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Corporeal Passage: Chapter 13: Following Orders

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Sunday, July 18, 2021 at 1:00pm
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Winter Camp / Media / Fiction / Corporeal / Corporeal Passage: Chapter 13: Following Orders

Corporeal Passage: Chapter 13: Following Orders

by Jeff Rand

Since Louis Rein was not present, Keith had selected the captain's quarters for his accommodation on the Missouri. The next morning, Keith found the captain's uniform on display. The captain must have been a big man, as it was a good fit. Keith slipped on the polished shoes before joining the others on the deck.

"Good morning Captain Callaghan," said Michaela, while saluting her father and reading his name plate.

"At ease, ensign," came the reply.

"Building on the perception of his authority, Keith continued, "We have orders to rendezvous with our forces in San Diego. For that mission we are due to leave Pearl Harbor by El Mediodia (referencing a traditional event on the Winter Camp calendar occurring on June 29.) To prepare for departure, I am issuing some specific orders. Ensign King, you will be the procurement officer, responsible for securing the supplies for both the voyage and our stay in the harbor. Chief Petty Officer Osvath, I expect that you will do whatever it takes to rewire this crate so that all essentials are controlled from a single station on the bridge. Lieutenant Noonan, you have the key responsibility to get the ship refueled and the engines working. You are hereby granted 'captain's authority' to command others for assistance. Commander Donohue, you will have unfettered access to the ship's manuals in my quarters as my Number 2. You must devise the plan to move the fuel from the Arizona to the Missouri and develop the technique for a single operator to control the ship. Any questions?"

"Yes, captain," responded the ensign. "How do you want your eggs?"

"I'll take mine fried over easy, with three slices of crisp bacon, and a cup of piping hot coffee."

"Request noted. The freeze-dried scrambled eggs will be accompanied by a can of spam and a mug of tepid water."

Steve was surprised how quickly the others warmed to his crazy idea of recommissioning the USS Missouri for a trip to California. He wasn't really sure it was possible but given his recent experience in Zero Node he was determined to try. Once again, he would be doing a lot of reading and studying. Fortunately, the USS Missouri had been kept intact to serve as a museum - an active museum loaded with real equipment and tools reflective of its mission.

Wilbur willingly accepted his responsibilities and began to search for the necessary resources. Eventually, he located the ship's fuel tanks, and as expected, they were empty. After consulting with Steve and the captain's library regarding the refueling process, Wilbur located two metal braided hoses that bolted to a valve connecting to the system for filling the fuel tanks. Each fuel hose was perhaps 75-feet long. Even connected together, they could not stretch the half mile to the Arizona. Continuing his investigation, Wilbur located a storeroom on the Missouri filled with scuba and snorkeling gear.

Mike wasted no time attacking the ship's wiring system. He removed various panels on the bridge to expose the wires. He had found a hand cranked generator that he used as a continuity tester by giving himself mild shocks. With Steve's help, he found the electrical room near the turbo generators. The ship had been modified to get its electrical power from the shore in its capacity to serve as a museum. Now it would have to get a steam-powered turbo generator operational. Of course, that wouldn't be possible without a working boiler, and that would require fuel. In the interim, Mike located some spools of wire in the electrical room and began running his own power lines to the bridge and their selected quarters. It would not be necessary to electrify the whole ship, at least he hoped not.

Michaela located a dozen vats of cooking oil. However, she found them to be rancid and unsuitable for consumption. Instead, she made two dozen Caveman Lanterns for the crew. The ship had many other hidden treasures, providing one did not shy away from food that might have been canned before their grandparents were born. She decided to move their dining operation to a small room near their quarters where Mike promised to have electricity at some future date.

While Mike and Michaela were left to their tasks, Keith and Steve devoted most of their efforts to helping Wilbur find a way to fill the fuel tanks. For his part, Wilbur spent several days learning how to scuba dive. He quickly learned that the dormant air tanks had lost most of their pressure and seldom would last more than ten minutes. There were 30 tanks available, but he had already emptied 10 before he was confident to do a dive near the USS Arizona.

Keith troubled himself with how to get a million gallons of fuel from a sunken ship to the tanks of the Missouri. He argued with Steve about it for a week.

When all were enjoying the breakfast of spam and stale crackers, Steve stood and spoke, "After studying the specs, I have a solution of how to transport the fuel. While the Missouri has no lifeboats (I suppose the sailors would be on their own if the ship sunk in battle.), it does have two rescue boats that have manual winches to lower them into the water. I have calculated that they could easily hold 1,000 gallons of fuel without sinking. That would be 1,000 trips. However, I've studied the specs and we shouldn't need half that."

"You're insane!" shouted Mike.

"I admit that there are some minor issues to resolve. We'll know more when Wilbur explores the Arizona."

It took two people to row one of the rescue boats to the Arizona Memorial. The memorial structure was largely intact, except the dock at its southern end had been destroyed from the explosion of the submarine. Wilbur decided to do a quick survey of the explosion area with mask, fins, and snorkel. He could see nothing of the vessel. Then he took his first deep dive with the scuba gear to find the wreckage on the floor of the bay. There was no sign of the submarine or its fantastic technology. All that remained was a single metal cylinder.

Wilbur depleted a dozen air tanks during his repeated dives to investigate the Arizona. He could explore the exterior, but it was impossible to enter this watery tomb. Passages were welded shut and gaps were covered with wire mesh. Obviously, the ship was modified to protect it from scavengers or thrill-seeking divers. His mission was not intended to disturb the tomb, but simply extract some of its fuel which was continuously polluting the harbor. Although the water was murky and the mechanism was covered with sea life, he found the valve for refueling the fuel tanks on the deck of the ship. As far as he could tell, it was of the same design as that on the Missouri.

