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OBLIGATORY FILLER MATERIAL – Just take a hard left at Daeseong-dong…8

I wander back to the fantail to see how the Meisenheimer Triplet arrays are progressing.
It looks like an all-night welding shop had opened up on the boat’s fantail. The arrays are going to be comprised of a central axis array of 30 hydrophones. Offset to the left and right of the central array, at scientifically, mathematically, and statistically precise distances, will be two offset lateral arrays of 45 hydrophones.
That is a large number of hydrophones; especially for this project, given its terms and conditions. Cabling all this is proving to be a pain in the ass.
“Well”, I suggest, “Why not use a couple of those spare channel marker buoys as head float points? Run the cables from each leg of the array to the buoys, then worry about constructing your crossbars.”
Volna and Ack consider that for a few minutes, then reply, “Well, Rock, that might work. However, there are two issues: can this tub pull an entire array? If not, well, that’s fucked and scuttled. Plus, what can we use to keep the arrays positioned and infinitely orthogonal to each other?”
We called for a brain mashing session. Everyone was invited.
We found that there were some lengths of low-modulus spring steel on board. It was used for one project or another then promptly forgotten. They were in approximate 15 foot (~5 meter) lengths, and if we got creative, we could gin up some very tall, but thin triangular cross arms, each impinging upon the central lateral array. It would be self-righting and self-centering. Sort of like a huge, low angle snowplow, but in reverse.
Since I had the explosives all ready to go and could handle a welder, I volunteered Dax and Cliff to help me create the Triplet framework. Cliff proved to be a natural on the angle grinder, and Dax was a most capable hand with running and finding tools, welding goggles, arc electrodes, and fresh drinks.
We had the framework welded up in less than an hour, even with adding some extra shackles for auxiliary lines in case the main tow lines parted.
Be prepared. It’s not just a good motto, it’s a plan.
It was basically a 30+ foot wide piece of spring steel from which trailed the three streaming arrays of hydrophones. The cables would run back down the spine of the spring steel framework, to the channel markers holding it all above mean sea level. We could tie all the cables into the main hoist and use them as tethering as well. Recording cables are made of some tough stuff.
We hooked it up to the port yardarm and its 25-ton winch. We then lifted it off the deck, first without hydrophones. We needed to see how this unpremeditated contraption would track behind the boat. The Captain was on the intercom listening to our orders as we lifted it off the fantail and dropped it, none too gently, into the frothing Yellow Sea.
The Captain goosed the boat a bit and we pulled ahead of the floating array framework. We lead the towing cable to the notch in the center of the stern of the boat. This would position the framework of the arrays and allow us to tether it off to the pillion on the aft of the boat. Several wraps, some duct tape, a couple of trunnion-brundies, and all seemed well and secure.
We secured the towing array and safeguarded the cables. It appeared to be behaving itself.
We asked the Captain to slowly make for 3.5 knots.
Soon, we were towing a brand spanking new Meisenheimer Triplet array for the very first time in this part of the world.
It tracked the boat well, rarely sliding 2 or 3 degrees off course. This was critical. If the array swung to and fro too much, it would be impossible, even with state of the art recording equipment, to make any sense of the recorded data. But our little gizmo tracked like a bloodhound on Cool Hand Luke, nice and straight; it even bucked some of the cross waves from nosy passing Russian trawlers.
So far, so good.
I called and asked the Captain ease to a stop and to go to station keeping as we’re going to winch the spreader up to the boat and attach the streaming hydrophone arrays.
This was a hellishly ticklish time. It was a bit windy, overcast, late in the afternoon, choppy irritated seas and the towed hydrophone arrays were fucking heavy. Sure, they float, but only because they displace so much water. Plus, we wanted to do this from the fantail, not from in the water.
After much swearing and profanity, dark oaths and the urge to send some nose-poker-inners into the briny deep, there were three hydrophone arrays affixed to the towing spreader framework, all floating hither and yon behind the boat.
“Captain, slow accelerate to 3.5 knots. Straight-line following 130 degrees, please.” was the request.
The old Soviet diesels complained and belched even more black smoke, but we puffed, growled, and strained onward. We were making slow headway as we watched the array unfurl in three distinct straight lines behind us.
“Holy shit.” I said to Volna and Ack, “It actually looks like it’s going to work.”
Volna, Dax, Cliff, and Ack were smiling, shaking their heads in agreement when there was an almighty subfloor #BOOM#.
“WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?” some multiply-degreed and exasperated Doctor of Geology yelled.
Seems one of the old Soviet diesel engines blew a seal. Loudly, coarsely, and without any shame whatsoever.
“Captain? Situation report?” was the request of the moment.
“Starboard engine down. But we can fix it. Has happened before.” was the reply.
“Can we continue towing at 3.5 knots?” was the next question.
“Yes, but only in straight lines. Turns will be most difficult on one engine.” was the next answer.
“OK. Understood. Just do your best. We’ll need about 30 minutes of travel time to sort out the data. Can we do that safely?” was the next question.
“Yes. I think so. But no more. 30 minutes from MARK.” He replied.
“OK. We’ll handle the blunt end, you handle the pointy one. Out.” was the last rejoinder.
It was a tense 30 minutes, but aside from warning off a couple of nosy Russian fishing trawlers, some oblivious Chinese steamers, and that scattered school of Spotted seals; everything went to plan. We used the main winch to retrieve the framework and dragged it onto the fantail; hydrophones, and all.
We had teams handling the retrieval of the hydrophones, bundling them neatly for actual real deployment tomorrow. They were wet, slippery, and heavy. They did remarkably well considering it was their first time.
Everything stowed, there was one last item that needed to be checked.
The C-4 of course.
Dax informed the Captain of our little scheme and he just shook his head and said to warn the crews tearing the old Soviet diesel apart down below the waterline. Explosions are most certainly amplified through the water and into the engine compartment. It would be ultra noisy down there in a while.
Dax vowed we’d give them ample warning before each detonation.
Cliff and I, in the meantime, went to the explosives locker after Dax returned with the keys.
I selected five 1-kilo blocks of C-4 at random. I grabbed a box of blasting caps and some pull-set-forget fuses, a spool of that shitty silk-covered demolition wire, and an electronic blasting machine. It was battery-operated, just like the Captain America western version, but with a big, shiny, green button.
“Captain Korea?”
Flip-side of reality, folks.
Dax had the intercom set to the engine room. We’d let them know when we tossed a block of C-4 over the side.
“OK”, I said as everyone on the fantail looked on in rapt attention, “First: Safety. We’re going to learn the music of my people.”
They looked at each other with oddly bewildered looks at that pronouncement.
We went through the ‘clearing of the compass’, which, as you might have surmised, it somewhat different on a boat rather than in an open field.
Though the principles remain the same.
Then there was the ‘tootling with vigor’ of the air horn.
They jumped when I let off a few unannounced blasts from my portable pneumatic ptootler.
Then the “look once, look twice, look again. THINK!” clearing; being absolutely certain everyone’s where they should be and all is secured.
Then their favorite mantra: “FIRE IN THE HOLE”, thrice.
Evidently, as a collective, they’re not one for loud, emotional outbursts. Unless it was specifically called for. They really got into it, in multipart harmony.
Then, the ‘point, and “HIT IT!”.
Followed by an ersatz, at this point, report.
I took one block of C-4 and left it in its pristine factory-supplied shape. I punched it with a blasting cap and tied it in securely with a step-over toehold sheepshank knot. To this, I attached a set-pull-forget 45-second fuse.
“OK, who’s got the best pitching arm here?” I asked the assembly.
All I got were an entire section of questioning eyes.
“OK, then”, I redoubled, “Who here can toss this thing the farthest? It’s about 1 - 1.5 kilos.”
A tall, lanky Korean geoscientist was pushed forward out of the crowd. He tells me his name is Hwan Dong-Wook.
“Groovy”, I reply, “I’m Rock. Here.” I say as I toss him the package. ”How far you think you can chuck this thing off the back of the boat?”
“Not too heavy. Awkward, but I think maybe 100 meters.” He replies.
