Chapter 4- Visitors



Tom woke up a little before 5am. He got up, showered, dressed and began to prepare. He had taken speech the previous fall semester and decided to use the same method to ready himself for the presentation.


He sat down at his Grandfathers desk with the AQM manual, a notebook and some index cards. He created a short outline and took some time to get more familiar with the device.


The Air Quality Monitor was an amazing machine. There was no wonder that it was so heavy. The main box housed three independent computers to process the collected data, analyze what its sensors picked up, and report it back to the network.


It was designed for easy setup and was recommended for roof-top installations. By the time he had finished, it was six-thirty and he smelled bacon cooking. He went downstairs and found the twins making breakfast.


He said, “Morning guys. I’m sure glad that someone knows how to cook. I’m such a kitchen klutz, I’m not allowed in our kitchen at home.” 


Bobby said, “It’s the least we can do. We’re trying to make ourselves useful.”


Tom said, “I know that we’ve met before but I haven’t gotten a chance to know you two. How old are you?”


Ronny answered, “We’re 14 and we go to Denson Magnet School. We’re two years ahead of our grade level and are taking junior level classes.”


Tom smiled. “I knew there was something about you two. I could tell that you were both smart but I couldn’t figure out why you looked like you were Jimmy’s age but I felt like I was talking to an equal.”


Bobby joined Tom at the table and said, “That’s one of the nicest things anyone has said to us in a long time. I wish our classmates at school considered us equals.”


 “Way too many people judge others by their appearance. It’s really stupid but easy to do. Everybody thinks I’m a dumb jock but I’m in all advanced classes.”


Ronny came out of the kitchen with three glasses of orange juice and sat down. “The sixteen year olds we go to class with treat us like we’re just dumb kids but we always set the grade curve.”


Tom raised his glass and said, “May we always surprise those who underestimate us.”

Jimmy and Brian came down the stairs looking a bit droopy. Jimmy said, “Is that bacon I smell or am I still dreaming?”


Bobby jumped up from the table and said, “Come get it before we feed it to the cat.”


The boys fixed their plates off the stove and sat down for breakfast and decided to turn on the television to get the news of the day.


Most of the talk was about the cities that were afflicted with either smallpox or the plague. On the East coast Boston, Baltimore, New York, Miami and Jacksonville had big problems. On the West coast the cities of Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Denver were reporting infections.


The news that Denver had infections sobered the boys. The city was only a little over a hundred miles away. Bobby and Ronny looked sad but the others looked angry.


There was good news from Iran. The Ayatollah’s government had collapsed into civil war. They were no longer fighting American forces and had withdrawn from Iraq. Now the Pásdárán and the Iranian Regular Army were fighting it out for control of the country and Iranian citizens were not happy that their government had been tossing ICBMs around.


Tom excused himself and said, “I’m going to prepare for my presentation. I’ll be upstairs.”


He settled in again and prepared for his visitors.


At 7:30 he heard the radio say, “Sierra Hotel, this is Foxtrot 31. We are outbound to Eagle Rock with 10 passengers.”


Tom smiled. “They are coming by helicopter. Cool.”


He rummaged through the closet and pulled out a white board and some markers. He gathered up his note cards and went downstairs and set up at the kitchen table.


Bobby and Ronny were finishing clearing away the dishes for breakfast.


Tom said, “We’re having ten guests. Have we got anything in the cupboard that we can feed them?”


Ronny went rummaging through the pantry and Bobby put on a big pot of coffee. Ronny came of out the pantry with a big package of pastries and said, “Eureka!”


They got cups and saucers down from the cabinets and placed the pastries on a serving tray. Tom was impressed. In a matter of a few minutes they had the kitchen looking like Martha Stewart lived there.


He put his arms around the pair and said, “I am so glad to have you two along for this adventure.”


In a matter of minutes they heard the big rotors of the Blackhawk setting down on the lawn and all five of the boys went outside to meet their guests.


