Going Home – New Work

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I apologize for the long delay before completing this chapter. Life, work, and the current disarray in the world have made finding time for an avocation challenging.

Like the previous chapters, it does not stand alone well. The reading order for the Going Home series can be found on my biography page.

DeMateo and Carbone said not a word on the drive to Jet Propulsion Laboratory. I made no effort to break the silence. I knew they were following orders and couldn’t fault them. But that didn’t mean I had to like what was happening.

Security was interesting. Initially it was just a matter of confirming my name was on the list at the front gate and checking my military identification. DeMateo and Carbone were known entities and were greeted by name at the gate. Once inside, I was checked in at the front desk by a snarky Army sergeant who referred to me as ‘the AWOL major’ when he made a phone call. I was led through a locked door, down a corridor and through another locked door. Eventually, I was led into an office where a woman in civilian clothes said, ‘Have a seat, Major Taylor,’ before I said a word.

I was kept waiting more than two hours, DeMateo and Carbone kept me company but otherwise ignored me. Once again, I got to enjoy the time-honored military tradition, hurry up and wait. While I sat, with nothing to look at except the bland, government décor, the woman at the desk worked steadily. She never looked in my direction. Her phone rang several times, the only sound other than the clack of her typewriter. Finally, after a very short phone call, she looked at me and said, ‘Major Taylor, General Boudreau will see you now. Go right in.’

I knocked, went through the door and completed the traditional military introduction: snap to attention, salute and ‘Major Jonas Taylor reporting as ordered’.

Boudreau was boviously angry. ‘Reporting as ordered? I had to send a couple damned MPs to get you here. Where the hell have you been? You were due here two weeks ago. You’re in a world of shit major.’

‘With all due respect, sir, my orders said to report a week from Monday. I’ve been at home with my wife and children. If my orders were changed, my whereabouts should have been easy to ascertain. A simple phone call would have brought me here, sir.’

‘Your orders weren’t changed. Where are your orders, Major? I want to see them.’ I handed them over, reluctant to part with them even though it was required. The general looked at them and then picked up a folder. He compared them and then shook his head. ‘There seems to be some disagreement between your documents and mine.’

‘May I see your copy, sir?’ I asked firmly. Desperately wanting to appear confident. I’d spoken with generals before. But when I was a civilian. This was my first contact with a general as a soldier. To my surprise, he handed me the paperwork from his desk. Even a cursory glance showed the dates had been changed at some point. ‘Sir, it appears this copy of my orders has been altered. The date field shows clear signs of erasure. Plus, the day dates don’t line up with the month and year, sir.’ I handed the paper back to him. ‘Sir, you can confirm the authenticity of my copy with Lt. Col. Smythe at Fort Benning. I’m sure there is a copy in his files.’

General Boudreau looked at it and shook his head. ‘I’ll look into this. We tried to contact you. Do you live in Massachusetts where you reported for induction or Pasadena? No one answered the phone in Massachusetts. The phone was disconnected in Pasadena.’

‘The Massachusetts house is a summer home, sir. I moved out of Pasadena over a year ago. I live in Encino. Selective Service was notified of my Encino address when I moved. My induction notice was delivered to the Encino address and forwarded by the Post Office to Massachusetts.’

‘We only found you because someone knew your father was Admiral Harold Taylor. We spoke to him early this morning. He was not happy to be awoken at four AM.’ Being awoken that morning at four AM explained why my father hadn’t informed me he’d been contacted to get my address. ‘You were drafted?’ The general sounded surprised.

I was surprised at how little General Boudreau knew about me. ‘Yes, sir. I completed OCS a few weeks ago and received my commission as a second lieutenant.’

‘My paperwork says you’re a major. You’re wearing a major’s insignia. How and when did that happen?’

‘I was promoted the same day I was commissioned, sir,’ I responded.

‘That’s highly unusual, Major,’ he hesitated for a moment then added, ‘to say the least.’

‘I thought so, sir. I tried to decline the promotion but was ordered to accept it. I believe if you start to dig a little, you’ll learn that isn’t all that’s unusual. I was drafted, completed basic and Advanced Combat. I was shipped to San Diego and was in line to board a ship when I was pulled from the queue. From San Diego I was escorted to Fort Benning and OCS.’ Escorted didn’t register with the general. Or ataşehir escort bayan if it did, he ignored it.