“Far out.” I say, “Get ready.”
We do the Safety Dance and I tell Dax to warn the guys in the engine room.
“Hell. Just tell them to take bloody 15-minute break. Then we’ll be done here.” I said.
With the engine room clear, we tell the Captain to keep up flank speed. The remainders of the crew, even the engine-jockeys, are behind me, off the fantail, and under cover in the poopdeck.
“OK, Hwan. Hello? Remember me? Good. Now, then. I’m going to pull this tab here. You have 45 seconds before this thing detonates. Throw it as far as you can straight back of the boat, right? Please. Don’t drop it. That would ruin all our weekends.” I asked.
Hwan nods in agreement.
“We green, Mister?” I ask.
Hwan smiles, “Green, sir.”
All righty, then.
I pull the tab, yell fire in the hole, as I hand the package to Kwan.
Give him credit, that block of C-4 sailed all of 120 meters, if not 130.
A strong gout of water zoomed skyward.
“Now that’s the way we do shit uptown”, I said to Kwan, shaking his hand in victory.
Kwan smiles and goes to amble off to brag to his buddies.
“Whoa there, buckaroo! Oh, no. We’ve only just begun. Get back over here and big your throwing arm as well.” I smile.
He smiles a curious smile. Idiomatic expressions here are often taken literally. It causes high and humorous jest.
Next, we try a flattened kilo of C-4, which will mimic the shape of the charges we’ll use the next day.
I flattened a bock of C-4 it to approximate Chicago pan-pizza crust thickness. Set, primed, and charged; we repeat the previous experiment.
“OK, that worked as well. Two for two. Such luck. We win a cookie.” I smiled.
Kwan smiled too. This was destined to go onto his permanent personal record.
I tore a block of C-4 in half. I stomped it. I rolled it. I did evil things to it. I was being very mean to it. I abused it like a sausage patty at St. Alphonso’s pancake breakfast.
Then I primed, set, and charged it.
Kwan chucked it a good 130 meters. At the 45 second mark, we were rewarded with a sizeable boom and gout of seawater.
“OK, Mr. Kwan. Thank you. We’re going to try some remote detonations. You’re most welcome to stay if you like.” I said.
He liked.
I rigged up a block of C-4 with a blasting cap and employed that awful silk-coated, slimy, shitty, slippery demo wire. We’d simply drop it off the back of the boat and spool out what we thought was a good length of wire. I’d hook up the blasting machine and Kwan would get to push the big, shiny, green ‘Captain Korea’ detonic button.
“Mr. Kwan, if you please,” I said.
He pushes the button.
“Mr. Kwan. You need to *M *A *S *H down on that fucking button. Put some meat into it!” I say.
“OK!” he says and mashes the hell out of the button.
Not as loud nor as tall a gout of water, as we were probably close to dragging bottom, but very passable.
“One last time”, I say, and stomp the block of C-4 Detroit hand-tossed pizza thick. Insert blasting cap, secure, tape on demo wire. Then let it flap out behind the boat in the wake of the one remaining diesel. It was like trolling for musky back in any Sawyer County lake; except the sucker minnow here could take out a small building.
Once a decent distance away, Dax is pestering me to handle the detonator.
“Mr. Kwan”, I ask, “May Dax here have a go? He’s been a good boy today.”
Mr. Kwan is all smiles as he relinquishes the machine over to Dax.
“OK, Dax. Show ’em how it’s done.” I say, smiling.
“Hot damn. I never done this before”, Dax gushingly admits.
I look at Dr. Dax with wide eyes.
“Is that right? Well... I guess you're about ready, then, aren't you?” I smile back with that disarmingly wide smile that makes Komodo dragons gulp in disbelief.
“Any day now, Dr. Dax.” I say.
Dax grins and mashes down on the big, shiny, green button.
“Let me see that damn thing. Oh, fuck. Terminal’s loose. Oriental crap.” I quietly grouse.
One quick Leatherman- persuaded fix and back to Dax.
“Hit it?” I beseech.
Dax does so and we’re rewarded with quite the shower. The flappy, flat shape acted just like a hydrofoil and kept it about just a foot or so below the surface of the sudsy sea.
“I love it when a plan comes together”, I smile as I pull out a new cigar and fire it up.
The next morning, after a wonderfully incommodious canned Chinese breakfast, it was time to go hunting and bag some data.
The geophysical data quest was on.
I had Mr. Kwan appointed official Korean:Not Korean liaison, as he’d be relaying messages back and forth via radio to the Captain.
All this was going to take a surfeit of cunning and cuteness, as well as a significant amount of communication and compliance.
“OK, let’s get that array in the water. Let’s get a move on! Lift that barge, tote that bale!.” Ack yelled at the not-understanding Korean counterparts.
“Ack”, I said, “Decorum, please.”
“OK, Rock. It’s just that I hate repeating myself. Sorry.” Ack relented.
“No worries, Ack. Not their fault they’re a bunch of highly-educated numbskulls unaccustomed to physical labor.” I sniggered back.
Ack smiles back at me, knowingly.
With the aid of every translator, the Meisenheimer Triplet array slid noiselessly into the frothing water. The floats had been adjusted to the nominal excursion on the central array, with a 3-degree outset on the towed outrigging lateral arms.
Slowly, even with the old Soviet diesel repaired, we wanted a nice, even acceleration up to 3.5 knots as we deployed the 45-30-45 hydrophone arrays.
Too much side current, too much wave action or too many nosy Russian ‘Fishing’ Trawlers leaving a wake when they drove by to chase sardines or give us the once over, and we’ll had 120 macraméd and insanely tangled hydrophones.
That would not be, in the language of the industry, a good thing.
We volleyed twin sets of red flares off the stern of the boat alerting everyone around that we were a ‘tow vessel’ and were dragging 350 meters worth of hydrophones and recording array behind us.
They were under the international law of the sea to give way, heave to, and keep the fuck out of our way.
Yes. Birds too.
Volna, Ivan, and Cliff are in the recording shack. I ask Dax to go back and see if we’re green or if all our efforts had been for naught.
The array is behaving itself. We’ve got 1-2 meter seas, a slight NE current at about 0.5 knots west, and a dusty, sneezy yellow-tinged east wind blowing in out of Manchuria.
Surprisingly, this is a good recording environment with good environmental parameters.
Dax reports all hydrophones are alert, responding and we’re getting good ping data from the pinger phone at the head of the array we use to send out test signals.

PING interrogation.

ping response.
“Looks like 120 channels, at present. Even with just that lil’ ol’ pinger, we’re already seeing down about 0.3 seconds.” Volna notes.
Ack continues with some much needed good news, “We’ve jiggered and jury-rigged the ‘phones such that they allow rapid-flow data transmission and recording that not only supplies inverse multiplicative reactive current for use in the unilateral phase detectors but is also capable of automatically synchronizing the cardinal echo acoustic-accelerometers.”
Volna continues, “Which is very good news. We’ll test every ‘phone and if we get similar results, it’ll be up to you and your crew, Rock.”
“Oh, no worries”, I replied, “Dax, Cliff and I are ready. As are Mr. Kwan and a few other disposable locals. Just give us the high sign and we’ll begin annoying the local marine life.”
Volna, Ivan, and Ack shoo Dax and me out of the recording booth. It’s hot, cramped, and crowded, so we have no problem vacating. Since Dax already has the explosives locker keys, we wander over to locker to retrieve some of our bundles of seismic sound source materials.
We go up to the door, and Dax produces the keys. Suddenly, one of the mothering uglies in the shiny, shitty, ill-fitting suits blocks our way.
“No! It is not permitted!” he yells.
“My good man. I’m a geologist. I‘m permitted everywhere.” I said, half in jest as I thought he finally had a sense of humor implanted.
“No! It is not permitted!” he repeats.
“Dax, is it just me or is this guy’s needle stuck? Look here, Chuckles, I’m the Motherfucking Pro From Dover and not only a fully licensed master blaster but a special VIP scientific envoi of your government brought here to help you characters crawl out of the 10th century.” I said, calmly though forcefully.
