and washed off as thoroughly as possible. He helped her finish butchering the two carcasses, and loaded them into a large trash bag on the trailer, and did the same with the skins. When they were finished, they had just enough daylight to make it home, so he started the ATV, and they climbed on. They made it home right as it was growing dark. Ron backed the trailer into the smokehouse, and shut the door; then parked the ATV. Nancy had unloaded their stuff from the trailer, and went inside to make dinner. They had plenty of canned food, so they ate a simple dinner while Ron cleaned up as best as he could with a washcloth in the sink. It took several tries to get off all the stink, but finally Nancy let him get close enough to give him a hug. After dinner, they went to bed early. Ron felt weird sleeping in his parent’s bed, but Roy was dead, and Anne lived in Allakaket now. Ron gave in when Nancy made it clear she was in the mood.

    The next morning after breakfast, Ron showed Nancy how to can the Caribou. Once she had the hang of the canning operation, he switched to filling jars with caribou meat while she sterilized the lids and processed the filled jars. By the end of the day, they were done, and Nancy decided she wanted fresh fish for dinner. Ron remembered the fishing hole, so they went. Halfway there, he heard a wolf growl, and turned. It was a male wolf that looked just like Sam. “Easy boy, I’m a friend!”

    Taking a big risk, since he thought the wolf was one of Oliver and Francine’s descendants, he decided not to shoot it, and to try and make friends. He had Nancy slowly get behind him, and he crouched down and extended his hand in the classic “Sniff my hand and let’s be friends” pose. Amazingly, the Wolf’s aggressive behavior stopped, and he walked over to them. Ron’s heart was beating a million miles a second, and finally the wolf got close enough to sniff his hand, and somehow didn’t take a huge bite out of Ron’s hand. Ron didn’t know why, but the wolf seemed to trust him. They turned and walked to the lake, and cast a line. The first fish they caught went to the wolf, who devoured it. He was full by the second lake trout, so Ron started putting fish on the stringer. The wolf walked up to the lake, drank his fill, and walked back over to them and laid down next to Ron. Nancy was amazed, but Ron said nothing. Ron reached over and started to pet the wolf, and he appeared to enjoy it. When he had 4 fish on the stringer, he got up to go, and the wolf got up too, and trotted back to the woods. Ron remembered there was a wolf den nearby, but didn’t dare push his luck. He wished the wolf well, and they walked back to their cabin. Once the door was closed, Nancy started in on him. “Ron Williams, are you nuts - that wolf could have killed us!”

    “Yes he could have, but I sensed something in the wolf, something familiar. It was weird, but I could have sworn that the wolf was Sam’s nephew. Anyway, the wolf had no intention of harming us, he just wanted to protect his pups in the den.”

    “What pups, all I saw was a big scary wolf!”

    “About 50 yards away there was an old wolf den, the same one Oliver and Francine used. I’m sure he had a mate and cubs at the den, and we were too close for comfort. As soon as he realized we were no threat, he settled right down, and feeding him definitely helped.”

    “Yeah, and then you had to go and pet the wolf!”

    “Nancy, you do realize the only difference between a Wolf - Canis Lupus, and a Dog - Canis Familiaris is less than 1 or 2 gene sequences. Moose is like 99.9% Wolf, and domestic dogs are just a case of arrested development and inbreeding for certain traits. Once he realized we were friendly and I fed him, I was in about as much danger as petting Moose.”

    “OK, let’s make dinner, I’m just thanking God we’re still alive.”

    Ron quickly skinned and cleaned the fish while Nancy lit the stove, and got a cast iron skillet good and hot, then added oil to it, and when Ron gave her the fillets, she dredged them in flour and fried them in the hot skillet. She made instant mashed potatoes and added Butter Buds. Ron cleaned and set the table for dinner, and lit a kerosene lamp. When the fish were ready, Nancy plated the fish and added a large portion of mashed potatoes and some mixed vegetables. Ron said grace, and they ate dinner. Nancy was grateful to be alive, and after dinner, Ron knew he was in for a long night. Oh well, they had 3 more to go for a hockey team.

    The next morning they packed up the canned caribou meat, and Nancy told Ron she had enough of the “great outdoors” and wanted to go home. Ron realized she was more scared by the incident with the wolf than she let on. He agreed, and they packed up. Ron towed the plane out of the hangar, shut the doors, and they repacked the plane. 2 hours later they were back in Allakaket. They drove home and Ron felt obligated to tell his mom they were home. She said “I can keep the kids for a couple more days - they’ve been total angels, you guys have fun.” Ron told Nancy, and asked what she wanted to do for a couple of days - he got his answer in a couple of minutes, and almost wished the kids were back so he could get some rest. 2 days later, he was ready to beg for mercy, he wasn’t a kid anymore. Nancy relented and they went over to Anne’s to pick up the kids. As soon as they got home, Jake, Josh and Sarah sacked out with Moose on the bearskin rug in front of the fireplace. Ron and Nancy collapsed on the couch, and Ron finally got some rest.

    The next day, Ron talked with his mom, and got her permission to renovate the cabin. She agreed that it was way too small for his family, and they needed to build bigger. She had several suggestions, including a full basement underneath. It would double the construction costs, since all the materials except the wood had to be flown in, but since he had a limited footprint, he needed all the square feet he could get in a limited footprint, and going underground instead of up had it’s advantages. All their food could be stored in the basement for long periods, since the temperature was very consistent, and part of if could be converted to a play room, since there was no way they could get out and get into trouble. That convinced Ron, because Jake and Josh were both into the exploring stage, and they needed a kid-proof room. He took his ideas to Bill, who recommended a contractor, who agreed to re-use as much of the original material as possible. He reduced his price when Ron suggested they use his loader/backhoe to dig the basement instead of renting. He owned the airline, so all it would cost to fly everything in would be the pilot’s salary, and they were paying that anyway. The fuel costs were high, but they were still getting the best rates from the fuel distributor. Renting a chopper to fly all the materials in would have cost 3-4 times Ron’s costs to have his own planes/pilots fly materials and personnel into the site.

    Before he signed the contract, Ron suggested flying the Contractor up to the site. When he got there, he said he could reduce their contract another 30% if he could use some mature trees about 2 miles from the cabin site. Since he owned several hundred acres of trees, Ron agreed in a heartbeat, and asked they save the usable scraps for firewood. It would be a lot cheaper to fly in a portable sawmill, log and mill their own lumber than to fly lumber in from Anchorage or Fairbanks. Ron’s idea for 2 separate rooms downstairs actually saved him money, since the contractor could use the interior wall as a weight bearing wall to support the floor above instead of erecting posts and beams to support the floor. The basement would be poured reinforced and waterproofed concrete, and everything else would be made from lumber logged and milled on site. Since winter was approaching, they agreed to start construction as soon as the snow melted in spring. Ron also asked the contractor to install a deep well and a septic system that could handle at least 2 full bathrooms. Ron got quotes over the internet to ship solar shingles and a large ground-mounted solar panel, several Air-X wind turbines, and a solar water heater that was backed up by a wood-burning water heater. All the inverters and batteries would be on racks in the basement. He found the best bang for the buck was a company called Outback Power Systems.

    He purchased the 10KW rack-mount setup that included 4 2500w inverters, the control panel, and a 24-hour battery back-up. He added a small diesel generator that was a dedicated battery charger, connected to the system with an auto-transfer/auto-start switch so it would start when the battery state of charge reached 60% and insufficient power was generated by the panels or turbines, or at 55% state of charge regardless. It also had a maintenance mode that would run the generator for half an hour once a month to exercise the generator, and equalize the charges on the batteries. The entire system was controlled by a little computer control panel in the house. He added a 5,000 gallon underground tank for diesel fuel to the design to make sure they had enough fuel since it had to be delivered twice as far, and by air all the way. With the Pri-D and anti-gelling additives, the diesel would basically store forever in an underground tank. All the indoor lighting would be hidden florescent fixtures using 2 or 4-tube fixtures with a mix of warm and cool tubes to simulate normal daylight colors. The contractor located a “kid proof” hidden fixture that was much more durable than the normal dropped ceiling type plastic panel, since it was rigid and fixed in place. It took a screwdriver to remove the panel to get access to the tubes, ballast, and the fixture itself. Since florescent fixtures used 20-30% of the power per lumen as an incandescent light - they would save a lot of energy right there. A massive masonry stove/cooktop/oven stone fireplace was the main source of heat in the winter, and occupied the center of the living room. Ron wondered if the downstairs needed a heater in the winter, and the salesman from Outback told him their equipment threw off enough heat to keep the basement warm, besides with the warm house above it, it should be fine down there. Ron remembered the wood-fired water heater was in the basement as well, and that would contribute to keeping the basement warm. He asked the contractor to modify the design to include vents between the two rooms, and smoke/carbon Monoxide detectors on both floors with battery back ups.

    Ron showed the design to Nancy, who made a few slight modifications that were basically cosmetic, but he thought they were good ideas. She did however move a couple of windows to better spots to take advantage of views, and also to get maximum solar gain in the winter from the south-facing windows. Ron realized this house would be a bear to heat in the winter, but he wasn’t planning on living there in the winter, at least for now. Ron was glad he was starting a construction project, because the airline was running itself, making money hand over fist, and he only needed to fly occasionally since there was a huge surplus of qualified pilots thanks to Congress. Ron was tempted to have another TurboGoose built for his personal plane, and hire another pilot to fly the routes. He’d ask BA about that when he saw him again.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    State of Denial
    Chapter 15 - Construction Zone

    The next morning Nancy found the box that Anne had given them, and called Ron over. “We forgot to open Anne’s gift!”

    “No time like the present.”

    They opened the box, and in it were 2 complete sets of Caribou Skin clothing including boots. Anne had pinned their names to their tops and bottoms. Knowing that Nancy didn’t wear a dress very often, she made shirt/pant combinations for both of them, and a pair of boots each with the vibram sole. They tried them on, and they fit perfectly. Ron wondered how Anne got their sizes, and figured Nancy had something to do with it. Ron called his mom up, and thanked her for the caribou clothes, then he called BA and had a talk with him.

    “Hi BA, how’s things going?”

    “Considering the rest of the travel industry is in the toilet, we’re doing great. Since most of our customers are hunters, fisherman, and oilfield or mine employees and have to fly to get where they want to be, business is back up to 80% of the previous level.”

    “BA, could you run the numbers on hiring another pilot to take my route, and building me another TurboGoose as my personal plane. I’m getting tired of flying the friendly skies.”

    “I know how you feel Ron, I got burned out running Alaska Airlines, and you’ve got so much cash that you could live off the interest for the rest of your life, never touch the principal, and not change your lifestyle 1 bit. As far as hiring another pilot and building another plane, I think it’s a good idea, that way he can be flying 40 hours a week instead of acting as the CEO 30 hours, then flying another 20. I’ll crunch the numbers and get back to you.”

    “Thanks BA - talk to you later.”

    Ron spent the rest of the winter with his family, and Nancy announced she was pregnant again. Ron looked at her, and she was just glowing. He gave her a big hug, and told her he was thinking of changing things a bit at Allakaket Airlines. He was getting tired of flying a route, and wanted to hire another pilot, and building another plane customized for them. Nancy was all for it, the long hours were showing and he was usually exhausted when he came home. “So what are you going to do with yourself?”

    “I wanted to talk to the contractor about acting as a supervisor on the new lodge, even if I have to pay extra it’s going to be fun, and I’ll be home earlier and in a much better mood.”

    Nancy thought that was a good idea, and told Ron to go ahead. He called the Contractor, who told him they usually didn’t want the homeowner acting as a Supervisor, but in his case he could make an exception. Ron said he would also have the cargo version of the TurboGoose available to fly stuff to the site as needed. He said they should use the CH-47 whenever possible because it had 3-5 times the lifting capacity of the TG, but if they needed light stuff that wasn’t worth flying the chopper to get, he could pick it up. The contractor checked, and having Ron fly to Anchorage a couple of times a week with light loads would accelerate the project schedule, meaning more money for him. He agreed to Ron’s idea, and told him that he would let him know the date they were going to start construction.

    Ron called BA, and he said that Ron could use his TurboGoose until they built his new plane, and if they needed it, they could put the spare in service from Allakaket. Ron asked BA to contact Allison and the RCAF and see how long it would take to build another TG. BA admitted he already had the figures, and he could have another one built in 3-4 months depending on weather. Ron had to decide whether he wanted a Cargo variant or a VIP variant. The more he thought about it, the more sense it would make to build another plane like his original TurboGoose that was quickly convertible from passenger to cargo use by removing the seats. He could fly either by adding or removing seats. If he had to fly people and cargo, he just removed seats from the back to hold the cargo, and had the people fly in the forward seats in the cabin. He called BA, and they agreed the flexible cabin design was the best bet. Ron had a couple of ideas for the avionics suite for his aircraft, including commercial radar so he could fly day or night if he needed to. BA thought that was an excellent idea, since the planes that flew the Fairbanks/Nome route already had radar installed because bad weather could force them to land IFR even though they took off VFR. The FAA tended to look the other way, since the alternative would be to RTB, and that was bad for business, especially since President Hatch made it clear that the Alaskan oil fields were Militarily Essential Projects. That designation allowed the pilots to push the envelope a bit. They were military trained pilots, and were fully capable of landing in zero/zero conditions totally on instruments. During the winter, they went from 4 to 2 aircraft flying the Fairbanks/Nome route, so the other pilots just became co-pilots on the other planes, and kept flying, since they were more likely to fly in IFR conditions during the winter.

    Ron was glad the winter was short and mild. Over the winter and during the start of spring, they dropped a storage building on the site, and moved everything from the cabin to the storage building behind the hangar. When the cabin was stripped bare, Ron called the contractor and said he was ready to start construction. With the good weather, they were able to start building in April instead of May or June. Jim flew the CH-47 non-stop for the first two weeks. Ron flew the crew in first, then their wall tents and equipment. They brought enough food and supplies to last a crew of 6 a month, and if it ran over that long, Ron would fly to Anchorage and pick up more supplies. Since Ron had an outhouse, they skipped the chemical toilets Ron almost died laughing when he saw what they were using for a crane, then remembered his Dad used something even more primitive to build his “room addition. They built a fixed-length boom out of high-strength metal tubing, cut a slot in the end big enough to fit a 6” pulley, and used a 1” grade-8 bolt as an axle. The base of the unit was a 4-legged outrigger with 2 wheels. They used an automotive 10K winch and a &#190;” wire rope instead of the &#189;” wire rope normally used, since it only needed to lift 20 feet max. The height of the boom was adjustable by a 10-ton bottle jack that had been fitted with safety pins in case of hydraulic failure. The winch was electrically powered, and a small gas generator and 2 huge deep cycle batteries were mounted on the rear to double as ballast to counter-balance any load. The mount was free-swinging, and could be swung even with a load attached by 2 men. It wasn’t the most elegant crane he had ever seen, but the contractor said it had several things going for it. It was light, strong, portable, and didn’t take a heavy-lift helicopter to move to remote sites. 10,000 pounds of lift was more than enough for a construction crane for Alaska, since your average 1-foot diameter log weighed less than half that amount.

    One of the first trips the CH-47 made was with a small fuel bladder full of avgas for the generator, and a large fuel bladder full of diesel for Ron’s tractor. The Avgas bladder contained 500 gallons, and the diesel bladder contained 2,000 gallons, since the tractor would use a lot more fuel. The first day after they were set up, they started the demolition. Since the sod roof wouldn’t be re-used, they quickly demolished it. Ron was glad Anne wasn’t here, because she would probably be crying while they demolished her home. But like a phoenix, this would rise from the ashes greater than before. All the usable lumber and hardware was stacked off to a side. 2 days later, all that existed of the cabin was the bare dirt foundation. They flew in the loader/backhoe and started digging and blasting the basement while several other crewmen went to the location that the contractor told them about and started felling trees. Ron drove the ATV with the trailer so they didn’t have to carry their gear over a mile away from the lodge. Between the 4 of them they made short work of felling enough trees to build the new lodge if you included the recycled wood they could use from the old house. The exterior would be made from 12” logs that were over 40 feet long. They located a stand of pine trees that would be perfect, and dropped the entire stand. They hooked a choker chain to the logs, and Ron dragged them with the ATV to a clearing where they could more easily limb the logs. They waited for the tractor to drag the logs to the building site, since it could pull a lot of logs using their logging trolley. Ron flew home every afternoon so he was home by dark, and the crew stayed in their tents. The contractor was pleased since Ron wasn’t acting as a “sidewalk supervisor” and was actually a big help. He decided that if they came in under budget he would refund most of the money he saved, at least what he could attribute to Ron’s help. Ron was still tired when he came home, but his mood was much better, and a hot shower and a massage usually perked him right up. Sometimes he got a much different massage, and they skipped dinner or ate quickly.

    Over the spring, the basement went in, and the construction crew swung into high gear. Ron was flying twice a week to Anchorage to pick stuff up and spent the rest of the time helping out and supervising. Having the owner on-site for decisions also helped the contractor with change orders, which often halted construction for a day or so while they got things straightened out. The portable sawmill was making lumber at a rate fast enough to easily keep up with the construction team, and with the use of FRS/GMRS radios, they were able to communicate clearly without the contractor running back and forth all day. The AE equipment was delivered before the floor was installed, making installation as simple as lowering the racks into the basement and bolting them in place, then running the wires to the fuse panel on the main floor and the power leads to the roof as soon as the solar power roofing shingles were installed. Ron bought all AGM type deep cycle batteries, and paid 10% extra to make sure they were manufactured in the last month, and were all from the same batch which made a slight difference in durability and reliability, but not enough to concern the average homeowner. Ron wasn’t your average homeowner, and had money to burn, so he went the extra step to get as much reliability and life span out of his system as possible.

    One change order recommended by Bear confused the heck out of the contractor, but he knew better than to ask too many questions. Bear wanted &#189;” armor plate shutters for the windows with a thin wood veneer to make them look like wood. He located an armored door built the same way and ordered it as well. The only thing that gave them away was the heavier hinges and hardware to install them. Ron quickly realized that the lodge would stop anything less than a 50BMG with the shutters closed. He thought about building a tunnel to the “root cellar” then decided that would be overkill.

    With the portable sawmill, Ron got a real wood floor without the usual gaps that resulted from rustic construction techniques. Once the wood floor was installed, it was sanded smooth and sealed The interior dividing walls that weren’t weight-bearing were made using conventional framing techniques, and were 2x6 construction - and actually 2x6 not 1 5/8 “ x 5 &#190;”. They used &#190;-inch green board, which was more expensive than conventional wallboard, but waterproof and more durable. The 2 bathrooms were designed for efficiency, since they didn’t have the space to waste with huge bathrooms, so the master bathroom had a regular shower stall, a sink, and a toilet without all the extras. The other bathroom had a shower/tub combo just in case they needed a bath tub. The main floor had all cathedral open joist ceilings using milled wood. Since there were solar panels on the southern exposure of the roof, Ron decided on a steeper pitch than normal to encourage snow to slide off uncovering the panels during the winter more often so they could produce power when the sun was out. The Solar shingles made power even on partly-cloudy to cloudy days, but not as much as on a sunny day. They drilled a well, and hit good water at 100 feet, but kept drilling to 150 feet to allow for seasonal fluctuations. The septic field was buried deep to keep it from freezing in the winter.

    Ron kept the solar powered pumps and the pipe for emergencies, and had the lodge plumbed conventionally, with a tap and a valve installed outside just in case. Ron knew the solar powered DC RV pumps could pump lake water 8 months out of the year reliably, so if something happened, and the lodge lost power, they would still have wood heat, and hot and cold running water 8 months out of the year. When they filled in the storage room with cabinets and shelves, the contractor told Ron he had an unused 2x2x10 space in a corner. Ron checked the internet quickly, and found a captive air tank exactly that size, so he asked the contractor if they could plumb the tank into the cold water system. Ron knew the tank was was only 150 gallons, but it would keep the well pump from running all the time. Ron got together with the contractor, and got a list of all the little things they needed to complete the project, and called Bill to order them for pick-up in Anchorage tomorrow.

    Ron flew home, and asked Nancy what they would need for furniture, rugs, etc. to decorate the “lodge” as they were calling it - it was too big for a cabin, and they already had a house. Nancy suggested leaving the kids with Anne for a couple of hours, and they could walk through it and take notes. Ron thought that was a good idea and called his mom. Anne checked with Doc Miller, and he said he had no appointments tomorrow, so it was OK with him. Anne called them back and said “Bring them on over first thing tomorrow.”

    Nancy said “Thanks Mom- we’re going to look at the lodge. We need to make a list of stuff we need to furnish it. Were there any of the old furnishings you wanted - I’ll make sure we bring them back.”

    “No dear, I grabbed anything that was small and of sentimental value when I moved to Allakaket, it’s your house now, feel free to do what you want to with it - I love you dear!”

    “Bye Mom, love you too!”

    When she hung up the phone, she wondered why she called Anne Mom until she realized that she now had 2 moms: Her Mother that bore her; and the grandmother of her children and the mother of her husband. The title “Mother” was probably Biblically more correct than the modern “Mother-in law” because they were married in Spirit as well, and she had joined Ron’s family when she took his name. She talked to Ron, and he agreed, if she was comfortable with it, he was sure Anne would approve. She went to pack an overnight bag for each kid, even though she was going to be back later that afternoon. Ron shook his head and walked off. He dreaded the day that they’d go out camping or something, Nancy would probably pack enough stuff for a Himalayan Expedition, and he’d get stuck carrying all of it!

    The next morning, they packed the kids in the truck, and Ron was muttering to himself when he finally packed the last bag in the truck, then threw a bag of dog food in the truck to boot.

    “Nancy, this has to stop. You’re packing 10 times the stuff they would need for 1 day at my Mom’s. If we went camping, I’d need either to drag a trailer behind us for all the stuff, or get fitted for a truss! Jake won’t need 3 changes of clothes, he’s practically potty-trained. Josh is only using 3 pairs per day, and you’ve packed a 12-pack of diapers, Sarah only used 6 diapers yesterday and you’ve packed 2 12-packs. For crying out loud, it’s too much stuff!”

    “Ron, you deal with the unknown by packing your fanny pack and shoulder holster, I plan for the unknown by making sure my kids have enough stuff in case we don’t come back.”

    “OK Nancy, I promise no more wolf-petting!”

    “How about if the plane crashes or something?”

    “Nancy, we’ve got over a year’s worth of stuff in the house in storage, and Anne drives or someone could pick up enough stuff to last over a year, and I’ve already filled out a will with trust funds to take care of the kids. Look, if something happens to us, it’s God’s will, and I’m sure he’d take care of them. Preparedness is nice, but I think you’re letting your fears get the best of you. I lived up there for 17 years, and the only time I was attacked was when we surprised a bear and Sam, who was 100% wolf by the way, died protecting me. You’ve got absolutely nothing to fear from that wolf. All those stories you read in the nursery rhymes were based on the European experience, and the Siberian experience. Frankly Europeans were paranoid when it came to wolves! True, I wouldn’t want to take on a hungry wolf pack, alone and unarmed, but I’ve got a .44 Magnum on me that can kill a Grizzly with 1 correctly placed shot. A wolf wouldn’t stand a chance. We were never in any danger. If I really believed that wolf was a threat, I would have shot on sight, but something told me that wolf didn’t want to attack, he was protecting his family. Since he was related to Sam, or one of his siblings, it would be like killing Sam, so I had to give that wolf a chance to show he wasn’t dangerous. Even when I stuck out my hand, my right hand was on the butt of my Colt Anaconda, and one growl would have finished him in a heartbeat.”

    “Why didn’t you say so?”

    “You never asked - I thought you saw that, you were right behind me.”

    “I was too busy being scared of the wolf to notice anything.”

    Ron took Nancy in his arms “Nancy - I’ll never let anything or anyone hurt you or the kids, you have to believe me.”

    Nancy broke down and cried, and when she dried her eyes, she kissed Ron “Boy have I been an idiot! I’m out there with Jeremiah Johnson, acting like a little schoolgirl. Ron, I’m sorry.”

    “Nancy, you weren’t raised in the bush, you have a few things to learn, but I’ll teach you. You already know how to shoot, and how to kill skin and gut animals for food. Fishing is a no-brainer, and I can teach you all the survival stuff you’ll ever need to know just like I showed Samantha while we were stranded.”

    Nancy gave Ron another big hug and got in the truck - she was ready to go. Ron checked his guns and his fanny pack, and jumped in the driver’s seat. 15 minutes later, they were at Grandma’s house. Moose knew where he was, and practically flattened Nancy to get in the house. Jake was able to walk on his own, so Nancy set him down and he tottered into the house. Anne picked him up and gave him a big hug and kiss. Ron and Nancy carried Josh and Sarah into the house and laid them on the bearskin rug with Moose. Ron unpacked the truck, and this time Nancy suggested leaving the dog food at Anne’s house. “Mom, is it OK if we leave a bag of dog food here for Moose, and when we come back later today, if you have room, maybe I can leave a bag with spare diapers and stuff so we don’t have to keep lugging all these bags.”

    “Nancy, I already bought a bag of diapers for each of them. If you noticed last time there were still diapers left in the bag.”

    “I was wondering why that happened. It seems we think alike too.”

    “Years of living in the bush make me want to plan in advance and store stuff just in case.”

    “Mom, what was it like living with a wolf in the house.”

    “Dear, Francine dropped off Sam on our doorstep while Ron was still an infant, and I was not happy to put it mildly, but over the years I realized Ron and Sam had bonded tighter than brothers or litter mates. They did everything together, kind of like Jake and Josh sleeping with Moose. Every nap time, Ron would sack out on the bearskin with Sam. If I wanted to find Ron, I looked for Sam.”

    “Did Ron tell you about that wolf encounter the other week?”

    “He mentioned something, but not really - what happened?”

    “We were walking toward the lake when this big wolf came out of the woods growling at us. I wanted Ron to shoot it, but he seemed to be trying to make friends with it. He got me behind him and crouched down, and the darned wolf walked over just like a dog and sniffed his hand, and then he was fine. I thought I would lose a husband. They walked to the lake, and Ron caught it a couple of fish, and fed the wolf, then he drank out of the lake and laid down, and get this - Ron petted the wild wolf like a dog! I was about ready to jump out of my skin, but the wolf seemed to enjoy it. We caught 4 more fish, and when we turned to go, the wolf trotted back into the forest as if nothing had happened.”

    “Did Ron tell you there was a den there? The wolf was just protecting his mate and pups. If he were serious about attacking you, he would have never given you a warning growl; your first hint that something was wrong would have been when he jumped one of you. Dear, in all my years up there, I’ve learned you have absolutely nothing to fear from those wolves. They’re habituated to humans, and see us as friends instead of as enemies. If he didn’t have a den close by, I doubt if you would have even seen him.”

    “Ok, guess this “City Girl” has a lot to learn!”

    “Nancy, not any more than I had to learn, or re-learn when I moved in with Roy. I went from being raised north of here, to living for over 10 years in Dallas, to living in Allakaket, to spending almost 20 years in the bush in a log cabin.”

    “Wow, I guess you have some stories to tell - why don’t you stop by more often and we can talk. With Ron at work, the only person I can talk to is too young to respond.” Ron chose that minute to walk in. “Mom, if you want to, I know where there’s a used 4x4 diesel pickup for sale, I’ll buy it, and you can visit us whenever you want, I’m sure Nancy would love the company, and it would give you more time with the grandkids.”

    “Ok Ron, it does get a little lonely around here!”

    Ron hugged his Mom, and Nancy gave her a hug, and they left since the kids were still asleep. Nancy told Anne on the way out, “We should be back before dark, see ya later Mom!”

    They got in the truck, drove to the plane, and were at the lodge within a little over an hour. Nancy marveled at how beautiful the Lodge was, and was writing furiously as they walked from room to room. Finally they checked out the storage, and she crossed several items off her list and made a note next to the item to indicate it was in the storage building. When they were finished, they flew back to Allakaket and went home. They stopped at Anne’s on the way home, picked up the kids, and took them home. Ron and Nancy got on the computer, made a list, checked prices, then made some phone calls to Anchorage and Fairbanks stores. A couple of days later, they received their replies. Instead of making 2 trips, they decided the stores in Fairbanks had the better deals, and ordered most of the stuff from them. Ron called his Mom again, and asked if she would like to take the kids. Since tomorrow was Saturday, and Doc didn’t see patients on Saturday, she agreed. Remembering his promise, Ron called BA and asked him if they still had that spare diesel truck. BA said it was sitting in the yard. Ron asked if BA could do him a favor, have one of the mechanics look it over, clean it up, and deliver it to his mom’s place with a full tank of diesel. BA said sure, and thought that they should be able to deliver it in an hour or two. Ron thanked him, hung up, and called his Mom.

    “Mom, one of the mechanics is going to drop off a truck for you. I’d appreciate if you could give him a lift back to the airport, then instead of us having to pack the kids up, would you mind coming over here? I’ll give you a card for the fuel pumps so you can keep it filled.”

    “Ron, I don’t have a license!”

    “Mom, most people around here don’t - you’ve driven an automatic before, right?”

    “Yes, but it’s been almost 20 years.”

    “Well take it slow the first time, and you might let the guy drive back to the airport so you don’t give him a heart attack.”

    “HIM, What about Me?”

    “Mom, after everything Dad and I put you through, I thought you were immune!”

    “No - I can definitely say where I got these grey hairs from.”

    “Ok Mom, it’s an automatic. That means to go forward put it in drive, backwards reverse. Easy on the throttle, easy on the brake. You don’t have to set any speed records getting here, besides, it’s just 5 miles from your house to ours, and just one turn - the left at the end of Main Street. It’s the last road on the left, then we’re the last house on the road. Main Street dead-ends just after our turn, so you can’t miss it. See you bright an early tomorrow Mom!”

    “Nancy, I gave Mom the spare truck we had at the shop, someone’s going to check it out and drive it over to her place this afternoon, so she’ll come over here tomorrow to baby sit.”

    “Smart move Ron, that way she’ll have no excuse from now on for not coming by and visiting.”

    Chapter 16 - Shop till You Drop

    Anne showed up at 7:00 the next morning, and once the kids were settled, Ron and Nancy got into their truck and drove to the airport. 2 hours later they were in Fairbanks. Ron hired a cab, and they drove to the Home Furnishing Store. They were greeted by the Assistant Manager, who was told to expect them. They got the red carpet treatment, so Ron thought that someone had tipped them off about whom he was. He didn’t mind, but didn’t let it go to his head either. A stock boy accompanied them to push the cart, get the merchandise down from the shelves, and Ron guessed, to polish their shoes if necessary. By the time they were finished, they had ordered almost 10 thousand dollars worth of furniture, furnishings, and stuff. The Assistant Manager offered them free delivery. Ron asked if the truck could meet them at the airport, and gave him their stall number where the TurboGoose was parked, and asked if they could include 2 people to load the plane. He didn’t see any problem, and told them the delivery truck would be loaded and meet them at the plane in an hour. Ron used his Allakaket Airlines credit card to pay for the bill, and they took a taxi back to the airport.

    Half an hour after they arrived at the plane, a huge cube van with a bobtail lift painted with the store logo pulled up next to them, and the driver handed Ron a packing list which he checked against the store receipt. Everything was on the list, so he just went by the packing list as they loaded the plane, checking off each item as it was loaded. Since they bought multiple items, and the items were in sealed boxes with the contents listed outside, he just had to check off the box, which didn’t take as long. The boxes and furniture barely fit into the plane, so Ron was glad he had removed the seats the night before, or they would have had problems. Once the plane was loaded, and he signed for the delivery, he gave the driver and each of the loaders a $10 tip, then taxied up to the fuel pumps and filled the tanks full of JP-5 with his fuel card. Once they were airborne, Ron called ahead and had one of their bush pilots fly 2 baggage handlers to their lodge. They arrived 10 minutes before Ron did, and they unloaded the plane, carried the furniture into the lodge, and arranged it with Nancy’s direction. When they finished, Ron offered to fly them back, but they’d have to ride in jump seats instead of regular seats. Since they’d rather get home than wait for the bush pilot to fly back then fly them home, they agreed, and Ron mounted the webbed sling-style jump seats to the cabin walls. It wasn’t the most comfortable way to fly, but it beat walking or waiting for another 2 hours. When they landed, Ron handed each of them a $100 check and told them it was a bonus, and thanked them. They were happy since they had made their full day’s salary for about 3 hours worth of work, plus a $100 tax-free bonus. When they got back to the office, they punched out and went home, since it was quitting time.

    Ron and Nancy arrived home, and Anne told them everything was OK, and the kids were asleep with Moose, then she took Ron aside and explained that she needed some help learning to drive, and asked if Ron could drive around with her for an hour. Nancy went into the house with the kids while Ron and Anne walked out to her truck.

    “Mom, is there something I should know about?”

    “I almost hit 3 mailboxes on my way up here, I’m not sure my vision is good enough to drive.”

    “Mom, I hate to say this but maybe you need glasses.”

    They walked back into the house, and he printed up an eye chart off the internet, then paced off 20 feet, turned around and had her read it. She could barely read the 20/60 line.

    “Mom, that confirms it - you’re probably nearsighted from all that needlework. The nearest optometrist is in Anchorage. You should make an appointment, and I’ll fly you there. Let’s leave your truck here for now, and I’ll drive you home.”

    Anne hugged her son “Thanks Ron, you’re an Angel.”

    “You might want to confirm that with Nancy!”

    They both had a good laugh, and Ron told Nancy he was driving his mom home. When he came back, he wasn’t home 10 minutes when the phone rang.

    “Ron, I made an appointment for tomorrow at 10:00, is that OK?”

    “Sure mom, I’ve got the seats out of the TurboGoose, you mind flying right seat?’

    “You mean up front with you?”

    “Sure, why not?”

    “OK dear, see you at 7:00 tomorrow.”

    “See ya then mom!”

    “Nancy, I need to fly my mom to Anchorage tomorrow for an eye appointment, is there anything we need while I’m there?”

    “Nope, we’re all set. If she can get them tomorrow, you might want to wait for her to get her glasses at a one-hour shop.”

    “OK, we should be home before dark, and if not, I’ll call you.”

    Ron went into the living room and was promptly attacked by 3 kids and a dog. Moose wanted to knock him over and lick him to death, Jake wanted to use him for a Jungle Gym; Josh and Sarah just wanted him to tickle them and hold them. 2 hours later Ron was ready for a nap. Nancy said that dinner was ready, and he thought “Saved by the Bell!” Jake and Josh were put in high chairs, and Sarah got a bottle. Nancy fed the kids first, then Ron. Actually Ron fed Jake and Nancy fed Josh, but he didn’t see the point in feeding either of them, since the bulk of their food went on their face, in their hair, or on the floor. Ron said “Talk about messy eaters!”

    Sarah was a perfect angel and lay next to Moose with her bottle. She might have been weaned, but still got a bottle at dinner since she was small for her age, and there were more nutrients in the bottle than in your average jar of baby food.

    Once the kids were fed and the mess cleaned up, the adults ate while Moose baby sat. He had learned not to sit on the kids, and was a really good babysitter now. Roy said grace and they ate quickly while it was relatively quiet. Later that evening, after the kids were asleep, Ron and Nancy were talking in bed.

    “Ron, that Lodge you built is really an overgrown bug-out shelter isn’t it?”

    “Bear and I had talked about it, and yes, several features have been added or improved to make it a very defensible location, but still I wanted it to also be a summer lodge. That’s why we bothered furnishing it so we could spend summers there. I can run the airlines from there as well as here, and when the kids are older, the lodge by the lake will be a perfect summer and fall lodge.”

    “What about the wolves?”

    “My guess is we’ll never have to worry about them again, and might even get a runt deposited on our doorstep sometime. Those wolves still see us as family. The wolf last week didn’t recognize me because we had been gone so long, but I’m sure that my smell was familiar to him in a sense. Anyway, wolves are pretty harmless unless you do something stupid or they are starving. Bears on the other hand, or wolverines are something to watch out for. As soon as the kids are old enough, they need to learn how to shoot, and you need to be able to shoot a .44 Magnum. Your .45 is great for around town, but isn’t the best weapon against a big huge Grizzly Bear. I wonder what Mom did with Dad’s shoulder holster and guns. I’ll have to ask her tomorrow.”

    “Goodnight dear.”

    “Night Nancy!”

    The next morning, Ron helped feed the kids, then they ate breakfast. He hurried out the door at 6:45, and was at his mom’s house at 0700. She grabbed her bags, locked the door and hurried out to the truck. They made small talk all the way out to the plane. He knew something was bothering his mom, so he asked her “Mom, is everything all right?”

    “I’m a little nervous, I’ve never flown up front before, and I’m definitely scared of heights.”

    “That’s OK mom, you’re in an enclosed cockpit, and the only way you have to worry about how high you are is if we crash, and if we do, it doesn’t matter if you’re 50 or 5,000 feet up, you’re just as dead.”

    “Thanks for the reassuring thought!”

    “Mom, if it’s your time to go, there’s not a whole lot you can do about it, and if it’s not, then you have nothing to worry about!”

    “You’re pretty smart for a kid!”

    “You’re not so bad for a Geezer-ette yourself.”

    “Who you calling an Old Geezer?”

    “If the shoe fits Mom!”

    “Just because I’m blind as a bat and knit all day doesn’t make me old!”

    “I guess this means you won’t be needing those cats then!”

    They both started laughing, and they reached the plane. Ron helped his mom into the cockpit door, then closed it, and did a walk around. Everything checked out, so he got in and taxied to the pumps, topped off the tanks, and taxied to the lake. Anne was fascinated by all the dials, levers and switches Ron was manipulating. Finally he called on the radio for clearance.

    “Allakaket One requesting clearance for take off.”

    “Allakaket one, hold for inbound traffic, 5 minutes.”

    “Roger, holding for inbound, please advise when clear to take off.”

    “Roger, tower out.”

    Ron had to wait for an inbound flight to land, a very rare occurrence in Allakaket. He could see a small Cessna Amphibian on final. 5 minutes later, it had landed, and taxied off the lake. The tower gave him clearance, and he took off. Ron decided to give his Mom a thrill, and did a Max Performance take-off. Once he was airborne, he looked at his Mom, and she was as white as a ghost and breathing hard. “Mom, you OK?”

    “Son, you just scared 20 years out of me - good thing I went to the bathroom before I left, or you might have needed to clean the seat.”

    “Sorry Mom, I thought you’d like to see what the plane could do.”

    “Ron, just take it easy from here on out - I’m not as young as I once was.”

    “OK. Mom, I was going to ask you what happened to Dad’s Anaconda, 22/45, and the shoulder holster?”

    “I’ve got it in a box at home - why?”

    “I was talking to Nancy the other day about our lodge, and realized she didn’t have anything bigger than the .45 if we spent the summer up there.”

    “Ron, she can have my set.”

    “Thanks for offering, but I was thinking about wearing Dad’s set, and giving Nancy mine.”

    “Ron, for now let’s give Nancy my set, and when Jake gets old enough, he can have Roy’s set.”

    “Ok mom, if you’re sure.”

    “It’s just your dad’s guns have a sentimental value to them, they saved my life more than once, and it’s the thing I associate most with your father.”

    “Mom, if I weren’t flying the plane, I’d give you a big hug - I don’t know if I’ve told you lately how much I love you!”

    “I know son, we’ve always been close, but thanks for telling me!”

    They spent the rest of the flight catching up, and when he got close enough, Ron called for landing clearance. Since he was now a commercial airliner, he had to wait like everyone else, but made it in without too many delays. They took a taxi to the optometrists’ office, and Anne went in. Half an hour later, the doctor called Ron in. “Son, have a seat and look at this wall chart. I need to find out something. Ok, now read the 20 line, left eye only.”

    Ron read the 20 line with both eyes, forwards and backwards, then the 19, 18 and 17 lines.

    “Ron, you’re vision is amazing, and it explains why your 60-year old mother has excellent vision. All she needed to see the 20/20 line was a minor correction for astigmatism. She has virtually no myopia or other vision problems people her age have. When she mentioned that you were a pilot and sharpshooter, I just had to check my theory. For some reason excellent vision tends to run in your family. I highly doubt you’ll need glasses until you’re well into your 60’s or 70’s. You’re slightly farsighted, but not excessively so. You would have made one heck of a fighter pilot.”

    “I know doc, I was bound for the Air Force Academy until Congress disbanded the Air Force. My uncle is Colonel Steve Fellows, and you might know my other uncle Ron Fellows.”

    “The name rings a bell, but I can’t place them. Anyway the Air Force would have killed someone to get you behind the stick of a fighter plane with vision like that, and the fact that you’re already a commercial pilot - oh well, their loss!”

    Ron got up, shook the doctor’s hand, and walked out to the lobby where Anne waited. The receptionist told her of an excellent 1-hour shop where they could get her prescription filled. She also had a prescription for reading glasses if she wanted them with a +2 diopter magnification. They took a cab to the lab, and 1 hour later, she had both prescriptions filled. When she put on her regular glasses, she almost cried. Her vision was like it was in her 30’s,.maybe she could go shooting again. She mentioned that to Ron, and he was on his cell phone to Elmendorf, and asked the Gunny if he had a Remington 700 or an M -24 laying around that they could use for an hour. Gunny said “sure come on over” and Ron asked his mom if she wanted to go shooting at Elmendorf. Her ear-to-ear grin answered his question for him. The cab dropped them off at the gate, and Gunny was waiting with his hummer on the other side.

    “Gunny, I’d like you to meet my Mom. Mom, this is Gunny.”

    “Ma’am, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you - Ron’s kind of a legend around here.”

    “Gunny, I’m not as good of a shot as my son, but I finally got some glasses, and I can see like I used to when I was 30, and I wanted to check something out.”

    “Gunny, could you have a runner set some targets out at the 600 yard line for us?”

    “Already taken care of Ron. When you mentioned the 700 or the M -24, I thought you’d want to shoot at 600 instead of 1,000 yards. I located 2 M-24’s that have just gone through their arsenal rebuild and are the most accurate guns on the base. I’ve got a 50-cal ammo can full of M -118 Sniper Match ammo set aside as well.”

    “Thanks Gunny.”

    They drove out to the range, and Gunny already had everything set up, including tarps, shooting pads, ear and eye protection, and the rifles and ammo. Ron and Anne both walked up to their shooting lanes and got ready. Ron said “Ladies first”, so Anne got ready to shoot while Gunny set up a spotting scope behind them. When Anne got behind the M -24, she was amazed at how sharp the image of the target was in her scope. The image was steady too, thanks to the Harris bipod fitted to the forend of the gun. She loaded a mag, cycled the action, cleared the safety, then looked over at Ron, who gave her a thumbs up, and she got ready to shoot. She took 3 deep breaths, blew out half the 3rd one, and held her breath while she gently squeezed the trigger. Her first round went right through the X-ring at 600 yards, and she cycled the bolt, and concentrated on trying to put the other 4 rounds through the x-ring as well. Gunny could see through his scope that Ron’s mom was almost as good of a shot as he was, and was an exceptionally good shot for a 60-year old woman too. She was very pretty, and if he weren’t already married, he would have asked her out. When she locked the bolt open, Ron took over, and quickly shot 5 rounds, then the runner ran down to pull the targets. Gunny’s chin hit his chest when the calculator showed that Anne had shot a 5 inch group, and Ron had shot a 4-inch group out of an unfamiliar gun. Now he knew where Ron got his shooting ability!

    “Excuse me, Mrs. Williams, but I was wondering where you learned to shoot like that?”

    “My Brother was Ron Fellows. He was a sniper in Vietnam.”

    “Can’t say I heard his name, but if you were taught to shoot by a Vietnam sniper, you were taught right. I’m pretty sure some of both of your ability is genetic, because wonder-kid here has got the brass at the Pentagon scratching their heads, because only 1 in 10 of their best snipers can match his groups with the new suppressed Barrett rifle.” Gunny hoped he didn’t just reveal a Secret project, then remembered that if Ron did this when he was a kid, she would have known enough to sign the permission forms.

    Ron spoke up “Gunny, Snipers are by and large good shots, but excellent in field craft. While I can shoot the left eye of a fly at 1,000 yards, I doubt I could become a sniper. I don’t have the patience or the motivation to crawl through 1,000 yards of brambles to take out an enemy general with 1 shot, I’d rather drop a JDAM on him from 10,000 feet!”

    Gunny laughed his head off at that one. He had heard Ron was going to go to the Academy before Congress destroyed the Air Force. That was a crying shame, because that kid would have been one heck of a fighter pilot. He had nerves of steel and practically x-ray vision. He wondered sometimes when the kid’s cape was going to come back from the cleaners. They shot for a couple more hours, and finally Anne was tired and wanted to go home. She had shot over 100 rounds, and none of them strayed outside the 10-ring. Gunny walked up to her and said “Ma’am, May I shake your hand, that was an excellent demonstration of shooting.”

    “Thanks Gunny, I’m glad I got the chance.”

    Gunny looked at Ron and asked him “Do you have any kids?”

    “Yeah, I’ve got 3 and another on the way, why?”

    “If they can shoot half as well as you, you could start your own shooting team. I’d get them started as soon as possible.”

    “I was already planning on it Gunny. Thanks for the advice.”

    Gunny drove them back to the gate, and they called a cab back to the airport. Anne was visibly tired, and Ron had to help her into the aircraft. He realized his mom wasn’t young anymore, and that thought scared him, so he didn’t dwell on it. He walked around the aircraft, then taxied to the pumps and filled up. Once he was at the end of the runway, he called the tower and requested clearance to take off. Since it was later in the day, he was given immediate clearance, so he took off and flew home to Allakaket. Anne slept most of the way home, and woke up when they descended to land. Ron took it easy and greased the landing, then taxied up to the airport, filled the tanks, and parked the plane, then helped her out.

    “Mom, I’ll take you home, then we’ll drop your truck off tomorrow.”

    “That sounds like a plan son, I just want to go to bed. All that excitement took a lot out of me.”

    Ron dropped his mom off and drove home. Nancy met him at the door and gave him a hug and a kiss, then the kids and the dog mobbed him. “Welcome Home” he thought to himself.

    Chapter 17 - Sky Angel

    Ron woke at 0300 to use the bathroom and check on the kids. Jake and Josh were sound asleep, but when he went to check in on Sarah, she was face down. Fearing the worst, he turned on the light, rolled her over, and she wasn’t breathing. He yelled for Nancy, and checked her pulse. Sarah had a pulse, thank God, but she was cyanotic and not breathing. He immediately started Rescue Breathing on his infant daughter, praying she would wake up. After 2 minutes of Rescue Breathing and the most earnest prayers Ron had said in many years, he heard his daughter cry. Nancy came in with the paramedic bag and the cordless phone. He told her to dial Doc Miller, wake him up and tell him they were on the way in with an infant with breathing problems. Ron stayed with Sarah since he was a certified Paramedic, while a very panicked Nancy grabbed the kids and Moose and threw them into the truck. On the way in, Ron called Anne, and she somehow made it to the clinic minutes after them. Doc took Sarah out of Ron’s hands, and rushed her into the examining room. Ron thought he had better call BA just in case, and BA apologized for his grumpy manner as soon as Ron told him Sarah was very sick. Doc Miller came out to the waiting room half an hour later.

    “Ron, Nancy, I’m not going to sugar coat this, your daughter is very sick. Somehow I missed it last time, but she has a hole in her heart, and it requires surgery to fix.”

    “Doc, is this an emergency or can it wait?”

    “Ron, the sooner your daughter has the surgery, the better. I’ve got her stable for now, but she’s intubated and on O2. Anne’s a qualified flight nurse, and Alaska Regional Hospital can take you right in, they have a runway right up to the ER doors. I’ve transferred her to a medical bassinet, and she’s warm, breathing and comfortable. I’ll call ahead, and they’ll be waiting for you.”

    Ron called BA, who said “I’ll come over to the clinic and take care of Jake, Josh, and Moose for you, just take care of Sarah.” They quickly unloaded Josh, Jake and Moose, and left them with Doc Miller. They loaded Anne Sarah, and Anne’s Paramedic kit into the truck, and Ron drove to the airport. BA had alerted them that he was coming to the airport, and needed to take off ASAP. One of the mechanics pre-flighted the plane, topped off the fluids, and parked it with the turbines running. They helped Ron, Nancy, Anne and Sarah into the plane, and helped Anne buckle Sarah’s bassinet into the seat belt. Doc left Sarah wired for the EEG, and switched to the portable unit which included an auto-defibrillator. The medical bassinet contained a respirator, warming circuits, and everything else they needed to transport a critically ill infant. The State of Alaska had recently upgraded the equipment at the State Clinics, since they weren’t equipped as ER’s. Ron searched his database, and located all the information for Alaska Regional Hospital, and entered the coordinates into the navigation system. It was still dark out, so Nancy was flying right seat, and they configured the plane for take-off as they taxied to the lake. They called the tower, and received emergency clearance. The tower told them they would notify Anchorage Control about the Medical Emergency flight, and they should be able to fly straight in. Ron turned to Nancy and said “OK, let’s see what these new turbines can do.”

    Once he was at 500AGL, he reduced the rate of climb, but accelerated to max speed, trading altitude for airspeed. He never got much above 1,000 feet all the way, and ran the turbines as fast as they could go. He averaged just over 300 knots with the new turbines, and the gauges stayed in the green for the whole flight. Ron was glad Nancy had to concentrate on the instruments, so she didn’t have time to worry about her baby. When he was 20 minutes out, he called the Alaska Regional Hospital direct on the radio, explaining they were transporting a critically ill infant, and needed clearance to land. Doc had called ahead, and they were expecting him. The runway was just long enough so he could do a high-speed approach, and land at 120 knots. He didn’t know what kind of shape his daughter was in, but wanted to get her on the ground as fast as possible, and into the hands of a pediatric cardiologist and a cardiac surgeon as fast as he could. 15 minutes later he called final, and followed the ILS glide slope down to a perfect high-speed landing. Once he was on the ground, he chopped the throttles and reversed the props to a stop next to the ambulance entrance, where a team was waiting for them. Once the props stopped turning, they opened the side door and bundled little Sarah onto the gurney and rushed her into the ER with Anne and Nancy following close behind. Ron was directed by a ground crewman to taxi away from the entrance and park the plane. Once he had shut down, the gravity of the situation took hold. His little girl’s life was in someone else’s hands. He had gotten her there alive, now it was up to the doctors and God. Ron said another fervent prayer, and climbed out of the TurboGoose and walked into the ER’s ambulance entrance. The head of Emergency Services was at his desk, and recognized Ron.

    “Ron Williams - is that you?”

    “Hi Doc, I just flew my little girl in, she’s got a bad heart. Any idea where they took her?”

    The director turned to a nurse, then told Ron that she was in an examining room, and the staff cardiologist, a pediatric surgeon and an ER resident were working on her.

    “Ron, I was amazed at that landing you did - even our planes don’t come in that fast and stop that short - what kind of plane was that?”

    “It’s a custom turboprop plane called a TurboGoose. Can I tell you about it later - I really want to see my daughter.”

    Anne walked up to Ron, and told him that Sarah was fine, they were scheduling her for surgery in the morning when the chief of cardiovascular surgery would be in. She was stable, and the cardiologist was keeping an eye on her. Two minutes later, Nancy showed up with the cardiologist in tow.

    “Mr. Williams, I’m doctor Franks. Sarah is stable, and she’ll have surgery in the morning to repair a small hole in her heart. Nancy told me you were a Paramedic, and started rescue breathing on her as soon as you realized she wasn’t breathing.”

    “I woke up to use the bathroom around 3 and checked on the kids as I usually do. Jake and Josh were fine, but Sarah was face down in her crib. Thinking it might be SIDS, I turned on the light, rolled her over carefully. She had a nice strong pulse, but she wasn’t breathing, and she was cyanotic. I started rescue breathing, and 2 minutes later, she started crying, which meant she was breathing. We rushed her to the clinic, and then we flew her here.”

    “Ron, you did everything right, now she’s in our hands. She should come through the surgery OK, and after she recovers from the surgery, she’ll lead a normal life. We do this surgery about a dozen times a year, and if the kid’s alive when we get them, they usually live.”

    “Thanks Doc.”

    Ron gave Nancy and Anne a big hug, then called BA.

    “BA, Sarah’s in the hospital. They’ll do the surgery this morning. Everyone’s OK. I need you to activate the prayer chains, and get everyone praying for us. Can you ask Pastor Jones to meet us at the hospital chapel? Thanks - you too! God Bless!”

    “Anne, Nancy, let’s get a bite to eat at the cafeteria, and head over to the Chapel. BA said he would call Pastor Jones and have him meet us at the Hospital Chapel.”

    They walked into the cafeteria and even though they weren’t hungry, they knew they would need their strength for the upcoming ordeal. After breakfast they got directions to the Hospital Chapel, where they sat and prayed together. A couple of hours later, Pastor Jones quietly joined them, announcing his presence by placing his hands on Ron and Nancy’s shoulders, then he knelt with them and prayed. Since they were alone in the chapel, when they had finished, Pastor Jones gave them some good news.

    “Ron, Nancy, I’ve activated prayer chains all over Anchorage. We have a Pastor’s net that we communicate urgent prayer requests via e-mail, and by this morning every Christian Church in Anchorage is spreading the word via e-mail and phone.”

    “Thanks Reverend, I never imagined the word could spread so fast!”

    “Ron, please call me Tom. Reverend or Pastor is OK in church, but otherwise it’s too formal, and I’m uncomfortable with it.”

    “Ok Tom, any word?”

    “I checked in with the surgical team on my way in, she’s first into surgery this morning at 0800. They’ve called for their best Pediatric Cardiovascular Surgeon. He’s done hundreds of these surgeries. He already got a look at the Echo-Cardiogram, and this one should be a slam dunk. He said there was a small hole in the heart that allows blood to flow between chambers, making the heart work harder, and pump less efficiently. Once the hole is repaired, she should never have any more problems.”

    “Tom, I found her face-down and not breathing, I was assuming SIDS?”

    “According to the docs, she shows no signs of SIDS, and they can’t explain why she was on her face. Maybe she rolled over as she lost consciousness. Either way, I know the hand of God was on her, and you found her in the nick of time. You know that after 6 minutes, irreversible brain damage occurs. The EEG they ran shows normal brain activity, so she’s fine.”

    Nancy started crying when she heard that, and threw herself into Ron’s arms “Thanks for saving our baby!”

    “Like Tom said, it was mostly God watching out for her, and allowing me to react according to my training instead of panicking.”

    “Still, you did everything right, you didn’t panic, and you flew that plane here and made a perfect high-speed emergency landing on a fairly small runway. I love you now even more than before, and I know that if anything bad happens, you won’t fold under pressure.”

    “Nancy, I’m still human, and I always worry that if enough pressure were applied, I’d fold. My worst nightmare is to lose you and the kids all at once. I don’t know if I could deal with that!”

    Tom spoke up “Ron, The Bible says “My Grace is Sufficient” and I totally believe it. I’ve dealt with major tragedies, and God has always given the victims enough grace to bounce back if they believe in Him.”

    Ron thought that called for a Group Hug, and then they were praying together and holding each other. They could each feel His presence, and they knew Sarah would be OK.

    Just about then, Sarah was admitted to Surgery. Half an hour later, she was out and in the recovery room. A nurse walked into the Chapel to give them the good news, and found the four of them standing in a circle praising God. She couldn’t understand why, most of the people she saw in here were weeping and wailing, asking God for a Miracle, and here these 4 were praising God like they already knew that Sarah was out of danger. She tapped the minister on the shoulder, and he said “Yes we know!”

    “But Reverend - I just came out of Surgery, and no one else was sent.”

    “Ma’am, we already heard” and Tom pointed upward. She was amazed, and then she turned and left, she had work to do. She talked about it the rest of the day, and several of her friends who were Christians explained it to her. She spent the rest of the week wondering why she never felt that way, then she picked up her Bible and started reading it for the first time in years.

    Ron, Nancy, and Anne were admitted to the Pediatric ICU after putting on gloves, gowns, and masks. The risk of infection was too great to let her hold her child, so Nancy talked softly to her. The nurse told her that they should be taking her out of ICU within 24 hours, once they were sure she didn’t contract a post-surgical infection. She told them to go home and get some sleep, they couldn’t see her until tomorrow, and she was in good hands. Ron called the Inn and booked 2 rooms for the rest of the week. They said that if they needed to check out before the week was up, they would only bill him for the nights used. Ron called BA, who told him the boys were fine, and Moose wore him out playing Ball and tug-of-war. BA said to stay in Anchorage as long as they needed. He got the spare key from Bill, and grabbed a week’s worth of clothing and dog food for Moose. He finally understood why Ron called him Moose, because Piglet was already taken. BA said they were going to get a dog soon, now that the kids were big enough to help. Ron thanked BA, and they walked out of the hospital. On the way out, he ran into the Director of Emergency Services. “Ron, I was glad to hear Sarah came through surgery OK. I take it you’re staying in Anchorage for her recovery?”

    “I booked 2 rooms at the Inn for a week just in case.”

    “OK, if you’re planning on staying here a week, could you do me a favor and move your plane to the commercial Airport. We need every spot we have in case we get a Mass Trauma. Can I walk out with you and take a look at your plane? It seems to have the same performance as our Brasilia’s, yet it’s an Amphibian. That would come in very handy for some of the outlying areas we now serve with a helicopter. The chopper is a lot slower than the Brasilia, but we can land it on floats at a small lake.” Ron remembered the Director’s name was Steve. He used to be the Senior Paramedic for Anchorage, and when the old director retired, they gave him the job, since he was too old to be in the field, but had 30 years of experience in EMS. Ron explained the history of the planes on the way out. When he told Steve that with the new turbines, the planes had a top speed of 300 knots for 600 miles, and a 250 knot cruising speed for 1200 miles, and could land and take off on a lake that most Cessna Amphibians would have problems with, he was really interested. When he mentioned the payload capacity, Steve said “I want one!” Ron opened the passenger door and showed Steve all the cargo space, and told him it could easily be configured as an air ambulance, but the cabin wasn’t pressurized, so they would have to install large capacity oxygen tanks for the patients, and not fly any higher than they had to. Ron said he rarely went over 2,000 feet AGL unless he was going to Vancouver, then he went up to 10,000 feet to gain extra range.

    “You mean to tell me you get that speed and range at that low of an altitude?”

    “Exactly, I never went much higher than 1,000 ft AGL when we flew Sarah here, and according to the nav computer, I averaged over 300 knots including landing and take-off. The engine instruments remained in the green for the entire flight. I wouldn’t recommend speeds in excess of 280 knots unless you’re flying a Code 3 emergency, since it kills your range, and is hard on the turbines to run at almost 100% for that long. Allison is building a bunch of these new turbines for me, and the RCAF Wing 19 AMS at Vancouver BC has over a dozen airframes left that they can rebuild and retrofit to your specs for less than a half-million per copy, and usually a lot less.”

    “Great, can you put me in touch with this gentleman?”

    “I’ll send you his e-mail address when I get back, or if you’re in a hurry, e-mail BA at Allakaket Airlines, and use my name, and he can give you the details.”

    “Thanks Ron, I’ll get hold of BA today and get the info from him.”

    Nancy decided to ride in the back with Anne, so Ron jumped into the pilot’s seat, and started the turbines, pre-flighted the plane, and called Anchorage Control for permission to transit from Alaska Regional Hospital to Anchorage International. They gave him a route to fly that would de-conflict with the pattern, and line him up for the runway. They highly suggested not flying above 500 AGL for the transit, since the pattern was pretty heavily stacked, and they wouldn’t want to fly through the wake turbulence of a 747! The controller said if they could take off now, they would be able to fly right in. Ron shoved the throttles to full, and went screaming down the runway, took off in ground effect, cleaned up the plane, and told the control operator he was on final 2 minutes later, The operator said that they were clear to land, and he slowed to 80 knots, deployed the landing gear, and made a textbook landing. He taxied over to the fuel pumps, filled up the tanks, including the APU, and taxied to his assigned parking spot at Alaska Airlines since he wasn’t picking up passengers. Ron was surprised when none other than Bradley Whinton III, the new CEO of Alaska Airlines was there to greet them. “Ron Williams, glad to finally meet you. BA told me about Sarah, and I’m glad she’s OK. I understand you’ll be staying in Anchorage for a week. I can loan you one of our vehicles for the duration of your stay. Here’s the keys, it’s parked right over there.” Bradley shook hands all around, then had to get back to work. The vehicle he had pointed out was a brand-new white F-450 crew cab turbodiesel that Alaska Airlines bought from their fleet dealer for the use of the airlines. It had been washed and vacuumed before they parked it with both tanks full. Ron was glad that BA had thought ahead, since it beat a taxi, and he really didn’t want to ride around like a Potentate in a Limousine.


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    State of Denial
    Chapter 18 - Redemption

    They drove to the Mall first, since none of them had been able to take any clothes or toiletries. They bought 3 duffle bags and enough clothes for several days without washing, and enough toiletries to last the week. By the time they got back to the Inn, it was time for dinner, so they dropped their bags at the hotel, and walked to the diner next door. After dinner, Ron told Anne they would meet her at 0700 for breakfast so they could be at the hospital at 0800 when visiting hours started. They got settled in their rooms, then Ron and Nancy fell asleep holding each other. After breakfast, they drove to the hospital, and Sarah’s condition had been upgraded overnight from Critical to Serious, which meant she could be moved out of the ICU, and Nancy could finally touch her daughter. She still was wearing a mask, but Sarah responded almost immediately to the voice and touch of her mother. She was finally off the respirator and the IV, and looked almost normal except for the suture line where they had opened her chest. The Resident told Nancy that the scar would fade with time, and she would be a perfectly normal little girl in as little as a month. Nancy was grateful just to have her little daughter. The three of them stayed in her room all day, and when the nurses said they needed to leave so Sarah could get some sleep, they reluctantly left.

    On the way out, the Resident caught up with them and said that he didn’t want to get their hopes up, but if she kept healing at this rate, she could leave the hospital in a couple of days. Ron asked about removing the sutures, and he assured Ron that Doc Miller was more than competent to remove them in a week or two. They didn’t like to keep healthy infants in the hospital any longer than they had to, since there were a bunch of bugs floating around, and their immune systems weren’t totally up to speed. Nancy said she breast fed Sarah, and the Doc said that helps, but it usually takes a year or two for a kid’s immune system to come up to full speed. He would give them a list of general precautions to follow as she recovered at home. Since she had open-heart surgery, there were more precautions than normal. They all had to wear at least an N -95 mask around her for the next couple of weeks, and they should buy an ionic filter for her nursery just to be on the safe side. Ron thought that was a good idea, and decided to buy 2: 1 for the whole house, and a smaller unit for Sarah’s nursery. He called BA on his cell phone, who checked the local Anchorage stores on the internet, and found the best value. Ron wasn’t surprised when BA told him which store - they had a reputation for good merchandise at the best prices in town. He could have bought it over the Internet and saved $50 per unit, but he needed them quicker than 2 weeks that most companies said it would take.

    He called the store, and they had several units in stock. The manager recommended 1 for each bedroom, and one for the living room and kitchen, especially if they had a dog. It would only cost $200 more for 4 smaller units than 1 big one and 1 small one. The manager said the unit was totally noiseless, since it didn’t have or need a fan, and it only needed cleaning once every two weeks, and it cleaned with a sponge and water. Ron asked how late they were open, and he said they normally closed the same time as visiting hours ended, 8:00 at night, but if he knew they were on the way, he’d keep the store open for them. Ron guessed for a guaranteed $1500.00 sale, he’d keep the store open too. He told the manager they would be there before 8:30 that night. He said that he would set aside 4 units for them, and Ron thanked him. That evening when visiting hours were over, they drove over to his shop, and he had them all boxed up and ready to go. Ron handed him his AMEX card, and the manger helped them put the units in the bed of the truck. Ron unloaded the units at the inn with the help of a clerk onto a luggage cart. He asked Anne if she wanted to use a unit tonight, and she said “No thanks, I don’t suffer from allergies anymore,” so Ron set up a unit in their room to try it out, and left the other 3 in the boxes. Just like the manager said, you just plugged it in and turned it on. In the morning when they checked it, the filter was filthy. That sold him right then and there. He called the manager in the morning and asked him how many of those units he had in stock. He said he had 12 left, and Ron asked him how much for the lot of them. Since he had already bought 4, and they came 20 to a case, he gave him the case price, plus his 10% markup. Ron said he’d be over there again at 8:30 that evening to pick up the rest of them.

    After breakfast, they drove over to the hospital and Sarah was up and awake. Nancy walked over to her, and she practically begged her mom to pick her up. Nancy looked to the nurse, who nodded her head. Nancy picked her up like a piece of delicate china, and Sarah wrapped her arms around her mom’s neck and wouldn’t let go. Nancy say down in a rocking chair, and the nurse brought a bottle of formula. Nancy fed her baby, and Sarah fell asleep soon after finishing the bottle. Seeing that everything was right with his family, Ron motioned to Anne, who met him in the hall. “Mom, I can’t sit here all day - Sarah and Nancy are asleep. I need to get out and do something.”