‘Your orders for OCS caught up with you after your application was approved. At least you didn’t get all the way to Korea,’ he said, nodding.

‘I didn’t apply to OCS, sir.’

The general couldn’t hide his confusion, but quickly composed himself. ‘I’m not privy to what you’ll be doing here, Major. All I know about your project is it’s classified. But I am the site military commander. I’ll get to the bottom of all this. You were scheduled to be detained for questioning beginning at oh-nine-hundred tomorrow. I’ll contact JAG and inform them of the discrepancy between the two copies of the orders and the apparent erasure in the copy we had. In the meantime, the lead scientist for your project, Dr. Tenney, is in your building. Captain Duran is also on site. You may want to meet with him. He’s your project manager.’

‘I’m already acquainted with Capt. Duren and Dr. Tenney. sir. Capt. Duren isn’t qualified to discuss the nuts and bolts of why I’m here. Dr. Tenney is. I’ll meet with him. I’d rather wait to meet with Capt. Duren another time.’

‘Very well, Major. I’ll get someone to escort you to Personnel where your site credentials will be prepared. They’ll be ready for you by the end of the day. You can pick them up at the gate on your way home. Your escort will take you to Building 16B where you’ll be working.’

I spent the next hour in Personnel and then was taken to Building 16B. Tenney and Duren were in an office arguing when I arrived. It appeared I wasn’t the only one that banged heads with Duren. I stood outside the office, watching through the window and hearing everything they said despite the door being closed. It was soon apparent that I was at the root of the argument. It came as no surprise that Duren didn’t want me anywhere near his project. But he had already lost that argument. I was the marionette of someone above his pay grade. Tenney spotted me and nodded in my direction. Duren turned and flushed red when he saw me. Then stormed past me and out of the building without another word.

‘Hello, Dr. Taylor. Good to see you again.’ Tenney extended his hand. I shook it, concealing my reluctance. He was at least partly responsible for my presence at JPL. And though I was sure I didn’t want to be in Korea, I thought Korea preferable to working with Duren again.

‘Hello, Dr. Tenney. What will I be doing?’ I asked.

‘Okay, I know you didn’t want this job. We’ll stick to business,’ he responded.

Over the next four hours, Tenney gave me an overview of project goals. The rest of the week I’d meet with technical officers from the Army, Navy, and Air Force to discuss what each wanted. From Tenney’s overview, I knew that they were looking at very different applications of my research. I also doubted I’d be able to meet all their needs. The Navy’s goals seemed most realistic. I didn’t know what to make of Army’s goals. The Air Force goals might be possible. The technology to accomplish what the Army wanted could take a decade or more to develop. If it could even be developed. There was no way I would stick around that long.

Tenney walked me through the building after we talked in his office. He introduced several NCO’s that would be working with me. All were Army, none was less than a sergeant first class. I was going to have to tread carefully when dealing with these experienced soldiers. Tenney also introduced me to a Navy second lieutenant and three civilians, all engineers that would be working with me. Other military personnel would be joining the projects in the next few weeks. There were two laboratories areas already set up with an array of equipment, some of it still under development.

By six o’clock, Tenney had given me a complete picture of project status and the timeline for developing the devices each branch wanted. Tenney had only a passing understanding of my work. Sure, he’d read my thesis, but he truly did not understand the science behind my research. I couldn’t hold that against him. His field was quantum mechanics.

Duren was an entirely different problem. He would be the one holding my feet to the fire to develop the desired technology by the target dates. He had no understanding of physics. He had an intelligence background. And a personality I found grating beyond tolerance. My father had once warned me to be wary of him but said little else. But it was obvious Duren was not one of his favorite people. And it was clear Duren wasn’t a fan of my father. No doubt Duren was resentful that a former subordinate had been promoted above him.

At seven, a call to the woman that I learned would be my secretary told me that Sgt. DeMateo was waiting for me outside the project building. Once again, DeMateo was tight-lipped, offering only a greeting and a statement that he would take me Gen. Boudreau’s office. I didn’t have to wait for the general this time. His secretary escort kadıköy sent me right in.

‘JAG has delayed questioning you until they check into what they called ‘tampering’ with our copy of your orders. The general looked at me as if he still had questions about me. ‘I’m going to let you go home for the night, Major. Be back here tomorrow at oh seven hundred. If you fail to report, Major, you’ll be listed as a deserter and face court martial. Your ride home is waiting for you. Don’t forget to stop at the gate for your credentials.’

