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Globall War of Terror: Slow Roll

The long-awaited convoy is expected tomorrow. It has been delayed, again and again, by various dramas. Left Utah, breakdown on I-80, waiting on parts. Border closed by Nevada state troopers. Negotiate past the border, Winnemucca, no fuel left there. Have to get a supply convoy to supply more. Lurch into Fernley, just east of Reno. Need permits to cross the California border. Permits. No permits. What permits? Stage in Reno. Start going over the pass. Make it to Roseville. Local police try to 'requisition' the convoy. Bypass Sacramento. Fight off looters. Again. Stack in Vacaville. Wait for fuel. Fuel cards declined. More waiting. Fuel acquired. Make it just down the freeway to Fairfield. Screened by US military. Eleven convoy members - three of them drivers - impressed for military service. Bridge closed at Vallejo - official traffic only. Corporations are insufficiently official. More permits, phone calls, papers waved around.

Finally, clearance to cross the Vallejo bridge and punch it down Interstate (hah!) 680 to San Jose. A maybe two hour road trip.

I have been -- reluctantly -- cleared to resume work.

The Logistics Manager and I are going over the motor pool.

We realized early on that Facilities - which normally does logistics - was going to be overwhelmed if they had to both fix the site and stock the parts. So we broke out Logistics as a separate function under Site Operations. All company owned vehicles, and all the vehicles we scrounged or acquired or bought from employees, belong to Logistics.

Security has primary use of the Hate Truck, the one gasoline powered vehicle devoted to Security and kept in daily service. A backup is under construction; key parts including bolt on armor are on the convoy.

When we can buy gasoline, which is fairly rare, we are paying between $10 and $20 per gallon when we can pay in money at all. It is much more common to trade other valuable stuff for gasoline. It will still be several months before pre-Firecracker fuel supplies go bad - but most is used up, and what little gasoline entering the Bay Area does so via a fragile chain of truck tankers from Oregon. All our refineries are down and with the condition of the Golden Gate Bridge, it's not really viable to bring in crude oil anyway.

Diesel powered pickup trucks are worth their weight in gold. Security has markings on two of them, but all are equipped with at least some level of armor, overhead hard points (which would make them a technical if we had enough weapons to mount), PA systems and radios. The site has between six and ten, depending on parts status. A couple are flatbeds but most have big racks in the back, for carrying large quantities of bulk.

We have a lot more vehicles than we can keep functional. Parts are nearly non-existent. We continue to collect junkers and wrecks when convenient, not only for parts but to use as construction material for perimeter obstacles. Mostly this is by hooking up a tow bar and dragging behind one of the diesel pickup trucks, or with a winch onto a flatbed trailer. One of the outer parking lots is a literal junkyard of half-stripped cars. The limitation is skillage - only so many mechanics, working as hard as they can, doing 12 hour days.

There are even _coders_ pulling half-shifts as mechanics. That is saying something because writing code is the reason we are all still alive, and the only reason a convoy is coming at all.

The Fire Brigade has a single gasoline powered pickup truck devoted to emergency response. They also have an actual municipal fire engine, long story, but the last thing we want to do is run up the odometer on it. No grocery store runs, even if there were such a thing as grocery stores. Once a week, the Fire Brigade starts the engine for ten minutes, which is also a training class for those employees who choose to volunteer to save lives rather than take them. They also have a beat up gasoline van converted to an ambulance. The former owner is pissed but understands; I looked him in the eye and told him that we needed it to save lives, then nodded to myself in the mirror.

In all seriousness, the Fire Brigade has rigged three of the site's electric powered golf carts as rapid reaction vehicles. Security has four, all smaller because we only have to carry people and weapons, not ladders and pumps and tools and SCBA.

Yes, we can refill both oxygen and air tanks with equipment on site. See above under 'trading for other valuable stuff.'

We tried a hardpoint on one of the larger golf carts, it just ended up looking silly and having a very limited arc of fire. So the machine gun is on a rear-facing tripod instead, rapidly detachable for ground pounding.

Landscaping is no longer in the business of trimming bushes and petting trees. What little construction equipment we have been able to scrape up is all theirs. Bulldozer, excavator, water truck, an ancient grader that looks like it was dragged out of a pre World War II museum. A single tractor with a PTO, Power Take Off, that is in all seriousness parked in a bunker when not in use in the fields. I don't like to think of what our food budget would look like without that tractor.

Logistics has three forklifts, all propane powered, and one -- one! -- rough field forklift. They have lots of pallet jacks and hand trucks and other material handling gear, but the big advantage to forklifts is that they are FAST. This matters when a convoy has to go out again a second time on the same day.

Facilities is very fond of their electric scissors lift, which they use the hell out of every day. Changing light bulbs used to be a safety issue. Now it is a life safety issue and no joke. We don't have a contractor to maintain our old parking lot or new perimeter lights, and they keep getting shot out too. Not often but it adds up.