Colonel Gaddis and his men dismounted the Blackhawk and approached the house. He saw the boys and said, “Good morning! Is Tom Ross available?”


Tom said, “That’s me. This is my brother Jimmy, Brian Lee and Bobby and Ronny Farmer. Welcome to Eagle Rock. Come on in, I’ve got the presentation set up in the kitchen.”


Gaddis and his men exchanged some sideways glances but followed the boys inside. As the men were seated, Bobby and Ronny served their guests and Jimmy took a tray of coffee and pastries out to the helicopter crew.


Gaddis said, “I’m going to set up a video camera. There are a lot of Guard districts out here that need this information.”


Tom said, “That’s fine Colonel.”


When everyone was seated and prepared, Tom started his presentation.


“The Air Quality Monitoring System, or AQM for short is an amazing collection of hardware. Inside its main chassis there are three independent computers: one for the instruments, one for analysis of the data and another to control communications over the satellite network. Most of its logic and programming are hard wired into the box and requires only the most basic programming in the field.”


“To install them you are going to need a laptop running XP or Vista with a DB-9 serial cable, Philips head screwdriver and a hand held GPS unit. If you’ve never used the serial port on your laptop, you may have to get into the bios and enable it.”


“Site selection is very important for the AQMs. The designer recommends rooftops. Where ever you decide to put it, try to keep it out of harms way because it is fragile and a non-malicious person who is merely curious could damage or destroy it.


Tom moved over to the main chassis that he had sitting in the floor.


“This is the main chassis. While the device is solar powered, its main batteries are in here- that’s why it seems like it weights a ton and a half. Before you deploy these in the field it’s a good idea to plug a plain old 110 ac extension cord into the socket labeled charge and put a full charge on the batteries. There is an indicator on the side that shows the state of the batteries.”


“Note the red arrow on top of the chassis. This arrow must point north or the devices spatial orientation will be confused.”


“The next step is to install the metrological instrument packages. They plug into keyed slots on top of the device which snap into place and make the required electrical connections. Since they are keyed, you can’t put them in the wrong slot. Only the right instrument package will fit.”


“Next we deploy the solar panels. It simply opens up and you orient it in the direction that the afternoon sun will hit it directly. It’s important that it is oriented to gather the afternoon sun because solar rays are the most energetic and are most efficient at driving the solar cells at that time.


“The next step is to plug in the satellite dish. Orient it toward the South Western sky. Once the device is activated, it will search for the satellite and lock on to it.”


“The last stage is most important. You load the activation program from the CD ROM onto your laptop and connect the cable to the data port. It will ask for the station’s name, time/date and the GPS coordinates for its location. It will then run a self-diagnostic, align the dish and connect to the main network. Then you’re done.”


“If you want to see the data that the AQM is gathering there is another program on the CD-ROM for displaying the data collected and showing the current system settings.”


“Are there any questions?”


The ten men looked at Tom with astonishment on their faces.


One of the technicians said, “Mr. Ross, I work for a computer company in Denver. You are so hired when this is over. That was one of the best presentations I’ve ever attended.”


Colonel Gaddis said, “Are you men confident that you can install these devices?”


His men nodded.


Gaddis stood and waked over to Tom and shook his hand. “You have managed to fix one of our biggest problems in a matter of minutes. You are a remarkable young man.”


Tom said, “The two boys acting as stewards are smarter than me. They are 14 and are taking advanced classes at the junior level.”


Gaddis exchanged phone numbers and email addresses with Tom. Then he and his men took their leave from Eagle Rock and headed out into the field to deploy the AQMs..


After the Guardsmen departed, Bobby said to Tom, “May we always surprise those who underestimate us.” High fives were exchanged all around.


*     *     *


That afternoon Tom decided that it was time to have a little fun so he set up some tin cans for targets. He got out one of the Mini-14s, some hearing protection muffs and set up them up on the sun deck.