His instructions angered me, but I tempered my response and remained deferential while still communicating my displeasure. ‘Sir, I followed my orders. If I had been ordered to report immediately, I’d have been here the same day I arrived in California. I’ll be here in the morning as ordered.’

DeMateo was outside, waiting for me when I exited the building. Before I even said a word, he turned the car around and drove toward the gate, stopping long enough for me to collect my site credentials. I fumed the entire drive home. But by the time I was in my driveway, I’d calmed down.

‘Thanks for the ride Sgt. DeMateo. I’ll see you around,’ I said as I moved to exit the car.

‘You’ll see me in the morning sir. I’m ordered to pick you up at oh-six-fifteen,’ he told me.

‘I have my own car, sergeant. I know the way to JPL. I’ll drive myself.’

‘No, sir, you won’t. I’ve been assigned as your driver.’

I sat back. ‘Why?’

‘I don’t know, sir. No one explains my orders. All I know is I’m to pick you up at oh-six-fifteen and be available to drive you home when you’re ready to go home for the night,’ DeMateo told me. ‘Don’t trouble yourself about it, sir. All the project leaders have drivers to take them back and forth. It’s a security precaution.’

‘I’ll see you in the morning, sergeant,’ I said as I got out of the car. I was going to hate being an officer.

I went inside as DeMateo drove off to wherever he was going. Gwen and Michelle both greeted me when I went through the door into the house. Both looked relieved to see me. I sighed as I felt the day’s tension gradually dissipate. I quickly shed my jacket and tossed it and my hat on the nearest piece of furniture. Gwen and Michelle both hugged me. I could feel the tension abate further we embraced.

‘Are you hungry?’ they asked in unison.

I should have been. I hadn’t even managed to get a cup of coffee all day. Like all military facilities, a large coffee urn was in the lab. I had made a comment that I wanted coffee at one point but had been told, ‘No, sir, you don’t.’ The sergeant, whose name escaped me at the time, added, ‘Trust me, sir. You don’t want a cup of coffee,’ as he pointed to the vacuum bottle he’d brought from home. I took his word for it.

‘I’m not really hungry but I haven’t eaten all day. I should eat something,’ I sighed as I went into the kitchen.

Michelle gently pushed me away from the kitchen, ‘We’ll get some dinner for you. Go get changed.’

Before I went upstairs, I grabbed a beer from the refrigerator. ‘Just a sandwich.’ I told her. I didn’t see any need to make a mess in the already spotless kitchen. I came back down, wearing pajama bottoms and a clean tee shirt.

Gwen, Michelle, a sandwich and an unopened beer were waiting for me on the back patio. I joined them outside, sitting across from them. ‘How are the kids?’ I asked.

Gwen and Michelle recounted the day with Seth, Sara, and Elizabeth. Then asked if everything was okay.

‘It wasn’t a fun day,’ I sighed. After inhaling about half of my sandwich, I recounted the day’s events. When I saw the concern on their faces, I assured them I didn’t think there’d be any long term problems, though the next few weeks would be stressful until JAG got to the bottom of the discrepancy between my orders and those received at JPL.

After eating, I was ready for bed. I stuck my head into the kids’ rooms, giving each a gentle kiss. Elizabeth started. She jerked her legs straight for a moment, raised her hands up to her shoulders in little fists, then settled down and resumed breathing softly. Sara sighed loudly and opened her eyes. For a moment I feared I’d woken her. But she took a deep breath, her eyelids slowly closed, and she was back in dreamland once again. Seth didn’t react at all. Just blissfully rested on his side, facing toward his twin sister on the other side of the wall.

I made my way to bed, set the alarm, and fell face down onto the mattress. The last thing I remember was Gwen stroking my hair before blackness descended. I must have slept fitfully. When the alarm went off, I was on Gwen’s side of the bed. She was curled up against me, her back to mine. I got up quickly to silence the alarm. When my feet hit the floor, I knew immediately I hadn’t slept well. My body ached. Every muscle begged me to return to bed. I headed for the bath to get ready.

When I returned to our bedroom, Gwen was bostancı escort gone. I dressed quickly and made my way downstairs. Hot coffee awaited me on the stove. Gwen was buttering toast and had ham and eggs in a pan, ready to go on a plate. I embraced her from behind and held her close. She leaned her head to one side and sighed when I kissed her neck. I held her breasts softly, eliciting a soft moan. After only a moment, she shrugged me off.

