NUKES 1  ·  NUKES 2  ·  NUKES 3  ·  NUKES 4  ·  NUKES 5  ·  NUKES 6  ·  NUKES 7
NUKES 8  ·  NUKES 9  ·  NUKES 10  ·  NUKES 11  ·  NUKES 12  ·  NUKES 13

chapter fourteen
Part Four

There were only two times the convoy came to a rest. One was at tunnel entrances, while the camo squad had to go out and scout for threats before they could make the crossing to the next leg of the journey.

The other was at night, when the thin, cold air carried the low register rumbling of the tanks further than the denser daytime air would have. As no one wanted to come around a bend near the end of a tunnel to a surprise opposition force the entire convoy came to a halt as the sun set.

Some of them rested in their tanks, perched in seemingly uncomfortable positions that in combat would be their entire life, day and night, but because they weren't in combat yet most climbed out of their pits and laid on whatever flat surfaces they could find on their vehicles, under the thermal blankets in their kits, and set in for a night of fitful slumber, endurable only because their entire life had been preparing them for it.

And while the vast majority of them did this, there were a few for who this time was anything but restful. The Security Squads that patrolled both the perimeters on either end of the convoy and the spaces between, quelling the occasional disruptive outbursts between tightly wound soldiers confined to even tighter living conditions.

And the sixty-one Tank Commanders who moved through the assembled to the Deuce'n Half Transport trucks that led them and the wiry little civilian recently promoted to Lieutenant 2nd Class that was about to give them their first lesson in routine maintenance and arming of their single 250 tonne micro-nuclear warheads.

Using graphics hastily scanned off an aging instruction manual and projected on Cutter's tactical board Ozeman pointedly covered the basics of the weapon. He spoke with the clipped nervousness one would expect from a class nicknamed “bunnies” despite the fact that he was critical component of this mission and none present saw him anymore as anything except a valuable resource.

And despite being well aware of his singularly important status to this mission, no amount of assurances could overcome years of subservience where his opinion had never mattered and his input was rarely requested and having sixty-three sets of eyes focused on him in rapt attention was something very new which is why he instantly paused whenever one of these higher ranking officers' arms jutted skyward to ask questions.

Ozeman's instinctive desire to step back and let someone else take control fought furiously with the rationalization that he was the only one present with the answers, and he was expected to clearly respond. Like it or not he was leading this briefing.

Fortunately having been a “techie” his whole life had prepared him to focus on the cold hard facts of the equipment. His Civilian superiors weren't interested in small talk either so as long as Ozeman stayed on the facts and details of the equipment he found he was both in comfortable territory and responding in a relevant manner to the questions.

Tank Commander Severn, I, stood, “Our tanks have a ballistic range of just over two miles. What sort of blast yield radius are we going to encounter?”

Ozeman wasn't sure he understood that question. The micro-nukes had been installed under the Command stool in each tank, their controls readily accessible to the tank Commander. He didn't get what the ballistic firing range of the tanks had to do with anything. He looked at Cutter as he repeated what he thought the question meant, “Unless the winds are favorable I doubt the blast radius extends beyond your firing range. At least not for a quick kill.”

That caused a commotion that Ozeman didn't understand at all. Cutter stepped forward addressing the Commanders, “Fireball for this sized warhead is under a hundred yards, blast radius will be under a mile.”

Tank Commander Allstone, Y, stood, “Is that with detonation on impact?”

He looked around and saw the confusion on his brothers, “My understanding is that detonation above ground extends the blast radius.”

The others nodded, grasping his concern and then looked forward at Ozeman and Cutter for the answer.

Ozeman was very confused now but Cutter held up his hands to quiet them, “First step is to understand the process for delaying the arming of the nukes so they don't go off when you fire them,” he turned toward Ozeman as though handing off the discussion to the young Lieutenant, “then we'll work on the tactics of proximity detonation versus impact detonation.”

Yet the little voice in the back of his head began nagging him about the singularly focused way so many of the questions had to do with the detonation of the nukes.

* * *

Once Ozeman had realized the Tank Commanders weren't planning on saving the nukes for a last resort, “rather- than-capture-by-the-enemy” option, but that they were planning to fire them at their opponent and remain fit to fight whatever opposition remained many of the questions he was being asked began to make sense. And his answers were quickly framed to address them from the perspective expected.

And although Ozeman may not have known that the main gun in each tank could lob a canister two miles on a straight plain, he did know the arming mechanism of the canister could be set to delay engaging until the projectile was passed the peak of its parabolic, or in simpler terms, as the weapon began its descent.

And he knew the highest yield of the detonation would occur if the trigger was set to fire just before impact, ideally at the fifty-foot height. But he didn't know anything about firing tactics that ensured the firing occurred while the tank was shielded behind a ridge or hill of sufficient mass to avoid direct exposure to the blast yield.

And the more the conversation slipped over to tactics the less Ozeman was required to speak, save only to clarify or confirm certain technical points. Quickly he lost control of the demonstration as the assembled began frankly discussing the implementation of these weapons in what Ozeman would've called a “first strike” capacity, had he been familiar with the term.

It's similarities to the history before their people were required to seek shelter in the colony sent a shiver down his spine. He knew he could never bring up this topic but the idea that the military seemed too easy to embrace a path that could repeat such a horrible past was chilling.

It was the congress of hawks of which no rabbit should be privy.

* * *