    “Ron, I’ll stay with her and tell her you’ll be back soon when she wakes up.”

    “Mom, here’s my cell number, and I’ll have the phone on, call me if you need anything.” Ron handed her his business card, then took another one, and wrote the room number on the back of it, so he could call Nancy later if he didn’t hear from her, or he was going to be late.

    On his way down he ran into Steve. “Ron, you got a minute?”

    “Sure Steve, what can I do for you?”

    “I got hold of BA, and made all the connections. I need you to talk with the head of Life Flight. They’ve been looking for alternatives for years, but no one had though of your turboprop modification of a Grumman Goose. His name’s Roger and his office is right here.”

    They walked into Roger’s office, and since Steve was there, he ended his call, and Steve introduced Ron Williams.

    “Ron Williams, where have I heard that name before”

    “Roger, Ron is the owner of Allakaket Airlines; they’re the feeder airline for Alaska Airlines. He’s got like 7 or 8 turboprop conversions of the Grumman Goose he calls a TurboGoose. You two need to talk, I think his conversion might be what we were looking for.”

    “Thanks Steve, talk to you later.”

    Steve closed the door, leaving Ron and Roger alone. “Ron, tell me about the TurboGoose.”

    “It started as a WWII Surplus Grumman Goose with twin Wasp radial engines. Basically it was a miniature Catalina PBY, and they were used for costal patrol during WWII. Grumman made them until the 1950’s or so, and most of the airframes the RCAF is rebuilding are 1950’s vintage airframes. It’s a remodel more than a restoration, since the airframe, skin, and landing gear are about the only components left from the Goose by the time they’re finished with it. Allison made some turboprop engines for it in the 50’s but never installed them. I located 4 engines, had them installed in the Goose airframe, and flew them for a year or so until I got hold of Allison since I needed more planes. They couldn’t believe that the engines still worked - they were test-bench units, and had never been installed in a plane. They offered to build a modern turboprop that would mount up where the old turboprops were, and get better fuel mileage and more power. They were right, because when I flew my baby from Allakaket to here the other day, I averaged 300 knots for the trip, including landing and take off. The plane is STOL capable, and can land and take off from lakes that would give a Cessna 185 Amphibian fits! With the new FAA fuel tanks, it has almost a 1500 mile range at 250 knots, a 1200 mile range at 280, and I imagine around 800-1000 mile range at max speed, since I ran the turbines at 100% from Allakaket all the way here, and did a high-speed emergency landing at 120 knots to save time. According to the flight computer, the fastest I went was just over 300 knots for almost an hour.”

    “Ron, that’s amazing, you’re plane has the same range and speed as our Brasilia’s, and it’s amphibious.”

    “Not only that, but twice the payload and cargo space. Even if you converted to an Air ambulance, you could easily carry 4 or more stretcher cases plus FAA certified seats for 4 more. One problem is the plane isn’t pressurized, so you would have to install a patient oxygen system.”

    “That’s not an issue anymore since we can carry huge quantities of liquefied O2. 1 40-pound tank can carry enough liquid O2 for 2 people for a week. They use a double-wall insulated tank, and they can be built to fit into almost any space. We use them now on our Air Ambulances for long flights since the aircraft is only pressurized to 10 thousand feet, and we can fly up to 30,000 feet.”

    “Ok, Roger, how would you like a test-ride?”

    “You’re kidding?”

    “My kid’s in the hospital here and it will be another day or two before she can leave. I’m going stir crazy waiting here, since I’ve got nothing to do but wait.”

    “Well in that case, let’s go. I know a small lake around here that always gives us fits.”

    “Ok, Roger before I try it, you need to show me on the map, and I need to know clearances and distances.”

    Roger took out a small scale topo map of the lake in question. It was about the size of HelpmeJack Lake, and didn’t have near the clearance problems, only 200 feet within a mile of the lake. Ron said “That’s an easier approach than I fly into HelpmeJack Lake!”

    Roger looked up HelpmeJack Lake in his database, and asked Ron if he had a set of 3lb Brass Cajones.

    “Roger, it’s not that tough, with the flaps fully extended, I can land at 50 knots, and I have reversing props that act like I threw out an anchor. And you won’t believe my rate of climb unless you see it for yourself.”

    “Ok, let’s go.”

    Roger walked out with Ron, and told Steve they were going for a check-ride in Ron’s plane. Steve desperately wanted to go, but he wasn’t a pilot, so he couldn’t ride up front like Roger could. They walked out, and Roger said “Ok if we take my truck?”

    Ron thought it was a good idea not to leave Anne and Nancy stranded without a vehicle, so he agreed. They drove over to the airport, and Ron gave Roger directions to the Alaska Airlines private aircraft parking area. Roger was impressed by the size of Ron’s plane as they drove up next to it; it was easily twice the size of their Brasilias. Ron unlocked the aircraft, opened the passenger door so Roger could see how big the cargo space was - Ron wasn’t kidding, they could fly 4 or even 6 stretcher cases and still have room for 4 seats up front. He walked forward to the cockpit, and it was a fully modern FAA IFR cockpit, including a really good radar set. Ron talked Roger through the pre-flight check list, called the tower, and set the plane up to take off while they were taxiing. Once he got permission, he did a max-performance climb to 2,000 feet, and Roger was grinning and shaking his head at the same time, his planes didn’t climb near this fast! Ron had input the coordinates for the lake, and half an hour later, they were overhead and Ron set up to land. Ron floated in at 50 knots, made a textbook touchdown, and since the turbines were already at idle, he flipped the reverse switch, waited a second for the props to reverse, and throttled up the turbines to 30% power. The plane stopped in the middle of the lake just like someone had thrown out an anchor. Roger was grinning like a cat that had just eaten the canary. Ron taxied to the end of the lake, and turned to take off. Once he was set, he shoved the throttles to full, and with over half the lake left, hit 80 knots and was airborne. Ron did a max-performance take-off again, and turned to Anchorage while he climbed. Half an hour later they landed back at Anchorage and Roger was practically jumping up and down in his seat he was so excited. He taxied to the Alaska Airlines private terminal, shut down, and Roger was still grinning from ear to ear.

    “Ron, you convinced me! We’ll want at least 2 planes as soon as they can be built. With this plane, we could retire half of our helicopter fleet, and just keep the Jet Rangers.”

    Curious, Ron asked what helicopters they were getting rid of.

    “We’ve got the “hangar queen” a Sikorsky S-80 Super Stallion that is configured for Search and Rescue with a winch, extended fuel pods, and a bunch of other stuff. It can also do water drops since it can sling load around 30,000 pounds and travel 200 miles one way with it. Problem is its maximum speed is only 150 knots. We just had the engines rebuilt and we got an air-worthiness cert good for another 5 years on the airframe.”

    “Roger, would you consider a trade for a cargo configured TurboGoose?”

    “You’re serious?”

    “We’ve been utilizing a CH-47 for the last couple of years for everything, and he’s been carrying everything from Anchorage to Allakaket that we can’t fit inside the TurboGoose. He’s got about twice the lifting capacity of the Super Stallion, and it’s really costly to run. I wanted to buy another couple of TurboGoose planes anyway. I’m not going to give you a brand new plane, because obviously your Super Stallion has been around the block for a few. I’ve got a reserve plane in Allakaket that’s configured for cargo with a full avionics suite including radar that I’d consider trading for your Super Stallion. It’s only got a couple of hundred hours on the engines since it’s a reserve plane. I need to confirm this with BA before we agree, since he’s my business manager.”

    “Who’s BA?”

    “Sorry, that’s what I call Bill Avery; he used to be the CEO of Alaska Airlines, now he’s my business manager.”

    “Ok sounds like a deal, if we can do it, I’d definitely be interested in a trade. Here’s my card.

    “Roger, I need a lift back to the hospital - remember, my truck’s parked there.”

    “Sorry Ron, I was getting so carried away, I forgot.”

    They jumped into his pickup, and they were back at the hospital parking lot in a matter of minutes. Ron said he needed to check on his kid, and would talk to him later. Roger shook his hand, and Ron walked as quickly as he could back to Sarah’s room. Sarah was still asleep in Nancy’s arms, and Anne was sitting down reading a book. As he opened the door, Anne looked up, put her finger to her lips, got quietly up, and walked to the doorway; evidently she wanted to talk outside.

    “Ron the doc was by, he said we could take her home tomorrow, but he gave me a long list of precautions and stuff we need. You’ll have to get it this afternoon. Here’s the list. Nancy and Sarah are sleeping, the nurse said to let them sleep like this, it’s the best sleep Sarah’s got since she’s been here, and they stopped giving her sedatives in her IV to help her sleep.”

    “OK Mom, I’ll get this stuff and I’ll be back in a couple of hours. Bye!” Ron gave his mom a hug, and walked back down the corridor. Steve was in his office, so Ron had a brilliant idea. Ron knocked on his door, and Steve waved him in.

    “Ron, I talked to Roger, and I think that idea of yours to trade a TurboGoose for the S-80 was a really good idea. We got the helicopter from the state over 10 years ago, and only used it twice. It’s taking up hangar space, and costing us a lot of money to keep it maintained. I know it’s worth way more than one of your planes, but we’re not using it, and you would be doing us a big favor by taking it off our hands.”

    “Steve, that’s great, but not why I’m here. They’re releasing Sarah to come home tomorrow, but I have a huge list of medical supplies they want us to buy before we take her home, and I was hoping you could tell us where to get it.”

    Ron handed Steve the list “Ron, I’ve got all this right here - and I could give it all to you, it’s all stuff a Paramedic would need anyway.”

    “Can’t do that Steve - technically it’s for personal use since Sarah’s my daughter.”

    “She’s also an Alaskan Native and entitled to free medical care at the clinic, and that includes all the supplies she would have used. Tell you what, I’ll just charge you our cost on this list, and add it to your bill. If you were to buy this at a local medical supply company, they’d charge you 5-10 times our cost.”

    “Thanks Steve. I’ve got a couple of errands to run, so if you could have someone bag all this up, I’ll pay you on my credit card when I get back this afternoon - I need to pick up some more Ionizing air filters.”

    “Where you buying them?”

    Ron told him, and also how much he was charging him. Steve knew the hospital could get them for half that price, and told Ron, except they didn’t have any in stock, it was an order item. Ron asked him what the price was for a dozen of them. Steve quoted half the price Ron would have paid if he bought them in town. He flipped open his cell phone, hit recall until the store number came up, and dialed. He told the manager the bad news, and he asked where Ron was getting them so cheap “My friend is in the hospital Administration, and I’m an Alaska Paramedic, so he’s selling me some medical gear at cost, since it’s for patient use.”

    The manager told Ron he couldn’t match that price, it was below his cost. Ron said he knew, and was calling to thank him, and tell him that he wasn’t going to be in so he wouldn’t wait up. The Manager thanked him, and they hung up.

    “Steve, those units come in a case of 20 according to the store manager, so if you can order an entire case of them at that price, I’ll pick them up the next time I’m in Anchorage.”

    “Hopefully you’ll be able to fly home in the Super Stallion.”

    “Steve, I’m not rotary qualified. This deal will have to wait until I’ve got a qualified pilot. Speaking of which, I just had an idea that might speed things up.”

    “By all means, the sooner we get a TurboGoose the better.”

    Ron opened his cell phone and dialed Bear’s number. He started saying “Chief Simmons, this is an unsecured line” and Ron started laughing. Finally he realized why Ron was laughing and who was on the other end of the phone. “Real Funny Ron, I’ve had a long day. Mary’s pregnant again, and I’m babysitting. What can I do for you?”

    “Bear, how would you like to be able to use a Sikorsky S-80 helicopter that‘s configured for SAR and can lift 36,000 pounds on it’s cargo hook.”

    “Ron, I couldn’t really use one in the survival school, but I do know where we could, and it would be busy 24/7 - the gold mine. We badly need a crane up there to lift and move stuff, and to carry fuel from Anchorage to here.”

    “Would it be worth trading a TurboGoose for it?”

    “Ron, if it’s in flying condition, it’s worth 10 times a TurboGoose.”

    “That’s what I thought. Do you know any pilots that are current in the S-80?”

    “What’s the military designator?”

    “Steve, what’s the military designator of the S-80?”

    “It’s called a Super Stallion in the Navy, and if I remember correctly, it still has the USN paint job with the ID numbers blacked out.”

    “Bear, according to Steve, it’s a Super Stallion.”

    “Ron that would be the CH-53E Super Stallion, it’s a huge workhorse that can lift over 36,000 pounds with a 480 mile range. It would be perfect for what we would need to compliment the CH-47. I know several Navy pilots that are current in the Super Stallion and about to retire with their 20.”

    “Bear, check them out, and if they’re interested, offer them a job working for Allakaket Airlines, specifically for the mine, but we might need cargo flights. Negotiate a salary for him, but make sure it’s less than I’m paying you.”

    “Aye, Aye Sir!”

    Ron broke the connection, and turned to Steve. “Bear’s a Navy Chief and an Ex-Seal, he said he had someone in mind, and if he takes the offer, we could do the trade within 30 days. I need to have our mechanic look it over, and our pilot. I’ll extend the same courtesy to you.”

    “Thanks Ron, I’ll have someone bag up the stuff and you can pick it up on your way down.

    Chapter 19 - Homecoming

    The next day, they drove to the hospital, and Sarah was ready to come home. She was wearing an infant sized filter mask, since it was easier to put one on her instead of everyone within 6 feet of her. They bundled her in a warm blanket and a windproof cover, and handed her to Nancy. She decided Ron could fly the plane by himself, she was carrying Sarah home. Anne picked up the bags of stuff that Steve had packed for them, and they loaded everyone in the truck for the ride to the airport. Nancy was very happy to have her baby back and out of the hospital. They had given Anne a mountain of paperwork to read and follow. Ron flew much more sedately home than he had coming to the hospital, and made a very soft landing in Allakaket. BA was there to greet them and welcome them home. Sally had Josh and Jake with them, and Moose was on a leash. BA told Ron they would meet them at Ron’s house, since he didn’t want Sarah’s brothers or Moose to disturb her. Ron thought that was an excellent idea, and he dropped his mom off first, drove home, put Sarah down in her crib, plugged in the Ionic filter, and closed the door. Sarah needed her sleep, and looking at Nancy, she could use a nap too. She looked drained by the experience. BA showed up 15 minutes later with his boys and the moose. Ron could have sworn Jake grew while he was gone, and was amazed how well Jake was walking. Even Josh was trying to imitate his older brother, but it would be almost a year before he was able to walk on his own, but man could he crawl!

    They had just settled down when the phone rang. Ron answered it, and found out it was Bear with news about the Super Stallion.

    “Ron, I was talking to the pilot for the Super Stallion about what we wanted to do with it, and he told me for precision lifts, he needed most of his crew, including the co-pilot and the crew chief. Luckily they are all ready to retire, and he said that they would basically follow him into Hell. He liked the idea, and said that he could work for $75K per year, since that’s what he could make as a civilian helicopter pilot flying the Civilian S-80. he’s fully qualified including SAR and firefighting, as well as his co-pilot, who he said would work for $75K as well. The Crew chief should get $50K since he’s an Enlisted man according to the pilot. He’s got an entire maintenance crew lined up. All in all we’d be hiring 7 people to get the Sikorsky. For all the work they can do year round, it would be worth it. Also the Super Stallion uses JP-5 instead of JP-4, and I’ll check on the difference and get back to you.”

    “Bear, how much will all this personnel cost us per year?”

    “Right around $400K per year.”

    “How much should we make per year using the chopper?”

    “I’d say we could double our production if we used it as a sky crane.”

    “Ok, you’re bringing in $1 Million per year, so that would mean $2 million per year in income?”

    “Minus expenses - it’s expensive to keep the Super Stallion flying.”

    “Ok, what does that do to our bottom line?”

    “We’re clearing about $500K per year after all expenses just from the mine, I guess it could go between $800K and $1 Million, besides we can use the Super Stallion for any hauling job below 36K pounds, and it only costs half the amount of dollars per hour to run compared to the Chinook Ch-47. That alone could account for another $200-300K.”

    “Ok Bear, you make the call, but it sounds like a good deal, If we trade for a TurboGoose, we’ve only got $200K into the TG, and that Super Stallion is worth how much?”

    “If it’s flying and certified, $10 Million easy!”

    “Just based on that alone, I can tell you we should do it!”

    “I agree Ron. I’ll call the pilot and give him the good news.”

    “Bear, can they get to Anchorage to check out the chopper, and if it passes their inspection, we’ll hire them, and if not, we’ll pay his expenses, plus say $10K for his trouble, and he can pay his maintenance chief and everyone else he brings with him out of that.”

    “Sounds like a deal Ron, his expenses will be negligible since he’ll fly via MAC to Elmendorf, and take a taxi to where ever the chopper is.”

    Ron called BA, and asked him about the JP-4 vs. JP-5 problem, and he said the fuel company already replaced JP-4 with JP-5 since they were so close in composition, and the JP-5 was safer and worked better in cold environments. Ron thought “Well, that answers that question!” BA told Ron that JP-4 was the old Air Force Fuel that was replaced by JP-8, and JP-5 was current US Navy fuel, so instead of delivering JP-4, they always delivered JP-5, which was more stable and able to tolerate cold better. Ron thought that was as clear as mud, but didn’t argue or question it. He thanked BA for the info, then called Bear. “Bear, never mind, BA said the fuel company has been delivering JP-5 for years instead of JP-4, so there is no problem.”

    Ron called Steve at Alaska Regional Hospital and gave him the good news. Steve told Ron he ordered the ionic filters, and they would be in stock in a week. As soon as Steve hung up, Bear called, and the pilot’s entire crew decided to go with him, including his maintenance chief and 2 mechanics. The total was 7 additional personnel as he had told Ron. They could be in Elmendorf within a week, as soon as their paperwork was processed. Ron thanked Bear and called Steve back. He said that they could have the Super Stallion ready for inspection when they got there - just make sure they called first so they could tow it out of the hangar. Ron told him that if they could work out the paperwork between now and then, he could fly a TurboGoose out and trade them right then and there if everyone was happy. Steve put Ron on hold for a second and told Roger the good news. Roger said that they’d get all the FAA paperwork together on the chopper, so all they would have to do is sign the bills of sale and they were done. Steve told Ron what Roger told him, and he said he would bring the paperwork including a set of manuals for the TurboGoose. Steve made a note to remind Roger to include all the manuals in the paperwork. He thanked Ron, and said he hoped to hear from him again soon.

    A week later Ron got a call from someone named Hammer. Ron guessed he was the pilot of the Super Stallion, they were at Elmendorf, and needed directions to where the Super Stallion was hangared. Ron told them where it was, and he would be airborne in half an hour, and to call him on his Sat phone. Ron gave him the number, and they disconnected. He called Steve real quick, said his team was en-route from Elmendorf, and the pilot’s name was Hammer. He would be airborne in half an hour, and to call him on the Sat phone if he had any questions. Ron called BA and gave him the good news, then called Bear and gave him the same message. Bear thought Ron would enjoy the sensation of swinging from a chandelier during an earthquake for 2 hours, but thought it would be worth it to see the look on his boss’s face when he landed. They had plenty of JP-5 in stock to refill the tanks of the Super Stallion so they could give Ron a lift home. When he was done, he called Nancy and told her he was flying to Anchorage to swap a TurboGoose for a big helicopter. Nancy didn’t understand what the big deal was, and told him, “Ok, see you later tonight!” On the flight over, his Sat phone rang, it was Hammer.

    “Ron, the bird checks out, it’s sweet and in great shape for a hangar queen. All the maintenance is current, and my crew chief said it’s good to fly now.”

    “Hammer, what was your crew chief’s estimate for annual maintenance costs?”

    “Assuming we don’t have a turbine go bad, maybe $50-100K per year. If a Turbine goes bad, they cost a quarter-mill a piece.”

    “How often do you lose one?”

    “Maybe once or twice in the lifespan of the airframe.”

    “How much longer on this chopper?”

    “It’s hard to say, but you should be good to go for the next 5-10 years since they just did a major rebuild.”

    “Ok, Hammer I’ll be there in about half an hour. Is Steve there - I need to know where they want me to put this bird down.”

    “Steve Here! Ok, just fly to the same landing strip as last time you landed at the hospital, then the ground crewmen will direct you to the hangars and maintenance facility where we are.”

    “Ok Steve, see you in about 20 minutes.”

    When Ron landed, a ground crewman waving wands directed him to taxi to the right, and he saw the hangars and maintenance yard about a quarter-mile away. He pulled the plane up to a stall and shut down. He started removing his personal gear including his survival kits, and his paramedic bag, and left everything else including the radio and cellular repeaters since they were permanently installed.

    Ron showed Steve and Roger everything in the aircraft, including the repeaters. Roger asked Ron if they could take the plane up for a test flight. Ron said they could fly to that lake and back like last time. Steve jumped into the passenger seat, buckled himself in, and said he was good to go. Ron got permission to take off, programmed the nav computer, and set up for take off. He asked Roger if he wanted to do another Max performance take-off, and he admitted that was why Steve was flying since he couldn’t believe that any plane could take off faster than their Brasilia. Ron got an evil grin, and as soon as he had clearance, he maxed the throttle, and pulled up radically, and held it until he was at 2000 ft. Once he was over the lake, he pulled a wingover and dove for the water, bottoming out at 500 ft AGL, and cranked the flaps out as quickly as he could. He landed at 50 knots, and threw the props to reverse, and stopped just like he had thrown out an anchor. He taxied to the end of the lake, turned around, and did another max performance take-off. He flew back to the hospital’s runway, and did a more sedate landing. They taxied back to the hangars, and Hammer’s eyes were as big as saucers.
    “Holy Cow Ron, you took off like you were being chased by a Stinger Missile - I didn’t know that big plane could climb that fast!”

    Roger spoke up “You haven’t seen anything - It can land on a postage stamp lake too!”

    “So what do you need the Super Stallion for?”

    “The TurboGoose can’t hover or lift 36,000 pounds.”

    “There is that - hovering is a nice trick if you can manage it.”

    Ron turned to Roger, “So do we have a deal?”

    “You bet, let’s go to my office and do the paperwork.”
    An hour later, Ron was short 1 TurboGoose and plus one medium to heavy lift chopper. Roger drove him back out to the chopper, and they boarded it for the long flight home. By the time they landed in Allakaket, Ron decided that if he flew again in a chopper, it would be too soon. He would stick with fixed wing. He talked to BA, and found out the 2 TurboGoose aircraft he had ordered were right on schedule, and would be done in a month.

    The next day the Super Stallion got to work, and productivity at the mine almost tripled. Sarah slowly healed, and 2 weeks later Doc Miller removed her sutures. After the sutures were out, she slowly started acting like a normal infant, and started crawling. Nancy held her a lot, but Sarah wanted to explore like her big brothers. Jake and Josh somehow understood that Sarah wasn’t 100 %, and played gently with her. Even Moose was gentle with her, which amazed Nancy.

    Two days later, Ron got a very cryptic call from Steve to fly to Elmendorf, then report to MacDill for a T&E session by himself, and to bring his P-14.

    Once he was at MacDill, they drove him out to the range, and he saw a very strange looking Bradley. General Shepard was waiting for him. “Ron, this is a top-secret prototype. Sorry about all the secrecy, but the fewer people who know about this the better. Barretts got together with the manufacturer of the Bradley, and the result is this. They call it the Bradley X-1 for the lack of a better name, but the Sergeants have already dubbed it “Robo-Tank” We need you to take the next week or so and make sure if shoots as well as the previous prototype, and if it doesn’t we need your help figuring out why not. Ron, this is one of our most important projects in the history of the Army. If this weapon works the way it’s advertised, it would revolutionize land warfare. We really appreciate your service, and frankly right now you’re doing your country more of a service than if you had been admitted to the Air Force. Pilots - we’ve got dozens of guys that can fly as good as you, and thanks to Congress, they’re all grounded. But your unique skill set makes you the ideal T&E Engineer for these projects. The Pentagon is still scratching their heads over that 28mm group at 1,000 yards. We incorporated your ideas into this prototype, and added a few that the Army thought of like a locking suspension to further limit movement when the gun is shooting. We want you to test all the systems independently and together. We need to find out how well the gun shoots with just the suspension locks vs. the outriggers, since the best we can do is a 1.5 minute deployment. The Pentagon still thinks the outriggers are a great idea for static ambushes, but they also wanted the capability to get moving after quickly shooting a target within ½ mile.”

    General Shepard shook Ron’s hand, and told him to report to him when the testing session was complete before he left. Ron said “Yes General” and he turned and left. Steve walked him over to the prototype and introduced him to the testing team. It was an alphabet soup of men with 5 or 6 letters after their names. Degrees didn’t impress Ron; he only cared what these guys knew about the prototype and how it worked. After the walk around, an Army Staff Sergeant introduced himself as Sergeant Smithers. Ron stifled a laugh, and the Sergeant explained the new prototype. The turret was totally taken up with the gun and the hardware to fire it accurately. Basically what they did was armor plate the existing Robo-gun. It had the army’s latest and greatest armor, since if the gun malfunctioned, they were out of the fight and as good as dead. This first series of tests was to ensure the gun still worked like it did before, then they’d take it to the tank testing center and destructively test it.

    “You’re going to blow up the prototype?” yelled Ron.

    “Only way to find out what it can take is to progressively hit it with a bigger and bigger weapons system.”

    “How do you compensate for cumulative damage?”

    “We also have tested the armor by itself, so we know its proof against anything smaller than a 25mm Bushmaster round, so all they test it against is another bushmaster, and then various small missiles. We know a TOW or a Hellfire would kill it, because it kills the Abrams, and it’s much more heavily armored. What we’re really interested in is if this new gun can kill a tank.”

    “Sarge, I highly doubt it could kill an Abrams, but it might be able to disable it enough by hitting a vulnerable spot to make it combat ineffective. Even if the crew is unhurt, if the gun won’t fire or the tank won’t move, that’s as good as a kill.”

    “Exactly Ron! If we can use the precision targeting system to pick a shot to a vulnerable spot, and blow a tread off, damage the engine, or even wreck the gun, that’s as good as a kill in our book.”

    Sgt. Smithers opened the hull hatches and showed Ron the inside of the prototype. The interior was Spartan and packed with equipment. He commented about all the monitors.

    “Ron, that’s also the Army’s latest and greatest. We don’t need vision blocks or Night Vision goggles to see outside. The gunner has the big monitor in front, and two smaller ones to his sides. The Driver/Commander has 5 monitors. 4 to give him a 360 view around, and one HUD that gives him a “God’s Eye” view of the battlefield mounted above the monitor in front. If shows where everything in the battlefield is, with symbology showing IFF codes for friend and foe. We can receive data from other Bradleys, tanks, and anyone else equipped with the Battlefield Awareness System. The datalink is so heavily encrypted that we’re just about positive it can’t be hacked. Putting IFF gear on every US military vehicle was the smartest move they ever did. It’s smart technology, and doesn’t broadcast the IFF codes unless interrogated by a transceiver with the correct codes, so the enemy can’t locate our vehicles using IFF, since they don’t know the codes. This should eliminate Friendly fire, or blue on blue incidents. Land Warrior is supposed to include this IFF technology, so until they upgrade, dismounted infantry are still going to be theoretically vulnerable to friendly fire. But if someone uses common sense, and sees an IFF equipped Bradley supporting them, they should assume the infantry is friendly. Anyway, back to the prototype. We both wear helmets with intercoms. You have total control of the gun, and I have a 30 caliber machine gun mounted on the hull right in front with a smaller T&E mechanism that isn’t as accurate as your gun, but the little gun is for shooting enemy infantry, so a short burst will take care of that problem. Here’s a stack of manuals, tomorrow we start testing.”

    They climbed out of Robo-tank, and Steve drove him back to the VIP quarters. Ron was full of questions, but Steve told him flat-out he didn’t know any more about the program than Ron did. Knowledge was purely on a need-to know basis. Ron probably knew more about the program right now than even General Shepard did. That got Ron’s attention, and he was quiet for the rest of the trip. Steve told Ron there was a safe in the room, and he handed him the key. He told Ron that when he was asleep, out of the room for even a second, or even in the john, the documents were to be locked up, and he was to be armed from here on out, that was why he told him to bring his P-14. If anyone besides General Shepard, the Project Director or Steve tried to take the documents away from him, he was authorized to use lethal force to protect the documents. Also, from here on out, he was subject to the National Secrets protocol. He was to be armed 7/24, and the US Government would authorize Bear to buy any equipment necessary for his protection.

    “Steve, what have you got me into?”

    “Ron, you got yourself into this - I’m sure you saw this coming when you were testing Robo-gun?”

    “I didn’t think I would be a kidnap target!”

    “Actually I highly doubt you’re at any risk for kidnap. One of the SEALS got wind of what Bear was up to at the Alaska Survival School, and this is just CYA so the ATF can’t bust him for all the Military Hardware he has. General Shepard is good friends with Bear, and didn’t want to see him doing 20 at Leavenworth, especially since he’s got 2 kids now!”

    The next day, Ron finally got into Robo-Tank, and was playing with the switches, and noticed the “Target and Track” mode was no longer there. He told the Sarge the test was suspended until further notice, asked Where the Hell was the test program coordinator - and found out that the Pentagon deleted the Target and Track function. Ron yelled “But that was the main difference between Robo-Gun and the Bushmaster it replaced, without the T&T function, the gun is no better than the original Bushmaster.” Ron found out the Army General in charge of the program was responsible for removing the T&T function as a “Cost Saving Measure”.

    “Cost Saving Measure My Ass - I smell a Rat!”

    Meanwhile Steve had driven up, and Ron gave him the Reader’s Digest version. Steve knew Program Sabotage when he saw it, and called General Shepard, who told them to get their butts into his office.

    15 minutes later, they were explaining the situation to the General. When he heard which Army General was involved he yelled, “That corrupt SOB is involved - I knew it! There were rumors floating around the Pentagon when I was there that he was a little too tight with the contractor for the Bushmaster Gun. If he torpedoed this project to save their miserable contract, I’ll shoot him personally. We need to do some research, and if it’s true, I’ll call the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs personally with my evidence. He’ll fire the SOB in a heartbeat.”

    “Excuse me General, if I can have access to the internet, and some military documents, I should be able to prove it.”

    “Ron, you’re a Civilian Contractor, but your clearance is high enough that you should have access to the database.” He handed Ron a card with a magnetic strip on it, and his photograph. Ron stared at it for a minute. The lettering said he had a DOD Top-Secret clearance.

    “General, when did I get this?”

    “You had to have a TOP as soon as you were 18 to work on this project, so I put you in for the ID card in case you ever needed it. This ID says you’re a civilian contractor on a project so classified that no one not specifically cleared for this project can even ask you about it. If you take the card outside into the conference room, there’s a computer there. The card will open the door and also grant you access to the system. The first time you use it, you need to type a password you can remember. It has to be at least 10 characters long, but no more than 20. Now get going - I need results FAST!”

    “Yes Sir General!”

    Ron walked next door, inserted the card into the door, and it clicked, so he turned the knob. He was all alone in a conference room with a desk and a computer. He turned the computer on, inserted his ID card, and the welcome screen came on asking for his password. He typed it in, and the computer asked to verify it, so he typed it again. The next message said his ID was confirmed and he had access to anything with a Top-Secret clearance or less. He typed the general’s name into the search function, and soon he had his entire file. It seemed this general had a much nicer house and car than he should have based on his salary, then he checked his duty stations, and then he looked up the projects he had managed over the last couple of years, and it turned out the same people kept coming up. Ron wrote up his suspicions, printed the relevant pages, and logged off the computer, then carried the folder back to the General. When he read the documents - he could follow the dotted lines as easily as anyone could, his response made Ron think that General Shepard might have been a Navy Chief instead of an Air Force General. He called up the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and gave him the lowdown. To say that the 4-star General was angry was like saying Ron was a pretty decent shot. He could tell by the way General Shepard was holding the phone away from his ear that the Chairman was really PO’d. When he finally calmed down, General Shepard told him he would fax the evidence to his personal secure fax machine. 2 minutes later the Chairman was back on the phone. “Gene, I’ll take care of this personally! By tomorrow, you’ll have a change order telling the contractor to re-install the Targeting and Tracking software, and that SOB will be looking for a new job!”

    “Yes Sir General Sir!”

    “Gene this project had better work, or that SOB might have a valid complaint - make sure you go over the system with a fine-tooth comb, and make sure they didn’t mess with anything else!”

    “Understood General - I’ll make sure it happens.”

    “Ron, go over that system with a fine-tooth comb, and find out if they changed anything else. This SOB might have done more damage than we think - the first thing to check is all the change orders. Anything remotely funky needs to be thoroughly investigated. If he did anything else, I’ll recommend to the Chairman that he be brought up on charges!”

    “Yes Sir. I planned on suspending the rest of the testing session until we’re sure that everything was back to the way it was.”

    “Thanks Ron, the country owes you a huge debt for your honesty. This weapons system will save soldier’s lives, and if that SOB tried to torpedo the project just to earn an extra million in kickbacks, he deserves to spend the rest of his life at Leavenworth! Good thing we caught it now, and can fix it. Just make sure he didn’t tamper with anything else.”

    “Yes Sir. If I find anything major, I’ll make sure you know about it!”

    “Thanks Ron, now back to work!”

    Steve saluted and Ron shook the General’s hand, and they went back to the testing area. Ron sat everyone down, and told them they needed to pull all the change orders, and if anyone found one that would degrade the performance of the system, he needed to let Ron know. Later that afternoon, Ron saw a hummer drive up with an MP/Courier inside. “Ron Williams?”

    “Right here!”

    “Sign please!”

    Ron showed the courier his ID card, and he handed Ron the package, a manila envelope with his name on it from General Shepard. When he opened it, it contained a change order from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs ordering the Targeting and Tracking software reloaded immediately, and a footnote to disregard any change orders without his signature on them. Ron showed the copy of the order to the software engineer, who had anticipated the General’s order since he didn’t agree with the “Cost Saving” BS to begin with, and quickly downloaded the T&T software into the system. After spending hours reading change orders, they couldn’t find any more that would degrade the system. They found that by searching for the name of the general on the orders, they could eliminate 2/3 of them immediately, and the other 3rd weren’t important. Ron kept all the change orders signed by the SOB separate just in case, including the one ordering the deletion of the T&T software. His signature on the change order would be enough to courts martial him if he tried anything else.

    Once he was satisfied that the Robo-tank was back up to speed, Ron and Sgt Smithers climbed aboard, fired up the motor, and Ron ran the self-test. It ran perfectly, and the gun worked as advertised. With that ready, he decided to start the first sequence of the test, and pressed a button activating the range. They would check acquisition and accuracy with just the suspension locked then try it again with the outriggers down and locked. Since the tank targets would pop up randomly, move, and drop back down, Ron was using the Target and Track mode where the gun made the decision when to fire, and all Ron had to do was place the crosshairs on the target using the joystick and press the trigger to designate the tank as a target. The gun then tracked the targets, and fired in sequence while Ron sought out new targets. The gun was never more than 3 targets behind Ron, and only missed 1 tank which was over ½ mile away. Ron suspected that ½ mile was the maximum range he could engage targets successfully without the outriggers. He stopped the test, and asked that a single target be placed ½ mile away, and the gun reloaded. He wanted to confirm his suspicions, and as soon as the target was up and the range clear, he placed the crosshairs on the X-ring and squeezed the trigger. Without re-aiming between shots he fired 5 more rounds, then turned the gun off, and asked that the target be pulled and measured. A half mile was only 880 yards, so any difference from a 1-hole group would be due to instability of the platform. When the runner came back with the target, it had 2 bullet holes in it, and they were over a foot apart. Ron showed everyone the target, and explained his theory, and they agreed. To prove his theory, he had another target ran out to 880 yards while he set the outriggers. When the range was clear, he performed the exact same test, and this time, all 5 rounds were in the center of the paper, and his widest spread was 1 foot, and that was mostly a flyer. The rest of the group was within 6 inches of each other. He showed that target to the group, and they drew the same conclusions he did.

    Chapter 20 - Robo-Tank

    When he had finished the “short range testing” Ron switched target programs so that they got targets out past a mile. This is where it would get interesting, since Ron needed the zoom on the camera to ID targets out past 880 yards. Once the scenario started, he used the wheel to zoom in and out as fast as he could. He’d find targets at the 25-50X magnification setting, then zoom in to 80-100X to target a vulnerable spot on the tank, then back out to engage the next target. The gun barely lagged behind Ron in this mode, because it took longer for him to engage each new target. Still, when they tallied the score he was 30-30 with 10 kills and 20 major disables, and this against foreign Main Battle Tanks. Once they were finished with that scenario, Ron added another test - he wanted to see how far away he could engage and kill a tank, and also he wanted to set a target at 1 mile, 1.5 miles and 2 miles to check the accuracy of the system at extreme range. He left the outriggers out, and switched to sniper mode for the long-range shooting capability of the system in this mode. He fired 5 rounds at each target without re-aiming between each shot, and when the pulled the targets, he noticed something. His first shot went through the X-ring, and the rest of them were within a 6-inch circle at a mile, a 9-inch circle at 1.5 miles, and a 12-inch circle at 2 miles None of the other testers could detect any pattern to the groups, but Ron knew there was a harmonic at work since he knew the order of the rounds he fired, and requested another set of targets at 1-mile range in a hemisphere from 9 o’clock to 3 o’clock every 45 degrees. Once the targets were set up and the range cleared, he engaged each target one at a time with 5 rounds each. He shut the gun down, and had the runner pull the targets, and mark them 1-4 with the #1 target at his 9 o’clock. When they examined this group of targets, it was obvious that the angle of the turret to the hull changed the shape of the group. It was up to the Army to decide if the variance was acceptable.

    Ron wondered if the hull/turret interface was strong enough, and asked if there was anyone there that knew how the turret and the hull were mated. A Mechanical Engineer spoke up, and attempted to explain in polysyllabic words how the two systems interfaced. Ron asked him “Was that English you were speaking?” They all got a good laugh, and the Engineer explained that the weight of the turret held the turret into the hull, and it mated on a huge ring gear. Ron asked him if anyone checked to see if the turret was dynamically and statically balanced. “We’ve never done that before - it was never needed!” Ron explained to the engineer using words of the fewest syllables possible that it was needed now - since the gun was engaging targets up to 2 miles away, and the ballistic computer could only compensate for so much. The engineers were nodding their heads and taking notes like crazy. If they could harmonically and statically balance the turret, they might be able to increase the range of the weapons system past the 2-miles specified as the maximum design range. Ron explained that in the previous tests the gun was fixed to a huge block of concrete, not installed in a turret, and in the sniper mode the gun shot a 1-hole 28mm group at 1,000 yards. Several of the engineers dropped their clipboards when they heard that! One grabbed his slide rule calculator and extrapolated that accuracy out to 2 miles. Theoretically the gun could shoot a 3” group at 2 miles! The groups they were getting were 4 times that value, and they knew it was due to the gun being mounted in a turret on a tank. They started trying to figure out ways to reduce that number without spending a lot of money. They knew when they got the prototype back to the shop, they had to lift that gun and turret out of the hull and at least statically balance it. Ron told them the outriggers were doing their job, and even a half-mile range with the ability to shoot and move seconds later was pretty good. Over the next week, Ron confirmed that the rest of the system worked perfectly, and if they could solve the balance issue the gun would have a static range of over 2 miles in static Sniper Mode, and over half a mile in shoot and scoot, and about a mile with the outriggers down. The rate of accurate aimed fire impressed the heck out of the engineers. They wrote glowing reports, and General Shepard got a copy of each.

    Before he left, Ron walked into the General’s office. General Shepard stood and shook Ron’s hand. Then he handed him a certificate. It was an official commendation from the Joint Chiefs for a job well done. General Shepard handed him a check for $100,000.00 from the prime contractor for the T&E session. The note attached to the check indicated that they hoped his recommendations would increase the range of the gun to almost 3 miles. Ron was glad for the money, but what General Shepard told him next floored him.

    “Ron, I’ve been friends with Bear since he saved my butt in Vietnam when I got shot down in Indian Country, and he led the team that got me out. I heard what he was up to with his weapons procurement, and this letter makes it all legal. Give him my regards, and have him e-mail me a list of everything he needs, and if it’s available, I’ll get it to him. If it’s surplus or obsolete, I can sell it to him for scrap prices, or if it’s still current, he’ll have to pay replacement costs. This letter authorizes Bear to protect you, your operation, and anyone involved by any means necessary, including lethal force using military weaponry. Son, you’ve just been declared a Strategic Military Asset. You’re not in the military, but we feel your abilities are vital to the defense of the United States. Here’s a Federal CCW for you, and one for your wife. You can now carry concealed anywhere in the USA including commercial aircraft even when you aren’t the pilot in command. Bear and Hunter already have a Federal CCW. Please don’t abuse the privilege. Ron, the United States Military owes you a huge debt of gratitude. If we can get Robo-tank into production quickly, anyone that messes with the US Army or Marines will be in a world of hurt.”

    “General, you said Marines - I can assume you’re thinking of installing this gun in the LAV instead of their Bushmaster?”

    “Exactly - this gun is 10 times better than the original Bushmaster, and it also simplifies the crew compartment, since the gunner is autonomous, and the commander could either be the gunner or the commander. It frees up a whole bunch of space too!”

    Ron couldn’t wait to tell Bear - he owed him for that chopper ride! Ron was driven directly from the General’s office to the VIP quarters to pack, and then to the VIP terminal. He got to use his Federal CCW when the Air Police stopped him when he pinged the metal detector. He showed the AP officer his brand-new Federal CCW, and the officer waved him through. Ron could get used to this - he hated flying commercial since they practically strip searched you. He boarded the aircraft and they were wheels-up 5 minutes later. Ron was glad the General kept the manuals for Robo-Tank, he didn’t want to be responsible for them. Later that afternoon, they landed at Elmendorf, and he walked off the plane, and onto the TurboGoose. Once he got clearance he took off and flew home. Nancy hugged the stuffing out of him when he got home, and he was glad he slept on the plane because judging by the kiss she gave him, he wasn’t going to get too much sleep tonight!

    The next day, he showed up unannounced at Alaska Survival Inc. Bear was busy feeding his kids, so Ron waited, then he handed Bear the letter General Shepard gave him. He said “General Shepard gives his regards.” Bear’s eyes bugged out when the enormity of the letter settled. “Bear, General Shepard knew what you were up to, and decided to make it legal so you won’t spend the next 20 years at Leavenworth, especially now that you have 2 kids.”

    “Ron this letter goes way beyond that - I’m authorized to use lethal force to defend you, the company and anyone associated with it against any threat, and to even use military weaponry. I guess he didn’t mean nukes?”

    “Probably not, but I know you could come up with some very creative defenses. The General said for you to e-mail him a list of anything you can use, and if it’s surplus or obsolete, he would charge you scrap prices for it, and if it’s current inventory, he’d charge you replacement cost.” Ron could tell the wheels were spinning in Bear’s mind. He stood up to go, and Bear gave him a Bear hug, and he walked back to the TurboGoose and flew home.

    Bear and Hunter sat down and made a list of stuff they’d want to have, they didn’t hope to get more than half of it:

    M -134 7.62mm Gatling Gun (12)
    7.62mm linked ammo for M -134 (12M)
    M163 Vulcan VADS (4)
    20mm ammo for M163 (4M)
    FIM-92A Stinger (96)
    M -72 LAW (200)
    M -18 Claymore (1000)
    M -14 APM (100)
    M -16 APM (100)
    M -4/M -203 w/ SOPMOD kit (200)
    M -406 HE 40mm Grenade (6000)
    M -433 HEDP 40mm Grenade (6000)
    M583A140mm WS Para Illum (600)
    M -662 Red Star Cluster (600)
    M -680 White Smoke Canopy (400)
    M -918 Target Practice (9600)
    M -1029 40mm Crowd Control (2400)
    AN/PVS-4 Night Vision Sight (10)
    M224 60mm Lightweight Mortar (3)
    M720 60mm HE Mortar Cartridge (300)
    M722 60mm Smoke Cartridge (90)
    M -61 Frag Grenade (2000)
    M -67 Frag “Baseball” Grenade (2000)
    M -84 Stun Grenade “Flash Bang” (2000)
    M -69 Practice Grenade (12000)
    TLAM-N (3)

    Hunter was chuckling as he read the list “Bear - you really think you can get all that?”

    “Hope so! Otherwise there’s no point in the list.”

    “How about that last item - A Nuclear Cruise Missile?”

    “It’s an Inside Joke between me and the General - I just included it to make sure he was paying attention!”

    “Ok, great - let’s send it, I can’t wait to read the General’s reaction!”

    They e-mailed the list to General Shepard’s private e-mail address. He read the list, got to the last item, and almost fell out of his chair laughing.

    He replied:

    Approved, all except the last Item - It’s not time to “Shoot the Bastards” yet!

    Love and Kisses,
    General Shepard

    Hunter didn’t get the reference to the General’s reply so he asked Bear

    “Bear WTF - It’s Not time to shoot the Bastards yet?”

    “Look it up Pea-brain - It’s a quote by Claire Wolfe - “America’s at that Awkward Stage, Too late to change from within, and too soon to Shoot the Bastards!” It’s one of my favorite quotes, especially since I keep asking the General if it’s time yet - The Nuclear Cruise Missile would have been my preferred weapon for that mission.”

    “Sierra Hotel Bear - let me know when it’s time!”

    General Shepard assigned the list to an aide, who located the equipment at various armories, and then tried to find them as close to Alaska as possible. He was stunned when he located everything at Elmendorf - he never heard of the M -163 VADS. He looked it up, and realized it would work great for shooting down helicopters. Since there was nowhere a fixed wing that wasn’t an amphibian could land, their primary attack they needed to defend against was heliborne or air-assault troops; and unless they were coming in HALO, the M -163 would make mincemeat of them. He did some research on his own, and located 2 obsolete but very effective Military Search Radars with a 100 mile range. He added them to the list after getting the General’s approval. He handed the list back to the General for his approval, and he forwarded a requisition to Elmendorf under his signature, and coded it to a SF Special Project, and authorized Chief Simmons and Ron Williams to pick it up and deliver it. The CO knew about Ron Williams, and had heard stories about Bear and the General, so he approved the requisition. The Supply Sergeant was rolling in the aisles, and told his personnel to remove the entire list from inventory, and notify him when it was all ready to ship. 2 days later, they had everything inventoried, and put on pallets. He called his CO, who called General Shepard, who e-mailed a copy of the requisition to Bear and told him the entire order was at Elmendorf, and it was No Charge - he had charged it to a Special Forces Project, so make sure to bring his military ID. Bear called Ron, and Ron asked him how the heck they were going to get all that loot home. Bear suggested taking the CH-47, the S-80, and a TurboGoose. Since it was still their slow season, Ron made the arrangements for them to fly to Elmendorf tomorrow. Bear replied to General Shepard telling him they would pick it up tomorrow.

    The next morning the choppers took off first because they were 50 knots slower than the TurboGoose. Ron took off half an hour after them, and they arrived within minutes of each other at Elmendorf. Once they landed, Bear climbed out of the TurboGoose - he preferred fixed wing too, especially at his age, wearing his BDU’s. He presented his Military ID to the Supply Sergeant, who approved the shipment with a wink and a nod - he knew where he was going to retire! Ron looked at the mountain of gear, and was glad the supply people had fork lifts. The ammo and the lighter stuff went in the TurboGoose. Ron was glad he had his life insurance paid up when he got a look at what was stenciled on some of those boxes. They decided it would be quicker to sling-load the 4 Vulcan M163 VADS and make 2 trips. Ron flew very carefully to Bear’s survival school - he didn’t want to store any of this stuff in Allakaket unless he had to. 2 trips later everything was at Bear’s survival school, and the Chopper pilots felt they were back in the military, especially when they saw the GE Mini Guns, and realized the Super Stallion could be quickly retrofitted as a gunship. The SA-80 pilot wondered if Bear was planning on installing a chin turret for the GE Minigun! Bear spent the next couple of weeks getting the gear ready to Repel Boarders. 2 of the M163’s were flown to unused hangars at Allakaket, one of the military radars was flown there as well, set up, and installed. Bear sent an e-mail to Don at the FAA office indicating the radar was for defensive purposes, and mentioned General Shepard, and nothing more was ever heard about it. Bear installed another unit at his location, and figured that between the 2 of them, they would have 3-4 hours warning of an air attack. By comparing the FAA radar and the military radar, they could identify Friend of Foe because anyone up to no good would turn off their transponder, making them invisible to the FAA radar at Allakaket, but they would be visible on the military radar. Bear was really happy when he found out the M163s were the newest variant with the millimeter-wave targeting radar and an optical backup. It would give the system the same accuracy as the CWIS and it was mobile. The big Military search radars could give them range and bearing data, and once the targeting radar locked it was “Hasta La Vista Baby!” Bear decided that these Civilians needed some training, so every week, he took volunteers up to the Survival School, swore them to secrecy, ran them through a familiarization course, then trained them on either the Springfield M-1a National Match on the 600-yard line or else the M -16/M -203 combo on the 300-yard line. Everyone in the Militia realized that all kinds of trouble would result if word got out that they had Military weapons, so they kept their mouths shut.

    General Wilcox wasn’t the brightest of crooks, and he wanted revenge on Ron Williams in the worst way when he found out that he was the whistle-blower that got him fired. He hired a team of mercenaries to kidnap and kill Ron. He demanded to fly in the chopper to make sure the job was done right. They got to a RCAF base and stole a Huey and flew to Allakaket. The Allakaket Radar operator noticed a return that wasn’t on his FAA scope coming in from Canada, and called Don to see if any helicopters had filed a flight plan from Canada to the Alaskan interior. He said they didn’t, he called Bear, and Bear called Elmendorf. They didn’t have anything on the chopper either, and by the time they scrambled a pair of F-16’s the chopper would be over Allakaket. That sealed it as far as Bear was concerned. He got on the phone, alerted the Allakaket Militia that they would be under air attack in 15 minutes. They drove over to the hangar where the M -163 VADS was parked, and the checked it over, started the motor, and left the doors open. They turned on an FRS radio that they could talk to the tower with, and the tower gave them range and bearing. When it was 5 minutes out, the operator called the helicopter. “Unidentified Aircraft 30 miles Northeast of Allakaket at 2 thousand feet, please ID and turn on your transponder, you’re entering a congested area.” He repeated the message on GUARD, then radioed the team on the FRS “Negative contact - still on original course and heading.”

    General Wilcox knew that they probably didn’t have any defensive weapons worth a darn, and probably got a skin-paint off their FAA radar. By the time they got some help, Ron would be dead and they would be out of there.

    Bear hadn’t been sitting on his hands either. He called Ron, and told him to get in the shelter ASAP. Ron bundled Nancy and the kids into the basement shelter, and Moose made it in right before he closed and dogged the bolts. It would take a bunch of C-4 to get to him now. Ron turned on the emergency lights, and switched on the emergency radio to listen for the “All Clear” Code.

    An observer on the ground picked up the black chopper with his Night Vision telescopic sight and saw that the occupants were heavily armed. He spoke into his FRS radio, “Vulcan, Target is heavily armed and unresponsive - Weapons Free and engage when ready.”

    That was all the encouragement the driver needed, and accelerated out of the hangar. The Chopper was still 50 feet in the air when the M -163 VADS Targeting radar locked on it, and the gunner pressed the trigger. A 2-second burst of 20mm rounds destroyed the chopper in mid-air. 5 seconds later the radar operator said, “Sky is clear - no other targets.”

    Bear swore because the cat was now out of the bag. He called General Shepard, who got things rolling. The military told the FAA to stay out, since this wasn’t an accident, and it was probably a terrorist attack, so they backed off. Subsequent investigation located ID numbers on the Huey and traced it back to a nearby RCAF base in Canada. The RCAF quietly checked, and they were missing a chopper. The military forensic experts found some interesting debris, including the remains of several H&K MP-5SDs, several M -16/M -203 receivers, and a couple of .30 caliber “Assault Rifles”. They found a cluster of gold stars in the wreckage, so they tested all the DNA in the crash site near the stars, and got an exact match on one ex-general Wilcox. The Joint Chiefs were notified, and the Chairman talked to General Shepard, and they came to the obvious conclusion that Ex-General Wilcox was on some sort of vendetta, and had probably been attempting to kidnap or kill Ron Williams when the M -163 gun shot him out of the sky. The Joint Chiefs invoked a National Security cover over the entire event. Bear got a major Bravo Zulu from General Shepard, and an offer to get them anything else they needed. Ron was only told that someone was attempting to attack Allakaket in a chopper, and the Vulcan blew them out of the sky.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    State of Denial
    Chapter 21 - Reload and Rearm

    The attack on Allakaket got Bear’s attention, and he sent an e-mail to General Shepard asking for help in setting up a serious defensive system for Allakaket. The problem was it couldn’t be overt like they were defending a base so the civilians wouldn’t freak out.

    General Shepard forwarded the e-mail to all the commands at MacDill asking for suggestions/advice for a totally covert defensive system that could stop another attack cold.

    Every command made suggestions, but Bear vetoed most of them for being either too high-profile or to dangerous to the civilians. Active minefields could kill an unwary hunter, and all the area needed was an accidental death of a visiting hunter to shut their operation down,

    One idea he loved was the RPV surveillance system, except it would be a major pain to implement with so many aircraft flying around. He did some checking and found the Predator III did it’s best work above 5,000 feet AGL, and most of the air traffic around Allakaket was below 2,000 feet, so the only problems would be landing and take-off clearances. He’d need to hire a crew to service and fly the drones, and the drones only worked to spot ground targets. What he really needed was something that could detect and intercept air targets including high-speed jets.

    He e-mailed General Shepard his idea, and got a very cryptic message back. The gist of it was they needed to talk face-to-face. Bear replied they could meet at Elmendorf. General Shepard remembered that Ron had a top-secret clearance, and contacted someone about adding Chief “Bear” Simmons and Ron Williams to a code-word list for a black project as consultants for a field-trial. He received a one-word reply “Approved”. General Shepard checked and his VC-20 was fueled and ready to fly. He e-mailed Bear that he was flying to Elmendorf and wanted him and Ron Williams to meet him. They were to follow the Follow-Me truck to an undisclosed location on base. He’d be waiting for them.

    Bear read the E-mail, called Ron and told him he needed to pick him up at the Survival School in an hour, and he should pack an overnight bag just in case. Ron called the maintenance hangar, asked them to prep his plane for flight. He needed to be wheels-up in 20 minutes. Ron grabbed an overnight bag, kissed Nancy, hugged the kids, petted Moose and was out the door and at the airfield in 15 minutes. The turbines were idling when he got there, so he climbed into the cockpit, programmed the navigation computer for the Survival School, called the tower, and received immediate clearance while taxiing out to the lake. As soon as he was at the end of the lake, he pushed the throttles to take-off, and flew an optimum cruise speed profile to the school. An hour later he was on the ground, and Bear was wearing his BDU’s and carrying a black duffle. Ron told him to come forward to the cockpit and ride right seat so they could talk - he wanted to know WTF was so important. Once Bear was seated and had his headset on, Bear explained that General Shepard wanted to meet the two of them in Elmendorf in about 2 hours. Ron reprogrammed the nav computer for Elmendorf and took off. 2 hours later they were on the ground at Elmendorf, and Bear told him to follow the Follow-Me truck when a Hummer with flashing yellow “Follow-me” lights pulled in front of their nose. It lead them to a part of the base that Ron had never been to before. When they deplaned, they saw a building in front of them surrounded by Air Force police with M-16’s in a 100-foot perimeter. General Shepard got out of the Hummer with the “follow-me” lights, and motioned for Bear and Ron to follow him. They all had to present ID’s, good thing Ron kept his TS ID card in his wallet. Once they were inside, General Shepard locked the door, and told them to take seats.

    “Ron, Bear, sorry about all the cloak and dagger stuff, but the answer to Bear’s request involved a black project. Ron, that helicopter that the Vulcan shot down was flying Ex-General Wilcox and a team of mercs who were after your hide. This has now gone from an exercise to a real security issue. Bear has taken care of everything necessary to protect you, except the anti-air defense issue is tough to do covertly. What I’m about to tell you can’t leave this room, but the Military is working on a next-generation autonomous air interceptor, and I feel this would be an ideal field test. You’re in an isolated and relatively secure area, you have radar backup from Elmendorf, and I’m going to upgrade your radar to a more modern radar set that can detect slow-moving low-flying aircraft that would normally be lost in the ground clutter.”

    General Shepard handed each of them a thin file with a code-word designator. Bear gulped, it had been years since he had seen Code Word stuff. He opened the folder, and was amazed at what the military had been up to. This was literally Buck Rodgers stuff. They had miniaturized a flying wing down to the size of an ROV, yet according to the paperwork, it was totally autonomous and extremely stealthy. Reading down further, he commented “Sierra Hotel General - I was hoping they would do something like this!”

    Ron read further down - his reaction was “Holy Cow - it’s a flying missile!”

    What the Air Force had come up with was a stealthy flying wing interceptor. Instead of pilots flying CAP over a base or other fixed asset, the Terminator, as they were calling it, could loiter for 18 hours at high altitude on a high-endurance turbofan above 20,000 feet, and up to a classified altitude until a separate ground-based or air-based search radar detected an incoming Bogie, at which point the Terminator could be activated by radio command to target the Bandit once it was identified as a hostile. It carried a single SRB in the tail that could accelerate the Terminator from it’s loiter speed to right around Mach 2 in seconds. It was designed to attack from above, dive into the threat and kamikaze itself, detonating a shaped charge and a payload of steel ball bearings into the target for a guaranteed kill. Since the Terminator only had a short-range radar and an all-aspect IR seeker, the Bandit had no indication that it was under attack until it was too late, since it was basically invisible. It was coated with RAM to prevent radar reflections, and the skin had an adaptive coating that would change colors to match it’s surroundings. Each copy cost about 10 times the cost of the latest air-to-air missile, but the Pentagon number-crunchers thought it was the cat’s pajamas, since it cost millions of dollars to train each fighter pilot, and another couple of hundred million per plane, plus the cost of the missiles. The prime contractor was working on a long-range attack version of the Terminator that could be controlled by an E-3 Sentry, but this system would be perfect for defending Allakaket. It could orbit out of the way above 20,000 feet, and take out any airborne Bandit before it became a threat.

    “What if it attacks the wrong target, or goes goofy and heads toward Allakaket.”

    “Ron, read page 3, it had a built-in self-destruct set to detonate at 500 feet AGL in case it goes goofy, and the operator has a manual override to self-destruct any Terminator that deviates from it’s assigned loiter altitude without a command. It’s got another backup to keep the bad guys from killing us with our own missiles. The datalink is heavily encrypted, and the codes are set every time it takes off. If it gets an attack order that doesn’t have the right code sequence, it allows 3 attempts then self-destructs.”

    Bear said “Excuse me General, but you can’t base these Terminators out of Allakaket!”

    “I never intended to Bear. I was going to base them near your Survival School. I was going to lease a couple of acres from you, build hangars, and a short runway to land the Terminator, since it uses the same rocket-boosted take-off system as the Predator, and housing for the operators and mechanics. Since you already have code-word clearance on several projects, I planned on making you a project manager for this long-term field trial. All the personnel will be Air Force with code-word clearance for this project. I’m also assigning 2 Avenger systems to the area: 1 to protect the testing site, and the other to protect Allakaket itself. It’s a perfect compliment to Terminator, since it can engage the low and slow targets, and can take slew to cue data directly from the radar system. You can keep all the Stingers in case TSHTF, and the Chinese invade, you might need to engage more targets than the Avenger crew can handle.”

    “General, I thought that’s what the M -163 VADS was for?”

    “Keep the Vulcan - it also works great on ground targets. By the way, I’m adding a whole truckload of ammo for the Vulcan to that order. I wish we had a C-130 that was an Amphibian to deliver all this stuff, it would sure make things much easier.”

    “General, if you could detail a couple of CH-47’s to deliver them; they could deliver the stuff in 1 trip.”

    “Good idea Ron - since it’s an official Military Project now, I can do that - can you give me a lift back and forth to Allakaket, I want to talk to your pilots.”

    “Sure General - when did you want to leave?”

    “How about now - we can finish this briefing in the air.”

    “General - I don’t have a jump seat for the cockpit.”

    “That’s OK, I’ll sit in one of the passenger seats for landing and take-off, and we can talk in the air if you leave the cabin door open, heck, I’ll sit on the floor if I have to.”

    “General, if we’re going to talk in the air, we’ll need another headset for you.”

    General Shepard decided he needed to remedy that situation, called the CO of Elmendorf, who called Maintenance Chief and told him he needed a headset multiplexer and a removable jump seat installed in an aircraft ASAP! 5 minutes later the maintenance chief and an mechanic showed up in another Hummer. The general pointed out the aircraft, and 30 minutes later, the multiplexer and the removable jump seat were installed. The Maintenance Chief saluted the General, who returned the salute and thanked the Maintenance chief for a job well done, and they climbed aboard the TurboGoose for the flight home. Ron got on his Sat phone, and called BA, and told him they needed to have an “All Pilots” meeting in Allakaket in 2 hours. Ron was thankful they were in their down phase, so only 2 pilots where not going to be able to attend since they were in the air from Fairbanks to Nome with paying passengers. When they landed 2 hours later, the pilots had to fight their urge to salute since most of them were ex-Air Force Pilots. General Shepard did shake hands, and finally the group sat down.

    “Gentlemen, what I’m about to tell you may not leave this room. You are to ignore any small flying objects that are safely above your flight level. The Air Force is going to conduct field testing for a new ROV. That is all you need to know for now, except for the promise that if anyone talks about this they will spend the rest of their lives breaking big rocks into little rocks at Leavenworth. Is that understood?”

    The assembled pilots said “Yes Sir, General!”

    “That is all, Dismissed.”

    After shaking hands, General Shepard told Ron he needed to get back to Elmendorf so he could get back to MacDill. Not one to keep a General waiting, they hurried out to the TurboGoose, which had been refueled and prepped for take-off. Evidently his Chief Mechanic was ex-military as well, and knew enough to have the TG prepped and ready to go. They were airborne 5 minutes later, and they landed at Elmendorf 2 hours later. Ron shook the General’s hand, but Bear wound up giving the General a bear hug. “Still living up to your Team name I see Bear?”

    “Yes Sir, General Sir. Have a good flight!”

    General Shepard marched from the TG to the VC-20 parked next to it. Ron let the General’s plane taxi away first, then they unbolted the jump seat and stowed it - it made the cockpit even more crowded than it was before. Ron flew Bear back home, then landed at Allakaket.

    When General Shepard got back to MacDill, he issued orders transferring 2 Avenger batteries to Allakaket, and requisitioned the materials that he had told Bear about. He modified his orders to include the request that one of the batteries should have personnel capable of acting as aircraft mechanics as a cover. He contacted his contact in the Terminator program, and suggested they set up a field test program at Alaskan Survival Inc. and that Chief Simmons USN (ret.) would act as the Project Supervisor in the field.

    General Shepard’s contact ran Chief Simmons through his database, and when it came back that Chief Simmons was actually Master Chief Simmons, and a retired SEAL with enough medals in his file to sink a battleship, he felt better. He told his Air Force test team that they were TAD to Elmendorf for a long-term field test program at Alaskan Survival Inc. They quickly packed up their test gear, and all the operational gear for the 6 prototypes, loaded it aboard a C-141 and flew to Elmendorf. Bear received an E-mail that the Terminator was TAD to Elmendorf with an ETA of tomorrow morning. He thought it was really nice to have low friends in high places. Only a 3-star general could get people moving that quickly. The fact that he was the JSOC helped too. 2 weeks later the Avenger batteries were relocated from somewhere in the Midwest in storage, and someone had located 6 soldiers who were qualified on the Avenger, and were also aircraft mechanics. They quickly found themselves “volunteered” for an assignment in Alaska. They met up with their Avenger batteries at Elmendorf, and they had one last surprise They weren’t to be stationed at Elmendorf, it was just the closest military base. They rode the same CH-47s that were transporting their Avengers as sling loads to Allakaket and Alaskan Survival. The ones at Allakaket were co-located with the Vulcan gun, and didn’t have much to do. The once who landed at Alaskan Survival soon found themselves pressed into work clearing the site for the Terminators. Since they needed to heat their quarters, not only did they cut the trees down, they had to saw them to length and split the wood. Chief Simmons showed up, and amazed them with his strength by splitting logs with one swing of his sledge. When they finished, Chief Simmons got the entire team together for a briefing. The Avenger crews were told that they were there in support of a code-word test program, and one word of what they saw to anyone outside of that room would result in a lifetime breaking rocks.