Some of the best conscious minds at Pearl Harbor had been put to the task, and in less than a month, the first fuel load was being transported to the USS Missouri. Members of this small crew had overcome many challenges to survive without a functioning world where their lives were always under threat. Yet, other than Wilbur, there was a common tie to Winter Camp, which had influenced their lives for decades. It had been much more than an activity for a few days, but a chance for creativity that continued to help them overcome impossible situations.

Although there were no power tools that could be used, the ship was well stocked with hand tools and various materials for construction projects. Prior to the collapse of civilization, Keith had been a very competent craftsman. He had ample opportunity to put those skills to work on the Missouri. He found some half barrels intended for a barbecue pit, and fashioned them into fuel holding tanks in each of the rescue boats, along with a drainpipe cut through the stern of the boats. When he learned that the fuel hoses were designed to bolt to the input valves, he fashioned two gaskets to assure a tight seal.

Mike got involved in the project in modifying a bilge pump to extract the fuel. The cabled fuel line that would be affixed to the Arizona was six inches in diameter, and while it would be fine to use this to fill the tank, it would be impossible to use it to pump fuel out of one. Mike constructed the bilge pump to work through a one-inch hose running inside the larger cabled fuel line.

Steve helped Keith modify the hoist system to lift a rescue boat filled with fuel onto the deck of the Missouri. It took 20 minutes of muscle power to turn the crank lifting five tons onto the deck. The line running to the ship's fuel intake valve was placed strategically so that the rescue boat could dump its load into the Missouri.

Installing the fuel line to the Arizona was a different matter, as it had to be done underwater. It would be a two-man job, and Wilber estimated that there was less than two hours air supply in the tanks. Keith assumed that he would be the other diver, but Steve had to intervene on behalf of Michaela. There was no extra air supply for practice dives. Michaela had learned scuba diving on a trip with her troop several years ago at the Florida Sea Base before it was sold. Wilbur and Michaela practiced their technique for several days with snorkeling equipment in shallow water before doing the real thing. When it came to doing it on the Arizona, they had the fuel line bolted in place with Keith's gasket in less than half an hour.

Mike affixed the end of the fuel line to the fence of the memorial above the water. Then he inserted his bilge pump line into the large fuel line to pump out the sea water. Two days later the team determined that the fuel line was now dry enough to open the fuel valve. That would require more underwater work.

Wilbur had cleaned the debris off the valve wheel during his freediving exercises. Now he had to break the lock and open a valve which had been closed for 90 years. Keith had found some pneumonic bolt cutters on the Missouri, which worked remarkably well underwater in removing the lock. Turning the wheel to open the valve was another matter. Even with Michaela's assistance it would not budge. It was Steve, who upon searching his vaulted isles of memory, recalled a horse drawn mechanism using the power of a lever to work a pump. For this purpose, rods could be bolted to the wheel, giving four people their own lever. It would require being underwater, but it need only be brief enough to break the seal. When Keith and Mike joined Wilbur and Michaela, the combined strength of the team was sufficient even underwater. The valve was opened.

Mike snaked the hose from his bilge pump through the mechanism into the Arizona's fuel tank. It took him more than an hour to get the first drop of the heavy weight fuel oil and he was exhausted. Keith took over, pumping at a feverous pace. It took slightly more than a minute to fill a gallon jug. Each took his turn at the pump, including Steve Donohue, who had been nothing more than a casual observer. In the end, Mike and Wilbur agreed to take the first shift filling a rescue boat with fuel for the Missouri, while the others returned to the ship.

After some food and rest, Keith and Michaela left to assume their shift. When Mike and Wilbur returned, they were exhausted after eight hours working the hand pump. At best they had collected 500 gallons of fuel for the Missouri. They went right to bed, and after eight hours left for their next shift, making no attempt to find Steve. When they reached Keith and Michaela at the monument, Keith instructed them to return to the Missouri. It was time to bring the first load.

After the rescue boat with its fuel load had been raised and emptied into the Missouri, Keith gathered the group. "It is time we review our plans and make assignments. And everyone must be involved," he said, directing his comment at Steve.

Steve was irritated, "I know you want this to work. We all do. I just don't think we have the right approach yet. How long can we keep this up? At this rate, it will take us more than a year."

"I know you are old for this kind of work, but you must do your part. Hell, I'm a year older," Mike interjected.

"Ozzie, I appreciate your dedication. But my labors are better spent with cerebral tasks if we are to be successful."

The others did not press Steve, but reaffirmed their plan to alternate with eight-hour shifts, day and night. They would exchange the rescue boats every 24 hours to empty one while the pumping continued for the other.

Six grueling days had passed, and Keith gathered the group for a progress check.

Mike was first to speak, "I can't do this any longer. It is time we just decide to stay here. There are worse places to be than Hawai'i."

"I agree," said Michaela. "Isn't this really a tropical paradise?"

Keith noticed that Wilbur was smiling at Michaela, and became irritated, "I know you would like to set up housekeeping here, but we have a more important obligation. Our own comforts are secondary. We are on a mission to save humanity!"

The group remained silent until Steve spoke. "I know that you think I haven't been doing anything lately," he said. "I want you to follow me to the stern deck. There I will show you my erection."

Keith snarled at the remark, but followed Steve and the others to the stern.

As they rounded the starboard side to approach the stern, Steve tapped Mike on the shoulder and said, "Ozzie this should bring back a memory of Winter Camp III, before these others were born."

Atop its own tower, turning vigorously in the breeze, was a windmill. Steve faced the others, "This my friends will work 24/7 in the constant wind and should pump twice as much as a man."

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