(you can read part I here)

At once I was startled as I nearly plowed into the back of the halted mortar ring. Halted?? Excitement was crawling into my gut. I was then alarmed by the realization that I was standing on the port side (left) of the ring… the flat side that it would drop on if it were commanded to establish itself into firing configuration.

I valued myself out of the way just as the ring shifted ballast to its port side causing it to be off-balance heavy to port. It leaned over plopping itself flat to the ground with a dull yet seismic thud and dust plume. The mortar tube snapped up and pointed itself some 35 degrees to the horizon. A computer clicked and whirred as the gun tube jerked up and down slightly to make fine range and azimuth corrections.

At once my omnipresent earpiece crackled and came alive:

“Fire mission: Charge 12 and 1/4”; adjust fire; hang it on one gun when ready”

Jesus paste, I needed to stop… and get with Hammer time. I punched open the limber chest that was sitting pretty, not more than 25 feet from the waiting mortar tube like a faithful hunting dog. I snatched a 240mm round out and started stripping charges from their shipping config of maximum distance, to charge 12.25. Round ready.

I wasted no time since the command to fire was already given. I inserted the whopping round fins first into the gaping mouth of the gun tube. I let it slide as I turned away from the mortar, bent forward, opened my mouth, and pressed my ears firmly closed with my fingers.

The shock of the report slapped me hard. I was astonished at how loud it was. It was always a surprise to me, that first round of the day.