‘Stop now or I swear I’ll drag you bag upstairs,’ she said firmly. ‘From what you told me, we don’t have time before the sergeant gets here.’

I kissed her lips gently, just a good morning peck. ‘I’ll make it up to you tonight,’ I told her as she slid my breakfast onto a plate.

Gwen laughed softly. ‘Uh-huh. That remains to be seen.’

I heard a car in the driveway as I sat down at the table. I looked at the clock and saw it wasn’t six yet. I took my time eating. Just because DeMateo was early didn’t mean I was going to rush. When I finished, I went back upstairs for a moment and looked in on the kids. Seth and Sara were still asleep but restless. They’d be up soon. Michelle was changing Elizabeth who was doing her best to be uncooperative. Kicking her feet, flailing her arms, and writhing around, trying to explore her room.

I kissed Michelle on the neck, getting much the same response I got from Gwen. I kissed Elizabeth on the forehead and got bopped in the nose for it. Said goodbye and headed downstairs. Gwen was waiting for me with a bag lunch.

‘I don’t want you to go hungry today,’ she said before she kissed me goodbye.

DeMateo was standing by the passenger side when I went outside. He opened the door and greeted me. ‘Good morning, sir,’ he said as he snapped to attention and saluted.

I returned the salute and greeting and climbed inside. When DeMateo got in the car, I hesitated for a moment then asked, ‘What’s your first name, Sergeant?’

‘Roberto, Sir,’ he responded. ‘But only my mother calls me Roberto. My sisters call me Bobby. You don’t want to know what my brothers call me, sir’ he added with a smile.

‘Roberto or Bobby?’ I asked.

‘Bobby is fine, sir.’

‘Alright, Bobby. Can we dispense with the salute in the morning? Military formality is unnecessary in my driveway.’

‘I don’t know, sir. It’s not the Army way,’ he told me.

‘Bobby, I’m a scientist. If I hadn’t been so stubborn when I was approached about working at JPL, I’d still be a civilian and you wouldn’t be saluting. When we’re not at JPL, we can dispense with military formalities, okay?’

‘Is that an order, sir?’

‘If it has to be. From here on out, I’m Dr. Taylor at JPL. If I can refer to you as Bobby, I can be Jonas during the drive back and forth.’

‘Yes, sir, Dr. Taylor,’ he responded with a smirk

My first actual day at JPL was long. And boring beyond tolerance. Spent entirely on security protocols and administration. I never got to the lab. Gen. Boudreau told me that JAG was no longer concerned about my failure to report. They confirmed my orders were the same as those on file at Ft. Benning. Investigation of the doctored orders received at JPL had been turned over to the Criminal Investigation Division.

I was more exhausted when I got home that night than I had been the previous night. After another light supper, I once again face-planted onto our bed. I was lights out almost before my head hit the pillow. In the morning, Gwen was annoyed that had I had left her desires untended for the second night in a row. Having a wife so enthusiastic about sex was both a blessing and a curse. Michelle’s needs added another wrinkle I knew few husbands contended with.

My second day went by more easily. Duren didn’t make an appearance. I didn’t see or hear from Gen. Boudreau. And Tennie only spent part of the morning with me, leaving before lunch. We spent the morning inspecting equipment, making sure the devices from my Cal Tech lab were working properly. By lunch time, I was impressed with the work the engineers and technicians on the staff completed. Tennie had made some half-assed attempts at practical application of my work. They would be scrapped. I ate my second peanut butter and strawberry preserves sandwich, banana, and chocolate chip cookies in the cafeteria with the enlisted personnel, who mostly failed to keep a straight face when they saw my lunch. I got them to laugh with a self-deprecating remark about PB&J being the perfect lunch for a newbie lead researcher.

Once we returned to the lab, I had a brief meeting with them to review the status of the work they were doing. Most of which I was still unfamiliar with. I spent the afternoon reviewing the project goals and specifications. Before I realized it, the afternoon had flown by.

Having a secretary was going to be an adjustment. Phyllis stuck her head in. ‘Major Taylor, it’s five o’clock. I’m going home unless you need something. Sgt. DeMateo is waiting outside to take you home when you’re ready.’

I nodded at Phyllis and told her to have a good evening. I left my office, went into the lab and rousted the engineers and technicians. Every one of them had been already hard at work when I arrived at the lab a little before seven.

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