“No! It is not permitted!” he repeats.
“NOW LOOK HERE, YOU FARGIN’…!” I began; but he suddenly steals in, swipes the keys from Dax, deftly unlocks the door, pushes it open, hands the keys back to Dax, and bids us entry.
“Dax? Did that just happen?” I asked querulously.
Herr Shiny Suit is standing there with a shit-wearing grin a Korean ‘ri’-wide.
“I was told you were fond of japes.” He smiles.
“Why you inscrutable little shyster.” I grin back. “Look, Herr Mac, if you want a cigar that badly, just ask.”
“Oh, Doctor Rock-nim”, he smiles, applying the Korean honorific, “But tell me? Where is the fun in that?”
That bright and sunny dusty morning, Dax and I made a new friend by the name of Col. Chang Byeong-Cheol.
As with other items of an auspicious nature, I file this away in the “Keep Guarded but Close” file for future use. Agents Rack and Ruin back home will be so pleased.
And he was an official ‘handler’. I only wish I had a few exploding cigar implants for one of the cigars I gave him over the remainder of the cruise. I like japes? He would have appreciated the irony.
Dax and I load up and let Col. Chang lock up for us. I pocket the keys as we’ll need to return a few times over the duration of the day. As I am responsible for the explosives locker, I keep the keys.
Dax, Mr. Kwan, and I are sitting in our not-bolted-down-to-the-deck chairs on the fantail, smoking cigars; although Mr. Kwan preferred some pastel cigarettes, and contemplating our lunch.
“Liquid or canned?” Dax asked.
Mr. Kwan returns with an absolutely perfect chilled Rocknocker for me, a cold local beer for Dax, and something citrusy and either low-octane or non-alcoholic for himself.
“Finest kind, Mr. Kwan.”, I say and salute him from my comfy reclining position.
A cigar and a half later, I’m standing by the stern, watching the Meisenheimer Triplet array splash and fumble away in the briny surf. It’s acting reasonably, and handling the always unexpected, but continuously present, rogue waves, rollers and ripples in three dimensions, quite offhandedly. For a last-minute lash-up with dodgy parts and dodgier electronics, it looks like it was actually going to work.
I wander back to the recording room and see that things are going well. One bad phone, but we can cover for that with redundant recording. That is, we’ll leave the recording window open longer and repeat the same phase without having to re-shoot it. It’s an old geophysical recording trick. Beats the hell out of dragging the whole gadget back on board to replace one faulty phone.
“You guys about ready for some big booms?” I ask, “I’m getting punchy out here on the deck, I feel the need to blow some shit up.”
“Rock”, Volna says, “Go fire off your critter-chaser charges. By the time the dust settles from that, we’ll be at T=0. Give us 10 more minutes and you can begin to deploy.”
“Roger that!” I said, “’bout fucking time!”, I added under my breath.
Back on the fantail, I whip out my knife of many uses and chop a couple of blocks of C-4 into quarters. These are my critter-chaser charges. Unless you’re right next to one when it detonates, it’ll just go poom, scare the hell out of you and give you time to clear the area.
I prime a dozen quarter-kilo’ers with caps and set-pull-forget 45-second delay detonators.
On the back of the boat, we have about a dozen or so Korean nationals, from Coasties to covert Government guys, translators, observers, geologists, and geophysicists. There’s also the western contingent present, so it is a bit crowded.
“OK folks! “ I yell over the thrum of the old Soviet diesels, “We need to set a few small charges before the big show to chase away any local aquatic livestock. I’ve got a dozen bangers here that need to go out in all directions behind the boat, BUT AWAY FROM THE BLOODY ARRAY.”
I wait a couple of ticks until I see the translators are finished.
“OK, who wants to go first?” I ask.
Multiple hands shoot into the air.
“Fine. But we’re not doing anything until I hear a recital of the Safety Dance. Gentlemen?”
I stood there, slightly agape and smiling quirkily. It was the first time I’ve ever heard the Safety Dance in full 3-part Korean harmony. They even pointed to me to tootle them with vigor with my small air horn at the appropriate juncture.
Now I know why they like karaoke so much over here.
“OK. Perfect.” I say, pointing to the closest local, “Up here, please.”
He cautiously wanders over. He speaks no English, I no Korean. We’re both smiling like loons.
With a translator, I tell him, “I’ll prime the charge. I hand it to you. You throw it with all your might to the right of the towed array.”, as I gesture emphatically the direction I want this block thrown. “We green?”
After we clear up the chromatic question, the fuse is smoking on block #1 and I hand him the potentially lethal little bundle.
“That way!” I say, pointing rearward and to the starboard.
He hurls it a sizeable distance. Exactly 45 seconds from pulling the detonator, the charge detonates. Nice little boom and a small gout of water. Schooling baitfish can actually be seen to scatter at the surface.
“Job well done,” I say, as I shake his hand and ask for contestant #2.
Prime. Set. Pull. Toss. Boom. Freshen up drink. Lather. Boom. Rinse. Relight cigar. Repeat.
After almost all the Koreans had their chance, I asked if any of the western guys wanted in on the fun. Dax tossed one a good 150 meters. For a little guy, I guess all that solitary masturbation really builds up the muscles of your right arm.
He was less than impressed with my analysis.
I had one left. Dax and Mr. Kwan took the keys and went to the explosives locker to retrieve our first set of daisy-chained explosive seismic noise-makers. I had one quarter-block left.
One left.
What to do? What to do?
Why, make a Frisbee™ out of the damn thing, of course!
I stick the cap in the middle and see how far out one can sling the thing into the sea.
I flattened out the C-4 with an empty beer bottle, of which we had a large reserve, and forged a pretty passable flying-faux-Frisbee™. I molded in the blasting cap to the center of the disk, and gave it a test spin before yanking the fuse. It spun fairly well, not perfect, but, as they say, close enough for government work.
“Fire in the hole, gentlemen!” I said as I pulled the fuse and give the disk a healthy schwing off the back of the deck.
It wobbled, it wibbled, but it flew; more or less straight, more or less true.
It landed with a soft plop on the surface and began to sink slowly out of sight. Five seconds later, there was a credible hole in the water where the C-4 Frisbee™ had, only moments before, been.
“Well, that’s that. “ I said to each and sundry. “And here comes the real show.” As Mr. Kwan and Dax deposited a single daisy chain of reefed and wrangled explosives on the fantail.
Each one of these was exemplary works of the detonic arts, I noted to my Korean comrades.
I explained their genesis and use.
“You see, gentlemen?” I said, as I held up and pointed out the various components of each set of explosive devices, “It’s like this: the main windings were of the normal locus-o-delta type placed in panendermic semi-boloidol slots in relation to the pre-centrode stator. Every seventh conductor being connected by a nonreversible treme-splice to the differential trundle-bung on the up-end of the splivimeters.”
Several were nodding in agreement. Dax was attempting to not wet himself laughing silently.
Continuing: “I use C-4, cyclotrimethylene-trinitramine, because it lacks cerulene crystals, which are naturally occurring metabaconductors that exhibit a significant skin effect suppression at sub-microacoustic frequencies. Once derefined, their average in-plane electromagnetic permeability drops to zero, which is a property we can exploit. Unlike conventional 6-[2-[(4-amino-4-carboxybutanoyl) amino]-3-(carboxymethylamino)-3-oxopropyl] sulfanyl-5-hydroxyicosa-7, 9, 11, 14-tetraenoic acid materials, no external acoustic bias is required due to the nanocrystal’s large audile anisotropic impression.”
“I see. I see.” several of my Korean counterparts crooned.
“Good. Good” I say, “Now, which parameter do you think is the most important?”
The befuddled looks on their faces were one for the books. Too bad I left my camera in my stateroom.
Dax, Mr. Kwan, myself and Ivan begin to deploy the seismic sources. I’m galving everything like a man possessed as the individual packets slide by me at a rapid rate. So far, so good.
We really overdid the Western-Union splices, soldering them with silver-solder and wrapping each in that oily elephant-shit putty, then taping each against the ravages of saltwater.
