The Last Krauthammer.
Ray Tanner, American Hero.
I meet Dixie and Honey, the irish setters, before I even see Ray Tanner. He takes his time coming out to meet me on the lawn in front of his house, and by the time he's made his way down the worn porch steps, the dogs are going absolutely berserk. “They like everyone but they love new people, especially women.”, Ray explains as he strokes their heads to calm them down. “I'm not as quick as I used to be, so they're telling me to “Hurry up, hurry up, the reporter's here!”” Ray's 94 and a war hero, so I'm prepared to forgive some tardiness. He just laughs at this. “If you're being respectful towards the elderly, sure. Not that I think not dying is any heroic achievement.” Raymond G. Tanner is a very pleasant, very bright and very old man. And a super soldier, apparently.
Operation Krauthammer, Ray explains, was an attempt to coordinate all our different super soldier projects into a single strike against the germans. “They had all these people and all these machines that could do all these things. But our operation was the first time they tried to use them all at once.” Krauthammer was a strategic response to the Germans' violent research into “esoteric-” or “super”-weaponry.
“We could deal with most of what they threw at us. We fought Donner, of course, who was supposed to be from another star, but was really just a Nazi bigot with the Holy Shroud tied around his neck. Damn dangerous, though. A lot of it was.”
Ray still keeps his old uniform in his closet, after more than seventy years. “Never know when you might need it”, he jokes. The gloves and the pack are on the top shelf, and Ray talks about Operation Krauthammer as he takes them down. “Was kind of a weird feeling that first day. We were out on that airfield for hours, just playing. Showing off, basically. There was some rivalry between the different projects, and it seemed important. I remember very clearly trying to stay nonchalant when the robot lifted a tractor over its head or Les popped a pill and phased. Still, it was weird, it was a sideshow. We shaped up when we actually needed to, but right then we were just kids bragging and doing tricks."
The Field Descriptor Engine, one of the first attempts to weaponize mathematics.
Ray shows me the machine in his backyard, and it's like an archive photo come to life. The process involves “ideal geometry”, and the ability to control and amplify its “intersection” with the ordinary world. Ray starts off with little cubelets, puffing back where they came from as fast as they're intersected, but he soon gets a bigger one going, with the wind gusting from the exchange effects at the border. Ray grins: “It's been a while since I did this, but it's like riding a bike. In eleven spatial dimensions. Comes back to you, but it's still hard as hell to do.”
Ray and Marge, 1951.
There are other photos in Ray's house, but the wedding photo has a special place on the table in the living room. "I met Marge in New York in -50. I had some dealings with her father's business, and he invited me to dinner. That's one of the things about being a travelling salesman, you meet a lot of people. And you end up marrying some of them." Margery Tanner passed away nine years ago. Ray seems to be at peace with that. "Of course I still love her. Very much. But I know she's in a good place. And I'll see her again soon."
Ray and Marge's children and their families still visit from time to time. Rebecca - their second youngest granddaughter - and her husband are among the few who still live in town. "Becky and Ron come over once a week to see if I'm dead yet." Ray laughs. "I love them, but they're acting like I'm gonna drop dead from farting too hard. I'm a bloody Krauthammer.
It's going to take more than that."