    The Avenger crews were briefed by the Vulcan crew in Allakaket, and realized that this was a No-Shit defensive detail, and took their duties very seriously. The Avenger had to be 100% mission capable as much as possible. The onus would be on the maintenance personnel, but they would expect help from the operating crews as well. They rotated through the aircraft maintenance shops frequently enough to be believable. They were glad for the rotation, because several of them learned a lot while they were there about aircraft maintenance, enough that they would later add “aircraft mechanic” to their list of qualifications.

    General Shepard felt like he had closed the barn door after the horses got out, but he knew that it would take a small army to take Allakaket now. The CO at Elmendorf learned about the new powerful air search radars at Allakaket and Alaskan Survival. Instead of complaining, he decided to take advantage of the situation, and established data links between the three sites to share data. Connecting the 3 sites tripled the square area under surveillance and increased the warning time for attacks in that area. Elmendorf had links to the Cobra Dane radar sites as well, so between all those sites, it would take a miracle for an attacker to get anywhere near Allakaket and attack by air again.

    Ron went home that day and saw that Sarah was up and crawling around with her brothers. Nancy was very happy since Sarah was again a normal healthy little girl. Sarah was starting to gain weight like she was supposed to, and had grown almost 3 inches in 6 months. In another couple of months, Sarah would celebrate her second birthday, Jake was 4 going on 5, and Josh was 3 going on 4. Jake ran his mom ragged, but Moose still was a capable play buddy and baby sitter. Since the scare with the helicopter Ron, Nancy, BA and Sally all wore their ParaOrd P-14’s full-time. They weren’t really comfortable being armed all the time, but got used to it. Nancy and Sally especially got serious about their guns and shooting skills, since they were all that stood between danger and their kids. Ron had given the 3 of them the Reader’s Digest version of what General Shepard told him. The only person he told most of the story to was BA, who said they really needed to build an indoor shooting range. The two of them were rolling in money, so they decided to buy another steel building and install a 100-yard range with 10 lanes and automatic target retrievers. It could be configured for day or night shooting by switching from white to dim red lights. Practice ammo was provided for free to anyone who wanted to use it, and some guns were even available for rent. Ron wrote all the expenses off as employee benefits for Allakaket Airlines, now that almost everyone in Allakaket was an employee of the company in some capacity or another.

    Both Nancy and Sally soon became expert shots with their .45’s and their AR-15’s. Ron remembered something about a mother bear and her cubs, and that accurately described Nancy and Sally’s mentality. Even Anne got into the shooting practice again, since she could see again like she used to. Nancy and Anne were neck and neck for top female pistol shooter, but Anne made her daughter-in law look like a blind man with rifles. She routinely shot x-ring groups at 100 yards with open sights on the AR-15. She still thought it was a Poodle Shooter, but realized that a MZB didn’t care if he was shot in the snot locker with a .223 or a .308 since he was dead either way. She liked the light recoil and the high rate of fire of the AR-15 compared to her Browning A-bolt. Later that year, Nancy and Anne went to Alaska Survival Inc. to take advantage of their 600-yard range. Anne decided to have mercy on Nancy, and taught her how to shoot really long distance. By the end of the day, Nancy was doing pretty good on the 600 yard target, and was shooting x-ring on the 300 and 100 yard targets prone with the bipod. Anne thought the bipod was cheating, but she was starting to get shaky in her old age, and the bipod helped.

    Bear heard that the civilians were getting restless, and decided to add training in hand to hand combat at the community center once a week. The building they purchased for the shooting range wound up being almost twice as big as they needed for a 100-yard range, since the distributor didn’t have any buildings that were 75x300 feet. The closest size he had was 100x500 feet, so they used the rest of the space as a community center and as a nursery for the women who wanted to go shooting. They bought thin wrestling mats for the kids, which also worked well for hand to hand training, especially the throws and tosses included in Aikido and Judo. Bear didn’t teach them SCARS, but a system that was almost as good, but un-classified. The women in the class acted like momma bears, and some of them scared Bear when he wore his Aggressor padded suit. They were vicious fighters, and several times he took a direct hit to his groin. He was really glad he was wearing a cup when that happened. These women fought dirty! When he taught knife fighting, he was glad they were using rubber knives when he saw some of them in action. He actually felt sorry for any MZB who might make the mistake of attacking any of these women or their kids. When they completed his class, there was a run on Bowie knives and Kydex sheaths at the sporting goods store in Anchorage. Nancy decided she’d rather shoot someone, since it was less messy, yet she still carried a Spyderco Native in her blouse pocket with the false edge sharpened, and a Civilian in her pants pocket. She said they were just in case she shot all 43 rounds of Cor-bon JHP ammo she had on her!

    Chapter 22 - 2/3 of a Basketball team

    Ron and Nancy spent some “quality time” together after the scare, and just as Ron predicted, Nancy was pregnant with Kid #4, they were now 2/3 the way to fielding their own basketball team. Ron decided that now would be a good time to put in the Room Addition. It was way more than just a room addition, but he thought it was funny. They built a 2-story addition to the East wall of the house, changing the design from a classic A-frame to an A-frame with a huge 30-foot wide 20 foot deep and 30 foot high addition with a full basement that was attached to the other basement. The addition gave him another 1800 cubic feet, which gave him another 3 10x20 bedrooms, and storage above and below the bedrooms. The contractor that built the other 2 homes did the room addition as well, and over the summer it was totally in place. The contractor had fun digging the extra basement space, cutting a door in the existing basement wall then re-grading and compacting the site. He hoped Ron wouldn’t need another room addition, because the other side of the house was taken up with the huge garage and outbuildings.

    Bear and General Shepard decided to put the Predators in a hangar at Alaskan Survival Inc. instead of flying them, since their airborne defense systems could take out any plane or helicopter that got within 100 miles of Allakaket. The only way someone was going to get near Allakaket was to HAHO out of a commercial jet, since the commercial track was just to the south, but barely within HAHO range of Allakaket. Only US Special Forces practiced HAHO and HALO techniques, so it wasn’t much of a threat. Conventional armies used static line drops, or what the SEALS called “dope on a rope” which meant that everyone hopefully landed in the same area, but meant the drop craft had to overfly the drop zone at a fairly low altitude well within range of the AVENGER system. That meant a cargo craft full of paratroopers became a coffin full of crispy critters.

    Sam and Ralph spent as much time together as possible in the next couple of years; when he wasn’t seeing Sam, Ralph was using the Reverend’s Cajun language tapes to re-learn Cajun. Doc Richards definitely approved of Ralph. He was a gentleman in every meaning of the word, and Sam was a lady. He had a surprise for the two of them; the biggest gala of the year was coming up, the annual Southern Plantation Ball at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. It was the annual fundraiser for the Alumni Association, and tickets were always a premium. As a major contributor, Doc got 4 tickets and was going to give Ralph and Sam 2 of them, so the 4 of them would take the limousine and arrive in style. Ralph’s grey suit would fit in perfectly, since no one wore tuxedos at the ball; they wore Confederate Army uniforms minus the saber, or grey suits. The women always went for the “Southern Belle” look except for the Matrons who wore more conservative, but definitely pre-Civil war era style dresses. Sam was now well into her second year of Internship and was given more duties and responsibilities as she learned the techniques of Emergency Surgery. Ralph and Sam spent a lot of time talking shop, since their specialties had so much in common. Over the last year, they were seen together often enough that everyone in the ER knew they were dating, but they behaved themselves. They were falling in love with each other, but they had some decisions to make. Sam wasn’t about to give up practicing Emergency Surgery to get married, so they had to decide what were they going to do if they got married. They had that discussion several times, and finally decided that they would move for Ralph’s career, but only if that move would also allow Sam to work at the same hospital as an Emergency Surgeon. Sam sat down and talked to Doc. He told her that both their specialties were in high demand nationwide, and any major city they chose to live in would be more than happy to hire both of them. Sam said they were considering Atlanta or some other big Southern city, since he was from Louisiana, and she was born in Tennessee, and lived there as an infant, but didn’t remember much of it. Still in her heart she was a Southern girl.

    BA and Ron had become so close that they could finish each other’s sentences, and BA took the time to teach Ron about the ins and outs of Big business since he wasn’t flying much anymore. He said the hardest thing to do was to stick to his Christian Principles and still make a profit. They had done great so far, but what if there was an extended economic downturn and the airline was in danger of bankruptcy and he was forced to cut costs?

    Ron thought about that, and came up with an answer, it wasn’t the best answer, but it beat laying off thousands of workers who were depending on him for an income.

    “BA if the Air Transport industry went in the tank for over a year, I’d diversify into other areas like light manufacturing. All we would need to do is add additional turbogenerators to our geothermal steam power plant. I was always wondering why you bought a building 3 times the size we needed, now I understand it was so we could add 3 more 10MW turbogenerators if we needed to. Too bad it’s prohibitively expensive to run high tension lines, or we could export power to other parts of Alaska.”

    “If fuel costs go much higher, we’ll have to extend power lines to Alaskan Survival Inc. And the mine. The upside of that would be a huge reduction in operating costs having to fly in fuel and pay for millions of gallons of diesel each year.”

    “BA, did you run the numbers on installing a high-tension line between here and there?”

    Bill opened a spreadsheet on his computer and said, “Here’s my best estimate of the costs and benefits. To run a 100KV line from here to Alaska Survival and the gold mine will cost approximately 2 million dollars, including installing 3 10MW turbogenerators, the piping, etc. Luckily we own the Chinook and the Super Stallion, both of which can fly in high-tension towers that we would assemble here. It would mean plotting a route, clearing the sites for the towers, buying the cable, and all the labor to assemble the towers and install them. The good news is according to this spreadsheet we reach break-even in 10 years, and these towers are good for 100 years with annual maintenance.”

    “How much does Allakaket Airlines have in the bank?”

    “Last year was a really good year profit-wise, and we’re sitting on nearly $15 Million.”

    “Ok BA, I’m going to authorize this project right now, with a budget not to exceed $5 Million. Hire anyone in town who wants to work on this project, and any required sub-contractors, we’ll act as our own General Contractor.”

    “Way ahead of you Ron, here’s a company that specializes in High Tension Tower installation, they do all the surveying, clearing and installing. They’re our best bet, since they normally lease the helicopters on a per-project basis, which is expensive. Providing our own helicopters, fuel, and crews will reduce their price by at least 50%. Everyone in town that wants to already works for the airline, so this would be our best bet.”

    “Ok BA, go ahead and get it started, I’ve got to give Bear the good news.”

    Ron walked into his office and called Bear, “Bear, I’ve got good news; within a year you won’t have to fly in diesel fuel!”

    “What - we’re shutting down the Mine? That’s not good news!”

    “Bear, relax - We’re going to install a High Tension line between Allakaket and the mine. BA and I crunched the numbers, and we’re sitting on $15 Million in the bank, and according to BA, it will only cost $5 million or so to install 3 new 10MW turbogenerators in our building, install the transformers and the high-tension towers between here and there. The best news is we break-even in 10 years or less, and after that, the power is basically free except for the maintenance on the system!”

    “Ron, that’s great except for 1 slight problem, that military project near here.”

    “We’ll just have to shut them down while the construction company is working in the vicinity, I’m sure the contractors would like some time off. With all those choppers in the air, I really don’t want those things in the air anyway. The Vulcans and Avengers can take care of any threats when they get in range anyway.”

    “Ok Ron, I’ll take care of that on my end.”

    Bear sent an e-mail to General Shepard advising him of the construction project, and suggesting that they temporarily shut the project down while the construction project was on-going, since there will be helicopters in the air all the time, and the Avengers or Vulcans could take care of any immediate local threats. When they were finished installing the high-tension lines, they would welcome them back. General Shepard agreed, since the contractors were supposed to be on a TAD, and it had been 6 months. If they sent them home for 6 months to a year, they would improve the morale of the troops and contractors. He sent an e-mail to his contact on the Terminator project, advising them of the pending construction project, and the suspension of the Testing session for 6 months to a year. His contact agreed that a 6-month shut-down was exactly what the doctor ordered, since the contractors were grumbling about being stuck out in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do - there were no threats in the area in over 6 months. He suggested terminating, and possibly re-opening the testing session if the situation changed and there was a credible threat to the area. General Shepard reluctantly agreed, and authorized the shut down of the program. 2 days later, the operators were packing up, and everyone was doing their best to make the site look normal including removing the fencing and other signs of occupation.

    Nancy needed Ron at home more and more as her pregnancy progressed, since she didn’t have the energy to corral and contain 3 rambunctious toddlers any more. Maybe they should stop at 4 and forget about the basketball team, Nancy thought. She hoped Ron wouldn’t mind getting snipped, so they could keep making love without the risk of additional pregnancies, she wasn’t a spring chicken anymore, she was pushing 30!

    The contractor overflew the route where they wanted the high-tension line to go, and noted where the towers needed to go. He was glad that Allakaket Airlines had two helicopters that were capable of heavy precision lifts, since the terrain they had to cross was the most rugged they had ever installed high tension lines over. He located several good sites to drop towers, and they would only need minimal logging to clear the sites. He turned on his laptop, crunched the numbers in his spreadsheet, and presented BA with a quote for $2.5 Million, not including the step-up and step-down transformers on each end. Ron was glad he had approved up to $5 Million, because it looked like it was going to cost between 3 and 4 Million to complete. BA found 3 more 10MW steam turbines cheap. It seemed the Big power companies were consolidating and selling off the smaller power producers, it was cheaper for them to run a 100MW steam turbine than buy power from the smaller producers who were using 10MW turbogenerators. They simply bought out the smaller producers, and added another 100MW turbine as needed. Since they were using geothermal heat to make steam instead of burning oil and coal, it was cost-efficient to run the 10MW turbines. With a total of 4 10MW turbogenerators, they were producing excess power, but had nowhere to send it. What they would do instead is run 4 during peak demand, and shut the 4th turbogenerator down when it wasn’t needed. Since they weren’t using boilers, shutting down and restarting turbogenerators weren’t as big of a deal as it was for coal or oil fired generators.

    Bear did a little number crunching himself. They had over a million gallons of stabilized diesel on hand for the diesel powered generators. He still had trucks, loaders and other equipment that used diesel, but the million gallons would last almost a year without having to run the generators. Instead of 1 flight a week to keep the diesel tanks topped off, they could reduce it to two or three flights per year. With the reduction in diesel fuel and flight operations costs, if gold remained stable, they would just about double their income. Since they had power to burn, he had an ingenious idea to get the ore out of the mine, and down the hill. He would use a bucket conveyor to lift it out of the mine, and use an aerial tramway to move it downhill. The tram cars moving down a 20% slope almost a mile long would spin a huge generator, which would provide power to run the conveyor. It was almost like perpetual motion, except for the transmission and generation losses. What he was doing is called electromotive braking or regenerative braking. With all this extra power, he could expand the mine as well, generating even more income. He e-mailed that spreadsheet to BA, who revised his numbers based on Bear’s revised estimates, and concluded that even at $5 Million, the High-tension transmission line project would pay for itself in 5 years if the price of gold remained stable. Since his operation wasn’t as dependent on diesel fuel, even if the fuel price went up temporarily, they had a year’s supply on hand and could ride out a price increase. If the price of gold increased, they would hit their break-even point even quicker.

    Two weeks after the contract was signed, men and materials started arriving in Allakaket. The helicopters were busy all day for weeks. When they had enough materials in place to start work, they cleared the sites, bored and blasted footings for the immense towers, assembled the towers, and lifted them into place using the choppers. The strangest operation was laying the cable, since a big reel of cable was suspended from the Chinook, and all it did was fly from tower to tower slowly as the cable unreeled. It was connected to the stand-off insulators by some very brave men on the towers. They spliced the wire together as needed, and soon they had all 3 lines strung from all the towers. They flew in the transformers, and erected the fences to protect the step-up and step-down transformers. A separate crew installed the 3 turbogenerators and the piping into the wells. To make things easier, the one turbogenerator was dedicated for power in town, and the other 3 were connected to the step-up transformer which boosted the voltage to 100KV. On the other end was a step-down transformer to step the power down to a more usable voltage. Once the turbines were brought up to speed and tested, they threw the switches, and Bear shut down the generators. Everyone at the mine cheered as the lights blinked signifying the switch-over.

    Nancy delivered her 4th child David, on April 1st. Ron thought it was hysterically funny until Nancy informed him if he wanted to fool around any more he needed to make an appointment with the doctor and get fixed. Her meaning was clear, and Moose looked at Ron like “Better you than me Buddy!” Ron made an appointment in Anchorage, and flew there the next day, and flew home with an ice bag between his legs. BA wasn’t sympathetic at all, and kidded Ron until he hinted that he might suggest to Sally that BA needed to get fixed too! BA shut up so fast that his jaws snapped.

    Chapter 23 - Broken Arrow

    Several weeks later, the Allakaket Controller was in the tower when he heard over the radio on GUARD “Mayday…Mayday!” Then complete silence. He knew somewhere fairly close by, an Aircraft had gone down. Half an hour later, Bear was awakened out of a great dream by his cell phone. It was General Shepard. “Bear, we have a Broken Arrow. I need you and Hunter to retrieve and disarm the weapons. An F-15 Strike Eagle on an Arctic Training flight went down near you. We located the beacon, and it’s in a wooded remote lake, and our nearest NEST team is TAD to DC for training. I hate to do this to you, but you and Hunter are the only qualified personnel nearby to affect a recovery. The bombs have a 12-hour failsafe, so you have about 11 hours to get over to Elmendorf, pick up your gear, fly back to the lake and retrieve the two B-61-11’s. Don’t worry about the pilot or the aircraft. If necessary, you will be involuntarily recalled.”

    “General, I’ll volunteer, and I’m sure Hunter will too. We’ll need Ron to fly us to Elmendorf, and land us on the lake. A helicopter from Elmendorf would be too slow, and I’m pretty sure their bigger helicopters aren’t amphibians.”

    “OK Bear, Ron’s cleared for Top Secret.”

    Bear remembered that Ron was a qualified diver. He hated risking Ron’s life like this, but he wouldn’t be any safer in the plane on the lake if anything happened, and if he used Ron as a safety diver, he and Hunter could both work on securing the bombs.

    “General, Ron Williams is a qualified diver, I know - I trained him. If we use him as a Safety Diver, Hunter and I can both work on retrieving the bombs.”

    “Bear, I can’t endanger a civilian like that!”

    “He’s no safer in his plane on the lake if anything happens, and if he can help underwater, it would speed things up, and might make the difference between success and a major disaster.”

    “Agreed Bear, OK, I’ll call Elmendorf and have 3 sets of cold water diving gear ready to go.”

    “Make sure they include a bunch of high-power underwater lights - it could be darn near zero visibility down there without lights.”

    “OK, I’ll have 3 sets of cold water diving gear ready, the lights, and the recovery gear ready and waiting at Elmendorf. Good Luck and Godspeed!”

    “See you later General, I hope!”

    Bear called Ron and woke him up. “Ron, it’s Bear, We’ve got a National Emergency, and I need you to fly to Alaskan Survival ASAP and pick Hunter and me up! Oh, and make sure you’re wearing all the wool and poly pro clothing you own.”

    “Bear What the Hell is going on?”

    “Sorry Ron, not over an unsecured phone - you’ll have to trust me. Make sure you say bye to Nancy and the kids, just in case. Now get your butt up here as fast as you can.”

    Ron went into panic mode, grabbed a wool sweater and pants, put on his polypro underwear and his woollies, then his jeans and a tee shirt. He grabbed his go-bag, kissed Nancy, hugged the kids, and was out the door so fast that the door didn’t close until he was in the driveway. He called the airport and told them to fire up his plane. 10 minutes later, he was in the plane with the turbines idling, and quickly preflighted the plane as he taxied toward the lake. He called for take-off clearance, and as soon as he got clearance, he was airborne flying as fast as he could to Alaskan Survival. Bear and Hunter were waiting with huge duffle bags at the water’s edge, and climbed aboard as soon as he had stopped, carefully maneuvering around the spinning props. They opened the passenger door, and as soon as it was closed, they told Ron to back up and get the heck out of there. He threw the props into full reverse, backed off the ramp into the lake, and hustled to the downwind end of the lake while Bear strapped himself into the co-pilot’s seat and put on the headset while Hunter secured their gear and strapped himself in. Ron did a max performance take-off, and Bear said “You need to fly to Elmendorf as fast as possible. An F-15E from the Alaskan Air Command in Fairbanks was flying a training route armed with two B-61-11’s. The controllers heard a Mayday on GUARD, and then nothing. The beacons went off an hour ago, and they located the source in a lake about 20 miles north of our survival school. The two bombs have a 12-hour failsafe to keep them from falling into enemy hands. The clock is ticking, and Hunter and I are the only people close enough to defuse them in time. You get to fly the plane and act as a safety diver while Hunter and I recover and defuse the bombs. Once they’re defused, they’re very safe.”

    “You mean that in 12 hours Allakaket’s gonna get nuked?”

    “No, the failsafe detonates the charges in such a way that the nuclear material can’t go critical, and scatters the material over a wide area, so it can’t be reused. The down side to that is it acts as a big radiological bomb, contaminating the area up to 1,000 years. Obviously, we’d rather find the bombs before the failsafes activate. Sorry about shanghaiing you, but 1) you’re a pilot with the fastest Amphibian around, 2) you’re a qualified diver, and 3) you’ve got a Top Secret Clearance.”

    “Remind me to thank you later!”

    A little over an hour later, Ron made a fast landing at Elmendorf, and was directed to an out-of-the-way part of the base by a follow-me truck. Several airmen quickly loaded the plane, and refueled it, then they turned around and flew back to the lake. They landed on the lake, deployed the RHIB loaded with the dive gear next to the door on a short rope while they changed into their dry suits. Once they were good to go, Bear stepped out first, then Hunter, then Ron. Hunter started the outboard, and Bear was holding a locator to find the beacon. Once they were over the site, Bear turned to Ron with his Dead Serious face and said “Ron, things could go bad down there real fast. If I flip you the bird with both hands, you’re to get the heck out of here as fast as possible, without regard to us. Get aboard your plane, and get away from here as fast as possible. Stay low just in case, and head toward Allakaket. If this thing goes critical, you’ll have just enough time to evacuate your family and fly South to Fairbanks before the fallout reaches Allakaket. Your job here is to keep an eye on us, and watch our backs. If this weren’t a National Emergency, I’d never risk your life like this, but we have no choice, and I know you would never order one of your pilots to do something you wouldn’t do yourself.”

    They quickly donned their tanks, and grabbed lights and buddy lines, and dove over the side. They followed the anchor line down to the bottom of the lake, 50 feet below, and attached a buddy line to the anchor line. Bear and Hunter then attached Ron to the other end of the rope, and attached themselves to Ron with additional buddy lines. Bear took the lead, and the 3 of them swam as gently as possible toward the wreck, their lights only illuminating 6 feet in front of them. The beacon locator led them directly to the plane, and then they had to search for the weapons. Ron remained with the plane, so Bear and Hunter spread out and started a grid search after they checked the wing pylons. An hour later, Bear located one bomb, and stuck a pinger on it and tied a float marker to it, so they could locate it again, and he helped Hunter locate the other one. Once they had pingers and floats on both bombs, Bear gave Ron the surface sign, so they reversed their steps and followed the anchor rope back up to the boat, and did a safety stop at 15 feet. Their tanks were low, so they all switched tanks, and then Bear grabbed a couple of lift bags, straps and shackles, and they dove back down to the wreck. Bear decided to disarm the failsafes above water instead of below since it was too murky to see. They quickly located the pingers, and attached the straps to the fins of the bombs, and inflated the lift bags using the attached CO2 canisters. They followed the bombs up, and when they reached the surface, Bear attached a floating collar around the nosecone so the bombs were high and dry with the correct access port facing up. Using the included tool kit, he took the panel off, then opened a sealed package containing the disarming procedure. An hour later, 1 bomb done, one to go. The second one went faster, and when they both were disarmed, Bear towed the bombs to shore, and told Ron “Get in your plane, and take your sat phone and call this number to request an extraction chopper for 2 repaired arrows and the repairmen. Whoever answers the line would know what to do, then fly home to Allakaket and tell no one, not even Nancy about this. Like they said in Men in Black - “It never happened” so make sure it stays that way.” Ron decided that now was as good a time as any to be a smart-alec, so he saluted and said “Aye, Aye Sir!” Bear would have tossed him into the lake if he weren’t baby sitting 2 nuclear bombs. Instead he growled “Get out of here!” Ron got back in his plane, and flew out of there.

    Ron flew home, got changed, and didn’t tell anyone what happened.

    2 weeks later, 2 big helicopters showed up painted in Allakaket Airlines colors and General Shepard stepped out with Bear in tow. Ron was tipped off by the tower and was there to meet him. “Ron, I came here to thank you in person. I was wondering what the Air Force could do to thank you for recovering those broken arrows. I knew you didn’t need the money, and I can’t award you any medals, since it never happened, so instead I decided to give Allakaket Airlines 2 brand new Sikorsky Helicopters. They’re an interesting prototype built by Sikorsky Aircraft but never adopted by the military. If you notice, they closely resemble the S-76 Commercial VIP helicopter with 1 major difference.” The General nodded to the pilot, and 2 pods motored out of the body into the slipstream. “One contains 7 Advanced Precision Kill Weapons
    System 2.75 inch rockets, and the other carries 4 Stinger missiles - They call it the “007” because no one knows it’s an armed chopper until it’s too late. I’ve permanently assigned these crews and aircraft to you, you’re free to use them, but you can’t sell them. The US Air Force will pay all the maintenance costs and fuel used on these choppers, just send us a bill.” Ron walked over to the aircraft and noticed 8 very plush VIP seats. Then the General asked Ron if he wanted a ride. He didn’t like riding in helicopters, but it wasn’t a good idea to get in the habit of telling a General no. He called Nancy, said he’d be back in about 4 hours, then climbed aboard. The crew chief made sure everyone was safely fastened in, and they took off. The second chopper remained on the ground, and they flew back to Elmendorf. Ron was amazed at the ride; it was so much smoother than the other helicopter. In just under 3 hours, they were at Elmendorf. The pilot kept the rotors turning, and the General got out and boarded his VC-20 to fly back to MacDill. The pilot flew back to Allakaket after dropping Bear off at his place.

    Chapter 24 - Belle of the Ball

    The next time Ralph came over to Samantha’s house, Doc and Bert were home. Doc took Ralph aside and told him that he had purchased 4 tickets to the annual Southern Plantation Ball at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and told Ralph that he hoped Ralph would ask Samantha to accompany him. Ralph was stunned, those tickets were hard to get and expensive. “Doc Richards, thank you very much sir.”

    “Ralph, if you two keep going the way you’re going, I’m going to have a semi-son-in-law. I want to do whatever I can to encourage the two of you, since I’m sure you two are perfect for each other.”

    “Doc, it’s going to be a while before there are any wedding bells in our future. Sam has to finish medical school, then her residency before we should get married.”

    “Why? I have an agreement with Sam to pay for her Medical School, and even if she’s married, I’ll still pay for it. I know how badly they underpay residents, and I’m sure you have huge student loan debts to pay off.”

    “That’s very kind of you sir, but I don’t know if I can accept.”

    “You still planning on doing a year in Louisiana?”

    “Yes Sir!”

    “I talked to the State of Louisiana, and if you do a year and set up the medical program there, they’ll pay off your Student Loan debts.”

    “Doc, that’s over 100 thousand dollars!”

    “I know, I checked. I was going to pay it myself as a wedding present to you two, but since the state has volunteered to pay it, I can do something else for you two.”

    “Doc, I don’t know what to say. No one has ever been this kind to me.”

    “Ralph, you make Sam happier than I’ve ever seen her. She is very thoroughly in love with you. If you can afford an apartment close to the hospital that is big enough for the two of you, I see no reason for you not to get married before she completes her internship.”

    “If I didn’t have my student loan payments, I could easily afford a nice apartment close to the hospital.”

    “Now that we’ve got that settled, let’s meet the ladies. You and Sam will need to learn how to waltz, it’s a formal Ball, and the only dance they do is the waltz because of our Baptist roots. Luckily for you, Bert and I are old pros at the waltz, and we’d love to teach you two.”

    “Merci Beaucoup Doc.”

    They retired to the parlor, where Sam and Bert had cleared away the furniture, and had a CD playing waltz music. Ralph remembered hearing this music when he was a little kid, and it triggered some very happy memories. He was smiling when he walked up to Sam. She said “Hi Rafe, how you doing?” (Samantha was the only person he knew besides his mom that called him Rafe.) He smiled, and Sam gave him a big hug and a kiss. “I guess Doc told you we’re going to the ball.”

    “Feriez-vous l'honneur de m'accompagner &#224; la boule?”

    “Je serais monsieur honor&#233;!”

    Doc interrupted “Sam, I’m glad you’re helping Ralph with his Cajun, but Bert and I don't parlent fran&#231;ais.”

    “Doc. D&#233;sol&#233;.”

    “I’m guessing you’re saying you’re sorry - so Ralph did you ask her yet?”

    Ralph was laughing his head off, and decided to try it again in English.

    Once they were finished, the dancing lessons started. 2 hours later, they were both good waltz dancers, and were gliding across the floor with no stepped toes or accidental collisions. Sam liked the idea of Ralph holding her close, but not too close. She just hoped she would be this graceful with a formal Southern gown on. Bert explained all the layers of fabric involved with a Southern Belle’s formal dress; she hoped the air conditioning worked in the ball room.

    Two weeks later, it was the day of the Southern Plantation Ball. Doc Richards must have had some serious pull, because he got both Ralph and Sam 3 days off with pay. Ralph showed up 3 hours before the start of the ball, like they had planned, and got dressed at Doc and Bert’s house. Doc showed him a spare bedroom which was bigger than his entire apartment with a bathroom that was bigger than his bedroom. His suit was hanging in the closet still in the dry cleaner’s packaging. He got undressed and took a shower, then got into his suit. His shoes were recently polished, and gleamed like crystal. An hour before the ball, Sam then Bert walked down the grand staircase, but all Ralph saw was Sam, she was radiantly beautiful, just as he imagined she’d look on their wedding day.

    “Vous semblez enchanteur!”

    Sam was thinking he didn’t look to bad himself. She’d seen him in the Grey suit before, but something looked different. Maybe it was the look of love on his face. Sam knew right then and there that if Ralph asked her, she’d marry him in a heartbeat.

    He offered his arm, and she took his elbow with her white gloved hands. Doc offered his arm to Bert as she reached the bottom of the staircase, and Nelson held the limousine door open. Sam couldn’t figure out why, but Ralph appeared nervous to her. “Rafe, what’s the matter?”

    “Sorry Sam, I’m just looking forward to the Ball.”

    They talked on the trip in, and when they arrived at the ballroom, two liveried footmen opened the door of the limousine and helped everyone out. A doorman held the door, and the couples gave their tickets to another gentleman, who announced them as they entered the Grand Ballroom. They were escorted to their table then Doc and Ralph held the seats for Bert and Sam. Once everyone was seated, they started talking. Soon the music started, and the Master of Ceremonies announced that the Dance had started. Doc turned to Bert, and helped her out of her seat.

    Ralph turned to Samantha, and asked her in his best Ret Butler imitation “Miss Stone, would you do me the honor of this dance?”

    Playing Scarlet O’Hara to the hilt, Samantha fluttered her fan, then said “Why Mr. Lacombe, I would be delighted.”

    They giggled hysterically as he helped her out of her seat and escorted her to the dance floor. He carefully placed his right hand just below Sam’s left shoulder blade with his elbow bent, Sam placed her left arm gently on top of his, and Ralph extended his left hand, and she placed her gloved hand in his, then they started dancing a box step in the Classic Waltz or Closed position. They danced through several songs this way. Finally Samantha indicated she needed to sit down. After he helped Samantha to her seat, he surreptitiously removed a box from his right pocket, kneeled on his left knee, and held her hand in his.

    “Samantha Dear, will you marry me?”

    “Raphael Lacombe, I thought you’d never ask - Of course I will!”

    Ralph opened the box, and she extended her left hand, and he slipped the ring on her finger. He must have had some help, because the ring fit perfectly. Right as he got up off his knee, Samantha came up off her chair and planted a lip-lock on him. Bert coughed discretely behind them, and there stood Doc and Bert. “Doc, Bert, Raphael just asked me to marry him!”

    Doc said “We heard dear. Any idea when the wedding will be?”

    Samantha looked to Ralph, who said “The Bride picks the date.”

    Sam had less than 2 years to go, and Ralph still had his year in Louisiana to do. “How about 18 months from now, that will mean a June wedding, and Raphael should be back from Louisiana by then.”

    “Works for me Samantha. I can come home once or twice a month on weekends to see you when I’m in Louisiana.”

    “Rafe, you better get a cellular phone with a whole bunch of evening and weekend minutes that works were you’re going so you can call me at night!”

    Doc and Bert were overjoyed, Samantha had finally found her man. Doc told them “Sam, Ralph, you two need to see Reverend Whitaker to reserve the date, and make appointments for marriage counseling.”

    Since they had the next two days off, they could see Reverend Whitaker after Church Sunday. They spent the rest of the dance in each other’s arms. The rest of the evening was a blur to Ralph, since the only thing he remembered was looking into Sam’s face all night. She was glad Ralph was a good dancer, since she could tell his mind wasn’t on dancing. He just wanted to hold his fianc&#233;e

    “Je t'aime tellement Samantha !”

    “Merci vraiment monsieur!”

    When the dance ended past midnight, Doc offered Raphael the spare bedroom for the night, since he was sure that they would want to spend Saturday together. Ralph thanked Doc, and was amazed when they got home to find a set of PJs that were his size sitting on the bed when he went to bed.

    The next morning, Bert made breakfast for the 4 of them, and they were having an interesting conversation. “Rafe, what are we going to do about the wedding - I’ve got no family to speak of except Doc and Bert. I don’t even have someone to be my bridesmaid.”

    “I’m in the same boat Sam, All my relatives are dead, and my Mother is in a nursing home with advanced Alzheimer’s, she doesn’t even recognize me any more. The nursing home doesn’t want me to visit her anymore, all it does is upset her, since she doesn’t know who that strange man is in her room.”

    “I’m sorry Rafe. Do you know anyone at work?”

    “Never got close to anyone. How about your friend Ron Williams?”

    “We’d have to ask him. Doc, what do you think?”

    “It would be poetic and romantic - after all if Ron hadn’t been a Christian Gentleman, Samantha would never had made it here.”

    Samantha told Ralph the rest of the story from the beginning to the end. He really wanted to meet Ron - he didn’t know if he could spend a couple of weeks stranded with a beautiful woman like Samantha and keep his hands off her. Ralph understood why Ron was able to, because he believed it was wrong to have sex before marriage, and he agreed. He had a lot to thank Ron for. He saved her life at least twice, and then he sent her off the North Carolina instead of doing the selfish thing and keeping her there for himself. He knew that Ron was married with 4 kids, and he had an idea. “Sam, how about if Ron’s wife was your Matron of Honor?” Sam looked to Bert, who said “Don’t look at me - I’m the Mother of the Bride!” Sam had never met Nancy, but she was sure it would be OK, because she knew Ron would only marry someone who was as good as he was. Doc had their number in Allakaket, so Sam asked Doc to call Ron, and put the call on speaker phone. They retired to Doc’s library where the speaker phone was located.

    “Ron, this is Doc.”

    “Doc, how are you doing, everything OK?”

    “Ron, I’ve got great news for you - Sam’s getting married in 18 months. They’re here in the office on speaker phone, and they have a favor to ask you. By the way, Sam’s fianc&#233;e’s name is Raphael Lacombe, he’s from Louisiana, and an ER Resident at the hospital here at Chapel Hill North Carolina.”

    “Ron, it’s Ralph, I’ve never met you before, but we don’t have any close friends or family, so I wanted to ask if you and Nancy would be our Best Man and Matron of Honor.”

    “Raphael, don’t take this the way it sounds, but why us?”

    “Ok, here’s our thinking. You saved Sam’s life at least twice, and if it weren’t for you, she wouldn’t be here, so who better to stand in as a witness to our wedding. Sam has no relatives or close friends either, and since you would be flying here anyway to be in the wedding, we thought we could kill 2 birds with one stone and ask Nancy to be Sam’s Matron of Honor.”

    “OK, I’ll have to ask Nancy - the wedding is in 18 months, so you don’t need an answer right now, right?”

    Sam spoke up “Ron, we really want you there.”

    “If it were up to me, I’d say yes, but I can’t speak for Nancy. What if we call you this evening?”

    “OK, Ron - if we’re not here please leave a message. Bye!”

    “Sam, Ralph - before you say anything you might regret, remember Ron hasn’t seen you in almost 8 years, and Nancy has never met either of you. Give them some time.”

    “Thanks Doc, that was good advice.”

    “That’s what us old folks specialize in - giving advice.”

    Ron talked to Nancy, and she surprised him by saying, “Ron, of course I’d be honored to be Samantha’s Matron of honor. Let’s leave the kids with Mom, they’ll be fine, and we’ll have a mini-vacation.” Ron called his Mom, and she agreed to take the 4 kids for a week. Ron called Doc, and told Sam and Ralph they would love to stand up for their wedding. Ralph wasn’t used to the Midwestern term, and asked “Did you mean you will be our Best Man and Matron of Honor?”

    Ron replied “That’s what I said”, then started laughing when he realized exactly what he said. “Sorry Ralph, that’s a Midwestern colloquialism. Yes, we’d be honored. As soon as you set the date, let us know.”


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    State of Denial
    Chapter 25 - Business is Booming

    Ron talked to BA later that fall, and they were amazed at how much money Allakaket Airlines made. According to BA’s spreadsheets, they were in the black to the tune of $5 Million per year, and would pay off the new turbines and towers in under 5 years if everything remained stable. All their flights were booked all season, the Survival School’s classes were booked solid, and the mine doubled their production using the geothermal electrical power instead of helicopters. The Oil and timber companies needed heavy lift, and the mines weren’t using them as much, so Ron arranged a lease agreement that he thought was exorbitant, but the oil companies assured him was standard industry practice. He talked to Jim, the CH-47 pilot, who was reluctant to do it until Ron offered to double his salary for the duration of the lease agreement. Since his original salary was double what he made as a private contractor, Jim agreed. It meant being away from his family for a week at a time, but if the contract went as long as Ron expected it to, he could retire in 5 years or less, and just fly when he wanted to. The Super Stallion was leased to another company, and they offered to pay what Ron thought was an outlandish sum. Ron passed the increase on to the Super Stallion’s pilots and crew. Ron needed the money like he needed another head. Even with the increased salaries, he was making 2-3 times what he made before by using the helicopters at the mine. Once a month, the Ch-47 flew diesel fuel to the mine, but other than that, the two heavy-lift helicopters were busy full time with the oil and timber companies. Since the S-76 helicopters were armed, and could carry 3300 pounds each, they took over the monthly gold transport run to Anchorage. The S-
    76’s were much faster than the big heavy lift choppers, more maneuverable, armed, and had defensive flare and chaff pods installed. Ron was pleasantly surprised when he found out that the 2 Sikorsky helicopters could carry the whole load of gold between them, and were not only faster, but also used 1/3 of the fuel that the CH-47 used.

    The 2 Sikorsky pilots liked flying the Gold Runs as they called them, since they got to practice their High Threat flying tactics. Normally flying what amounted to a civilian executive chopper was about as exciting as watching concrete harden, but the Gold Run was valuable enough that they treated it like a mission inside Indian Country, and flew a staggered formation, and never flew the same route twice. They flew high enough to give them time to react to a missile launch, and out of the range of most AA guns. Normally they flew nap of the earth down in the weeds in a high-threat area, but in this case, the ground was where the threat was, and the higher they flew, the safer they were.

    Business in Allakaket itself was booming too, with 100% employment. Ron and BA kept the huge general store fully stocked, and charged far less than merchants in Anchorage did for the same goods, because they bought in huge quantities, and had a 10-year supply of non-perishable goods in stock in the huge warehouse. They had a multi-year supply of common OTC meds, and kept well stocked on perishables. While everyone else in the United States was practicing Just In Time inventory, their suppliers were scratching their heads with Allakaket General Store’s ordering practices. They made a ton of money, so they kept filling their orders, and gave them the best discount pricing available. BA realized that with as much ammo as they were going through for the range, they really needed an FFL to get the best prices for the quantities of ammo they were going through. So BA put in for the paperwork, and Allakaket General Store, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Allakaket Airlines, had an FFL, and bought ammo and firearms direct from the distributors. Ron almost fainted when he realized what the mark-up on firearms and ammo was. He told BA to sell the guns and ammo at just enough mark-up to cover their costs, including the storekeeper and warehouseman’s salary, and any other miscellaneous costs. Within a week, word spread through Allakaket that you could buy ammo and guns at the General Store for 50% of what everyone else charged. Ron restricted the pricing to employees and families only by requiring an Employee ID to shop at the General Store. For the few people in Allakaket who didn’t work for Allakaket Airlines or one of their subsidiaries, he issued a Residence card with the same privileges.

    BA pointed out the lodges ordered huge quantities of supplies each year, and if he charged them a membership fee to cover costs, plus shipping via Allakaket Airlines, they could easily grab all the supply business for the surrounding lodges by offering much lower prices. BA suggested an annual membership fee of $50.00, and reasonable shipping fees. The more Ron thought about it, the more he was interested in the idea. With the extra volume of the lodges, their buying volume would go up, and their cost per unit would go down. Also the delivery flights would add extra income even if it meant hiring 1 or 2 more pilots, and purchasing 2 more TurboGoose. He decided to call the 3 biggest lodges, and talk to the lodge managers. They had heard about the prices that the General Store was charging, and were definitely interested. They volunteered to pay $100 per year plus shipping for the kind of pricing they could get for the quantities of supplies they wanted. BA got back with their suppliers, and asked them point blank how much they would increase their discount if their volume went up 30%. Most said they would get an additional 10% discount in addition to their existing discount. BA asked them to put it in writing, and e-mail it to them. BA showed the quotes to Ron, and a spreadsheet showing what an additional 10% discount would do to their bottom line if they maintained their pricing, or dropped their pricing 5%. Realizing their pricing was already ridiculously low, he told BA to keep the 10% discount in reserve in case the lodges demanded an additional discount based on their volume. It turned out to be a smart move, since several of the larger lodges wanted a volume discount, so Ron offered all the lodges a sliding 10% discount based on volume. Ron got signed contracts from all the lodges in the area, and would start deliveries the start of next season. Ron told BA to go ahead an order the non-perishables with his next order, and the perishables just in time to have them in stock when the lodges ordered. BA realized that he needed to have the orders in hand before he ordered the perishables, since they had a shelf-life of maybe a week or two, and reminded Ron about that fact. Ron agreed, and told BA to do whatever he thought best.

    BA crunched the numbers, then called Alaska Airlines to ask Brad if they wanted any more service from Fairbanks or Anchorage. Brad said if they could add 1 or 2 flights per week during peak, it would help immensely. BA told Brad he was planning on ordering another TurboGoose, and it would be used to deliver goods to the lodges, and when it wasn’t making deliveries, it would be available to Alaska Airlines as a fill-in plane. Brad said he’d e-mail BA a tentative schedule, and BA thanked Brad then hung up. BA called Ron, gave him the good news, then Ron called the Maintenance Chief at Vancouver BC, and had him check and see if they had another suitable Grumman Goose. He said he had 5 left, the RCAF had seen how well the TurboGoose worked, and recalled some of them, and installed the Allison turboprops in them. He said the Director of Allison Engines wanted to talk to him real bad, so Ron called him next.

    “Gene, it’s Ron Williams at Allakaket Airlines.”

    “Ron, just the person I wanted to talk to - the RCAF is ordering the turboprop we built for you in huge quantities, and might even get Grumman to build new airframes. We owe Allakaket Airlines a 10% finder’s fee.”

    “Gene, I need two more turboprop engines - I’m having another TurboGoose built at Wing 19 of the RCAF base on Vancouver Island.”

    “Ron, that’s great, your finder’s fee just about equals our cost on 2 of those turboprops. How about I give you the engines instead of the fee?”

    “Works for me. I’ll have the Maintenance Chief get with you to coordinate the delivery schedule. I probably won’t need any more TurboGoose for the near future, so if there are any more finder’s fees due, a quarterly disbursement to Allakaket Airlines would be fine by us!”

    “OK Ron, nice doing business with you.”

    Ron called the maintenance chief, and asked him to prep an airframe for him, and to expect a call from the director of Allison Engines. Ron told him that this plane would be configured in the flexible cargo/passenger configuration.

    “Ron, you won’t believe this, but the RCAF contacted Grumman and asked them to build a slightly larger version of the Goose with a tail ramp. They want to use it for SAR or Special Forces. They’re talking about a fleet of 50-100 aircraft stationed across Canada. They’re talking about promoting me, so this is the last plane I’ll be able to build for you. Just as well, since we could only locate one airframe in the boneyard that was worth rebuilding. If you want the rest of the airframes for parts, let us know quick before they get shipped to the chop shop.”

    “How long do I have?”

    “ Maybe a week or two, they need the space for more aircraft.”

    “What kind of pricing can you give me?”

    “If you can take them all off our hands, I’ll give them to you!”

    “How much would you charge to strip all the useable parts off the airframes If I bought the lot. I could dispose of the airframes by dumping them in the ocean to form artificial reefs.”

    “If you could get the permit to dump the frames, we’d charge you $5,000 for the labor to strip the parts off the frames.”

    “Deal - I’ll get back to you in a week if I can work the details.”

    Ron contacted several people in the Governor’s office, and found out that if they could strip all military hardware including fuel tanks and hydraulics, they could dump the frames for free, the state would pay the transport costs. Ron told him the frames were in Vancouver BC. He said he’d have to get back to Ron, that added a complication. 2 days later, he called back and the guy said that they could do it, since the frames were scheduled for demolition anyway, and the Canadian Government didn’t want them. If he could get the frames to the port in Vancouver, they’d load them aboard a ship, and drop them in Alaskan waters where they’d do the most good. Ron called the maintenance chief back, and told him Alaska would take the stripped frames off them if they could deliver them to the dock. The chief said that they would have to transport them to the dock anyway, so they wouldn’t charge Ron for any transportation costs. Ron said if they could box up or palletize the parts to fit inside the TG, he’d pay them $5k for the parts when he picked up the TG. He gave the maintenance chief the phone number of Ron’s contact at the Governor’s office, and told him to use his name.

    A month later, Ron got a call from the RCAF maintenance chief, his TurboGoose was ready. Since his other pilots were busy, he said he’d pick it up personally tomorrow, and give them a check for the aircraft plus $5K for the parts they pulled. He asked Nancy if she wanted to fly to Vancouver tomorrow, and she said she needed to stay with the kids, besides it was the wrong time of the month to try and join the Mile High Club. Ron thought Nancy was a mind reader, then realized the last 2 times they had flown that route they had joined the Mile High Club, and discovered that Nancy just had a good memory. Ron would bring a good book to read, and he had some paperwork to catch up on. The next day he flew down to Vancouver, and took his relief pilot with him so Ron could fly the new plane back. The long flight was tedious and boring without Nancy with him, even if they didn’t join the Mile High Club, he still loved to have her around. She was definitely much nicer to look at than his scruffy-looking relief pilot. Ron thought he should have a word with BA about grooming standards. Once they landed at Vancouver, Ron handed the maintenance Chief a check, and they distributed the load of parts between the 2 TG’s. Ron was glad they brought a spare plane, because that quantity of parts would be almost too much for 1 TG, not by weight, but volume. He read a mystery novel on his way back, and landed back in Allakaket just before dark, and asked the Maintenance crew to unload his plane, and store the parts. The other TG arrived 15 minutes later, and the crew was busy unloading parts. To free up the planes, they off-loaded the planes, and would inventory and stock the parts later.

    Ron went home, gave Nancy a hug, and played with the kids. Jake and Josh were getting big, and Sarah was trying to walk. David was almost weaned, and Moose had his paws full trying to babysit the highly rambunctious toddlers. Once the kids were in bed, Ron and Nancy settled into bed for some “Quality Time”.

    Chapter 26 - RCAF

    A week later, Ron got a phone call. When he answered the phone, a Colonel Sandberg from the RCAF was asking for him. When he came on the line, the Colonel introduced himself.

    “Ron Williams, Colonel Sandberg RCAF. May I have a minute of your time?”

    “Yes Sir Colonel.”

    “I’ve been talking to Maintenance Chief Nichols of the RCAF 19 Wing AMS, who told me you own the 8 Grumman Goose upgrades that are being flown by Allakaket Airlines.”

    “Yes Sir, is there a problem?”

    No Ron, nothing of the sort. It seems that you’ve stumbled onto an excellent idea, and the RCAF is looking into having Grumman build a modern version of the Goose with a tail ramp and Allison Turboprops. We’d like your expertise working as a consultant to the design team, since you’ve been flying them for the last couple of years, and could probably suggest a couple of improvements. Also, we wanted to borrow a TurboGoose if I remember correctly, that’s what you call the upgraded Goose, so we can study it. We would need a week or so in Vancouver. If you like, we’ll pay for a really nice hotel in Vancouver for you and your wife, and you can make a holiday of it. On top of your expenses, and let’s say a $100,000 dollar consulting fee.”

    “Colonel, I’ve got a couple of questions. I’m not familiar with Canadian firearms laws, but my wife and I have a Federal CCW issued by General Shepard at MacDill, and I wanted to be able to carry concealed in Canada during our stay.”

    “Not a problem, I’ll call the head of the RCMP in Vancouver, and he’ll issue the appropriate licenses. Just use your Federal CCW for ID if anyone stops you, and the computer will show the appropriate Canadian clearances.”

    “Great, also will my American Express card work OK in Canada?”

    Colonel Sandberg was laughing his head off “Sorry about that Ron, yes, your American Express works perfectly. Prices might be in Canadian Dollars, but most shopkeepers are used to dealing with tourists, and will let you know what the price in US Dollars is.”

    “Thanks Colonel, when do you need us?”

    “Today’s Friday, how about Monday morning?”

    “Would you mind if we flew in early, say Sunday Morning, could you put us up for another night?”

    “Not a problem, being able to examine your TurboGoose and talk to you will save the Government Millions of dollars in R&D costs writing the specifications.”

    “Ok, Colonel. We’ll be arriving Sunday afternoon at Wing 19, could you have a car waiting to transport us to the Hotel, and e-mail me a reservation for a nice hotel starting Sunday for as long as you think you’ll need us.”

    Ron gave the RCAF Colonel his e-mail address, and 15 minutes later, a reservation for the Wedgewood Hotel in downtown Vancouver BC appeared in his e-mail. The payee was listed as Col. Sandberg RCAF, and was good for 9 days starting Sunday. Ron looked up the Wedgewood suite listed on the reservation, and it listed for over $300 USD per night, not too shabby! He found Nancy and told her, then called his Mom, and asked her if she could come over early Sunday morning and babysit the kids for a week or so. Anne asked him what they were up to this time, so Ron told her the RCAF was thinking of buying an upgraded and modernized Goose from Grumman Aircraft, and they wanted him and Nancy in Vancouver for a week with a TurboGoose so they could check it out. They had already e-mailed a reservation at the Wedgewood Hotel in downtown Vancouver BC. Anne said she’d call Doc Miller, but she didn’t see any problem, since most of the time they sat there and waited for patients that never came. She could be there at 7:00am Sunday Morning. Ron said “See you then Mom, Love you!”

    “Love you too son, bye!”

    “Nancy, everything’s set, Mom will watch the kids for a week. We need to pack, and make sure you pack my suit and a nice dress for you - they dress up for dinner at this hotel!”

    Nancy was glad that money wasn’t a problem, since she always wanted to shop in Vancouver. She hoped Ron would have a couple of extra days for sight-seeing, since the city was a sight-seeing extravaganza. She logged onto the internet and made a list of the things she wanted to see, and places she wanted to shop. She was hoping that they could make this a kind of second honeymoon, and this time actually make it out of the bedroom. Ron told her to pack her P-14 and make sure she had her CCW. She packed her DeSantis leather handbag with the gun holster built into a secret compartment. She knew the Canadian Government was fairly anti-gun, and wondered how Ron had arranged permits for them to go armed in Canada. “Must be nice to have connections”, she thought. She packed lightly for her, and only brought 3 suitcases. Ron had 1 suitcase and his garment bag containing his suit, ties, and shoes. Ron wondered why women always packed too many clothes. They spent the next couple of days spending as much time with the kids as possible, and Sunday morning came sooner than they expected. They made breakfast, fed the kids and the dog, and right as they finished, the doorbell rang. Ron noted approvingly that Anne only had 1 small suitcase. He decided that mentioning that fact to Nancy wouldn’t get him any brownie points, so he helped his mom get settled in her room. With the new room addition, and the 4 kids, they had enough room to give Anne her own room to stay in when she visited, and they left it arranged the way she liked it. Anne knew the kids' routine cold, so there was no need for long-winded instructions. They kissed the kids goodbye, gave Anne a hug and a kiss, loaded the truck, and drove to the airport.

    His personal TurboGoose was already prepped and the turbines were idling when they pulled up. Ron thought he could get used to this, and climbed aboard. He was glad that Nancy was flying right seat again. He really missed her on his last couple of trips to Vancouver. He didn’t bring up the subject of the Mile High Club, but secretly hoped she would. Between the two of them, they got the plane pre-flighted in record time, and Nancy entered the coordinates for the 19 Wing airfield in Vancouver BC into the Navigation computer while Ron got take-off clearance and set the plane up for take-off. By the time they reached the end of the lake, they were ready to fly, and Ron asked Nancy if she wanted to take-off. Her ear-to-ear grin told him everything, and he said “Copilot’s plane”. She shoved the throttles to the stops, and performed her first max-performance take-off. Once they were at 500 ft AGL, she pushed the nose slightly forward, and reduced the throttle settings to a more sedate climb, since they had a long way to go. She turned toward Vancouver; made sure the nav computer had the right coordinates, and activated the auto-pilot. She turned to Ron and said two words “Race You!” She was glad Ron had thought ahead and removed the seats. Ron understood why she had so many suitcases when she opened one and produced a Bear skin rug, then got undressed. A couple of hours later, Ron got up to check that they were still on course. The Nav computer said they still had 2 more hours to go, so he went back and joined Nancy on the bearskin rug.

    “Nancy, I’m glad I didn’t tease you about the extra suitcases.”

    Nancy decided that now would be a good time for a tickle fight. When they were finished, Ron looked at his watch, and realized they needed to get dressed; he needed to check in with Vancouver ATC in 15 minutes. He got dressed as quickly as he could, staggered into the pilot’s seat, and put on his headset. "Allakaket Airlines calling Vancouver Control.”

    “Control, go ahead Allakaket.”

    “Entering outer boundary en route to Wing 19. Request vector and landing instructions.”

    “Roger Allakaket Airlines, wait one.”

    2 minutes later the controller came back on. “Allakaket Airlines, maintain heading and altitude until within 10 miles, then turn left to heading 85E and descend to 2,000 ft. At 1 mile descend to 500AGL and call approach.”

    “Roger Control, turn to 85E at 10 miles and descend to 2,000 ft. Descend to 500 at 1 mile and call approach.”

    “Confirmed Allakaket. Transferring to Wing 19 Controller, have a nice day.”

    “Thanks Vancouver Control.”

    It took Nancy a little longer to get dressed, and she sat in her seat right after Ron got off the air. Since the autopilot was still engaged, he leaned over and gave her a very passionate kiss. Nancy returned the favor, and 5 minutes later, Ron realized he had a plane to fly. He checked the nav computer, and they were still 20 minutes out. 10 minutes later, he turned off the autopilot, turned to 85 degrees east, and descended to 2,000 feet. He had 9 miles to lose 8,000 feet, so he pushed the nose over until he was satisfied with the rate of descent. At the 1-mile marker, he was at 500AGL, and called the tower as soon as he spotted the runway. “Wing 19, this is Allakaket Airlines on Final.”

    “Roger, pattern is clear, come straight in. Follow the follow-me truck to parking spot when you reach the end of the runway.”

    “Roger control”

    Ron landed the plane, and taxied to the end of the runway where he was met by a “follow-me” truck. He followed it to a parking space near the 19 Wing AMS hangar. Chief Nichols was waiting for them, and there was a government sedan next to him with a driver. They unloaded the aircraft, and Chief Nichols shook both their hands, and told Ron to be back at the base at 0900 Monday, and handed him a pass to get back on the base. “The driver knows where the hotel is, and will meet you out front at 0830 sharp Monday morning.”

    “Thanks Chief Nichols.”

    They got into the sedan and drove to the hotel. It was even more elegant in person than the internet images. A bellhop took their bags, and they showed their reservation to the desk clerk, and they were treated like royalty. Another bell hop carried their bags up to the room, and turned around and left without waiting for a tip. Ron thought that was strange, but didn’t comment. Nancy said she needed a shower, and when she saw how big it was, she asked Ron if he wanted to join her. After taking the longest and most enjoyable shower in his life. Ron got dressed, and asked Nancy what she wanted to do with the rest of the afternoon, hopefully outside the bedroom. Nancy had a list, and picked the thing that she wanted to do the most, and thankfully it was open on Sunday. Stanley Park would be a great place to spend a Sunday afternoon. They called the front desk, and one of the Hotel vans would drop them off at Stanley Park, and could pick them up later that evening. For a nominal fee, they could take the Stanley park shuttle around the park, and get off at the various points of interest and back on all day.

    They spent the day at the park, checking out the gardens, the miniature railroad, totem park, and the Variety Kids Farmland. Ron was in awe of what he saw at the park, since he had never seen most of these animals and plants up close and personal. Nancy realized they hadn’t bought a camera, and they bought a disposable camera to get stuff on film. Ron decided after using the disposable that he’d rather have a full-featured camera with some serious capabilities. Ron had never seen a peacock before, and when it spread it’s tail feathers, Ron was stunned by it’s beauty, and took several pictures. Ron’s stomach reminded him that it was time to eat, and someone suggested The Teahouse Restaurant, saying it was the most romantic restaurant in Stanley Park. It was also one of the more expensive, but Ron had his American Express Card. They ordered the mushrooms stuffed with crab, and skipped the entree since they were going to eat dinner at the Bacchus, which was the famous restaurant downstairs at the Wedgewood Hotel. They had dinner reservations for 6:00 and didn’t want to ruin their appetite.

    They spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Stanley Park, and called it a day at 4:30 so they would have time to get back to the hotel, shower and change, and be downstairs for their 6:00 dinner reservation. The Stanley Park Shuttle dropped them off at the same point where the van picked them up, and it was sitting there waiting. The driver explained he drove a route all day back and forth, but it beat driving a cab. They got back to the hotel in plenty of time, and got a quick shower and got dressed for dinner. Ron wore a suit and tie, and Nancy wore a conservative dress. As soon as they came off the elevator, they walked maybe 10 steps to the door of the Bacchus. The Matre de asked for their name, and seated them a minute later at one of their choice tables. Nancy leaned over and told Ron “Nice table, trying to earn brownie points?”

    Ron swore he had nothing to do with the seating assignment or the first class treatment they got at the hotel. Ron looked at the menu, and hoped the food was worth it. He’d never spent that much on a meal in his life! Ron ordered the Applewood Smoked Wild British Columbia Salmon appetizer, and Nancy ordered the Bacchus Tasting of Seafood appetizer, they both ordered the Wild Mushroom soup, Since Salmon and other fish were nothing new to Ron, they both ordered the Bacchus Duo of Lamb entr&#233;e which consisted of oven roasted rack of lamb with olive crust, peppered sirloin of lamb, boulang&#232;re potatoes, and garlic mint jus. The waiter recommended the house wine with dinner. Since neither of them were big drinkers, they ordered one glass of wine each. With all the different foods they were eating, the waiter suggested a mildly sweet Rosé. 5 minutes after their order was taken, the appetizers arrived. The service was nothing but fast. People must dine later around Vancouver, because they had the restaurant practically to themselves, which was OK with them. Ron thought the smoked Salmon was excellent, and took a sip of wine, which blended nicely with the fish, Nancy’s Seafood wasn’t what she expected, then she realized that it was a French Restaurant, which explained the sauce on the fish. She hoped the Lamb would be better.

    Once they were finished, the waiter brought out the next course, and Ron really liked the wild mushroom soup. Nancy liked it too, but thought it was too bland for her taste, and when the waiter turned his back, she sprinkled some salt and pepper on it. Later when they finished the soup, the Lamb was ready. It was everything they expected, the rack was a prefect medium rare, the sirloin was tender, and the potatoes were crisp yet spicy. The Garlic Mint sauce was perfect on the lamb. Overall, they were pleased with dinner. The waiter gave them another glass of wine with the check, on the house, and Ron pulled out his American Express, looked at the bill, added 20% to the bill for excellent service, and signed the receipt. The waiter was back in a minute with his card and his receipt. Ron thought he might be able to deduct this meal after all, since they were on a business trip, and Nancy was an officer in the company. Ron helped Nancy out of her chair, and they walked to the elevator, and up to their room. Ron discovered they had a balcony view, and Nancy joined him out there to enjoy the city lights.

    “Ron thanks for everything. I had a wonderful day, just spending it with you. I know you’re going to be busy the rest of the week, and I have some shopping to do, but I’ll try and locate some nice places for dinner. Try and call me in the afternoon, and if I’m not in, please leave a message. I’ll try to be back to the hotel before 5:00 each day, so we can go to dinner somewhere.” Nancy gave Ron a big hug and a kiss, then said “Race You!”

    Ron got up the next morning, and they ate breakfast in the restaurant. Ron almost choked at the prices, and thought “I wonder if there’s a Denny’s around here?” Since he was hungry, he ordered the Corned Beef, Mushroom and Potato hash for $12.25. Nancy ordered the two-egg and ham omelette with hash browns and toast for $12.50 - Ron thought that shopping must be hard work! He paid the bill when they were done eating, and kissed Nancy goodbye. The car and driver was waiting to take him to the base. Nancy got in a cab, and told the driver the shopping mall she wanted to go to first.

    Ron talked to the driver on the way in, and there was a Denny’s just a block or two away from the hotel. He gave Ron directions to it in case they wanted to eat breakfast there from now on. Ron showed his pass at the gate, and was waved in. They drove right up to the AMS hangar, and Ron hadn’t seen that much brass in a long time. Chief Nichols introduced Ron around, and the Tech-reps from Northrop Grumman and Allison were both there, as well as several Aviation Design Engineers from NG, and an Engine Design Engineer from Allison. Colonel Sandberg was standing next to a 3-star General named Glasgow, who was in charge of the RCAF. With the introductions done, Colonel Sandberg walked Ron away from the crowd for a second. “Ron how do you like the hotel?”

    “I love it, but I hope the Government can afford it?”

    “It’s not costing the government a cent, my Grandparents own the hotel, and I comp senior RCAF officers there all the time. They write it off as donation to the government. What do you think of the Bacchus?”

    “I love their dinners, but breakfast is a tad pricey.”

    “Sorry Ron, I forgot to tell you, when we comp someone, not only is the room free, but food and a limited selection of wine. You can order anything on the menu for free.”

    “I don’t want to take advantage of your hospitality.”

    “You’re not, like I said the hotel writes the expenses off their taxes, just like you write your meals off your corporate taxes. All you need to do is write your room number on your receipt from now on. We include a gratuity in all bills, but if you feel the service was exceptional, you can authorize up to an additional 10%.”

    “You do that on all your bills?”

    Yes, why?”

    “That waiter will be real glad to see us tonight; I tipped an extra 20% without knowing you’d already included the tip in the bill.”

    “I wonder how many other Americans that has happened to, maybe we should include a note on the bill form that a 15% gratuity is already included.”

    “Might not be a bad idea. Thanks for letting me know.”

    Chief Nichols walked up to Ron. “Ron, I forgot to tell you, as part of the process of showing the engineers everything, we’ll have to remove a bunch of panels and replace them.”

    “Chief, as long as your mechanics do the work in such a way so the aircraft is as good as new when she goes back together - go for it!”

    Chief Nichols walked everyone over to Ron’s TurboGoose, and explained the history of the aircraft, and what they had done to it. He was constantly interrupted by the engineers with technical questions, some of which he deferred until later when they had the aircraft open and could show them. Once they were inside the aircraft, and the Grumman reps realized that the only things this aircraft had in common with a NG Goose was the airframe and the skin, they started paying attention and asking lots of questions. The thing that really amazed them were the engine mounts that allowed a larger turboprop engine to be mated to an aircraft designed for smaller radial Wasp engines. They were talking vectors, thrust, loads, etc. Finally Ron explained it in English. “Gentlemen, the way I see it, the original designers overbuilt the aircraft since they knew it could see combat. Civilian flying is much more sedate, so the plane never sees the loads on the airframe that it was designed for; Turboprops aren’t nearly as torquey as a radial piston engine, so the mounts don’t have to stand the huge torque values. Therefore it could handle a much bigger motor, and the mounts fit. The only torques on the system come from the propeller, and the same forces were present with the Wasp engines.”