We used ‘herring dodgers’ for alignment and depth control. They were nothing more than thin strips of sheet metal, about 35 centimeters in length, and rounded at both ends, and a mathematically-precise bend in the middle.
Featuring a hard side-to-side wobble, it would almost tip over in one direction, then rapidly right itself, to almost tip over the other direction. The result was it tracked straight and true behind the boat. A little more lead in one direction or the other and it was eminently steerable. Adding lead fishing weights along the lines of connection provided easily adjustable depth control in addition to the dodgers.
With that, we were fully deployed. Meisenheimer Triplet array of marine acoustic hydrophones trailing along nicely. One daisy chain to the port and one to starboard of the array at the proper predetermined depth.
We all assumed our positions. I was the blaster, of course, Dax was our communications officer, and several other people were doing something more or less equally as important, especially if you were to ask them.
Watches synchronized, Ack and Volna began the recording sequence. They’d send me signals to actuate the last packet on each chain of sources. They’d record, and we’d see how it was progressing.
Mr. Kwan would be in constant communication with the Captain so we could speed up, slow down, or begin one of four wide turns in this recording project.
“Ack, we good to go?” I asked.
“Just a second, Rock”, Ack replies, “Got a twitchy sonde on the port array. Killing it and ramping the two adjacent to compensate. T-15 seconds, MARK!”
“Mr. Kwan, NOW!”, I shout. Mr. Kwan fires the Very pistol into the air to release the green flares, letting everyone in the area know we’re actively recording data, and therefore, have the right of way.
Move it. Law of the sea.
I popped the stopwatch. In 15 seconds, unless I heard otherwise, I’d detonate the last two packets on each of the out-riggered arrays.
“5…4…3…2…1…Firing!” as I mashed down the big, shiny, green button on Kaptain Korea.
There was an unholy reverberation as the multiple kilos of C-4 detonated milliseconds apart. They were deep enough so we didn’t get any gouts of water, just big, roiling boils.
Ack runs back to the fantail and shouts, “You got it guys, the hydrophones worked! The computers went crazy, we've got data coming out of our ears!”
“Excelsior!” I replied, “Let’s continue. Next shot in 38 seconds.”
Shot after shot went off without a flaw.
Dax and Mr. Kwan, along with numerous other locals, were feeding the C-4 seismic source bundles adroitly as we continued on the cruise. The next challenge was the port turn, the first of four. If we were lucky, we’d not get the sources and hydrophones tangled and have to call it a day.
But the Captain was an able-bodied old sea-hand. He made that turn so neat and so slick, we all had to ask if we’d actually made the turn.
The captain smiled when we asked the question. He was an old man of the sea.
More firings and the arrays were responding without a hitch. We were on leg three of four, just coming out of a starboard turn. So far, so good.
When suddenly a Japanese fishing-factory ship hove into view.
Not only into view but directly in our fucking path.
We’re making 3.5 knots, steady. The Japanese fishing-factory ship was making about 2 knots. If they didn’t get the fuck out of the way, we’d collide.
So much for the law of the sea.
Mr. Kwan fires off the green flares anew, letting them know we’re in active data acquisition mode and our course is pre-set. We’re like a freight train. Towing the Meisenheimer Triplet behind us and all the explosives, we just can’t stop and hope everything behind us stops. It won’t. It’ll collide with the stern of our boat, and I don’t want to think what would happen to our brilliant creation if it smashed into the back of our vessel at 3 knots or more.
“Dax”, I yelled, “Grab a translator. Get to the pilothouse, and raise that Jap boat. Tell them to move their fucking ass.”
I’m still timing detonations and we’re still steaming ahead at 3.5 knots. I can’t leave and go chew out the Jap Captain. I have to stay here and time the detonations.
We’re getting vast mountains of data, the first-ever of its kind from this part of the world. We’re seeing preliminary reflections from over 4 seconds. That, roughly, translates to 20,000 feet.
But if that fucking Jap boat doesn’t get out of our way, we can’t ‘close the loop’ and we’d end up with literally incalculable errors of closure. Along with a huge pile of uncoordinated, unprocessed seismic.
And the loss of huge volumes of newly acquired data.
Now I’m pissed. All that work and the teams really coming together, now this.
“Where’s a fucking airstrike when you need one?” I smirk, scanning the skies for a friendly B-52.
The Jap boat is looming larger, and we’re still right at 3.5 knots. Dax ran back to tell me the Captain tried, he tried, and now Ivan was going to try and level with the Jap Captain and get them the hell out of our path.
“Oh, fuck Dax”, I said, “What time is it?”
“15:45 local”, Dax replies. “Why?”
“Oh, just in case anyone asks us when WWIII began…” I replied.
The Jap fishing–factory ship is looming directly in our path. I’m still timing detonations, Ack is recording as a man possessed, and Dax is running back and forth from the pilothouse to the stern with news updates.
Suddenly, we see great columns of black bunker smoke erupt from the twin stacks of the Japanese fishing–factory ship. We hear the deep rumble of finely machined and manufactured sea-turbines spooling up to operational speed. We notice the big fishing-factory begin to create boiling cavitation waves before it as it picks up speed.
The huge ship is doing 15 knots away in no time. All we have to deal with now is riding out the wake of the fucking thing.
Up one side and down the other.
I time the last of the seismic source charges, and with all that drama, the data cruise is finished. The Captain lets us know he’ll decelerate gradually to allow the Meisenheimer Triplet to slow along with us. I’ve already had the remaining spent demolition wire reeled in and stowed.
Ivan and Dax come strolling back to the fantail. I’m in awe. Ivan actually did something productive. Will wonders never cease?
I’m tired, pooped to be exact. That was one long and hairy tour of duty. I splot down in my not-bolted-to-the-deck chair, and Dax and Ivan follow.
I pull out a fresh cigar. Ivan leans over Dax and plucks it from my fingers. Considering what he must have done, I didn’t say a word.
Mr. Kwan arrives with fresh drinks for everyone. I accept mine gratefully.
I clip and fire a new cigar. I sip my expertly prepared drink. I’m going nuts not knowing what Ivan did.
“Dax?” I inquire, “Could you please ask Dr. Academician Ivan Ivanovich Khimik what he said to that Jap boat to get them to move the fuck out of the way?”
“Why, yes, Doctor, I could do that,” Dax replies.
He does.
“Well?” I ask.
“Dr. Academician Ivan Ivanovich Khimik merely told the Captain of the Japanese fishing-factory ship that he was in violation of the laws of the sea by being in the pre-ordained flight path of a new Russian nuclear-powered astronomical vessel that was out on its virgin shakedown cruise. We were towing a revolutionary new atomic imaging apparatus designed to record by reflection large portions of the sky. Also, that we couldn’t stop and if we collided, there’d be a whole lot of heavily irradiated fish, one heavily irradiated factory fishing vessel at the bottom of the Yellow Sea, and one very pissed-off set of Russian 'advisors' descending on the Japanese Embassy in Moscow.”
I looked over at Ivan, sitting there without a care in the world, enjoying a fresh vodka and one of my cigars. He looked over to me and gave a small wave.
“He didn’t?” I asked.
“Oh, yeah. He did. In that inimitable bluster he has. I made sure to stay out of his way, just in case.” Dax chuckled.
“Godddamn, Ivan”, I said, raising my glass to him in salute, “Damn glad you’re on our side.”
He looked over to me, grinned, puffed his cigar, and gave another small wave.
We finally slowed to a stop and we decided it would be a great learning experience if our Korean counterparts learned, by doing, how to which aboard three sets of hydrophones and a jury-rigged, and hastily built Meisenheimer Triplet seismic array.
In other words, we’re going to let them clean up.
About an hour later, Ack shows up and heaves himself into a vacant deck chair.
Mr. Kwan was on the spot with a fresh drink for him.
“Well, Ack? “ I asked, “Just how did we do?”
“It’s a damn good thing I brought those compression algorithms”, Ack relates, “Otherwise we’d never have been able to record all the data.”