Motorcycles are on the wrong side of the man-hour per mile equation, even though they use so little fuel. We devote one full time mechanic and several helpers to a motorcycle shop and keep several motorcycles running, after a fashion, but these are for couriers and reconnaissance.

We have several critical vehicles that spend almost all their time parked in the motor pool. This is because when they break, they are broke, and we might need them very, very badly. An honest to goodness cable tow truck, an 18 passenger shuttle bus, a street sweeper (one man's trash is another's IED), and last but not least, a roadable construction crane.

We still use them. But very carefully, with each use as a planned operation. The crane in particular is the only way we have to get heavy equipment on and off the rooftops of four of our buildings. The Fire Brigade will eventually work its way up to using it for high angle rescue, but they are just as far behind the skillage curve as everyone else. The last crane lift removed the last HVAC unit from the roof of H5 Executive for use on the server farm, in exchange for structural steel for the roof armor and rooftop bunker.

The three Security vehicles on the critical vehicles list are all identical. This makes maintenance much easier. Diesel-powered armored trucks formerly used for cash pickup and deliveries, all from the same company and with complete service histories. The only difference between them is the unit numbers and the bloodstains, only some of which would scrub out.

We keep meaning to upgrade them but have not had the chance. The armor is good enough for small arms fire, the tires are really run-flat (this has been tested), and the push bumpers will do a number on any smaller vehicle and some large ones. We did manage a paint job - they are all painted gray now. An odd color for security vehicles. I'd been going for white but we were short on white paint.

One is parked well inside the Front Gate, near but not too close to the Hate Truck. We swap out weekly with the other two, which are parked on opposite corners of the motor pool and part of its defense plan.

All three are recently maintained and in good shape. This comes at some cost, mostly maintenance of other diesel vehicles.

The reason I am going over our vehicle availability in such painstaking detail is the incoming convoy.

They are bringing a lot of very valuable stuff through an area that we know fairly well to suck ass.

Details are sketchy but the convoy is said to consist of over a dozen eighteen-wheeler trucks towing chock-full cargo trailers. One is supposed to be refrigerated and containing medical supplies. The "tail end Charlie" is a flatbed truck with an RV lashed down to it for the security detail, food and crew rest. The initial lead vehicle was apparently confiscated. Its replacement is a modified U-Haul type cargo truck with sheet steel and a tube-based hardpoint welded on over the cab. Ugly, but if it works...

I am concerned that whatever security they have will not be enough. We have OK intel for 680 from San Jose to Fremont, fragmentary intel for the Sunol Grade (mostly what a motorcycle rider can see with binoculars), and basically jack shit from Sunol to Walnut Creek. The trauma center there is said to still be up, but heavily guarded and not accepting patients from the street.

Fremont sucks. East San Jose really sucks, as in snot through a straw. Sunol Grade worries me most, however - there are no alternate roads except a twisty windy Calaveras Boulevard (hah!), a one and half lane road ideal for ambushes. The 680 freeway is fairly straight and in fairly good shape, but has a long uphill and a longer downhill. The CHP weigh station has been stripped and abandoned.

A little bit of air recon would go a long, long way. But what little we have is based on drones and batteries, which gives a range in miles and a flight time in minutes. An ultralight would work; under the correct wind and weather conditions, even a hang glider would help. But if anyone is patrolling with a Cessna, the way the Highway Patrol used to do, they are not telling anyone.

Also, if we know that the convoy is coming tomorrow, we have to assume that bad guys will also know and can plan accordingly.

Even without details of the convoy, just the fact that we went to all this effort suggests that the contents are 1) extremely valuable and 2) literal unobtainium in the ravaged Bay Area.

To pick an example not at random, we had acquired the armored trucks by trading for them, from a gentleman who had the trucks to trade and wanted a large quantity of computer servers in working order. He'd expected us to salvage them from data centers, meaning that he could plunder the data for fun and profit. We instead sourced them from distribution facilities, the equivalent of a new car dealership. But he'd _wanted_ used and our last parting had been tense and involved a lot of shouting and muzzling.

He was the most reputable of the several ... warlords? ... that had cropped up. The black market always had something to sell for those able to pay. Safe food, or guaranteed safe food? Be ready to pay high. But for really safe food, bring your own Geiger counter and check it yourself - but have enough firepower to keep someone from taking your counter away from you.

Maximizing availability right now always means a future day in which all your equipment breaks at the same time, or accepting reduced availability during a catch up period.

But my timing itch was huge. We had been mortared only last week, and the pounding headache reminded me of it every time I took a step. Someone disliked us enough to make several 81mm mortars and 'liberate' a truckload of shells, US made, diverted from the supply chain going from America to China - which is very much the hard part. Especially the part where the Marines shoot you. Never mind the act of terror, you're diverting resources from the War!

But they had to know, even if they'd gotten away (they hadn't) that it would only soften us up, not break us down.

So they wanted us soft right now. Which meant it was my job to keep us frosty.

I could sense it. Tomorrow was going to be the pure suck. But we would inexorably travel towards her at one second per second.

Ready or not, here it comes.


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