    General Glasgow was glad Ron was here, and was sure he would earn his fee; he could translate what the eggheads were saying into simple English sentences. Ron could tell the NG Engineers' favorite phrase must have been “What the Hell?”, because every time they showed them something new, they repeated it like a mantra.

    After a long day of show and tell, NG said they could build the new plane for $1.5 million a copy. Ron pointed out that his plane only cost $250K each using a surplus frame, and it didn’t cost &#190; of a million dollars to design and install a tail ramp. They huddled and came back with another idea. “If we can use off the shelf parts, and most of the existing NG frame section design, we could do it for $750,000.00 per copy.”

    Ron spoke up, “Gentlemen, with all due respect, that’s BS! Why not charge a fixed R&D cost for what it costs to design the new aircraft using as much of the original design as possible, then a per-plane cost to build them. If anyone else buys some of these planes, charge them a percentage of the R&D costs, and rebate it back to the RCAF.”

    The senior Tech Rep said “Mr. Williams, that’s not the way it’s done!”

    “Sir, I’ve already bought 8 airframes and had them retrofitted. I’m sure there are a bunch of Goose airframes out there that could be remodeled and have the Allison engines installed. Northrop-Grumman could lose this entire contract by being greedy - it’s not worth half a mill per plane to get a loading ramp!”

    The tech-reps said they would have to talk to their superiors, and they would get back to them tomorrow. With that the meeting adjourned early. General Glasgow took Ron aside, and said “Son, I like the way you negotiate - if you pull this off, you definitely earned your fee, and if not, you still earned it if we can locate all those airframes before Grumman does and scraps them so we can’t rebuild them. I’ve got a few phone calls to make to make sure the US planes don’t get scrapped. I’ve got it, I’ll put a bid on them, which will pressure Grumman to play ball or lose the entire contract, because Allison doesn’t care whom they sell engines to.”

    Once the General was finished, Col. Sandberg and Chief Nichols approached him. “Looks like we’ve got the rest of the day off. By the way, thanks - those guys have been ripping off the RCAF for decades.”

    “I just don’t agree with the way they do business. Designing planes is a cost of doing business. They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with highway robbery just because they’re the only game in town. I’m halfway tempted to hire their engineers away from them and start my own company.”

    “Wouldn’t work - they own all the politicians who make all the decisions.”

    Ron shook his head, he’d heard about the level of corruption in Military procurement, and now he had first hand knowledge of it. Those tech reps quoted $1.5 Million per plane as if they expected to get it!

    The General came back 5 minutes later with a huge grin on his face. “Ron, we did it! I called the bone yard in Arizona and locked up all the Grumman Goose Airframes they had for salvage prices. When Grumman gets wind of this, they’ll have to play ball, because like you pointed out, it’s not worth $500 thousand just to get a loading ramp!” Ron saw the General had a cell phone and asked to borrow it. He called the Hotel, and left a message since Nancy was out. He handed the cell phone back to the General, and told Chief Nichols “The wife’s out shopping, so I’ve got the rest of the afternoon free until 4:00pm, any suggestions?”

    Chief Nichols suggested they retire to the Base Pub. He said they had a bunch of dartboards, and he could teach Ron to throw darts. Their favorite game was Cricket. Ron said “After you!” and they all piled into the General’s vehicle. Within an hour, Chief Nichols was swearing that Ron was sandbagging them when he said he never played before. He could put all 3 darts in the triple ring regularly enough to beat the club champion half the time. Finally the General got curious and asked Ron what his vision was.

    “The last time it was tested it was 20/17.”

    The General knew that his best pilots were also excellent dart throwers, but the best dart throwers were his sharpshooters.

    “Ron, you done any real long-distance shooting?”

    “Sorry General, but I can’t talk about that. But I can tell you if you want to know, you need to ask General Shepard.”

    Everyone with the exception of Chief Nichols either knew or knew of General Shepard, the JSOC at MacDill AFB. They realized that Ron was involved in a Classified Project, and couldn’t talk about it. Since he didn’t mention whether he shot long-distance, it probably involved long-distance shooting. Col. Sandberg knew that Ron had a Federal CCW, and they were very difficult to get, so whatever he was doing was classified enough that the Air Force thought he needed to be armed at all times.

    Ron used the club phone to call at 4:00 and Nancy was back from shopping. Ron asked her if she could make another reservation at Bacchus for 6:00 that night, and he’d explain later. He asked Chief Nichols if the car and driver were handy, since he needed to go home. General Glasgow volunteered to drive Ron home since he was staying at the Wedgewood Hotel as well. He could drive him back as well in the morning. Ron accepted, since he decided that he liked the General, and he was one of the good guys. The only thing the general drank all afternoon in the Club was either Soda or Coffee, so he was sober as a judge. Ron shook hands with Chief Nichols and Col. Sandberg, and left with the General. Once they were in his car, the General told Ron that he and General Shepard went way back.

    “Ok General, then you know I can’t talk about the project without prior clearance.”

    “Understood, if I need to ask you anything classified, I’ll get General Shepard’s permission via e-mail.”

    “I’m glad you understand General.”

    They drove quietly to the hotel parking lot, and the General said that he’d see Ron at 0830 tomorrow unless he called first. Ron gave him his room number so he could call, then they said goodbye. Ron took the elevator to the 15th floor, and knocked on the door, then inserted his card into the electronic lock. There was a pile of stuff in the corner that wasn’t there before, and Nancy was lying dressed on the bed, taking a quick nap. Ron joined her, and gave her a quick kiss. Around 5:00 they got up took showers and got dressed for dinner. Ron felt better about dinner tonight since he wasn’t paying for it. On the way down, Ron explained to Nancy that the room, meals, and drinks were comped by the hotel, since Col. Sandberg’s grandparents owned the hotel, and wrote the bill off as donations to the government. She felt much better ordering the food she wanted, and ordered the Spice Roasted Atlantic Lobster Tail appetizer. Ron ordered the lobster tail too. They both ordered the mushroom soup, and the lamb. Ron had never eaten lamb before and was pretty sure he wouldn’t get the opportunity again. 10 minutes after they ordered, the lobster tail was brought out, along with a half-carafe of the house Rosé. Ron didn’t order the wine, but remembered he wasn’t paying for it anyway, so he poured Nancy a glass, then himself. When they finished the lobster tail, the plates were cleared, and the soup brought out. This time Nancy thought the soup was much better, and didn’t need to season it. Finally their rack of lamb was brought out. Good thing they didn’t eat lunch, or they wouldn’t have been able to eat the lamb. After dinner, Ron signed his receipt exactly as Col. Sandberg had told him to, by writing his room number on the bill. 2 minutes later, the waiter and the Matre de were at their table. The Matre de’s manner bordered on groveling. “Excuse me, Mr. Williams. Last night we didn’t know you were guests of the hotel, and you bill was comped by Colonel Sandberg. If you wish, we can issue a credit card refund.”

    “I wasn’t going to say anything about it because I didn’t know until today the entire bill was comped. If you wish to issue a refund, I’ll accept it, but let me give the waiter a $20 tip for his excellent service last night, and his honesty for pointing it out to you.”

    “Sir, there is already a 15% gratuity built into the bill.”

    “Yes, I know, but honesty like that should be rewarded. Could you issue a refund less the $20 tip instead of trying to exchange US dollars for Canadian dollars?”

    “Yes sir, I can do that if you wish.”

    “Thank you.”

    2 minutes later, a credit receipt for last night’s bill, less the $20 tip Ron had authorized was presented to them. Ron stood, helped Nancy out of her seat, and walked out of the restaurant door. The Matre de held the door, still bowing and scraping. When they got up to their room, they couldn’t stand it any longer, and laughed themselves silly. The “Royal Treatment” they were getting was a bit over the top.

    They ate breakfast in the hotel restaurant the next morning, and Ron met General Glasgow at his car at 0830. He handed Ron a copy of an e-mail authorizing Ron to discuss the details of the projects with General Glasgow RCAF. Ron handed the copy back to the general, since the note in of itself was classified, and he had no means to dispose of it properly. He explained the Barretts project and the Robo-Gun project to the general on the drive in. The general was really impressed. He also understood why Ron kicked everyone’s butts at darts. His vision and eye-hand coordination was on par with his best pilots and sharpshooters. He was intrigued by the Bradley project, since the Canadian Military used the Bradley as well. Ron told him that he’d have to ask General Shepard about the details, since he was only involved in the T&E project. When he told the General how accurate the new gun was, he knew that the Canadian Military would want to order a bunch as well, if the Americans made it available to them. Canada had a sweet deal with American military suppliers that allowed them to buy the same equipment as the US Military instead of the export version like Mexico had to. He hoped that they would extend the agreement to include the new and improved Bradley. He was having difficulty imagining a vehicle that could take out lightly armored vehicles at over 2 miles that was mobile and capable of rapidly engaging targets out to a mile, or out to &#189; a mile while moving. As soon as they were finished, he had to get hold of General Shepard and get the details. This was even more important that the Goose project.

    When they got to the AMS hangar, Chief Nichols was waiting for them. “General, good news - Northrop Grumman Aircraft agreed to our terms. They said it would cost between 1 and 2 million in R&D costs, and each plane would cost $500,000.00 including a tail ramp and the Allison engines.” The general thought this was a good idea, since they were only going to order 100 planes. Their original quote of $1.5 Million per copy would mean a cost of $150 Million for 100 copies. Their revised quote of $750 thousand per copy meant a cost of $75 million for 100 copies. Their latest quote of $500,000.00 each plus $2 Million in R&D costs dropped the price for 100 planes to $52 million or less than 2/3 the cost of their previous quote. Word of their purchase of the airframes must have made them re-think their position. The best part was it only cost the Canadian Government $100,000.00 to purchase over 200 Grumman Goose airframes at scrap prices. That was the best $100,000.00 he had ever spent, since it saved the Government over $23 million. The engineers wanted to take a closer look at Ron’s TurboGoose, and take measurements. They would need the plane for the rest of the week, but wouldn’t need Ron after today. Ron suggested the RCAF contact hospitals in Alaska and Canada that used Life Flight, and advise them of the new aircraft. He personally knew of a hospital in Anchorage would buy 2 of them at that price. The General’s aide was taking notes like crazy, if even half the hospitals in Canada and Alaska ordered the new Goose, the RCAF could recoup most of their R&D costs with rebates from other purchasers. The General thought Ron was a gold mine of information. He had already saved the Canadian Government 30 some odd million dollars, now his advice was going to save them even more, and make NG happy with a larger order. Also his information about the new Bradley would be worth its weight in gold if it panned out. Later that afternoon, the engineers had asked Ron all the questions they needed answered, mostly about flight performance, landing and take-off speeds, and other technical stuff. They almost had puppies when Ron explained how good the plane’s STOL capability was with the new reversible-pitch turboprops. His reported minimum waterborne landing length was &#188; of what the listed minimum landing length of the original Goose, and his minimum take-off was half of the minimum listed take-off. His rate of climb figures had to be exaggerated, but Chief Nichols vouched for the rate of climb, since he was flying right seat during the original tests they flew before Ron took possession of the rebuild TurboGoose. They actually got even better rates of climb in testing, but they were very lightly loaded, with a quarter tank of JP-5. The Allison engineer said “Wait a minute; we designed that engine for JP-4!”

    Chief Nichols explained that JP-4 was rarely available, and JP-5 was practically identical and safer since it had a higher flashpoint in storage due to additives the Navy added to the fuel. The engineer agreed that JP-5 would work just fine when he checked his laptop computer. Once they were finished with Ron, he called the hotel, and Nancy had just gotten back from shopping “Nancy, I’ve got the rest of the week off. They need the plane for the rest of the week, so we can go sightseeing. Can you book a reservation at the restaurant tonight, and we’ll go sightseeing tomorrow.” Colonel Sandberg overheard him, and asked him if they wanted to use the hotel limousine for the rest of the week. The hotel owned a fleet of limousines for driving VIP’s around, and he knew that only half of them were busy since it wasn’t the peak of the tourist season. Ron thought the limousine was too much, but it sure beat cabs, so he agreed. General Glasgow drove him back to the hotel, since he was finished as well, and was going to fly home tomorrow.

    Chapter 27 - The Goose is Loose

    They spent the rest of the week in Vancouver shopping and sightseeing. One of Ron’s first purchases was a very good digital camera. He liked the idea of not having to develop film, since he was a 4-hour plane ride from the nearest photo shop. Nancy found a Ritz Camera shop at the first mall she stopped at the other day, and spent an hour with the owner comparing cameras. When he learned they lived in Rural Alaska, and were computer savvy, he suggested a fully digital camera. Even though they were more expensive, he recommended the Minolta Dimage Z1 or Z2. The Z1 was older, and about $100 cheaper, but the Z2 had a better lens, and higher resolution. She brought Ron back the next day when he was finished working, and he decided that the Z2 was worth the extra money. He got the 512MB memory card, 2 sets of NiMh batteries, and a speed charger. The camera included the case, cable to connect to his computer, and in case the 512MB memory card ever went bad, the store owner included the 64MB memory card instead of retaining it like he normally did. He had a set of 4 NiMh AA batteries fully charged just in case they came back, and installed the 1st set in the camera, and packaged the second set with the charger. He told Ron that even in Fine mode; the 512MB chip would hold as many images as he could shoot over a week easily. Ron debated buying a tripod, since it was just something else to carry. The owner showed him a lightweight aluminum tripod with a fluid head and pistol grip that was the same price as some of his other tripods. He explained the benefits of a fluid head and the pistol grip, then showed Ron how he could hang the camera case from the yoke of the tripod to make it act like a much heavier tripod. Then he threw in the kicker - he’d include a $30.00 cable release with the tripod that would totally eliminate camera shake on long exposures, and with a 25 foot cable, would allow him to get in the shot without using the self-timer. That sold Ron, so he bought the whole shooting match. The owner told him his total was $700.00 USD. Ron handed him his American Express card, and was the proud owner of a camera that was smarter than he was, at least that’s what he told Nancy on the way home.

    He spent the rest of the afternoon reading the owner’s manual, and charging the other set of batteries. The next day, Ron suggested they re-visit the Stanley Park, since he wanted to get pictures of some stuff there with his digital camera. Ron was amazed at how light the camera and case was, and Nancy volunteered to carry the tripod. When they got back to the hotel that night, she swore that Ron took a picture of every flower in the garden. Ron laughed and said he thought he might have missed a few of them. After dinner, they relaxed and planned what they wanted to do the next day. Nancy mentioned a Planetarium and a few other sights she wanted to see. Ron asked Nancy if she was interested in walking on a famous suspension bridge that was 150 feet in the air. Nancy said she would take a pass, since she was afraid of heights. Ron looked at her funny, and she explained that it was different inside an airplane, since you were enclosed instead of out in the open. It wasn’t the height that scared her, it was a fear of falling.

    That evening when they came back from sightseeing there was a note from General Glasgow that the RCAF signed a contract for 100 of the new upgraded NG Goose they were calling The SuperGoose to differentiate it from Ron’s creation, the TurboGoose. Ron called the number on the message card, and General Glasgow was effusive in his praise. Not only did NG Aircraft sign the contract for 100 SuperGoose aircraft at $500,000.00 each, they reduced the R&D cost to $1 Million when they received orders for an additional 100 SuperGoose from Life Flight companies across Alaska and Canada, and the lower 48. Some of the northern tier states had spots that only a STOL Amphibian could get into, and they wanted the SuperGoose for SAR and Medevac. He told Ron that the Canadian Government would offer him a choice of the first SuperGoose produced, or a check for $500,000.00 Knowing that the first SuperGoose produced would be a collector’s item some day, he took the SuperGoose. General Glasgow said that it would take 6 months to a year to start producing production SuperGoose planes, and that NG might be interested in him doing a T&E on the aircraft. Ron was tempted to say no, he wasn’t a test pilot, and told the General so. He reassured Ron that the plane would be thoroughly tested before they let a civilian behind the controls, and they just wanted to make sure that Ron was happy with the flight characteristics, and that it measured up to his TurboGoose. Ron thought that would be fun, so he told the General if NG needed or wanted him to do a T&E on the final prototype, he’d do it for them.

    Finally, they were finished with Ron’s TurboGoose, and the RCAF not only put the TurboGoose back together better than they found it, they also performed the scheduled maintenance inspection on the plane’s airframe and turbines while they had it apart, saving Ron at least $10,000.00 that the FAA inspection cost. It wasn’t due for another 90 days, but since they had it apart already, it was no extra labor to inspect it while it was apart. What they found surprised them. The airframe was in as good a shape as when it was rebuilt several years ago, and the turbines looked practically brand new. Chief Nichols thought that whoever was doing the routine maintenance on that airplane knew what they were doing, and was a stickler for details. Chief Nichols told Ron the plane was ready, and they checked out of the hotel the next morning, and received a limousine ride to the RCAF airbase, and a ride in Chief Nichols’ Hummer to the TurboGoose. Ron did a walk around, and there wasn’t a spot of oil or dirt visible anywhere on the fuselage. The fuel tanks were full, including the APU unit. Ron thanked Chief Nichols, and they boarded the aircraft, started the turbines, and preflighted the plane. Once everything was good to go, they called the tower, received permission to take off, and taxied to the runway. Ron took the controls this time, and they were winging home to Allakaket. They skipped the Mile High Club this time, and just talked for the whole flight home. Nancy was amazed that the RCAF would put them up in a swanky hotel for a week and pay them $600,000.00 on top of if for a few days work. Ron told her the joke about the guy that hit the machine with a hammer and billed the company $5,000 dollars as an explanation. “This company had a generator that wouldn’t work, and everyone told them to call this guy who really knew his stuff. Finally in desperation, they called him. He drove out, took out a hammer, and tapped the generator, which started running like a top. They were very upset when he sent them a bill for $5,000 for the repair, after all he had only been there a minute. They told him they wanted an itemized bill, so he sent one that read “Hitting generator with hammer - $1.00 Knowing where to hit generator with hammer - $4,999.00” They paid the bill.”

    Nancy got it; they weren’t paying Ron for his time but his knowledge.

    When they got home and unpacked it was late enough that Anne decided to stay over. She didn’t like driving, and hated driving at night. Ron was too tired to drive her home. After saying hi to the kids, Ron went into his office, and hooked the camera up to the USB port of the computer. He was glad this computer had a front USB port. He downloaded the images into his photo editor and sorted through them, then cropped, tweaked and edited them; finally he had a folder on his computer he wanted to show Anne and Nancy. He converted the file to a slideshow, and called everyone into the room. Once everyone was seated and quiet, he said “This is where Mom and Dad have been all week” for the benefit of Josh and Jake. Sarah may or may not have understood, and David was still an infant. Anne smiled at Ron’s “Daddy” comment. Ron clicked the “Start” icon and the slide show started. He had set them up for a 30-second interval, so it took 10 minutes for all the images to go through. Josh and Jake wanted to see it again, but Sarah was bored, so Nancy took Sarah and David into the play room downstairs to entertain themselves with Moose. After 2 more loops through, Josh and Jake had seen enough too, and joined their siblings and Moose. Ron had installed a hidden video camera in the play room, so the adults could monitor things, and act as referee if necessary without interfering unnecessarily. The whole house was wired with video monitors, including the driveway and the back yard, which both had day/night cameras. There was a video monitor in the kitchen which switched from camera to camera every 10 seconds unless you typed in a code to freeze it on one camera, or told it to ignore a camera. Ron didn’t bother with the VCR option since he wasn’t using the system for security, but to keep an eye on the kids, and have some warning if guests were arriving. Later Anne and Nancy both told Ron the pictures were excellent, and he should make prints from them, so he searched the internet for a printer designed to print digital images up to 8x10.

    Meanwhile, back in North Carolina, Ralph had completed his residency, and was fluent in Cajun again. He had received permission from the Director of the Residency program to take a year and set up a medical clinic for the Cajun families in the bayou. The State of Louisiana issued him a 4x4 Jeep and a trailer with a large flat-bottom john boat with a 100 horsepower motor. Both vehicles had radios sufficiently powerful to reach the local Emergency Hospital in case he had a Medical Emergency while he was out in the bayou. They leased a small office with a one-room studio apartment above it right on the border of the bayou The sign next to the office door said Medical Clinic in English and Cajun with Cadeusas. He had office hours in the morning from 7:00 to noon, then made house calls from 12:00 to 5:00. He expanded further and further into the bayou, and met relatives he didn’t know he had, and they improved his vocabulary of Cajun phrases which he entered into his English-Cajun dictionary he kept in his PDA. Doc Richards made sure he got a good cell phone with free long distance to talk to Samantha at night when he got back from his house calls. His first couple of visits to a new family were interesting to say the least. Most had never even seen a doctor in their lives, and it took a while to gain their trust. He started small, bandaging cuts and scrapes, and finally when he gained their trust, started administering childhood vaccines, and giving antibiotics to patients with infections, after explaining that they had to take the entire prescription, since it wouldn’t work if they stopped taking the medicine when they felt better. With his family background and expertise in Cajun, the people of the bayou trusted him, and soon he spent all his time in the field, and the State moved other French-speaking doctors into the region. He set up a crash course in Cajun dialect, so they could understand and be understood by the local bayou people. Within a year, he had a successful program running, and it was time to return to North Carolina and Samantha. His greatest reward besides being able to help all his relatives in the bayou was a letter from the State of Louisiana telling him his entire Guaranteed Student Loan debt had been paid in full. He made 3 copies of the letter, and sent 1 to Doc, 1 to Bert, and 1 to Sam, all Certified to make sure that there was a copy besides his just in case.

    When Ralph got back, there was only 6 months left before their wedding, so he checked with the Residency program director about working at the hospital. Since they desperately needed trained ER docs, they hired him through a temporary service at almost twice what the hospital paid, but he got no benefits. He stuck the extra money in his savings account since he was going to need the money for a honeymoon, and moving expenses. While he was in Louisiana, both he and Samantha had applied to several hospitals in the Atlanta area. They had both been accepted at Grady Memorial Hospital, which was a Level-1 Trauma Center. Ralph had been hired as the assistant Chief Resident, since the hospital operated 24/7 they had to have 2 Chief Residents so one was always at the hospital. They also accepted Samantha into their Emergency Surgery Residency program as a brand-new Emergency Surgeon. While Ralph was gone, she accelerated her schedule to complete her training, and got everything signed off in 12 months that normally took 18. Ralph made it back in time to see her graduate Medical School. She was now Doctor Stone, soon to be Doctor Lacombe. Doc Richards thought that would drive the Admin people at Grady Memorial nuts. They had different first initials, so the hospital decided to use their first initial and their last names on hospital documents, since they were moving to Atlanta after the wedding. Sam and Ralph scheduled their Marriage Counseling sessions with Reverend Whitaker on Ralph’s off days. Sam was working at the hospital as well through the same temporary agency that they hired Ralph through. One funny result of all the time Ralph spent in Louisiana was most of the marriage counseling sessions were conducted in Cajun. Anyone walking by Reverend Whitaker’s office would have thought he’d been kidnapped by French Terrorists, since very few words in English were spoken. Reverend Whitaker was eager to use his native dialect again, so every time they came over to his office, they only spoke Cajun.

    6 months after they first flew to Vancouver, Ron got an e-mail asking him to fly to LAX, where he’d be met by a Northrop/Grumman representative, and choppered to an undisclosed location where he would do a week-long T&E session with the new plane. Round-trip tickets would be waiting for him at the Alaska Airlines counter in Anchorage tomorrow. His flight was at 0900. Ron told Nancy that Northrop Grumman wanted him in California tomorrow to test their new SuperGoose, he thought he would be gone a week. He’d ask the relief pilot to fly him to Anchorage since he needed to be there earlier than their scheduled flight. Ron made a few phone calls, and found out that the relief pilot was flying to Anchorage tomorrow to pick up cargo. He called the relief pilot, whose name was Steve, and told him he needed to be in Anchorage at 0800 tomorrow, so he’d either have to reschedule the delivery driver or cool his heels in Anchorage for a couple of hours, since he couldn’t justify taking a TG out of service for a week just to fly him to Anchorage. Steve said he’d take care of it, and asked Ron if he could be at the airport at 0600. Ron asked him if he minded flying as pilot in command, since he wasn’t sure if he’d be awake enough at 0630 to fly the left seat. Steve laughed and said that he used to love “Dawn Patrol” when he flew C-130’s in the Air Force, so Ron could rest easy. Ron packed his bags, making sure he had his P-14 and 2 spare mags, his Federal CCW, and a week’s worth of clothes. He set an alarm for 0500 and went to bed early. Nancy made muffins before she went to bed, loaded and programmed the coffee maker for 0500, and left a large thermos next to the coffeemaker.

    Ron got up, took a quick shower got dressed, grabbed a bag of bran muffins, filled his thermos full of coffee, grabbed his suitcase, and was out the door by 0545. He made the airport by 0558, and climbed in the co-pilot’s seat, stowed his bags, and they were airborne by 0600. They were on the ground in Anchorage at 0745. Steve thanked Ron for the coffee and the muffins, and dropped him off as close to the terminal as he could. Ron had his Federal CCW out when he approached Security, and showed it to the TSA goon, and was waved around the metal detectors with his baggage in hand. He picked up his ticket at the Alaska Airlines counter, saw the ticket was first class to LAX with 1 brief stop in SeaTac to take on passengers. He surrendered his checked luggage, walked back through security with his carry on, and headed to the gate. At 0845, they started pre-boarding first class, so he took the opportunity to pre-board. The Alaska Airlines employee recognized his name, and put a gold star on his boarding pass, indicating he was a VIP in case the stewards didn’t recognize his name. The first class seats were more comfortable than his lounger at home, so he took a novel out of his carry-on he had wanted to read for a long time. He was a big fan of Tom Clancy, but rarely had time to read, so he brought Bear and the Dragon since it was almost a 6-hour flight including the stop in Seattle. Right at 0900, they pushed away from the gate, and the plane was only half-full. Once they were airborne, the steward asked him what he wanted, and Ron asked for Orange juice and a muffin. He came back with a platter of muffins and croissants, and a pitcher of Orange juice. Ron selected 2 muffins from the tray, and got a glass of orange juice that was better quality than what he drank at home. A couple of hours later, the landed at SeaTac. The pilot was pretty good, and they landed with barely a bump, and he held his attitude all the way in. “Probably military trained” Ron thought. 45 minutes later, they were airborne again, headed to LAX. The Steward asked Ron if he wanted anything. He still had a muffin left, so he got a refill of the orange juice, and a headset to listen to the radio programming. He found a good fusion jazz program, so he decided to listen to it. Several hours later, they turned on final for LAX. Ron took off his headset, put up his book, and got ready for landing. He hoped whoever was going to meet him would be right outside baggage claim. After landing, he was one of the first people off the plane, and headed toward baggage claim, retrieved his suitcase, then saw a liveried Chauffeur with a sign held chest high that said “Ron Williams.” He cleared the claim check area, and walked over to the driver. “I’m Ron Williams.”

    “This way sir.”

    He took Ron’s baggage, led Ron outside, opened the door of his limousine, put the baggage in the trunk, and then got in and drove to a nearby heliport. They were headed to a S-76 Executive helicopter with NOTHROP GRUMMAN stenciled on the side. The driver parked the limousine a safe distance away from the helicopter, and when Ron got out, the driver reminded Ron to keep his head down between there and the chopper door. Ron walked carefully to the helicopter, which had its rotors turning. The driver was right behind him with his luggage. The crew chief showed him to a VIP seat in the front of the passenger area, and helped him secure the belts, then stowed his luggage. He pulled the door closed, locked it, and took his jump seat right behind the pilots, and tapped the pilot on the shoulder, who took off like an express elevator. Moments later, they landed at a rooftop heliport, and the door opened, and another gentleman in a suit got on board. He was buckled into the seat next to Ron’s. Once the door was secured the noise level dropped to the point that they could have a normal conversation without shouting. The chopper took off and headed east. The guy next to Ron stuck out his hand and said, “Ron Williams, I’m Jack Snyder, the program director for the SuperGoose project. Let me tell you, I don’t know how you came up with it, but the TurboGoose was one heck of a good idea. Allison has built some slightly more powerful turboprops than the ones they sold you, and we stretched the frame 6 feet, added a rear ramp, and converted it to a twin boom tail to make room for the wide ramp door. The modifications added almost 300 cubic feet of cargo space, added 30 knots to its top speed, and from what we can tell by our preliminary flight testing, reduced the landing and take-off lengths slightly. You’re going to love this plane when you see it. It’s stashed at Edwards right now, but we wanted you and the test pilot to fly it back to El Segundo, then use Sepulveda Reservoir for smooth water landing and take-off tests. We already did the rough water landing and take-off tests, and we were amazed that it could safely land in 6-foot swells. Of course, it was at a nose-up attitude of almost 20 degrees, but it worked. I wouldn’t recommend landing in anything greater that 3-4 foot swells unless it’s an emergency.”

    Several hours later, they landed in a remote corner of Edwards AFB, far away from the highly classified areas. Ron was stunned when he saw the SuperGoose. It was significantly bigger than the TurboGoose, but not enough to look like a totally different plane. From the nose to the cargo door, it looked exactly like his TurboGoose. From the cargo door back, it looked like a miniature C-130. The test pilot was standing there, so Ron walked up and introduced himself. “Hi, I’m Ron Williams.”

    “Mr. Williams, I’ve heard a lot about you - this was a good idea you had, this is one sweet flying turboprop. Sorry, my name is Keith Northrop. I’m Jack’s great-grandson, but don’t let that intimidate you, I’m just a test pilot here. Let me show you the SuperGoose.”

    An hour later, they were ready to fly. Ron’s baggage was put aboard the SuperGoose, since their final destination was the El Segundo plant, and a limousine would take him to the hotel when they were finished. Keith talked Ron through the pre-flight. For this series Ron elected to fly right seat since he was the student on the new plane, and Keith was doing a full plane-familiarization check-ride before Ron would fly left seat. Ron noticed the plane’s avionics were identical to the ones in his plane, except newer but cheaper models. He decided then and there if they were going to build him a SuperGoose, he was going to request a bunch of avionics upgrades even if he had to pay for them. Ron commented on the avionics, and Keith told him that was their standard avionics and instrumentation package. Ron asked how much an upgraded avionics package would cost, and rattled off several upgrades he’d like to see. Keith stopped him, took out his microcassette recorder, and asked Ron to repeat himself, this was stuff the home office definitely wanted to know about. Ron repeated himself, and Keith nodded and agreed. When they were finished, Keith slipped the cassette recorder back in his pocket, but Ron noticed he didn’t hear a click that would indicate he turned it off. Ron would be careful about what he said from here on out. They got the plane ready to fly, and soon they were airborne and westbound. 5 minutes later, Keith started asking leading questions about the negotiating process. Ron was vague and non-committal. Finally he asked Keith to turn off the recorder. Once it was off, and Ron was sure it was off, he said “Ok, what’s up? You’ve been asking me leading questions about the negotiation process. I’m not going to get entrapped by a simple recorder, and I wouldn’t put it past you to have the plane bugged as well. If you’re not here to test the plane, let’s go home, and I’m going back to Alaska.”

    Keith reached over, and flipped a switch under the dash. “Sorry, Legal put me up to it, they were pissed that we lost 35 million dollars in revenue when you opened your mouth.” Once Keith started talking, Ron surreptitiously started his microcassette recorder, two could play that game! Keith kept talking “Normally, we charge a 100% markup over our costs, then tack on a lot of fees. By the time we’re through, we’ve made a 300-400 percent profit margin.”

    “And the Government lets you get away with it?”

    “Sort of, the politicians get half of it back in kickbacks, campaign contributions, and stuff like that. It makes me sick, and I’m just about to chuck it all, and go back to being a private pilot.”

    They kept talking for the rest of the flight, and finally they were over the reservoir. Keith made the first two approaches, but he was too conservative. When Ron got a feel for the aircraft, he asked Keith if he could take the next one. He cranked the flaps and slats all the way out, slowed to 50 knots, and floated down to the lake like he was on a parachute. He touched down with a slight splash, then reversed the props and stopped on a dime. Ron looked over, and Keith’s eyes were as big as saucers. “How’d you do that?”

    “I’ve been a bush pilot in Alaska since I was 14. You have to land like that to land on the smaller lakes. I’ve made hundreds of approaches that had a 200 foot obstruction within a mile of the landing zone.”

    “You floated in like you were on a parachute.”

    “That’s basically what you’re doing, at the last second, you push the nose forward and land conventionally. You’ve got to be really aware of your height above the lake, because if you flatten out too soon, you crash, too late you crash.”

    “Ron you must have 5-pound brass ones!”

    “Not really Keith, anyone that wants to fly bush in Alaska has to be able to do it, because some of the lakes we land on are more like ponds. Also we do that at near maximum load too.”

    “I hate to say it, but you guys are nuts - give me a big long concrete runway any day!”

    “Keith, this plane was designed to do exactly what I just did - there’s not much point in having an amphibian in Alaska or Canada if it can’t land on a postage stamp. This plane had great STOL characteristics. Now with the tail ramp and high mounted tail and rudder surfaces, it will be even better. Check this out!”

    Ron turned into the wind, shoved the throttles to full, and did a max-performance take-off. Keith looked at the altimeter and his watch, they were climbing at over 2500 feet per minute!

    “Ron, you realize you’ve exceeded the design spec for rate of climb by 500 feet per minute?”

    “That wasn’t even the fastest the plane will climb. In an emergency, I can trade airspeed for altitude and manage almost 3,000 feet per minute for a short duration.”

    “Yeah, and if you keep it up too long, you stall and crash.”

    “Beats flying into a mountain or a grove of trees near the lake.”

    “You’ve got a point there. OK, let’s head for home.”

    Ron relinquished the controls, and Keith flew a perfect concrete runway approach to the Northrop Grumman private airstrip at El Segundo. He taxied next to a limousine and shut down. “Ron, the driver will take you to the hotel, and pick you up at 0800 tomorrow. The room and your meals have already been paid for by Northrop Grumman. All you have to do is write your room number on your bill for dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow. See you at 0900 tomorrow, I want someone else to witness your short-field water landing, because they’ll never believe me if I tell them.”

    Ron climbed out of the co-pilot’s seat, went back to retrieve his bags, and when he was out of sight for a minute, pocketed the microcassette recorder in his pants pocket after turning it off. The driver drove him to a nearby Sheraton hotel that was OK, but not in the same league as the Wedgewood in Vancouver. He asked the desk clerk if he could send something FedEx overnight to Alaska. The clerk explained they couldn’t guarantee the overnight delivery, but Ron knew that all overnight packages received special handling, and didn’t sit in depots waiting for a truck. It was worth the extra security with the tape he was FedExing to BA. The information on the tape was enough to indict several high-ranking Northrop Grumman executives for various federal crimes. It was his ace in the hole in case he ever needed it.


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    State of Denial
    Chapter 28 - Testing

    The next day Ron was driven back to the El Segundo facility at 0800. He had a fresh tape in the microcassette recorder, and the switch was set on VOX. It was a super-long, super-slow tape recorder that could record 6 hours per side. In VOX mode, it would last even longer. He listened to the tape last night before he shipped it FedEx to BA, and Keith’s voice came through loud and clear. He was very grateful that BA had told him about the microcassette recorder trick. They were ubiquitous since everyone used them to record notes or meetings. The long-play VOX machines also had a major benefit called CYA. If someone tried to set you up and you had them on tape attempting to entrap you - they went to jail - not you. Ron routinely recorded both sides of all calls on Allakaket Airlines phones for CYA reasons as well. Ron would never use them for blackmail purposes, but they could help the company out of a jam if someone promised something over the phone then reneged on it, if you had them promising to do what they were supposed to on tape, it was very hard to refute. When he got to the El Segundo Northrop Grumman facility, Keith was there as well as Jack Snyder. Keith explained that they were going to do the waterborne short-field landing and take-off again. The mechanics had installed a removable crew chief seat in the cabin doorway so Jack could see the instruments on approach and verify Ron’s airspeed on landing, and how much runway he needed to stop on water. Ron explained to Jack that landing like this could be scary, and if Jack had a weak heart, he shouldn’t go up. Jack told Ron that he was a roller coaster fan and made several trips to Magic Mountain each year.

    Ron and Keith both did a careful walk-around, and then preflighted the plane. Jack climbed into the crew chief’s seat, and Keith radioed for take-off clearance. He handled the takeoff, and it was a textbook runway takeoff, long and boring. Once they were over the lake, Keith and Jack double checked their seat belts, and Ron checked his, then Ron took control of the plane, dropped down to 500 feet AGL and slowed to 50 knots while he cranked the flaps and slats all the way out. Once he was at 50 knots, he floated over the edge of the lake with the turbines idling, and maintaining a 15-20 degree nose-up attitude, he floated right down to the lake, and right before touchdown, flattened out his flare by pushing the nose forward. They landed with no more of a jar than an express elevator stopping, and as soon as they were down, Ron flipped the reverse switch, and set both throttles at 30% power, and they stopped like someone had thrown out an anchor. Jack was shaking his head. There was no way that this plane could land like that - it was just too big. The sat bobbing on the lake while Ron and Keith explained it to Jack. The conversation got really technical, then Ron said “It’s just like landing with a parachute. If you give a big high-wing plane just enough airspeed to keep from stalling, and you maintain a nose-up attitude for a high angle of attack, with the flaps and slats increasing lift and drag, you can land much slower. The slower you land, the less runway you need to land. When we touched down, I used the reversible pitch props to stop us by reversing the pitch and setting the throttles at 30%. The C-130 has reversible pitch props, and can generate enough thrust to taxi backward at 30 mph with the props reversed. The SuperGoose doesn’t have that much power, but it greatly decreases the Short landing length if used properly.” Ron taxied to the end of the lake and asked Jack if he would like to see a short-field max performance take-off. When he nodded his head, Ron threw both throttles to the max, and when the airspeed indicator read 80 knots, he pulled back sharply on the yoke, and held a 20-degree angle of attack until they were at 2,000 feet, just under a minute later. Jack was impressed! When he stabilized the plane at 2,000 feet, he turned to Jack and said “Any Qvestions?” and Jack started laughing since Ron had nailed the line perfectly. “Ron, I’m glad Keith asked me along for this run, because if I hadn’t seen it myself, I’d never believe it, and I’m still not sure about what happened. Obviously in the hands of a skilled bush pilot, this plane has a tremendous STOL capability.”

    “Jack, most of my pilots at Allakaket Airlines are ex-military C-130 pilots, and they only needed a couple of trial runs to get the hang of the STOL techniques, since they’re more aggressive than the approaches a regular C-130 can fly. But this plane is 1/3 the size of a C-130 with almost half the horsepower. With a better power to weight ratio, it can do amazing things. Fully loaded, it can fly a pretty good approach, but I wouldn’t try a take-off like the one I just did fully loaded, so the pilot has a lot to think about. He might be able to land on a postage stamp full loaded, but probably won’t be able to take off again. In that case you have 1 or 2 options, off-load before you take off again, or don’t land so heavy in the first place. I can remember landing an overloaded DeHaviland Otter on a postage stamp, grateful that I didn’t have to take off again with that load.”

    Ron turned to Keith and asked him if there was any other tests that needed doing. Jack answered the question for him. “Frankly Ron, we were allowing a week for the STOL testing, we weren’t expecting you to go out and do it the first day flying, or this aggressively. This is still a prototype plane.”

    “I guessed that if Jack Northrop’s great grandson was flying the plane, it would be safe, since the owners of the company wouldn’t unnecessarily risk his life.”

    “You’ve got a point there. Anyway, you definitely earned your fee, and I’ll have the airline change your booking so you can fly home today.”

    Ron asked Jack “While we’re up here, is there any tests we need to do in the testing protocol?”

    “We need to do angle of attack and stall tests, but we’re not set up for them, they need to wire the plane for instrumentation. The best thing is to set it back down at El Segundo so they can wire the plane, and I’ll fly the rest of the test program.”

    Ron called “Pilot’s plane” and Keith said “I’ve got it.” Then they turned to land at El Segundo. Once on the ground, Jack told Ron that the driver would drive him to the hotel to retrieve his bags. If they hurried they could get him on the afternoon flight to Anchorage. He handed Ron a check for $100,000 dollars, and shook Ron’s hand saying “thanks, you earned it!” Ron said “You’re welcome, if you have any questions, feel free to e-mail or call me” and he handed Jack his Allakaket Airlines card with all his contact information. Ron practically ran to the limousine, he was in a hurry. He told the driver to get him to the hotel and step on it, then keep the motor running, he’d be down in 5 minutes. The driver said that Northrop had already taken care of everything, all he had to do was drop off his key in the drop box on his way out. 5 minutes later, they arrived at the Sheraton. Ron walked quickly through the lobby, took the elevator up to his floor, grabbed his bags, looked around to make sure he didn’t leave anything, and hurried back down to the limo, dropping his card in the drop box on the way by. The Clerk grabbed him, handed him a message from BA which read “Watch your back” and it was signed BA. Ron was glad that he had the microcassette recorder running in his pocket, and his P-14 still in his IWB holster with 2 spares. Since he was in a hurry, he kept his baggage with him, and got into the limo. It took a while to get to LAX due to the traffic, and Ron thought “I’m being paranoid, but am I paranoid enough?” and started rummaging through his stuff to see if anyone planted anything on him. Luckily there weren’t any little bags full of white powder, so if they were going to try anything, it wasn’t going to be as simple as planting drugs on him. He started praying, because the way his mind was roaming was freaking him out. Finally he started reciting the 23rd Psalm to himself, and he calmed right down.

    Half an hour later they arrived at LAX, and the chauffeur must have done this before, because he pulled right into a reserved VIP unloading area, and opened the doors, Ron climbed out without help, grabbed his bags, and told the chauffeur, “Thanks, but I’m in a hurry, I’ll take it from here.” The skycap took his baggage, and gave him a claim ticket. Ron told him that they had a changed reservation waiting for him at the ticket counter, so the skycap gave him back his bag, and offered a cart to take it to the ticket counter. Ron went through the VIP line, and was served a minute later. They did have a first-class return ticket waiting for him, so he switched his old return ticket for a new one, and they took his checked luggage right there. He had less than an hour before the plane left, so he had them issue a boarding pass instead, and he walked through security. He showed his Federal CCW to the TSA goon, who escorted him around the security gate, and told him “have a nice day” and he was in. Ron’s level of anxiety dropped significantly now that he was on this side of the security gate, and probably the only armed person around except for Federal Agents. 10 minutes after he reached the gate, they announced pre-boarding for first class, so he took advantage of it. This time Alaska Airlines had a VIP code already on his boarding pass, and they didn’t need the gold star. He boarded the aircraft and was seated in the plush first class section. He was glad to be aboard the aircraft, but would feel better after the plane took off. 15 minutes later, they closed the cabin door, and the tractor pushed the plane back. It taxied and was airborne a minute later. Ron could feel his spirit soaring with the plane. Whatever BA was worried about wasn’t going to happen in LA. Next time he flew commercial, he vowed to pack more survival gear in his carry-on, since the Federal CCW seemed to be a talisman to the TSA goons, and they didn’t even check his carry-on.

    Ron decided to put together a mini-kit that wouldn’t take up a lot of space in his carry on, and could be carried in an oversized shaving kit bag so it looked harmless if anyone checked. Since he wasn’t using his GPS anymore, he’d load the entire US topo and road maps into it as well as 2 spare sets of batteries, a small first aid kit, a SAK, or better yet a Gerber Multiplier. He liked the 800 series with the replaceable jigsaw blades the best. He had a Nite Eyez kit that could carry the Gerber Multiplier, a Mini-mag AAA Solitaire, an Eze-lap sharpener, a ferrochromium rod and striker, fishing line and hooks on a piece of cardboard, and a ranger compass. When it wasn’t in his kit, the Nite-eyez could be carried on his belt. A couple of contractor bags, a Mylar blanket, Ziploc gallon bags, a 50-round box of .45acp ammo and a bottle of Polar Pure would complete the kit. Ron knew that most people who flew commercial couldn’t ever carry nail clippers on them, but since he seemed to have a free pass aboard the plane, he might as well take advantage of it. Just because he felt badly for his fellow passengers didn’t mean he wanted to be in the same boat as them if something happened while he was away from home. While he was at it, he thought he should add several 1oz. Canadian Maple Leafs to the kit. 5 or 6 should be plenty. He always had at least $100 dollars in small bills on him, as well as the American Express and a rarely-used Visa card for those that didn’t accept American Express. Both cards had basically unlimited lines of credit available.

    Ron never wanted to fly commercial again, but he knew he might not have a choice in the matter. He was so preoccupied with his mental checklist, that before he knew it, the pilot announced they were landing in Seattle. Since he was staying aboard, he didn’t need to do anything, just wait for the passengers to tromp in and out of the plane, He was grateful he didn’t take an isle seat, because several tall men in isle seats were getting whacked in the back of the head by women’s purses and bags. Ron wondered why no one was seated next to him, because there were several coach passengers they could have upgraded. Ron didn’t understand that with a VIP tag on his boarding pass, the only way they’d seat someone next to him was if they had paid full price for the First Class seat. The plane quickly emptied and filled up again, then the door closed and the plane was pushed back to the taxiway. A couple of minutes later, they were airborne. Ron realized he was coming home several days early, so he used his Amex card to use the Skyphone and call home. He told BA his flight number and the ETA to Anchorage. BA said that they’d make sure he got a ride home, and to meet the plane at the Allakaket Airlines gate since a scheduled flight from Anchorage to Allakaket would be leaving within an hour after his ETA. BA said he would hold the plane, and if it was full, he could fly right seat.

    The flight arrived right on time, and Ron walked out to the boarding desk, told the Agent he was taking Allakaket Airlines flight number 14 to Allakaket in less than an hour, and asked her to intercept his bags, and re-route them to Allakaket Airlines. The Agent said “Who do you think you are, Ron Williams?”

    “Read the Boarding pass Tammy.”

    “Oh my God!”

    “Not exactly, now could you please get my bags intercepted, here’s the claim ticket. They’re holding the plane for me, so please expedite the request.”

    “Yes Sir, Mr. Williams!”

    Ron got the gate number from Tammy to Allakaket Flight number 14, and hurried to the gate. As he was walking down the ramp to the tarmac, he saw a baggage handling truck with it’s lights flashing charge up to the plane, stop with the brakes smoking, and transfer 2 bags that Ron was sure were his, because they were both monogrammed R.W., and had the Allakaket Airlines logo embroidered on them. Ron remembered a line from a Mel Brooks movie, and started laughing, thinking “It’s good to be the King!” The ground agent directed Ron to the co-pilot’s hatch. Steve was piloting this flight too - so Ron said “Long time no see Steve!”

    “Good to have you back Boss. The plane’s already prepped and we’re good to go.”

    “Steve, I’m just taking the seat, I’m too tired to fly as co-pilot.”

    “Good thing I ate my Wheaties this morning!”

    “Just get me home in one piece Steve, or Nancy might get mad!”

    Steve’s mental image of Nancy hunting him down and killing him made him swallow reflexively, then he realized Ron was teasing him back. Steve called for clearance while the tug pushed him away from his parking spot, then he taxied to the runway. By the time he arrived at the runway, he was clear to take off. He made a nice sedate take-off, and was soon cruising at 2,000 feet. They landed uneventfully in Allakaket 2 hours later. Ron drove home, opened the door, and said “Hi honey I’m home!”

    “Good thing I sent the cable guy packing over an hour ago!”

    Nancy gave Ron a big hug, and a bigger kiss. Ron hoped the kids could take care of themselves for a couple of hours, because he couldn’t wait either.

    Chapter 29 - A Wedding to Remember

    The 6 months between Ralph’s return from Louisiana and their wedding passed faster than Sam and Ralph had thought, maybe because they were too busy to realize it. Samantha got the invitations out in time, and remembered to call Ron. “Ron, its Samantha. The wedding is June 16th at 12 noon at the First Baptist church of Chapel Hill. You’ll want to fly to Charlotte North Carolina. Let us know your flight number and we’ll have Nelson meet you with the limousine. Doc and Bert said you could stay with us while you’re here, so there’s no need to book a hotel, besides all the good ones are booked anyways that weekend. OK, e-mail me the flight number and the time it’s supposed to arrive in Charlotte. Can’t wait to see you too - bye!”

    Ron called Alaska Airlines, booked 2 first class tickets to Charlotte North Carolina for Friday June 15th. They had a 1-stop flight with a change of planes and airlines in Seattle that would arrive at 3:00 pm Friday afternoon. It left Anchorage at 0800. Ron checked with Nancy and booked the flight. Since he had a agreement with Alaska Airlines, the Anchorage to Seattle leg of the flight was free for both of them, and they charged Ron the Exchange rate for the Delta flight to Charlotte. Ron was glad he owned Allakaket Airlines, since First Class tickets for that long of a flight were now running over $1500 each at the discount rate that they sold to travel agents. The tickets only cost him $400 total. He e-mailed Samantha the flight number and the scheduled arrival time of 3:00pm local on Friday the 15th. He checked, and his tuxedo was sitting in the bag in the closet. He hadn’t gained any weight since he bought it 3 years ago, so it should still fit. Nancy had a beautiful but conservative formal dress she bought for the same event that he was pretty sure would fit. He very diplomatically asked Nancy if she made sure that dress still fit. Nancy told him that if anything she had lost 20 pounds since she bought it when she was 3 months pregnant with Sarah. Ron was glad that was settled. In a little less than a week, they would fly to North Carolina, and see a woman he hadn’t seen for almost 10 years, and meet her fianc&#233; for the first time.

    He called Anne and she answered the phone “Anne’s Babysitting Service” Ron loved his mom’s sense of humor. Then he remembered she had free Caller ID, just like the rest of town. “Real Funny Mom - but you’re right, Nancy and I are flying on Friday to North Carolina for Samantha’s wedding. I’m going to be the best man, and Nancy is the Matron of honor. You don’t mind, thanks Mom. Can you make it Thursday afternoon, we’ve got to be out of here by 5:30 Friday to make an 8 o’clock flight. OK, you’ll be here by 5 - Thanks, and I love you too Mom!”

    Thursday evening, Anne arrived right at 5:00 pm, just in time to help out with Feeding Time. Jake and Josh were such chow hounds that Nancy felt like a lion keeper at the zoo, just throw them a T-bone, and they’ll take care of the rest. Sarah was a picky eater, and needed a cheering section sometimes. David was perfectly happy with a bottle or a jar of baby food. He took after his brothers, and would eat anything you placed before him. Once the kids and Moose were fed, they went in the playroom while the adults ate. Nancy set up her seat at the table so she could view the monitor in the kid room. Ron said grace, and they ate. Nancy and Ron went to bed around 8:00, since they had to be up early the next morning. Anne went to bed early, it would be a long week dealing with 3 kids and an infant. Ron and Nancy had their bags packed and sitting by the door. Nancy set the coffee machine and had a bag of muffins and a thermos with 2 cups ready to go next to it. The maintenance crew knew they were flying early tomorrow, and would have the SA-76 007 prepped and ready to go at 0600. Their alarms went off at 0500, and they were dressed and out the door at 0530 before anyone could wake up and slow them down. Moose gave Ron a nuzzle, and he petted Moose briefly and told him to take care of the house. They drove to the airport, and the chopper was prepped and the turbines idling when they got there. They climbed quickly aboard, and Ron asked Nancy “You brought your P-14 and your CCW, right?”

    “Duh! Of course silly, it’s like my American Express Card.”

    2 hours later they were landing in Anchorage. They landed at the Alaska Airlines private heliport, and got a ride over to the gate they were flying out of, bypassing security. The driver made sure their luggage got aboard the aircraft as well. They walked up to the boarding area, and someone was on the ball, because their boarding passes and transfers had already been taken care of . Ron guessed correctly that the guy who gave them a lift called ahead to make sure they got the VIP treatment. They were immediately boarded, and 15 minutes later, the plane took off for Seattle. 2 hours later, they were landing in Seattle, and they were driven to their connecting flight with their luggage, to make sure it made the plane. 15 minutes after they boarded, the were bound for Charlotte. Ron and Nancy napped on the flight, and landed in Charlotte right after they woke up. Nelson met them at the baggage claim, and had a cart already for their luggage. He walked with them to the Silver Lincoln Continental stretch limousine, and held the door open, then put their baggage in the trunk. An hour later, they were pulling up the driveway to this huge Southern Mansion. Ron thought their house was huge, but this mansion was easily 3 times the size of their house.

    Doc and Bert greeted them on the porch. Ron introduced Nancy, then Samantha made her appearance. She was even more beautiful than Ron remembered. She squealed like a little girl, ran up to Ron, and squeezed the stuffing out of him. She didn’t kiss him even though she wanted to, since she realized that wouldn’t be appropriate. She let go of Ron, and said “This must be Nancy, you’re even more beautiful in person” then gave Nancy a very strong hug as well. She asked them to come on in, they had a lot of catching up to do. Nancy thought that Sam really did like her, and she was glad, since she had thought of Samantha as the “competition” for years. Raphael was waiting in the drawing room, and stood as soon as they entered. Sam said “Ron and Nancy Williams, may I present my fianc&#233; Raphael Lacombe.”

    Ron amazed them all when he walked up to Ralph and said “Heureux de vous rencontrer Rapha&#235;l !

    Le sentiment est Ron mutuel !

    “Sorry Ralph, that just about exhausts my French!”

    “I appreciate the effort Ron. I just spent a year in Louisiana setting up clinics for Cajun speakers in the Bayou. Most of them don’t speak much English. Funny, you speak French with a Canadian accent.”

    “Probably because the only person who spoke French in Allakaket was Canadian!”

    “That explains it! Let’s go sit down and get comfortable.”

    They all sat in the huge living room and got caught up. Soon it was time for dinner, and their black housekeeper and cook told them that dinner was served. They all got up and walked into the formal dining room. When they were all seated, Doc said Grace “Father, we’re here for a joyous occasion, the joining of two lives as one as you ordained. Bless this assembly and this union, and thank you for the food, Amen.” 5 voices echoed his Amen, and the plates were passed. Ron thought the food was excellent, even though he hadn’t eaten foods like this before. There was Virginia Baked Ham, sweet potatoes, okra, rustic style mashed potatoes with pan gravy, and corn bread. For dessert there was Peach Cobbler. They ate their fill, and then retired to the drawing room to socialize some more. Around 10:00, Doc noticed Ron and Nancy were getting visibly tired, then remembered they had a long flight and were probably ready for bed. “Ron and Nancy, Nelson put your bags in your room. It’s down that hallway and the 3rd door on the right. Breakfast is at 8:00, and we’re leaving for the church at 10:00 to get dressed at the church.”

    Ron and Nancy said goodnight, and went to bed after taking showers since they were too exhausted to do anything else. They got up at 7:30 the next morning, and got dressed. Breakfast was a huge expanse of food, and Doc said grace again. They talked for a while after breakfast, and Doc told Ron and Nancy they would be riding with them, since they reserved another limousine for Raphael and Samantha. At 9:45, a big white stretch limousine drove up the driveway, then Ralph and Sam went to get their stuff and put it in the limo for the ride to the church. Ron took his garment bag with his tuxedo, and Nancy took her garment bag with her dress and shoes out to the other limo. 5 minutes later, Doc and Bert joined them. They drove to the church, and were shown to the dressing rooms. Once he was dressed, Ron helped Raphael since he had never worn a tuxedo before. He was wearing a dazzling white long-tailed tuxedo, and Ron was wearing a more conservative short-tailed black one. At 10 to 12, they walked out to the altar and waited for the procession. At 12:00, Reverend Whitaker took his place, then the music started, and Nancy was the first down the isle, then Samantha. She was radiant in her long white dress with a 6-foot train and a long white veil and finger-tip white lace gloves.

    The wedding had started, and Reverend Whitaker was reading in Corinthians when a strange man burst into the church and yelled “No one’s gonna take my little girl from me!” then pulled out an M -4 Carbine from behind his back.

    Reverend Whitaker dove toward Samantha to protect her with his body; at the same time Ron, who was wearing his P-14 in an IWB holster under his tuxedo, straight-armed Ralph out of the line of fire, drew his gun, and double-tapped the assailant in the chest. Hearing a 3rd shot, he looked to his left, and Nancy’s gun was smoking too, and then Ron noticed the back of assailant’s head was blown off. Raphael recovered from being knocked over, and told Reverend Whitaker that it was OK, and to get Sam up and take her to his office, so she didn’t have to see the body.

    Ron checked on Nancy, who was looking pale, so he found her a seat before she fainted. He whispered in her ear. “Nancy, you saved Sam’s life. Remember that regardless of what happens.” Nancy nodded. Meanwhile Doc checked out the assailant, and one look told him he was beyond help.
    Ron finally got a good look at the assailant, and he said “Oh my God, That’s Steve Stone - he was supposed to be in prison for life for murdering Samantha’s mother.”

    Doc called 911 with his cell phone, while they covered the body with a sheet. The police were there in minutes, Ron and Nancy both surrendered their firearms, and the Detective quickly confirmed their story, including the information that Steve Stone had killed a guard and broken out of the Alaska State Penitentiary 2 weeks ago. They took Steve’s prints, and as soon as they came back as a match, and Ron presented his Federal CCW, they handed Ron and Nancy back their guns. The Coroner took the body away, and Ron told Raphael whom the assailant was. He left it up to Ralph what to tell his wife. Thinking quickly, Reverend Whitaker told everyone that there was a beautiful garden gazebo out back, and he could marry them there if they wanted.

    Samantha took the news of her father’s death fairly well. Her only comment was “Too bad I didn’t have a gun, I would have loved to get a shot in.”

    Samantha and Raphael met with Ron and Nancy. Samantha hugged Nancy and thanked her for saving her life, then she hugged Ron again. “Well, I guess this makes 3 times you saved my life! So has your red cape ever come back from the cleaners?”

    “Don’t need one - I don’t have any super powers, none that I’m aware of anyway!”

    Raphael gave Ron a big hug and said “Now I know why Samantha likes you so much. You’re going to have to teach me to shoot sometime.”

    “Ralph, I thought doctors were supposed to save lives, not take them?”

    “Well in that case, I’d be able to fix the damage too! Thanks for saving both of our lives. Are you guys OK if we get married out back in half an hour?”

    Ron looked at Nancy, whose color was returning. “Nancy, you up to this?”

    “Ron, if they don’t get married, he wins, at least a little - let’s get them hitched!”

    Half an hour later in the beautiful garden gazebo, Reverend Whitaker picked up right where he left off. “Raphael, do you take Samantha as your wife today and for the rest of your life. Do you promise before God and this assembly to love, honor and protect her the rest of your life, forsaking all others, to be with her the rest of your life.”

    “I Do!”

    “Samantha, do you take Raphael as your husband, do you promise to love, honor, and respect him the rest of your life, forsaking all others, to be one with him the rest of your life.”

    “I Do!”

    With the exchange of Rings and Vows, I declare you Raphael and Samantha to be husband and wife before God. By the power vested in me as a Baptist Minister, I hereby declare you married according to the laws of God and the state of North Carolina. What God has joined, let no man put asunder. Raphael, you may kiss your bride!”

    “Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present to you Raphael and Samantha Lacombe!”

    The small congregation stood and applauded wildly. Ron and Nancy were the first to congratulate the bride and groom, then Doc and Bert. The entire wedding party got into limousines for the ride back to Doc and Bert’s house for the reception.

    During the ride home, Doc Richards looked disapprovingly at Ron and said “I hope you don’t plan on taking your guns into my home!”

    Before Ron could say anything, Bert looked at Doc and said “Eugene, if Ron had done what you wish he had, and left that gun at home, we’d all be dead right now, including Samantha and Raphael. What happened at that wedding was Wicked and Evil, but the Wicked and Evil was because of Steve Stone, not Ron. Steve brought his death upon himself when he threatened to kill innocent people. If a police officer had shot Steve, you wouldn’t think twice about it. Well, the cops weren’t there, and I’m Damn Glad Ron brought his gun, and Nancy too, otherwise Samantha would be dead, and most if not all of us - now you apologize to Ron!”

    Doc turned to Ron and said “Young Man, I’m sorry! I’ve spent my whole life trying to save lives, and I always thought guns were evil - just for killing. It took my wife to point out to me that guns in private hands can also protect innocent life. How can I ever repay you?”

    “Doc, if you’ll never vote to restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens to own and carry guns, I’ll call it even. You can’t undue the damage done to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but you can stop any further erosion of those rights. Also, you can use this incident as an example of why law-abiding citizens should be allowed to carry concealed if you’re ever asked.”

    “Ron, you’re asking a lot of me!”

    “Doc, you asked - I gave you an honest answer. You realize that if I didn’t have a Federal CCW, I would probably be in jail right now, and trying to explain to a judge why I was carrying concealed in North Carolina! They won’t recognize an Alaskan CCW.”

    “You’re kidding - Right Ron?”

    “Unfortunately no, Doc. The Liberals who hate guns, or more accurately hate armed citizens, have had a long time to erode the right to keep and bear arms. They’ve got armed bodyguards, fenced enclosures around their million dollar mansions, and armored limousines to protect them from the same people their constituents face every day, yet these same elitists want to disarm them to control them more easily. I know you’ve probably read Animal Farm, and the Pigs’ famous line “We’re all equal, just some are more equal than others.” Well, that’s the Liberal world view in a nutshell. We’re all equal - equally poor, with them in charge and wealthy. You have earned every dime you own, so you know all about paying taxes. If they had there way, they would ratchet up the tax brackets to confiscatory levels, and have a social program for every lazy bum that didn’t want to work, or felt the jobs they could do were beneath them. We’re already seeing it now, with multiple generations of inner city families on welfare, and babies having babies. And you know the drug addition statistics. They’re all symptoms of the same problem. Large parts of the population are being bought off with the taxes taken from the rest of the population, so they will vote for the people who keep the welfare checks coming. Look at England. They have some of the highest taxes in Europe, and the highest unemployment rates, because businesses that were once profitable have been taxed to death, and employers can’t afford to hire anyone. Do you want the US to become like that?”

    “Of course not Ron.”

    “Well it’s happening right in front of your eyes - take a good look around if you dare!”

    They arrived at Doc and Bert’s house just in time to end the conversation while it was still civil. When Nelson stopped the car, he walked back to the passenger compartment, opened the door, and helped everyone out of the limousine. Doc turned to Ron and said “Ron, you’ve given me a lot to think about, now let’s go in and enjoy the rest of the reception, shall we!”

    “Thanks Doc. If you want to talk about this later, call or e-mail me.”

    With that they walked into the house which had been gaily decorated for the reception.

    Moments later, the bridal limousine pulled up, and the driver helped Raphael out, who then gave Samantha his arm, and they walked up the stairs arm in arm. The reception was more like a small intimate party than a big soir&#233;e. Since there were only around 50 wedding guests, they fit easily on the bottom floor of Doc’s house. They had a buffet table for lunch, a 3-tier wedding cake, and a large non-alcoholic punch bowl. There were fancy seats set against the wall for people who wanted to eat or talk sitting down, but most of the people stood and mingled. Finally Reverend Whitaker made an appearance, and after congratulating the bride and groom, took Ron and Nancy aside. “Ron, I normally frown on guns in church, but in your case, I’d definitely make an exception. You two literally saved our lives. I found out from the detective that Steve’s finger was on the trigger, and the selector was set to full auto. Nancy, that 3rd shot to his forehead guaranteed he couldn’t pull the trigger, so you probably did save a lot of lives with that 3rd shot. Ron, I’ve been around a lot of policemen and was even a Chaplain in the Marines, but I’ve never seen someone move as fast as you, and shoot so accurately. The coroner said both rounds would have been fatal and were right through the heart-lung region. Where’d you learn to shoot like that?”

    “Reverend Whitaker, One of my friends and an officer in Allakaket Airlines is an Ex-Seal diving instructor. He not only taught me, but everyone in our town that wanted to how to shoot. I was a pretty good pistol shot before then because our cabin was in the middle of bear country, so I grew up with a pistol in my hand. I used a Ruger 22/45 for taking squirrels and other small game, and a Colt Anaconda .44 Magnum as my Bear gun. Last time I counted, I’ve shot 6 bears that were attacking, or too close to let go safely. Nancy here is the reigning Champion woman’s pistol shot for the Town of Allakaket. Bill Ayer and I built a 12-lane 100-yard indoor shooting range in town after several terrorist attacks in the vicinity. I found out that if I made membership in the range an employee benefit, I could write off all the expenses including practice ammo as employee benefit expenses. We have weekly shooting contests, and during the winter, the citizens of Allakaket are either at the range, or using the indoor pool we built for the community,”

    “Wow, if I didn’t have a congregation here, I’d be tempted to move to Allakaket.”

    “You know Reverend, any major corporation in the United States could do the same thing if they wanted to.”

    “Anyway, I just wanted to thank the two of you for saving everyone’s lives today, and give you that extra information I had.”