“Truth?” I asked.
“Oh, yeah”, Ack agrees, “We’ve filled every Exabyte™ tape they had on board. Yeah, I know. ‘Old school’, but it still works. 150 GB per tape, which I juiced to 310 GB with compression. We now have three full cases of new data. New data, old tapes. Old tapes, old farts. It all works out in the end.”
“As so it should. Prosit!” I say, and the sentiment is echoed around the boat.
With that, we all gather together on the fantail; westerner, local, Ph.D. to orderly. Even the guys in the ill-fitting shiny suits join in.
“Gentlemen”, I begin, leaving time for the translators, “Our trip has been a success. More seismic data than what you’ll know to do with, and excellent cooperation from the east and the west. I congratulate the lot of you and say this: The drinking light is lit!”
“Doctor?” one Korean seismic character, with whom I’ve never spoken, entreats.
“Yes?” I reply.
“We are most upset that you chose to go with the American-made C-4 instead of the locally produced dynamite. We find this to be a ploy by you westerners to disgrace the standing of Oriental manufacture. What do you have to say for yourself?” he charges.
To be continued…
submitted by Rocknocker to Rocknocker


Item ocho: The Bureau will front the necessary funds to outfit the project initially with food, drink, and the like. Reimbursements are not an option. My request lists will be filled, without question.
Item niner: The Bureau will source all explosives as per the attached (see attached).
Item ten: The Bureau will provide a sidearm and ammunition for me to carry in the field. I cannot bring my Casull as it’s in Kentucky. This will be in .44 Magnum or greater caliber. Again, non-negotiable.
Item eleven: People will be ordered, under penalty of field law, to have a good time.
Item 12: There is no Item 12.
I sent this off to Sam and figured I’d hear him scream all the way from Reno.
He didn’t even argue. He sent off my signed contract to me within a day. He agreed to everything else on the list without so much as a bureaucratic bat of the eye.
“I knew I should have demanded $2,500/day,” I swore lightly. “This was too easy…”
I spend the next couple of days designing a route from Reno, out to the field, to as many mines as practicable, and back within the allotted time.
I figure at least 2 or 3 days to reach and demolish the first mine. This isn’t a group of two or three compliant geology doctoral students. This is going to be an untidy mess of fifteen doctors, from many different fields of endeavor, all slightly united by being, at least distantly tangentially, related to geology.
The logistics are going to be a nightmare. Each participant will need a full MSA Safety Incorporated (Mine Safety Appliances) compliant suite before anyone breaches the first mine adit. Luckily, the Self Rescuers have proven much more applicable to this type of work over the heavy, uncomfortable SCBA gear and air pack. The Bureau will supply much of the gear, such as miner’s lamps, battery packs, camera, film, flashlights, back-up lights, a portable generator, an electric jackhammer, and the like. They will also have a ‘special situations suit’ for me, just in case; mine is in storage after its last decontamination.
The Bureau will provide everyone with NORM badges, ALTAIR® 4XR Multigas Detectors, V-Gard® Full Brim Hard Hats, a Latchways Personal Rescue Device® harness and gear, Blockz Safety Eyewear, U-No-Flinch® disposable earplugs, and a commemorative Bureau monogrammed towel.
Participants will be required to provide their own steel-toe or equivalent, intrinsically-safe field boots. They will need to bring their own hammers, Leatherman type folding tools, climbing gear if desired, gloves, and coveralls; as well as other field clothing.
This has all the earmarks of a genuine clusterfuck in the making.
I fly with Esme and the kids to the Windy City. After a couple of Chicago-dogs and Special Exports, I get them trundled off with family, I grab a burner flight to Reno.
I arrive at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport three days before the field trip is supposed to commence. I am greeted by Dr. Sam Muleshoe himself. He smiles, shakes my hand, and slips me a nice Cuban cigar from his private stock. Seems he went to the Caribbean on his long-overdue vacation.
I have my old room at the Hotel 666, just down the street from the Bureau.
It’s a bit late in the afternoon and Sam asks if I’d like to go out to dinner. I thank him but beg off. I need to get all my gear out and sorted, make some calls, and take a little downtime.
These interconnecting flights are getting more laborious as time goes on.
“Fair enough,” Sam says, “Let’s meet at my office at, say, 0900 tomorrow? That OK?”
“Works for me,” I say, “I’ll see you then.”
I infiltrate the hotel lobby. Paulie the porter recognizes me and greets me warmly.
“Doctor of Rock,” he exclaims, “Welcome back!”
“Hey, Paulie. Good to see you, lad. Keeping out of trouble?” I ask.
Paulie reddens. He knows that I know he’s into something here in Reno other than just the hospitality industry.
At the front desk, check-in is but a brief formality. I am handed the keys to my old room and bid a very good night.
My luggage is already gone. Paulie saw to that. He said he actually likes my aluminum baggage.
Up in my room, it’s all business as usual. Except for the fruit & cheese basket on my work desk. Plus a couple of bottles of Russian Imperial Export vodka, a 12-pack of Bitter Lemon, some sliced limes, and a bucket of ice that Paulie just fetched from the machine down the hall.
Paulie drags my luggage to the bedroom and asks if he should unpack.
“Nah, Paulie, thanks just the same.” I respond, “I’ll get it. I’ll only be here a few days.”
“Sure, Rock,” and he scampers over to the mini-bar.
“Look here,” he says, flanging it open, “It’s all pre-paid!”
The mini-bar is stocked to the gills with beer, liquor miniatures, and eatables of various descriptions.
I smile widely, thank Paulie, and slip him a ten-spot for all his help.
“Can Paulie get Doctor of Rock anything?” he asks.
“Yeah,” I say, “When you have a chance,” and I hand him one of my cigars, “If you can find any of these in town, grab me a couple-three boxes. Need any cash beforehand?”
Paulie takes the cigar, sniffs it, smiles, and says, “No sir! Paulie has great credit in town! I’ll find some for you, don’t you worry!”
“Great, thanks Paulie,” I say, “You can keep that cigar for yourself as a deposit.”
“Yes, sir!” he smiles and bebops merrily off down the hall.
I do the usual. Make up my portable office, make myself a cold beverage, and make a series of phone calls.
I call the Agency and speak to Agent Rack. I tell him I’m here for the next fortnight, everything’s, so far, under control, and thank him and Agent Ruin for the Swiss Army knife.
“Be sure to look at that knife very closely, Doctor,” he says. He chuckles, says ‘Adios’ and rings off.
Curiouser and curiouser.
I call Esme and talk with her, the kids, my remaining family, and various grandparents. The latter are slightly annoyed I didn’t come with, but they all say that will give them excuses to visit us once we’re settled.
I can hardly wait.
I draw the shades as per the Myanmar Directive, peel, and am in the large in-room Jacuzzi before the phone grows cool. I’m a bit tired and decide to make it an early night, after a bracing fresh drink or seven, a cigar or two, and the latest copy of Mining Monthly.
The next morning, it’s downstairs and off to the obligatory morning breakfast buffet. It was well above par, with all the usual protein, carbohydrate, and sugar-rich offerings any good breakfast chain would have to offer.
A bit later, in Sam’s office, I’m sitting in my usual chair, Vasque Trakkers up on the edge of his desk. I’m kitted out in my usual field garb: field boots, tall Scotch woolen socks, cargo shorts, tasteless Hawaiian shirt, new Nevada-made sheath Bowie, and Black Stetson.
“Go ahead. Make a snide comment. Make my field season.” I think.
I’m working on a fairly decent cup of DOI coffee and fresh cigar while Sam attends to some Bureau necessities.
One of the Bureau’s vehicle mechanics knocks on the door and has a quiet chat with Sam.
Sam smiles, shakes his head affirmatively, and says we’ll be there soon.
“What was that all about?” I ask.
“Just you wait,” Sam says, as he goes back to pounding on his keyboard.
“Fair enough,” I muse, and grab last month’s copy of Mining Monthly.
A half-hour later Sam gets up from behind his desk and says “Let’s go. Your steed awaits.”
