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Defense Engineer

Typical Day

Dee Bugger was a nerd even in the womb: She spent much of her gestation just counting her fingers. So math was always her friend and measuring things was just part of her nature.

She zipped through college and a PhD and was a full-blown Dr. Dee Bugger by the time she was 27—when she was recruited by the military to become a civilian researcher, looking into advanced weaponry systems. She believed in the ethos of having great strength so that you never had to use it. A strong military kept the world at peace.

The military employed hundreds of contractors who each did small elements of research and/or production in the various skills that were needed, from missile telemetry systems to covert listening devices planted in the bedrooms of terrorist mistresses.

Dee made several rounds in weaponry systems—she had studied solid rocket fuels, the physics of burning them under water (think: submarine launches of ICBMs)—and evolved her studies to focus on the flight control elements of the projectile itself. She had been involved in the creation of the first laser guided bullet.

So now at 35, she was a relatively senior manager for someone so young. She has even managed to be granted Special Access Program clearance, which is more Top Secret than Top Secret clearance and necessary for many of the projects she's worked on.

Quite an elaborate coffee-maker.

It was something o'clock somewhere in the middle of the Pacific. And it wasn't all that warm so she guessed that she was somewhere kind of...northerly. It was as close to the middle of nowhere as one could get, on Earth anyway. And in her job, there actually were alternatives beyond Earth. Her boyfriend was, in fact, an astronaut and had similar class clearance—which came in handy as they were both sleep-talkers.

She has a small berth on the S.S. Maddow. A private woke her and explained that the systems were ready for The Test. Today was a big day—she had worked on the guidance system for these low heat signature missiles for almost a year. Specifically, normal rocket fuel burns at 1,800 degrees or much, much hotter, but that heat leaves an easily traceable "signature" in the sky which bad guys can track and then shoot down.

The new solid fuel systems burned much cooler—more like 500 degrees and with baffles (or covers) over them, the signature could be brought down to look more like 300 degrees on a tracking device...often below the trace levels needed. When a heat signature is very hot, it remains in the air a relatively long time—long enough to be tracked. But a 300 degree signature "evaporates" quickly, making the missile almost invisible.

The problem here was that the cooler burning fuel was also meaningfully less powerful as a propellant—that is, Cool Missiles flow about 25% slower than the full-heat flavors. And with different speeds at stake, the management of the fins, aileron, and other guidance systems became...complex. The old rules for the number of degrees of displacement on Fin A had to be rewritten. Beaucoup physics and pointy hatted stuff. And Dee wore the pointiest.

The test was purposely set to be launched at dusk when air temperature differentials were at their highest as the sun warmed the sky—it would cloak the test a bit. So the sub surfaced and its bay doors were opened. Dee stared at eight big flat screens in front of her as she listened to the count—the missile would have to hit a weather balloon target that had been launched an hour earlier and now hovered at about 20,000 feet.

3 - 2 - 1. Ziiiip. Flip. Wooshing sounds. A cabin filled with unexhaled breaths. Then PUH! Impact.

She stared at the virtual gauges and dials on her screens, taking in a thousand data points quickly. After about an hour, she exhaled—the test worked. Or at least it appears to have worked.

She had eight assistants, half of whom were fellow alumni of her university's physics program. Each of them was responsible for diagnosing an element of this test.

Two hours after the test, the phone rings. It sounded like an old fashioned "ring ring" phone and then she thought, "How odd—we are 3,000 miles or more in the middle of the ocean...satellite phone maybe...."

It was Senator Feinstein, who sat atop the Ways and Means Committee, the "Committee" that actually runs the Western World and manages the CIA among other covert operations. The Senator asked specifically to speak with Dee who was stunned. She had never met the Senator, only read about her.

"This is Dee."

"Hi. Senator Feinstein here. Give me the poop."

She knew what was being asked. "Basically it worked. All of the data fits within the 1% parameters that the specification sheet asked for. We have a very humid day here and a low pressure system is coming so we have some small adjustments to make to accommodate but we were very close inside of tolerances. I'd say she will be battle ready in a week if needed."

"I wish this wasn't happening on National Cross-Dressing Day."

"You're class 5 clearance?"

"Yes ma'am."

Ok, now you're class 6. Have it ready in three days."

And the phone hung up. Admiral Nukem took the phone from her. "You understand?"

Dee nodded slowly. Not good. She swallowed hard and went back to her desk, hoping that her technology would work under pressure—and save the world.

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