    “You’re welcome Reverend, and God Bless!”

    Nancy turned to Ron with a big smile of relief on her face. “Ron, I’m glad the Reverend told me about that, or I would always wonder if that 3rd shot was gratuitous. Since the gun was set to full auto, and his finger was on the trigger, that third shot was necessary to make sure he couldn’t pull the trigger.”

    “Not only that, but I never thought he might be wearing a vest. If he was, and I stopped shooting, we’d all be dead. Looks like I need to work on my Failure to Stop Drills again. By the way, where were you hiding that gun?”

    “Ever see Miss Congeniality with Sandra Bullock?”

    Ron laughed out loud “You were wearing a thigh holster under that dress - I never would have known! I guess you really do treat your P-14 like your American Express Card!”

    “Right, it doesn’t do me a lot of good home on the nightstand.” Ron held Nancy for a while, and gave her a big kiss, then he said, “Let’s go rejoin the party!”

    They laughed and joked a while, when Doc told them he needed to talk.

    “Ron, I found out from Reverend Whitaker that if you two wouldn’t have shot when you did, especially Nancy, we could all be dead! Again, just wanted to say thanks, and I’m sorry for what I said on the way over.”

    “Don’t worry Doc, you have strongly held beliefs, and I understand.”

    Doc shook Ron and Nancy’s hands, then said he had to get back to his other guests. The three of them walked back into the reception and picked up where they left off.

    Later that evening, it was time to open the gifts. Among all the other gifts, there was a single envelope there with “Ralph and Sam” on the cover in Doc’s writing. Sam opened it, and there was a note and a passbook. The note said the passbook was for a Trust Fund, which had $1 Million in it. Any disbursements would require both their signatures, and would be limited to major purchases, like a new house or car. Sam and Ralph both gave Doc and Bert big tearful hugs.

    “Ralph, now that the state has forgiven your Guaranteed Student loan debts, I felt that a trust fund was in order to help you buy a really nice house to raise your children in. I’d highly suggest renting until you get established, since if you sell a house within the first 3 years of buying it, your costs usually are more than any increase in market value, and you lose money.”

    Ralph said “Thanks Doc. We’ve already decided to live in Atlanta. The main hospital there has already accepted my application for ER Assistant Chief Resident, and Sam’s completed her internship in Emergency Surgery, so they’ve accepted her as well into their residency program. We’ll be working the same shift, so we’ll get to spend a lot of time together. We planned on renting for the first 2 years until we were comfortable in Atlanta, and knew the market better.”

    Sam said “Thanks Mom and Dad - you two have been like parents to me, so if it’s OK with you, when we have children, we’d like both of you to be their grandparents.”

    Bert hugged the stuffing out of Sam. They never were able to have kids of their own, and now they were going to be grandparents!

    “Sam, I don’t know how to thank you!”

    “You two have been the parents I’ve always dreamed about, and who you see standing before you today is mostly because of your love and caring. God had a lot to do with it, but you took me in, helped me get my life back together, gave me an education, and you love me like your own daughter, so I hope you don’t mind if I call you Mom and Dad!”

    Bert thought that deserved another hug, and Samantha was wondering if Bert was part python.

    Later that evening, when things broke up, Ron and Nancy went to say their Goodbyes to the newlyweds. Sam hugged the stuffing out of Ron, saying “Thanks for everything Ron, You two will always be special friends to us.”

    Ralph gave Ron a hug too, and said “Thanks again for being there for us, and saving our lives. I was serious about learning to shoot, but I realize it might be inconvenient for you to fly from Alaska to Atlanta, so maybe you could recommend someone. When we’re qualified, both of us want to get CCW’s if we can.”

    “Ralph, when I get home, I’ll talk to Bear and see if he knows anyone in the Atlanta area who can train you. As far as the CCWs, I might be able to help, since you’ve both been the victims of violent crimes. I have some low friends in high places that might be able to help.”

    “Merci vraiment monsieur!”

    “You’re Welcome Rapha&#235;l. Bon Jour, and Au Revoir.”

    Ralph laughed “you’re French is not bad, but you still speak it like a French Canadian.”

    “Probably because the person who taught me enough French to get in trouble was Canadian.”

    Meanwhile Samantha and Nancy were getting some quality “girl time”, they were laughing and giggling by the time Ron was ready to leave. Ralph and Sam were staying there that night, and flying to Aruba the next morning for their honeymoon. They had a month before they reported to Atlanta, which would give them 2 weeks in Aruba, and enough time to move their few possessions to Atlanta. Ralph wanted to buy a SUV and rent a trailer, since they needed another vehicle anyway. Ralph and Sam decided to sell his 10-year old Honda and return the Carmen Gia to Doc. They were working the same shift and could drive to work together.

    Chapter 30 - Mini-Vacation

    Ron and Nancy stayed in a Charlotte hotel that night, and called Anne the next morning. She said she was doing fine, and had the rest of the week off, she suggested they take a vacation. Ron thought that was a good idea and Nancy reminded him they were less than a couple of hours north of Florida, and they could do diving in the Florida Keys. The desk clerk was extremely helpful, and allowed Ron to use the Internet for a couple of minutes. He found a listing of diving sites, and a company that did diving tours for experienced divers. They provided the boat, crew, and gear. By now Nancy had found a more conservative swimsuit since they used the pool several times a month, so she wouldn’t give anyone a heart attack. He contacted the company, and they had a boat and crew available. They’d charge $500 for a 3-day diving trip in the Keys. Ron asked them to hold the boat for them; they were driving down from North Carolina. The owner said they shouldn’t try to dive today, so they would reserve it for tomorrow. Ron thanked him, and asked the Hotel Clerk if they did rental vehicles. He was looking for a nice luxury SUV, She said they had an arrangement with Hertz Rentals, and checking her computer, they had a 2004 Oldsmobile Bravada that was fully loaded for $200/week with unlimited mileage, deductible waiver, and a full tank of gas. Ron told her they were going diving, and asked if she could pull up the location. She said she could do 1 better, and gave him the GPS coordinates to the location, and a nearby hotel in their chain that they could stay overnight. She handed Ron the printout, and asked if he wanted the vehicle. It could be at the hotel’s front door in half an hour. Ron told her to make the arrangements, and handed her his AMEX to charge the vehicle rental on.

    She reserved a night at the chain hotel, and 20 minutes later, the vehicle drove up. She had already checked them out, and Nancy got their bags out of the room while Ron was taking care of the paperwork. They signed the rental agreement, and loaded the SUV. Ron entered the coordinates for the hotel and the dive shop into the GPS, selected the hotel, and the car’s GPS navigation system gave him turn-by turn directions to the front door of the hotel. They arrived at the hotel later that evening, and spent the night, and drove to the dive shop early the next morning. After presenting his AMEX card and their PADI diving certificates, and signing their lives away, they checked out the boat and the crew. Ron felt OK, and Nancy felt that they were pretty safe with this crew, so they hired them for a 3-day diving cruise. The captain showed them several diving sites, and they selected 6 they wanted to dive since they were all within recreational dive limits. He checked the air tanks, hoses, and regulators and they looked brand-new. Even the masks, fins, and snorkels looked new. Ron asked the captain, and he told them they replaced their dive gear every couple of years, since it was cheaper than getting sued, and they had just bought new gear before the start of this season. Ron and Nancy locked up the SUV, and took their stuff aboard the boat.

    They shoved off 5 minutes later, and 2 hours later were at the first site. Ron and Nancy had already suited up, and the first mate helped them into their gear and helped them check it. Then he handed them each an underwater camera. It was an unexpected bonus, and Ron thanked them. The first site was an old 1800’s era wreck, and it was full of fish. Ron and Nancy shot a bunch of pictures, then they surfaced, moved to the next site, and did it all over again. Their stateroom was pretty luxurious for a dive boat, and the food was good. Overnight, they relocated to the next dive site, so they would be ready to go first thing in the morning. When the 3-day diving holiday was over, Nancy told Ron that this was the most fun she had had outside of their bedroom since they were married.

    They drove back to Charlotte, and called Delta to see when they could book 2 first class seats to Seattle with a transfer to Alaska Airlines and Anchorage. The Delta operator spotted the VIP code, and amazingly found 2 first-class seats on their 0800 flight to Seattle the next morning. That worked for Ron, who didn’t want to fly too soon after all that diving. They checked into the hotel, got a good night's sleep, and drove the rental to the rental drop-off at the airport the next morning. The rental courtesy van drove them to the main entrance, and after Ron and Nancy presented their Federal CCWs, they were escorted around security and walked to the gate right as they were announcing pre-boarding. The airline agent exchanged the return half of their round-trip tickets for boarding passes for the rest of the trip, and told them to have a nice day. They walked aboard the aircraft, and were shown 2 seats together in First Class. Once they were settled, the Steward asked if they wanted anything, and took their meal order. They both ordered the steak and vegetable omelet. 5 minutes later, the plane started filling up, and as soon as the door closed, they started backing up to the taxiway, then they took off for Seattle. They reversed the process when they transferred back to Alaska Airlines, and soon were on their way home. The 007 was waiting for them at the Alaska Airlines private heliport, and someone from Alaska Airlines was waiting for them at the gate. They would collect their bags, and drive them over to the private heliport. Half an hour later they were flying home to Allakaket. Ron was glad he got some sleep on the flight home, because Nancy was exhausted, and fell asleep on the flight from Anchorage to Allakaket. Anne greeted them at the door, and they were promptly mobbed by 2 boys and a dog. Sarah was hanging back, and David was in Anne’s arms asleep. Nancy picked up Sarah and gave her a big hug and a kiss, and Sarah gave her mom a big smile in return. Anne kept an eye on the kids the rest of the afternoon so Ron and Nancy could get some sleep.

    The next morning Bear called and needed to see Ron face to face, since all the TG’s were busy, Ron called and had them prep a 007 for a quick hop to Alaska Survival Inc. He kissed Nancy, gave his mom a hug, and said he’d see them later, then drove to the airport where one of the S-76 helicopters was idling, waiting for him. He parked the truck, climbed aboard, belted in, and the crew chief closed and locked the door, then tapped the pilot on the shoulder once he was securely belted in too, and the pilot increased the throttle, and lifted into the air, and adopted a nose-down attitude, then slowly rose into the air. 1 hour later, he landed in the main compound, and the pilot shut down. Once the rotor stopped spinning, the crew chief opened the door and Ron got out and practically walked into Bear. “Bear what’s up?”

    “General Shepard just delivered a bunch of stuff, and I’m running out of room to store it. I wanted your permission to re-distribute some of it to your lodge, and we need to build an armory for Allakaket itself.”

    “You could have called me for that, what’s up?”

    “I wanted you to see what General Shepard sent, we’re now getting front-line small arms.” They walked inside the Main building they used for the survival school, which was temporarily empty because the students were out in the field. There was a Pelican case on the center table. Bear opened it, and Ron’s chin almost hit the floor. It looked like an M -4 carbine with all the accessories. “Bear, what the heck is this?”

    “General Shepard is sending us Special Forces equipment for some reason, this is the SOPMOD M4.”

    “I recognize the M -4 carbine, but what’s the rest of this stuff?”

    Bear started taking stuff out of the case and attaching it to the carbine. The first piece was an ACOG 4x scope that he said was good out to 600 meters, then pulled out an M -203 grenade launcher with a QD mount, and attached that as well, finally he pulled a suppressor out of the case and locked it to the barrel with a twist and a click. “This is the basic configuration for the SOPMOD M4, it takes other optics and gear to enhance NVG targeting. The suppressor reduces the firing noise by 30db, and as you can see, just clicks on and off. There are 99 more of these on a pallet next door in the shelter. It’s so full of weapons that we can’t use it - so we need to redistribute it. Hunter said he saw a spot that would work great for a shelter/armory for the town, it’s stuck between the two main hangars and you really can’t build anything else there. He volunteered to help you blast the dirt loose, since you could damage nearby buildings if you overshoot. I’ve got a plan for a shelter that can shelter a couple of hundred people in an emergency, with an Armory above it. We need to get going because we need to store this stuff elsewhere because my shelter is too full for us to use. Now that we’ve got General Shepard’s letter, we can be a little more overt about our military hardware.”

    “OK, Bear, make it happen. So what else were you planning on storing in Allakaket?”

    “I was going to leave 10 of these SOPMOD weapons systems and 120 40mm grenades at your lodge, since your shelter is huge, and leave 10 of them here, leaving 80 units to store in Allakaket. We’ve got over 6000 40mm grenades in cases of 12, half of them are HE grenades, and the other half are the HEDP type. If we each keep 240 grenades, that leaves 5520 grenades for 80 SOPMOD M4's plus the M-16A2/M203's we already own. We’re expecting another shipment of grenades, plus 5.56, 7.62, and 20mm ammo later this week. Gen. Shepard isn’t telling me why, but he wouldn’t be shipping us all this if he didn’t think we needed it, so we need to review our preparedness and training. First we need to get going on that building. You need to talk to Bill and BA, because this shelter/armory isn’t going to be cheap. You and BA have excellent shelters under your houses, but no one else in Allakaket has got squat. I found out there are around 200 women and children in Allakaket, and my plan can handle 300 people easily, and it will hold up to anything besides a direct hit with a nuke or a bunker buster. With the armory on top, no one will suspect that there’s a huge bomb shelter underneath. This will protect the non-combatants in case we get attacked, and will improve the morale of the militia members to know their wives and children are safe.”

    “Great Bear, give us a cost estimate, and we’ll get going on it.”

    “Ron, I’ve got it right here, a shelter capable of supporting 300 people for 90 days would cost $3.5 million dollars, but 2/3 of that is supplies and equipment.”

    Ron realized he was worth about $30 million right now, as was BA, and they owed the townspeople a lot. The militia shot General Wilcox down, and almost all of the townspeople now worked for him in one capacity or another. Between the two of them that would be 1.75 Million a piece. OK, he thought that BA would go for it too, and told Bear that he had a tentative approval to spend up to $5 Million on the project. Bear gave Ron a bear hug, and walked him back to the helicopter. Bear handed Ron a disk that he said contained the design and a spreadsheet for the costs, then told him to get aboard the helicopter. He flew back to Allakaket, and Ron had a meeting with BA and Bill. They thought it was an excellent idea, since Bear needed an armory in town anyway, and approved it. They were reviewing the project design, and agreed that it would hold up to anything short of a bunker buster or a nuke. The shelter was over 50 feet deep, 200 feet wide and 300 feet long. The opening between the buildings was 250x350, so it would just fit, and they could make it look like another hangar if they used a steel building. The only problem would be getting the dirt out of the hole, but Ron thought that Hunter might have an idea. He did, and it involved using several pickup trucks as dump trucks, and filling them with dirt then driving them up a ramp and dumping the dirt next to the aircraft ramp to extend and widen the ramp in case they needed a wider ramp in the future. Besides, it would be the best way to hide the excavated dirt.

    They contracted for a concrete batch plant, and enough rebar for the “basement”. The floor/roof was supported by huge steel girders and posts. The CH-47 was busy flying the heavy loads to Allakaket, and the Super Stallion took care of all the light stuff. Hunter supervised drilling and blasting 75 feet of earth and rock, then they brought in a huge front-end loader that could fill a 2-ton pickup bed with 1 load. Luckily, Allakaket Airlines had invested in diesel 4x4 F-450s years ago, and it was a simple matter to convert the beds to dump beds. They used all 6 trucks, and flew in several dump trucks from the mine to keep up with the volume. They dug down 75 feet, then filled and compacted gravel in the bottom until they had a firm level bed for the concrete. They were using the pour and erect method for pouring the walls, so they reinforced the floor, made molds for the walls, and then poured and erected the concrete to finish curing in place. The outside of the walls was sprayed with an industrial concrete sealer, since it was neater and faster than applying tar.

    Once they got the lower half of the wall in, they stopped and installed all the utilities including a million gallons worth of fresh water tanks, a 5,000 gallon grey-water tank with a settling filter and a recirculating pump and 1.5 million gallons worth of black water tanks that could be pumped later when necessary. They included one of the diesel generators from the mine, and a 10,000 gallon diesel tank that should last 6 months. Lighting was a mix of warm and cool fluorescent fixtures that simulated normal daylight so plants could grow. They installed enough liquid oxygen tanks and CO2 scrubbers to last 300 people 6 months as part of a computerized air handling system that constantly monitored the humidity, CO2 and O2 levels in the shelter. They included an air filtration system to let in fresh air if the sensors didn’t detect radiation or any biological or chemical contaminants. Ron was glad that General Shepard approved and assisted with building the shelter, so they got stuff only the government and military normally had.

    Once all the utilities were in, they built the second floor by welding and bolting steel girders, decking and flooring to the steel girder posts. There was still room on the bottom floor to store food and supplies, so they installed a used freight elevator so they could use pallet jacks to move pallets of supplies from the storage/utilities floor to the main floors. Once that was built, they added a 3rd floor 15 feet above the main floor. With the construction of the 3rd floor, they resumed building the side walls, and soon the entire “basement” was fully enclosed on all 4 sides. All it needed was a roof. They erected another steel deck and had the concrete sections all ready to lift into place by the time they were ready for them, and set them on the decking, and connected the sections They left 1 section open to act as a doorway, which would later be secured by a vault door built into the roof and opened hydraulically. Since the roof was 6 feet below grade, they used some of the native excavated dirt to fill it back in to grade, leaving an opening for the door. The door opening was just bigger than the largest pallet that supplies came in on, so the freight elevator could move them from the top to the bottom of the shelter. The extra orders from their General Store suppliers would barely be noticed with the volume they were buying. By the time they were all said and done, the shelter cost closer to $10 Million than the $5 Million estimate, but Allakaket Airlines had an excellent year, so it didn’t hurt their bottom line. The townspeople pitched in and volunteered their spare time, which reduced costs by 1/3.

    Finally, they erected a steel building on top of the shelter that stored the armory, the M -163 Vulcan, and the Rapier anti-air systems. They were going to store explosives in the armory, so they build an explosives bunker inside the steel building made out of Concrete Masonry Units reinforced with concrete and rebar, and a reinforced concrete roof with blast vents so if there was an accidental explosion, the blast would be diverted out the roof instead of taking out the Vulcan and the Rapier, or damaging the rest of the armory. Cases of ammo were stored on shelves by caliber and type. Explosive ammo and missiles were stored in the concrete block room with the rest of the explosives. There were racks of rifles along a wall, along with Alice gear and bullet-proof vests. The Supply Sergeant at Elmendorf chose to retire from the Air Force, and was hired by Allakaket Airlines to maintain the Armory and the shelter. He still kept his connections at Elmendorf, which saved Allakaket Airlines millions of dollars by acquiring surplus equipment instead of new. His first day on the job was an eye-opener to say the least, he thought that Allakaket Airlines was better armed than the security force at Elmendorf, and in certain areas, they were. They didn’t have any Bradleys or Armor, but they weren’t done yet!

    General Shepard decided to pay a visit when Bear told him the shelter and Armory was done. He was getting ready to retire, and knew he wouldn’t get promoted again, so he was thinking about re-locating to Allakaket since they were almost as well prepared as an Air Force base to withstand attack, or survive any SHTF scenario. When he got there, he was impressed, and made a few suggestions, and offered some more equipment they were missing - no, they didn’t get any nuclear cruise missiles - it wasn’t time yet!

    Ron got called up by the General while he was in Allakaket. They were ready for him to test the improved Bradley and the improved LAV. If he could fly back with the General, they could talk in the plane on the way over to MacDill. Ron packed a bag with enough clothes for a week, and made sure that his emergency kit was in his bag, checked his P-14, spare mags, Federal CCW and his TS ID badge were still on him. He kissed Nancy goodbye, hugged the kids, and was out the door in half an hour - he didn’t want to keep the General waiting. They flew back to Elmendorf in 007, Ron’s S-76 super-copter, and then got on board the general’s VC-20 for the flight to MacDill. Once they were airborne, General Shepard leveled with him.

    “Ron, I’m all ready to retire. I deliberately sent you enough stuff to fight WWIII since I wanted to retire to Allakaket if you’ll have me. I’m tired of the BS, and just want to relax. With the new security measures I’ve installed, Allakaket is almost as secure as MacDill, except you don’t have USMC guards. I’ve requested retirement, and my last project will be to see the Robo-tank and the Robo-LAV completed and produced. The engineers claim they got all the bugs out, and think you might be able to hit a small target at 3 miles now that they got the turret balanced and isolated the vibrations. Both prototypes are under wraps at MacDill, waiting for you to test them. If you say they’re good to go, the Pentagon will cancel all existing contracts for the Bushmaster equipped Bradley and the LAV series, and replace them with Robo-guns. The good news is they can use existing hulls with several modifications, so they might even retrofit existing Bradleys and LAV’s, saving even more money. This is the culmination of a long project, so I need your honest opinion.”

    “General, I’ve never given you anything but my honest opinion, and I’m not about to stop now. I’ve got a problem with Northrop Grumman. Seems I’ve pissed them off by costing them 35 million in excess charges on the SuperGoose project. One of their test pilots tried to entrap me by pumping me for information about the RCAF procurement of the SuperGoose. I turned the tables on him and tape-recorded his admission that Northrop Grumman has been charging a 700% markup on projects, and giving half of it back to Politicians in the form of kick-backs and political contributions. I’ve got the tape in a safe spot. Could you give me some help and get Northrop Grumman off my back. I can handle threats to myself, but I’m afraid they might go after my wife and kids.”

    “Ron, what did you say the name of that test pilot was?”

    “It was the weirdest thing - he said his name was Keith Northrop, and I thought it was a little funny to have a grandson of the owners doing something as dangerous as a test pilot.”

    “You were right, none of Jack Northrop’s relatives would be let anywhere near a prototype aircraft. What else happened?

    “Jack Snyder met me at the helicopter pad on the roof of the El Segundo facility, he introduced himself as the program director, and we flew to Edwards to meet Keith and fly the SuperGoose.”

    “You said Jack Snyder - he’s not a program director, he’s their head of Internal Security and a total snake. I think this whole T&E thing was set up to set you up and get you to say something incriminating.”

    “That’s my gut feeling, the plane wasn’t even wired for sensors like they’d normally do in a test series.”

    “I’ll bet they tried to pump you, and when you wouldn’t spill your guts, they gave up for now. You might have an expert check your clothes for bugs. If you stayed at their hotel, they would have had ample time to plant a bug on you.”

    Ron thought back to what he was wearing when he was in California, called BA on his cell phone, and told him to grab Bear and tell him to go to his house with testing equipment, and go through a list of clothes searching for bugs. Ron was royally pissed now, what if he said something while wearing their bugs. “General, a bug’s a transmitter, right - what’s the range of one of those bugs?”

    “I see what you’re getting at, usually no more than a mile. If they wanted to bug you, they either had to plant a recorder within a mile, or else have an operator in the area. Since the tapes need to be switched, they needed an operator on the inside.”

    Ron called BA back. “Have we hired anyone since the snafu with the RCAF?”

    “Just a couple.”

    “Run a deep background check on them, then let Bear talk to them, we might have an industrial spy on our hands, or a hit man!”

    “In that case, I’ll incarcerate them right now until Bear clears them.”

    A couple of hours later, BA called back “Ron, they checked out, and Bear didn’t find anything. Maybe we dodged a bullet.”

    Ron told the general what BA had told him. The general wasn’t satisfied, he knew these kind of operatives had legends that could stand up under close scrutiny. He asked Ron for the phone, and told BA to have Bear put someone reliable on them 24/7. BA agreed, then hung up. They talked for the rest of the flight, mostly strategy on how to defeat any attempt by Northrop Grumman to cause Ron grief. General Shepard hoped he was being paranoid, then remembered a famous quote “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you!” He used his “shoe phone” to make contact with an Ex-Seal that worked for several alphabet agencies as a free-lancer. He left a cryptic message on his answering machine, and hung up. If anyone could dissuade Northrop Grumman from causing Ron problems, this gentleman could, and he owed the General a few favors.


  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    State of Denial
    Chapter 31 - Robo-Gun II

    They landed at MacDill later that day, and the general told Ron to get some sleep, he had a busy week ahead, then dropped him off at the VIP quarters. He went up to his room, took a shower, and went straight to bed. At 0700 the next morning, he was up, dressed, and headed for breakfast. Steve met him there at 0800, and gave him a ride to the firing range. They had the Robo-Tank (Bradley) set up for the short-range moving target test. They wanted to do the entire test series over again to make sure their fixes didn’t mess anything up. Ron read the manual, realized there were no significant changes to the gun or the software, and set the RT up for target and track mode, then made sure the range was clear, and activated the range. The gun behaved identically as the last time, but Ron’s score improved since more of the shots were in the kill zone, and he was acquiring them faster now that he was familiar with the system. They shut down the RT, checked the targets, and Ron had a perfect score. Everything out to a &#189; mile was dead. They reset the range, and Ron re-configured the RT for long-range T&T mode with the outriggers down. When he was finished, he had a perfect score again, with all targets within a mile dead. Next he asked for static targets at 1,2,and 3 miles at his 6, 9 and 12o’clock. When these targets were set up, he activated Sniper Mode, and engaged the targets from left to right starting at his 6 o’clock. He put 5 rounds into each target without re-aiming after the first shot on the target. Just as he guessed, the groups opened up as the range increased but the groups were circular, indicating no major harmonics were interfering with the gun’s accuracy. The 1-mile targets averaged a 3-inch group, the 2-mile targets averaged a 6-inch group, and the 3-mile targets averaged a 9-inch group for 5 shots per target without re-aiming. The first shot of each group was in the bulls-eye, and the 1-mile targets had X-ring groups. Any Enemy General within a mile would be dead as a doornail. Anyone within 2 miles would probably be dead, and anyone within 3 miles would be wishing they were dead. The only thing Ron needed to do with the Bradley RT was conduct the tests at night. Since they had the time and the ammo, he asked if the Sergeant would mind driving the tank while he shot, just to see how far they could engage and hit targets while moving. For the rest of the afternoon, they drove back and forth, and engaged targets from 100 yards to 1 mile. Everything within half a mile had a better than 80% chance of getting hit with the first shot at up to 30mph, and everything within a quarter-mile had a 100% hit ratio at full speed, the same as the existing Bradley. His hit ratio at targets outside &#189; mile was a miserable 30%, but until now, the Bushmaster-equipped Bradley wouldn’t even think about engaging targets more than a quarter-mile away while moving. Ron jumped out, and was typing like mad while his impressions were still fresh.

    They drove him back to the VIP quarters, where he ate a late lunch/early dinner and took a nap. He got up at 2030, and Steve picked him up at 2100 hours and drove to the range. They did the whole procedure with the night settings, with comparable results. Just like last time, there was no difference between day and night with the new camera and software. The only problem they had was the Sergeant wasn’t familiar enough with the displays to feel comfortable driving at speed at night using just the monitors, so the testing speed was limited to 20 mph. Ron finished at 0100, and went to bed. It would take them until 1000 to set up the range and move the RT LAV into position. Ron was glad he could sleep in to 0900.

    The next morning, Ron ate a big breakfast, because yesterday by the time he got fed again, he was really hungry. Steve showed up at 0950 to drive him to the range. Ron was impressed by the LAV-25, which was 30% bigger in all dimensions than the Bradley and fully amphibious. Installing the Robo-Gun actually increased room inside the cramped hull, which would make the Jarheads happy. He was given a familiarization briefing on the idiosyncrasies of the LAV-25. With its wheeled chassis, it had a higher ground clearance, and was less stable than the Bradley, so he shouldn’t expect the same accuracy from the LAV-25 until the outriggers were deployed. The designers of the LAV decided to go with much heavier outriggers that fully supported the weight of the LAV, which meant that once the outriggers were deployed, the gun should be accurate out to 3 miles, which they hoped would make up for the lack of accuracy without the outriggers deployed. They hoped it would still be better than the original Bushmaster, and Ron had to agree that it should, based on his experience with the Bradley. The accuracy using only the suspension locks was disappointing, and anything outside of a &#189; mile had a fairly good chance of surviving, since they could only manage a 50% kill rate. It could hit targets all day long out to a mile, but the suspension system had too much flexibility in it to guarantee a kill outside of &#189; a mile.

    With the outriggers down, however, the Robo-gun performed like it was attached to a block of concrete. The T&T session with the outriggers down was amazing. He was killing moving targets at 2-mile range like the Bradley was killing targets at a mile. Anything inside a mile was a guaranteed kill. Next he set up the 6, 9, and 12 pattern but extended it out to 5 miles just for giggles. They reloaded the ammo trays, and Ron fired 5 shots at each target without re-aiming once he fired the first shot at each target. The average group size was smaller for the whole series, and there was no distortion of the groups due to any perceived harmonics. The 1-mile targets averaged just under 2 inches, the 2-mile just under 4, and the 3-mile just under 6, The 4 and 5 mile targets were 8 and 10 inches respectively, but with some vertical stringing., probably due to the extreme range. It was still good to know that the gun could shoot a 10-inch group at 5 miles, and the first round from each group was in the bullseye. He hopped out of the LAV and quickly dictated his thoughts, then had the range set up for moving target/moving vehicle tests. The LAV performed dismally in Ron’s opinion, but could still get a first-shot kill out to a &#188; mile below 30 mph. At half a mile, they were still getting disabling shots, and were lucky to hit targets past a half-mile while moving. He didn’t blame the gun, since the Bradley did much better. He realized that a wheeled vehicle would have much more freedom of movement due to the suspension and the tires. He wrote his other report up, and was told to hit the sack so they could do the night-time tests at 2100 that evening. He ate a quick meal and went right to bed. He set an alarm for 2030, and met Steve at 2035 still rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. The night test was a no-brainer, and again they had problems driving faster than 20mph at night due to the sergeant’s unfamiliarity with the vehicle. Again they had problems without the outriggers, but with them the gun was amazingly accurate. They called it a night at 0100, and he went to sleep for 12 hours before they would get back together at 1500 the next day to write the report.

    On his way back to the VIP quarters, Ron thought of something, and asked Steve. “If the LAV with the outriggers is capable of engaging targets out to 5 miles, wouldn’t it benefit more from a higher magnification scope than the Bradley, which can only engage targets out to maybe 3 miles with it’s lighter outriggers.”

    Steve stopped the Hummer, grabbed his tape recorder, and asked Ron to repeat what he just said, then handed him the tape, and told him to give it to the T&E team tomorrow. Steve dropped Ron off at the VIP quarters, where he ate a bologna and cheese sandwich and went to bed. He got up around noon, and they were still serving lunch, so Ron hurried down to the cafeteria and piled a plate full of food, then went back upstairs to his room when he finished eating, and took a shower and a quick nap. He woke up at 1400, got dressed, remembered the tape, and pocketed it. Steve was waiting downstairs, and drove him to the Gunny’s office. The team was assembled, and Ron handed Gunny the tape, and had him play it. The engineers felt like smacking their foreheads it was so obvious. The head of the design team said that increasing the maximum magnification could be done fairly easily using electronics, since the lens was way bigger than it needed to be for daylight imaging. The nighttime system might not be able to use the full magnification without washing out the image, but it would be worth having during the day. They wrote up their report with their recommendations, including increasing the magnification digitally, especially for the LAV version. When they were finished, Steve drove up and told Ron that General Shepard wanted to see him and to bring a copy of the T&E report. Steve dropped Ron off, and walked back to his office. Ron knocked on General Shepard’s door, and he said “Enter” so Ron opened the door. “General Shepard, you asked to see me?”

    “Ron, sit down and close the door.” After he closed the door and sat down the General continued. “Ron, I’ve got good news and great news. First of all, thanks for a job well done. Steve told me about your idea to increase the magnification on the LAV. I was thinking, can you imagine what a threat a LAV-25 could be to a lightly armored force if it was dug into a revetment with only the turret exposed and it’s outriggers extended. The only visible target is the gun and the small turret, they can’t acoustically or visually locate the gun because of the suppressor, and it’s killing APCs at a 5-mile range. Even a medium tank would be vulnerable. A Main Battle Tank could be damaged at least. All armored troops would have to be buttoned up, restricting their view and their situational awareness. No senior officer would dare make himself a target on the battlefield in case there was a Robo-Tank hiding somewhere. That by itself would demoralize enemy troops that love to see their generals up front. Just that 1 observation could be the most important thing you did all week. We thoroughly expected the Bradley to be more accurate with the outriggers up, but didn’t realize that the LAV with the outriggers down would be so accurate. Thanks for doing the moving vehicle/moving target test. It’s not part of the program, but the data is still valuable. Based on your report, I’m going to recommend to the Pentagon that the Robo-tank go into full production for the Bradley as it exists, and suggest a change order for the optics for the LAV series to increase the magnification to take advantage of it’s stability with the outriggers down.”

    “I’ve got some better news for you. You never were targeted for any espionage by Northrop Grumman upper Management. This was a solo operation run out of Jack Snyder’s office. Evidently one of the tech-reps at NG got a little mouthy about what they thought of you, and Jack thought that if he could freelance an operation and get you to spill the beans, he’d get promoted. Since the operation failed, they’ve taken no further action against you, and you never were bugged or tailed. My guess is you’re in the clear, so you’ve nothing to worry about.”

    “Thanks General, that makes me feel better.”

    “I’ve put in for my retirement, and as a retirement present, the Air Force wanted to give me a Robo-tank as either a Bradley or the LAV. Since I’m moving to Allakaket, I wanted to know which one you thought I should get, since you know which one would work best up there.”

    “General, I’d highly suggest you get the Bradley, since there aren’t many 5-mile clearings in Alaska, at least around Allakaket. Also the tracks would be easier to adapt to working in deep snow than the wheeled version.”

    “That’s what I thought too. I’m shipping one last shipment of ammo, weapons and anything else I think you might need up there before I retire. Was there anything you wanted that you don’t have yet?”

    “General, we don’t have any heavy anti-tank missiles like the AT-4, TOW, or Dragon. If you could spare a couple of ballistic Hummers, say 2 TOW armed Hummers, and 2 Ma Deuce armed Hummers with a full set of reloads, that would cover it.”

    “I think we can handle that - anything else?”

    “Bear wanted to ask me to ask you if we could have any nuclear cruise missiles!”

    General Shepard roared with laughter, and told Ron “You tell that overgrown aquatic freak that it still isn’t time yet - OK!”

    “Yes Sir General Sir!”

    “Better yet, I’ll tell him myself!” The General opened his shoe phone, and dialed Bear’s number.

    Bear must have been tired because he answered “Chief Simmons, this is an unsecured line”

    “Bear, I’ve got a friend of yours here, and I decided to give you my answer personally; No, you hairy overgrown aquatic freak, it isn’t time yet!”

    Bear and General Shepard were both laughing their heads off when Bear answered “Aye, Aye Sir!”

    “Bear, how’s things in Allakaket?”

    “Quiet as a church on Wednesday morning.”

    The General and Bear had set up a code for use over unsecured phone lines. Bear’s reply indicated that things really were quiet, and everything was OK. If he had mentioned Thursday, something was wrong, and if he said Friday, TSHTF, or it was about to. Saturday meant something was really wrong - like he might be a hostage. The General was glad that Bear was still using the code after all these years. OPSEC didn’t stop when you hung up the uniform. He told Bear he would talk to him later and hung up.

    “Ok Ron, You can either stay in VIP quarters and catch an early morning flight back to Alaska, or we can fly you out tonight and you’ll probably have to stay overnight in Anchorage.”

    “General, if it’s all the same to you, I’d like to stay here, the food’s better, and I might get to spend some time with Steve. It might be a while before I see him again.”

    “Ron, keep this under your hat, but Steve’s put in for his retirement as well. We both want to retire to Allakaket. I’ve taken some measures to ensure that the military hardware and the 007 helicopters stay in Allakaket when I retire, so Steve decided to join me. It will take a couple of months for the paperwork to process, then we’re Hasta la Vista Baby! We’re both bachelors, but Bear told us there are some really nice Inuit women in Allakaket that aren’t too picky about their husbands, and they actually have all their teeth!”

    Ron remembered his conversation with Bear, and started laughing. “General, that was Bear’s first question, about their teeth.”

    General, maybe I should make some phone calls and let BA know so we can prepare some houses for you.”

    “Ron, like I said, keep it under your hat means don’t tell even BA. Whatever you have available will be perfect. We’re used to BOQ, so even a trailer in town will be an improvement. If word of our retirement got out prematurely before its official, it might undo all the stuff I’ve been doing for the last couple of months.”

    “Ok General, any thing else?”

    “I’m sure you’ll see something extra in your Christmas stocking this year - now beat it, I’ve got work to do!”

    Ron shook the General’s hand, and closed the door on his way out. He walked down the hall to Steve’s office, and plopped down in his spare chair to wait for him to get un-busy. “What brings you here?”

    “The General sends his regards, and I’m staying overnight so I can fly out early tomorrow.”

    “Ok Ron, I’ve got a mountain of paperwork, but I’ll catch you later this evening.” Steve called for a driver to take Ron wherever he wanted to go. “Steve, can you call Gunny at the range, I wanted to get in some pistol practice.”

    “Sure Ron.”

    2 minutes later “Gunny Smith, this is an unsecured line.”

    “Gunny, Col. Fellows, Ron Williams would like to know if you were OK for some pistol practice?”

    “Sure, have him meet me at the armory.”

    “Thanks Gunny.”

    “Gunny will meet you at the armory - see you later.”

    Ron walked outside and a driver was waiting for him in a Hummer. Ron told him to drive to the Armory. When he pulled up, Gunny was sitting there with a big grin on his face. “Col. Fellows said you want some pistol practice, care to try our pop-up range again?”

    “I was hoping you had that available. Do you have any .45 acp FMJ practice ammo?”

    “I’ve got about 100 cases; it’s the Special Forces favorite caliber.”

    Gunny grabbed a partial case, and said “Follow Me” and walked out to his Hummer. They drove over to “Hogan’s Alley” and Ron took his P-14 out of the holster, unloaded all 3 mags, and reloaded with the 230gr. FMJ ammo, then stuck the gun back in it’s holster, and the spare mags back in the mag carrier. The Gunny set up the system for an expert semi-auto pistol shooter, since he remembered Ron almost cleaned house on him the last time he shot the MP-5 on the course. Gunny handed Ron a noise-reducing headset that would also allow him to hear everything around him. Ron nodded that he was ready, and Gunny gave him a thumbs up, and pressed a hidden button. A buzzer went off, and targets started popping up all over the place. Ron went into overdrive, putting a round into each target as it appeared. He shot the gun dry, thumbed the magazine release while he reached for his first spare, and did a perfect combat reload. It cost him over a second, so now he was behind the curve, and had to hurry up. He was reaching for his 3rd magazine when the “You're dead” buzzer sounded. A mover had slid behind cover while he was reloading. Gunny was pretty impressed, he’d killed 28 targets before he ran out of ammo, and a slow reload cost him the race. Ron safed the gun and they sat down and talked. Ron told Gunny about his experience at the wedding, having to draw from concealment while shoving the groom out of the line of fire.

    “Ron, we have people assigned as bodyguards for military VIPs coming through here all the time, and they practice that exact scenario. The only thing you didn’t do right, and Nancy covered for you, was you didn’t do a Failure to Stop drill. Whenever someone is armed with a full-auto weapon, you automatically shoot them in the forehead just to make sure, because if they squeeze that trigger before they are dead, they can kill a whole bunch of people. If you’re seriously into using a pistol for self-defense, you really need to practice your FTS drill more. I can configure the range for that. It won’t be as many targets, but they won’t go down until you have 2 in the 10-ring center chest, and 1 in the forehead. OK, while you reload, I’ll configure the system.” Gunny knew that Ron had a 14-round magazine, so he configured the system to give him 4 FTS targets, a 2 second pause, then 4 more. If he was still in the game, it would give him a 3rd set after a 2 second pause. Gunny looked up, and Ron was finished reloading, and was in the process of putting his hearing protection on. This time Ron took his time to catch his breath, and calm his nerves. Finally he looked at Gunny, nodded, and got a thumbs-up. Ron’s head swivelled forward, and a buzzer sounded. Ron drew and fired Bang-Bang..Bang. 1 target down. As soon as he was finished, another popped up on the opposite side of the “street” since the Hogan’s alley was configured for the SF nightmare, house to house in a built-up city. Ron’s front sight locked on the center of the chest of the second target, and Bang-Bang…Bang, two down. He made it through the first group of four, realized he was short, dropped his magazine and stuffed a fresh mag in the magazine well, and kept shooting just as the next target popped up. He got 2 more when the buzzer sounded. He’d missed the forehead of the guy who popped out of the second story window. Gunny consoled him, saying that most people shoot high when aiming much higher than themselves with a pistol. "Someone has taught you tactics and strategy since the last time you were here, I noticed you just didn’t take them out left to right, which is the quickest way, but you eliminated them in threat order. We have a feature in the program to assign targets a threat level, and modify the exposure time accordingly. Would you like to take a run through that way? It will take a while to set up, because I need to change the targets so they show different weapons.”

    “Go ahead Gunny, I need to reload and catch my breath, I’m not as young as I used to be.”

    Half an hour later, Gunny said he was ready. Ron had reloaded his magazines, and put on his Wolf Ears (he found out that was the brand name of his hearing protectors - he wanted to buy a bunch of them so they could use them at their range in Allakaket.) When he was all set, he told Gunny he was ready. Gunny said “Wait for the beep, then draw.” 3 seconds later, the beeper sounded, and Ron drew and engaged the closest target, armed with a 12 gauge shotgun. He put 3 quick rounds into it, then swivelled and engaged a pop-up that had a carbine with 3 quick rounds. He heard the actuator to his left, but it was a knife-wielding thug, who was 20 yards away. The next target appeared right after it, it was a kid holding an AK-47. Ron triple-tapped that target, then swung back to engage the knife. Gunny nodded his approval behind Ron’s back. Right as he finished off the knife-wielder, a rifleman appeared at a window almost 50 yards away. Ron didn’t have time to be pretty, but managed somehow to hit the target in the forehead because that was all of the rifleman that was exposed. He ducked behind “cover” and quickly reloaded, and then resumed his scan before coming all the way out from behind the cover. Good thing, because he was in the crosshairs of another rifleman across the street, and if he came out during his reload, he was dead. Instead, Ron fired 3 quick rounds at the rifleman, and managed to get a kill shot to the chest. By now his heart was pumping and his pulse was racing, this felt like real life. He had 11 rounds left, and he didn’t know how many bad guys. Before he cleared the cover, he took his remaining mag and moved it to his left-front pants pocket. Gunny thought that was smart, because the last time he had trouble getting that last mag out of the concealed mag carrier. He’d make sure to recommend a different mag carrier to him when this was through.

    Ron looked around, didn’t hear or see anything, so he quickly ran to the next “cover” instead of standing out in the street. Gunny thought “Now he’s learning”. He heard a pop-up to his right, and it was another kid with an AK-47. The rule on the range was if it was visibly armed it was a target, since this was a military range. On a civilian Politically correct Range, some armed kids would be “no shoots”. Ron thought that was stupid. He wasn’t paid to arrest anyone, and if they were armed, they were a potential lethal threat. As soon as he waxed the kid, another target popped up, a woman wearing a skimpy bikini carrying a shotgun. Gunny found that sometimes men didn’t know what to do with this target. Ron had no problem shooting her, and he realized he had 5 rounds left, so after engaging his next target, he could fire 2 quick shots, then he had to reload. He looked around, and there was some more “cover” 10 feet to his right, but close to a door. He looked to his left, and there was better cover to his left, but it was 20 feet away. As he started running to his left, he saw the doorway open, and a MZB holding a shotgun appeared out the door. If he had gone right, the shotgun would have gotten him. He pumped 3 quick rounds into the MZB, then dove for cover. Since no targets were active, he did a tactical reload and kept the magazine with the 2 rounds he might need later. Suddenly 3 targets popped up in front of him, all carrying shotguns within 15 feet. He put 1 round into each, and 2 were still standing so he shot them both in the head, and they went down. He had 10 rounds left, plus 2 in the spare mag. He looked around, and he was almost to the “safe zone” at the end of the street. There was 1 more piece of cover between there and where he was, so since no targets were up, he ran to the cover. While he ran, 2 targets popped up, and he engaged them “en passant” and took them out each with a point-blank head shot. Gunny thought “Dang, this kid’s good!” Finally he slid to a stop behind the last cover to catch his breath. 10 seconds later, he heard the dreaded sound of actuators, and looked up. There were 3 more targets, all armed and 15 feet away. He put 1 round into each, and 1 was still standing, so he shot it again, and it fell. Since he was behind cover, he decided to take the 2 rounds out of his magazine, and top off the other magazine. It took almost a minute, but he didn’t hear any actuators, so he wasn’t in any danger. He had 4 rounds left, he hoped Gunny was out of targets! As he looked around the corner, he heard an actuator, and spotted a distant target covering the goal line, with a carbine. He had 4 rounds, and if he didn’t kill it, he lost. He took a braced kneeling position behind the barrier, lined up the sights and fired. He knew he hit it, but it didn’t go down. Remembering the FTS drill, he aimed for the head, held his breath, blew half of it out and squeezed the trigger as the front sight steadied on the MZB’s head. The target dropped right after he fired, and he ran for the goal line, since he only had 2 rounds left. He crossed the goal line before he heard any actuators, so he knew he had won. He unloaded and safed the weapon, and stuck it back in his holster. Gunny walked up to him with a big grin on his face. “Ron, that was the best I’d seen ever from a civilian. I’ve got to know who taught you.”

    “Gunny, it was Bear, I mean Chief Simmons.”

    “I thought you had been trained by a SEAL, because they teach you “Nothing fancy, just kill the SOB!” Ron laughed his head off, because that was exactly what Bear had said, practically word for word.

    Ron and Gunny examined the targets and talked strategy. Gunny agreed with most of Ron’s decisions, but not all of them, but in the end he had to admit that they passed the final test- they worked in combat, or as close as they could simulate it. Ron reloaded his P-14 and his mags with his Cor-Bon 200gr JHP “Flying Ashcan” carry ammo, loaded the P-14, topped off the magazine, then stuck the other 2 in his concealed carry double mag carrier. Gunny remembered he was going to mention that.

    “Uh Ron - I forgot, remember how many problems you had with your second reload?”

    Ron vaguely remembered having a problem getting the second mag out of the double carrier a couple of times, and nodded sheepishly to Gunny.

    “Just a suggestion, but you should switch to 2 or 3 single mag carriers carried next to each other. Seems the Kydex doubles let one mag out easy, but twist and torque too much when you try to remove the second mag. Besides, if you get single mag carriers, you can almost carry 3 mags in the space it took to carry 2, but much more comfortably.”

    “How so Gunny?”

    “Think about it, 2 mags with no flexibility, or 3 mags that can flex between them - which is going to be more comfortable?”

    “OK Gunny, when I get home I’ll order some.”

    “I can do better than that, I’ve got 5 single mag carriers and 2 spare mags for your P-14 in stock and enough Cor-bon ammo to reload them. I’ll keep your double if you don’t want it. As big as you are, you might be able to carry 5 singles strategically located.”

    They walked into the armory, and Gunny pulled 5 brand new double-stack Kydex mag carriers still in their plastic wrap, 2 P-14 (14-rd) magazines still in their wrappers, and 2 boxes of Flying Ashcan ammo out of stock. Ron loosened his belt, unclipped the double mag carrier, and Gunny told him where to hide the 4 mags. He suggested 3 behind his left kidney since he was right-handed and 1 right in front of his holster, and to keep the other one for a spare until he got used to carrying 4, and then stick it in front on the left side. He said it wouldn’t be as comfortable when he sat down, but if TS ever HTF, he’d be glad to have the extra mags of ammo so he wouldn’t have to waste time topping off mags from a partial, because the bad guys rarely waited while you said “Wait a minute, I’m reloading!” Ron got to laugh his head off again, Gunny was funny. Maybe when he retired he should become a stand-up comedian.

    Ron thought 5 mags was a bit excessive, then remembered what Bear had told him “When you run out of ammo, that expensive gun becomes a very expensive club or hammer. Make sure you carry enough.” Gunny just proved that point with the scenario, he almost ran out of ammo, and had to resort to topping off his mag, which is a tactical no-no because it takes too long. It turned out he didn’t need those last 2 rounds, but he didn’t know that at the time. When they were finished, Gunny drove Ron to the VIP quarters, then said he had to get back to work. Ron was still getting used to the 4 single mags when he went to dinner, but people carrying guns was nothing new around there, so no one said anything. Steve came up to his room after dinner, and Ron showed him what Gunny had done. Steve started laughing and making cracks about “Rambo” until Ron told him about the shoot-out at the wedding, and the results of that afternoon’s pistol practice. He had almost run out of ammo, and had to resort to topping off a mag from a partial to complete the course. Steve studied Ron carefully, and he really couldn’t see the mags or the holster with Ron’s shirt down over it. Ron had filled out since the last time Steve had seen him, and he was built like an NFL linebacker, big and powerful. Steve knew Ron didn’t lift weights, but knew from cutting and splitting wood last time he was there that making firewood was a good substitute. He remembered his brother Ron was fairly big and rangy, so he must have gotten his physique from their side of the family, or else Roy was the runt of his family. Ron told Steve they’d have to cut it short, he needed to get some sleep. Steve sat Ron down and told him he put in for his retirement, and wanted to join General Shepard in Allakaket. Ron admitted that General Shepard had already told him, but not to tell anyone, since it might jeopardize some stuff he was working on. Steve agreed, he was just giving Ron a head’s up. Steve gave Ron a big hug, and said he would see him tomorrow.

    Chapter 32 - Homecoming

    The next morning Ron got up early, showered and dressed, and ate breakfast all before 0800, since his flight was at 0900. Steve showed up at 0830 to drive him to the VIP terminal. Ron showed his Federal CCW to the Air Police, and they waved him around the metal detector, and pointed him to the correct VC-20. His ID was checked by the crew chief before boarding, and the chief carried his luggage aboard. 4 hours later, he was in Anchorage, and when they landed at Elmendorf, Bear was there to greet him with 007. “Your carriage awaits, sir!”

    “Well, what’s it a-waiting for, let’s go!”

    Once they were airborne back to Allakaket, Bear said “Santa Claus came early” and handed Ron a list of all the stuff General Shepard shipped. It was basically a couple of boxcar loads of ammo, rockets, grenades, missiles, and a bunch of other stuff. The piece de resistance was the 2 additional M -163 Vulcan Guns, and a boxcar load of 20mm ammo he sent. Also the 4 Hummers showed up, 2 with BMG Ma Deuces, and 2 with TOW launchers. They were even the ballistically armored Hummers, and there were several dozen TOW missiles for the Hummers.

    Ron read the note:

    Ho - Ho- Ho…Guess Who!

    Hope you enjoy the toys!


    Ron was glad all this stuff came while he was gone, it might have been fun to unload all those heavy lift choppers. The S-76 dropped Bear off at his place, then flew Ron to Allakaket. He checked the armory, and if they had any more room for stuff, he couldn’t find it. He guessed they had more ammo than most bases did. He found out later he was right.

    Ron drove home and was jumped by Josh and Jake, then Moose finished the dog pile. Sarah was just starting to walk, and toddled on over to Daddy. They played together for a while on the wood floor, then Nancy said that dinner was ready. Ron thought “Saved by the Bell” and went in to face feeding time at the zoo. Josh and Jake took care of themselves, except Ron felt like if he would have just hosed the two of them off after dinner, it would have taken less time. Sarah was starting to take after her brothers, but still needed help. David was easy, and ate whatever Mom decided to feed him. Moose ate a bowl of dog food while he still had time. When they finished, Moose Jake, Josh and Sarah went into the playroom, and David took a nap while Mom and Dad ate in the few minutes of peace they would have.

    “So I hope you’re home for a while?”

    “I just finished my last T&E session, so unless they come up with something else for me to do, it’s back to being a full-time husband, and part-time businessman, unless BA needs me to fly, and I doubt it since we still have that reserve plane and pilot available.”

    “Good, because I have a long list of honey-do’s for you!”

    Ron groaned, he wasn’t even 30 years old, and he dreaded the “honey-do” list. Ron was glad for 1 thing, he could put the list off until tomorrow. He and Nancy caught up on everything going on with their family, and things in Allakaket. Finally it was time to put the kids to bed, and catch up on quality time.

    The next morning after breakfast, Ron decided to tackle the “honey-do” list. He saw the first item was to chop and split wood, so he called his friendly handyman for help. Half an hour later, they were out sawing down enough trees to re-fill his wood pile, then they used the tractor to drag the logs over to his sawhorse to saw them into lengths. Finally the wedge and sledge split the wood to the right size, and they stacked it up. So much for Day #1! When Ron went inside at the end of the day, he was sore, so Nancy told him to take a hot shower. Minutes later she joined him, and gave him a massage in the shower, except it did anything but relax him. They took care of that little problem a few minutes later. Once they got dressed again, Ron played with the kids while Nancy finished dinner. When she announced dinner was ready, he helped her feed the kids, then they sat down to eat. Later, they were snuggling on the couch when Jake, Josh, and Sarah decided to join them. Moose wanted to get into the act, but Ron wasn’t having anything to do with it. Moose laid on his bearskin rug, which immediately filled up with 3 kids. Ron and Nancy had the couch to themselves again.

    Later, Nancy said it was bath time, and she recommended that Ron wear his SEAL trunks and put on goggles, since the 3 Amigos splashed a lot. Nancy filled a tub full of warm water and bubble bath, then the 2 of them supervised “Bath Time” and wound up almost as wet as the kids. Ron grabbed Josh to dry him off, and almost got peed on. Luckily, he had anticipated the Fountain of Youth, and quickly got him situated over the toilet. He hoped Jake and Sarah had better manners. Once they were all dried and in their PJs it was time for bed. Ron took the rare opportunity to read them a bedtime story. Nancy stood in the doorway taking in the scene of the 3 of them seated on the bed listening intently to their dad. When he finished, Nancy picked up Sarah to return her to her own bedroom, and Ron picked up Jake and moved him to his bed then tucked them in. He said a quick prayer over each of his sons, then walked into Sarah’s room and prayed over her too. Mom and Dad finally got to bed, and Ron just held Nancy while they talked and prayed about their day.

    The next morning after breakfast, Ron resumed his chores when Nancy said he had a phone call. He walked in from the garden, and it was the General Glasgow of the RCAF.

    “Ron, your SuperGoose is done, and waiting at Wing 19 in Vancouver for you.”

    “Did they do the avionics upgrade?”

    “Far as I know Ron, we ordered it, so they should have done it.”

    General, I need to ask a favor, and this has to stay confidential. Can they sweep the plane for any bugs or unauthorized transmitters?”

    “Sure, why?”

    “General, I’m sure you remember that project I’m involved in, and if the plane were bugged, it would be a major security breach, and I don’t trust Northrop Grumman as far as I can throw them!”

    “I can understand that - they’re probably still steaming from when you called them on that financial shenanigans. I’ll have a couple of security experts go over the plane with a fine tooth comb. It will take a while, because there are a bunch of authorized transmitters on the aircraft.”

    “General, if I could make a suggestion, you’re probably looking for a voice activated bug, or a device spliced into the headsets.”

    “Thanks for the tip Ron, you’re probably right. I’ll call you when it’s done.”

    Ron went back to work, and General Glasgow called in a couple of favors to get a couple of experts to search the entire plane for bugs or transmitters. He made the suggestion to look for VOX or splices into the headset line. 2 days later, they called back, and said they found a VOX connected to a digital recorder that wasn’t in the other units. Instead of removing it, they deactivated it, and stuck a tracker on it, so if the unit was removed from the plane, it could be located. The General asked them to check the other SuperGoose airplanes delivered to the Canadian Government. Only the ones going to potentially sensitive government agencies had the device, so the General was highly suspicious. Instead of calling Northrop/Grumman and canceling the entire order, he authorized a sting operation, and had the operatives do the same thing to the recorders in the bugged planes, so if the disk or the recorder was removed for any reason, they’d be able to track it and bust whoever was behind it for Espionage.

    He sent an E-mail to General Shepard detailing his findings. General Shepard ordered a search of all VIP aircraft in the fleet for this device, and found some more. He called General Glasgow back on his shoe phone, and told him what he had found. Evidently someone in the aircraft industry wanted to branch out into the espionage business. General Shepard had a short list of suspects, and Jack Snyder was at the top of his list! This was a major espionage case, which involved both governments, so General Shepard suggested to General Glasgow that he contact a friend of his in the FBI Counterintelligence bureau, who could check into this without warning the suspect, because Jack Snyder was Ex-CIA, and had connections there and the NSA to warn him about any sting. General Shepard wanted to get Jack Snyder for more reasons than one. One of the reasons he was Ex-CIA was that they suspected he leaked critical information to the Chinese for money, but they didn’t have enough evidence to convict. So instead of airing their dirty laundry and maybe not getting a conviction, they unceremoniously kicked his scrawny butt out of the CIA without a pension. General Shepard called his buddy at the FBI and got the ball rolling. General Glasgow called Ron and told him that they found and deactivated a digital recorder, and put a tracer on it in case someone was to take it out of the plane. Ron thanked him, and asked if the plane were ready to pick up. General Glasgow said it would be ready to pick up first thing tomorrow. Ron thanked him, and hung up. He called Steve, his relief pilot, and told him to get ready for a dawn patrol flight to Vancouver BC to pick up a SuperGoose, then he told Nancy the good news, leaving out the details about the bug.

    The next morning, they flew to Vancouver, and Steve dropped Ron off and flew back to Allakaket, since he wanted to make a pickup that afternoon that was pretty urgent - his wife was flying back home from visiting relatives, and he wanted to fly her home from Anchorage. Chief Nichols met Ron and told him the SuperGoose was ready to go. They’d already done all the check flights, and the mechanics told him that this plane had at least 30% more horsepower than the TurboGoose, and the extended fuselage and the new tail actually made it handle better. They even tried extending the floor ramp during flight, and it didn’t disturb the flight characteristics, although it was noisy as heck. They didn’t test the flotation of the ramp, since it was designed to deploy while the plane was on the water. They thought the hydraulics that deployed the ramp were a neat feature, with a sensor that detected feedback pressure and stopped the deployment when it met resistance. Chief Nichols pointed out the Liquid Oxygen tanks that Northrop/Grumman had installed in this model, so it could be used for SAR or Medevac, and told Ron that they were shipped empty, but could be easily filled. Grumman had installed 2 conformal 40 pound LO2 tanks in the fuselage with standard LO2 connections. All he had to purchase was the flex connector, and a regulator/gassifier that would convert the LO2 to oxygen gas, and reduce the pressure to 32lbs/in&#178;, and regulate the flow from 1-6 liters per minute. Each tank could feed 2 patients at 6 liters/min for over 24 hours. He explained that the Medevac planes used to use Oxygen gas until the technology evolved to the point that it was safer to store liquid oxygen aboard an aircraft, and they built liquid tanks that could be made to fit inside the fuselage, saving critical cabin space. The liquid was actually safer to store than the gas, since it had to depressurize, warm up, and not dissipate to be a fire hazard. When they banned smoking on all flights, the risks to aircraft were reduced to fire or crash damage, and if they had a fire or crash bad enough to jeopardize the LO2 tanks, they had a bigger problem than the tank to deal with. There was a freeze danger, but that only affected the people who filled the tanks, and they were trained to avoid getting frostbite from the supercold liquid.

    Ron did a walk-around, and the plane looked like it had just rolled off the factory floor. Chief Nichols had the plane washed and waxed and painted before Ron took delivery of it. When he got around to the other side, he noticed the Allakaket Airlines logo above the stripe, and the commemorative tail number the FAA gave to the first production unit of the new aircraft line: SG-00001. Ron shook Chief Nichols hand, thanked him, and they climbed aboard the plane. Chief Nichols belted himself into the right seat, and told Ron that they had to take a quick check ride before he could release the plane. Ron used the APU to start the turbines, and then completed the pre-flight checklist. Once the engine instruments were in the green, and the rest of the pre-flight checks done, he called the tower and requested permission to take off and circle the field. “Allakaket Airlines SG-00001 calling Wing-19 tower, request permission to take-off and circle field for familiarization flight.”

    “Roger Allakaket, pattern is clear, you’re free to circle the field. Call when ready to land.”

    “Roger, Allakaket Rolling.”

    Ron had reached the end of the taxiway, and was waiting for clearance when the last transmission was made, so he pushed both throttles to their maximum positions. He already had the flaps and trim tabs set, so when the plane accelerated to 80 knots, he pulled back gently on the yoke, and cruised around the field about 10 miles out. Ron checked the controls and the equipment, and everything was satisfactory. He noticed that the pilot’s seats were nicer than the ones in his TurboGoose, and a lot more comfortable. He guessed that for a half-mil per copy, they should include some creature comforts. He’d have to check and see how much these seats cost, and get them installed in the rest of his fleet. “Chief, can you find out about these seats, they’re so much more comfortable than the ones in our planes. I’d like to know how much it would cost to retrofit our aircraft to these seats.”

    “Ron, I’ve got all the paperwork for the plane in a box behind you. It should include all the info on anything installed in the aircraft, including the seats. You’d be better off ordering from the manufacturer and installing them yourselves.”

    “Thanks Chief. I’m satisfied with the aircraft; can I take you home so I can fly this bird home?”

    Chief Nichols nodded, so Ron called the tower “Wing-19 Tower, Allakaket requesting permission to land.”

    “Roger Allakaket, runway is clear. Come on in.”

    Ron turned toward the runway while he extended the flaps, and made a nice soft landing. Chief Nichols told him to taxi up to the fuel pumps, he’d top off the tanks and the Canadian Government would pick up the tab. When they got to the fuel depot an airman was waiting to fill all the tanks with JP-5 including the APU. He shut down the turbines for safety, and 5 minutes later he was full. Chief Nichols signed the receipt, then they shook hands again, and he walked out of the cockpit, secured the door, and waved when he was clear. Ron started the turbines, and taxied to the runway while calling for take-off clearance. The tower cleared him, and told him to climb to 10,000 feet for the flight back to Allakaket. Ron decided to get the LO2 tanks filled later once he had his paramedic gear aboard. He remembered that he also needed to get another SU-16 and an emergency kit as well. On the long flight home, he used his sat phone to call BA and get things arranged. Allakaket Airlines had a FFL, so getting the SU-16 and the mags was easy, and they stocked several of them. He had BA check about getting the liquid oxygen tanks filled. He said he’d have an answer for him when he landed. Once he was landed, he taxied to the pumps, filled the tanks full of JP-5, and taxied to the hangar, where someone would park the plane for him. He got out and got into his truck and drove to the offices of Allakaket Airlines.

    “I did some checking, and for as little O2 as we’d use, Alaska Regional Hospital would be willing to fill our tanks for free, and they said they’d like a look at your SuperGoose, since they ordered a couple. Steve asked if tomorrow would be OK. He said that they have a mountable case for your Paramedic kit as well that they could mount for you while you’re there, and they have Paramedic kits in stock too.”

    “Ok BA, but I need a couple of thousand dollar gassifier/regulator units for the tanks to work in the first place.”

    BA got back on the phone to Steve, who told him the hospital had figured that out too, and got them from the State Department of Emergency Services for free, so they could give him 2 units including the flex hose and the oxygen delivery equipment. When Ron heard that, he was glad the state was rolling in Oil Revenue, and could afford to do that. He told BA to tell Steve he’d be there at 10:00 tomorrow morning. He wanted to sleep in. He drove home, and was mobbed by a bunch of kids and a big dog. Nancy waited until he got out from underneath the dog pile to give him a hug and a kiss. Since it was late in the afternoon, Ron got out of doing any more of his “honey-dos” that day and spent the time with his family until Nancy got up to make dinner. He told her he would have to fly to Anchorage tomorrow morning at 0800 to get some stuff taken care of for the new plane. Ron was telling her all about it, and she said she couldn’t wait to try flying it. Ron asked her if she wanted to fly to Anchorage with him, they’d be gone most of the day between flying back and forth, and getting the stuff installed in the aircraft. She told Ron to call Anne and ask if she wanted to babysit.

    “Mom, it’s Ron, can you babysit tomorrow? We need to fly the new SuperGoose to Anchorage to get the Paramedic kit installed, and get the liquid oxygen tanks filled. You will, great, see you around 7:30; I love you too - bye.”

    He gave Nancy the good news, and then they fed the tribe. After feeding time, they ate dinner themselves while Moose chaperoned the 3 Amigos. David zonked out after dinner, so Nancy put him back in his crib before they ate dinner. After dinner, Ron started a tickle fight, and Nancy’s reaction told him the kids were going to go to bed early tonight.

    The next morning, Anne was there right at 0730, so they traded spots as Ron and Nancy went out the door as Anne came in. They drove to the airport, and someone already had the SuperGoose out of the hangar, and the turbines idling. Ron made a note to himself to find out who was prepping the planes for him, and give him a bonus or a raise. Even after owning the airline all these years, he wasn’t used to all the perks, and felt like he should reward people for going out of their way to make things easier for him. They climbed aboard, and were taxiing out on lake when Ron asked Nancy if she wanted to take off. She shrugged and started taking off her blouse.