“Outstanding!,” I reply and follow him out back to the rear lots of the Bureau.
We walk out and I see my venerable old trailer in the shop. There are several technicians swarming around it.
Sam walks over to a large dun-colored vehicle, kicks a tire, turns, and tosses me the keys.
“Well, here she is. What do you think?” Sam asks, smiling as wide as Glen Canyon.
It’s a recently de-commissioned US Military Hummer H1 Alpha Wagon, sent to the Bureau under special request.
It’s huge, it’s ungainly, it’s ghastly. It still has the weapon hard-mounts.
I love it.
Sam smiles even more broadly, which I didn’t think was possible for a human, and he tells me:
“This thing has it all. 5.7 L Vortec 5700 gasoline V8 Supercharged TBI engine. GM 4L80-E dual-gate 8-speed transmission. Ground clearance of 19 inches. A Central Tire Inflation System. HF, UHF, LF, CB and SW radios. Power take-offs, twin 42 gallons saddle tanks, a 20-ton winch this thing could tow a stalled dinosaur if needed.”
“I doubt that last one will be necessary,” I say.
He tells me to get in and take a drive.
So I do.
It’s like driving a building around the parking lot.
Loads of power, tons of low-end torque, huge gas tanks; it will easily handle the trailer full of explosives.
Well, there’s that sorted. I park the beast out of the way until it’s needed.
We check on the trailer. It’s about half-full of my order. Seems they’re having trouble sourcing a plunger-type detonator and I’m asked if it’s really necessary.
Sam grabs the miscreant by the scruff of the neck, drags him out of ear-shot, and reads him the riot act.
He returns, guaranteeing me that my order would be filled, to the letter, by tomorrow, and salutes “Sir!”
Back in Sam’s office, Sam goes to the safe and pulls out a large plain-brown paper wrapped package.
He plops it on the desk and motions for me to take a look.
In the package are a hip holster, several boxes of ammunition, and a Taurus Raging Bull Model 454 pistol. And it’s unsurprisingly chambered in .454 Magnum.
“That was a pure bitch to find, order, and get delivered in time,” Sam smiles. “But nothing is too good for our Pro from Dover. You can just imagine the pencil-pushers freaking when this requisition came wafting through.”
“Sam, thanks,” I say, “That if you’ll pardon the pun, is just what the Doctor ordered.”
And the holster even fit.
Sam and I spend the rest of the day going over the itinerary I’ve created.
Sam has many reservations. We chat about them, and after a while, I do as well.
“Rock,” he says, “this is a group of 15 different lab- and office-bound doctors. Not field types, by any stretch. Don’t you think you’re being too aggressive with your schedule?”
True enough. I had prepared it using the two-month-long field trek with Al, Chuck, and Leo as a model.
Three eager geologist-types are significantly different than 15 non-geologists probably out in the field for the very first time. Again, logistics came up and bit me on the ass.
Sam points out that any mines we manage to close on this trip will be lagniappe.
“Rock, you’re doing that thing again,” Sam smiles, “Being all resourceful, competent, and efficient. This isn’t just a shake-down cruise. It’s the orientation for a bunch of, what you so colorfully refer to as, ‘baloney-loaf’ PhDs.”
“I have to agree,” I reply, “I was being overly aggressive. Let me cogitate on the matter tonight at the hotel and I’ll present you a revised itinerary over coffee and doughnuts in your office in the morning.”
“That sounds good, Rock,” Sam replies, “I’ve had to deal with crowds like this before. It’ll be like herding cats. Individually, they’re probably brilliant. Collectively, out in the field, they’re going to be a bunch of stumbling greenhorns. Try not to overwhelm them.”
“Sound advice,” I tell Sam, “If we can close any mines at all, it’ll be a miracle. Let me work on this. I’ll be back in the morning once you purchase doughnuts; get the good Krispy ones, not those ‘Drunken Donuts’ fat pills...”
“I knew I’d be paying for this one way or another,” Sam sighs.
“You know how I’m loath to disappoint you,” I reply.
Back at the hotel, I order a Mongolian bar-be-que lunch, get comfortable, and set to work on a revised field itinerary.
“Hmmm…let’s see…Cigars? Check. Adult beverages? Check. Laptop? Check. Calls made and lunch ordered? Check. Guess I’m ready to work.” I muse.
I begin to revise the itinerary for 15 novices. It’s proceeding nicely when lunch arrives.
After a lovely faux-Asian repast, it’s back to work.
No calls, luckily. I’m back in the ‘zone’ and cranking out foolscap at the rate of knots. I read, re-read, edit, and revise my recommendations.
For a real field geology trip, this would be a 14-day junket, it’d be so easy. For these characters, it’s going to be a real grind. However, I’ve built in time for relocation. Moving 15 novices from Point A to Point B in the desert, in the summer, is going to take considerably more time that Al, Chuck, Leo, and me packing up and hauling ass.
Plus, I have to build in some serious orientation time. Orientation with explosives and explosives safety. Introduction to field geology and geological practices. Primers on field safety beyond explosives and explosive handling. Overview of mine access gear and it’s uses. Synopsis of mine environments, dangers, and opportunities for early death. Briefing on desert field camping and craft; including weapons safety and handling, the necessity of proper hydration, camp culture, and comportment.
Gad, it just goes on and on…
I look outside for the first time since lunch and it’s pitch black out there. Oh, well, another day down the proverbial tubes.
I have a good first draft of the itinerary. I decide to pull the pin on the day.
I call Es and find she’s out shopping.
Bloody marvelous.
I talk with my girls and get their ‘what I want from this trip, Daddy’ lists. Chat with some relatives, give them the condensed version of what I’d doing out there rather than being at home and basically come to discover things are A-OK.
I call Rack and Ruin to inform them of the latest developments.
They tell me they already know as they’ve talked with Sam today. They also inform me they, and their boss might just be dropping by in the field, as ‘observers’, later in the trip.
“Checking up on me, hmm?” I ask, jokingly.
“Yes.” came the terse reply.
“Double marvelous.” I muse as I hang up the phone.
Of course, I cannot let this challenge go unanswered. I retire to the Jacuzzi with a couple of cigars, a large tumbler full of iced ‘Old Thought Provoker’, a pad of paper, a pencil and an oddly crooked smile.
“Check up on the Motherfucking Pro from Dover, shall we?” I snicker.
After a light hotel buffet breakfast, I’m in Sam’s comfortable office, noshing on lovely, crème-filled pastries, sipping a Greenland coffee, to which I had recently introduced Sam, who has taken to it like a salmon on a slippery spillway.
We go over my revised itinerary and make a couple of minor revisions. Sam thinks it’ll be much more in line with likes of the gaggle of characters that should start arriving today.
I give the revisions to one of the Bureau’s secretaries and ask her to please do the updates for me. After that, Sam and I will review it one final time, and send it past the Bureau lawyers, before we have copies made for all and sundry.
In the interim, I drift back to the garage to see how my gear is coming along. Everything I ordered is ready and actually already packed in the Hummer. I ask for an inventory and I’m presented not just the inventory, but the checked register that was created as my truck was being packed for the trip.
The explosives trailer is locked and parked in a secure area. I infiltrate the grounds and open up the trailer with my keys. There’s an inventory on a clipboard in the ‘clibpoard’ [sic] cubby. With my new and improved field itinerary, there’s no way I’d use all the fireworks here, but I’m sure as hell not going to inform anyone of that fact.
“Well,” I think, “That’s all done and dusted. Nothing to do but wait for my charges to arrive.”
And arrive they did.
Over the next 24 hours, 14 of 15 participants have shown up. Luckily, with all the necessary paperwork and orientation guff, I don’t really have to be here. My job will drag on long enough. Let the Bureau bureaucrats handle them, get them all sorted, and I’ll see you after another Bavarian Crème. I saunter off back to my hotel room.
I call Esme and she’s actually there this time. She excitedly tells me that she’s found new ‘Middle East compliant’ luggage for us, whatever the hell that may be.
“It was on sale. Got us a great price!” she gushes.
“Marvelous,” I smile back into the receiver.