He then called the boys up to the sun deck and gave them a gun safety lecture and familiarized them with the Mini-14.


When he was satisfied that no one would shoot him he handed the Mini-14 to Brian and had everyone put on their hearing protection earmuffs. He gave the OK and Brian took some shots at the targets that he had put out. He wasn’t a bad shot. Out of 10 rounds, Brian hit seven targets.


Jimmy scored about the same.


When Bobby’s turn came his hands shook and he was obviously nervous. Tom talked to him and said, “Relax. Think of it as just another tool. Find a target, line it up down the iron sights and squeeze the trigger.”


Bobby took careful aim at one of the cans Tom had put out and took a shot but missed high. He took another shot and hit dead on.


Tom said, “That’s it. You’re getting there.”


When Bobby had fired his 10 rounds he had five hits. Tom said, “Not bad for a beginner.”


Ronny was another story. He was so unnerved by handling the gun that he couldn’t hold it still. He said that it would be best if he tried another time and Tom decided it was best not to push him.


Tom did decide that some exercises might be in order to help the twins get over their gun-phobia but that could wait.


They all had some fun, had gone over the basics of gun safety and given Tom some idea where their skills were. He considered the exercise a success.



*     *     *



Over the course of the day Gaddis’s men deployed all 24 of their AQM systems.


At the end of the day he called General Braddock and said, “General, we’ve got all of the AQMs deployed.”


Braddock said, “Outstanding! How did you pull that off?”


“I took my tech guys up to Eagle Rock and we got one of the best technical presentations that I’ve ever seen from the 16 year old son of Dr. Ross.”


The General said, “Who is at Eagle Rock anyway?”


“When things hit the fan, Dr. Ross got tied up back East. He sent his sons and some of their friends up to the mountains to get their equipment up and running. Tom is the oldest at 16. The rest are 14.”


Braddock said, “That’s amazing Henry. Do you know how many lives those kids may have just saved?”


Gaddis said, “I’m amazed too. Those kids are sharp as tacks. I looked at their files. Tom made Eagle Scout at 15 and he’s in all advanced classes. The younger brother is equally impressive. The Farmer Twins are geniuses- they are 14 and taking junior level advanced courses and the Lee kid is no slouch either.”


Braddock said, “You know what that sounds like to me Henry?


“What is that General?”


“An asset. Keep an eye on those kids. We may need their help again before this is all said and done.”


Gaddis said, “Roger that General. I wish I had a battalion of them.”


*     *     *


Sitting down over dinner that night the boys heard the news that they had been waiting for: Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, the Pásdárán, had surrendered after a day long fight with their regular army.


The general commanding Iran’s army had asked the UN for peacekeepers and help to set up a new government. The Ayatollah’s war was over.


The news that the war was over buoyed everyone’s spirits. Bobby and Ronny took out their guitars and began to play a happy sounding piece that they called Mood for a Day. Tom was amazed at the sound they could make with two guitars. They were identical classical guitars by Yamaha. The brothers could do things that he had never even heard a professional musician do.


And they could sing too.


 (We don't need) No, we don't need (no
more trouble) no more trouble!
(We don't need no more trouble)

Wo! Oh-oh-oh!
(We don't need) We don't need no (no more) trouble!
We don't need no trouble!

(We don't need no more trouble)
Make love and not war! 'Cause we don't need no trouble.
What we need is love (love)
To guide and protect us on. (on)
If you hope good down from above, (love)
Help the weak if you are strong now. (love)

We don't need no trouble;
What we need is love. Oh, no!
We don't need - we don't need - no more trouble!
Lord knows, we don't need no trouble!

(We don't need) We don't need trouble (no more trouble) -
no more trouble - no more trouble!
Seek happiness! (...) Oh, ...!
Come on, you all and speak of love. (...) Oh, yeah!


No More Trouble by Bob Marley


Mood for a Day is by Yes.