Kaboom! A tribute to John D. Clark
Thursday Prompt for 07/18/2019
Prompt word: minimum
"Iggy. I have some bad news and good news."
Oh oh, the malamute thought to himself. At that moment, a black Bakelite phone rang. Master Sergeant Kah T. Trophe picked up the receiver, gesturing with a clawed finger at the civilian test contractor from Aerojet to sit and wait.
Iggy Nite flopped his green, overalls clad bulk onto a narrow chair designed to make one uncomfortable. The dog swiveling his muzzle about, fur sun bleached from working in the arid outdoors as a test engineer. Attempting to minimizing the wait by studying the sparse interior of a Quonset hut.
The pasteboard walls in Sgt. Trophe's office were populated with framed photos of concrete block test cells with small rocket engines in action. Mounted sideways, some had flame plumes as bright as the sun. Others were muted blue with clearly seen, exhaust shock diamonds. Taken by remote, shielded cameras as no individual could be that close without shattering one's eardrums and skull.
Upon the desk, Iggy noticed two bound, blue-black folders. Along with recent photos from a test program he was all too familiar with. Photos of that particular test cell lying once again, in ruins. Twisted metal and shattered, scattered concrete blocks from yet another, spectacular explosion.
The decade had awakened to a competitive call for action in Space. Rockets taking to the sky. Huge ones for the Moon were being built in Florida! The burgeoning space program had even worked it's way into the desert military airbase allowing Iggy to be gainfully employed in testing fuel combinations for rocket motors.
The phone receiver clanged down. Sgt. Kah T. Trophe eased back, metal chair tilting. The cougar studying the civilian contractor and gazing at the Aerojet logo on the malamute's overalls. Cat eyes narrowing with the look of a feline about to torment some caught bird.
"What was the minimum ratio used in that last test?" Came the abrupt question fromt the Sergeant, who's middle name happened to be Tass.
Iggy grumbled. "Three to one, O2 to O3 for the oxidizer. We kept the tanks below -220C. Even pre-chilled the thrust chamber."
"Are you sure you've keeping things clean?"
Iggy suppressed a growl. "All of the tests were squeaky clean from organic and dust contaminants. Tank interiors, pressure gas, lines, valves, thrust chamber. Even the RP-1 fuel plumbing!"
He pointed to the photos. "The damn stuff decomposes during all stages of testing. From startup, firing, throttling, shutdown and even post cooling! Has anyone done shock sensitivity tests with ozone before?"
Sergeant Trophe fired back. "You're not trying hard enough. The funders from NASA believe cryogenic Ozone and O2 blends have great promise in liquid rocketry."
"They may be biblical believers in the magic of ozone." Iggy gruffed, "I'm not one of them."
"I have some bad news for you Iggy. Due to repeated rebuilding of Test Cell A, that program's budget is now empty."
Iggy's tail curled, "Does that mean it's shut down and I can go back to Berkeley?"
Sergeant Trophe eyes gleamed and he nearly purred in response. "Dream on. Here's the good news!"
The cougar shoved two, thick, blue black folders towards the malamute. "Thanks to you, we can rebuild the test cell for a new fuel program. Courtesy of SAC!"
"What did I do?" Iggy asked as he opened one folder.
"Remember last December's AIAA conference for Rocketry in Tyson's Corner, VA?"
Iggy nodded, as he skimmed through the abstract. "I recall drinks and swapping stories with some Air force brass."
"Not just any brass, they were SAC officers under General Wayst MooreDoe! Techies to the hilt. They hung on to your idea for using heavy metals as tripropellents to raise thrust in low density plumes."
Iggy looked up. "I was half smashed on whiskey sours when I said that...as a joke."
He finally noticed the letterhead on the program proposal. A shield with a heavily armored knight's fist holding lighting bolts and a tiny sprig of olive branch. The Strategic Air Command. Heading up the country's strike force as well as researching into any method of delivering nuclear weapons. From bombers to rockets.
"Iggy, they looked into it. There's potential in using Mercury as a tripropellent with hypergolics. Along with another mercury based compound that not only can add thrust, but raise ISP performance!"
Sgt. Kah T. Trophe practically spun in his chair in triumph. "We're back in business!"
Iggy had by then opened the second folder and his eyes opened wide at the proposed chemical.
"High grade Mercury we can get from our standard suppliers. But...this chemical may be a problem. Aerojet doesn't make or source it." Iggy didn't say why. It was for a good reason.
"Know anyone who might?"
Iggy's canine brain sniffed up a name. A former chemistry intern from Berkeley University who had worked in the test program a few years back. Now a PhD for Lazarath Photography in Rochester.
"Dr. Fluttertail? There's a long distant phone call from California."
A tall, brown fluffy collie wearing a bluish lab coat looked up from her desk, piled with chemistry abstracts and memos. She gazed up at the laboratory secretary. "Who is it?"
"From Edwards Airforce base. A Sergeant Kah Trophe and Iggy Nite."
Dr. Sofia Fluttertail didn't recognized the Sergeant. But Iggy Nite...that particular malamute from her college days.
"Did they say what for?"
"They're interested in contracting for specialty chemicals made by this Division."
"Patch the call to my desk phone."
The secretary nodded and left. The beige, plastic desk phone buzzed, Sofia cradled the receiver against one partly flopped ear.
"This is Dr. Fluttertail."
"Sofia! This is Iggy Nite," came a familiar voice, boisterous as ever. "We're on a speaker phone right now. I'm with Sergeant Kah Trophie and we have a question for you. Remember your time here at the base as an intern? Testing rocket fuels. Some pretty exotic."
Sofia's ears splayed. "How could I forget? Hypergolic derivatives appropriately nicknamed [i]Dragon's Venom[/i]. And you're still alive?"
She heard Iggy's voice chuckling. "Always wear a good pair of running shoes during tests. My question is in regard to a particular mercury based compound we plan to use as a tripropellent. We'll pay top dollar if you can synthesize it for our test program."
Sofia's hackle fur flared when he named the compound and the minimum quantity.
"Are you serious?" She said.
Sgt. Trophe's voice cut in from the speakerphone mic. "Now now, young lady. Dimethylmercury shouldn't be that much different than little ole UDMH and nitro tetroxide."
Sofia growled, "With all due respect Sergeant, those poisons are cuddly plush toys compared to the nerve toxicity of Dimethylmercury!"
"You'll be doing the Country a great service if you make this for us."
Dr. Sofia Fluttertail stood up, tail hooked upwards, ears forward. Fangs grinding as a tight voice erupted, "Sergeant! I don't care if you were the President of the United States! If I was insane enough to synthesize 300 kilograms of Dimethylmercury, I'd end up fogging every photographic film in the Rochester plants! If you haven't noticed, Lazarath is a 10 billion dollar a year photography company! And that, my friends, is something Lazarath has no interest in doing!"
Back in California, the sound of a handset crashing down on it's receiver pins echoed around the office like a test cell explosion.
The cougar and malamute gazed at each other in silence. A reappraisal of the program seemed to be indicated.
"I think we'll stick with regular Mercury for now, " Sgt. Trophe said.
"And let Mikey's group in Jackass Flats do the testing." Iggy Nite added.
Thursday prompt for July 18, 2019
Prompt word: minimum
A tongue-in-cheek anthro tribute to John D. Clark and steely eyed test engineers of Yore.
A weekly writing prompt hosted by vixyyfox at Furaffinity