We chat over this and that while I regale her of the new itinerary and how the field campers are now showing up. I tell her it’s going to be quite the trek with this bunch.
After a few more chatty non-essentials, we profess our undying love for each other, and I am cautioned to come back home in one piece.
“Yes, Ma’am!,” I reply, “I will do my very best.”
I decide that Rack and Run will probably call tomorrow after the initial orientation and the welcoming dinner. So, they can wait.
My doorbell rings and it’s Paulie.
“Paulie! Stout yeoman!” I exclaim, as something about him always perks me up, “What news have you for me today?”
“Will Doctor of Rock be in his room for a while?” he asks.
“Yep, but I plan on doing laps in the Jacuzzi,” I reply.
“Then you wait right here. Do not move!,” he exclaims feverishly, “Paulie will be right back!”
Looks like I’m under starter’s orders.
So I immediately leave to refresh my drink.
Five minutes later, there’s a furtive knock on my door.
It’s Paulie, with a room service cart. A pile of some sort is concealed under a hotel tablecloth.
I open the door and Paulie scoots in.
“Look what Paulie got for you!,” he exclaims and whips off the tablecloth.
Nestled there are five boxes of Cuban Cohiba cigars, in the dimensions and wrappers, I so enjoy.
“Whoa, Paulie!,” I say, “You really knocked it out of the park this time. What are the damages?”
Paulie looks at the carpet and scuffs it a bit.
“Too much, I fear. Paulie makes mistake,” he pouts, “I spent too much of Doctor of Rock’s money,”
“Now, now, Paulie,” I say, “Belay all that nonsense. How much?”
“$200.” He croaks.
“Each?” I ask, very slightly alarmed.
“Oh, no,” he says, “For all.”
I smile like a Lewis Carroll feline and hand him $250.
“Paulie, you are a wonder.” I say, “Couldn’t be better!”
Paulie now beams.
“Paulie, how?” I ask the question that should always go unuttered.
“I know this guy…,” he smiles.
“Fair Dinkum, Paulie! You’re a wonder.” I say, “Look, I won’t say anything to anyone, but please share a little toast with me. I’m leaving early tomorrow for some time. I might not see you again, at least for quite a while.”
“But I have your card!” he says.
“Yes, however, I’m moving overseas. Still, I will be very certain to call the hotel once I’m settled and make certain you have my new contact info.” I say.
“Where are you going?” he now asks the question that should remain unqueried.
“The Middle East,” I say.
Paulie looks sore concerned.
“Nasty place. Paulie knows some people there.” he says, as he grabs my hand, “Doctor, you will be very careful over there. It’s full of crazy bad persons.”
“Like the US isn’t?” I think, “Paulie, you have my solemn promise.” I reply.
We have a short tot so we can toast our friendship. I slip him an extra $50 when he’s not looking. I know he’s got a big family back in Nogales.
“Paulie, as I like to say “Для вас и здоровья вашей семьи” [To you, your health, and the health of your family] as I raise my glass to him in the time-honored Baja Canada tipple salute.
Paulie smiles and replies, “Para usted y la salud de su familia. [For you and the health of your family].”
“You sneaky SOB.” I laugh, “You never told me you knew Russian.”
“Oh,” he smiles, “I know this guy…”
Suddenly, I think he might also know a couple of guys who go by the monikers of Rack and Ruin.
“¿Qué otros idiomas conoces? [What other languages do you know?]?” I ask.
“哦,几个,医生.”[Oh, a few, Doctor.], he replies with a smile.
“Чи новш гэж тэнэг юм. [You sneaky bastard…] ,” I reply.
“Мэдээжийн хэрэг.” [Absolutely.]” he smiles back.
Looks like the good doctor just got taught.
“Paulie,” I smile to one side, “Thanks for everything. I presume we will remain in touch “
“Мэдээжийн хэрэг, Доктор” [Absolutely, Doctor], he smiles, pushes the cart out the door and zooms down the hallway.
I just stand there behind the closed door. My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.
I do believe I just had the very first test of my new agency appointment.
After a good night’s soak and sleep, I am packed and ready to go.
Paulie arranges for my luggage to be delivered to the Bureau later in the day.
I thank him once again, in English, and wander over to the DOI to see what and with whom I’m going to be saddled over the next fortnight.
I make the corner, turn to look and the Bureau’s back parking lot is crammed with campers.
Not the people type, although there were a few of those milling about; I mean Airstream, a Winnebago, a couple of Jay Flights, a Shasta, a Sero Scotty, and an all-aluminum Aristocrat.
“Well,” I think, “That will help immensely with logistics. Fewer tents, no worries about open-air toilets, additional cooking space…now, if they can just get them all out into the field…”
I’m walking around this impromptu open-air RV show in my normal field outfit.
Not a single person gives me as much as a second glance.
I just shake my head and wander over to Sam’s office.
“Sam, did you see all that business out in the back lot?” I ask rhetorically.
“Oh, yeah,” he sighs, “It would have been nice if they would have let us know. Going to pose a few logistical problems.”
“Yep. Ten out of ten for style, but minus several million points for good thinking, yeah?,” I smirk.
“Oh, hell,” Sam says, “It’s orientation time. You ready for the show?”
I grab a Greenland and a cruller, “Now I am.”
In the Bureau’s largest conference room, complete with stage and lectern, there are 14 professorial types gathered around, just chatting up a blue streak.
There are also several other people who look suspiciously like personal assistant Graduate students.
“This bodes ill.” I consider.
I am roundly ignored again, so I slip in back, behind the curtain.
Sam arrives at the lectern and asks for quiet. He receives what he asks for in a few minutes.
“Greetings, ladies and gentlemen, one and all. I am Dr. Sam Muleshoe of the Reno Bureau of the Department of the Inferior. I would like to welcome you to the first, in what we hope are many, in a series of field excursions in the Nevada desert to study, evaluate, and close abandoned mines. This is a stellar occasion, as we have the expert scientist here who literally wrote the book on mine reclamation and closure. We have persuaded him to lead this very first trip. So, without further ado, I’d like to introduce your field trip leader, the hookin’ bull, that Pro from Dover, Doctor Rocknocker. Rock?”
I flip open the curtain and walk out I front of the forum.
There are several audible gasps. No applause, mind you, but gasps a-plenty.
I have a lit cigar in one hand, and a mug of what they probably thought was coffee in the other.
I’m wearing my usual field garb: Vasque Trakker field boots, freshly oiled; Scotch woolen tall-socks, cargo shorts, a really, really ghastly neon-colored Hawaiian shirt, an ‘All my faults are normal’ T-shirt, my well-aged field vest, a monogrammed Bureau field towel around my neck, and my ubiquitous black Stetson.
I have my soft-rock Estwing hammer on one hip, the .454 pistol on the other. I’m also wearing a sheath knife I recently acquired right here in Nevada, a NORM badge, an Altair® 4XR Multigas Detector, and several other odds and bods hanging from the hooks on my vest. I also have several fresh Cohibas in one of my vest pockets.
The silence in the room was palpable.
“Goooood morning, Reno!” I shout, in my best Robin Williams imitation.
Utter fucking silence.
“Hmm…tough room,” I snark. “OK, so it’s going to be like that, ‘eh?” I ask.
Total quietness.
“OK,” I say, “Enough with the introductions. As you know, I am Dr. Rocknocker, although I prefer to travel under the name of ‘Rock’, as I’m not one for standing on tradition. I will be your field leader on this glorious desert excursion. We will be visiting a selection of different types and classes of mines, study them, then absolutely destroy them. Although I’m certain that this part is nothing new.”
I wait a tick, take a drag off my cigar, and sip my Greenland coffee.
“Ahhh! Lovely.”
No response.
“OK,” I say, “I can see by your collective enthusiasm that you’re just raring to get out in the desert and blow up some shit.”
There were a couple of gasps. At least they’re not all dead, as I had feared. I just noticed a few female forms flitting around the forum.
“Right,” I continue, “I may not be the best judge of human character, but I think I’m detecting a certain amount of trepidation from the gathered crowd.”
