Seeing the ambulances disappear in the distance gave me a great sense of relief. At least there would be a chance for them to survive. I particularly appreciated all the folks who’d helped steer me in the direction of the governor-general. And I appreciated how he’d understood my concern and fear and taken responsibility for the decision. To me, the decision should have been automatic, but I’m not Iranian; nor am I Muslim. But the governor-general knew this and, in my opinion, took a giant step, the consequences of which I may never know. Probably if they died in route, he would not be held responsible because it simply would have been Allah’s will. He had relieved me of having to consider the “maybe not.” I went to the bar and restaurant where we’d al drank too much and had a chelo kebab, the Iranian national dish of lamb and aromatic rice, followed by an ice-cold beer. I was the only customer in the restaurant, and even though there was no conversation other than my order, when I went to leave, the staff, with understanding eyes, nods of heads, warm smiles and the noncommittal shrugs, refused to let me pay the bill. Exhausted, I went back to the motel and slept like a large rock in a small bubbling brook.
A phone call in the morning assured me the new alignment crew would arrive before lunch, along with the pleasant surprise that, because my only tool was supposed to be a clipboard, Tom would be coming with the tools needed to do any technical work. Emily would be coming with him, but they would not be sending another electronic testing supervisor. I would remain in that position for the time being. There was no question of what may have happened to the men in the hospital.
After lunch, I presented the crew with the idea Mr. Laine had suggested to solve the problem. There may be a “double passive effect,” meaning the signal from one antenna would be pointed to the edge of one of the mountains, bouncing off to the other mountain and then on to the distant dish, forming a “Z” pattern. It would give all the appearance of the dishes being aligned to the strongest signal, but it would be reduced by the losses caused in transit. The solution would be simple. Point one of the antennas directly at the wide “V” between the two mountain peaks, regardless of the signal strength. Then point the antenna at the distant end at the “V” and re-align it for the strongest signal. Then fine tune the first antenna. We all agreed the plan was logical, but the mountain range between the two antennas had become hazy and we couldn’t see the “V.”
But Tom came up with a plan. He would take his half of the alignment crew to the repeater on the other side of the “V” and build a bonfire with the packing crates he assumed would still be there. The road up the mountain was too rugged for locals local to haul it off. My half of the crew would point the dish directly at the fire and then Tom’s crew would re-align. Again we all agreed and set off to the sites an hour before sunset. Once we arrived, we had voice contact over the order wire, a telephone channel working over the microwave radio system. When my crew pointed the dish at the fire, we lost the signal and lost telephone contact completely. But we had anticipated this. Shortly the order wire became alive again with Tom’s voice saying he’d been moving his dish looking for the peak. I watched the receive signal on the meter on my equipment rise to a level higher than ever. When he told me he had found his peak, my crew fine tuned for a signal slightly higher than the engineering specifications requirement. Another problem solved!
The test engineering supervisor, the boss of the dick who had abandoned us, asked me to spend another week in the Kermanshah area to look at some other problems before coming back to Tehran. The first day back, he called me into his office for a full debriefing of all the issues. We talked for about an hour as I carefully explained the solutions to all the problems solved during my visit. Finally he told me that I had done a wonderful job and he hoped that I would work for him again. Then he stood up, as if our meeting had ended.
“Well, what that about the other problem?” I asked.
He looked at me apprehensively, “What other problem?”
I was surprised he’d asked me because, in my reality, it was the only problem that was yet to be solved and therefore the only problem left to talk about. I spoke as if I were talking to an imbecile. “The tower crew; the ones who crashed their truck.”
“Oh, that.” He took a long deep breath and sat down. “Well, we were hoping you wouldn’t ask.” He began fiddling with a pencil on his desk; then started speaking as if the conversation had started to bore him. “That problem went pretty far up the ladder; all the way to the top, all the way to DC. When it came back down to me, I was specifically ordered to tell you just one thing and one thing only; but only if you asked. And since you’ve asked, I have only one thing to tell you.”
“And what’s that?”
He looked at me with a blank expression, “You shouldn’t have moved them. You might have killed them.”
“So they’re OK, then? They’re not dead?” I asked.
He pushed a deep breath through closed lips as he said, “I’m not supposed to tell you anything more. My specific instructions are to tell you this one statement and this one statement only; nothing else. So I’ll say it again for you. ‘You shouldn’t have moved them, you might have killed them.’ There’s not another word to be said about it.” He stood up and looked at me with a blank expression for a few seconds before adding, “And that’s from the top.”
I disregarded his offer for a handshake, went back to my desk and wrote my resignation letter. On turning it in, I was offered a 30% pay raise to change my mind, but I rejected it as quickly as I had rejected my re-enlistment offer in the Navy in the Gulf of Tonkin after being told it was OK to incinerate people who were “only Gooks.” I concluded that if people are left to die to meet budget, it’s not a telecom project. It’s a war. I’d leave at once to join Felicity in Australia.
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