    “No the plane silly!”

    “I know, just thought I’d get back at you for the last time you said that, and you meant it the other way.”

    She pulled her shirt back down and set the plane up for take-off. Ron called for permission, and they reached the end of the lake right when they got approval to take-off. Nancy heard the call, and turned to Ron and said “Co-pilot’s plane” then Ron took his hands off the yoke, and his feet off the pedals. Nancy took the controls, and then reached over to push the twin throttles to full, and as soon as the airspeed indicator said 80 knots, she pulled back on the yoke, and when she was at 500 feet AGL, she eased up on the rate of climb, and turned toward Anchorage. A little over an hour later, they were landing at the hospital’s airstrip. Ron and Nancy got out, and were met by Steve and Roger. They told Ron they needed to taxi the plane over to the Maintenance hangars, and they’d meet them over there. Ron and Nancy climbed back aboard, started the turbines, and taxied over to the maintenance hangar. Steve and Roger drove a pickup in front of them with a bed full of stuff that was going into the plane. They parked in front of the maintenance hangar, and Ron stopped in a marked stall, and left the turbines idling. Once the propellers stopped spinning, he opened the cabin doors and rear ramp so Steve and Roger could get a good look at the interior as well. They were pleasantly surprised. Grumman had lengthened the cabin by 6 feet, and installed a rear ramp door, just about doubling the useful cabin space. Now instead of 4 stretcher cases, it could carry 6 without resorting to a stacking arrangement, and still have room for a couple of seats.

    The 3 of them started unloading the cases and kits that needed to be installed, and a mechanic came forward with an air powered drill to mount the brackets to the airframe on the cabin side of the bulkhead. He mounted steel locking cases for the Paramedic kit, the O2 delivery system, and a first aid kit for minor injuries. Once the brackets were affixed, they locked the kits to the brackets and handed Ron the keys. The Mechanic asked Ron to completely shut the aircraft off, leave all doors open, and turn off the battery switch, and he would fill the liquid oxygen tanks. Roger explained that whenever Allakaket Airlines operated as a Medevac, they were to fill their liquid oxygen supply from their tank, since the State of Alaska was responsible for keeping the tank full. Steve handed Ron a stack of forms that they were to use to bill the State for the use of Allakaket Airlines planes for SAR or Medevac services. He said that the State had authorized a reimbursement of $1,000 per hour of flight time, plus $500 per hour for ground time if the pilot was involved in a Medevac or SAR mission. Ron thought that was really generous of the State, and didn’t say anything. The mechanic reeled out a big thick hose with a male plug that matched the female connector for the oxygen system attached to a big heavy duty insulated valve. Roger explained that the O2 delivery system was fairly complicated and redundant to prevent accidents. Once the mechanic had the connection made, he took a tool out of his pocket, and opened the vent valve next to the female connector, and connected a diverter hose so the liquid couldn’t splash directly on him. The diverter hose was attached to a vented heavy glass jar that would show whether or not liquid oxygen was coming out of the vent. Finally he opened the delivery valve, and 5 minutes later, 1 tank was full, so he repeated the process on the other side of the aircraft. With both tanks full, he put the removable covers back on the oxygen ports and took the hose back to the huge oxygen tank with him, then shut off the main valve, and opened the delivery valve to depressurize the hose.

    With the system fully pressurized, Steve showed Ron how to work the oxygen delivery system. It was a simple as popping the cover, plugging into the oxygen port, and setting the liter per minute flow. He explained that the connectors were special connectors that shut off the flow if there was a break in the line, or other malfunction. The delivery system offered a choice of cannula or mask to deliver oxygen. The only thing it couldn’t do was act as an automatic respirator. That was a much more expensive system, so they had a manual system that the flight nurse had to push a button every time to deliver a metered dose of pure O2. Ron thought it looked awfully like the old manual respirators, and Steve said that was exactly what it was, and they had been retrofitted to work with the new liquid system. Steve put the unit back in its case and locked it. Ron thanked both of them, and said they had to get back to Allakaket, so Steve and Roger reluctantly got out of the aircraft, and said their goodbyes. Ron and Nancy got back aboard, and Ron reset everything, then closed the ramp door and started the turbines. He received immediate take-off clearance, and they flew back to Allakaket. When he got there, the mechanic had the pelican case with his SU-16 and the other with his emergency gear, and started installing them against the bulkhead on the cockpit side. Ron was glad that his emergency gear was aboard now, since he really felt vulnerable without it.

    Chapter 33 - Summer at the Cottage

    Several years later, Ron and Nancy decided to spend the summer at the lodge since the kids Jake(10), Josh (9), Sarah(8), and David(7) were old enough to enjoy it. Nancy kept them either within sight of the lodge, or under positive control with a 4-way leash system. Ron didn’t say anything, but felt like Nancy was a musher trying to control an unruly sled dog team. Funny thing was Nancy felt the same way, but didn’t think Ron would find the image too amusing either. They both carried a shoulder holster with a 22/45 and a .44 Magnum Colt Anaconda. Anne gave Nancy her handguns and shoulder holster years ago, although she still carried her P-14 wherever she went in Allakaket. Doc Miller asked Anne one day why she was armed, and she pointed out that Allakaket was in the middle of nowhere, with no real police force, and either 2-legged or 4-legged varmints could be a real problem. Anne took Doc Miller to the range one day during some down time, and within a couple of trips he was hooked. He remembered qualifying with his 1911 in the Army, because even docs in the Army, if they were Officers still have to qualify with a sidearm. He felt the P-14 was much easier to shoot, but the grip was a bit on the large side, but manageable. He agreed that the 14 rounds of .45acp on tap made it worth the extra width. Finally he broke down and bought one when they had a break-in attempt. He was pretty sure someone was after the drug cabinet and the narcotics kept there. Anne suggested an IWB holster so he could be armed without anyone knowing it, so he didn’t freak out patients.

    Ron had 007 fly the family up to the cabin so they wouldn’t take his SuperGoose out of service for the summer, and later that day, a Goose flew up there with 6 months worth of supplies. Nancy had to get used to cooking on wood, because the propane delivery plane wouldn’t attempt to land at HelpmeJack Lake. The Catalina the propane company flew was a nice big cargo plane, but didn’t have the STOL capability of the SuperGoose or even the TurboGoose. Ron hired his handyman to help him cut wood, and within a week they had enough wood laid up for a year. The kids adjusted to the lack of TV, and Ron was actually glad they didn’t have TV because he considered it a distraction. Ron bought several .22 single shot youth rifles for the kids to learn how to shoot. Ron sat them down and explained the safety rules to them. They were all eager to shoot, since they had watched Mom and Dad shoot years before when they went to the cabin, but they were too young to join in. The chipmunk youth models were perfect for the kids, and Ron made sure they wore eye and ear protection all the time. Ron started them on empty tin cans, and soon they had the hang of it, and were hitting a small soup can regularly at 20 yards. The single-shot rifle made them slow down, concentrate, and make each shot count. Ron was surprised when Sarah turned out to be the best shot of all of them, then he realized that little boys had a real problem settling down and concentrating. Most of them had an attention span measured in minutes at best, and if they hadn’t been so excited at the prospect of doing something Mommy and Daddy did, they would have quickly lost interest. Ron wanted to teach them to shoot pistols, but Nancy thought that might be too dangerous for them. Ron decided to wait a while for that; so every day, they spent about half an hour plinking at tin cans from the front porch. Sarah was now hitting tin cans at 100 yards, while her brothers were managing 50 yards at the best. Ron told them that once they settled down and concentrated, they could shoot like their sister. Sarah stuck her tongue out at her brothers behind her dad’s back. She might have been turning into Annie Oakley, but she was still a little girl underneath, and enjoyed tormenting her brothers.

    During the last 5 years, General Shepard and Col. Steve Fellows both retired, and the Special Forces Joint Command made a present of 2 Robo-Tank Bradleys, now called the Shepard Anti-tank system. They delivered 1 to Allakaket, and another to their mine site to protect the valuable resource. Gold by now was up over $600 per ounce and climbing, but since President Hatch had opened the North Shore Oil Reserve to exploration and drilling, the price of oil had stabilized at $36.00 per barrel. The permanent basing of 2 Divisions of Marines in Saudi Arabia helped as well, since no one in their right mind wanted to mess with the USMC, especially after they announced their bullets were dipped in pig fat after a notorious Terrorist attack on the oil field manifold. Thousands of Raghead terrorists found out that these Marines weren’t like the PC Marines under Clinton, they fought dirty! President Hatch was fed up with Islamic Terrorists, and reasoned correctly that the reason there was an abundance of suicide bombers is that dying as a martyr guaranteed a quick trip to paradise, and otherwise they had to live in their shithole countries and live a perfect life to get into paradise. By taking away their free pass to paradise, the number of attacks quickly dropped from the thousands per year to less than 10 per year. He told the Commandant of the Marines to do whatever was necessary to stop the terrorist attacks. So he took the President at his word, and the attacks stopped. Geraldo Rivera was broadcasting live from the front wearing a Che Guevara lapel pin when he “accidentally” stepped on an anti-vehicle mine and was blown to smithereens. Of course it was an Islamic Terrorist’s IED that he stepped on, and suddenly the Press shut up for once about “atrocities”!

    General Shepard admitted for the first time in almost 30 years that his first name was Gene, since he felt funny with everyone calling him General after he retired. He noticed Anne one day when he was in the clinic for a physical, and was smitten. Later he found out who she was, and asked Steve what he thought. He said his sister had been a widow long enough, and if he wanted to date his sister, he’d have to ask her! When Ron found out his mom was dating the General, he remembered what his Dad had told him at the cabin the day he died, to encourage his mom to date and remarry if she wanted to, since she was still relatively young. When Anne asked him, he gave his mom a big hug and told her what Roy told him that afternoon, virtually word for word. That clinched it for her, and she started dating the General, who was in no hurry to get married. They went shooting together, and he wanted to take her to the pool, but it took a while for her to want to be seen in mixed company in a bathing suit. For a woman in her late 50’s early 60’s, she had kept her figure, but was still self-conscious about being seen in a bathing suit. When she finally got a look at the General, she didn’t feel so bad. Years of sitting at a desk had converted his washboard abs to a small jelly roll. He was still in good shape, and jogged each morning with Steve to stay in shape, and was a pretty good shot for an old guy!

    Ron remembered how much work it was to live in that log cabin, but thanked God that they had year-round running hot and cold water and flush toilets, or their summer in the lodge would have been a real short trip! Nancy asked Ron if he wanted to go hunting, and they talked about what to do with the kids. They didn’t really need the meat, but Ron felt that caribou meat was better for you than the stuff they bought in the store. Nancy said she’d can it if he’d shoot it, but they couldn’t figure out if they should bring the kids with them, Finally they decided to call Mom. Ron gave Anne a call, and asked her “Mom, what should we do?”

    “I think it might be an idea to wait a couple of years to take the kids hunting. If I remember correctly, we waited until you were almost 12 before you went on your first hunt. With the 4 kids, especially since David’s so young, you might want to wait a few years. I trust you’re teaching them to shoot already?”

    “Yeah, and Sarah is the best shooter of the bunch! She’s hitting tin cans at 100 yards with her chipmunk!”

    “Her older brothers must just love that!”

    “It’s giving them incentive to try harder, so I’m not discouraging the competition as long as it stays relatively civil.”

    “You mean until it degenerates into fist fights?”

    “I won’t let it get that far, Sarah might be catching up on her brothers, but even Josh outweighs her by 10-15 pounds, and Jake is almost twice her size. Besides, I think they’re still protective of their “little sister” at least for now. Thanks for the advice Mom, Tell Gene I said hi!”

    Anne laughed and hung up, and wondered how he knew Gene was visiting her. They were just on their way to the range, then they were going to the pool to swim laps. Even Bear found time to go swimming, especially now that he had two boys to raise, he wanted to live long enough to see them grown, and hopefully one of them would follow in his Dad’s footsteps. He had a slightly longer trip to the pool, and took advantage of the 007, since there were two of them.

    Meanwhile, back in Atlanta, Ralph and Sam had settled down to married life as doctors. During the 5 years at Grover, she had completed her Residency, and passed her board exams, and became a Board Certified General Surgeon with a specialty in Emergency Surgery. Ralph was glad she had completed her residency and was now Board Certified because they had to wait until she passed her boards before they could even think of starting a family, and Sam was on Birth Control since they didn’t want to risk Sam’s medical career by a pregnancy during her residency. You can’t be pregnant and a surgeon, due to health risks to the baby from the anesthesia. Once she was board certified, she could take time off to have a baby, and come right back, because the hospital was a Major Trauma Center, and was practically begging for ER docs and surgeons, and immediately put Dr. Samantha Lacombe on staff, which was a huge raise in pay from her days as a Resident. She had privileges at the other hospitals in the area as well, in case they had an emergency and she was the only surgeon available. Sam thought that was a very remote possibility, but the hospitals did it as a matter of course for Emergency Surgeons, and other specialties that were in high demand. Ralph was promoted to Chief Resident when the chief moved to another hospital, so his career was on track as well. They were still renting, and debated buying a house in Atlanta, or moving elsewhere, since Sam could work anywhere in the country.

    Both of them were happy in Atlanta, they had a 2 bedroom apartment in a nice area of Atlanta, and plenty of friends at the Hospital and the local Baptist church they attended when they could. They wound up buying a large Chevy Suburban SUV with a 4x4 setup, 30-inch off-road tires, and lousy gas mileage. The front and rear bumpers were beefed up and carried a 12K winch. Sam thought it was a little overkill, but Ralph told her that less than 100 miles from Atlanta were some areas they would need a vehicle like this, besides in an emergency, the huge pipe bumpers and nerf bars would help them push smaller vehicles out of their way if they had to get to the hospital or get out of Atlanta in a hurry. Ralph always kept the tanks at least half full, and rotated the two spare 5-gallon fuel cans through the fuel tank every couple of months. He had a paramedic kit, an entire frontier tool kit, and a BOB /72-hr kit in the vehicle. They had a hidden compartment built and covered with the same carpet that covered the back of the vehicle. It was so well done that most people didn’t know what he had back there. Ron had called Bear when he got back from vacation, who gave him the number of a retired SEAL that ran a shooting/self-defense school just outside Atlanta. Ron called Ralph and told him about the school, and after meeting the owner/Instructor, they signed up for his self-defense and shooting course. It was a year-long course for 2 hours once a week. It wasn’t cheap, but by the end of the year, they had the equivalent of a black-belt in several different martial arts, and as much training in weapons as he could legally teach a civilian. Ralph was Sam’s sparring partner, and he was almost scared of her when they sparred with rubber knives, being a surgeon meant she knew where to cut you so you bled the fastest.

    George, the owner/instructor, liked teaching doctors, because they could be either the biggest sheep, or the most viscous knife fighters since they knew all the good targets. Sometimes, Ralph would check himself for chalk marks after a sparring session, and found faint lines right where veins and arteries were the closest to the skin, and easy to hit. Ralph really liked shooting much better, and took to pistol shooting like a duck to water. They were about equal when shooting at paper targets handing in the air, but Ralph was much faster at the pop-up range. George rented time at a large range that had the budget to build a pop-up and mover range almost as good as the one at MacDill, so Ralph became a really good reactive shooter. With scoped AR-15 rifles, they could both hit the kill zone of a B-27 out to 300 yards, so George said that was good enough since neither of them felt they needed to shoot much past 300 yards. Over time their weapons collection improved, then one day a letter showed up that had a return address of JSOC, MacDill AFB, Florida. Ralph was scratching his head until he opened the envelope and read a letter

    Ralph and Sam:

    Ron told me about you, and I’ve issued you both a Federal CCW. You’re doctors in a city that could get nasty if TSHTF, so I felt it was worth issuing the permits based on Ron’s letter attesting to your character and the level of training you have in Self-defense and firearms. I know how hard it is to get a CCW through your state, so I bypassed the entire bunch of red tape and issued you Federal CCW’s that allow you to carry concealed anywhere in the US. Please don’t abuse the privilege because I’m sticking my neck out for you two.


    General Shepard

    Inside were 2 Federal CCWs. 1 in the name of Dr. Raphael Lacombe, and the other in the name of Dr. Samantha Lacombe. There was no expiration date on the permit.

    “Sam, check this out - Ron got us 2 Federal CCW’s.”

    “How’d he do that?”

    “It says here General Shepard, JSOC. I’ll look it up in the internet.”

    2 minutes later, Ralph entered General Shepard in Google, and it came back that he was the Commanding General of the Joint Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. He was a 3-star General. Ralph realized that the General had a lot of pull, which explained an awful lot of the E-mail he had received recently from Ron and Nancy. Evidently Allakaket was now an armed camp, and everyone went around armed, and there was enough military hardware there to fight off a large well-equipped attack.

    Ralph stuck his CCW in his wallet, and Sam put hers in her purse. They then went to the local gun store and bought 2 Para-Ord P-14’s and 8 magazines on Ron’s recommendation. They bought 2 IWB holsters, 4 single-mag carriers, and Sam bought a neat purse that she could carry her gun in when she wasn’t wearing pants - like at church. She was leery about going armed in church until Ralph reminded her that if Ron hadn’t been armed at church, they’d all be dead. Sam picked up her purse and the P-14, loaded the mag, stuck it in the gun, cycled the action, set the safety, then topped off the mag, and stuck it in her holster inside the purse, and added a spare mag inside the gun compartment.

    “Well I guess that answers my next question” Ralph laughed, and stuck his cocked and locked P-14 inside his IWB holster, and put 2 mags in his single-mag carriers, then stuck them inside his pants, and clipped the clips to his belt. Now they were ready for bear!

    Ralph sent Ron an e-mail thanking him for the Federal CCW’s, and Ron replied “You’re welcome! Wear them in good health!” Ralph hoped they would never need them. When they finished their year-long course, George gave them a very special gift. He had purchased several Emerson CQC-6 knives from Ernie Emerson years ago and stored them. He gave them to select customers as a graduation gift. The fee he charged for his training was great enough that giving the valuable knives away didn’t affect his bottom line. When they got home, Ralph ran Ernie Emerson and the CQC-6 knife in particular through Google, and found out they were collector’s items, and very valuable. Most owners were Special Forces people that Ernie made knives for before he became famous. Ralph told Sam that they should send George a note of thanks now that they knew the value of the gift. Ralph sent the e-mail that afternoon, and George replied that their best thank-you would be in the form of referrals since he didn’t advertise. Ralph and Sam sent several trusted Doctor friends to George’s school. Some just got refresher training, others signed up for his 6 month program. They all liked George’s training, and started practicing together after they completed his course. They knew each other socially, and eventually started an informal survival group, and started buying equipment as a group to get lower prices. They all got Bushmaster HBAR AR-15’s and matching web gear. They were well equipped medically since they all were doctors. Ralph e-mailed Ron asking for gear suggestions, and he forwarded it to Bear since he was the resident expert. His suggestions looked like a listing of the Brigade Quartermaster catalog. Since money wasn’t an issue, they accumulated 10 sets of very high-speed low-drag gear. Their main problem was a total lack of military experience. They hoped to solve that problem soon, and see if they could bring in some members with military experience. Ralph decided to tell George what they were up to, and he met with them and eventually told them what he had been up to since his retirement. He had a very low profile militia set up in Atlanta that included only customers of his with the necessary security credentials to take his course. Ralph said “I don’t have a security clearance!”

    “I know, one was never issued, but I run the equivalent of a DOD Secret background check on all my clients, and if you don’t pass, I don’t teach you! Most of my clients are ex-military or military dependents. Your group of friends was the first non-military people I’ve taught. If you’re interested, we meet next Wednesday at the Dojo.”


  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    State of Denial
    Chapter 34 - Hunting

    Ron decided the best thing to do was go hunting by himself for now, so the next morning, he packed his bag, and his Browning A-bolt, loaded them on the trailer, attached them to the trailer hitch of his ATV, kissed Nancy and the kids, and said he’d be back before dark. He was at the Caribou grounds a little over an hour later, hiked over the hill, and the meadow was full of Caribou. He wondered why they were there so early, but decided to save the deep thoughts for later, and set up to shoot two large male caribou. He stuck his ear plugs in his ears, and loaded the rifle, then selected the two bulls he wanted, and shot them right through the neck/shoulder junction, and they dropped in a heap where they stood. He emptied the magazine and picked up everything then hiked back over the hill to where his ATV was parked and drove it right up to the cooling bodies of the caribou he had shot. As soon as he cleared the treeline of the meadow, the entire herd spooked. He slit the throats of the bulls to bleed them out, and then started the skinning and butchering process. Once the skins were off, he set them aside to brain tan later. He made short work of both bulls, and had the prime cuts of meat out within hours. He left the rest for scavengers, and then proceeded to brain tan both hides. He finished with 2 hours of daylight to spare, so he hurried back to the lodge, and made it just before dark. He backed the trailer into the old smokehouse, removed the backpack and rifle from the trailer, and parked the ATV in the shed. He remembered to lock the smokehouse door, and then went inside. Nancy told him to hurry up and take a shower, so Ron took off his clothes and got cleaned up. When he walked down to the kitchen/dining room, dinner was ready. Nancy said “I put the kids down early, so we have the evening to ourselves.” Ron decided to hurry up and eat dinner. When he finished, he leaned over and kissed Nancy, then put his plates in the sink, walked over, and picked her up and carried her to the bedroom.

    The next day, Ron helped her with breakfast, then shooed the kids out of the kitchen so they could can the caribou meat in peace. Moose was getting older and slower, but still loved to play with the kids, and was an excellent baby sitter. Ron went outside and carried sections of caribou meat into the house and set them on the table. Nancy set a fire in the woodstove and got out the canning equipment. She got a large pot of water boiling to sterilize the lids while she washed and dried the jars. Ron was busy sectioning the meat into pieces that would fit in the jars. As soon as she was ready, he started filling jars, and she put them into the canner, then lifted the lids one at a time out of the boiling water with the tongs and carefully placed them on the glass jars, and screwed the lids down finger tight. Once the canner was full, she closed the lid, closed the relief valve, and moved it to a hot part of the stove. Once it was up to operating temperature and pressure, she started a timer, and carefully watched the pressure. If it got too high, she moved the canner to a cooler part of the stove, too cool and she moved it back. Finally the first batch was done, and after she let the canner cool, she tripped the pressure relief valve, and heard a bunch of pings as the lids sealed down as they cooled. She carefully lifted them out of the canner with the provided jar lifter, and set them on a towel on the counter to finish cooling to room temperature. They did almost 100 quart jars that day in shifts, and by the end of the day, they were both too tired to make a fancy dinner, so the kids got their favorite meal, Spaghetti-O’s and chopped up hot dogs. Even Ron liked it, and Nancy liked it because it was quick and easy. Moose got dry dog food, and was happy. After they put the kids to bed, they collapsed from exhaustion and fell right to sleep.


    Next Wednesday evening came sooner for Sam and Ralph than they thought. They had met with their friends at work, and decided that Sam and Ralph should meet the members of George’s group before they met the rest of them. Sam thought they were a bunch of chickens, but kept her peace. They were worried that they might be a bunch of ex-Military Rambo types, and they wanted none of that, they just wanted to survive the occasional natural disaster, hurricane, or flood that hit Atlanta. They didn’t realize their own government could be more of a danger than Mother Nature. When they got there, they were greeted by George and 4 other men, who George introduced as the leaders of the other cells. He gave introduced them as Larry, Moe, Curly, and Shemp. Ralph started laughing, the Three Stooges was his favorite cartoon in college. Once Ralph had calmed down, George explained OPSEC, and guerrilla fighter cells. They would be the only people to ever meet face to face with the leaders of the other cells, and they would never know their real names, only their code names. George said that they were the de-facto leaders of their cell, since the others weren’t willing to come forward.

    Ralph said “Wait a minute, we never agreed to anything, we just wanted to find out what is going on here.”

    “Ok, there are several cells all over the state, and I’m not saying how many and where they are, that are informally linked into a loose network. Their prime objective is survival in the event of a natural disaster, invasion, or to defend our homes in the event that the government turns on us and the Constitution. We aren’t set up or designed for offensive operations, but we will defend our homes and our rights.”

    “Wait a minute, I thought that had already happened?”

    “We haven’t crossed the Rubicon yet, since the government hasn’t sent in the Jack Booted Thugs to confiscate food and weapons. When that happens, we’ll act. Until then, we train secretly, and you’ll never meet these gentlemen again unless it’s either a SHTF or TEOTWAWKI scenario.”

    “Excuse me, but what does TSHTF and TEOTWAWKI mean?”

    George laughed and explained “TSHTF stands for The Shit Hits The Fan, kind of a major disaster, but less than TEOTWAWKI, which stands for The End Of The World As We Know It. Basically emergencies fall on a continuum of how severe they are, and how many people they affect. A 10km diameter meteor hitting the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean would be a TEOTWAWKI scenario, or Yellowstone blowing up. TSHTF might be a Mt. St. Helen’s eruption that affects a local area in a major way, but the rest of the country is minimally effected. Mild earthquakes wouldn’t even reach a TSHTF designation, but a 7-8 Richter Earthquake could either be a TSHTF or a TEOTWAWKI depending on where it hit.”

    “Ok, I’ve got it now, so this whole organization is just for dire emergencies that affect more than the local area. So why did you bring us in?”

    “Frankly we’ve been waiting for Medical people all along. We’ve got medics and RN’s but you and Sam are exactly what we would need, an ER doc and an Emergency Surgeon. All that Sam would have needed to be a prefect candidate would have been MASH experience in an actual shooting war.”

    “This is going to work out great, because our whole group is composed of Doctors, Nurses and Paramedics, and we desperately needed someone to teach us Military tactics so we can move and evade if needed without getting caught. Is there someone in your group that can teach us?”

    “Yeah Me! I don’t want to expose anyone from another group for security reasons, and I can teach you all you need to know. If you join our Militia, the training is free, otherwise this meeting never happened, and you’ll never see any of us again.”

    “If it were up to us, we’d join in a heartbeat, but we need to put it to a vote. Can I call you in a couple of days?”

    George realized that Ralph and Sam couldn’t speak for the rest of the group yet, so he told them to call him at his number in 48 hours. If he didn’t get a call, they wouldn’t see him again. With that, everyone left, and Ralph and Sam walked back to their SUV. Once they were safely inside, Sam said “Isn’t he being a little paranoid?”

    “Not really Sam, we’re the only people he’s trained that aren’t either ex-military or military dependents. He’s taking a big risk by even telling us about them. They must really need doctors.”

    “Ok, so what do we tell everyone else?”

    “I’ll give them the Reader’s Digest version, and tell them we have to make our minds up quick.”

    When they got home, they called everyone, and set up a meeting at their house. Since they normally got together on Friday anyway, it was nothing unusual. Several docs were still leery, finally Sam spoke up.

    “For Pete’s sake, it’s not like they’re trying to blow up the UN or anything. This is just a contingency setup in case things got really bad.” She looked straight at the doctor that was raising the biggest objections “Remember that Cuban kid they took out of his home at gunpoint? That could be any of us, and if the Government was to declare Martial Law and turn FEMA and the ATF loose, would you like the odds that they would actually behave themselves given their past behavior? Take it one step further, let’s say that we get a Liberal President and Congress, and they pass something worse than the Patriot Act that calls for the confiscation of all firearms. We bought our AR-15’s from a licensed dealer, which means the ATF knows we bought them. What if you got your door kicked in at 3:00am and a bunch of goons with MP-5s pointed in your face demand you surrender your guns. OK, let’s take than 1 step further, say you refuse - maybe you sold it and they don’t believe you. Do you think that they’d give a rip about your Civil Rights or even your personal safety at that point.”

    Ralph took over at that point “I’ll be dammed if I let some JBT bust in my door to grab my guns, and possibly shoot me and rape my wife while I watch. This sort of tyranny is exactly what George was talking about. Only by organizing can we have a chance to stop that kind of behavior in its tracks.”

    Ralph’s little speech convinced the fence-sitters, who were more Pacificist than the rest of the team. He called for a vote, and it was unanimous. Ron called the Dojo, and said two words. “We’re in” and hung up. He knew George would get the message, and its meaning. The meeting broke up shortly thereafter. He told them he’d let them know when George would schedule the rest of their training.


    Ron, Nancy and the kids were enjoying their summer vacation, and as the summer turned to fall, Jake and Josh finally caught up with their little sister, and were hitting tin cans at 100 yards with their chipmunk .22 rifles. Ron decided he was going to teach Josh and Jake how to shoot a pistol, since Jake was almost 11, and Josh wanted to do whatever his big brother did. Ron took them out front and set up a row of tin cans, and explained how the .22 pistol worked, then showed them that it made almost no noise, and was as easy to shoot as their rifles. With the red dot sight, it was probably easier, since he told them all you do is put the red dot on the target and squeeze the trigger. Jake got the hang of it after 1 mag, and Josh only needed 1 more mag before he was nailing tin cans at 30 feet. Slowly Ron ran the distance out over the weeks until they could do it at 25 yards, then he reduced the target size. Right before the end of the summer, he showed them how to play 22 golf. Sarah used her Chipmunk, and Josh and Jake used their parent’s 22/45’s. He let Sarah throw the balls out because she couldn’t throw them more than 25 yards, and her mechanics meant that they were scattered all over the place. Ron hoped she would learn how to throw soon, and Nancy hoped she would eventually like to play with dolls. When it got cold, Ron called BA, and requested the SuperGoose come and pick them up, since they had too much stuff to fit in the 007 now. When they got home, Ron signed the 3 of them up for the Junior Shooter’s league, where they would compete with kids their own age shooting .22 pistols and rifles at the indoor shooting range. Jake didn’t think it was as much fun as shooting golf balls, but it made him learn to shoot small groups. Sarah won her age group for the next couple of years, and Josh and Jake were neck and neck for #1 and #2 in their age group, until Jake moved up to the next age group, then Josh was #1 until he joined his older brother. Sarah made some friends at the shooting range, including a boy that thought she wasn’t too revolting for a girl. As David got older, Ron got him started on the chipmunk .22. Since he was much younger than his older brothers, he wasn’t as competitive, but stuck with it, and by the time he reached his 8th birthday, he was routinely nailing tin cans out to 50 yards.

    Bear scheduled his swimming trips to coincide with the Senior League shooting days, and his greatest competition was Gene Shepard. Bear was glad he wasn’t a General anymore, because now he could show him how the Navy taught you how to shoot without having his CO mad at him for beating him by 20 points in a 500 point match. Steve competed in the Senior Division too, and was really grateful that Ron shot in the open division, because they didn’t have a chance against him. Ron had shot a possible, or 500 points in a 500 point match more than once. Nancy was no slouch either, and often won the women’s open pistol competition, closely followed by her mother in law, and BA’s wife Sally. Anne ruled the women’s open smallbore rifle competition, with Nancy and Sally a distant second and third. Ron occasionally shot smallbore rifle, but preferred shooting his .308 or his BMG.50. Shooting an open-sighted .22 rifle at 100 yards wasn’t his idea of fun, but he did it during the winter to keep sharp. One day he brought his SU-16 to a match just to see how accurate it was. He was glad it broke in half, otherwise he would have broken it in half at the end of the match, since his Ruger 10/22 shot groups half the size of the Keltec SU-16 at 100 yards. He realized that the SU-16 was a better pilot gun, since the .223 round had several times the energy of the .22lr that the 10/22 shot. Anything smaller than a bear was dead with the first round out of his SU-16 out to 100 yards, and in close, if he put enough rounds into a bear, it might work. He was glad he bought several 30 round magazines for the rifle, because if he needed to shoot a bear, he might need all of them to kill it unless he got lucky and blew the bear’s heart apart with the first round, because the .223 round wouldn’t penetrate the bear’s thick skull unless it went through an eye.


    Later that week, George called Ralph and Sam, and said that they needed to meet at his dojo. They called the rest of the group, and at 7:00 that night, they were in his dojo, when George walked in.

    “I understand you guys want to learn how to move and think like a soldier. I can teach you how to move, but thinking that way takes a mental attitude that I don’t think most of you have. None of you have seen combat, except maybe Ralph and Sam, but they were bystanders to a shootout, so let me tell you what is going to happen. The first thing is you might panic, and if you do, you’re as good as dead. Fear is normal, panic is deadly. The difference is training. I’ve already taught you self-defense, but that is over quickly in your minds, and you think the police will be there to pick up the pieces. I’ve got a news flash for you - it doesn’t take much to destroy the thin veneer of civilization, and then it’s the law of the jungle. It doesn’t matter if it lasts an hour, day, week, or year if you die during the disruption, you don’t get to come back later when things are normal. From your self-defense classes, we talked about the Cooper Conditions, now we need to train you how to recognize when things are about to go from Normal to Abnormal, and what to do in the small space of time you have to either defend yourself or flee. We aren’t talking about a mugging here, but a riot or a near-riot situation, or even the panic that results from a natural disaster, or an attack. Nothing “just happens” except maybe a sudden nuclear attack or an earthquake. Everything else has precursors that you can recognize and avoid. Since you’re all doctors, you could be stuck at work, or drafted for the duration of the emergency. If not, none of your homes are defensible for maybe more than 30 seconds. Therefore, you either need to move to safer neighborhoods, or think about what you would do in an emergency Civil defense in the United States is a joke, so there are no shelters for the average American, so you need to find your own.”

    Gary, the black neurosurgeon in the back spoke up. “What the heck are you talking about?

    “Gary, I know you think that things will always remain the way they are, but do you remember the Watts Riots?”

    “I read something about them in a History Book.”

    “Ok, how about the Rodney King Riots - you have to be old enough to remember them.”

    “Ok, I vaguely remember them.”

    “Ok, instead of working at Granger, let’s say you worked at UCLA Medical Center the morning of the verdict. You would have been at ground zero of one of the worst riots in recent history. What would you have done, remember the LAPD has left and gone home.”

    That brought Gary to a full stop. While he was trained in Self-defense, he had failed to change his mental attitude, and George was trying to rectify that situation. Gary finally shook his head and sat down saying “I don’t know what I would have done.”

    “Gary, admitting you don’t know is the first step. That’s what I’m here for, to help you game out the situation, play “what-if” games in your head. That way if it happens, you’ve already figured out what you would do, so you just do it without wasting precious time deciding what to do. You see, most military men aren’t supermen; they’ve just been trained to think differently. Ralph and Sam are almost there, but they need some help too. For the next couple of months, I’m going to need you here every Wednesday at 7:00pm. You’re going to be given homework assignments to do. Don’t worry, I won’t turn you into a bunch of paranoid survivalists, just bump you out of Condition White that most people go around all day, into at least condition Green or Orange. It’s called Situational Awareness, and before you learn anything else, you need to learn SA. Once we’ve got that, I can teach you how to move silently as a group, and how to escape and evade. I know some of you are now carrying CCW’s, and I’d like the rest of you to seriously consider getting one, and carrying at least a mini Altoids tin kit in your pocket.”

    “What’s an Altoids tin kit?”

    “Ralph you care to answer that?”

    “I found them on the internet, on a Website called the Frugal Squirrels. Some guy named SSKM seems to be the resident expert on them. You buy a small tin of Altoids breath mints or a Whitman’s Sampler tin, and replace the candy with tiny pieces of equipment that are the bare minimum you would need to survive, like a razor blade, a ferrochromium rod, tinder, a bottle of water purification tablets, a tiny LED light, fishing line and hooks, a couple of Ziploc bags, maybe a trash bag or something else. You seal them up watertight, and leave it in your pocket all the time, in case you lose your main emergency gear.”

    “What’s the point of that?”

    “Gary, with the razor blade you can make other tools, and the other stuff helps you make fire and purify water, 2 essentials for survival. The last is shelter, and you can use stuff in the kit to make shelter. But none of it will do you any good without the knowledge to use it, so knowledge of primitive survival techniques is essential.”

    “I thought that was what our BOB’s were for?”

    “What if you lose it, or have to drop it in a firefight, what are you going to do then?”

    The total silence indicated to George that they hadn’t thought about that. He opened up a demo kit he made up to show people. It wasn’t waterproof, just closed with a piece of tape. He set the kit on a table and described the contents, and what you could do with them, including the tin itself. When he finished his little demonstration, he could see that a few more light bulbs had turned on.

    “Ok, let’s say I dropped you off in the middle of Afghanistan and told you to make your way to England with only what you had in your pockets right now, how many of you think you could do that?”

    Ralph thought about it for a minute, and said, “I think I can!”

    George looked at the rest of them, and said that if certain things happened in the US, they could find themselves in a far worse situation, and they might have to survive with what they had on them or could scrounge, but they couldn’t get caught by the authorities, or the game’s over.

    Chapter 35 - Newbies

    The next Wednesday, the group raided the local Wal-mart and a Military Surplus Store and bought the tins and the following items:

    Pack of single edge razor blades
    small jar of Petroleum Jelly
    bag of Cotton balls
    box of Trick Candles
    12 BSA ferrochromium rods and strikers
    12 P-38 can opener (doubles as striker for rod)
    12 LED keychain light (Photon knock-off)
    12 Contractor Trash bag
    12 Gallon Ziploc bags
    100 yd Roll of 10/50 Spyderwire
    36 1/8oz lead head jigs and plastic grubs
    100 yd Roll of Snare wire (100# Steel leader wire non-braided)
    12 Micro button compasses
    box of assorted Safety pins
    Box of finishing nails
    Roll of 100mph tape (Military Duct tape)

    Under George’s supervision, they put their kits together from the common supply in the center of the table. First, they made a large handful of PJ saturated cotton balls, so that everyone would have 3, then George used his Seal-a-meal to seal sets of 3 cotton balls in plastic after he sucked the air our, which reduced the size by 3 times. They each put 2 single-edge razors with their cardboard covers, 1 pack of PJ tinder, 2 trick candles, 1 BSA rod, 1 P-38, 1 LED light, 1 Contractor bag, 1 Gallon Ziploc bag, 50 feet of Spyderwire rolled around a small piece of cardboard, 2 jigs and grubs, 50 feet of snare wire, 3 finishing nails, 1 button compass, and 1 large and 2 small safety pins in their Altoids tins. It took them several tries until 1 of them discovered a way to make it all fit, then they all copied him. Finally, they wrapped the tin with the 100mph tape, which did 3 things: 1) it gave them a source of tape, 2) It made the kit waterproof, and 3) it prevented them from raiding the kit unless it was an emergency.

    As they were assembling their kits, George explained the uses for each. Using a pie pan on the center of the table, he took a ball of PJ saturated cotton, pulled a dime-sized piece off the ball, then pulled it apart until it was the size of a quarter, then using a P-38 and the ferrochromium rod, threw a shower of sparks into the tinder from the rod. The tinder ignited immediately and burned for over a minute. George told them that PJ saturated cotton balls was one of the best tinders he knew, the other being a piece of Rubber Innertube. If they had a tube of Purell, it was gelled Alcohol, and was an excellent firestarter if necessary. He said the trick candles were to use to light multiple fires, of if they found matches, to light a fire with matches, since a single match might not light a fire if the wood was damp, but a trick match will burn for 5 minutes, and dry out the wood. The Contractor bag was a poncho or shelter. The wire and nails were to make simple snares to catch rodents for dinner. Some of the women made “Gross” sounds until George told them if they got hungry enough, even a filthy rat would look pretty appetizing. The Spyderwire could either be used with the jigs and grubs for fishing, or else to build shelter. George knew that the Newbies, as he called the group, were just starting to figure things out, and he hoped more of them would wake up as the weeks went on, otherwise he would dump everyone except Ron and Sam and incorporate them into another group.


    Ron, Nancy and the kids had an uneventful winter and spring, except for the kids’ birthdays, which were fairly large parties full of noisy boisterous kids. Ron was about to break out the duct tape when his Mom walked up to him and suggested he go cut wood or something, because she could see that he wasn’t dealing with the commotion very well. Ron hated to admit it, but his Mom was right. He got a lot of wood split that afternoon, but he wasn’t proud to admit that he was thinking of something besides splitting wood as he drove the sledge hammer into the wedge, and the wood exploded with a satisfying sound. He came back in after the party was over feeling much better.

    6 months later, BA got an emergency call from Don at the FAA office in Anchorage. “We’ve got a missing hunter and guide. It’s Mike Nelson and his client, I’ll give you two guesses as to who he uses as a pilot?”

    BA swore under his breath, Fred Sanders was about the only bush pilot not working for Allakaket Airlines, for a good reason - he was an incorrigible drunk. He had been fired by several lodges for his drinking problem, and he refused to get help. BA had seen him more than once coming out of the Moose Caf&#233; and getting into his plane. Ron and BA had a hard and fast rule. If you drank anything besides coffee, you couldn’t fly for 24 hours. Fred violated that rule on a daily basis. No one ever caught him flying while intoxicated, because Dan would have pulled his license in a heartbeat if he could prove it. Dan told BA that if anything happened to Mike and his client, he was revoking Fred’s license, and might even bring criminal charges if he could prove anything more than simple negligence. He asked Allakaket Airlines to contribute any available planes to an air/ground search for the lost guide and client, since they were now a week overdue. BA kept a log for the private guides who were supposed to file a hunting plan with him so if they turned up lost, they knew where to search. Since Fred was sitting in the Moose Caf&#233;, he knew that he didn’t crash anywhere, so either he forgot to pick them up, or else dropped them off in the wrong spot. BA assigned all available planes to a grid-search pattern. He was going to put a plane up on listening watch when he remembered Mike didn’t believe in an emergency radio, and had no way to talk to a plane anyway. This was going to be a long visual search.

    He called Ron and told him he was needed for a lost-hunter search. BA wanted him flying the SuperGoose with Anne as a flight nurse in case they needed him as a Medevac. Both 007s were available, so BA assigned them to the search as well. Every available bush pilot landed at Allakaket and picked up a spotter. BA set up an inter-plane frequency for them to listen to, and cleared Allakaket Emergency frequency for the duration. He told the pilots to stay off Guard unless they had an in-flight emergency, and to stay off Allakaket Emergency unless they had a firm sighting of the guide or the hunter. The helicopters would fly to where they were supposed to be, and put in ground search teams, then fly low and slow over the area to expand the search area. Bear and Hunter each volunteered to lead a search team, and the students at their school also volunteered to help, realizing that this would be a good real-life exercise. They quickly packed their bags for a week on the ground, and took off in the 007 and headed toward the last known position of the guide and hunter. The Super Stallion and CH-47 were both available if they needed the rescue winch, but they were stood down on alert since they weren’t very effective in searching, and very expensive to operate. The two S-76’s would be more than enough, and the airspace around the search area would be crowded enough without the two huge helicopters. They started the search, and later that day the ground team located the hunter and guide. The hunter had fallen and broken his leg, and the guide had no means of calling anyone. Ron was livid, and felt badly for the hunter, who had endured the pain of a broken leg for a week because his cheapskate guide didn’t have a radio, and his pilot was an irresponsible drunk. The S-76 landed and picked them up and flew them to Alaska General in Anchorage, so Ron was able to RTB instead of acting as a Medevac. When he got back to town, he called Dan and gave him an earful. Mike and the hunter were within a couple of miles of where they were supposed to be, and had been stranded over a week. That was all Dan needed to hear, and started proceedings to revoke Fred’s Commercial ticket, meaning he could still fly, but not with paying passengers. Later that day Ron learned that the hunter would lose his leg due to gangrene and infection. A couple of days longer, and he would have died from massive infection. He wondered if the State would take any action against the guide.

    The first hurricane of the fall hit Florida on Monday. The news coverage of the disaster woke up the few members of Ralph and Sam’s team that were still basically Sheeple. They showed up at the meeting Wednesday evening with a new-found enthusiasm for learning how to survive. George just hoped their interest wouldn’t wane after their memories of the disaster faded. While they were interested, George took advantage of the situation, finished converting them from Sheeple. They now had the right mental attitude, all they needed was training. That would start next week. He told them next week to show up wearing dark clothes that they wouldn’t mind getting dirty, they were going to learn how to be invisible.


    Dateline Beijing China. Council of Ministers Building 0900 Local

    Marshal Zang of the PLA presented Golden Dragon, the plan to attack and invade the US to a meeting of the Politburo.

    “Comrades, we face starvation in a year if we take no action. The US has had bumper crops of wheat for the last 3 years, and we face progressively worse crop failures. Between lack of rain and the catastrophic collapse of the Three Gorges Dam, we have no water to irrigate 1/3 of our country, and are again importing electricity from other areas. Our very survival as a nation depends on being able to feed the people. Even the Army has been cut back to short rations. Morale is at an all-time low between the lack of food, and fuel to train. We’ve been using the Army for the last couple of years as farmers instead of soldiers, and there is grumbling.”

    “Well, have MSS shoot the traitors and malcontents!” answered Premier Xu.

    “Premier, that would mean executing 30% of our force, and some of my best officers. To do that would invite a mutiny. There must be a better way!”

    Fang Yu, the Foreign Minister, objected “What you propose is naked aggression; surely we can ask the US for help. After all, if they have a bumper crop of wheat, wouldn’t they rather sell it to us instead of face a nuclear war?”

    “Who said anything about a nuclear war?”

    “With all due respect Marshall, Golden Dragon calls for a first-strike use of nuclear warheads to destroy Washington DC, and the Naval bases in Hawaii and California, clearing the way for us to invade and occupy the United States. I tell you, this plan is madness.”

    Premier Xu could tell that he didn’t have the votes to approve the attack, so he wisely tabled the vote. A white-faced Fang Yu strode purposefully out of the meeting. Shen Yu, the head of the MSS, caught up with him. “Fang, what is wrong?”

    “This plan of the Marshall’s will lead to the destruction of China, not our salvation. Even if we take out DC, the nuclear missile silos will execute their Doomsday commands and launch automatically if communication is lost with DC. We don’t have enough missiles to take out DC, the west coast and the missile silos. Besides we can’t take out the silos without destroying the very wheat fields we need to feed our people.”

    “How do you know this Minister Fang?”

    “I can read as well as you, and have read your reports on US readiness. Ever since President Hatch was elected, their military readiness has dramatically improved. Under President Clinton, when the Central Committee designed the attack, it would have worked, because the US Military was weak and disorganized. Now it’s doomed to failure, and us with it - what do you think would be the first target on the American’s list - this building! You know they have nuclear bunker busters they built to get Saddam Hussein, but they would work just as well against us.”

    “True, but we still have millions of operatives in the US that could sabotage the very systems they would need to attack us.”

    “Shen, how will clerks, seamstresses and waiters succeed against what is now the best and biggest military in the World. Even with SADMs, they could do minimal damage once they go on high alert. Our Navy is no match for their subs. I’m sure they have at least 1 boomer within cruise missile range right now, and at least 1 Fast Attack 688I sub in the South China Sea. As soon as the invasion fleet put to sea, they would be destroyed. We need to stop this madness right now!”

    “Minister Fang, even with your opposition, the attack will go forward. Either you will suffer a fatal accident and be replaced, or they will foment a crisis that will force us to execute the plan. For your own safety, I ask you my friend not to be so vocal at the next meeting.”

    “Very well Minister Shen , since I don’t have any choice in the matter, I can’t resist if I’m dead.”

    “Exactly, and we’ll need you for the peace negotiations afterward.”

    Minister Fang felt a sudden chill when Minister Shen bowed and left him. He knew he must stop this madness, but how. According to Shen, if he openly voiced his disapproval, they would kill him. If they went forward with it, he wouldn’t live through the retaliatory strikes, and neither would half of his countrymen. He owed it to his country to stop it any way he could, but how. He remembered that he was going to meet the American Ambassador about a trade issue today, maybe the Americans could help. Fang decided it was his only option, and boldly decided he had to do it, even if it meant his death. Later that day, he met with the Ambassador, and made sure the Ambassador put his glass on a certain napkin that had a cryptic note on it. The Ambassador was no dummy, and saw the writing, and pocketed the note. He had Diplomatic Immunity, and if the Minister was so desperate to attempt contact like that, he knew that it was deadly serious. He knew his Charge de’ affairs was a spook, and passed the note to him without a word other than telling him it came from Fang. Michael Stillman was indeed a Spook, and luckily he was the highest-placed spook in China, and TAPDANCED the message to Langley. They jumped on the translation. When the DDO read it, he hung a CRITIC on it and forwarded it to the White House. President Hatch’s first outburst after reading it would have shocked his mother! He immediately called the Director’s of the CIA and NSA and told them to give Minister Fang any assistance needed to get proof. The DDO knew that Fang preferred American Cross pens for his personal writing pens, and the NSA had one that could record and digitally store several hours worth of conversation, yet wouldn’t show up on a standard scan. The NSA had several pens sent overnight to the embassy via diplomatic courier, so they would have one that matched the minister’s. Michael Stillman received the pens with 1 day to spare before the next meeting. He knew the minister preferred the brushed stainless Cross pens with a fine point, so he gave that pen to the Ambassador to give to Fang when he met the minister that morning. He switched pens with the minister, and Fang Yu went into the Politburo meeting.

    Marshall Zang opened the meeting with an appeal to authorize the attacks.

    “Comrades, if anything the situation has gotten worse. We will be out of food within 6 months, and we barely have enough food to feed our military during the Pacific Transit.”

    Minister Fang stood. “Marshall, can you go over the details of the plan again, I had a few questions.”

    Marshall Zang assumed it was a delaying tactic, so he repeated the plan in a bored monotone. Unknown to him, Fang was recording the entire conversation. When he finished Zang asked for a vote for war. This time Fang didn’t object, but requested a week’s delay so he could make some preparations. Zang was stunned by Fang’s agreement, so he agreed to the week’s delay. Premier Xu polled the members of the Politburo for the amended war plan, and each member voted Yes, including Fang. He arranged to see the US Ambassador as soon as possible after the meeting, and the pen was sent to the NSA to be downloaded and decrypted. The entire conversation in the Politburo was recorded as cleanly as if they had dedicated mikes for each participant. President Hatch had a translated transcript on his desk 1 hour later, and he signed the EO authorizing a pre-emptive strike against the Council of Minister’s Building in Beijing during the Politburo’s next meeting that Wednesday night. A B-2 Stealth Bomber was dispatched from its base, and flown to Elmendorf, where it was refueled. Security was airtight since it was armed with 4 nuclear cruise missiles. Two to take out the Council of Ministers Building, and two to destroy the PLA Headquarters. It took off on schedule, and was in-flight refueled several times before penetrating Chinese airspace, and receiving the go code from President Hatch. Half an hour later, the Council of Ministers and the PLA headquarters went up with a blinding flash and a large mushroom cloud. NORAD waited for an hour on pins and needles for a retaliatory strike, but none ever occurred.

    Once NORAD was sure that the coast was clear, and no birds were flying, President Hatch asked for an immediate nationwide live telecast.

    “My Fellow Americans. It is with a heavy heart that I announce the US was forced to destroy the Council of Minister’s building in Beijing while the Politburo was meeting to make final preparations to launch a nuclear attack and invasion of the USA. We have no quarrel with the people of China. I was presented incontrovertible proof by Foreign Minister Fang Yu that next Wednesday, the People’s Liberation Army was going to launch an all-out nuclear attack against the US, then follow up with an invasion to conquer and subjugate the US. They wanted our wheat and oil, since they have had repeated crop failures. The ironic thing was all they had to do was ask, and we could have sold them enough wheat to feed their people, and all the oil they needed for domestic use. I guess their pride got in the way, and they got greedy. I have a word of warning for the remaining leadership of the People’s Republic of China. I have moved several boomers within close range of the entire country of China, and if we detect any launches or other hostile maneuvers they have already been ordered to attack on launch warning. We are deeply indebted to Foreign Minister Fang Yu, who sacrificed his life to bring us this information. He perished in the attack, since his absence would have been noted, and they might have changed the meeting.

    We hereby demand that the remaining government of China demilitarize to a level sufficient for National Defense, and destroy all nuclear missiles and warheads. We will perform our own verification, and there will be no negotiation of terms. To those of you who think I should have consulted Congress, the only thing I can say is I had to act immediately to defend the United States against an imminent attack, and if I hadn’t acted, we would have been attacked, and I couldn’t let that happen.

    Premier Putin, I offer an olive branch of a demilitarized Asia, and the security of your southern border. We have no quarrel with Russia, who has been an ally of the United States for most of your history. We wish to continue to be your ally and friend. As soon as we see positive indications of demilitarization, we will begin shipping food aid to China, as well as experts to solve your crop failure problems.

    Thank You, Good Night, and God Bless the USA!”

    Ron was stunned when he watched the nationwide broadcast, and called Bear to ask if they needed to increase their security status. Bear didn’t see any reason, since they had no Chinese residents, and if anyone wanted to mess with Alaska, they’d have to come through Russia, or fly a long distance. Vladimir Putin would probably enact measures to ensure that their southern border was secure, and deport all Chinese Nationals that were even remotely suspicious.

    Meanwhile, back in Atlanta, Ralph and Samantha were coming out of the hospital after a long shift after dark, walking out to their SUV. They got within 12 feet of the vehicle when a young skinny black man stepped out of the shadows and said “Gimme yo wallet mo fo!”

    Ron saw a blued revolver pointed shakily at them, so he said “Take it easy, here’s my money clip” and reached with his left hand into his left front pocket, lifted the clip out of his pocket slowly and easily. Once the money clip was visible, Sam took several small steps to her left since she was on Ralph’s left side, because George taught them never to walk with Ralph’s gun hand occupied. The money clip was another idea of George’s, it was a $50.00 and 10 $1 bills folded into a money clip with the $50 showing, it was known as a distractor. With practiced ease, Ralph nervously flipped the clip 3 feet to the left of the dirtbag, whose attention was diverted by the clip. When the money landed he said, “Now give me the Bitch!”, and looked Sam up and down as if he was undressing her with his eyes. With the dirtbags eyes off him, Ralph had slipped he right hand into his waistband and had a firing grip on his P-14. Realizing that he wasn’t going to let them go and just take the money, Ralph drew and fired in one motion, hitting the dirtbag high in the right thigh, shattering his femur and probably severing his femoral artery. Ralph’s second shot hit the dirtbag in his left shoulder. The dirtbag fell wounded and bleeding heavily to the ground, but still had his gun in his hand. As soon as Ralph started firing, Samantha reached into her purse and drew her gun. Her front sight locked on the Dirtbag’s forehead, and she yelled “Drop the gun right now! Don’t make me shoot you!” The Dirtbag made the wrong move and extended the gun to shoot Ralph, so Samantha finished squeezing the trigger, and 200 grains of jacketed hollow point lead entered the dirtbag’s forehead right above his nose, between his eyes, and the back of his head exploded, blowing brain matter all over the place. Ron stepped forward and kicked the revolver out of the dirtbag’s hand, when off to his right he heard “Can someone help us?”

    Ron holstered his gun and they checked out the call for help. A woman was lying on the ground next to a Crown Vic, and her husband was in a wheelchair next to her. Ron found out he was a Police Detective that had been shot in the leg in the line of duty, who had just been discharged to finish recuperating at home. He was in a wheelchair, and his wife was lying on the ground, and needed help getting back up. Seeing they were no threat, Sam holstered her gun too, and went to help the couple. They lifted his wife up and got her on her feet, and then the cop said he saw and heard the whole thing go down, and pushed his wife to the ground out of the line of fire and was able to look over the trunk of their car when the Dirtbag demanded that Ralph give him Samantha after he had tossed the money clip. Right then several cruisers showed up, and the police officer in the wheelchair was immediately recognized by them as a senior Atlanta detective. He told the officers exactly what happened, and they examined the scene. Ralph and Sam both showed the senior officer their Federal CCW’s and driver’s licenses. The computer check came back that they were indeed doctors at the hospital, and had valid federal CCW permits. Instead of taking them in, he recorded their statements, and the statement of the detective, and decided to release them OR.

    The coroner and a photographer showed up, and Ron explained he had kicked the revolver over to where it lay, and the detective corroborated that the Dirtbag tried to shoot them even after being shot twice, and Sam’s forehead shot was necessary to save their lives. A Supervisor showed up, and admitted he recognized the Dirtbag as a 4-time looser who was on parole for armed robbery. Ralph wondered what a 4-time looser was doing out on parole, but didn’t say anything. Sam got on her cell phone to George, who recommended an aggressive pro-gun defense attorney named James Francis. When she called Doc Richards, he told them that he was glad they were OK, and he’d pay any legal fees. When she told him the lawyer’s name, Doc told her to mention his name, and he would probably take the case for nothing, since Doc had saved his brother’s life years ago. Sam was amazed at how well Doc was connected. Finally, a Hospital Administrator showed up, and someone from Legal, since the parking lot was on Hospital property. Legal started asking why they were carrying on Hospital property and mouthing stuff like suspension. Ralph cut him off at the knees when he told him that they had retained James Francis Esq. as their defense attorney. The Hospital’s legal rep shut up immediately, and the Administrator suggested they take a couple of days off. Ralph checked with the investigating officer, who said they were free to go, and if necessary, someone from the District Attorney’s office would contact them. By now the Coroner had picked up the body and the shell casings, and had cleared the vehicle, so they could drive it home.

    When they got home, there was a message from the law office of James Francis. Doc had called his office, and James would represent them personally and wouldn’t charge a fee. He could see them tomorrow morning at 0900 in his office and he left the address. Ralph and Sam got in the shower, and then crawled into bed, drained from their experience. The next morning they went to see James Francis. His personal office was larger than their living room, and the walls were paneled in dark oak, and lined with book cases full of law books. He stood up and shook their hands, then asked a legal stenographer to come in, and had them go over the whole incident again. He asked pointed questions, including their training, and what they were thinking. James knew George, and knew that if he trained them, it was almost certainly a legally righteous shoot since he knew the self-defense laws of Georgia and Atlanta almost as well as James did. When Ralph mentioned the Hospital’s Legal rep’s comment about suspension, James made a few notes, then told Ralph he had a few tricks up his sleeve to make any legal or civil problems go away. He was going to sue the hospital and the city jointly and severally for Gross Negligence, specifically failure to maintain a safe workplace and failure to supervise and control the parolee among other things. He was sure that his PI could dig something up that would indicate that the Probation and Parole department screwed up, because he knew that they were understaffed and overloaded, with the Federal prison crowding issues, they were practically running a revolving door at the prison, releasing violent felons with less than 50% of their time served. He knew that if he asked for $100 million dollars, which would be reasonable for 2 doctors’ lifetime income and substantial punitive damages, that he could get the Hospital and City’s attention, and make everything go away.

    He told Ralph and Sam what he had in mind, and that playing hardball was the only way to make their problems go away forever, because otherwise the Hospital Legal staff would find a way to disarm them on Hospital property. They didn’t even like having armed security guards due to the liability issues, and he knew that even if it went to trial, it was an excellent test case to hopefully change employer liability laws. He knew that if the hospital had the same security outside the building that several hospitals in other big cities had, this would never have happened. He was glad that Ralph and Anne held Federal CCW’s because the Liberal City DA would be pre-empted by federal law against charging them with unauthorized carry. As soon as Ralph and Sam signed the retainer form, he had several paralegals working on the paperwork, and served the City and the Hospital that afternoon. 2 days later, he called them, and suggested they meet in his office; he had a proposal that could take care of the whole problem.

    2 days later, the hospital administrator, the head of the Hospital legal department, the Deputy Assistant DA, and the City Attorney met in James Francis’ office.
    “Gentlemen, thanks for coming. I don’t want to waste your time, so I wanted to propose a settlement to this case. You have the Coroner’s report, and the reports of all officers and investigators involved. As you can see, this is clearly a righteous shoot.
    My settlement terms are:

    The hospital will install a secure parking lot for hospital employees
    The City and State have to agree to dismiss any legal charges with prejudice.
    There will be no legal or civil retaliation against my clients
    They will be able to continue to carry concealed at work without any restrictions or repercussions
    The City will investigate the Probation Department and correct any problems found
    If the deceased’s estate sues for wrongful death, the city and hospital will pay any costs including settlement with the plaintiffs, and legal fees.
    This settlement is a 1-time take it or leave it offer, and is contingent upon absolute confidentiality.
    You have 1 week from today to accept this offer, or we go to trial.
    All parties must agree to this settlement, there will be no separate settlements.

    James handed a copy of the settlement offer to each of the representatives, and told them to send their responses by either FEDEX or registered mail, and he had to have all their responses in hand within a week, or he was going through with the lawsuit.

    1 week later, he had 5 signed settlement offers on his desk, including one from the State Attorney General’s office promising that they weren’t going to be charged in State Court. He called Ralph and Sam at home and gave them the good news.

    Chapter 36 - Aftermath

    Later that week, Ralph and Sam reported back for work. Ralph realized that their attorney must have some serious juice because no one from Hospital Administration said anything to them other than “Welcome Back” and they had already started construction of a 6-foot high chain link fence with 3 strands of barbed wire on top, mounted on anti-climb brackets that leaned to the outside of the fence. An armed security guard patrolled the perimeter 7 days a week, 24 hours a day while they finished the fence, the electric gate with pass cards, and the security cameras that kept watch over the entire parking lot. The head of the Legal department told the Hospital Board that they were getting off cheap, that James Francis had the best reputation in Atlanta for being a hard-nosed jurist who almost always won his cases, and didn’t back down for anyone. He had been telling the board for years to install security, and if his memos had come out during discovery, they would have been damning to the point that any competent judge would have found for the plaintiffs and awarded huge punitive damages way in excess of the initial demand. The fence only cost less than $50 Thousand including the gate, and the security cameras were a good idea anyway. He hoped that between the cameras and the signs, the dirtbags would move a couple of blocks away from the hospital, and eliminate the problem.

    The District Attorney was livid, and knew that he had been totally outclassed by a superior attorney, who had an airtight case. He had been trying ever since he was elected to legally disarm everyone in Atlanta because he hated guns and blamed them for everything that was wrong with Atlanta, not realizing that the City’s Socialist mentality actually attracted scumbags to the city like ants to honey. He was glad this case didn’t go to trial, because that little SOB was right, even a jury full of retards could see this was a classic Righteous Shooting. The stupid criminal was offered the money, and instead of taking it and running, he attempted to kidnap and possibly rape the victim. Not even a bunch of Liberal New Yorkers would have much sympathy for a 4-time looser who got shot while attempting not only Armed Robbery, but possibly Kidnapping and Rape, even though the other 2 never happened, his intent was clear. Then that damned Detective had to go and stick his nose in it. The ironic thing was he was too senior for the DA to mess with him, and he would probably either get moved to a desk or medically retire due to the leg injury. He was hoping to use his career as District Attorney to run for Mayor of Atlanta, and now that was in doubt, because several people in the know knew that James Francis had beat his pants off in this case, and forced the City and the State to back off, or face a huge lawsuit.

    Next Wednesday, Ralph and Sam showed up for their Wednesday night meeting, and George took them aside and gave them both hugs, and told them “Well done!” He had obtained a copy of the police reports through James Francis’ office, and read through it. Ralph’s shooting wasn’t too good, but George theorized that Ralph didn’t bother pulling the gun up to a Weaver stance, and shot from the hip as soon as the gun cleared, using his body to index and aim. The Coroner’s report showed a shattered right femur, lacerated femoral artery, shattered left collarbone, and another entry wound right above the bridge of the nose resulting in the destruction of the Medulla Oblongata and the immediate cause of death. George knew the MO was a fairly small target, but if you hit it, it was Lights Out and Hasta La Vista Baby. Through either training or luck, Samantha hit the Dirtbag in the one spot that could instantly stop the fight. When the rest of the group gathered, George asked Ralph and Sam if it were OK for the group to hear their story, and for George to debrief them. When they finished telling their story, the rest of the group looked at them in total shock. They all knew it could have been them that it happened to, and they knew that none of them besides Ralph and Sam were prepared to deal with it. Suddenly their meeting took on an urgent air. Even the Pacifists were now firmly in George’s camp, and were in no mood to back down. They realized that all their non-violence and pacifism would not matter one bit to a criminal intent on stealing what they had.

    George collected the pairs of grey sweats that he told everyone to bring, and went out back to a 55-gallon drum half full of water, added a packet of RIT black dye, then loaded all the sweat suits into the drum, and stirred them with a stick until they were thoroughly dyed black. Using the same stick, he fished the sweats out of the drum and fed them through a hand-cranked clothes wringer that got most of the water out, and handed Ralph a poncho and rubber gloves, and told him to hang up the sweats without getting any dye on his skin. There was a clothesline already set up with spring clips, and he carefully hung them up to dry. One of the ladies asked why they didn’t just use a commercial dryer, and George asked her if she would like to be the first person to use that dryer after they dried their damp sweats?

    She realized that she didn’t really think about that, and George used it as an object lesson. “People, if TSHTF, I can guarantee that society will be much more polite, and you’ll have to consider the impact of what you do on everyone else in your group. Consideration, Courtesy, and Common Sense will be the watchwords. Remember the old saying “An Armed Society is a Polite Society.” The West wasn’t as wild as Hollywood made it out to be, but it was polite. You didn’t go out of your way to offend someone who was openly carrying a Colt .45 Peacemaker!”