There are several murmurs, but no one volunteers anything.
“Right,” I carry on, “Let me lay this out right here before we even start. This is not a holiday. This is not a pleasure trip. This is a working, learning, operational, primarily geological scientific expedition. We will be in the desert for fourteen days, non-stop. If there’s any injuries or deaths, the unfortunate soul or souls will be air-lifted out by Nevada State Highway Patrol rescue or recovery chopper. You have signed on for the duration. We’ll have no ‘days-off’, or ‘late mornings’, nor ‘early evenings’. We have exactly 336 hours together and intend to squeeze every ounce of science out myself, my vehicles, my operational gear, , and my colleagues. That’s you if you missed the phrase shift.”
Still nothing but a slight crowd buzz.
“OK, time to shake up the audience.” I muse.
“Here’s the deal, guys, and gals,” I say, “I’ve been dragged out here against my better wishes; but I’m an unrepentant mercenary, so there you go. Once this is over, I’ll be headed to the Middle East. So, it’s my last field trip out here for a while, but it’s not my final hurrah. With that, as Dr. Muleshoe noted, I’m the hookin’ bull here. For those of you unfamiliar with the expression, that means I’M THE BOSS! What I says, goes. No arguments, no discussion, no parlay. We’re going to be dealing with nearly a ton of very twitchy, very tetchy, very high explosives. I’m the only one educated, experienced and above all, licensed for their use and operation. Do you think you know better than I do? Dandy. Keep it to yourself until a later time. Failure to do so will result in expulsion. No arguments, not fond farewells. You are out on your happy ass!”
Now the crowd is really buzzing loudly.
“Are we green, people?” I ask very loudly.
I am greeted by almost 2 dozen blank stares.
“’ Are we green?’ means ‘Are we in agreement?’,” I explain.
Still nothing.
“Yeah,” I sigh, “So it’s going to be like that, is it? You people can speak, can’t you? Forget it, I was being rhetorical and unpleasant. Anyways, let me take this twisty can of snakes and lay it out nice and straight for you. If you are offended by ‘colorful metaphors’, or outright swearing, well, you’re gonna have a bad day or 14. I’m the one running this show. I’m an unapologetic field geologist, among other things. I smoke. I drink. I swear. I stink. And I get shit done. Done right, safe, and proper. On-time, and under budget. Probably non-ecofriendly, as well. If anyone here objects to anything I’ve said so far, well, U-turn 1800 and there’s the exit door.”
I wait exactly long enough to sip some coffee and puff on my cigar.
Continuing: “We’re all here to do a job, and learn something in the process. I’m here to teach and watch over you, to make sure you return home a reasonable facsimile of what left home. I’m not here to coddle, indulge, or hold hands. I’m here to instruct you in the modes and methods of safe mine inspection, abandonment, and closure. You’re going to get filthy, experience hardship, travails, massive explosions, and claustrophobic quarters. It’s my job to guide you through all this safely. So, you do what I say, when I say it and you don’t give me any cheek in the process. Are we green?”
“…green…,” comes the wan reply.
“I can’t hear you!,” I yell.
“GREEN!” comes the reply.
“That‘s better,” I say, “Next time, I best hear everyone in this room chime in. Any questions so far?”
“Yes!” a hand goes up.
“Finally!,” I remark, “Yes?”
“Will there be showers available?” came the question.
“Oh, absolutely,” I remark, “Right before we leave and right when we return. Any other questions?”
‘Yeth!” I hear.
“You, in the shiny yellow suit. Yes?” I ask.
“I most strongly object to your gun!” he says, “I’m not going anywhere with someone carrying a gun.”
“OK, fair enough.” I say, “The exit’s right there behind you.”
“My university paid for this trip, and I’m not going until you remove your gun!” he crows.
“OK,” I say, as I skin my smoke wagon and hold it up for all to see.
“Listen up, you primitive screwheads. This is my BOOMSTICK!” I thunder to many ashen faces.
Yessiree, Bob,” I say, “I’ve carried one just like this on six continents when I was in the field. Why? Because it’s a fucking tool. Just like a hammer’s a tool. Just like a compass is a tool. Just like a galvanometer is a tool. Just like 50 pounds of Torpex high-explosives are a tool. What do you have against tools, sir? Are you a closet anti-toolist?”
“Guns are evil,” he whines.
“Guns are inanimate objects, sir.” I reply, “You have the same senseless reservations about my Estwing rock pick? I could swing it soundly and kill with it as well.”
“Of course not,” he replies haughtily.
“Why not?” I ask, “It’s evil when it’s used to kill. Otherwise, when used properly, it’s a very, very functional tool.”
“Just like your gun?” he asks sarcastically.
“Fuckin’-A, Buckwheat.” I reply, “Exactly like that. It’s a signaling device. It’s a safety device. It’s great for running off predators and rousting single-minded snakes and scorpions. Only in the hands of a madman is it dangerous. You consider me a madman?”
“You knew who was running this show,” I remarked, “when you received the announcement. It’s no fault of my own you failed in your preparations and didn’t read the copy for content. It’s a well-known fact, as published in many, many geology, geochemistry, gemology, mining, oil & gas, and paleontology periodicals; who I am, what I do, and how I do it. Your failure to prepare does not constitute an emergency on my part. The gun stays. Period.”
“Any other questions?” I ask.
“Please, by all means, that’s why I’m here.” I relate.
“Can we just get on the road? We’re burning daylight, Rock. Time to hit the dusty trail.” I’m told.
“OK, how do I know this person?” I wonder.
“Quite right.,” I reply. “If there are no more questions…tic…tic…tic…OK, let’s meet in the back lot. Quit yer grinnin’ and drop yer’ linen, we’re outta here!”
I puff my cigar, slurp some coffee, pat Sam, who has his face buried in his hands, on the back, and walk out to the parking lot.
Ok, point of parliamentary procedure. I’m not going to type each of these goombah’s names every time we have an interaction. Since there are 15 of these characters, I will be referring to them in the narrative as ‘Dr. A’, ‘Dr. B’, ‘Dr. C’, and so on through ‘Dr. O’.
Out in the lot, everyone’s milling around like some sort of cadet review.
Andy the mechanic hands me a megaphone. Remind me to be nice to him someday.
“OK people, listen up!,” I holler, “You all have the field project’s map. Let’s all look on the map and find ‘Stop #1’. OK?”
Mutter, mutter, mutter.
“OK,” I continue, “So far, so good. Got that? Stop #1? Good. Saddle up and hit the sandy trail! See you there in three hours. Adios!”
It’s actually an easy, well-marked, leisurely 1.5-hour jaunt to the first mine, the defunct Sharp Curve gold and silver mine.
The Sharp Curve Mine is situated around the periphery of the Bone Mountain and Weepee igneous plutons which intrude Precambrian to Late Cambrian clastic and carbonate sediments. The Precambrian units consist of the Wyknot Formation, a quartzitic siltstone and sandy limestone interbedded with limestone and dolomite, and the massive Peed Creek Dolomite. Overlying the sediments are the allochthonous Cambrian Sheep Springs, Caminillo Brillo, Polenta, and Farkless Formations. Small, random roof pendants of Wyknot Formation are scattered over the surface of Bone Mountain. The sediments are metamorphosed to hornfels, phyllite, schist, marble, and other metamorphic rocks along the contact with the plutons.
After the intrusion of the dikes, late-stage hydrothermal fissure quartz veins, lenses, and irregular masses were emplaced in the metasediments and igneous masses along fault and shear zones, forming prominent outcrops in the central and southern part of the district. Locally, the quartz veins are crushed and cemented with hematite-stained silica. The intrusion of the Bone Mountain granite domed the bedded sediments into an anticline or dome structure which subsequently eroded to its present form. The metasediments are draped around the pluton with the remnant limbs dipping away from Bone Mountain on three sides. These anticlinal structures exhibit broad, complex, and side-by-each en echelon folds; minor thrusts; flexures and high angle faults of small displacement.
To be continued.
submitted by Rocknocker to Rocknocker