    That remark got a couple of chuckles, and finally they were done dyeing and hanging the clothes. Ralph took off the poncho, and Sam checked him for dye spots. She was amazed when he didn’t have a spot on him - she guessed he could be careful when it counted. While the clothes dried, they went back inside to start their classroom study of being sneaky as George called it. He started writing the basic rules of being sneaky on the chalkboard:

    Stay in the shadows
    Stay low
    Don’t get backlit
    Be Quiet
    Don’t take the obvious approach
    If you can, crawl instead of walking
    Don’t move in straight lines
    Any time someone is looking remotely your way, freeze. The eye sees movement.
    At night, don’t look right at something, look to the side of it, or scan.

    George then handed them a copy of Dick Marcinko's famous 10 Rules of Specwar:

    I am the War Lord and the wrathful God of Combat and I will always lead you from the front, not the rear.
    I will treat you all alike - just like shit.
    Thou shalt do nothing I will not do first, and thus you will be created Warriors in My deadly image.
    I shall punish thy bodies because the more thou sweatest in training, the less thou bleedest in combat.
    Indeed, if thou hurteth in thy efforts, and thou suffer painful dings, the thou art Doing It Right.
    Thou has not to like it - thou hast just to do it.
    Thou shalt Keep It Simple, Stupid.
    Thou shalt never assume.
    Verily, thou art not paid for thy methods, but for thy results, by which meaneth thou shalt kill thine enemy before he killeth you by any means available.
    Thou shalt, in thy Warrior’s Mind and Soul, always remember my ultimate and final Commandment: There Are No Rules - Thou Shalt Win at All Cost.

    Several of the more pacifist docs laughed after they read them until George thundered “You think this is FUNNY! Damn it! If the stinky stuff hits the rotating blade - who you gonna call? The Cops will be out of business, and you will be on your own. I can guarantee that every Dirtbag is the world that is planning on surviving either has studied this stuff, or has the real-world experience to know it intuitively. You cake-eating Civilians have had it so easy for so long, you’ve forgotten how brutal things can get when Law and Order collapses. That little hurricane that hit Florida only disrupted things for less than a week, yet they had rampant looting, and probably a bunch of unreported robberies and murders they’ll discover later. If that was only a couple of days after a minor disaster, imagine how bad things could get if it really hits the fan?”

    George’s “Drill Instructor From Hell” impersonation and what happened to Ralph and Sam stopped them dead in their tracks, and got them thinking in uncomfortable directions. George went on “You guys have all the fancy gear, but don’t have a clue how to use it. You might be good at punching paper, but what about shooting a real human who is shooting back at you? You know zip about Tactics, yet you act like a bunch of know-it-alls. We’ve got a limited time here to get you guys up to speed, for all we know, something could happen tomorrow that would do away with civilization as we know it. Believe me, it wouldn’t take much!”

    George spent the rest of the evening talking about basic tactics. He was encouraged to see they were taking notes. He told them when they met next week that they would start practicing this stuff in the woods out back of his studio, which was also his house. He had 10 acres of land out back, and he hadn’t cleared it out for years, so it was in it’s natural wild state, which was perfect for teaching this bunch of Newbies how to move through the wilderness. The first things he would teach them was the simple Patrol File, or how to move as group in low threat areas. He hoped one of them had enough woods skills to act as point man; otherwise they were doomed from the start. They went over map and compass use, and wilderness navigation, pace counting techniques, and a bunch of other stuff.

    Ralph and Sam were tired when they got home, but after they had a shower together, they wound up making love the rest of the night. They were dragging the next day at work, but were used to it from their internships and residencies. Somehow they got through the day, and went out for dinner that night at a local Chinese restaurant, since they didn’t feel like cooking. As they were departing the restaurant, Ralph was in condition Orange, and spotted something he didn’t like, so they retreated back into the restaurant, and asked the manager to call the cops, because there was a small group of black men loitering in the parking lot, and Ralph thought he spotted a concealed gun on them, and told the manager they might be getting ready to rob the place. The police arrived a couple of minutes later code 2, and managed to corral the gang. When the police frisked them, several were carrying pistols, and one of them had a sawed-off shotgun. The kicker was the black masks in their pockets.

    When they were taken downtown and fingerprinted, several turned out to be ex-cons with several armed robberies on their rap sheets. The police officer interviewed Sam and Ralph, and thanked them for spotting the robbers. The manager refunded their money for dinner, and handed them his card with some Chinese characters on it, which he said would entitle them to 2 free meals whenever they visited the restaurant for as long as they cared to use it. The manager said they had gotten robbed several times before, and it was usually right before they were going to make a bank run. Ralph suggested they might have someone inside. The manager’s eyes went wide, then realized that Ralph was right. He remembered hiring a dishwasher with a shady past about a month before the robberies started. He called the police supervisor back into the building, and told him about Ralph’s theory, and the coincidence of the robberies starting a month after they hired a new dishwasher. He was in the back working, so the supervisor told the manager to come in back and point him out. Two officers accompanied them, and 2 minutes later, they led the dishwasher out in cuffs. The manager was very grateful, over the last 6 months, they had been robbed twice, and each time they lost several thousand dollars. Ralph suggested they run any new employees through the PD and have them run a quick check on them, it was cheaper than paying for increased insurance payments or a funeral. The Manager thought that was an excellent idea, and told them to come back whenever they wanted. Ralph and Sam got home later that night, and were so exhausted that they just took a shower and crawled into bed.

    The next day they read the papers, and were grateful that the police supervisor had managed to keep their names out of the paper. Ralph hoped the supervisor remembered their names from the shootout, and decided the last thing they wanted was the publicity. They went to work as if nothing happened, and when they met at George’s on Wednesday, Ralph told George about the incident. The three of them sat down and talked about it until the rest of the group got there. George told Ralph he did everything correctly as far as he could see, and he was impressed that his Situational Awareness was improving. Most Civilians would have blundered right into the group, and probably gotten robbed or car jacked, since crooks are opportunistic. The rest of the group showed up, and they got on with that night’s training. They all changed into their sweats, and met out back. George showed them how to apply greasepaint to their skins to darken their skins, except Gary, who might want to lighten his up a shade or two! Gary took the good-natured ribbing, and asked them how you located a black man in a dark alley, when they gave up he said “Tell him a joke and wait for the smile.” Everyone got a good laugh at that, and after they had their make up on, he handed them an inexpensive black mask to pull over their heads. Ralph said “If we’re wearing masks, why the black face?”

    George pulled his on without first putting on his black face to show them the areas around the eyes stood out like a sore thumb, and the area around the mouth was visible. He said “Besides, sometimes it’s too hot to wear masks, and the black face helps until you start sweating. If you’re in the tropics, mix some military DEET with the cammo so it goes on better, and it keeps the bugs away.” With that he said “Follow me single file, and be quiet.” He knew the last order was hopeless, but he wanted them to have a comparison for later when they really could move quietly, if they made it that far. Things were looking up. With the incident involving Ralph and Sam, they got serious, and quit goofing off.

    Two weeks later, they decided to go to the Chinese restaurant near their apartment, and the manager recognized them, and greeted them like long-lost relatives. He escorted them to the best table, and asked if it were OK for him to order for them. When Ralph said OK, the manager went in back, and had a brief conversation with the cook. Half an hour later, three waiters carried platters of very expensive and fancy Chinese dishes. Ralph did not know what most of them were, but the presentation was beautiful, including vegetables carved like dragons, Peking Duck, General Tso’s Chicken, a Mongolian Barbeque, and a very fancy presentation of Sweet and Sour pork with a flaming sauce and carved carrots. Ralph knew that they could never eat all that food, and asked the Manager if he could join them. He looked around, and the restaurant was slow, so he went in back, brought out his wife, and joined them for dinner. They both spoke fluent English with a Southern accent. Over dinner, they found out that they were from Hong Kong, and left to avoid becoming Chinese citizens again. They were both educated in the US, and moved back to Hong Kong to start a business. When they moved back to the US, and became citizens, they took on American names, and spoke mostly English, except with the ancient cook, who turned out to be their 70-yr old Uncle, who could have retired, but loved to cook. Ralph told Tom and Violet they were ER docs at the local hospital, and their apartment was right around the corner. Tom said that in Oriental culture, the most respected man in the village was the village healer. They talked for almost an hour, and when the meal was done, Ralph asked if he could go in the back and thank the cook personally. Tom said he would be honored, and he’d have to accompany them since Uncle Charlie spoke very little English. When they walked back to the kitchen, Tom got his uncle’s attention, spoke to him briefly in Chinese, and they turned to Ralph. “Uncle Charlie, I wanted to thank you for that delicious meal, I can tell you really care about cooking, and go to meticulous detail to make your dishes perfect. Thank you very much!”

    Ralph bowed at the waist like an oriental, and came back up slowly. Charlie started rattling off to Tom in Chinese, then Tom translated “Uncle Charlie says you are most welcome, and it is we who are grateful for you stopping those brigands from stealing from us. Please feel free to drop in anytime, we’d like to be your friends.”

    “I’d like that Uncle Charlie, Merci Beaucoup!”

    “Vous parlez fran&#231;ais ? J'ai appris quand j'&#233;tais au Vietnam avant la guerre.”

    “I'm Cajun de Louisiane. J'ai r&#233;cemment r&#233;appris Cajun ainsi je pourrais traiter des personnes dans le bayou.”

    Ralph and Charlie carried on in French as Tom stood in amazement. Finally Charlie dropped his cleaver, wiped his hands, and shook Ralph’s hand. When they walked back out to the table, Tom said that he had made a friend, and Charlie felt isolated because he could only converse with Tom and Violet since no one else spoke Chinese in the neighborhood. Ralph suggested that they come over some time when Charlie could join them, Sam spoke Cajun almost as well as he did since she had to help him learn while they were engaged. Tom suggested if they wanted to come over any night for a late dinner, if they could call first, they could close the restaurant and dine comme la famille. Ralph thought that was an excellent idea, and he’d take them up on it. He didn’t get too many chances to practice his French any more. Tom said they could come over anytime, not just for a late dinner. They got up, and Ralph shook Tom’s hand, and Sam gave Violet a “girl hug” then they left. Remembering last time, Ralph stopped in the doorway, scanned the entire area, and it was perfectly normal. Samantha walked on Ron’s left, and they kept their hands free. Ralph had his car keys out, and Sam swept the area around their car quickly with her Surefire flashlight. No one was around, so they got in and drove home.


  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    State of Denial
    Chapter 37 - Country Home

    Things were going so well at Allakaket Airlines that BA told Ron to take a couple of months off with the family at their lodge up north. They packed up their stuff and loaded it aboard the Super Goose. Steve flew the SG with one of the baggage handlers to help unload while Ron and his family traveled in the 007, since the Super Goose was stuffed. The entourage landed at the lodge, then the SG touched down and taxied to the cabin after the 007 cleared out. It took a day to get organized and get everything cleaned up. The kids were 3 years older than the last time they went to the cabin, so Ron was hoping they would want to go hunting and fishing with Mom and Dad. Jake, who had just turned 13, was looking forward to shooting his first Caribou, and had been practicing with Dad’s Browning A-bolt .308 at the 300-yard range owned by Alaska Survival. Ron turned out to be a pretty good shooting coach, and Jake wasn’t quite the marksman his dad was, but he could shoot a 4-inch group at 300 yards shooting Military Prone, and a 3-inch group at 300 yards off the bipod. Ron agreed to let him use the bipod, since they weren’t shooting for score, and he wanted Josh to get a clean humane kill.

    Before they left, Ron sat down with his kids and explained life in Alaska was different from most of the United States because everyone that didn’t live in the big cities were subsistence hunters, or else worked for a hunting lodge, or in some capacity related to hunting. He disagreed with trophy hunting on an ethical basis, but at least trophy hunters in Alaska didn’t waste the meat like they did in some places. For his 13th birthday, Jake got a Ruger 22/45 that belonged to his Grandpa, and got his Grandma’s set of knifes, since she said she was too old to hunt anymore. Ron had made suitable fanny packs for all 4 kids. Jake, Josh and Sarah had graduated from shooting their .22 Chipmunks to shooting a competition grade 10/22 with the Volquartsen trigger group, match barrel, and overmolded stock., and a whole bunch of bells and whistles. Their guns cost more than Ron’s Browning A-bolt, but they could shoot on the average a group smaller than &#189;” at 100 yards. They had since graduated to AR-15 HBAR rifles with nice scopes, and were shooting with Jake at Alaska Survival with Bear’s two sons, Tom and Gary. They were Jake and Josh’s age, and had grown up shooting even before Ron’s kids. Since they weren’t allowed to shoot them in the Junior Shooter’s program, they kept shooting their .22’s until they were old enough to compete in the Open division with their Dad. Tom and Gary turned out to be plenty of competition for Ron’s kids, since they had the home field advantage, and could practice at the 300-yard range whenever they wanted, unless their Dad was running a shooting class, or there was too much snow on the ground. Bear decided to wait a year before allowing Tom and Gary go hunting, so Jake would be the only kid in their age group to go hunting this year, and the main reason was Ron was tired of waiting for his kids to get old enough to go hunting with them.

    They had purchased 3 ATV’s, so Ron, Jake, and Nancy drove an ATV each, and Nancy towed a custom-built trailer with 3 safety seats for Josh, Sarah, and David. Ron and Jake each carried part of their camping gear with enough room on the trailer to carry a caribou skin, and a trash bag full of meat. Ron and Jake each carried a cased Browning A-bolt on the back of their ATV’s. Ron and Nancy both had their double shoulder holsters, and Jake had a single shoulder holster for his 22/45 with 3 mags on the off-side to help equalize the load. All 3 of them wore their fanny packs and knives. Josh, Sarah, and David had smaller fanny packs containing age-appropriate equipment. Ron bought a huge family tent and self-inflating sleeping pads for everyone. When he got a look at the pile of stuff they were bringing, he thought they were on an African Safari. Moose decided to jog along next to them the first day, and they made pretty good time to the campground. It took several hours to set up the tent with the 4 kids helping. If Ron and Nancy did it by themselves, it would have been up in less than half an hour. Ron had a brilliant idea, and sent the kids looking for stones for a fire ring, and told them to keep close.

    While they picked up stones, Ron and Nancy got the tent set up quickly. Ron gathered the stones into a circle, and showed the kids how to safely start a fire, and all the tricks involved. They watched their dad with fascination, until they realized they had seen this hundreds of times before when Dad lit a fire in the fireplace. Only Jake paid enough attention to notice Ron wasn’t using a match, instead he was using flint and steel, and a piece of char cloth to catch the spark. He set the char cloth in a small pile of pitchy pine sawdust that he had brought from home, struck the flint with the steel, and threw a shower of sparks into the char cloth. Ron blew gently until the spark burst into flame, then he slid the whole pile into the center of the fire circle, and carefully laid a tepee of tiny twigs over it, and as they caught, he added larger and larger sticks, until he had a nice fire going. Meanwhile, Nancy had set up the propane stove on the stand, and was about to make dinner. She liked modern conveniences!

    Ron told Jake how to cook on an open fire, but admitted that cooking on a propane stove was easier and safer, but you couldn’t always rely on having one. While Nancy made dinner, Ron told his son about his grandfather Roy, and how he survived a year in the wild, living in a tiny trapper’s cabin for a year before he could build a dugout canoe and ride the river down to Allakaket. Jake had heard about his Grandpa from his grandmother, but hearing his father tell it to him out in the wilderness somehow brought a deeper understanding to Jake. Josh, Sarah, and David gathered around to here the story too, but Ron was concentrating on Jake, since Ron felt Jake was ready to learn survival skills, and was old enough to be responsible. He told them how Roy crash landed at their lake, and swam to the shore, made a fire while he was wet, cold, and shivering with only what he carried in his fanny pack. Jake looked in his pack, and wondered if he could survive for a year with just the contents of his pack, and realized he couldn’t, and he had a lot to learn. Ron told him that if he wanted to, he would add lessons in Wilderness Survival to the lessons he was learning at home. Jake liked that a lot. Ron pulled a memo pad out of his fanny pack, and made some notes, including what order to teach Jake the skills he would need to survive in the wilderness. He realized his kids had been raised in a town, instead of in a log cabin, and didn’t have the daily experiences he had growing up. He’d have to make up for lost time.
    The next morning, they were up at first light, and they quickly broke camp, and Jake helped his dad to make sure the fire was out. Once everything that they brought was packed up, they put on their helmets, and headed to the caribou grounds. Later that afternoon, they arrived at the foot of the hill, and Ron shut his ATV off, and told everyone that they had to be absolutely quiet from here on out, or they would spook the game, and they would have wasted at trip. They got off the ATV’s as quietly as possible, and uncased their rifles. They already had the magazines loaded. Nancy took the 3 younger kids aside while they loaded the guns, and she handed out hearing protection. Ron and Jake took their rifles and shooting pads, and hiked over the hill. Nancy, the kids and Moose followed a ways behind and crested the top of the hill where they were out of the way. Ron and Jake set up, and selected 2 mature bulls. Ron told Jake to take the one that was about 150 yards away and on the right, and he’d take the one on the left. Jake got in a good stable shooting position, extended the bipod legs, took the scope covers off, cycled the action, and sighted through the scope. Once the crosshairs were centered on the heart/lung region of the bull, he looked over at his Dad, who gave him a Thumbs up. Jake got back behind the scope, and the bull’s heart was still in the center of the crosshairs, so he flipped off the safety, and took a shooting grip on the rifle, and moved his right index finger to the trigger. The scope was still centered on the bull’s heart, so he took 3 deep breaths, and blew half the 3rd one out, held his breath, and gently squeezed the trigger. Jake’s gun roared, and Ron’s went off a second later. Jake could see the caribou bull stagger and fall to the ground after taking 2 steps, so he knew it was dead. He set the safety so he could cycle the action, but lock the trigger, and unloaded his rifle just like his Dad showed him. They picked up their rifles and shooting pads, and hiked back over the hill to their ATVs, cased the rifles, and everyone got back on board for the short ride over the hill. Ron was amazed that he didn’t hear a peep out of Moose during all the excitement. When the 3 ATV’s crested the hill, the herd spooked, and they drove right up to the kills. They shut off their ATV’s, and went over to check the carcasses. Ron saw that Jake had put a bullet right where he should, so he gave him a big hug and said “Well Done Jake - now we get to skin, gut, and butcher the caribou.”

    Jake took his Bowie knife just like his dad had told him, slit the throat of his bull to let it bleed, then stuck the skinner blade side up into the breast of the bull, and easily penetrated the hide. He quickly opened the hide right down the midline of the belly where he reached the sex organs of the bull. Ron told him to just cut around them, and he’d help him split the pelvis and finish the job. Ron spilt the pelvis with one blow from his Ulu/hatchet, and quickly removed the sex organs and anus of the bull. He tied a knot in the colon to keep the contents from contaminating the meat and helped Jake remove the internal organs. Jake thought it was kind of gross, but knew it was part of hunting to skin, gut, and butcher your own animal. You owed it to the animal not to waste anything by not doing the job right. Once they had the skin off, Ron showed Jake how to brain tan the hide, and almost lost his cookies when he smelled what the contents of the skull smelled like. Ron handed him a jar of Vicks Vaporub and told him to put a small amount under his nose, which would kill the smell. Jake felt better with the Vicks, and helped his father mash all the brains into the hide. When they were finished, Ron and Jake washed their hands very thoroughly; Jake didn’t want to smell like that any longer than he had to!

    Once both carcasses had cooled, Ron showed Jake how to butcher the animal and remove the cuts of meat they wanted. Once Jake got started, Ron took his Ulu/hatchet and expertly butchered his bull, Mary and April were excellent teachers, and he used the Ulu part of the blade like an Intuit would, and as a result, it took half as long as before to butcher the bull. They put the meat they wanted to keep into a trash bag, rolled up the skins, and piled everything back on the trailers. Since Nancy thought that they had stunk up the area butchering the bulls, she suggested they camp on the other side of the hill, so they all got onboard their ATVs and drove over the hill. With 2 hours of daylight left, Ron knew he couldn’t make it home safely with his family, so they made camp. This time Ron and Nancy put the tent up by themselves, and had it up in plenty of time. Moose kept the 4 kids occupied, and earned Ron and Nancy’s praise. Ron and Jake built another fire, and since they had the time, Ron showed Jake how to use flint and steel to start a fire. After a couple of tries, he got pretty good at striking sparks, so Ron decided to let him try the whole procedure. He had Jake put a small pile of sawdust in his hand, place a piece of char cloth in the middle, and after 3 attempts, he threw a spark right into the char cloth. He blew gently just like his dad told him, and was rewarded with a baby flame. While it was still manageable, he carefully set it down in the center of the fire ring, took several small twigs, and arranged them in a tepee fashion over the little flame. As the twigs caught, he added more wood and gradually bigger pieces, until he had a nice big fire going. Ron hugged the stuffing out of Jake, and said “Son, you’ve learned the most important skill for wilderness survival - how to build a fire. Doing it the old-fashioned way is the hardest but the most reliable. Later, I’ll show you my fool-proof methods.”

    While they were playing Jeremiah Johnson, Nancy had assembled the stand and the propane stove, and had started dinner. An hour later, dinner was served. Nancy brought several jars of caribou stew, since she knew it would be simple to fix, and only used the Dutch oven, making clean-up easy as well. They roasted marshmallows over the fire for dessert, and finally it was bedtime, because Ron wanted to be up early so they could make it home tomorrow. They climbed into their sleeping bags, and the kids huddled around Moose who was looking pretty old but was in good shape for an older dog. Evidently he was lucky not to have any disabling genetic defects like hip dysplasia. Ron and Nancy slept on the other side of the tent, and as soon as it was light, they were up and about. Nancy fixed oatmeal with cinnamon, brown sugar and raisins, just like they liked it. Once breakfast was finished, and the dishes cleaned, they packed up and headed for home.

    They got back to the lodge 2 hours later, and parked the ATVs in their “garage” next to the snow blower. Ron and Jake carried the Caribou meat into the kitchen, laid a tarp over the table to make cleaning the mess up easier while Nancy got the three younger kids settled and broke out the canning gear and jars. Ron did most of the packing and slicing, while Jake helped out his mom and dad where he could. Once Ron had all the meat packed, he remembered he needed to take the skins to the lake and rinse them off, then spread them over the smokehouse roof. He put his fanny pack and shoulder pack back on, grabbed the bundle of skins and secured them to the back of the ATV and drove to the lake. Once they were thoroughly rinsed, he rolled them back up and drove back to the lodge. Jake was splitting wood for the stove when he came back. Ron was glad to see Jake was being careful. Ron parked the ATV and carried the skins to the smokehouse. Jake helped his dad spread them on the smokehouse roof, then he went back to splitting wood. After dinner, they gathered around the fireplace and Ron read them a story out of his Children’s Bible, then the kids said goodnight and went to bed.

    After breakfast, Ron asked them if they wanted to go fishing, and of course they said “yes!” They gathered their gear and walked to the lake, with Ron and Nancy keeping a careful lookout for predators. Soon they all had a couple of fish on their stringers, and these weren’t little fish either, the lake trout they caught ranged from 2-10 pounds in weight. Ron was glad that he had that outdoor fish cleaning table installed. He realized that the outside tap wasn’t being used, so he had someone build a large table next to the lodge, and route a water line to it. They covered the table with Formica so it wouldn’t hold the fish smell, and the basin at one end of the table drained into a 5-gallon bucket which they dumped into what used to be the garden, but was now a hole in the ground to compost wastes that would enrich the soil. Ron knew that if he ever needed to use that garden again, it would be some of the richest soil in the neighborhood! Ron showed them how to open and gut a fish. He was amazed that Sarah wasn’t the least bit squeamish, but probably didn’t want to “act like a girl” in front of her brothers. Nancy made a huge fish fry for dinner with “freedom fries”, Ron couldn’t bear to call them French Fries!

    The next day, Bear called and asked if they wanted to go shooting. Ron asked the kids, and the resounding YES told him that they were going to Alaskan Survival to go shooting with Tom and Gary. Bear said he’d send the 007 down for them. They got ready, and less than an hour later, they heard the roar of a helicopter coming in for a landing. They carried their cased rifles on board, strapped into the VIP seats, and 30 minutes later they landed at Bear’s compound. Tom and Gary were there to greet them, and they walked down to the shooting range. Bear brought a 50-cal ammo can full of 5.56 ammo and .308 ammo. Ron had brought his National Match Springfield M1-a to shoot against Bear. They walked to their individual lanes, and got ready. They all laid down their shooting mats, and loaded mags full of ammo. Ron and Bear were pretty equal on the 600 yard line since Ron was not allowed to use a scope. If he had a scope mounted on his rifle, it wouldn’t have been even close, but Bear insisted that Ron learn to shoot with open sights, because he said that if the scope got damaged, he’d have to be able to shoot just as well with open sights. Since Ron couldn’t see his bullet strikes, he had to learn how to shoot long-distance with open sights. Fortunately, Bear had mercy on him, and showed him the techniques he needed to shoot without a scope. Ron muttered more than once under his breath that he’d rather carry a spare scope, but he realized Bear did have a point, even if it was on top of his head! Finally after shooting a half-dozen 6-inch groups, Ron had enough, and when the shooting stopped Ron hopped on the ATV and drove down to the target line and put a B-27 silhouette target up with 2 1-inch orange dots on it: 1 over the heart, and 1 over the forehead where it would disrupt the M.O.

    He drove back to the line, and while everyone else resumed shooting, he took the rear sight off his Picatinny rail, and mounted the Leupold Mark III scope with the QD rings, and set up. 2 shots later, Bear knew that Ron would be far more useful as a sniper than shooting with open sights, and told him to keep the scope mounted, but keep the rear sight in his carry case just in case. Later when they pulled the targets, there were 2 holes in Ron’s target, right in the center of the orange dots. Ron’s kids had never seen him shoot a scoped rifle at 600 yards before, and were amazed. Jake remembered some rumors he heard about his Dad’s shooting ability, and realized that those rumors, which he dismissed as tall tales, were true. He resolved then and there to really try, since he should be a much better shooter. Jake had a talk with his Dad, and the rest of the day, Ron worked with his son shooting the scoped National Match M-1a at the 600-yard line. Slowly Jake’s shooting improved. Ron was glad, because he feared that none of his kids had inherited his shooting ability. Now he realized he just had to push and encourage them to try to shoot farther and farther. All the kids in Allakaket were shooting at the 100-yard range, so Ron didn’t think that they were any different. Ron suggested Sarah, Josh, and David try the 300-yard range, which was about the limit of effective range of their AR-15’s. While they weren’t sniper accurate with the open sights, they were both able to put a 20-round magazine in the “Minute of Dirtbag” zone. Ron asked Bear if he could get some 3x9x40 QD scopes out of inventory and boresight them. Bear grabbed their rifles and drove back to the compound, and came back 30 minutes later with a Simmons 3x9x40 AO scope mounted on each rifle with QD rings. Ron left Jake shooting by himself on the 600-yard line, and concentrated on Josh, Sarah, and David for the rest of the afternoon. After some coaching and training, the 3 of them were shooting much smaller groups than before at the 300-yard targets. Ron told them to keep it up, and measure their group size, and they should notice their group sizes shrinking. By the end of the day, they had gone from shooting 6-inch groups to 5-inch groups while using scopes shooting prone on the 300-yard line. Ron was one proud papa!

    Chapter 38 - National Shooting Team

    They made a daily trip to the shooting range since Ron had managed to get all 4 of his kids hooked on long-range shooting. Jake shot Ron’s Springfield Armory National Match M-1a at the 600-yard line, while Josh, Sarah, and David were shooting the scoped AR-15s. Jake’s group size slowly shrank from 8 inches to 6 inches. Ron was watching his eldest son shoot, and spotted something. When Jake had finished shooting, he sat down next to him, and asked him if he would mind some help. Jake was frustrated he couldn’t shoot smaller groups than 6 inches, so he said yes. Ron had Jake fold up the bipod, and assume the Classic Military prone position. Once he got into the proper position, Jake realized what he was doing wrong, and shot a 5-inch group shooting Military prone. Ron told him to put the bipod back down, and the group size reduced to 4 inches. Jake was so happy that he could have floated all the way home. Ron told him it was all practice from there on out, and learning to concentrate. He told Jake that before he shot if he was nervous, he recited the 23rd Psalm, and it calmed him right down. Bear told Jake that Ron was so good at concentrating when he shot that he was pretty sure he wouldn’t notice a grenade going off once he was in the zone. Jake asked Bear what the Zone was. Ron explained that it was an area of intense concentration that allowed him to shoot super-small groups. The only thing he saw and thought of was his image of the target through the scope.

    Ron stood up, and grabbed his cell phone, and called Gene Shepard “General, I’m here with Bear and my kids teaching Jake how to shoot long distance. I wanted to know if it were OK to tell Jake about the Barrett’s shooting project.”

    “Sure, just don’t tell him anything about the Bradley or the LAV-25 since they’re still considered Top Secret.”

    “Thanks Gene!”

    Ron walked back over to Jake. “That was Gene; he told me it was OK to tell you about a Military project I was involved in at your age. I grew up at our lodge except it was a little 2-room cabin back then, and I learned to shoot much younger than you did, and quickly started shooting my mom’s Browning A-bolt - That’s Grandma, anyway, Uncle Steve showed up at our cabin one day, and we were shooting at 12-inch logs from our porch to the lake. The farthest shot was 400 yards. When I shot a 2-inch group at 400 yards, Steve almost fainted. One thing lead to another and Steve invited us to MacDill AFB in Florida where he worked. He really wanted to show me off to his boss, General Gene Shepard. They set me up on the 400 yard line with my Browning A-bolt, and after I fired a test round to make sure I doped the wind correctly, then I shot a 4-shot group of 1.092 inches. The General asked me to shoot at the 600-yard target, and I shot a 2.092 inch group. General Shepard told me that the best shooter on the Air Force Shooting Team only shot a 1.98 inch group at 600 yards prone.

    “Holy Cow Dad, why didn’t you tell me?”

    “Until now it was a classified Government project, I couldn’t even talk to your Mom about everything I did. If you want to try some really long distance shooting, I’m sure we can go the Elmendorf and shoot my Barretts 50-cal rifle at their 1,000 yard range.”

    “Thousand Yards? I can barely see good enough to shoot at the 600-yard line, I can see the target Ok, but I can’t see my bullet holes, or I’d use them as an aiming point and shoot much smaller groups.”

    “You won’t believe this rifle, the scope is 3 times the size of the one you’re using now, and the gun itself is almost twice as long. It’s got a suppressor on it, but the round is supersonic, so you still need to wear hearing protection.”

    “Why suppress the gun if you can still hear it?”

    “Because the suppressor also suppresses muzzle blast, which is the biggest component of the recoil of the BMG .50 round. During Dessert Storm, US snipers could only fire a round or two, then they’d have to move because the muzzle blast disturbed enough dust to mark their shooting position. With the suppressor, the blast is almost non-existent, and it actually makes the gun more accurate. When I was your age, I shot a 10-inch group with the older model in front of General Shepard at 1,000 yards.”

    “Yikes, talk about pressure! I’ve got enough problems shooting in front of you!”

    “If I can get permission to bring you on base at Elmendorf, we can shoot the Barretts at their 1,000 yard range. I’m sure you’ll like it.”

    “Thanks Dad, I’d love to go, just let me know when.”

    “If I can get permission, it should be in the next couple of days, so practice up.”

    Jake went back to practicing shooting at the 600-yard line with renewed enthusiasm. He hoped his dad could get permission. When he looked through the scope, he saw the image was more jittery than last time. Remembering his father’s advice, he tried all the techniques he had told him to slow down his breathing and pulse. Finally he started reciting the 23rd Psalm “The Lord is my Shepherd…” by the time he finished the psalm, he looked through the scope, and it looked like the gun was mounted in a rifle rest. Once the bullseye was centered in the crosshairs, he gently squeezed the trigger, and was rewarded with his first x-ring round, right in the center of the bullseye. When he came back to the scope it was wiggling again, so he started reciting the 23rd Psalm in his mind again. This time he didn’t even remember touching the trigger. When he looked at the target again, he had 5 holes in the target in a nice tight group. He realized that he must have finally gotten into the mythical Zone his dad was always telling him about. Ron was watching through the spotting scope, and realized about the same time Jake did that his son was in the Zone. He said a quick prayer of thanksgiving, then walked forward to give his son a big hug.

    When Josh, Sarah, David, and Bear’s boys were done shooting, Ron walked down with Jake to retrieve his target. When they measured his group, and subtracted the bullet diameter, Ron told Jake he had just shot a 3” group at 600 yards. Ron picked Jake up and spun him around. Seeing all the commotion, Bear wandered over, and Ron explained what Jake had just did. Bear proceeded to give Jake a Bear hug, until he felt a thump on his forearm, and realized he was squeezing too hard. He set Jake back down, and was talking to him about the first time he met his dad, and how Ron had impressed all those SF shooting instructors, and had a target still up at the DELTA officer’s club with his signature on it. Even Carlos Hathcock didn’t have a target up on that wall. Ron wondered why Carlos didn’t have a target on the wall, and Bear said Carlos had stopped shooting by then since his MS made it impossible for him to shoot long distances. Bear said one of the saddest days of his life was when the Delta instructor told him that Carlos had died. Ron misted up when he heard Bear relating the story, and he remembered the white feather Gunny had painted on his stock. Jake wouldn’t know the significance of the symbol, and he didn’t want to seem like he was bragging in front of Bear. He made a note to himself to show Jake the rifle later, and explain who Carlos Hathcock was, and give him the 2 books in his collection to read, Marine Sniper and One Shot, One Kill. If Jake wanted to have some heroes, Ron would prefer Jake select someone like Carlos instead of a basketball or football player, except for Patrick Tillman, who volunteered for the US Army and went to Afghanistan, where he died in combat. He left a huge Pro Football contract, a wife, and kids after 09/11 and volunteered for service in Afghanistan. Ron shook his head, and wondered if he could be so self-sacrificing. That would be like him leaving Nancy and the kids, and joining the Marines. Then he remembered he was almost in the Academy when Congress stupidly cut the military to pay for social programs, and basically did away with the Air Force. Ron hoped he would never run into his Congressman, because he was pretty sure he’d punch the idiot out, and spend at least a year in jail.

    Ron rolled Jake’s target up, and posted a new target on the board, then they all went back to shooting. Ron was working with Josh, Sarah, and David on the 300-yard line while Jake continued to practice. The three younger children were finally shooting groups now that they had a scope to clearly see the target. Ron thought about that for a minute. The scopes on the AR-15’s were Simmons scopes, and at maximum they only had a 9x magnification. Even Ron’s National Match only had a 10x scope on it. He wanted to check the internet, and check with Bear about getting some better scopes. The Simmons was better suited to the 10/22 on the 100-yard line then a Match AR-15 shooting at 300 yards. Ron walked over to Bear, and he agreed with Ron that they could get better scopes, since these scopes were bought by the case fairly cheaply for militia use, since Bear figured the average militia member wouldn’t be shooting much outside of 300 yards anyway, and minute of Dirtbag accuracy was plenty accurate enough. Bear suggested Ron get a couple of Springfield Armory M -25 White Feather tactical rifles with the supplied scope and bipod for Jake and him, and he might want to get some Leupold Tactical scopes for the other 3 kids for their AR-15’s. Ron told Bear he’d check the internet when he got back to the lodge this evening; then order them through Allakaket Airlines’ FFL, to see if he could get a discount price.

    When they finished shooting Ron asked Bear if he could borrow his computer. Bear said there was one in the Conference Room with a high-speed satellite connection. Judging by the size of his dish, Ron guessed that Bear might be able to talk to Military Satellites. Bear got Ron logged in, then they surfed the internet. Ron located the Springfield Armory site, and then saw the M -25 Tactical Rifle (White Feather) and decided then and there he wanted to buy one. It would make a good rifle for Jake as well, so he decided to order 2 with the scope they were showing. Checking further on the webpage, he found out that the M -25 could take a whole line of scopes that were made for the Springfield Armory M -1 rifles. He liked the 6-20x50 Mil-Dot BDC Government Model scope best, even though it listed at $900 dollars, which about the same price as the Leupold Mark 4 he was originally looking at. He asked Bear what he’d do.

    Bear shrugged his shoulders, shook his head, and raised his hands “I don’t have a clue. The Leupold has always been the gold standard, but with Barrett going to Swarovski, Leupold has became just another high-priced top-quality scope line. I highly doubt that Springfield Armory would put a less than perfect scope on their M -25, especially since it has Carlos Hitchcock’s endorsement and signature. The extra magnification could come in handy during the day, but I highly doubt you’ll be able to use all of it real early in the morning or late in the evening. At 20 power, that 50mm Objective means you have an exit pupil of 2.5mm which is OK during the bright light of day, but in the evening, it might not transmit enough light. Of course, your solution would be to dial down the zoom to about 15x to give you a 3mm exit pupil.”

    They both were illuminated reticle tactical scopes with a mil-dot range estimating system. Ron had never used a mil-dot before, but figured Bear or someone could teach them how. The Springfield scope had a built-in Bullet-drop compensating elevation ring, with rings for 7.62 and .223, as well as a blank ring for another caliber. With the range-estimation and bullet-drop compensating system, the scope was designed for long-range shooting. He’d check with the shopkeeper, and have them price the scope through their distributor, and maybe buy 6 if they could get a good enough price. Jake’s birthday was coming up, and Ron thought the M -25 with the scope and everything would make a killer birthday present. Between the rifle, scope, magazines, bipod, and case, it would be almost $6 thousand. It wasn’t like he couldn’t afford it, but that was way more than he ever got for a birthday. If Jake kept shooting the way he was, he’d be able to take full advantage of the rifle and scope by his birthday.

    For now the rest of the kids could shoot their Simmons scopes. He wasn’t going to chance them breaking a $900 dollar scope until they were a lot more mature and careful with the equipment. Ron told Bear his plans, and he agreed they should wait to get the younger kids better scopes, since they weren’t shooting to the limits of the Simmons scopes yet. Remembering he promised Jake to take him shooting, he called Gene at home, and asked him to call the CO of Elmendorf, and get permission for Ron and Jake to shoot there tomorrow. Gene called back, and said it was OK with the CO, but they had a new Gunny, since the old Gunny retired several years ago, and moved to Alabama. Ron thought “Great, now I have to break in a new one.” Ron told Jake they could fly to Elmendorf tomorrow and go shooting. Ron called Allakaket and asked to have a 007 at their lodge by 0800 tomorrow, and to plan a round-trip to Elmendorf. Ron remembered he had plenty of Lake City BMG .50 Match ammo since he hadn’t been shooting in a while. When they finished, and got ready to go home, Ron told them to roll up their best target and date it, so they could keep track of how they were shooting. Ron helped the younger 3, writing the size of their best group, the range, the date, and their initials. Jake had already “autographed” his target with 3” @ 600 yds, today’s date, and his first name, since Josh had the same initials. Ron helped them load up and get buckled into the seats of 007 for the ride back to the lodge. Nancy had dinner ready, and told everyone to wash up. Ron showed Nancy Jake’s target, and told her they were going shooting at Elmendorf tomorrow, and asked her if she’d mind taking the other 3 up to Bear’s place shooting so they didn’t feel too left out. Nancy didn’t really like shooting the Barretts, even with the suppressor, the recoil was too much for her, and 5 rounds was about all she could take without a bruised shoulder. Ron remembered that, and asked her if Jake could borrow her shooting jacket, it would be a little big on him, but the shoulder should line up OK. Nancy said OK, she didn’t want Jake coming home all black and blue. Ron was glad Jake and Josh had developed some table manners, and Sarah had developed a health appetite. Dinner went much more smoothly, and Ron said grace. After dinner, the 4 kids laid with Moose on the bearskin rug in front of the fire. Ron saw that Moose was getting really old, and knew he’d have to tell Jake that he was about to lose his best friend. Ron remembered how he felt when he lost Sam, and wished he could protect Jake from the heartbreak, but knew he could no more protect him from heartbreak than his dad could. Ron called Jake over, and sat down with him in his room.

    “I don’t know how to tell you this, but you need to prepare yourself for Moose’s death. He’s growing old, and won’t live much longer. It’s going to hurt, I know because I’ve buried 2 dogs so far, and vaguely remember Oliver. It hurts each time, but when you get a new dog, some of the hurt goes away.”

    “I don’t want Moose to die!”

    “Son, you don’t have any choice. Dogs live much shorter lives than we do. I guess it’s because we’re put on this planet to learn how to love like God does, and dogs don’t have as much to learn, since they are the most loving animals God created. Someone once said that when God created dogs, he made them to reflect his love, so he gave them a name that reflected his name, that’s why Dog is God spelled backwards.” Ron held his son while they cried. Ron put his hands on Jake’s shoulders as they prayed together. “Lord, if you’re ready to take Moose to you, please make his death painless, and give us the strength to bear the loss. And if it’s your will, please provide another dog we can love as much as we love Moose. Amen” Jake echoed his Dad’s Amen, then once they had dried their tears. Ron told Jake not to discuss this with his younger siblings, since they weren’t old enough to understand anyway, and it would just upset them. As the Older Brother, Jake was very protective of his younger brothers and sister, when he wasn’t teasing and tormenting them. He promised his Dad that he wouldn’t mention it.

    The next morning after Breakfast, Ron gathered his pelican case, and an ammo can full of BMG .50 Match ammo, and another soft case with their hearing and eye protection, and Jake’s shooting jacket. Right at 0800, he heard the roar of a helicopter landing in the front yard. Jake kissed his mom goodbye, then helped his dad carry the stuff out to the helicopter. Jake was an old hand at boarding copters, and didn’t need to be told to duck. Once their stuff was loaded, the crew chief made sure they were buckled in, then took his seat, buckled in, then tapped the pilot on the shoulder. He quickly lifted off and headed for Elmendorf. 2 hours later, they landed at the base, next to the shooting range. Ron and Jake got out while the rotor was still turning, and unloaded the chopper. Once they were clear, the pilot increased throttle and took off again. Once the dust settled, a different Gunnery Sergeant got out of his Hummer, walked over to Ron, and shook his hand. “You must be Ron Williams! Gunny Clark told me all about you before he retired. My Name is Gunnery Sergeant Simpson, but if you want you can just call me Gunny like everyone else. I take it this is Jake, nice to meet you.” Jake shook the outstretched hand, and then Gunny told them the range already had targets set up, 2 at the 600-yard line, and 2 at the 1000-yard line, and their shooting positions were already set up with a pad and a tarp. Ron thanked Gunny, who picked up the ammo box and escorted them to the shooting line. They set up on the 600-yard line first, and Ron passed out eyes and ears before setting up. He set the Pelican case on the table and Gunny Simpson’s eyes bugged out at the huge rifle. Jake thought the National Match was big until he saw this rifle out of its case, it was easily twice the size of Ron’s National Match M-1a. Ron showed them the features of the rifle, and explained how it worked, and why they needed hearing protection even though the gun was suppressed. With the briefing complete, Ron took the rifle out of it’s case, ejected the magazine, and loaded 5 rounds of BMG .50 Match ammo into the mag, and carried everything to his shooting position. Gunny set up 2 60x120mm spotting scopes so they could watch from the tables while Ron set up on the 600-yard line. He knew this was just a chip-shot for the gun, but didn’t want Jake to get discouraged his first time out, so decided to start on the shorter range.

    Once Ron was set up, he looked back at the Gunny, who gave him a “thumbs up” then Ron returned to the scope. 5 minutes later, he had 5 rounds in the x-ring, and he was pretty sure the bullet holes were touching each other. Jake couldn’t believe his eyes, his dad just shot a group smaller than 2 inches without practicing. Ron stood up, and motioned for Jake to join him at the gun. Ron was pretty sure Jake’s feet never touched the ground from the bench to the rifle. Ron got Jake prone behind the rifle, and helped him adjust the rifle to fit him, then loaded a magazine with 5 rounds. Jake looked through the scope, and the target looked huge, like it was staring him right in the face 5 yards away. He asked his dad why the image of the target was so huge, and Ron explained that the scope was designed to shoot man-sized targets at over a mile, and as a result, had a huge magnification factor. He got back behind the scope, and noticed it wasn’t hardly moving at all, then realized the bipod and monopod totally supported the rifle like a machine rest, and all he had to do was shoot. Ron handed him the magazine, and after inserting the magazine, Jake cycled the action, but left the safety on until the last minute. Ron took his position back at the spotting scope, and Jake looked back, then the Gunny gave him a thumbs up. Jake released the safety, and took a firing grip on the gun. He started reciting the 23rd Psalm, and halfway through, was startled when the gun went off. He looked through the scope, and his first round was right through the x-ring. He settled down, and soon put the other 4 rounds in the x-ring. Ron was amazed, and grateful that Jake had his gift for shooting long-distance, and said a quick prayer of thanksgiving. Jake locked the action open just like his Dad taught him, and reset the safety, then stood up. Gunny sent a runner down to retrieve their targets, and when he came back, Ron had shot a 1.5 inch group, and Jake’s was right at 2 inches.

    Ron asked Jake if he was ready to move to the 1,000 yard line. Since the gun was already set up for Jake, Ron told him to go first. They carried the rifle over to the other shooting lane, set everything up, and Jake got behind the gun. Now when he looked through the scope the target wasn’t so close, more like it was 10 yards away, but he could still see the x-ring clearly, and the gun barely moved. Once he was ready, Ron handed him a loaded magazine, and retreated back to the tables to watch through the spotting scope. Jake looked back, got a thumbs-up from the Gunny, loaded the gun, cycled the action and got ready to shoot. Once everything was where he wanted it, he released the safety, and started reciting the 23rd Psalm again. The first shot startled him, and he was completely surprised to find a bullet hole right in the center of the x-ring at 1000 yards! He steadied back up, and fired the 4 remaining rounds in the magazine, then locked the bolt back and set the safety. As soon as he stood up, Ron ran forward and lifted his son high in the air. “You did it! That group has got to be smaller than 6 inches, and the best group I’ve ever shot out of this rifle was around 4-5 inches, and I’ve shot thousands of rounds out of this rifle! I’m so proud of you!” Gunny sent a runner down, and retrieved the target. Once they measured the group and deducted the size of the bullet, Jake had shot a 5.95” group at 1000 yards.

    Gunny Simpson realized that Gunny Clark wasn’t just telling tall tales, Ron and his kid were definitely in the top 1% of long-distance shooters world-wide. Ron took his turn behind the rifle, and once Gunny made sure the range was clear, he fired 5 shots within 5 minutes, and Gunny was going out of his tree, all 5 rounds were inside the 5-inch X-ring at 1000 yards. He guessed Ron had just shot a 4-5 inch group at 1,000 yards. Once Ron locked the bolt open, set the safety, and stood up, Gunny sent a runner to retrieve the target. Sure enough, Ron had shot a 4.5” group at 1,000 yards. Ron and Jake took turns shooting the rest of the afternoon, finally they let Gunny try it. Ron coached the gunny through the set-up and body position, and he was amazed at how steady the image in the scope was, and the crosshairs seemed to be locked on the x-ring. He loaded the rifle, cycled the action, then cleared the safety. 5 rounds later, he realized he had just shot a 7-8 inch group. He stood up shaking his head. He realized this rifle was way beyond a tack-driver, it behaved like a laser. Since he was a Gunnery Sergeant, he knew a lot about guns and ammunition, and realized that the people at Barretts had written a new chapter in accuracy. The combination of the precision Barrett’s platform, and the suppressor design combined to make a gun that could easily shoot sub-moa groups all day long. He’d heard rumors of a new super gun for the Bradley and the LAV. If it were half as accurate as this rifle, the rest of the world had better look out!

    Finally when they were finished shooting, Ron called Allakaket and asked them to send the 007 to Elmendorf to pick them up. When it arrived an hour later, Ron guessed that it must have already been in the air to Elmendorf when they called. Gunny helped them load the rifle and what was left of their match ammo into the helicopter, and once they were seated and secured, it took off for the lodge.

    When they got home, Ron could tell something was wrong by the look on Nancy’s face. She held Ron and said “Moose died while you were gone. We found his body out back, over by the graveyard. I think he knew it was his time.” Ron turned and crouched down to Jake’s level. “Son, I’ve got some bad news, Moose died while we were gone. Mom found him laying on the graveyard like he knew his time was done. Why don’t we put everything up and then let’s bury him next to everyone else.” Jake teared up, but Ron was surprised he didn’t cry. “Dad, I’ve been expecting this ever since you told me. Now that he’s gone, it’s kind of a relief. I’ll miss him, but I’m OK since I know he’s in Heaven waiting for us.” Once everything was put up, Ron got 2 shovels, and they dug a hole next to Sam and Lucky for Moose. Jake rolled Moose’s body up in a caribou skin, and said “See you later Moose” then carefully lowered the body into the grave. Ron knelt next to his son, and they just stayed there for a while. Finally Jake said, “Let’s get him buried. Moose isn’t there anyway, he’s in heaven, this is just what’s left here.” Father and son quickly filled in the grave, then Jake took one last look at his friend’s grave, then went into the house.

    Meanwhile, at Camp Pendleton, CA a very incredulous Marine General couldn’t believe the specs that he was reading about the new LAV- 25 Mark II. The range of the gun had to be a misprint. The spec sheet claimed it could take out anything less than an M -1 Abrams at 5 miles with the outriggers down. “No Damn Way” he yelled. He got on the phone, and the CO of Twentynine Palms told him to fly on up there, they were putting the Mark II through its paces. He got off the phone, and found out an FA-18 2-seater was available, and asked the ops officer to make it ready for flight to Twentynine Palms, he’d be there in 20 minutes. He picked up his flight bag and his helmet, and drove to the flight line. He got into his G-suit, and climbed aboard. The pilot started the engines as soon as the crew chief gave him a thumbs-up, indicating everything was OK. He lowered the canopy and taxied to the runway. He figured the general must be in a hurry, since a VC-11A was available as well. He received immediate clearance, and pushed the throttles to zone 5 afterburner. Once he was airborne, he shut down the afterburners, and proceeded at full military thrust to Twentynine Palms. Half an hour later, he was on the ground, and was met by a Hummer with General’s stars. Once the General climbed out, and took off his helmet, his Friend General Pittman said “You must really have been in a hurry to detail a FA-18 to fly here.”

    “Sam, I just want to see the damn Robo-tank in action - let’s go!” They got aboard the Hummer and drove out to the gunnery range. The LAV-25-II was hull down in a revetment with its outriggers deployed. General Pittman handed General Stevens a set of hearing protectors, and they took their seats in the bleachers. Once they were seated, the Gunny running the range activated the range, and the gun on the LAV started belching rounds and swiveling left and right. General Stevens was glad he brought his binoculars, because the Robo-tank was engaging targets over a mile away, and scoring 1st round kills. At the end of the demonstration, the whine of the engine died down, and 2 soldier crawled out of the hatches, then stood at attention in front of the Generals. The test engineer came running up, skidded to a stop, and saluted when he saw the 2 generals. General Stevens said “Let me see that!” and the engineer handed him the score sheet. It had the target number, the range to target and the score on a scale of 1-10 where 10 was a kill. Looking down the spreadsheet, he didn’t see a score lower than a 9, and the range was from 1-5 miles. They had a perfect score of 30-30 and an engagement time of 5 minutes. General Stevens shook his head, evidently they weren’t exaggerating, since he had just seen it with his own eyes.

    Later, in the CO’s office, General Stevens said “George, I still don’t believe it. If we had this gun in WWII, the Jerries would have been wiped out, and we could have spared thousands of Marine lives. I don’t know if we’re going to get into any more tank wars, but if we do, this Mark II will absolutely destroy an armored division. When I was reading the classified spec sheet, it listed the PK for an Abrams at 50% and a Bradley or equivalent at over 80% with any range inside 5 miles with the outriggers down. I know the Abrams is a tough kill, so how did they get the 50% PK rating?”

    “Larry, as near as I can tell, they said that with the precision firepower of the new Mark II, they could disable an Abrams with 1 shot, rendering it combat ineffective. While it’s not a hard kill, a tank is out of action if it can’t fight, even if the crew’s alive. My guess is they rated a tank rendered CI as being 50% of a kill, since the crew wasn’t effected. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be an enemy tanker anywhere near the new Bradley or the LAV. The only other foreign tanks that stand a chance are the Leopard and the Challenger. All the others would probably not do much better than the Bradley’s - maybe a 70% PK due to their heavier armor than the Bradley. Of course, any truck or APC less armored than the Bradley would be a 100% PK out to 5 miles. Not only that, but in Sniper mode, the Mark II could kill an enemy general with 1 shot out to 5 miles, even if he’s moving!”

    “Holy Shit George, I’m glad they’re on our side! So who do we have to thank for this?”

    “Gene Shepard, who just retired as the JSOC was running the program, but I was told it was an offshoot from research that Barretts was doing to improve the Barretts Light 50. I heard they produced a man-portable rifle that’s fully suppressed and capable of a 5-inch group at 1,000 yards off a bipod and monopod. Some kid was testing them for Barretts at MacDill.”

    “George, see if you can get hold of Gene for me - I’d like to thank him personally!”

    “He’s retired now and living in Alaska. I’ll call him, and see if I can make arrangements.” Larry shook his friend’s hand, then got a ride back to the flight line, where the FA-18 was waiting for him, fueled and ready to go. He got back into his flight gear, and climbed aboard. Meanwhile, George took out his shoe phone and called a number from the directory.

    “Gene, this is George. Yeah, long time no see - anyway, General Stevens just saw the LAV-25 Mark II in action here, and wanted to thank you personally. Yeah, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind flying to Elmendorf. OK, I’ll let you know when he’s going to be available. Thanks, talk to you later. Right, bye!”

    General George Pitman sent an e-mail to General Stevens telling him that General Gene Shepard would love to meet him at Elmendorf whenever he wanted to.

    Gene had a bright idea, and called up Ron. “Ron, General Stevens of the USMC wants to meet us and thank us for a job well done on the LAV-25 Mk II. I don’t know when, but he will fly to Elmendorf, and we could meet him there. Great, I’ll let you know - Right, Bye!”

    Ron checked, and the Super Goose wasn’t being used for the next couple of weeks, and Bear had just made the monthly Gold Run from the mine to the mint in Anchorage. If the general didn’t wait too long, he’d be able to arrange it easily.

    The next day, General Stevens checked his e-mail, then checked his schedule. All he had tomorrow was a dog and pony show for a junior condel. His second-in-command could handle it easily, and called Flight Ops to tell them to have the VC-11A ready to go at 0800 tomorrow morning, and to file a flight plan for Elmendorf Alaska. Used to unusual requests from the general, the major didn’t ask any questions, and said “Aye, Aye Sir!” and made sure the VC-11A would be ready to fly at 0800 tomorrow, and the flight plan got filed. General Stevens called George, and asked him to have Gene meet him tomorrow. George called Gene, and told him General Stevens would be in Elmendorf around 1400 tomorrow. Gene thanked George, and said that he’d be there, and he was going to bring someone with him that the General was sure he would want to meet, since he was the person responsible for testing the Barrett’s prototypes, and he lived in Alaska. George trusted Gene’s judgment, so he said “bring him along; I’m sure the general would approve.”

    Chapter 39 - Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children

    Gene called Ron and asked him to pick him up in the Super Goose and fly him to Elmendorf by 1400 tomorrow. Ron knew his flight time to Elmendorf was 1.5 hours, and it took the 007 an hour to get from Allakaket to the lodge, so he needed to be picked up at least 2.5 hours in advance if there were no delays, better make that 3 hours to be on the safe side, Ron called Allakaket and told BA he needed the 007 to pick him up and fly him back to Allakaket at 1100 the next morning. BA said he’d take care of it. Gene called back, and reminded Ron to bring his TS ID with him, and he might want to bring the suppressed Barrett’s rifle and some ammo just in case. Not knowing what the ex-general had up his sleeve, Ron agreed. The next morning right at 1100, he heard the sound of the 007 coming in for a landing. Jake helped his dad load the chopper, and gave him a hug before he left. Ron wondered what was up; Jake usually wasn’t the cuddly type, at least with him. They landed back in Allakaket at 1200, and Gene was waiting for him. They transferred the rifle case and ammo to the Super Goose, then Ron asked Gene to fly up front with him. The turbines were already idling when he got inside, so Ron called the tower and quickly preflighted the Super Goose while they taxied to the lake. Once they were waterborne, he taxied to the downwind end of the lake, and got permission to take off. Once he had permission, Ron turned the plane smartly into the wind using the rudders and pushed the twin throttles to the stops. Quickly they accelerated to 85 knots, and he pulled back on the yoke, and they quickly climbed to 2,000 feet while he turned toward Elmendorf. Once he was straight and level, he turned on the autopilot and asked Gene what the heck was going on.

    “Sorry about the secrecy Ron. A friend of a friend of mine wanted to visit and thank you and me for the LAV-25 MK II. He’s a 1-star Marine General from Camp Pendleton, CA. George told me he was really impressed with the new gun on the LAV, so I told George that I’d love to meet him. His name is General Stevens, and he should be arriving at Elmendorf at 1400 from California.”

    “Either he left early, or he’s flying a fighter.”

    “If I remember correctly, neither. His personal VIP transport is a Gulfstream VC-11a. It’s got a 3500 mile range, and flies around 588 mph.”

    “When I flew in your VC-20, we were lucky to be doing 500knots, and it took forever.”

    “Yeah, but it’s got almost twice the legs of the VC-11a. The VC-20H is a Gulfstream IV, and its range is over 4800 miles, but its cruise speed is only 450 knots and it carries 14 passengers plus 5 crew members.”

    “Ok, so he’s got a small fast VIP jet, but can it land on water?”

    “Not on purpose!”

    They both got a good laugh at that. Ron called Elmendorf when he was &#189; an hour out, and since the General was with him - Ron wondered how they knew that - they directed him right in. When they landed, there was a small Gulfstream jet parked next to them. Ron guessed that was General Stevens, and figured out how the ATC knew that General Shepard was aboard. Ron shut down the engines, and Gene got out first to greet General Stevens. Gene wasn’t wearing his uniform, so instead of saluting, they shook hands. As Ron came out of the Super Goose, General Shepard introduced him to General Stevens. “General, this is Ron Williams. He’s the guy who did the testing for Barretts, and was directly responsible for the accuracy of the LAV-25 MK II gun.”

    “General, I was just the test engineer. The designers are back at Barretts.”

    “Ron Williams, where have I heard that name before?”

    General Stevens remembered something his senior Recon Marine Shooting instructor told him about a 13-year old kid that could shoot the left eye of a gnat at 1000 yards. But that was almost 20 years ago. Larry looked carefully at Ron and realized that it could be him.

    “Ron, did you do some shooting at MacDill about 10-20 years ago?”

    Ron looked to Gene, who nodded; evidently it was OK to tell General Stevens.

    “My Uncle Steve Fellows invited us to MacDill AFB after he saw me shoot a 2” group at 400 yards with my Browning A-Bolt in .308.”

    “So you were the wunderkind who could shoot the left eye of a gnat at 1000 yards?”

    “Not exactly General, but close. That was a joke that Gunny used to tell. My best group with the Barretts so far has been around 4 or 5 inches at 1,000 yards.”

    General Stevens sputtered “4 or 5 inches - my snipers don’t shoot that good!”

    Gene interrupted “General, it’s all true. Right up until those idiot congresscritters destroyed the Air Force, Ron was set to go to the Academy, shoot on our Rifle team, and hopefully fly the F-15 Strike Eagle. Now he owns Allakaket Airlines and that plane we arrived in is one of I believe 8 planes and 2 helicopters he owns.”

    General Stevens took a closer look at Ron’s plane. It looked like a miniature C-130, but it was an Amphibian.

    “Ron, what the heck kind of plane is that - it looks like a miniature C-130, but I know for a fact that they didn’t make any Amphibs.”

    “General, that’s a Super Goose. It’s an evolution of the original Grumman WWII Goose. I replaced the original Wasp radials with a couple of old Allison test-bench turboprops, and installed them in 1950’s RCAF Goose airframes. When I ran out of engines, I looked up Allison, and they were amazed that the engines I got were still flying. They offered to build me some new and improved motors if they could have the old ones back to test. Eventually the RCAF got wind of the Turbo Goose as I called it, and wanted some for SAR/SF applications, and they talked to Northrop Grumman, and they lengthened the original Goose airframe 6 feet, added a rear ramp, and a twin boom tail to clear the ramp. They also installed a more powerful set of Allison turboprops. Northrop Grumman built several hundred of the new airplane, and called it the Super Goose to differentiate it from the Turbo Goose.”

    “I never heard of it, mind if I look inside?”

    “Sure general, hang on a second while I deploy the ramp so you can see how much room it really has.”

    Ron crawled into the cockpit, and lowered the tail ramp and unlocked the cabin doors. The general walked up the ramp, and was amazed that he could comfortably walk from the ramp up to the cockpit door, and he was almost 6 feet tall. Ron unlocked the cockpit door, and asked the General to take the right seat while he showed him the avionics suite. Larry saw all the cases bolted to the bulkheads and asked about them.

    “General, the two on the inside of the cockpit contain my emergency ditch kits, and the two on the cabin side contain my Alaskan Paramedic kit, a first aid kit, and an oxygen delivery kit for when I’m flying Medevac.”

    “This plane would make a great SAR/SF platform!”

    “That’s exactly what the RCAF thought. They bought 100 of them.”

    “How fast does she go?”

    “She can fly at over 300 knots for 500 miles in an emergency, or 280 knots for about 1200 miles, or 250 knots for around 1500 miles. She can climb at 2500 feet per second, and she’s fully STOL capable. I’ve landed her at lakes that are smaller than the runway is wide, and taken off again. With the reversible props, it’s like throwing an anchor out.”

    “Can we take her for a spin?”

    “Sure, there’s a lake right around here that the hospital that bought 2 of these used for me to demonstrate the STOL characteristics of the plane. Gene, you want to come along?”

    Gene climbed in, and they fastened the jump seat into its location right in front of the cockpit door right after Ron closed and locked all the doors. Once he started the turbines, he raised the rear ramp and secured it. General Stevens decided he wanted to ride in the jump seat where he could see everything. Ron warned him it wasn’t the most comfortable seat, and Larry explained that he was a Mustang and had come up through the ranks, and this was a lot more comfortable than the seats in the back of a C-130 configured for paratroopers. Ron shrugged his shoulders and completed the preflight checklist, then got permission from Elmendorf for a demonstration flight, a max-performance take off, and aerobatic maneuvers. That last one shook Gene up, but figured Ron knew what he was doing. The tower gave him clearance for the demonstration flight, and he punched in the coordinates for the nearby lake. When he reached the end of the runway, he suggested that the generals hold onto their seats, pushed the throttles to max, and as soon as he could, hauled the yoke back into his lap, and maintained that rate of climb until he reached 2,000 feet. When he reached the lake, he performed a wing-over and caught his altitude right at 500 feet AGL, then cranked madly on the flaps while he slowed to 50 knots exactly. Gene saw the postage stamp ahead, and said “There’s NO way you can land on that!”

    “General, I land this baby at Help Me Jack practically every day - this is a walk in the park in comparison.”

    Right as they cleared the treeline, Ron pushed in the throttle, and they floated down to the lake like they were on a parachute. Right before touchdown, Ron pushed the nose forward, and as soon as they were down, he reversed the props and revved up to 30% power. They stopped just like they had thrown out an anchor. Both generals sat there speechless. Ron taxied to the end of the lake, and did another max performance take-off, and flew back to Elmendorf. He made a little more sedate landing, and parked right next to General Stevens’ VC-11A. When they were both able to talk again. General Stevens said “That beat the pants off flying aerobatics in an FA-18! I thought for sure we were going to crash during that landing. You would have made one heck of a Naval Aviator Ron; you’d probably be able to catch a 3-wire in a typhoon in the dark!”

    “General, if you want to, I brought the latest Barrett Light 50 with the suppressor with me, so we can shoot at Elmendorf’s 1,000 yard range.”

    “Really, I’d like to try that - lead on MacDuff!”

    Ron called Gunny Simpson, who met them with his personal Hummer, and quickly put General Flags on it, then loaded the rifle and the ammo, and drove them back to the range. Ron set the rifle up, and asked General Simpson if he’d do the honors. Ron acted as a shooting coach, and once the General got settled and the rifle adjusted properly, the scope was stuck on the x-ring like the gun was permanently fixed. Gunny Simpson had already cleared the range, and he had a whole squad of runners this time, he didn’t want to keep the generals waiting! Ron retreated to the spotting scope; the General loaded the gun, cleared the safety, and when the crosshairs were exactly in the center of the bullseye, barely squeezed the trigger. It wasn’t as loud as he expected, and through the scope he could clearly see his first round right in the middle of the X-ring. He’d shot a bullseye at 1,000 yards - he’d never done that before. As soon as he settled down, he shot 4 more rounds. His groups weren’t as good as Ron’s, but Ron wasn’t 50 years old either. When the General stood up, the runner ran down to the target and back again. Gunny measured his group, subtracted the bullet diameter, and came up with a 9.85 inch group! General Stevens was amazed. He had shot a sub-moa group with an unfamiliar gun at 1,000 yards. He usually shot for score on the 600 yard line at the most.

    Ron asked General Shepard to go next. Realizing that this was a chance of a lifetime to shoot the prototype gun, Gene hurried to the gun. Ron acted as a shooting coach, got Gene set up behind the scope, and handed him a loaded magazine with 5 rounds of BMG 50 Match ammo. Ron quickly retreated to the spotting scope, and Gene cleared the safety, and as soon as the sights were centered on the center of the X-ring, he squeezed the trigger just as Ron told him. He too hit the bullseye, and proceeded to shoot off the other 4 rounds. Looking through his scope he could see he shot right around a 9-inch group. When he stood up, another runner was dispatched to get his target. Gunny measured his group, and after subtracting the bullet diameter, he had shot an 8.75-inch group. He was ready to dance a jig, but didn’t want to rub it in too bad, since General Stevens was still active duty, and a Marine. Finally it was Ron’s turn. He re-adjusted the stock to fit him, and once he got behind the scope, he blocked out everything but the image of the target in the scope. The next thing he knew, he’d fired all 5 rounds, and they were all in the X-ring! Gunny Simpson just shook his head. If Ron’s kids could shoot half as good as he did, they could form their own National Shooting Team, and clean up on the International shooting circuit. Ron’s target came back, and Gunny couldn’t believe it. After subtracting the bullet diameter, he just shot a 3.98 inch group in front of 2 generals! Ron was amazed, he had never shot a sub-4” group before.

    General Stevens was smiling, and asked Ron when his cape was coming back from the cleaners. Ron laughed, then General Stevens asked him if he wanted to work as a Shooting Instructor for the Marines. He wouldn’t have to enlist, he would be a paid civilian instructor. Gene looked at General Stevens funny - he’d never heard of that before! Larry explained that the USMC was going to implement the new Barrett’s suppressed rifle as their new Sniper rifle, and since Ron was the most experienced shooter he knew with the system, the Marine Corps wanted to hire him to teach the instructors on the finer points of shooting the rifle, including using both scopes. Ron said he wasn’t qualified.

    “Son, I make the determination as to who is qualified. You just shot a 4-inch group at 1,000 yards in front of 2 generals. That’s pressure! Gene told me you were the original test engineer for the Barretts system when you were only 13 or 14. You’ve got almost 20 years experience with this rifle, and the Marine Corps needs your experience. I could draft you, but I think you’d be happier as a paid consultant.”

    Gene spoke up “Ron, he does have the authority to draft you, so you’re going either way - if I were you, I’d make it as a Civilian Contractor, the pay’s much better!”

    “Ok, General, you win. Let me know when and where, and I’d appreciate as much of a heads-up as possible. Any idea how long this will take?”

    “If I can get everyone together at once, maybe just a couple of weeks.”

    “Ok, General, I can handle that. Thanks, it will be an honor and a privilege.”

    “Now about that plane. I want to talk to some of my friends in the Pentagon about buying some. Gene, who replaced you as JSOC - I need to get him on board about this too!

    “Larry, he’s a 2-star by the name of Piper. Sam Piper if I remember correctly.”

    “Thanks Gene. I need to be heading back. Thanks for an interesting and very informative day, both of you! Ron, you’ll hear from me soon. How do I get hold of you?”

    Ron apologized and handed the general his Allakaket Airlines business card. General Stevens thanked him, and got aboard his VC-11a and flew back to California. Once they were back aboard the Super Goose, Ron said “Thanks a lot Gene, I thought I was out of the Consultant Business!”

    “Grow up Ron, you have skills the military desperately needs. The average Marine Marksmanship qualifying scores over the last 20 years have been falling steadily, mostly due to the lack of shooting instruction outside of the military. It used to be every kid that lived outside the city was a crack shot, now they’re more worried about playing soccer than shooting squirrels. You are probably among the top 1% of long-distance shooters world-wide. I can imagine as the Army and Special Forces adopt the new rifle, you’ll be busy teaching their instructors. Military contracting is lucrative. You could earn several hundred thousand dollars for a couple of weeks work.”

    “What about my kids - Jake and Josh are at the age where they really need their dad home.”

    “Like I said, you’ll only be gone a week or so, and once you’re done training the trainers, you’re done!”

    “Ok Gene, if you say so.”

    “Remember a couple of years ago, I told you that you’re doing the United States more good as a shooter than you ever could as a pilot. This is just an extension of that.”

    Ron and Gene flew home, and Ron dropped Gene off at Allakaket and had the 007 fly him back up to the lodge. When he got home, he was mugged by 4 kids. He missed Moose’s greetings, and realized he needed to do something about it. Once he had a minute to himself, he called Bill and BA and asked if anyone in town had puppies for sale or free, they needed to replace Moose, since he died. BA was very sad, since his kids played with Moose often enough that they knew him. They recently got their own dog, a Husky called Sitka. BA said he’d check around and get back to him.


  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    State of Denial
    Chapter 40 - Fallout

    Ron was reading the online newspaper when he saw an article on the AP news wire, and he called Gene.

    “Gene, Ron Williams. Can you find out something for me. Log onto the internet, and check the AP news listings. See the article about the shake-up at Northrop Grumman. OK, can you find out if that involved you-know-who and you-know-what. Great, thanks.”

    Two hours later, Gene was knocking on his door. Ron opened the door and Gene said, “come outside for a minute, we need to talk.”

    Once they were out in the driveway away from everyone, Gene said “OK, I got hold of my buddy at FBI counterintelligence, and it’s as you guessed. Jack Snyder is going to be indicted for multiple counts of Espionage. Here’s the kicker. It won’t be in open court due to the National Security issues. They caught him red-handed with one of the data recorders they had tagged. One of our VC-20’s was sent in for maintenance, and the digital recorder was removed, and we traced it as it was passed from person to person. It finally wound up in Jack Snyder’s possession, we ID’d the Aircraft mechanic that installed the recorder from his fingerprint, and he was persuaded to turn state’s evidence.” Ron wondered how they got the guy to turn state’s evidence. He guessed the thought of spending the rest of his life at Leavenworth as the “girlfriend” of a huge black man might have had something to do with it!

    Ron was reading the Internet 2 weeks later when he read about a mysterious car crash in Los Angeles. It seemed a high-profile defense attorney was driving his client to a pre-trial hearing when the brakes failed on their limousine right as it entered a busy intersection. The limo was hit by an 18-wheeler tractor trailer that was running at full speed. The limo was destroyed on impact, and there were no survivors. One of the victims was listed as Jack Snyder. Ron wondered if someone had decided that Jack should never stand trial, and took him out. He decided that it would be better if he didn’t know for sure, and never asked Gene about it.

    Since it was getting cold, Ron decided that now would be a good time to pack up the family and move back to their house in Allakaket. He contacted BA, who said he would set everything up for tomorrow, and he had a line on someone with Husky puppies for sale. Ron said that they could go see them tomorrow or the next day, and to e-mail him the details. They spent the rest of the day packing up their stuff to move back to Allakaket. The next morning after breakfast they heard the distinctive noise of the 007 coming in for a landing. Before it could land, the Super Goose taxied up to the doorway, and lowered its ramp. They quickly loaded everything inside the Super Goose, and Ron walked forward, and gave Steve a thumbs up, and he lifted the rear ramp, and turned to taxi to the lake. Once he was clear the 007 landed to pick them up. The pilot apologized for the mix-up, and Ron told him never mind, BA was just a little too precise in arranging their take-off times so they could land within a couple of minutes of each other. Once the kids were secured, Ron belted himself in, and the crew chief double checked their harnesses, then sat down in his seat, secured himself, and tapped the pilot on his shoulder. He grabbed pitch, and the chopper rose smoothly into the air, then pivoted and flew to Allakaket. It landed at the airport on 1 of 2 helipads that they had built for the 007’s. They walked to their truck, and Ron was surprised to find the bed of the truck already loaded. He called BA, and asked him to find out who was making his life so easy, and give him a raise or a bonus, and Ron’s thanks. BA said the couple that was selling their puppies were home, and suggested they get over there today. Ron turned to Jake and asked him if he’d like a new puppy. Jake’s smile told him everything he needed to know, and Ron got the address from BA. They drove over there and got out of the truck. Ron knocked on the door, only to be swarmed by a half-dozen puppies. He turned to Jake and said “Pick one Son!” Jake picked one up, only to have one of the other puppies whine. When Josh picked up the other one, they both settled right down. The wife explained that those two had been inseparable from birth. Ron said “Well we can’t break up a set!” He turned to Jake, who was vigorously nodding his head. He looked at Nancy, who gave him the “Ok if you really have to!” look. Ron asked the lady how much for both of them. She said “They’re free - I just wanted to give them to good homes, and not break those two up. I only said I was selling them to discourage people who weren’t serious dog owners.”

    “Thanks, Moose just died last week, and another dog or two would be perfect.”

    “Ok, but they’re barely weaned, and definitely not paper trained.”

    “What have you been feeding them?”

    “The vet said they should be on puppy chow for another couple of weeks, then regular dog food, but you might want to moisten it for them until their teeth grow in.”

    “Have they had their shots?”

    “They’ve been wormed and given their puppy shots. We haven’t spayed the females or neutered the males yet.”

    Nancy was a Veterinary Assistant, and was looking over the pups carefully, feeling the hips, and checking the dogs over carefully. “No signs of hip dysplasia or other major genetic defect. You either are a very careful breeder, or got very lucky.”

    “The Mom’s an AKC Husky, but the father was a sled dog, so there shouldn’t be any inbreeding problems. This will probably be her last litter, since we’re going to have her fixed after we give away the rest of her pups, but we might keep one of them if my daughter has her way.”

    Ron shook her hand, and thanked her, then they turned to go. Jake held one pup, and Josh held the other. They sat next to each other on the way home. Ron stopped at the General Store on the way home, and picked up a 35-pound bag of puppy chow, and four dog bowls. He swiped his debit card through the reader instead of writing a check, and was back in the truck 10 minutes later. When they got home, Jake and Josh set the puppies down, and as soon as they smelled Moose’s scent, they peed right where Moose did. When they finished, Jake and Josh picked up their puppies and praised them then carried them inside. When they got inside and unloaded Ron asked them what they were going to call them. The re-make of Starsky and Hutch just came out on DVD, so Jake suggested calling them Starsky and Hutch. Ron laughed since he remembered seeing the original show on TV once. He thought that was OK, so he told them to put Starsky and Hutch on the bearskin rug, and clean up for supper. The two puppies sacked out, and Nancy made dinner while Ron put stuff up. After dinner, Ron sat his two oldest sons down and said, “Those dogs are your responsibility. You alone are responsible for feeding, training, and cleaning up after them. Don’t let me down.” Ron showed them were the puppy chow was, and how much to give the puppies and how often. He told them the dog’s water needed to be changed twice a day, or more frequently if they drank it all. He told them not to feed them anything but puppy chow and water, because they couldn’t digest people food too well, since they were still very young. Jake left Josh to play with the puppies and asked his dad how long those two might live. “If nothing happens to them, they’ll probably live 10-15 years.”

    Jake did some quick mental arithmetic and said “Good, because I wouldn’t want Josh, Sarah or David to experience losing a friend while they’re still kids.” Ron held his son, then he ran back to check on the puppies. They were still asleep, so Ron suggested they get ready for bed too. Jake complained it was too early, and Ron gave him the look, and he said “Ok Dad, I’m going.” Ron stopped Jake and asked him how school was doing. Jake said it was going OK, but he was having some trouble with his multiplication tables. Ron could remember what a hassle they were, and told Jake he could do it, all he needed to do was memorize them, like his Bible verses. Jake smiled when he realized that was all he needed to do. He hugged his dad and said goodnight. Ron walked into the master bedroom, and Nancy was waiting for him “I hope you know what you’re doing.”

    “I talked to Jake and Josh, and put the puppies totally in their care. I told them not to disappoint me. I don’t think we’ll have any problems.”

    “If you say so dear. I already took a shower, so hurry up and take a shower and let’s go to bed.” Ron kissed Nancy, got undressed, took a quick shower, and went to bed.

    Meanwhile General Larry Stevens, USMC had been busy. He contacted a whole gaggle of generals including USMC, Army, and Special Forces, including LtGen. Sam Piper, JSOC, and got them all on board about the new Barrett’s rifle, and possibly buying a bunch of the Super Goose for SAR and SF use. It turned out the new Super Goose could be a perfect inter-coastal SAR platform, and could carry a SF Team or a squad of Recon Marines on short-range interdiction missions near bodies of water or short rough runways. They kicked their ideas up to the office of the Joint Chiefs, and General Michael Hagee, the Commandant of the USMC. He sent an E-mail to Ronnie Barrett at Barrett Arms, and carbon copied Ron Williams at Allakaket Airlines, and Gen. Gene Shepard in Allakaket.

    It read:


    The USMC will be the first service to field the new Barretts M -200. We request the following people be at MCBH Kaneohe Bay on 01Nov04 at 0900. Travel expenses will be reimbursed by the USMC/DOD and consulting contract rates will be paid for this project, not to exceed 2 weeks.

    Roy Hunter, Barrett Arms, Designer
    Chief Stuart Smith, USMC(ret) Barrett Arms, Assembly Technician/Armorer
    Lance Miller, Barrett Arms, Tech Rep

    Ron Williams, Allakaket Airlines, Chief Consultant
    Gen. Gene Shepard, USAF (ret), Consultant

    Ron called Gene “Guess we’re going to Hawaii?”

    “I wonder why they added my name to the consultant list, I don’t know bupkiss about the rifle.”

    “My guess would be your name is all over the documentation as the Officer In Charge.”

    “Right - I forgot about that. At least I’ll get a nice Hawaiian vacation out of this!”

    Gene remembered as an honorably retired General, he could wear his uniform, but he would travel as a civilian unless they flew a MAC flight from Elmendorf to Kaneohe Bay, since they had a Marine Air Station there, with a long runway. He told Ron he’d call him back that afternoon, he had to check something. Gene e-mailed a copy of Commandant Hagee’s letter to the CO at Elmendorf, and asked him if they could use a VC-11a to fly from Elmendorf to MCB Kaneohe Bay instead of booking 2 first-class round trip tickets from Anchorage International to Honolulu. When he got a look at the Commandant’s letter, he immediately authorized the use of the VC-11a, and suggested Gene travel in uniform to avoid any questions. Gene replied that Ron needed to transport his rifle and ammunition aboard Air Force aircraft for the purpose of this project, plus they would both be armed with Federal CCW permits. The CO told Gene he would make all the arrangements, and to be at Elmendorf Saturday 30Oct04 at 1200.

    Gene sent a copy of the General’s reply to Ron, then called him. He said that they would have a 007 fly them to Elmendorf from Allakaket at 1000 on 30Oct04, to arrive at Elmendorf at 1200.

    Ron arrived at the Allakaket heliport at 0945 to give the crew chief time to load the aircraft. Gene arrived 5 minutes later in uniform, carrying a duffle bag and a garment bag. The crew chief saluted Gene since they were both in uniform and outdoors. Gene returned the salute smartly. He missed some things in the military, and was grateful he could still wear his uniform. They climbed into the helicopter, the crew chief checked that they were secured, then they lifted off right a 1000 and arrived at Elmendorf at 1200. The 007 landed right next to the VC-11a, and the crew chief saluted Gene again as he boarded the VC-11. They quickly transferred their baggage, and the VC-11 was backed away from the parking stall, and taxied to the active runway Gene and Ron sat next to each other, and Ron took out his CD player and 2 headsets with an adapter, and asked Gene if he wanted to listen to something while they flew. Gene took the headset, and Ron pushed play on the CD player, and they leaned back to listen to a Bach Concerto. 5 hours later, they arrived at Kaneohe Bay, where a USMC Staff Sergeant met them at the foot of the air stairs, saluted General Shepard, and escorted them to the Humvee while a couple of privates loaded their baggage in the back of the Hummer. He introduced himself as Staff Sergeant Wilson, Headquarters. He was to deliver them to the VIP quarters, and then would pick them up at 0830 tomorrow and deliver them to the secure conference room.

    They checked into the VIP quarters, and were assigned adjoining rooms. The sergeant manning the desk told them Ronnie Barrett had already checked in, and his group was in the cafeteria. Gene and Ron quickly stowed their bags in their rooms and hurried to the cafeteria. Once they got their food, and walked over to their table Ronnie stood up since Gene was still in uniform. “What do I owe this privilege to General?”

    “Mr. Barrett, you might not know me or my guest, but I was the OIC for the M -200 project.”

    “General Shepard, I finally get to meet you. I’m guessing, but you must be Ron Williams - I’ve always wanted to meet you sir!”

    Ron set his tray down quickly, and shook Ronnie Barrett’s hand. “The pleasure is all mine sir - I can definitely say that you now make the most accurate rifles in the world!”

    “Can I quote you on that?”

    They all started laughing, then General Shepard asked “May we join you?”

    “By all means General, Ron - please join us, we were just talking about the project.”

    For the next several hours they were talking shop, Ron and Ronnie found out they were very much alike during the time. Ronnie said he loved hunting, but rarely got the time. Ron invited him and his wife to their lodge next hunting season, and they could go caribou hunting on his land. All they’d need was their rifles and an Alaskan Non-resident hunting license, and a caribou tag. He could send a plane or helicopter to Anchorage to fly them in.

    Ronnie said “I’ll have to take you up on that!”

    Larry the Tech Rep asked Ron “What’s your group size down to now?”

    Gene replied “The last time he shot at Elmendorf with General Stevens and I, he shot a 4.5” group at 1,000 yards, and both of us shot sub-moa groups and we never fired the rifle before.”

    That comment started a whole new line of questions. If two middle-aged Generals could shoot sub-moa groups, they wanted to find out why. Gene said part of it was the rifle, and part of it was Ron’s coaching. He told them how he acted as a shooting coach to both generals, and got them comfortably behind the rifle, with their right eye in the sweet spot behind the scope. He showed them how to adjust the stock to fit them, how to set up the bipod and monopod so the scope was locked on the bullseye, and all they had to do was pull the trigger. Gene told Ronnie that he was amazed at the trigger, it was light and crisp, and broke like the proverbial glass rod. Larry had his tape recorder running, recording all these comments for later, so he could play them back to the design group. “Ronnie, I don’t know how you did it, but you guys designed the perfect sniper rifle, and the Swarovski scope is just awesome!”

    “Ron, you’ve shot the night sight, what did you think of it?”

    “I’ve never shot a night scope before the first trial with the prototype. The Gunny at MacDill was extremely helpful setting up the scope for me and explaining how it worked. I was really impressed. Except for the green tint, it basically turned night into day. I could see the target clearly in my sights, and the illuminated chevron aiming point was a nice touch. Once the engineers worked out the QD problem, I’d say it was basically a perfect night scope, but I haven’t shot any others to compare it to.”

    Finally it was getting late, so General Shepard said they could continue this conversation at 0800 tomorrow at breakfast. They shook hands around the table and said goodnight. Ron and Gene went to their rooms, took showers, and went to bed. They got up at 0730, got dressed, and met Ronnie Barrett and his team in the buffet line for breakfast. Once they were all seated, Ron started saying grace, and was pleased to hear 5 “Amens”.

    “I didn’t know you guys were Christians?”

    Ronnie said, “Guess it never came up! Thanks for saying Grace, sometimes I forget!”

    The conversation quickly switched back to the upcoming demonstration and instruction on the Barretts M -200 as the Pentagon was calling it. Ron had brought both rifles, both scopes, and enough BMG-50 Match ammo to last 2 weeks. Ronnie Barrett brought another case with them from Murfreesboro, TN just in case they ran out. They all traveled in the corporate jet, a new Gulfstream V. Since it was almost 4,000 miles to Honolulu, the extra unrefueled range of the V saved them at least an hour or two, and even at 459 knots, it was almost as fast as some commercial jets, besides, flying your own private jet bypassed all the TSA BS! Since he was a firearms manufacturer, flying demo weapons and ammo to various locations via commercial air transport was a bigger headache than it was worth.

    At 0855, a whole procession of hummers showed up at the VIP area. Ron showed the Marines which cases to carry, and felt sorry for the poor Marines that got detailed to carry the case of ammo Ronnie Barrett brought. They all met at 0900 at the secure conference facility. They were searched, and when the hand-held metal detectors went off on Ron and Gene, they showed the Federal CCWs, so the Marines let it slide. The sergeant in charge of Security highly suggested to the general that they leave the hardware at the VIP safe deposit for the duration of their stay on base. Gene figured with all those Marines around, they were right. Once they were seated, a Sergeant Major yelled “Attention on Deck” and Brigadier General George Trautman walked in, and said “As you were”. When they continued to stand, he said “Gentlemen, please be seated so we can start.” When they finally sat down, he said “Welcome to Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay. We’re here for a training session by Barrett Firearms, and the Testing and Evaluation team. Gentlemen, Welcome.” With that the General turned and marched out of the room.

    The head of the Scout Sniper school stood up, and said “I’m Colonel Saunders, and any chicken jokes might get you court-martialed or flogged. I’m in charge of the Scout Sniper school, and in the front row are all the active Marine Scout Sniper Instructors, we’re here to learn everything we can about this new weapons system, so you have our undivided attention. General Shepard why don’t you lead off.” Colonel Sanders shook Gene’s hand, and handed him a note that read “Gene, just give them the background on the project from the perspective of the SF JSOC, thanks, Jim.”

    Gene pocketed the note and said “Gentlemen, Ronnie Barrett approached the Military with an idea for a new sniper rifle and a new scope. Since we already had the M-82A1, we were wondering how much better a new rifle could be, since the M82 was shooting MOA out to 1,000 yards. Still, Ronnie had surprised us before, so we agreed to test it. A couple of months into the T&E project, my aide and the CO of the Pave Hawks approached me with a request to bring his family on base for a week or two. When he told me his 13-yr old nephew was shooting a half-moa group at 400 yards, I told him I wanted to see this with my own eyes. 2 weeks later, Ron Williams and his family arrived at Elmendorf. Just like Colonel Fellows said, his nephew shot a 2-inch group at 400 yards out of a stock Browning A-bolt in .308 with a BOSS unit and a synthetic stock. I asked Ron if he wanted to try the 600 yard line, and still he shot a half-MOA group. Later that day I found out the Gunny had let Ron shoot the prototype, and had managed a group smaller than the snipers that were assigned to the T&E project. He taped Ron’s impressions of the rifle, and a couple of suggestions he had. That got Ronnie Barretts thinking in different ways, and a year of so later, came up with the idea of a suppressed Barretts with a different stock and a superior scope from Swarovski. He told the engineers at Swarovski to pull out all the stops with this scope. We called Ron Williams back to MacDill to test the new prototype, and found out in the right hands, it made the previous Barretts rifles look like standard issue rifles. Ron’s best group at 1,000 yards so far with this gun and the daylight scope was 4.5 inches in front of General Stevens and myself at Elmendorf AFB a couple of months ago. That brings you current on the project.”

    Gene answered a couple of questions, then took his seat.

    Ronnie Barrett was next, and described the design process, and the nuts and bolts behind the design. Ron Williams was impressed at all the detail that went into designing this gun, no wonder it shot like a laser rifle, and cost over $10,000 per copy plus the scope! Once he was finished, the Designer and the Tech rep went up with cut-away rifles, and a sample to show the Marine instructors how the rifles went together, and the field stripping procedures as well as the Armory maintenance procedures. Ron stuck his hand up, and Larry said “Yes, Ron?”

    “I don’t know how to tell you this, but my rifle has never been through the Armory procedures, and I have almost 2,000 rounds through it!”

    Larry got really excited, and asked Ron if they could disassemble his rifle in front of the group and mike it out. Ron reluctantly agreed. No long range shooter wants someone else messing with his rifle. Two sergeants picked up the case containing Ron’s new prototype, and when they opened the case, Larry was surprised the rifle was so clean. Ron said the rifle got cleaned regularly, but never stripped past the field strip recommendations. Larry was scratching his head, because the rifle should be gummed solid in all the nooks and crannies that needed cleaning during an Armory maintenance cycle. Larry called Chief Smith over to the table with his armorers tools, and they detail stripped the weapon, miked out all the parts, and found that there was virtually no wear on the components. Chief Smith couldn’t see any liquid lubricants on the rifle, and asked Ron what he used for lubricant. Ron said in Alaska, the only lubricant you can use year-round is super-fine graphite powder. Larry’s eyes got as big as Ron had ever seen them - no one had thought of using graphite powder as a lubricant. Maybe that was why Ron’s rifle was such a tack driver. Rummaging around in the case, Larry found a small tube of superfine graphite powder. Once Chief Smith had the rifle apart, he asked Ron to come up and help him put it back together, and lubricate the parts as he saw fit. Ron put a very small amount of graphite powder on all pivot points, and the bolt. He cycled the action a couple of times, and it was even slicker than it was before. Evidently graphite had worn off a couple of internal parts. Ron wondered aloud if the gun would shoot better or worse now. Since everyone wanted to see him shoot anyway, the adjourned the meeting to the shooting range. They called ahead and cleared the range.

    While Ron set up, a team of runners was organized to pull targets, and all the instructors were on the benches with their spotting scopes, ready for a shooting demonstration. Ron could really feel the pressure now, and took his time calming down. It took 2 trips through the 23rd psalm before he felt confident enough to get ready to shoot. He looked up and the Range Master nodded, then retreated to his scope. The wind was blowing from left to right at about 5 knots, so Ron added left windage, and called a trial shot. His first shot was just outside the X-ring to the left, so he took some of the windage out. He started reciting the 23rd Psalm again, and started getting into the Zone. He never remembered pulling the trigger 5 times, but when he looked through the scope again, there were 5 shots in the X-ring in a small cloverleaf pattern. There was plenty of space around the group and the outer edge of the 5-inch x-ring, so he might have beaten his best group yet. As soon as he stood up, a runner took off like he was running the 100-yard dash to retrieve the target and put a fresh one up. Ronnie Barrett was stunned. He’d heard the reports, but until now never realized how good of a shot Ron Williams was. He wondered if he built a 25mm version of this gun, how far he could shoot an x-ring group with it. He remembered the Bushmaster project, and the 1,000 yard 28mm group he was reported to have shot, and realized this guy had a God-Given gift for long distance shooting, and if the Gunny at Elmendorf was right, his kid Jake had it too.

    When they finally got the target back and measured it, then subtracted the bullet diameter, Ron realized he had done it again. He shot a 3.98 inch group at 1,000 yards under tremendous pressure. Ron decided that now was a good time to become a “shooting coach” and asked the Instructors to come up one at a time to shoot the rifle. While someone was videotaping the entire sequence, Ron talked the senior instructor through setting the rifle up for his build and shooting style, then how to get into the proper position to shoot the rifle. Once he had the bipod and monopod set, he could see the X-ring right in the center of the scope. He took a firing grip on the rifle, and Ron retreated to the table. He fired 5 shots at the target while Ron watched him. According to the spotting scope, he shot a 10-inch group, but Ron could see a slight twitch in his right adductor muscle every time he fired. He walked up to the instructor, and asked him if he could make a suggestion. Ron guessed that the Senior Instructor was an old-school Marine that was taught to shoot Marine Prone without the bipod, since his adductor muscle twitched every time he shot, which normally happened as the body’s response to the recoil, but would throw your aim off if you were using a bipod and monopod setup. Ron suggested the Master Chief pretend he was a jelly fish and relax behind the gun, and just concentrate on sight alignment, trigger squeeze, and follow-through. He relaxed visibly as Ron spoke, and he handed the instructor a full magazine of BMG Match rounds, and retreated back to the tables. This time he shot an 8-inch group, which was the smallest group he had shot ever on the 1,000 yard line. He stood up, shook Ron’s hand, then gave him a “guy hug”, and sat down.

    He addressed the rest of the instructors. “Gentlemen, we’ve been shooting long distance for decades, and sometimes we pick up bad habits we’re not even aware of that limit our ability to shoot really small groups. I know a Sniper is more worried about that first shot and getting in position to take the shot, but shooting techniques are still important especially with this rifle, since it just is getting started at 1,000 yards. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone doesn’t start hitting bullseyes at 2,000 yards as soon as the optical technology catches up.” He walked over to Gene and whispered in his ear, and Gene nodded

    “Right now there is a new LAV that I worked on that can hit a man-sized target at 5 miles using a highly modified Bushmaster cannon re-designed by Barretts, with a brand-new video-optical sighting system that works night and day. I shot a 28mm 1-hole group at 1,000 yards with it during the early prototype stage when the gun and the T&E mount were secured to a huge block of concrete. A 4-inch group at 1,000 yards with this gun isn’t that hard, and if you can engage a target at say 1,500 to 2,000 yards, that makes your job much easier. It also makes the jobs of the people securing our enemy’s leadership that much more difficult.”

    Ron spent the rest of the day coaching the shooting instructors, and most of them improved their groups dramatically. When they watched the videotape later, the instructors realized they needed to re-vamp the course of instruction, since they concentrated more on field-craft than shooting ability. They realized with this gun, someone who was a better shot, and poorer at field craft could out-range a sniper trained in the old methods by about 50%. So far Marine Snipers were told not to take shots at man-sized targets outside of a half-mile, even with their M-82a1 Barrett rifles. With the new suppressor, the enemy wouldn’t have a clue where they were, and they could resume anti-personnel shooting like they had in Vietnam. Shooting an enemy’s field commanders was extremely demoralizing to the troops, especially when it was a shot out of the blue.

    Chapter 41 - Training the Trainers

    The next day, they moved back into the conference room. The Sergeant in charge of the security detail was pleased that Ron and Gene had decided to check their sidearms in the VIP safe. Once everyone was seated, the Master Chief in charge of the Shooting School called the meeting to order, and 2 Marines rolled a huge white board to the center of the stage.

    “Ok, we need to re-write the curriculum - so let’s brainstorm it out!”

    Ron spoke up “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel here, let’s reuse the parts of the curriculum that works - I read your most recent training manual, and the only part I’d change was the part about long-distance shooting. With the new Barretts M -200, a realistic engagement distance of over 1,000 yards should change your shooting philosophy. Between the super-long range of the gun, and the suppressor hiding the muzzle blast, and disguising the direction of the shot, a well-hidden sniper could decimate an entire headquarters company, getting off at least 5 shots before they had a clue where he was shooting from.”

    The senior Sniper Instructor was thinking about what Ron was saying. If he dropped a 2-man Scout Sniper team behind the lines of an army in the field, and they got within 1,000 yards of their Headquarters area, they could easily decapitate that army and either force their surrender or severely hinder their ability to fight a war. Generals would have to live underground to be safe from snipers, and junior officers wouldn’t want to show their faces either. The risk to the sniper team would be minimal, since the opposition wouldn’t have a clue where they were, unless they didn’t choose their hide wisely, and were hiding in the one obvious spot that a sniper would be. His snipers already had the field craft skills, and all they needed was the long-distance shooting skills. He was hoping that some of them would be capable of hitting a man-sized target at a mile. With a BMG-50 round, any hit would probably be lethal. He called Ron up to the white board, and had him start outlining his procedure for setting up the rifle and adjusting the rifle to the shooter. Adjusting the rifle should be a 1-time thing if they could afford to issue an M -200 to each shooter. He said the Springfield M -25would be a good rifle for the back-up shooter, and he’d love to find out what Swarovski could come up with in the lines of spotting scopes, given the new optics they used in the new daylight scope. Once Ron was finished outlining the procedure to fit the stock to the shooter, he asked Ron to outline his procedure for getting set up to shoot, including adjusting and setting the bipod and monopod. Finally he had Ron detail the ideal shooting position behind the scope. Once he finished, Ron threw it open for questions, and there were a lot of them.

    Someone sent out for sandwiches and soda, so they could keep working through lunch. One really old-school instructor remembered some stuff Carlos Hathcock had suggested, but for some reason the Marines never implemented, and Ron was saying the same stuff. It was like “deja-vu” all over again! The whole session reminded him of the old EF Hutton commercials. Everyone was hanging on Ron’s every word. The meeting was being video taped, so they would have it for later.

    The Senior Instructor had another flash of insight when he remembered the Night Vision Scope contained a laser designator. Instead of shooting individual officers, if they could designate the command bunker, a laser-guided JDAM could ruin their collective days. He’d have to pass that idea up the chain of command and get target designation added to the syllabus. Ron wrapped up the session in time for everyone to make it to the mess hall. Ron wasn’t off the hook even then, as some of the instructors sat with him while they ate dinner. Ron said grace, and several Instructors said Amen, then they ate and talked. It was like the Bull sessions they held after hours in the Instructor’s lounge. Their discussions could get blunt and heated, but they still respected each other. Ron didn’t quite feel like he was in front of the Spanish Inquisition, but felt the resistance some instructors had to changing the way the Marines did things. Finally Ron said “I’m here just to explain and teach the employment of this new weapons system, and to provide instruction in how to teach others to shoot this rifle to it’s full potential. Right up to the point that Congress disbanded the Air Force, I was scheduled to go to the Academy, and General Shepard already had my appointment in hand. I wanted to fly the Strike Eagle, and that opportunity was taken away from me, so this is the only opportunity I’ll have to give back to my country, so I wanted to make the most of it. Sorry if I’m coming across like a Revival Preacher, but I have some ideas I want to get across, and little time to do it.”

    Ron’s little speech struck a chord with the Marines. They knew he wasn’t just another know-it-all consultant coming in to tell them how to do their jobs. The session the next morning went much better, and that evening they re-located to the shooting range to learn how to use the new night vision sight. Ron asked Larry to run that, since he wasn’t an expert on the system. Larry helped Ron set the night scope up for him, and Ron was impressed, he could see the target even better than last time. They all put on hearing protection, and broke out their spotting scopes, and Ron fired another 5-shot group. It wasn’t as good as his daylight groups, but he still managed a 6-inch group at 1,000 yards. Larry talked the rest of the instructors through shooting the scope, and they all shot groups that were slightly larger than their daytime groups, except for the 2 instructors that had field experience with the latest Night Vision scope. Their groups were only &#189;” bigger than their daytime groups. They explained the difference as due to experience with the system, since the older NVS used the same aim point, and they were used to it.

    The next day, they each received a printed copy of what they were talking about, and they spent the day going through their copies and editing it. The group went through the document after lunch, and they were done by dinner. They added things that they discussed later that day, and added sections on the NVS. Ron had been on base almost a week, when he asked the instructors if they had any questions or if there was any areas he didn’t cover. The Chief Instructor stood after he could see that there were no real questions, and thanked Ron for coming. Ron handed the instructors his business card, and suggested that if they had any questions, to feel free to call or e-mail him with them. When he finished, the Chief told Ron that they were finished with him, and Gene wanted to play some more golf with the Base CO, so he had a couple of days to kill. He handed Ron a cell phone so they could reach him if he were needed, and told him to take the next couple of days to go sightseeing, and he could stay in VIP quarters.

    There was an air-conditioned SUV out front, and someone had taken the time to highlight the route to Pearl Harbor, and enclose tickets to the major attractions in Honolulu. Ron remembered he packed his digital camera in his bags, and drove over to VIP quarters to retrieve it, and his Para-Ord. He felt safe on base, but he was taking no chances off base. Ron didn’t know, but all his tickets had a special code on them identifying him as a VIP with special access privileges. As he drove south to Pearl, he saw the huge naval base surrounding the Memorial. He went to the exhibit, and was deeply moved by the images he saw. Hollywood didn’t do justice to the horrors of war. Finally he boarded the boat for the trip out to the Arizona Memorial. Ron thought that was one of the spookiest, but most somber places he had been in his life. He took several pictures, and when he was finished, it was almost time for dinner, so he drove back to the base, presented his TS ID card, and the guard told him to drive straight to the VIP area and park, since the vehicle didn’t have a base tag on it. He explained that if the vehicle was parked anywhere else on the base, it might be towed due to new anti-terrorism regulations. Ron was pleasantly surprised to see Gene in the VIP cafeteria, sitting with several generals. He walked up to them and said “Excuse me General Shepard, may I join you?” Gene almost laughed at Ron’s formality, then realized it was for the benefit of the other generals seated with him. “Generals, I’m sure some of you know Ron Williams.” The generals stood and shook Ron’s hand and introduced themselves. One of them said “Ron, I’m really glad you could come from Alaska and teach my Instructors about the new Barretts rifle. That weapon will save a bunch of Marine lives.”

    “How so General?”

    “We have to accomplish the mission, regardless of the cost, and if we can send 2 Marines with that rifle behind lines, and take out the Enemy headquarters, the battle is over, saving the lives of all the other Marines that would have to invade the country in a normal battle. Between the long-range capability and the laser designator built into the NVS, that is one very capable weapon, and frankly, I’m glad they’re on our side!”

    Ron agreed, and the conversation returned to Gene and the other generals telling old war stories. Ron listened intently. It was like old friends getting together, even though none of these men had served together. When dinner was over, Ron excused himself and went to his room to get some sleep. He caught up with Gene the next morning at breakfast, and he told Ron that he had golfing sessions scheduled for the next two days, then they could fly home. Ron said he had enough tickets to attractions to last 2 days, so he’d see him on Friday morning to fly home. Gene said he’d leave a note at the desk Thursday with their flight number and time it left the VIP terminal. He looked at his watch and told Ron he had to be at the base golf course in half an hour, so he’d see Ron later. Ron said goodbye to Gene’s retreating back.

    He spent the next 2 days seeing the sights, and driving around the island past Hanauma Bay, and the North Shore. He stopped at the Banzai pipeline, since the waves were up. He couldn’t understand why someone would try to ride a 50ft. wave over a 10-foot deep reef that would rip your skin off if you fell off your board, but then again, he didn’t understand why Steve would volunteer for the PJs either. He kept going around the North Shore, which was actually the Northwest Shore, to a point that someone had noted on his map as being a beautiful spot for sunsets. He got to Kaena point with half an hour to spare, so he set up his tripod, and configured his camera to take sunset shots. He decided to use the cable release to see if he could record the “green flash” he had heard about. One of his best pictures was almost totally an accident as a couple was walking along the beach, and silhouetted against the sunset with their footprints in the sand coming into the center of frame from the lower right corner. Once the sun finally set, he had a long drive back in the dark to the base at Kaneohe Bay. One of the locals recommended a place to stop and eat, and he was glad he listened. They served Hawaiian cuisine, and the prices were reasonable, unlike the rest of the island as he had heard. He drove back to the gas station, topped off the tank, then thanked the attendant for the tip. He suggested a quicker route back to the base, and Ron checked it, and it was almost half the distance he traveled up the coast on the way up. If he took 930 to 803 to the H2, to H1E, to 63 to H3 right into the base, it would save him almost an hour of driving time, especially at night. Since he couldn’t see anything but the roadway, there wasn’t much point of driving back along the coast. When he got to the gate at the base, the guards were much more wary, not many people drove into the base at night. He told the guards he was out sightseeing, and was shooting the sunset at Kaena point, and just got back. When he showed his ID, they let him in, and closed the gate right behind him.

    The next day he went shopping for gifts in Waikiki. What passed for a swimsuit amazed him. He hadn’t seen so many bare butts since the last time he gave the 3 Amigos a bath years ago! When he got to the open air market, the sellers were hawking a bunch of cheap imported junk, then someone suggested Hilo Hatties had the best Hawaiian shirts and dresses in the islands, and the best prices. He got directions and drove over there. It was nearly impossible to find a parking space, and just as he was about to give up, someone pulled out of a space. He pulled in, skipped the tour, and walked right into the sales floor. He walked up to the Hawaiian shirt racks, got Jake a Medium, and the rest of them a small, and got Nancy a Medium floor-length muumuu she could wear as a nightgown - right like she ever wore one! Next to the shirts was the jewelry counter. He was all set to check out when Ron spotted a beautiful piece of jewelry. It was a sterling silver cross, and some little ancient Hawaiian woman was sitting right there with a lit torch making more of them. Ron asked her if she could mount a Cubic Zirconia &#189; carat round solitaire in the intersection using a prong mount. She smiled and said that he must know something about jewelry. “Just what I read in books.” She said it would be $50 extra for the time and trouble. Ron said if she did an excellent job, he’d pay her $150 for the cross (they were marked $50 each). She said she had some beautiful sterling silver Italian rope chains in stock, and she could put it on a 20” chain for $20. The lady was so nice that he told her if she’d take his American Express card and put it in a nice velvet box, he’d pay her $200 if she paid the sales tax. Her eyes lit up, and she said she’d have it done in an hour. They had a coffee shop, or he could take the tour for free, and she handed him a card good for a free tour.

    Since he had an hour to kill anyway, he decided to take the tour. When he was finished an hour later, she smiled and said “Aloha - I just finished the cross.” She showed him the cross, and he asked to borrow her loupe. He checked the soldering job on the mount, and she knew what she was doing, it was practically invisible, and the cross didn’t show any signs of damage from the heat. He asked if he could pay for everything together, and she said she could ring up his clothing purchases as well. He handed her his AMEX, and she saw that it was a business card from Allakaket Airlines. She asked where that was, and Ron said Central Alaska. He was the owner of the airline. She smiled, took the card and swiped it through the reader, and handed him the receipt for his signature. She charged him $200 for the cross and the stone, and the marked price on the shirts and muumuu. He thanked her, signed the receipt, and picked up his purchases. She not only put the necklace in a beautiful gift box, she gift wrapped it in some pretty Hawaiian print paper. Ron thanked her, and walked out the door, right into one of Honolulu’s finest. “Excuse me officer, I was just leaving.”

    “You’re ten minutes over your meter.”

    “Sorry officer, I was making some purchases inside Hilo Hatties and lost track of time. How much do I owe you?”

    “Don’t worry about it - you’re here now, Aloha!”

    “Thanks officer.”

    Ron was glad that encounter went smoothly, even with his Federal CCW, it would be a hassle to explain why he was armed to the teeth. He pulled carefully out of his parking space and drove back to the Marine base where it was safe! He made it back in time to join General Shepard and his cohorts for dinner. When dinner was over, Gene told him that their flight left at 0900 tomorrow from the VIP terminal, and a Hummer would drive them over from VIP quarters at 0845. Ron hoped they had some Marines with strong backs to carry his rifles and the rest of the ammunition. Since Ronnie Barrett didn’t want to lug the ammo back with him, he gave the 3 ammo boxes that were left over full of 50-cal ammo to Ron. Ron thanked Gene, and went upstairs for a quick shower and some sleep.

    The next morning, he was up early, got dressed and packed, and headed down for breakfast at 0800. Gene met him for breakfast, and at 0840, an MP Sergeant walked in, and asked them for their room keys so they could load their stuff in the Hummers. He said he would check them out as well. Gene and Ron handed him their electronic room keys, and thanked the Sergeant, who saluted Gene again since Gene was in uniform for the return trip. Ron asked him why he was in uniform, and Gene said the Base CO said it would be a good idea, or else they might think they were a CONDEL. Ron got a laugh when he realized that the Marines would be proper to a CONDEL, but they would go out of the way for a general in uniform, even an Air Force uniform. Besides he was pretty sure Gene missed the VIP treatment. He noticed the other day when Gene was wearing golf clothes that his ball cap had scrambled eggs and 3 gold stars on it, just to make sure every Marine that saw him knew he was a visiting 3-star General. While they couldn’t salute him when he was out of uniform, they’d show the proper respect. At 0845, they boarded the Hummer for the short ride to the VIP terminal. Both Gene and Ron pinged the metal detectors, but they were ready with their Federal CCW’s, and the MP Sergeant waved them through. The Crew Chief of the VC-11a checked their ID’s again as they boarded, and saluted Gene. Once they were seated, the aircraft was pushed back, and the engines spooled up from idle as they taxied toward the runway. Ron handed Gene a headphone, and loaded a Beethoven CD this time for the flight home.

    Someone must have called ahead, because when they landed at Elmendorf, the 007 was waiting for them. Several airmen grunted and groaned while they transferred their baggage. Once they were airborne, Gene said “I almost forgot, here you go.”

    The letter was addressed to Ron Williams, and the return address was the office of the Commandant of the Marines. Ron opened it:

    Dear Ron Williams. I’d like to extend a Bravo Zulu to you for a job well done. According to the CO in charge of the Scout Sniper program, your information was invaluable to the USMC, and you’ve earned this. Thanks for saving Marine Lives.

    General Michael Hagee, Commandant USMC
    Semper Fi

    Attached was a check made out to Ron Williams for $100,000.00 as a consulting fee. He didn’t show the check to Gene, because he didn’t want to offend the General, but he showed him the letter.

    “Ron, General Hagee wrote that himself. I’d hang on to it if I were you.”

    “I was planning on it.”

    2 hours later, they landed at Allakaket, and someone helped them unload the helicopter, and Ron drove home. He hugged the kids and Nancy, then gave them their gifts, and whispered to Nancy that she’d get hers in their bedroom. She giggled, and shooed the kids into the den in the basement. When they got behind closed doors, Nancy attacked Ron, who obviously missed his wife, but was too tired to really enjoy it. They wound up cuddling in bed, then Ron handed her presents to her. She opened the big package with the muumuu in it, and slipped it on. Ron handed her a smaller package, and she tore it open. When she saw the necklace and put it around her neck, she almost took off the muumuu and attacked him again. He said “Nada Mas!” then they both laughed, remembering the old Roberto Duran joke. A couple of hours later, Nancy disentangled herself from Ron and slipped the muumuu back on and went to check on the kids. They were playing in the den with Starsky and Hutch.

    Chapter 42 - Birthday Surprise

    Ron had ordered the 2 M-25’s from Springfield Armory, with the scopes, bipods, cases, and 20 20-round mags (10 each) through AA’s FFL Dealer. They got such a good price that instead of the Leupold scopes, he got 4 more of the 6-20x50 Mil-dot BDC scopes from Springfield. They normally listed for $899.00, but thanks to a cancellation of a government contract, Springfield was sitting on a bunch of them, and they got them for around $600 each including the 30mm QD mounting rings, the sunshades, and a box of batteries. Jake’s 14th birthday was right around the corner, so Bear flew in one day, picked the rifles up, mounted and boresighted the scopes, and left them at Bill’s place for safe-keeping. Jake’s 14th birthday wasn’t quite as noisy as the last couple, until he opened the big box and squealed like a girl. He ran over and gave his dad a bear hug, then his Mom. When they finished Ron told Jake that they could go over to Bear’s place tomorrow, and try out their new range. Since the last time they shot, Ron had the helicopter lift his tractor to Bear’s place, and they logged out enough of the forest to extend the range to 1,000 yards, now he wouldn’t have to go to Elmendorf to shoot. Ron was anticipating the Army would want their Instructors trained on the Barretts M - 200 as well, and thought that it would be easier to have them come to Alaska Survival than for him to fly around the country training everyone. Besides, that way, they could charge the government for the use of the facility. Bear now had a huge supply of wood stacked up, and chopped it into sections as needed. Actually, his kids would chop and split it, since he was assigning them chores, and splitting wood was one of them.

    The next day they took the SuperGoose to Bear’s place, and they set up to shoot. Josh, Sarah, and David went to the 300-yard line to shoot their AR-15’s. Ron suggested they start on the 100-yard line just to verify Bear’s zero, since he had boresighted it, but it could still be off. It took quite a while for Ron and Jake to get Jake’s gun adjusted to him, but finally they got it exactly right. Jake extended the bipod, and was wishing for a monopod, but was SOL. When he got into a good shooting position, he got behind the scope and dialed up the magnification until he could clearly see the x-ring and call his shots. They put their Wolf Ears on, and got ready to shoot. Ron had broken out his spotting scope to confirm Jake’s shots. Jake loaded the factory stock mag with 10 rounds of Match ammo, and got ready. The trigger broke unexpectedly, and Ron could see a strike right in the X-ring. Jake fired 5 more rounds and they were outside the x-ring, so Ron knew Jake was nervous, or there was a mechanical problem with the gun. Ron stood up, and Jake put the safety on the rifle.

    “Jake, that first round was right in the x-ring, and the rest were outside. Why do you think they were outside?”

    “Not sure dad, there isn’t enough wind to affect my aim at that short of a distance. I guess I’m nervous and excited about shooting a new gun.”

    “OK, let’s try your relaxation techniques before you shoot this next group, OK son?”

    Jake settled down behind the rifle just as his dad showed him, and steadied his breathing and pulse. Finally he started reciting the 23rd Psalm. When he looked through the scope again, the image was sharp and clear, and the scope wasn’t moving. He moved his trigger finger a fraction of an inch, and his first round went through the center of the x-ring. He managed to keep the scope focused on the x-ring, and squeezed the trigger 4 more times. When he finished, he could clearly see 5 bullet holes in the x-ring of the 100-yard sighting target, he knew he shot a group that measured less than 1” in diameter because the x-ring was exactly 1inch in diameter. Jake cleared the gun, and walked over to his dad. “How was that Dad?”

    “Not bad for your second group out of a new gun. Now we need to move you to the 300 yard range. Make sure you set the elevation knob to the 300-yard mark on the BDC ring, and you should be right in the x-ring again.”

    Jake carefully carried his rifle over to the far side of the 300-yard line as far away from his younger siblings as he could so his muzzle bark wouldn’t disturb them. He got set up again, and Ron joined him with his spotting scope. When he got set up behind the rifle, he looked through the scope and realized he had to dial up the magnification again. He had it set for 10x, so he cranked it up to 15x, then re-focused the scope on the X-ring. When everything was perfect, he stuck a loaded 10-round magazine in the action, cycled the action, and made sure he kept his trigger finger off the trigger until he was ready to shoot. The range was still hot because Josh and Sarah were shooting off to his left, so he checked his position, got behind the scope, and concentrated on the target. He went through his relaxation techniques this time without being told, and was totally surprised when he looked at the target, and he had 5 holes in the target. Judging by the impacts, he had shot a 3” group, but it was to the left of the x-ring by 1 inch. He looked over at his dad and said “I’m 1 inch to the left, what should I do - is it me, the gun, or is there enough wind on this range to move the bullet 1 inch at 300 yards?” Ron realized he hadn’t taught his son how to dope the wind. The wind was practically still on the firing line, but he could see dirt and leaves moving down near the target. He asked Jake to look at the dirt and leaves around his target, and tell him what he saw.

    “It looks like there’s a slight breeze from right to left, but I can’t tell how fast.”

    “Good eye Jake. When we get home, I’m going to give you a book on long distance shooting that teaches you how to dope the wind and mirage. Let’s see, that windage adjustment is 1/8 MOA. A minute-of-angle at 300 yards equals 3-inches, and you need to move it 1 inch right, so I’d add 3 clicks of right windage, you’ll probably be right of the target, since it’s not exact, but it will get you close. Besides, this wind is variable, so don’t worry about your group sizes for now.”

    Jake dialed in 3 clicks of right windage, and got behind the scope. When the sight was centered on the x-ring, and he was steady, he touched the trigger, and his first shot was through the x-ring, but on the right side of it. Jake kept firing, and 4 shots later, he had all 5 rounds inside the 3-inch x-ring. Ron thought “not bad for his first time with this gun. I’d love to see what he does at 600 yards, but I don’t want to discourage him.” So he said “OK Jake, go ahead and practice on the 300-yard line for now. Once you get used to this gun, we’ll move you back to the 600-yard line. Jake thought the 300-yard line was plenty tough enough, but didn’t say anything. Ron wandered over to where his 3 other kids were shooting with Bear’s 2 sons while Jake continued to shoot at the 300-yard line. Ron got behind his spotting scope, and was pleasantly surprised to find that Sarah was shooting about a 2.5” group, Josh was shooting right around 3 inches, and David was holding his own, but was averaging 4-5 inches. He was almost 2 years younger than Sarah, but Ron knew he was mature enough to be shooting at the 300-yard line with his older brother and sister. Seeing that everyone was doing OK, Ron broke out his M -25, and walked to the 100-yard line to sight his scope in. Once he was satisfied with his zero, he picked up and moved to the 300-yard line next to Jake. He hoped the competition would motivate him to try harder. They shot for several more hours until Ron could tell Jake was getting tired. Ron was proud of his son, he’d fired about 500 rounds downrange, and had reduced his group size by over &#189;”. When they finished, Ron sent them downrange to retrieve their targets, then they packed up and went home. Ron showed their targets to Nancy, who spent the day with Anne helping her get her garden planted. Ron suggested that next time they come with Ron and the kids; since Anne could see fine now and Nancy needed the long-distance practice too.

    “Ron, I’m having problems with this - you’re really practicing so you can shoot someone. I don’t know if I could do that!”

    Ron sat his wife down and said “I know it goes against your nurturing nature to consciously take a life. Remember back when you and Sally were #1 and #2 on the women’s pistol competition. Bear suspected your motivation for becoming such a good shot was to defend your kids. Ever since you shot Steve, you’ve hardly practiced at all. Do you want to talk about it?”

    “I still have nightmares where I see his brains blown all over the church, except in my dreams the effects are much more horrific, and everyone in the church including me gets covered with brains and blood. I know it’s not logical, and it was him or us, but that’s why I haven’t been practicing, I’m afraid if I do, the nightmares will get worse and more frequent.”

    “Have you talked to my mom about it?”

    “Yeah, that’s what we were doing today - she’s helpful, but she still hasn’t been able to crack through.”

    “Nancy, I know how you feel - I had nightmares for a week afterward about Steve, but in my dreams, he got back up and hosed the entire church, killing everyone. If you want to, I think we should talk to Bill about it, maybe he can help?”

    “At this point I’m willing to try anything - let’s give him a call!”

    “Bill, its Ron, you busy? Ok, Nancy and I need to come over and talk about something. OK, we’ll drop the kids over at my Mom’s and come right over.”

    “Ok, let’s get the kids loaded up and deposit them at Mom’s - Bill said he could see us.”

    They loaded the kids up in the truck and drove to Anne’s house. All Ron said was they needed to talk to Bill, they might be gone a while. Anne hugged Nancy and told her it would be all right, then they got back in the truck and drove to Bill’s office.

    “Bill, Nancy and I need some counseling. Remember when Nancy and I shot Steve Stone when he tried to shoot everyone at Sam’s wedding? We’re both suffering from the effects of Delayed Stress Syndrome. We’re both having nightmares. Nancy’s dreaming that Steve’s blood and brain matter is flying all over the room, and I’m dreaming he’s gets back up and kills everyone.”

    “Ron, Nancy, I’m going to skip the psychobabble, and use the “Tough love” approach. Both of you are feeling inappropriate feelings. Nancy feels guilt for taking Steve’s life, and Ron feels guilt for making Nancy take the 3rd shot when he felt he should have killed Steve by himself. Well, you’re both WRONG! Nancy, you didn’t take Steve’s life, he forfeited it when he walked into that church brandishing a machine gun and threatening to kill everyone. All you did was save everyone’s lives, including your own. What would have happened to your kids, Nancy, if Steve had succeeded in killing all of you? And Ron, aren’t you two supposed to be a team. That’s what teams do, they back each other up when times get tough. Now you two need to pray about this together, and I’ll give you a list of bible readings that will help, but you need to help each other through this, and you need to suck it up and be there for your kids and each other. Now let’s pray together.” 15 minutes later, they felt relieved, and their guilt was washed away. They still needed to help each other, but they knew that they wouldn’t have as many nightmares as before. They drove back over to Anne’s house, picked up the kids, gave Anne a big hug, and drove home. They sat down on the couch together, broke out their bible, and started reading several Old Testament accounts of God sending the Israelites to kill their enemies, and a couple of chapters in the New Testament about love. Later, Nancy asked Ron if they could go shooting tomorrow at Bear’s. He gave her a big hug, and asked her if she wanted to invite Anne. “Sure - let’s ask her!” Ron called his Mom, who answered the phone “Anne’s Babysitting Service, please leave a message after the beep.”

    “Real funny Mom, would you like to go shooting with us tomorrow at Bear’s place?”

    “Sure, I think that would be fun - what time?”

    “We’ll pick you up at 0800, and we’re flying the SuperGoose, so you get a nice comfortable seat with your grandkids!”

    “At least I’m not up front with you doing a max-performance take-off!”

    “Sorry Mom, I didn’t mean to scare you! See you at eight.”

    When they hung up, they were giggling like school kids. Ron knew he was in for a long night, he just hoped he could shoot worth a darn tomorrow.

    The next morning, the got dressed, made breakfast, which was now a lot simpler and easier than it used to be, since the kids were old enough to either make their own, or help. They got their stuff packed and out the door by 0745. When they arrived at Anne’s house, a familiar pickup was in the driveway, so Ron got out and knocked on the door. Gene answered, then Anne said “I hope it’s OK if Gene comes with us?”

    “Sure, the more the merrier. It’s a little crowded in our truck, so you might want to take Gene’s. See ya over at the plane.”

    Ron got back in his truck wondering what Gene was doing over there so early in the morning. They didn’t look guilty, so he probably didn’t spend the night. He remembered his Dad told him before he died that he wanted Anne to remarry, since she was too young to remain a widow the rest of her life. Ron got along with Gene Ok, so his mom could do worse. They arrived at the plane minutes before Anne and Gene, and just managed to get everything loaded before they arrived. Gene carried 2 cased AR-15 rifles, and an ammo can full of .223 Match Ammo and their eye and ear protection. Ron and Nancy got up front, started the turbines, and let them idle until they were up to operating temperature, then bumped the throttles out of idle and started taxiing to the lake. Nancy called the tower for take-off clearance while Ron finished the checklist and configured the plane for take-off. They were clear to take off when they reached the end of the lake, so Ron advanced the throttles, and soon they were airborne. Once they cleared the far ridge line, he eased off the back pressure on the yoke to reduce their rate of climb, and flew to Bear’s lake. Ron made a very gentle water landing, and taxied out onto the ground using the ramp Bear had installed since the ground was so soft. Ron shut the plane down, and when the propellers stopped turning, he opened the cabin door and deployed the air stairs. The kids were big enough now to get themselves out of the plane safely, and Bear came over with an ATV and a trailer to help carry their guns and ammo to the shooting range. They piled everything on and secured it with straps. Bear drove over to the range while everyone else walked. Anne said she wanted to try the AR-15 on the 300 yard line, and Ron suggested they mount a 3x9x40 scope on her rifle. She thought that was a good idea, and when they caught up with Bear, he pulled out Anne’s rifle, said he’d be right back in a couple of minutes, and drove his ATV over to the lodge. He took a Simmons 3x9x40 AO scope out of storage, mounted it, and boresighted it using the laser boresighter, then put the scoped gun back in its case, and drove back out to the range. Ron suggested Anne take it to the 100-yard range to verify the zero. Ron went with his mom while Gene and Nancy got the kids organized and set up on their ranges. Bear had set most of the range up for 300 yard targets to give them enough lanes for everyone. Ron helped his mom set up, then whispered “Anything I should know about?”

    “Gene showed up around breakfast like he usually does, and asked me if I wanted to go shooting and go for a swim. I told him I had already promised you we’d go shooting at Bear’s. I hope you’re OK with me inviting him.”

    “Mom, I know you really like, and maybe love Gene. Dad told me to remind you that it was OK with him if you remarried, and he even wanted to encourage you to. I like Gene, he’s a good guy. I don’t think I’ll be calling him Dad any time soon, but he seems to be OK with me calling him Gene.”

    “Thanks, I knew you’d understand. I think Gene is ready to ask me to marry him, but he’s afraid I’ll say no.”

    “OK Mom, if you want to marry him, I’m happy for you.” Ron gave his mom a big hug, then finished helping her set up. She put down the legs of her bipod, and looking through the scope, the target was nice and bright and steady. She put on her eyes and ears, and got behind the rifle. Ron put his on, and moved over to the spotting scope. Anne’s first round went right through the x-ring, so she knew Bear’s zero was right on. She fired 4 more rounds, and Ron thought she had just shot a group smaller than 1”. She said “enough of this sissy stuff - let’s get over to the 300-yard line, and see how the old lady does!”

    Ron laughed and helped his mom carry the stuff over to the other side of the range. She set up next to Gene, who was shooting his National Match M-1a at the 300 yard line. Anne clicked up the elevation knob to allow for the longer distance, and fired a test round, then added another click. Her next round went through the X-ring, and she proceeded to put 4 more rounds in the X-ring. When she put her gun down, she saw Gene looking at her group with his mouth hanging open, then he got up, and she gave him a bear hug and a serious kiss.

    Ron laughed “You two want to get a room?”

    Gene finally got up the courage, kneeled on one knee, and took a ring out of his pocket. “Anne, I love you, and I know I can never replace Roy, but I want us to spend what time we have left together, will you marry me?”

    Anne waited about 100 milliseconds before she said “What took you so long Gene, of course I’ll marry you!” and laid a real passionate lip lock on Gene.

    Nancy turned to her kids and said “I guess this means you guys just got yourselves a Grandpa!” and everyone got up and gathered for a group hug. Nancy asked Anne “So when’s the wedding?”

    “How about tomorrow. I just wanted something small, with Steve and your family. Ron, is it OK if Steve gives me away again?”

    “Sure! He’s got practice already.”

    They all started laughing at that. Ron grabbed his shoe phone, called Bill, and handed the phone to Anne “Bill, its Anne. Gene and I are getting married tomorrow, can you do the ceremony on short notice? Great - see you tomorrow!”

    “Ok guys we’re all set for tomorrow. I hate to cut this short, but we’ve got a million things to do. Ron, can you fly us back to Allakaket so we can get ready for tomorrow?”

    “Sure Mom - let’s go!”

    Bear helped them pack up, and gave Gene a big hug “Bout time Sir - I was wondering when you’d get up the nerve to ask her. Take care, and I’ll talk to you later.” After they loaded the plane, they got on board. Ron noticed that Gene and Anne were sitting together holding hands the whole flight. He was happy for his Mom, and hoped they would be happy together. After they landed at Allakaket and got unloaded, Anne and Gene said they had to meet with Bill, and they’d talk to them later. Ron got his family packed up and loaded into the pickup for the drive home. When they got home, Starsky and Hutch greeted them, and Ron noticed one or both puppies had an accident. “Jake, Josh Clean-up Detail!” They got out the paper towels, cleaned up the mess, and flushed it down the toilet. Jake and Josh picked up the puppies and petted them, then carried them outside in case they needed to go some more. When it was obvious they had already did everything they were going to, they carried the pups back inside and put them on the bearskin rug. A couple of hours later, the phone rang, and Nancy talked with Anne, getting the details for the wedding tomorrow. Everyone was going to meet in the chapel at noon. It would be just family, so they weren’t going to get all formal and fancy.

    The next day, they met at the chapel, and right at noon, Anne marched down the isle wearing a simple dress. Gene was wearing a suit, as were Ron and Steve. Nancy made the kids wear their Sunday best. The simple ceremony only took 45 minutes, then Bill told Gene to kiss his bride, and they walked down the isle together. They had a small reception at Anne and Gene’s house. (Jim’s old place) which was twice the size of Gene’s house, so they were going to live there. After the reception, Gene whispered to Anne “Now its Honeymoon time!” To which Anne said “I hope I remember how!” and they both had a good laugh.


  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    State of Denial
    Chapter 43 - Compensation

    Monday Morning, Ron got an early phone call.

    “Ron Williams”


    “Mr. Williams, this is Ronald Sugar, the CEO of Northrop Grumman Inc.”

    Ron turned on his tape recorder, and said “How may I help you sir?”

    “I know you’re probably taping this call, but that’s OK because I am too. I’ll get right to the point. I just found out what Jack Snyder was up to, and I can assure you that Northrop Grumman had nothing to do with it, or any foreknowledge of his illegal activities.”

    “I know that sir, my question is what are you calling for?”

    “Ok. I’m trying to avoid you suing Northrop Grumman over what Jack was up to. I’m prepared to offer to replace all your TurboGoose Aircraft with brand new SuperGoose aircraft.”

    “That’s awfully generous sir, but I had no intention of suing your company - I was assured that your company had nothing to do with what happened, and suing people at the drop of a hat isn’t my style, I’m a Born Again Christian.”

    “I’m glad you’re not planning on suing us, but we found out that the FAA will have to decertify all the TurboGoose airframes for Airline Transport in 10 years anyway.”

    “Why didn’t I hear of this?”

    “Ron, we have 10 SuperGoose aircraft sitting unsold taking up ramp space at the El Segundo Plant we need for something else. If I remember correctly, you have 8 TurboGoose aircraft we can trade you for 10 SuperGoose, if you sign a declaration that you won’t sue us over this unfortunate incident.”

    “I can assume these aircraft are free of any unauthorized electronics?”

    “Any unauthorized electronics as you call them have been removed from all aircraft